Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tough, Tougher, Toughest: Tackling AI

As I've mentioned before, I have played more games against the computer AI than I have versus human opponents. I've got a few tips here on how to play against the toughest computer AIs.

The toughest computer AI is a nasty one, something that can be said for the easier settings as well. It has the advantage of knowing exactly when it has enough to build and research what it needs. It has the advantage of being able to both attack you and manage it's economy at the same time, where as a human opponent will be distracted. It collects its resources faster than you do.

It will fight on until the end, continuing to expand, collect resources and build units. It won't give up until you beat it. If you make any glaring mistakes, it will capitalize on them and make you pay dearly. Chances are, unless you are on top of your game, the computer will be attacking you before you are fully prepared. Hopefully these tips can help you...

First off, I think you need to tweak the game settings to give you a slight advantage:

Choose a friendly map. This is the most important thing, I believe. You will want a map that has a decent amount of resources. Choosing a map that offers a defendable position is a suggestion as well.

You'll probably want to slow down the research speed, as well as make it more expensive. Remember that the computer will be getting resources faster than you.

I usually set the victory settings to conquest, removing wonder victory and capital elimination.

Choosing your best race is also a good idea.

Basically, these settings will handicap the computer a little. Now, as you improve against the toughest AI, you can slowly return the settings back to normal, which will make the AI harder as you do so.

Fighting the computer:

You can go about fighting the computer the same way you'd fight a human opponent, but you have to remember it's gaining resources faster than you and it will always be bang on when researching and building units. When it has the resources, and it can research Mil 1, it will. If it needs an archer, it will build one. From observation, the toughest AI is collecting it's resources every 20 seconds, compared to our 30 seconds. So it's gaining resources at 1.5 times we are. Can you rush a computer that's collecting resources that fast? I've tried a few times, and while I am able to take the capital, I have not been able to hold it.

I prefer a "wait for the rush" approach to taking on the computer.

The first rush the computer makes will likely not have siege in it, and it will take place in the classical age, though occasionally the computer will attack in the ancient age if you've chosen a very small map. Defeating this first rush is fairly easy.

Start by researching SCI 1, then COM 1. Max out your capital's economy by building two more farms, and as many wood choppers as you can. If you have chosen a water map, build a dock, create two or three fishing boats, and then build a market. If not, just build a market.

Now, you've remembered to scout the enemy, correct? If you don't see a barracks there yet, you should be safe to research CIV 1 then MIL 1. If you do see a barracks in the AI's camp, then you should research MIL 1 first, and then CIV1.

Once you've researched CIV 1, find a defendable spot to place your second city, also keeping in mind border push. Claim those mountains and forests, and avoid placing cities in wide open plains if you can help it.

Once MIL 1 has completed, begin constructing a tower, place it near your city, and your first three farms. Build two archers if you can, placing one in your city and one in your tower.

Typically, once you've gotten to this point, the computer will be attacking shortly. When the attack comes, any citizens that are in danger should be garrisoned in either the city or your tower, which ever is closest. Target the city and tower on heavy infantry first, then slingers and archers. If there is cavalry in the rush, target them after targeting the heavy infantry. The first attack should be fairly easy to beat. If you are having a hard time with it, build more troops, garrisoning archers, and using heavy infantry to draw off the enemy. Pop citizens in and out of the city, both to repair and to draw the enemy away from attacking the city.

Now the arms race begins in earnest. You are going to have to age quickly, and advance your research, in order to keep pace with the computer. The second attack will be with siege, so be prepared to smash his siege and supply wagons as the attack commences, and you should be alright.

At this point, what you do is up to you, there are many different strategies to be used. Myself, I prefer to go on the offensive once I have three cities built, and my economy is rocking. I tend to build a minimum of three forts in defensive positions, and build two armies, a small one for point defense, and a larger one to attack with.

This pattern works for me, but your mileage may vary.