Ruins and Artifacts

Heaven’s Reference Pages

Ruins & Artifacts

By Netzalcoyotl

When playing with the “Standard” victory conditions, Artifacts and Ruins (which I call “objects”) provide an alternative to conquests and wonders. In my experience, most humans ignore Artifacts and Ruins; even with the victory conditions set to “Standard”, they focus on an offensive military.
Artifacts and Ruins begin the game unclaimed, appearing white on the minimap. These objects change color when they are controlled by a player, providing some very useful intelligence about enemy movements and positions. Watch an enemy-controlled Artifact crawl across the map (even under Fog of War), and you’re likely to find the enemy’s main base. I’ve sometimes “let” my opponent steal an Artifact, just so I can follow it back to their town.
Picture of RuinTo take control of an Artifact or Ruin, move a unit near it. You must get within three squares of a Ruin, and two squares of an Artifact. If someone already controls the object, and they have a unit adjacent to it, you can’t claim the object until their unit moves away or is killed. Figure 1 shows how a single red axeman keeps my blue Scout from claiming a Ruin.
A building, even when adjacent to an object, has no effect on control; in other words, you can’t build a house next to a Ruin to keep your opponent from claiming it.
Remember that the 2000-year clock resets whenever control is lost of only one object in a set of five; it only takes one Scout to take away a single Artifact or Ruin, restarting the victory clock.
Picture of Ruin inside WallsWalls don’t block a unit from controlling an object; at best, a wall can only keep a unit from getting close enough to make the claim. Figure 2 shows the smallest wall that can be built around a Ruin to protect it, and Figure 3 provides the same information for an Artifact. Building walls around every Picture of Ballista inside wallsRuin is probably a waste of stone, since an enemy siege engine can quickly move in and make an opening. The diagrams do, however, show you how far Artifacts must be kept from a wall in order for them to be considered “safe”. Leaving an Artifact next to a wall is just asking for an enemy unit to claim it.
You’ll find it difficult to win by controlling Ruins. They can’t be moved, so Ruins must be defended. Trying to maintain a strong military presence at five places on the map is a near-impossible task.
Artifacts, on the other hand, move, letting you bring them into your town or another fortified position. The best time to hunt for Artifacts is early in the game, before they can be dragged into defended towns by your opponents. Obviously, collecting Artifacts is more difficult on larger maps, since you have to search more territory. In team games, break the map into sections for each ally.
Should you group the Artifacts in one place, or spread them out? I usually like to keep them all at a single highly-defended location — usually a corner of the map, or even on some obscure island that everyone ignores. A particularly nasty (and successful) tactic: Load the Artifacts on a transport, and set them moving about the map. Most players never look for Artifacts on the high seas. If the transport is sunk, the Artifacts will appear on the shore of a nearby island, where you may be able to load them onto another ship.
Another tactic at sea is to load a transport with a Scout, and send it around the islands gathering Artifacts during the Tool Age. The Scout can often run in, claim the Artifact, and hold off any Tool Age enemies while the Artifact rolls back to the transport. In bronze and later, I use raiding parties and a large transport; a few Heavy Cavalry or Horse Archers can provide solid cover while the Artifact gets loaded.
Always grab at least one Artifact, even if you’re not playing to win with them. Victory is often gained by preventing your opponent from reaching his goals.
In the end game, Artifacts and Ruins provide a way around the “hiding villager” problem. Some players like to hide a few villagers as your forces crush their city; they may not have the resources to rebuild, but they can run around the map, hiding and frustrating your victory. Control the Artifacts or Ruins, though, and the game will end soon enough, without your having to search every nook and cranny of the map for that last enemy unit.
Many AoE players prefer to set the Victory Conditions to “Conquest.” For me, this takes some of the fun and challenge out of the game, removing any reason to play defensively and seriously limiting the number of viable civilizations.
At first glance, setting “Conquest” will relegate Ruins and Artifacts to window dressing. But these items can still be useful, even if controlling them won’t win the game for you. Place an Artifact at a chokepoint; when it changes color, you know the enemy is coming, without having to use a precious soldier as a sentry. Watch the Ruins, too, since their color changes tell you something about enemy movements. Some players (including this one) use Artifacts for exploration; instead of having a villager wander the map early on, an owned Artifact can explore, albeit slowly and with a limited vision.
When playing to win with artifacts, it pays to play a defensive civilization; Babylonians, Choson, and Shang would be good choices. Make the decision to win “by artifacts” before the game starts, and play a strongly defensive game. A huge or island map is the best environment, giving you time to build a defense and places to hide artifacts.