Wednesday, May 26, 2004

On scouting...

Scouting is an important strategy in Rise of Nations. By scouting you can discern what the enemy is doing, find rare resources, and grab ruin bonuses. And as the scout ages, more powerful abilities come to the fore, making the scout an extremely functional and multi-role unit.

Scouting does not necessarily have to be performed by scout units, any unit in the game can be set to auto-explore. But, scouts do not take attrition damage, and they are one of the fastest units in the game. Therefore, I suggest that you use regular units for auto-explore, early on in the game to scout out best position for a second or third city and to find rare resources, and to microscout with your first (and any later) scout towards the enemy. By microscouting, I mean micromanaging your scout along, using shift-clicking on the mini-map.

If you expect (or are paranoid about) an early rush, then microscouting directly to the enemy is probably best, with perhaps a bit of zigzaging to grab a few ruins.

If you wish to grab a lot of ruins, zigzag your scout across the map, starting off on a 45° angle east/west (or north/south depending on starting orientation) towards the enemy.

Either way, you should end up with your scout in enemy territory. Keep your scout moving, in order to keep him alive and to keep the enemy from getting a good idea of where your scout currently is. First, attempt to navigate around the enemy base, look for towers, barracks and second (and third, etc.) city. Stay away from towers since they will shoot your scout (if they are able to) if your scout gets within range. Barracks will indicate that enemy troops are on the way, or at least being built.

Now, if you are planning a rush, then your scout has a more important role, determining a good invasion path to the capital. Hitting from an area least expected is a good idea, so look for clear routes from behind or the flanks with your scout. Or, if you raid instead, find where his farms and wood camps are, and lead your army to his vulnerable citizens.

Scouting is important thoughout the game, finding other enemy cities, watcing troop movements, and counter-scouting his scouts.

As the ages progress, the scout become more and more useful and powerful.

The first upgrade, to explorer, allows the scout to be able to cloak, when the unit is not moving. The Explorer can see invisible units, and is able to use counter-intelligence to remove informers and kill enemy spies.

The next upgrade, to commando, gives the sniper and sabotage abilities, allowing you to instantly kill a unit, or to destroy (or severly damage) a building. Eight commandos using the sabotage ability can reduce, or nearly so, a city. Bringing these along with your main attacking army can lead to a quick city capture.

When the scouts become special forces, they gain jam radar and paradrop abilities, giving this unit very powerful abilities indeed. Drop behind enemy lines, and you can snipe key units or citizens, destroy key production buildings, jam radar to allow bomber runs, or reduce a city in advance of an attack.

An ability that shouldn't be discounted is the ability to expose spies, allowing you to kill spies before they get your units.

Scouts are useful support units, and a player should know of their advantages, and should have a number of scouts during the game, both in support of an army, and individually, leading the way.

My next topic will be on counter-scouting, how to prevent the enemy from making the most of his scouts.