Dock First

Heaven’s Reference Pages

Dock First

By Cherub Nineveh

With the advent of Rise of Rome fishing and booming have become much more important aspects of the game. The major downfall of huge booms is tool rushing (by this I mean booms over 40 vills/boats and bronzing in 15 min or more). Using a dock first strategy when it fits has lowered my “huge boom bronze” (51 vills/boats, 14:10 bronze). I have read elsewhere that dock first requires a large set of requirements like close berries, straggler trees, etc. With no berries and no stragglers it works just fine for me. All you need is:

  • Substantial wood within 6-8 tiles
  • A watery map (islands, narrows, coastal, mediterranean, continental) that you can find water fast on.


Some civs work better with this strategy than others, although it is feasible with all civs.

  • Shang (wow, a strat Shang is good at!)
  • Phoenician (wow, a water strat Phoenician is good at!)
  • Minoan
  • Roman.

A note about Rome: due to the 85% building cost Rome can build a house, dock and storage pit for just 212 wood. Thus they can get a solid boom started faster because of little travel time with wood. This requires 2 trips with wood, first. Build a storage pit and house and carry 2 trips, then dock, then proceed as normal.
A 2nd note: Roman bronze is not very powerful, and no matter how fast you dock you don’t have much to hit with. In my opinion it is better to go for an iron jump/boom than dock first to bronze with Rome.
All other civs are relatively equal in that they chop normally, vills cost 50 food and boats cost 50 wood. Some, like Yamato, are a lot more likely to hold the sea and thus are better to boom with than something like Babylonian.

The Start

Within the first 5 second you have to commit to this strategy. If you see a forest or 6+ stragglers right away (before exploring) then you have everything you need to pull this off. Have 1 villager make a house while the other two go exploring near each other. This is important because as soon as you find suitable water you want a dock up as fast as possible, and you don’t want to lose anybody to lions. There will be a minor delay as the house finishes while your first of four queued vills pop out. Start your 2 vills back home chopping if it’s a med map (so your 2 other guys are going to the middle) otherwise you might send 1 guy in the opposite direction in case your 2 explorers can’t find suitable water.
As your next vills pop out (to a max of 7 unless you are Shang, then 8) do not build a 2nd house! At first your boat production will be very slow, so you don’t need any more than a pop of 8. By now you should be making a dock somewhere where you can see at least 2 fish jumping. If you find water in a spot where there shouldn’t be water (i.e. the corner on med) for heavens sake don’t dock on what will turn out to be a puddle!

Making Boats

Once your dock is up it’s time to make boats. This is where Minoan really shines. After a dock (100W) and a house (30 W) you have 70W left , which is enough for another house and a boat (you will have chopped at least 10 W by now). Keeping making boats while your 7 guys chop the nearest wood. After a significant pause, your boats will start bringing in enough food for vills. You first new villager should go exploring for a gold/wood pit location. After that each new vill goes on wood and they build houses when necessary (remember that with two buildings producing vills you will need to make house sooner than you think.
When your wood reserve allows (always keep 1 boat queued) make a pit at gold/wood if possible and start chopping at the pit (by now you have cut enough forest you are probably walking 8-10 tiles each trip) From here on it’s a fairly straightforward boom. At no point do I make a granary to collect food, or a storage pit, but let all the food come from boats. 
Due to my lack of granary there will be no available market in tool(!). During the transition to tool I make a granary to research walls and later pick berries/farm at next to my untouched starting berries.
Shore fishing or hunting elephants from a pit will decrease your bronze times, dramatically if done earlier, but is one more thing to micromanage. I put villagers 1-15 on wood usually and then the rest on gold, shifting more to gold in bronze. This is obviously just approximations and I encourage you to experiment. “There are no rules for dock first, only misconceptions.”


The major difference between dock first and a boom is that dock first seems to have earlier bronze times. I regularly get bronze times reminiscent of AoE with vill counts of RoR docking first, something I can never do with a boom. Maybe it’s just me, but dock first tools sooner (~11 mins) and bronzes sooner (~14 mins) than my booms.
This start is really cool, for obvious reasons: speed and power. I often use it to buy time for compy mayhem instead of trying to utilize my faster bronze time for a quick strike. If you reach bronze untouched you should have huge wood reserves (about 18 guys chopping) for a major boat war or chariots, fishing ships cleaning the seas for food and 6-7 guys on gold for iron.
On a med map the guy in the pocket is probably thinking about ironing fairly fast with a big boom. Thus a dock first from the non-pocket is great for destroying him without sacrificing your bronze power. To do this you go for a fast tool with lots of wood and scout ship the pocket guy HARD. Great with Mino because of cheap boats and compies that don’t require wood. Be careful to plan your buildings because you will have lots of wood invested in the sea and maybe fighting 1v2 ship wars (pocket and adjacent player). A fast, hard stable rush (make 2 cav, then 4-6 camels, then compies) is fantastic against a player who has just gotten hit hard on the sea because they will not be putting wood into CA if they want the sea back. The first 2 cav are to distract the enemy into making camels, which are serious compy bait anyway.
Here is a list of times I got when playing a fairly crappy med map with Shang, Phoenician and Minoan (with Egypt for comparison):
This is in the form real villagers/boats Vill count: Shang Phoenician Minoan Egyptian
4:00 – 10/6
6:30 – 17/11
9:00 – 19/16
14:00 – 21/24
Tool – 11:08
Bronze – 14:05
Iron* – 21:21
Since this strategy focuses on a bronze attack and I stink at iron jumping these times are pretty bad. They are just here because I ironed while whomping the computer J
I am an upper-level intermediate and this start works great for me. Experts who can have a dock by 4:00 are going to do equally well, but for those of us who don’t see many tool rushes and play 3v3 in Quirinal this will blow away the other intermediates booms.