Single-Player Random Map Guide

Heaven’s Single Player Help

Single-Player Random Map Guide

a.k.a. The Beginner’s Guide to Kicking the Crap out of the Computer

By Benoit

This guide is intended for the beginning AOE/RoR player. It assumes you at least know how to play the game, and its goal is to make you able to beat a computer opponent – and even several computer opponents – at the Hard level. It is not intended to make you a good player against human opponents, even though you will find some tips that can prove helpful against humans.

For this I assume you are playing on the following settings:
– Difficulty Hard (you can start easier and work your way there – but really, Hard should be no problem)
– 1.0 speed so you have time to manage everything that’s going on (when you get better you can speed it up).
– 1 v. 1 (when you get better you can try 1 v. 2, 1 v. 3 or more)
– No Reveal
– Default resources
– Population limit = 50

Before we begin, let me tell you about the credentials I have. After all, you don’t want to take advice from just anyone – you want to hear it from the top-notch experts, right? OK, here goes: I am a rookie. I play on the Zone 4-5 times a month, where I get my butt kicked in rookie games as often as not. I suck with the hotkeys (all I use are HC to make Villagers and “.” to find idle Villagers). And I’m pretty slow with the mouse, too. All this, I think, puts me in an ideal position to teach rookies how to kick the snot out of computer opponents. It is so much easier than playing against humans…

The strategy described below does not involve intense mouse-clicking and fast typing. I wrote it for people who are tired of being attacked before they even get a chance to get started – because I was precisely that kind of player once. I used to only play campaigns, because I sucked at Random Map. I could barely reach the Tool Age before four enemy Axemen waltzed into my town.

The Strategy – Overview

My general strategy is this:

– Make 26 to 30 Villagers in the Stone Age. By Villagers I mean real Villies AND fishing boats. On dry maps, these will be all real Villagers. On maps with lots of water (islands, conti, medit), it’ll be more like 18-20 vills on two feet and 8-10 FBs. On river maps, something in between (say 22-25 walking Villies and 4-5 FBs).
– Reach the Tool Age with enough resources to immediately build the two required Tool Age buildings and hit the Bronze upgrade.
– Once in Bronze, stop the initial attack (if any) from the computer and go Villager-hunting with Chariot Archers, Composite Bowmen or Cavalry. Killing the enemy Villagers will ruin their economy, so they won’t be able to make any army.

The goal here is to produce your 26-30 Villagers as fast as possible. All of your resources at the start will go towards making more Villagers and fishing boats.

Wait a minute. I need 500 food to reach the Tool Age and you’re telling me to spend all my food on Villagers? Yes. The initial investment needed to build a 26-30 Villager economy will reap huge rewards very soon. Once you have this many people working, food and wood (and later, gold and stone) will come in so fast that you will advance through the Ages ahead of the computer and build a bigger army.

But what if I get attacked and I’m still in the Stone Age with no military? Trust me, you won’t. With this strategy you will be the first to reach the Tool Age.

Getting Started

At the start of the game, queue up your first 4 Villagers by typing HCCCC. You want to pump Villagers non-stop out of your Town Center until you are ready to Tool.

Your first building must be a house, otherwise you’ll be “housed” ( = run out of housing) after your fourth Villager is born. So build a house immediately. Don’t build it too close to your Town Center, you want room around your TC for farms later in the game.

The first resource which you must gather is food. With this food you will produce more Villagers, which in turn will gather more resources. So your first objective is to look for a good spot to place your first food building (storage pit or granary). Use your initial Villagers to explore the surroundings. Send each in a different direction to look for berries, wildlife, water and shore fish.

I don’t start with much wood, do I have to build right away? Can’t I just get the berries/wood and bring them to my Town Center? Big mistake. It wastes colossal amounts of time because your Villagers are walking all over the place. Even if you play a civilization with fast Villagers (Yamato/Assyrian), gathering resources at the Town Center is a recipe for disaster (except for the little wood you need at the start for your first wood pit). The 120 wood cost of building right next to the resource is nothing compared to the accelerated rate at which the resource is gathered (due to little or no time lost walking). It pays for itself very fast.

The First Food Building – A Good Start

Your first food building should be either:
– a Granary next to berries (calles a Granary start or berry start), OR
– a Storage Pit (Pit start) next to at least 2 shore fish, 2 elephants, or 4 gazelle.

Which of the two should I start with? Most of the time, you should do a Granary start. Berries are the easiest to find. But there are two cases where the berry start isn’t so good:

– No wood near your Town Center. Why is that so bad? You need wood for a few houses and a storage pit, and this requires cutting a few trees near your TC. If there are no trees around, it will take a lot of Villies walking to a forest far, far away to gather this wood. That’s too many people walking for wood, who would rather be hunting, shore fishing or picking berries.
– The berries are placed in a way that won’t allow you to place a Granary close by. Hill berries, forest berries, obstacles (gold, stone, trees) are example of bad berry placement. Your Villagers will have to walk too far between the bushes and the Granary.

If you’re in one of these bad situations, forget the Granary start for now, and look for a spot to Pit start – two shore fish, two elephants, or four gazelle near trees. A few straggler trees close to your pit will do, but a whole forest is even better. Fish or animals by a forest is what we call a sweet spot because your Storage Pit serves two functions – it is both a food building and a wood pit.

– If your food source is elephants, build your pit closest to the wood – not closest to the elephants – and lure the elephants close to your pit (take a shot at dumbo, run away from dumbo towards pit, repeat until dumbo is close to pit, kill dumbo). Remember that it takes 5 hunters to kill an elephant without casualties.
– If you’re hunting gazelle, kill them before you build your pit, using 3-4 Villagers so they die before having time to run away too much. Then build your pit in the middle of the corpses. When hunting gazelle, watch for Villagers with “shaky dance syndrome” – this can happen when they run out of room to work – and put them to work on another carcass to avoid crowding.
– If you are shore fishing, put 2 Villagers per fish patch. More than that, and some will run out of room and go idle.

Once your first food building is up, get your first 5 Villagers on food (4 if two shore fish) and put the next Villagers on wood.

The First Food Building – A Not So Good Start

What if I have no wood around my TC, and there are no animals to be found near wood? I can’t do a berry start nor a pit start! Bad luck, I guess. You have two options here:

– Granary start, but as I said, Villagers 6-7-8-etc. will have to walk very far to cut wood and bring it back to the TC. You should not experience any delays with Villager production, but you will wait a long time before you have 120 wood for a wood pit. When at last that pit is ready, you’ll be at about 14-15 Villagers and only one food building (your initial granary) – not very good. Ideally, you want, say, 5 guys on the initial berries, 5 on wood and 5 on a second food source.
– Start by gathering berries at your Town Center. Villagers 6-7-8 etc. pit by a forest and chop wood there. The food will be slow coming in at first (lots of walking), but soon you will have enough wood to build a Granary next to those berries.

These starts suck and would get you in big trouble against a competent human opponent. Against the computer, you should still be OK though.

One last thing: Don’t hurry when placing your initial food building. Take the time to explore, think and find the best option. Sometimes, I started games where I saw the berries right from the start, and immediately built a granary without looking around – D’OOH! Then I realized there were no trees on the whole screen around my TC. So I ended up walking my poor Villies like crazy to get over the initial wood crunch. What I should have done is gather the berries at my Town Center (which was not far) and built a pit by the forest. Better yet, if I had taken a few more seconds to explore I would have found three shore fish near a forest and would have had a very good start, with the luxury of having the berries already found and close by.

Pit by Forest

If your first building was a storage pit near a forest, then you can skip this section. If not, without fail, your second building (housing not included) must be a Storage Pit against a forest. Build it as soon as your wood total reaches 120. Then keep 5 Villagers cutting wood there.

Congratulations! Once you have an initial food source and a pit near a forest, you are assured of a steady intake of food and wood for a while. Keep making Villagers. Do not keep any spare food. And remember to build a house when your population is two below the housing capacity. For example, if your population is 10 and your capacity is 12, build a house. How do I know my population and housing capacity, you ask? Hit F11 and you will see “Population: 10/12” at the top of the screen. This means your pop. is 10 and you have housing for 12.

Stone Age Productivity

You have 5-6 Villagers working at your initial food source. You have a few woodcutters munching at a forest with a pit close by. Your TC is churning out Villagers – what to do with them???

Explore. You want to find a second food source. While you take one guy to explore, put the new Villagers on wood as they appear. When you find a second food source, keep only 5 guys on wood and put the rest on the new food source. Keep exploring because your first food source (remember?) will run out eventually. You’ll need another food source to put those guys to work when they’re done. And you have more Villagers being born still. Gotta find work for all these people. You are looking for food, food and more food.

Keep a maximum of 6 Villagers at each food site – more than this usually leads to too much bumping and walking. If all your food sites have 5-6 Villagers and you have more guys with nothing to do, it usually means you are not exploring enough. Send one or two to explore, and the others to cut wood. When at last some new food is found, keep only 5 woodcutters (this is enough to supply wood for the new pits/granaries) and send the others to the new food source.

If you have the latest patch, hit “.” (the idle Villager key) once in a while. This will select an idle Villager, so you can redirect him to whatever else needs doing. Then hit “.” again to find more slackers, until there are none to find. This keeps everyone busy.


At one point you should think about docking. How soon and how many docks depends on the type of map you are playing:
– Dry map (no water) – Easy: don’t build a dock. All but 5 Villagers should be on food.
– River map – Shift one or two people from food to wood, build one dock, and make 4-5 fishing boats from it.
– Water map (islands, conti, medit) – Shift 5 Villagers from food to wood and build 2-3 docks. Space out the docks so the fishing boats can choose the closest one to work from. Build a fleet of 8-10 fishing boats and remember to speed up the house-building because now your population is growing from many places – your TC and the docks.

When to Stop

As I said, you want to reach a population of 26-30 Villagers + fishing boats before hitting Tool. On a dry map, these will be all Villagers. On water maps, about 8-10 boats, 9-10 woodcutters and 9-10 food gatherers. On river maps, 4-5 boats, 6-7 woodies, and 16-18 food gatherers. Anyway, when your total population is 26 to 30, stop making Villagers and boats and wait for your food total to reach 500. If you have too much wood, take some woodcutters and switch them to food. As soon as you hit 500 food, click the Tool upgrade.

Just to summarize, these are the things to keep in mind in the Stone Age:
– Decide on your first food building.
– Put the first 5 guys on food (4 if shore fish).
– Pit by a forest as your second building at the latest.
– Explore to find new food sources for your newborn Villagers.
– Make Villagers nonstop.
– Build houses ahead of time, before your reach your housing capacity.
– Dock and build fishing boats (or don’t) and balance your food/wood intake according to the map type.
– Stop Villager/boat production when your population total reaches 26-30.

Waiting for Tool

Things are going well, you are on your way to the Tool Age. The Tool upgrade takes two minutes, so you have time to do some important things.

First, make sure you have all the prerequisite buildings to build your Market and Archery Range/Stable in Tool. Do you have a Granary yet? You can’t build a Market without one. (Those berries weren’t a good first food source, but they should look tasty by now). If you don’t have berries to build it next to, build it in a flat, open space – perfect for building farms around later. Also, build a Barracks. It doesn’t matter too much where it is, with this strategy you won’t be training units from this building. This is just a prerequisite for what comes next – the Stable or the Archery Range.

Also, while Tooling, make sure you are getting a good balance of food and wood coming in. You will need 800 food and 300 wood to Bronze – this should be no problem given the size of your economy. But what else will you need? This depends on the kind of army you will be making. For Cavalry or Composite Bowmen, you’ll need gold (which you should have found by now, because you’ve been exploring for food). For boat wars, you’ll need wood. Also, will you need to build farms? The drier the map, the sooner farming is required, usually. And farms cost wood.

It takes a little practice, but after a while you’ll be able to balance your production so you can reach Tool with the right amount of wood, food and gold for your needs. At the very least, make sure you have 375 wood when you reach Tool – that’s for your 2 Tool buildings (required to Bronze) and the first, all-important economic upgrade that you have to get: Woodworking.

A Very Brief Tool Age

With this strategy, you should spent as little time in Tool as possible. As soon as you reach Tool, take 4 Villagers and build 1) a Market, then 2) a Tool military building (Archery Range for CAs/Compies, or stable for Cavalry; not too far from your woodcutters, where you think the enemy could attack you). As soon as the Market is up, Research Woodworking. As soon as your Tool military building is up, click the Bronze upgrade at your TC. Don’t forget to put the builders back to work!

I don’t have 800 food yet! With 26 to 30 Villagers/fishing boats working, the resources should be flowing in fast enough, and then some. Maybe you collected too much wood and gold, and not enough food. Maybe you’ve had a half dozen Villies picking their nose at your granary for 5 minutes with no more berries to collect, or maybe those boats have exhausted their fish and you haven’t sent them looking for more. Remember to use that idle Villager key (“.”) every once in a while. If you don’t have the “.” patch, take a frequent look at all your worksites to spot slackers.)

Waiting for Bronze

You’ve hit the Bronze upgrade – what now?

If you have a Stable, make a Scout. You’ll need him to help your Cavalry see better in Bronze (Cavalry are good but their line of sight blows), so you might as well make the Scout now and use him to explore.

Reorganize your economy. At this point, food becomes less critical while wood becomes a greater priority. When a group of food gatherers runs out of work, put them to wood instead of new food. You may need to shift even more – this depends on the type of unit you will be producing in Bronze. Chariot Archers cost lots of wood. Cavalry/Compie civilizations, check your gold intake – is this enough for your needs?

Keep your economy rolling. Find the lazy bums and make them work. Avoid farming as long as you can. Farms cost 75 wood and give only 250 food in return. Compare that to dropping a pit by 2 elephants – 120 wood for 600 food. Start farming only when new food sources can’t be found. You may need to shift more guys from food to wood at this point.

I just finished Woodworking, should I research anything else at the Market? This depends what kind of unit you will be making in the Bronze Age.
– If you plan on building Chariot Archers, don’t research anything else for now. You need the Market to be ready to research the Wheel as soon as you reach Bronze. 
– For Cavalry, get Gold Mining.
– For Composite Bowmen, wait until the Bronze Age and get Artisanship for added range.

As I said before, you want to have 4-5 military buildings up when you reach Bronze. So, when you have 150 wood to spare, build another military building next to the first one. Keep making more military buildings as the wood comes in.

More of the same military building? Why? Because your economy will allow you to continuously train military units from 4-5 buildings. Your army will train 4-5 times faster than with just one building. If you are under attack, multiple buildings will give you the ability to train 4-5 units in seconds to drive away the enemy.

Also, build houses. Nothing is more irritating than having your military training stalled as you’re being attacked, just because you forgot to build houses.

On water maps, build a few Scout Ships, as your woodpile allows.

Keep in mind that you need 75 wood to research the Wheel upon reaching Bronze. So, don’t run your woodpile out. If you balanced things right, you should be able to build 4-5 military buildings and 2-3 houses by the time you reach Bronze, using two builders. Use more builders if the wood comes in faster than you can spend it.

Research Leather Armor for the type of unit you will be producing in Bronze – Archer armor for CAs/Compies, Stable Unit armor for Cavalry.

Even if you do not plan to make gold units in the early Bronze Age, start mining gold, if only with one villager. That 50 gold will come in handy when you want to upgrade to Scale Armor in Bronze.

The First Minutes of the Bronze Age

For Chariot Archers, the first order of business is to Research the Wheel as I said before. Train one CA at each archery range as soon as the Wheel research is complete.

For Compies, Research Improved Bow at an Archery Range; then as soon as this is complete, make Improved Bowmen from all the archeries except one – that one is where you research Composite Bow so your Impies will turn to Compies soon. You will need to make a few more compies than you normally would for Cav/CA, but they are cheaper.

If you’re going Cavalry, train one Cavalry at each Stable. Bring your Scout back to the Stables, as I said he will help the Cav see better.

If you can afford the 125 food and 50 gold, Research Scale Armor at the pit for a little extra toughness.

Once you have 4-5 Improved/Composite Bowmen, Cavalry (with a Scout mixed in) or CAs, you have no reason to fear an attack. Let the computer send his troops at you, you’ll wipe them out without losing any of your Bronze units.

The enemy is in my town with axers and slingers and I haven’t reached bronze yet. No sweat. Run the villies away, preferably near your stables/ranges and run them around in circles to avoid fire. At the worst, you’ll lose a few peasants while you reach Bronze and get the required research, then 4-5 Bronze units come out. Soon the attack will be just a memory. Make some villies to replace your losses and move on. If he doesn’t chase your villies and goes after buildings, let him. He may be able to destroy a house before your Bronze units wipe him out. Just remember to put the fleeing villies back to work.

Bronze – Time to Attack

OK, you have 4-5 Bronze units protecting your town, your economy is intact, why stop there? When you have enough resources to make another batch of Bronze units, do so. Take your initial 4-5 units (they may be a bit damaged if you were just attacked) and go raid the enemy villagers. (The units being trained will protect your town while they’re gone.)

Go only after villagers. Ignore towers and buildings for now. Computer players typically place their towers on the perimeter of their town – once you’re inside said town, they can’t hurt you. Run past the towers and kill all the villagers you find. Even if they’re under a tower, ignore it and kill the helpless little bastards. Who cares if you lose one cavalry. If the enemy has no more villagers, he can’t rebuild. If he sends more Tool units to defend his villies, kill the military units and then resume the mass slaughter. But don’t stay and fight against military if the villagers are elsewhere: these military are no danger to you, they’re not defending anything, and if they attack your town you have a force there to meet them. Meanwhile, you’re killing villagers…

On water maps, take your war galleys (again, 4-5 grouped together) and get the enemy fishing boats. Enemy Scout Ships don’t stand a chance. Find the dock and destroy it.

At this point it’s basically game over if you were playing 1v1. He has no villagers left, so he can’t build anything or gather resources for military. Build a few Stone Throwers and mop up.

But at some point you’ll want a bigger challenge. How about 1v2? 1v4? 1v7? (We’re still only talking Hard level, not Hardest.) Then read on…

Late Bronze

If you have more than one opponent, and you have killed most or all of one’s villagers, go after the other enemies. Again, attack villagers only. Don’t waste time destroying a ghost town. When all the villies are dead, go after the next enemy and attack his villagers. Have a look at Achievements and attack the most dangerous player – the one with the most villagers, or the one who has reached Bronze first.

These enemies will usually have stronger defences than the first one you attacked – after all, you’re giving them more time than you gave the first one you crushed. So, there are a few things you should do at home to produce stronger military in greater numbers.

Keep your villagers busy and efficient. If your villies are walking all over the place to cut wood, build a fresh pit against the edge of the forest. Get your Market techs, starting with Artisanship to get the wood faster, and for more shooting range (CAs and boats). Then get Gold Mining, then (if you need lots of farms) the farming upgrades, Domestication and Plow. Don’t forget that “.” key, keep them slackers busy.

Get Scale Armor for your military units. They’ll last longer that way.

Build a Government CenterResearch Nobility if your civ has it. Again, this will buy more life for your horsies. Don’t bother with the other Gov’t techs in Bronze. At this point, make it a habit of building TCs for resource-gathering instead of pits or granaries. This way, you can produce villagers from multiple locations if you ever lose some.

Make more military units and send them to the enemy. Don’t keep more than 3-4 units at home for defense. You’re the one doing the attacking.

Mine more gold because you will need 800 to Iron.

Build a Bronze Age military building or a Temple as a prerequisite for Iron. Priests are useful if you’re using CAs or Cavs as your initial Bronze weapon: run them home for healing, then send them to battle again.

The Iron Age

If you’re facing a lot of enemies, it’s possible that one or two are still slive and kicking and reached the Iron Age. I won’t talk about which military units you should use because the Iron Age is where the civilizations are the most diverse in battle. Study the tech tree of your civilization and use its strengths. Find the strong points of your opponents’ civs and counter them with the appropriate units. That’s all I have to say. After all, this guide is mostly for people who are tired of losing to the computer player before they even have a chance to reach Bronze. If you can get to Iron in every game, then you’ll have fun experimenting with Iron Age units on your own. Just remember to keep your economy humming.

My only other advice for the Iron Age is this: Get Ballistics! It makes a world of difference. So many arrows get wasted before Iron just because those darn enemies won’t stand still when you shoot at them.

Other than that, you’re on your own. Have fun!