The Phoenician Tool Archer Rush in AOE


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The Phoenician Tool Archer Rush in AOE

by Lord_Boats

Some people might be surprised when they hear me say “Phoenician tool archer rush,” since Tool archer rushing has fallen out of vogue and the Phoenician isn’t known for it, but I have found it to be an effective tool against civs ramping up with big farms early on and even in attacks against my own civ by people who have borrowed my idea (thanks, LEMONADE). Mind you, this is not perfect, since the game is dynamic, and unforeseen things can turn this into a total disaster. But so can anything in AOE, right? You just roll with the punches, but most of the time, you are delivering them and letting others roll. 
The Phoenician’s ability to get wood permits them to build enough ranges, get enough upgrades, build enough farms, and be hitting someone’s woodpile within 12-13 minutes, and to follow up with an 18-20 minute bronze as an individual or 14-15 minute bronze with support from a tributary ally civ. (I’m sure these times can be improved by people who know what they are doing better than I). And, when you hit a civ, you usually “catch him with his pants down” as he is in late Tool with little or no military, is bronzing, or is wheeling. Any way you look at it, you are in his civ during a vulnerable time frame and he has some waiting to do before he can counter attack. The beauty of it is, if you have done it right, after your rush you will be close enough to Bronze Age to finish off your victim and help your partners hammer the other two enemy civs before they can do anything about it. You walk away, in many cases, with total impunity, albeit a slightly slower Bronze. Timing is important to doing this right, and you have to pay close attention to what you are doing in the beginning to make this work.
So, what is the trick, you ask? The key to getting the rush going is to have the 6th guy out scouting and finding the enemy woodcutter pit, and possibly the location of a second enemy civ, and get your ranges up before any walls block you out. If you wait until the 9th or 10th guy, you may not find the spot you want in time to pull the rush off with any positive results. The 6th guy usually has time to scout out the enemy area and give you a good idea of where to hit his cutters. Don’t be surprised if you see your enemy Tool before your civ because you sent the 6th guy scouting and you have fewer villagers, you will be fine. Just send him to all corners opposite team civs using waypoints and make sure he is grouped and easily centered. You cannot afford to lose him to a lion, or the rush is off. It takes too much time to get another scout in place, not to mention it is a burden on your resources if you want to follow up with an effective Bronze. Group the 6th guy, and when you hear trouble, you can usually save him in time. Do not send him back to your civ if he is injured. He is the man for building your ranges if you are to pull this off with any surprise. Just be careful with him after he gets hurt.
When you find your spot, leave your scout where he is and turn your attention on your civ to do some micromanagement. 
I have been using two variations of the rush, and tend to favor one over the other. The initial start is normal, as is outlined in many other manuals, but then I change things a little as I’m setting up the rush. The first variation uses 18 villagers, with 7 on food initially, one on gold, and the rest on wood. This one is best if you know the location of a second berry patch nearby from scouting, have a fishpit, or know of a second “easy” food source. You can have a villager build another storage pit or granary from your wood stores, and relocate villagers after your first source is exhausted. The second variation uses 16 villagers, since you need to conserve berries to get to tool and do the rush, or because you have a sweet spot for fishing. Your bronze time will be significantly slower if you are food poor, so it is always a good idea to let your scout do a couple waypointed loops around your civ to find food sources other than gazelles and follow the 18 villager path. But either way, you will do the same thing in the rush. Keep an eye on your civ and push Tool upgrade as soon as you hit 500 food. Have one of your villagers build a barracks in town while you wait.
As soon as you are in Tool, have your scout stake out two archery ranges next to the enemy woodpit, but out of sight and a ways back, as not to alarm him. If he builds a few bowmen to counter yours, your rush may be ruined, and your archery ranges in danger of being towered or otherwise countered in Tool. Towers by the woodcutters spell doom to your rush. You don’t want your archery ranges to be seen, at least not right away. And don’t build your ranges where they can be walled off. Your bowmen wont do much to walls, and your rush will be a huge waste of resources if you get trapped somehow. Surprise is a key component of your archer rush.
Let’s say you found a good spot and aren’t in a high traffic area and your scout is building your ranges. While he is building the first range, go back to your civ and upgrade archer armor to +2 and build a market. The +2 armor will keep your bowmen safe in case the enemy woodcutters decide to bone-beat them to death. If he goes after them with his woodcutters when you are upgraded, I assure you he will get the raw end of the deal. But unarmored bowmen go down fairly easily to woodcutter assaults, so be sure to upgrade. 
As soon as the sound signaling a completed archery range is heard, go back to the range and train a bowman. The scout will be building another range by this time if you staked out both ranges at once. Then you can go back to micromanagement.
This is the critical step in getting to the decent bronze time. By now, your second foodsource is almost exhausted, so you take all of the villagers off that food source except one or two, depending on what’s left, and you build farms with the rest. This allows you to focus on your rush and not worry about having food coming in while you are paying attention to the attack. You don’t want to come back to your civ following the rush to see a bunch of villagers standing around while you need food to get to Bronze, especially when you have a large store of wood. There is no excuse for this waste of time. By the time you have the farms set up, your first bowmen is done, and your second range is done or close to done. The next two bowmen (for a total of three) will come out at almost the same time from each range, your armor is already upgraded, and you are ready to rock. I may add another bowmen if the civ I am targeting has lots of villagers (check achievements). Four bowmen kill a villager every two shots. This insures you get a few more villager kills before your enemy starts to run than you would get with 3 archers, and scares him from doing a woodcutter assault. By this time, you may even go ahead and click on the woodworking upgrade so you can ramp up and get the +1 range for your archers and chariot archers in Bronze.
Group your archers and send them into the midst of the woodcutters, focusing on one villager at a time. Your opponent is usually not attending to his woodcutters during late Tool/early Bronze, but is scouting or building something for Bronze instead, so when you step into the middle of his woodcutters, he is totally surprised. While the archers are shooting his villagers, have your scout build another archery range to get ready for the Bronze follow up. And when his villagers start to run, chase after them. Don’t shoot his buildings or waste time with his TC (although sending the scout in to wall the tc is fun, if you are close enough), keep after his peons. You will have another solution for trashing his civ later. Leave one bowman at his woodpit, in case his woodcutters do a circle and return, and chase him with the other 2 or 3. He will usually circle around, lead you to his second pit, or lead you to his neighbors civ, where you can shoot his buddy’s villagers too. But any way you look at it, you have disrupted your target civ’s wood supply, and have slowed him down. If, for some silly reason, or by luck, you kill most of your target civ’s villagers, start looking for the next civ’s woodcutters. You can usually catch the second guy as he is walling in, or building up a military force and you can at least kill 3 or 4 of his woodcutters or put holes in his unfinished walls before he comes after you. Even if you don’t accomplish much with your rush, the disruption should be enough to compensate for your slow bronze time.
By now, you have around 800 food, and it is time to hit the bronze upgrade or you are close to it. If your target civ was bronzing or wheeling when you hit them, you will be slightly behind him timewise as he builds whatever archer or cavalry force he can muster. But keep in mind, he is wood poor and is more focused on killing your bowmen than taking out your ranges. Your bowmen are keeping him from his woodpit, or are chasing his villagers around. He wants to kill your bowmen first, and during this time you can have bronzed, have your wheel done and start building chariots to counter him. Since you have run his woodcutters off, he wont have very many chariots due to his wood shortage, and you can hold out until you get a few of your own. If he kills your bowmen, what have you really lost anyway? 120 food and 60 wood if you went in with three bowmen, and I’ll let you do the math for four. His villagers are 50 food apiece, not to mention that they lose the wood they were carrying, so if you can kill 4 of them, you have done well, and 5 is success. As soon as you bronze, have your scout build a Siege shop, so you can finish your target civ off, and have a base of chariot/siege operations going on behind enemy lines for your Bronze attack. Also have him build a TC close behind your ranges. Since you only started out with 16-18 villagers, you need to start ramping up your villager population to gather resources for your Bronze battle.
It is important to build at least one siege right after you go bronze (that is why you had one villager on gold early on. (And you thought it was just for the +2 archery armor upgrade in Bronze!), because now the other civs are walling in or sending chariots (or less commonly cavalry) down to help their beleaguered ally. You need to finish your crippled target civ off so he needs to rebuild houses, pits, TC’s etc., to keep him busy with his resources while you fight the other two civs with your allies. You can also use a stone thrower to break down enemy walls and send your chariots inside if needed. Remember, you are somewhat behind everyone in your Bronze time, so you need to make sure your target doesn’t make a comeback and negate the advantage you have created. One stone thrower will usually do the trick for leveling his civ, assisted by two chariots or bowmen to keep off any villagers or clubmen who want to beat your cat to pieces.
After your rush is done, it is a good time to go back to your civ and reassess what needs to be done (Julius Caesar called it assizing). You can build your government center, get farms going, and get writing so you know where you are needed with your bronze forces or determine whether you should go Iron to better attack walled-in enemies. Which brings me to my next point.
As mentioned, you have two options, to buildup a Bronze military force, or shoot for Iron Age. If your partners are needing backup, go the Bronze military buildup route. You know what to do-chariots and stone throwers or cavalry. Phoenician has a good cavalry, and the stables you build in Bronze come in handy in Iron, even though it takes time to get the stables up and running. Its good to keep a few chariots and cavalry around even if you go Iron, since both are faster than elephants in an emergency. Stone Throwers aren’t as important for you in Iron, but always have a use somewhere.
You can also decide to go Iron, depending on the momentum of the game. After you build your government center and get writing and you see your partners holding them off, you can build up lots of stables, ranges, and a couple temples (don’t forget the temples, trust me) with your wood, as well as farms and get ready for an Iron attack . Try to get the two cavalry armor upgrades for war elephants later on, if you can afford it. While you are doing this, you can also start “infesting” the map and stripping resources from it, starting in the area you just sacked. Make sure you go for food (primarily) and gold (secondarily). Building your elephant military is very resource intensive, but luckily you wont have to worry about wood except for farms and building new military buildings. Since Phoenicians are natural wood hoarders and you don’t have a good catapult, you should be fine with the wood resource, especially if you upgraded woodcutting in tool. You may even consider donating some to your cat-building allies, or build a few docks to get some ocean food if you didn’t dock in early Bronze/late Tool. The extra wood is great for ramping up and spreading out.
If you build up to Iron and start cranking out elephants, make sure you keep a few priests around. Elephants are very expensive, and as soon as your enemy sees them, he will build a temple and train priests to expropriate a few from you. You want to prevent this, as well as keep a healing hand on such an expensive food/gold intensive military unit. You can also use the priests with a monotheism upgrade to convert the civ you hit in Tool, if you left the farms and military structures intact. Its nice to have the scout build a town center right where your enemy’s base used to be, and take over where he left off. This takes some time, and I’d only do this if things are OK with your allies, and you aren’t needed up on the front line.
Make sure your villager/scout builds a TC behind where your military buildings are placed, near or in the enemy civ you just rushed. If your scout is killed off, it is typically a fairly long walk for another to come from your civ to help build more military buildings for you. If (big if, during the pitched Bronze battles) he makes it to you, you are okay, but I prefer to have a quick villager supply in the back. You can use this second TC to strip resources as well.
In Iron, I like to build up a lot of war elephants, in order to counter the catapult problem stemming from civs with good cats, like the Hittites. Since Phoenician only gets a stone thrower, its cat capabilities are fairly limited in the Iron Age. It is best to have something that can get in there and destroy cats before being killed. Its even better to have an ally with cat support, so your main worry can be priest conversions.
Also, if you have a tributary civ right after you start your tool rush, you can go Bronze as if you hadn’t used any resources for a rush (Lord_HCN is the professional at tributing; and there is an art to it entailing giving it all fearlessly!). A partner tributing you is a great idea, since you are already on the front line with your ranges and stables, and all you need is a supply source to get your bronze rush going. You don’t have to spend your time micromanaging food and gold (which building elephants in Iron will convince you is a big consideration) but can focus on the attack. In this case, you should build a big bronze force, and help your third ally fight the other two as your tributer gathers resources to get you to Iron Age. Tributing is very helpful, as long as your tributary civ is not in danger. The tributer should wall and tower as much as possible to keep unwanted visitors out. Typically, when you are a tributee, you can be the first to go Iron and pop out elephant after elephant to counter Bronze archers. You going Iron will bring a gasp from the enemy as he realizes it is 3 vs. 2 against an Iron and two Bronze opponents. Get alchemy if you really want to frighten them with the flaming arrows. Your enemy’s last ditch effort will be to build temples and have his priests take a few elephants from you, but by then you already trained a few priests of your own, right? Or you can have your tributary, provided he is Bronze, handle that so you can just focus on fighting. Get the priests the +3 conversion range upgrade, so they don’t have to be in the middle of the battle to reconvert your elephants.
Having pummeled one of their partners, and going Iron does a lot to make the enemy feel defeated, if not BE defeated. After you finish your attack, it is 3 vs. 2 in the enemy mind, if there is no decisive response to your rush. Also, the psychological impact of hearing their partner cry out in Tool while there is nothing they can do to help and of having a stone thrower crush their ally’s TC to dust is usually enough to make them wall in their civ and play defensively or, for stronger civs, build a big Bronze army and not go Iron. The enemy seeing elephants while they are still Bronze will even sometimes elicit a resignation. In any case, you and your partners just bring in your town centers and strip resources. No matter how strong your opponent is inside his walls and even if he goes Iron, you will have the resources in the end and that is what this is all about anyway. You have brought the battle to your enemy’s side, you are taking resources from his half of the board, and your victory is just a “stone’s throwers throw” away after that.