Saturday, June 19, 2004

How to play the Dutch

Updated: December 2nd, 2004
Updated: January 3rd, 2005

I haven't seen any strategy articles yet on how to play the Dutch, so I've gone ahead and written one myself. Please feel free to poke holes in my ideas.

I'll first cover their nation bonuses.

Armed Merchants, Caravans and Supply Wagons

The Dutch merchants, caravans and supply wagons have a small attack value, and are slightly tougher than regular merchants, caravans and supply wagons. This makes it a little bit harder to attack the normally vulnerable units, though it can be a bit of a pain, as the units will attack enemy units that wander nearby. This may attract unwanted attention to your merchants and caravans, but it is nice that the supply can add a little extra weight to your army.

Start with COM 1 researched

This allows the Dutch to immediately begin construction of a dock, which is important on water maps. You can build your second city and not have to worry about economy caps for a short while.

Start with a market and two free merchants

The early market gives the Dutch a head start to gathering wealth. The two merchants can be used to scout the map, and quickly choose the best rares to plunk down next to. Since the merchants are armed, an enemy merchant will be killed if it tries to set up shop next to a Dutch merchant.

+5 resources per 100 resources saved

As I mentioned in a previous article here, the Dutch actually gain +1 resource per 20 resources saved. So you don't need to save up an exact 100 to start getting the bonus. And this bonus can go up to +50 over your regular economy cap.

Commerce research is 10% cheaper

This bonus adds more weight to the Dutch economy.

Ship upgrades are 10% cheaper

The Dutch are historically a naval power, and it is reflected in this bonus. On maps with water, the Dutch navy can be a hurricane force to be reckoned with.

Receive one free light ships with each dock built

The Dutch have three unique light ships, which are tougher than regular light ships. Getting two per dock built is a nice start to a kick-ass navy.

Unique Units

As mentioned, the Dutch have three light ships, which are stronger, faster, and tougher than regular light ships. These units are available in Medieval, Gun Powder and Enlightenment ages. The Dutch also get armed merchants, caravans and supply wagons.


So, the Dutch are an obvious economic power, and have a potentially great navy. Booming with the Dutch is one obvious strategy, and you also have the potential of an early game rush. You'll be gaining wealth from the start, and thusly you can afford more archers than most other nations in the beginning, and with the higher initial economy cap you can easily boom for a short time until you've saved up enough to get all the HI or LI that you need.

Since the Dutch have two merchants to start, they can scout with both, or you can send one merchant to a rare near your starting city, and the other one to scout out the enemy, or other useful rares.

On water maps, building a docks will gain you two light ships, which you can send off to scout the waterways, usually long before the enemy does.

And, to top it all off, once you can use the market, you can manipulate it in such a way as to gain you tons of bonus resources. Buy resources you are low on, and you'll be gaining bonus resources. Sell resources you have a large stock pile of, and you'll gain bonus wealth. In the early game, it should be easy to get to 1000 resources of any one thing, which would give you a +50 bonus economy cap.

If you can get 10000 saved resources, you can kill off your farmers/woodcutters/miners/oil-workers. Your cities plus your saved resources should carry you. Sell off the excess, buy up what you don't have, eventually you'll have tons of each resource. The one thing you need to keep an eye on is that you don't over-spend your resources. Keep your supplies above 10000 and you're rocking.

Now, I can hear you saying, 10000 resources?!?! Are you fucked?! I understand that this is a huge number, but remember that 10000 resources to the Dutch is +500 of that resource per 30 seconds. For every 1000 resources you have in the early game, you can run your economy with 5 less citizens per resource. That 5 extra pop cap could be used for your military, scholars or merchants. A single merchant can pull in more resources than a single citizen. Scholars collect knowledge, which isn't banked like the other resources, and well, military units are what you need to win.

This market bonus can also help cancel out an advantage that Tougher and Toughest AI players get, the same amount of resources in less time. According to a friend, Toughers get their resources in 24 seconds, not 30 like human players, and Toughests get their resources in 20 seconds. So with a stockpile of 1000 resouces in the game can effectively keep you even in resource collection against even Toughest AI.

Gaining extra resources requires you to micro the market. Collecting the right rare resources or building that certain wonder, will help with market micro. Typically you can guess what your opponents are understocked/overstocked in when you see large jumps or drops in market prices. If you have a large stock pile of specific resources, you can make the market prices drop rapidly by holding shift and clicking the sell button. This will sell your resource in lots of 500, and will rob your opponent of gold he would have got if the prices had remained stable. Likewise, if you see prices in the buy column rising rapidly, you know your opponent is buying, and if you buy that resource as well, you cause the price to climb higher. The only difficulty is that because you have to pay attention to the fluctuating prices, you have yet another thing vying for your attention as you play.

In co-op games, you can help your allies out by trading them needed resources, and selling off what they give you. If you have a large stockpile, you can affect market prices to their advantage, avoiding the early game corruption penalty in trading.

The starting build order (BO) that I tried first is this: SCI 1, CIV 1, SCI 2, CLASSICAL, MIL 1, MIL 2. The two SCI and CLASSICAL reduce the costs of MIL 1 and 2, the CIV 1 allows me to get a second city and hit the +100 economy cap.

I now prefer my second choice, SCI 1, CIV 1, then either MIL 1 or CLASSICAL. It depends on whether or not I'll require a military early on to defeat a rush. (Remember to scout with at least one of your merchants) Against a boomer, I'll age first, then MIL 1, since I'll soon need the higher pop cap.

Ok, I've added the changes found in Patch 2 Beta, the Dutch have been nerfed a little but not too much. I've been having a streak of losing games recently, but once the Dutch get going, they are a good middle-to-end nation. Their start is slower now, since commerce is more expensive compared to before Patch 2, and on water maps, they don't get as fast an exploration due to only having one free ship. A suggestion I have for BHG is to change it slightly, make it similar to other free units: 1 free boat in first age, 2 free boats in the second age, and make that the max. It'll slow the Dutch down at first, without taking away from their potential oomp in middle-late stages. Some think that Dutch are overpowered on water maps, but I believe this is untrue. ;)

Anyone have any suggestions, or other strats for the Dutch? Please fill in a few comments below, or email me.