Minoan Strat Guide

Heaven’s Reference Pages

Minoan Strat Guide

by Cherub Nineveh

Here it is: everything I know about winning with Minoan. It should help you play competently with Minoan.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Minoa has several strengths, and several weaknesses.

  • Best Bronze-age unit in the game
  • Awesome sea power
  • Great Iron age
  • All Market Techs
  • All Gov’t Center Techs


  • Extremely vulnerable in early bronze
  • Slow civ
  • Lame Priests
  • No Horse Archers
  • Not much for cavalry (Cav only)
  • No fast villager-killing units in Iron Age

Stone/Tool Age

Minoa has a fairly plain-vanilla slow civ start. 6 vills on berries, 1 scouting, 6 or more on wood and the rest back on berries. Go read My fast bronze guide if you don’t understand how to pull a 15:00 min bronze. I would say that this is the minimum requirement for using Minoan effectively–If you’re bronzing around 17:00 consistently, by the time you get some composite bowmen you’re already fried.
The one “fast” aspect of Minoan is cheap boats. Therefore, you have no excuse to not drop 100 wood on a dock and some fishing boats–all civs, in fact, should do this, but with Minoan you can do it and take less out of your all-important wood supplies. If you’re gonna shoot for a quick iron and/or tons of food (pass the extra to your teammates), you can build tons of fish boats and not slow your bronze time too much. I once bronzed in 15:00 with 25 villagers and 13 boats. I ironed by 26:00 with 30+ composite bowmen sitting around. Once in Iron I got the helepolis upgrade right away… you can tell where THIS story is going.
So make sure to dock! If its coastal, build 2 or even three docks… shift a bunch of villagers from food to wood after starting the tool upgrade to get that surplus wood. If you can pump fishing boats from 3 docks, your bronze time may get slowed but you will have a sweet iron time…if you can just hold up till then!
Which brings me to another point… Minoan must wall! While you’d be crazy to try Minoan vs. a fast civ (Shang, Yamato, Assyrian or Phoenician) you’re still gonna need some walls against an evenly matched opponent. Why? Those two upgrades (Improved and Composite Bow) take a long time. 
One good alternative to stationing a villager at the shallows until you research walls (so no enemy vills sneak across and build on your land) is to dock block. Many shallows are narrow enough you can build a dock right on them it will function as a wall. Plus, since you already were going to build a dock, it serves dual purpose.
So that sums up how I play Minoan up to the bronze upgrade. Just yesterday I bronzed at 13:31 with Minoan, with only 2 shore fish. It can be done, you just need a little luck.

Bronze Age

Once you hit the button the real game begins. You probably had about 12 villagers or more on food to get that 800 food, plus 3 or more boats. Food is no longer the major issue. I usually have a pretty big surplus. Move a few vills to wood. Find gold yet? No? Whoops! Kiss yourself goodbye! I do this all the time. I come smokin’ into bronze age, have 4 ranges up and research Improved Bow and then I yell, “Doh! Forgot the gold!”. Don’t do this! You’ll need about 2 villagers per range mining gold to keep production constant. Take maybe 3 for now off of wood and build a storage pit by the gold. You haven’t bronzed yet, so its ok to skimp a little. At this point there’s one, and only one upgrade I would get: Woodworking. You’re gonna need that wood and +1 range helps, too. Other than that, stay away from wasting precious food and wood on upgrades. 
As long as you have all neccesary buildings up (Storage Pits, Granarys, Houses, Docks) every time you get 150 wood build an archery range. 1 range doesn’t do you any good. But remeber that the most important thing is to have 140 food and 80 food the second the upgrade finishes to research Improved Bow. By the time the Improved Bow upgrade finishes you need 4 ranges minimum. If you’ve got the 100 wood and 180 food, go right for the composite bow upgrade, as long as you can keep pumping out Improved Bowmen. 8 Improved bowmen can save you against early cavalry (which shouldn’t have gotten in because you walled, right?) while 2 composites aren’t so effective. Only go for the composite upgrade when you’re confident you can crank out improved bowmen. 
If your playing against a civ or player that is likely to bring cavalry, get archer armor. And once you can, spend 150 wood for a stable and then 200 wood for an academy. It’s worth it, if only cuz its so funny watching 1 hoplite take 3 cavalry on, and win :). 
Otherwise, concentrate on getting 6 ranges up and the vills to keep them producing. Once you feel like you’ve got a cushion, build the Gov Center and Seige workshop. If the fish are still abundant, get the fishing ship upgrade. Get Scale Armor for archers. Get Artisanship, get Gold Mining… the list goes on! If your main opposing forces have been archers (especially the dreaded Chariot Archers) a few stone throwers is nice.

Onto the Offensive

By the 20:00 mark you should’ve established a mean-looking composite army. Unless, of course, they’ve been valiantly fighting the evil Chariot Archers. Well, as soon as you get a breather, stock up on the comps! Take an army of 30 or so(ideal, but 20 will do) with 3 Stone Throwers. Also, take along a few of the logical counter-unit to the opponents main unit– hoplites for cav and chariots, cav for STs, STs for comps and CA. Especially cav for stone throwers. Engage the ST’s accompanying escort with comps and coming running in from the side with 3 cav at the Throwers. Cav are also Minoa’s only fast unit–good for hunting down escaping villagers.
The one thing you can’t let the opponent do is get to iron…cats and Horse Archers destroy composites. So if he suddenly stops attacking, don’t give him time, head for his town. If you show up right as he gets to iron, you’re ok, but if he has 3 cats ready…*shudder*
Use the Stone Throwers to smash any walls and towers down on your way. Remember that range 11 composites can safely attack towers.

Composite Warfare: Zen and the art of Comps

Composite Bowmen are a fickle unit. You can have 30 on a hill destroy 30 cav, or you can have 20 walk right into a bunch of cav and die.
Composite have 2.5 opponents in the Bronze age: Cav and Chariot Archers…and Stone Throwers, which only count half.
Composites are awesome against Chariot Archers. Their purpose in the game is to kill Chariot Archers. They are basically the only counter in the Bronze age to a horde of Chariots Archers(CA’s). Here’s some math on Composite/CA battles: 
Time gather resource for one Composite Bowman:

  • 40 food @0.45 food/sec (berries or hunting)=88 seconds
  • 20 gold @0.55 gold/sec(no upgrades)=36 sec
  • 124 villager-seconds(no walking) to make 1 Composite Bowman.

Time to gather resource for one Chariot Archer:

  • 40 food @0.45 food/sec (berries/hunting)=88 seconds
  • 70 wood @0.55 wood/sec (no upgrades)=127 seconds
  • 215 villager-seconds(no walking) to make 1 Chariot Archer.

By this logic, 1 Archery Range(producing composites) takes about half as many villagers to keep it producing than an Archery Range producing CA’s. So this means you can have 73% more archery ranges than your CA producing-opponent if you both have the same number of villagers. 
But, throwing another variable in, Composites take less time to produce. It’s a 4/3 ratio, meaning you can train 4 composites in the time it takes to train 3 CA’s. 
Here is a look at villager production/comps ratios:

  • 124 villager seconds-no walking-to build a Composite Bowman
  • 215 villager-seconds to build a Chariot Archer
  • Training time for a Compy: 30 sec
  • Training time for CA: 40 sec

Therefore, you need 5 villagers per range to keep pumping comps (124/30=4.13 plus walking) as long as those 5 TOTAL spend less than 26 seconds walking for every 30 gathering. In 30 seconds, 2 villagers on gold gather (0.55*30*2) 35 gold, while 3 villagers on food gather (0.45*30*3) 40.5 food. As you can see, this cuts it close, and walking time will cause 3 guys to fall below the neccesary 40 food. But 2 villagers gather much more than the neccesary 20 gold. 
So, for 2 ranges you’ll need 3 on gold=49.5 gold and 7 on food=94 food/30 sec. 
To sum this all up, you need 5 vills/range just to keep them producing. So, a typical Minoan bronze will have 25 vills/boats at the time you bronze. You will probably NOT have the resources for 4 ranges…thats ok. Make sure you get the ranges up as soon as possible, while simulatenous keeping the ranges you do have active. The 2:20 it takes to go bronze gives you time to gather enough food and gold for a cushion. Having 10 vills on wood isn’t a bad idea–this means you’ll get 150 wood in less than 28 seconds. Unless you are REALLY DOWN on food, start pumping vills. I think the ideal number of ranges, realistically, is about 6. For 6 ranges you want 21 guys on food and 9 on gold. You therefore will need 30 villagers by the time your economy gets rolling to keep production steady, and every villager after that can help get resources for ironing.
I know that these figures are pretty hard to follow, but I’m just trying to give you an idea of how many vills you’ll need. Don’t bother with 8 ranges and 20 vills–it just don’t work.
If you bronze at 14:00 (which is awful good) and get 4 ranges up by the time the improved bow upgrade finishes(doh! A number I don’t have..!) around 14:40 or so, you’ll get your first 4 improved bowmen at 15:10. Not too bad….then another 4 improved bowman@15:40. With 8 improved bowman, you get the comp upgrade. At 16:10 you get 3 more bowmen, and 3 more at 16:40. At 17:00 the compy upgrade finishes (takes 80s) and by 17:10 you have 17 comps sitting around. In case you can’t tell, this is good. More ranges, and by 18:40 you’ll have 25 comps. Smokin! So by approximately 19 min into the game you will have the best bronze army in the game….
Just so you know what your CA-pumping opponent has to deal with:
215 villager seconds/40 sec per CA=5.375 villagers to keep it pumping. So Mr. CA gets 4 ranges up and 24 vills working them. He bronzes (using assyrian) at 13:20 and the wheel upgrade takes 80s, meaning his 1st 4 CAs pop out at 15:40. By 15:40 you get 8 improved bowmen,so you’re ok. By 17:00 he has 12 CA but you have 17 comps… sux to be him!!!
One more caveat of Composite archer battle: Assuming you have STs and/or wood to spare, you can gain huge advantage using STs in battle. The real answer is not that they will kill lots of CA (they don’t) but they WILL distract him. Here’s what should happen: A group of range 11 comps opens fire on some CA’s. The CA’s move in and attack the comps. Behind the comps are 3 STs, range 10, that the CA player couldn’t see yet. Now that the CA are close enough, they launch their rocks automatically. The CA player panics– he has no choice but to get those STs. So he retargets the CA onto 1 Stone Thrower. It dies. Then targets another–remeber, due to lag this will !not! happen instantaneously. It probably takes 10 seconds, total, do see the STs, and then individually target them. The CA don’t automatically shoot them because remeber, they’re getting torn apart by compys. What happens is that for the price of 540 wood and 240 gold you tilt the odds very far in your favor. While your opponent is busy with your Stone Throwers, your comps rip apart his CA. 16 comps kill 1 CA per volley= 6 volleys in 10 sec=6 dead CA plus however many the rocks killed (prob 1-2)=70 wood*8=560 wood + 40 food*8=320 food. As you can see, there is NOT a huge economic victory here, in fact, you trade gold for food! However, the more comps you have the better the bonus gets. 32 comps would kill 12 CA in that 10 seconds. More CA do not, in general, accelerate the death of your STs. In fact, it is better to have 20 CA stop shooting at your comps then just 10 or so. And, most importantly, it helps you win the battle. This is priceless when you’re on the offensive. Surviving comps will get a minumum of 40s to pillage while his next CA train… while AoE is an economic game, victory in battle comes in a close second in priority :) 
I realize this a pretty utopian setting (a 14:00 Minoan Bronze is real good, and 13:20 isn’t more than good for Assy) and it assumes no tool rushes… but my point is that Minoan whoops on Assy if they can live untouched till they get their first improved bowmen. Obviously if the Assy player bronzes at 12:00 you’re totally screwed and if he’s a better player then you’ll lose too. But compared to Yamato, Minoan vs Assy is easier to win. Against Shang you have to be crazy anyway… :) I tried that once, it was sooo ugly…
Here’s what a 30 Composites/20 CA’s(a likely ratio) battle looks like:

  • 30 composites deal 150 damage each time they shoot…
  • 20 CA’s do 80 damage each time they shoot…
  • 20 CA’s have 1600 HP (80*20)
  • 30 composites have 1350 HP(45*30)
  • 1600/150=11 shots to kill all the CA’s
  • 1350/80=17 shots to kill all the compies

However, as units die the damage per collective shot will go down…however, the CA’s will die faster and the composites win by a larger margin than it appears. The worst thing you can do in a mass-archer battle is manually control the firing of your units. What happens is that they all fire at a certain target and a horde of missiles takes down the target and the rest fly by, wasted. The fact that you eliminate enemy’s slightly faster is more than offset by the wasted shots. Ideally your 30 composites would match up 2-on-1 with the CA’s, wasting as few shots as possible. This happens even worse with helepoli, when those 40-damage-each tree trunks go streaming through a lowly Horse Archer that should’ve died in 2 shots but recieves 10…. 

Composites vs. Cavalry

We have already established that 1 composite costs 124 villager-seconds to make, while 1 cavalry costs: 
70 food @ 0.45 food/sec=155 sec
80 gold @ 0.55 gold/sec=145 sec 1 cav costs 300! villager seconds

Meanwhile, for Yamato (not that you should try Minoan v Yamato in a game, but…):
52 food @ 0.45 food/sec=115 sec 
60 gold @ 0.55 gold/sec=109 sec 
One Yamato cav costs 224 villager/seconds

As you can see, regular cav cost about 236% what comps do, and Yam cav cost about 176% as much. Not to mention the greatly shorter training time for Comps. I think its about a 2-1 time ratio. 
What all this means is that if they have 10 cavalry you should have a minumum of 24 comps. 
With armor, 24 composites should easily beat 10 cavalry. A hill only adds to the carnage. However, it is important that your composites are kept fairly close together when travelling…if you walk right into 10 cav because you weren’t watching your men, your chances get worse. If comps have 11 range and cav cover 2 tiles/sec, then the composites get off (0.66 (Rate of Fire) * 5.5 seconds) 3.6 shots before the first cavalry get there. In 3 shots 30 composites can drop 3 cavalry, and 1 cav with every shot after that.
Controlling your archers works exactly opposite against cavalry, because they have 150 HP and powerful attacks once they get close. Like I said, 30 comps kill 1 cav per group shot, so it is better to have them all targeting the same cav to cut their numbers down faster. 
When forced to chose between targeting cavalry or CA’s and Stone Throwers, get the Stone Throwers first. At 75 HP (150 if Hittite :( ) they’ll go down fast, and with 1 stone thrower shot killing 1-2 comps, they can really mess you up. Get them first.

Wow, I’ve been typing for over 2 hours. And I haven’t even reached the iron age yet! Sheesh!

Composite Bowmen have 1 major weakness: speed. Unlike Chariot Archers and cavalry, they take a l-o-n-g time to cross the map. And if your town gets attacked while your comps are out on an adventure, you are in big trouble. Here’s the best solution, I think, to that problem:
Build Walls. Build at least 3 of your ranges inside the walls, then delete 3 segments to let the comps pour out. 
Build cavalry outside the walls. Why? Stone Throwers will beat your walls into oblivion, and cav can reverse that in a hurry. 
When you send your troops off, Keep building comps at home! I know what you really want is to go Iron, but 20 comps at home is a must against an opponent who is trying to outthink you. 
Towers, if you can spare the villies on stone. Minoan doesn’t get good towers, but by iron age you’ll have Heavy Cats to defend yourself with. 2 CA’s can come in the back door and slaughter tons of vills if you don’t have a tower or 2 to hide behind. At least it will kill them slowly…Or occupy them till your comps at home get there. 
Alright, that’s about all I’ve got to say about Composites.
Notice I said about…I might find something more to say later. :)
Oh look, I found something :) Playing Minoan, your highest priority after survival is to get to iron age. Remember to keep pumping fishing boats and those nice cheap war galleys to mess up enemy fishing. 

Iron Age

Minoa has a kickin’ Iron Age. There are 3 civs (In my opinion) that can beat Minoa in Iron age on a non-islands landscape with all variables equal:
Greek, Hittite and Sumerian
Now, no one plays Greek, and if they do, 30 comps will shred anything they muster in Bronze. And in the rare event that they do get to iron (i.e. team game) Minoan can still deal effectively with them. Both civs have all seige weapons with +2 range (Engineering) and both have centurions. Greeks get Heavy Cavalry, Ballista Towers and useful priests. But those aren’t insurmountable, in fact, they require pretty clever planning to get any sort of advantage with.
Hittites, however, are the kings of the iron age. Two units complete their domination: 10 Attack Heavy Horse Archers, and 300-HP Heavy Cats. Minoan has a problem with both these units. Helepoli are a good archer-counter, even if they do waste shots, and Catapults are good against Horse Archers. Unfortunately, during this time while you were dealing with the Horse Archers those Heavy Cats have just pulverized your army. Cav don’t work, because with Ballistics they hit charging cav, even if the Horse Archers don’t get them.
The only way I think a Minoan can beat Hittite is with a superior economy. You have to get the Heavy Catapult upgrade before the Hittite does and do some serious damage to them. When forced to choose, go for Heavy Cats first, then Helepoli. When you’re skirmishing with Horse Archers and Hittite cats, use your Ballistas/Helepoli for the Archers and your cats on the enemy cats.
Those range 12, 6 attack comps are still useful, but not as the main force of an attacking force anymore. Instead they are great for sniping over forests at enemy woodcutters or shooting over walls. 12 range is a very long way. If you can harass their woodcutters long enough, their cat production slows down, and you can leap ahead. 
Comps are cheap enough to be both dangerous and expendable at the same time. They get pretty well beaten by Horse Archers, but they’ll take some with them. Cats destroy them…. so if you attack with comps, do it stealthily. Lets say start killing woodies, then the Cats roll up and kill you, then your force of cats and helepoli make a frontal assault, then your comps reappear to kill woodies as soon as the cats roll off to fight… your gonna mess ‘em up pretty good unless your way outnumbered.
Sumerian is Hittite’s weaker sibling. Sumer plays basically the same as Hittite, except that their cats only have 150 HP but fire faster. Use comps in the same manner, to either draw Horse Archers away or to fire from so far off(Sumerian HA’s [Horse Archers] only have 9 range) that Cats are neccesary. Either way it opens up many new possibilities, just as long as you can keep the Sumerian distracted.
Against all other civs…that would be: Assyrian, Babylonian, Choson, Phoenician, Egyptian, Yamato, Shang, Persian, you can just go with straight Cats/Helepoli and win 90% of the time if its all equal. I use about a 2/5 HCat/Hele ratio. The cats take down anything while the hele’s, behind them, smash anything (except cats) that gets in the way. Against an opponent who has wised up and is goin with mostly catapults, change the ratio to about 2/3, and be willing to fight cats with helepoli. You can do this because Only 1 civ from the above list has a seige weapon with more than 13 range: Babylon. Phoenician, Egyptian and Yamato get nothing past Stone Throwers with Engineering (range 12) and, dealing on 50 damage, take 2 shots to kill a Helepolis with. Go straight Helops against this civ, with a few cats just for help. Choson doesn’t even get Enginnering, so its Stone Throwers only have 10 range. Hele’s tear these apart, but you’ll need cats for the range 12 towers…
Shang gets Catapults and Helepoli but no engineering so it’s max range is 12. Persian is the same only without Helepoli. Assyria is potentially damaging with all seige weapons but no engineering, leaving it with 13 range Heavy Catapults. Go with tons of cats and helepoli and play it like your against a greek/Sumerian combination, and use your extra range to take Assyrian Helepoli down before they can close in and fire.
Meanwhile, Babylon has range 15 Heavy Cats and Heavy Horse Archers. Babylon is a lot like an weaker sibling to Sumerian, only Bab has some strange defensive bonuses. Double Wall+Tower HPs and Priests that reload faster mean that a Bab player in most likely shooting for a wonder. This can be hard to beat with Minoan, as you trade cat shots and Heles with HHA’s, while they wo-lo-lo your cats. Against a heavily dug in Bab player, I’d use my cats to attack ground in front of their walls until they are destroyed. This way they can’t touch you with any units. Do the same against towers, but expect some Cats to roll out. Don’t let yourself get any closer to Towers (and their accompanying priests) than you have to! Advance slowly and try to draw them out. When the final assault begins, have some comps ready for those priests. And if the wonder timer is ticking down, god help you!
That’s “all” I have so far on Minoan(about 4000 words). More updates to come once I can figure out the complexities of Helepoli, Hcats, and Heavy Horse Archers… not to mention sea battles!