Roman Strategy Guide

Heaven’s Reference Pages

Roman Strategy Guide

By WarLust


With the release of the Rise of Rome Expansion Pack for Age of Empires, new civs, units, maps, and technologies came forth. Introducing more of what we wanted as Agers brought us much anticipation, and also paved the way for more strategies to manipulate. Among the new civs introduced, I was quite fascinated with two or three. Namely, these were the Roman, Palmyran, and Macedonian civs. Carthage looked respectable on paper, but in reality has become a poor choice. I began to play all three when RoR came out, but was most fascinated with Rome. While Palmyra and Macedonia offered some really great advantages, I found myself continuously playing the Romans. What initially made me excited about the Roman civ was its bonus to swordsmen. Except for Choson , the swordsmen in AoE lacked any appeal to gamers because of three things 1) the severity at which they were killed by archers, 2) upgrade time and the number of upgrades, and 3) upgrade costs. Choson was and still is a fun civ to play. Having dozens of swordsmen at your control and overwhelming the enemy is very historical and exciting. Choson long swordsmen and legions are very strong , cheap to make after all the upgrades, and produce fast. Does Roman infantry really change things? Do we have another infantry civ to play? If not, what else can Roman use against other civs?
All assumptions regrading this strategy guide are based on the following criteria:

  • Random Map (No Deathmatch, water-based maps, unless otherwise stated)
  • Default Start (Stone age)
  • Default Resources
  • Population of 100
  • Intermediate players and above with adequate partners ;)

Overview of Attributes and Advantages/Disadvantages

We need to evaluate the Romans before we can use them. Using a civ without knowing their advantages/disadvantages can lead to many lost games. Rome offers not only economic advantages, but also a military bonus. Lets take a look at the bonuses available to the Romans.
1.) Buildings, except for towers and Wonders, cost 15 % less (even farms)
Obviously, you can see the potential this civ has already. Cheaper buildings mean more wood for other buildings, more military units, more upgrades, or more fishing ships. The most important benefit of this bonus is that you can build your storage pit faster than any other civ, except for maybe Phoenician. A Roman storage pit requires 102 wood, compared to 120. This becomes very important for boat fishing on water maps. A quicker storage pit means more and faster wood gathering, which means getting a dock built faster. Getting a dock built as early as you can is very important on water maps, as it allows you to boom. Booming has become the most popular strategy since the release of RoR. Even though Tool rushes are still common, more games progress to the Iron age than they did in AoE. As I will explain later, the cost reduction of houses plays an important role early. Assuming a default resource start of 200 wood, you can build a granary/storage pit and THREE houses, not just two.
2). Towers cost 50% less
When I was reviewing the bonuses for the new civs, I paid particularly close attention to this one. This was a welcome sight, as many would agree. Although the Romans only get the Watch and Sentry Tower, this bonus more than makes up for itself. As soon as you Tool, after researching the Watch tower, you can build not just one tower, but TWO. I would like to add that many times you do not want to build two towers during the Tool age with your starting amount of stone, assuming you are playing default resources. I consider walls more important than towers and I would suggest you devote the stone given to you for walling. Once you have safely walled in your villagers, then tower up. Sometimes you are in a “desert” and cannot wall. In this case I would either move your woodcutting operation where you can wall, or build your two towers close to your town for protection. In many instances like this, I will build my first two towers within sight of my woodcutting operation. I do this because early protection from tool rushes, especially from Shang, is essential and your woodcutters are more important in the early game.
There are two advantages to half price towers. One, they allow for awesome tower rushes during the Tool age. I will explain more on this later. Second, you can build twice as many towers. It is this reason why the Romans are second to Shang as far as Tool rushing and defending. Im my opinion, Rome can handle Shang quite well in the Tool age, compared to the other civs. This does not mean Rome will defeat Shang in Tool all the time, but it has been done many times.
3). Short swordsmen and up attack 33% faster
I emphasized “short swordsmen and up” because some people think ALL barracks units have this bonus. Clubmen and Axemen do not have this bonus. This bonus was the main one that attracted me to playing Rome. Ironically, it has become the most unused bonus that I employ. Even with the attack bonus, swordsmen still die to mass archers. However, if they do get close, they are superb. It has been shown that Roman Legions are better than Choson Legions. One on one, the Roman will defeat a Choson with the same upgrades. 
After saying all this, it does not mean that 20 broad swordsmen walking into your town is not scary, because it is! I have only seen this done a few times. It works most of the time, but just like composite bowmen, the upgrades are expensive and time intensive. Unless you are going to use long swordsmen and/or legions in the Iron age, I would stay away from making swordsmen. 
Now that we know what kind of “special civ” bonuses Romans get, lets look at their war machine and economy. Specifically, I mean lets analyze their advantages and disadvantages regarding super military units, armor and attack upgrades, market upgrades, and government center upgrades.

Super Military Units Storage Pit Upgrades
Scythe Chariots
Heavy Catapults

Granary Upgrades
All Walls
All but Guard and Ballista Towers
Market Upgrades Government Center Upgrades
All but Irrigation All but Alchemy
Heavily dependant on gold, except for chariots
No Bronze or Iron age archers, except for improved bowmen
No Towers beyond Sentry
Very susceptible to attack in Bronze
No Astrology or Afterlife for priests

At first it looks as though the Romans are very gold dependant, and they are mostly, but they have the scythe chariot, which requires no gold after researching. My first military unit upgrade after hitting Iron is usually the scythe chariot. I can produce these in mass quantities and make nice villager raids while I upgrade my cats and ballistas. 
They have no Bronze or Iron age archer units, except for improved bowmen, and I wouldn’t waste my resources on that upgrade. Anything that can’t be upgraded in Iron, I don’t research usually, except for cavalry. 
Although the Romans don’t get any upgrades for towers beyond Sentrys, I wouldn’t really consider that a disadvantage due to them being half-priced. Having half-priced ballista towers would be awesome, but would make Rome too powerful.
Romans are very susceptible in Bronze. Since they don’t have any good archer units, they must rely on hand-to-hand units, such as cavalry, chariots, or infantry (barracks and academy) for protection. Even mass Sentry towers will not stop hordes of camels, cavalry, chariots, and chariot archers from running into your town and killing all your villagers.
Rome has very good priests, but they are not as good as the “great” priest civs, i.e., Egyptian, Phoenician, Choson, etc, because they lack Afterlife and Astrology, two vital upgrades for effective priests. What this means is that they do not convert as fast nor as far. They do however have Monotheism, Medicine, and Martyrdom, which are nice to have ;)
Other upgrades the Romans lack can be considered trivial. Alchemy is nice to have for archer civs, but since Rome does not get any good archers, this upgrade is really not needed. Another upgrade, irrigation, is almost useless to me. I hardly ever farm, especially on water maps, but if I do, I only get the first two farm upgrades anyway. Irrigation is very expensive.
One unit that I would have added for the Romans would be the composite bowman. Since they already get the improved bowman, why not the composite bowman? Oh well, I guess they would have been too powerful. 

Marching Through the Ages

In this next section, I will briefly outline my overall strategy, what specific units I employ, and what upgrades I normally research. I will not discuss step-by-step procedures as this guide will be long enough without the detail. I will also assume that those reading this guide have a good knowledge of startups and know how to continuously make villagers. Keep in mind that these are typical actions of mine and you may diversify yourself from these and experiment as you wish. These are the ways I have best used the Romans, and the ways I think are most effective. NOTE: I will stay away from the researching and building of barracks units, unless otherwise stated.

Stone Age Overall Strategy
Starting off in the Stone age is somewhat different from other civs. They have cheaper buildings, therefore are faster to pit for wood and dock boom. This age is where Rome can best use its 15% building cost reduction. Your first six villagers produced will be used the same way any other civ would. After the sixth villager, Rome differs from the typical strategy of others civs. My typical start on any map is gathering berries. In RoR, berries are a safe bet since they are mostly near your TC and last quite awhile, keeping your villager production continuous, at least until you get 20-22 villagers. However this should not always be an automatic reaction for startups. If you are planning on dock booming, then try and find a “sweet spot” with a forest near gold, fish, elephants, or gazelle. This “sweet spot” will allow you to dock faster and pump fishing boats, leading to some nice Tool and Bronze times. My first six villagers are put on berries if I am going to gather berries first. If I am going to pit wood near shore fish, then I use 4 villagers and the other two on wood.
Assuming I am going with a granery first, I put my first 6 villagers on berries. Some people use 5, allowing the sixth to either scout or chop wood. However, I do not like to do this because of a little “bug” known as the “berry bug”. Many of you know what I am talking about-when one of your villagers brings back 9 berries and when it comes time to make another villager, you have 49 instead of 50. This has always aggravated me ever since my newbie days of AoE well over a year ago. With six on berries, it allows you to keep constant villager production, even if the “berry bug” should show itself. 
Once I have my food coming in nicely, I will use my seventh and eighth villagers for scouting. My reasoning for having the seventh and eighth villagers scout instead of chop wood is advantageous for a couple of reasons: 
1) On default resource starts, every civ gets 200 wood. With Rome however, they can build a storage pit or granary and THREE houses, not just two like all other civs. This is where we see Rome start to utilize the 15% building cost reduction. Having enough wood to build the third house without chopping for more wood lets Rome wood pit faster, thus dock faster and Tool faster.
2) Early scouting is always necessary for any civ and Rome can do it better than other civs, except for Shang, by using the seventh and eighth villagers. Earlier scouting can reveal needful resources, “sweet spots” for the storage pit, and of course, the enemy.
The rest of the villagers created should be on wood. Once you get 102 wood, place a wood pit next to a forest, preferably close to another resource. Some decisions have to be made at this point. Do you want to Tool Rush? Push? Bronze Rush? Or Iron Jump ? Typically, if I have scouted the surrounding area, found enough food, and have found my opponent near me, especially them being Shang, I will Tool Rush. If I am in the “pocket” (middle man in a 3v3 or 4v4 team game), I will typically boom to bronze with some fighting, then immediately Iron, or I may even just Iron jump all together.
In any event, make anywhere from 18-26 real vills (depending on type of strategy) and build at least one dock. Even if you decide to Tool Rush, having a dock bring in that extra food can be life-saving. If Tool rushing, put most of your villagers on food until you press Tool, then transfer some to wood. Example: If you are going to Tool rush with 18 villagers, build your necessary buildings for the Tool upgrade, then put about 14 on food and the rest on wood. Once you press Tool, transfer about 6-8 from food to wood. This will allow you to have enough wood for more boats, houses, and military buildings. If you decide to bronze rush, then make a few boats (6-8). But if you decide to power boom, make several docks with about 4-8 boats per dock.
Once you have enough villagers to satisfy your strategy, press the Tool upgrade when you get 500 food. You can continue to make more boats if you like while researching Tool, but try and save some for military buildings, scout ships, and more houses. A lot of people over-boom when they play, and thus do NOT have enough wood to wage a Tool scout ship battle if one commences. Making a few scout ships to protect your investment will turn out to be worthwhile if you encounter a scout ship rush. Be prepared.

Nothing now.

Units used
None, unless you are going to Tool rush with some clubbers/axemen, then you can start making them in Stone.

Tool Overall Strategy
You have reached Tool. By this time you should be on your second food source to help support Tool rushes or speed Bronze time. If Tool rushing put about four villagers on stone and research watch tower and make another barracks. Make a few upgraded clubbers, a few slingers, a couple scout ships, and a scout to help track down fleeing villagers. I firmly believe that if you are not going to use swordsmen in Bronze or Iron, then don’t research the axemen upgrade. For the same amount of food, you can get the attack upgrade that equals the axemen attack and it will also apply later to your scythes. Axemen have 10 more hitpoints, but that shouldn’t matter too much if you have enough of them. The only real threat to axemen/clubbers are archers, and they are typically non-existent because of the slinger.
If defending a Tool rush, do the same as above. If you get into a heavy naval battle, put most, if not all your villagers on wood. You do not want to lose your fishing ships. Have at least two wood pits in case the enemy finds one. Try and find a nice wallable forest to protect your villagers.
If bronze rushing, build a stable and market and press the Bronze upgrade. If going for an Iron jump, put at least 4 villagers on gold and put a few more on in Bronze.

If Tool rushing or defending against a Tool rush, research infantry attack and armor, stone mining (slingers and towers), tower, and wall. 
Once you press the Bronze upgrade, get woodcutting.

Units Used
If Tool rushing, use upgraded clubbers, slingers, towers, and a scout.

Bronze Overall Strategy
You finally arrive at bronze. If you boomed, you should have 22-26 villagers with 12-? boats. My minimum is usually 12 boats. Bronze is a terrible time for Rome. As I stated earlier, they have NO good archers. You are basically left with hand-to-hand units, i.e., cavalry, chariots, academy, and swordsmen. They are basically on the defensive. Because of this, what I typically do during the bronze age is either a push or iron jump. By push, I mean I will I may stay in bronze, make some units, research some things, make more villagers or boats, help my partners, and then Iron. Or I may just build my government center and siege workshop and Iron ASAP. Iron is when they are fun to play. But let’s talk about Bronze now. As I said before, I don’t use swordsmen very much when I play Rome. Many people may find this awkward , but swordsmen still die rather easily to archers. For my main battle unit in Bronze, I use the chariot. Why? For the same reason that Egypt players use chariots in Bronze-so they can upgrade them later to scythes. Scythes are my main attack force in Iron for several reasons:
1). The upgrade cost is relatively cheap-only 1200 wood and 800 gold
2). They only cost food and wood (40 food, 60 wood)
3). In large groups, they are formidable with their area damage
Usually I start out with a couple of cavalry and a scout while I research the wheel. I use these cavalry units to disrupt the enemy’s economy . In Bronze I have to make the choice of either going to Iron or staying in Bronze. As previously mentioned, Rome’s Bronze is nothing spectacular. Staying in Bronze can be futile unless you have enough units to suppress any invasion. If my teammates require assistance, then I will help out the best I can and Iron later.
By now you should have towers all over your town from your four villagers in Tool. Place them so that their range can overlap the other towers for protection. Towers are usually not one of my favorite things to research or use, but for Roman they are almost essential for Bronze defense-again no good archer support.
Once you hit the Iron upgrade, if you are going to be low on wood once you get to Iron, then put some more villagers on wood since you will want to upgrade to scythes as soon as possible. Do the same for gold.

Wheel, then artisanship, followed by gold mining, but if you are not pressed for more gold, then wait and upgrade gold mining on the way to Iron. If you are booming to Iron and Bronze is just a stopping point, then don’t research Writing until you are Ironing, but if your opponents need you or you are under heavy attack and need to relocate, then get Writing. Research Nobility for your upgrade to scythes while Ironing.
You may want to start getting some of the armor and attack upgrades for stable units, but if you are low on food and gold, then wait until Iron.
Upgrade to sentry towers for better range, attack, and hitpoints.

Mostly use cavalry and chariots. Try and stay away from infantry unless you are going to use them in Iron. Use some stone throwers if necessary, but save as much gold as you can for a quick Iron.
Upgrade to fishing ships. The extra capacity and speed are worth the cost. Upgrade to war galleys to protect your fleet of fishing ships.

Iron Overall Strategy
Ahh! The Iron age is upon you. Now its time to have some fun ;) Upon arriving in Iron, you should have enough wood and gold to get the scythe upgrade. This should always be your first military upgrade in Iron. Getting the Helepolis and Heavy Cat upgrade first would be a mistake later when the gold runs out and you don’t have enough to get the scythe upgrade, enabling you to at least have a fighting chance in Iron. Scythes are great villager raiding units. They are tough as nails, given the necessary upgrades, and only require food and wood allowing to use your gold on your monstrous siege units. 
Once you have the scythe upgrade, start making town raids and kill as many villagers as you can. Research the catapult upgrade and use them for building destruction. The Helepolis should be your next major upgrade. Sooner or later, you will be fighting other scythes with yours and you need an advantage. Helepoli destroy scythes, given you have enough of them and you are not overwhelmed.
Rome essentially has three effective unit combinations:
1) Scythe/Cat
2) Scythe/Helo
3) Cat/Helo
I tend to stay away from the scythe/cat combo similar to why I don’t use the swordsmen/ST combo-splash damage from your siege killing your own units. If I do use it, I just use a few cats/ST’s and use them sparely. What’s the point in killing your own units?
The scythe/helo is a great combo against those civs that have superior siege, i.e., Sumerian and Hittite. I don’t use the cat/helo combo against these two civs for obvious reasons. You will lose the siege battle due to superior units. The best way to deal with these two civs is to rush in with scythes to kill the cats and then use the helos to mop up anything else, i.e., horse archers, chariots archers, etc.
The last combo, the cat/helo, is my personal favorite and I am sure most of those that read this will agree. This combo is one of the most effective at killing anything! What happens with this combo is you lead your cats, and then follow your helos behind. I almost always assign my cats a hotkey, like CTRL-1, and my helos, CTRL-2. That way I can move them quite effectively using the keys 1 and 2. Use your cats to destroy ST’s, archers, slow infantry, and buildings. Use your helos for support and have them fire on anything that attacks the cats, namely scythes, cavs, and marching infantry that the cats miss. This combo is most devastating and the most pleasing to see, for me anyway ;) The counters for this combo are priests and overwhelming units. If I am going against a good priest civ, such as Egypt or Phoenician, then I will mostly use the scythe/helo combo for the fear of priests.

Upon arriving to Iron, there are some very essential upgrades, not just for Rome, but for any civ that has the ability to research them. 
The most important iron government center upgrades for me when using Rome are ballistics and engineering. This assumes of course that you have already researched nobility and writing while Ironing or while still in Bronze. Architecture can be beneficial, but should only be researched after the others. 
The most important market upgrades are coinage and craftsmanship. Coinage increases your gold intake. Craftsmanship increases your wood intake and is the necessary upgrade for Helepoli. Siegecraft should be last once you have decided that you are going with heavy catapults. I normally don’t get the farming upgrades on water maps, but if you find that you are fighting a long battle, or that your fishing has been depleted, or that your fleet has been destroyed, then get one or two of the upgrades. 
Upgrade your stable units armor and attack. This will allow your scythes to be more efficient killers. Rome gets all the armor and attack upgrades. Use them, they will pay for themselves.

Rome has a strong military in Iron. They are the only civ to get scythes, heavy cats, and helos. This allows Rome to challenge any opposition in the Iron age. They also get all war ships, except for the fire galley. 
Upgrade to scythes as soon as possible. Once you have those, feel free to get any others as long as you have the resources. Unless you are wanting to have a fun game, and not be competitive, stay away from long swords and legions. 
Upgrade to triremes. Use these to suppress other war ships, protect your town, and to bombard coastlines. If you need greater range, research the catapult trireme.

Conquering the Maps

I primarily wrote this guide based on water maps. Rome does very well on water maps since they have all boats but the fire galley, can dock really fast, and have all necessary wood upgrades to keep fighting long sea battles, but they can do quite well on highland or hill country, or what we advanced players like to call “hell” country. It truly is hell trying to play on that map!
I have not played very much highland or hill country maps with Roman, but I think they can fair rather well. Shang still rules this map.
I don’t have much Deathmatch experience and therefore cannot recommend Rome, but I would say they are 2nd Tier for DM games, simply because they could be a good counter against Choson.
Nomad starts are particularly different when using Rome. Based on default resources, with a given amount of 200 wood, all other civs can only build a town center. Once the town center is built, 4 vills can only be produced, at which they are chopping wood for more houses. However, using Rome, you can build a town center AND a house. This is a great early advantage. You can really pull ahead of your opponents using Rome while starting in Nomad.


Rome definitely has some great units to use and can be really fun to play. They are quite competitive, but not as much as Shang and Phoenician. They have a very powerful Tool Rush and Iron age army, but they lack any significant strength in Bronze. If you can mass together chariots and protect your resources and villagers with towers, then you should be alright until Iron, but get there as fast as you can. Try to not spend so much time in Bronze. You are more likely to be defeated in Bronze than in any other age. Rome’s Iron has units to counter any other from another civ. Prepare yourself against any units the enemy will use against you. 
I hope you can enjoy this civ as much as I have. Rome is different in certain ways, but use those differences to crush your enemy. I wish you luck and I hope to see you on the battlefield, crushing your opponents with an awesome arsenal. Good luck!