Saturday, May 29, 2004

Thrones & Patriots: The Dutch

I've tried out the Dutch a few more times, and I've found out something interesting. It is said that the Dutch get +5 resources for every 100 resources saved. For every 200 food saved, you are gaining +10 food. What I have noticed is that while it is true that it's +5 for every 100, it's actually +1 for every 20. So you don't need to save up exactly 100 to get the +5. It's nice that this ability goes +50 over your economy cap.

The Dutch do very well on maps with large amounts of water, having a navy backing up your army is a very nice one-two combo.

The armed caravans can sometimes be more trouble than they are worth, occasionally the caravan stops to shoot at raiders or an army, and this attracts their attention, and the caravan usually dies.

The two free merchants at the start is nice as well, you can usually set on down on a rare resource right away, and explore with the other one until you find a rare resource that is useful.

The Dutch will likely be my favourite nation from T&P, I do like the Americans, but I believe they'll get nerfed.

Friday, May 28, 2004

On counter-scouting...

Let's say you've decided not to rush, instead you're going to boom.

You know that you need to scout, and so you send yours off to see what you can see. But, you know that the enemy is likely doing the same thing, so what can you do about it?

For starters you need to realize that unless you have a large enough army waiting for the scout when it arrives, that scout is going to see some of your operations before it dies. So what you need to do is make it as difficult as possible, hopefully forcing the enemy to do more micromanagement of his scout than you have to do with your citizens/army/buildings.

Now, when you start a game with default settings, you should see that you have a library and three farms. These buildings, unfortunately, are clustered around your capital city. It's annoying when nuclear blasts take out more than just your cities. Any buildings you construct should, in my opinion, be built as far out as usefully possible from the city.

So, the first couple of buildings I go for are farms, which I build away from the enemy, and as close to the economic border of the city as possible. Doing this does a few helpful things, it keeps at least two citizens away from the main cluster of starting buildings, and so might escape the notice of raiders. It also gives you a bit more sight towards the rear area, where a pesky scout, or worse, an army, may make an appearance. The more time you have from the moment you spot the scout/army, the more time you will have to react to it. You can use any building to do this, markets and temples are always tempting targets, so placing them away from the action is a good idea.

The next thing to consider is placing any unit, that you are not planning on using immediately, into garrison. This allows towers, forts and cities to attack enemies that pass by, including those annoying scouts. This is espcially true of barracks units, if that scout can't count your troops, then the enemy cannot tell how well an attack will succeed. This can cause the enemy to think twice about an all out attack on your capital, the longer you can keep the enemy guessing, the more time you have to age and boom. And, the scout risks a quick death if it strays too close to that tower or city that has a few archers in it.

Placing your second city is an important decision. Many people like to build towards the enemy, since this can make things easier to do, the borders push harder, troops can be built closer, and that city can provide a buffer if things go wrong. Myself, I prefer to build off-center towards the enemy, about 45° either side of the center line. If the enemy scout barrels right up the middle, then he'll likely miss my second city, giving me more time to accomplish what I set out to do. If the enemy scout goes up one side or the other, then there is a 50% chance he'll miss my second city. Either way this buys time.

Building at least one tower early on opens up the option for attrition, which can deter non-scout units that are scouting (like a chinese citizen rush), and allows you to use a few citizens to kill any scout which wanders too close.

And lastly, you could give the enemy a little of what they want, which might make them lazy... by making the barracks easy to find, the stables you've built out of the way might remain hidden. That tower built prominently in the middle of nowhere might make the enemy wonder what else might be nearby. A few light infantry heading in the general direction of the enemy might make them use their scout(s) to find out what you're up to, and allow your light horse raiding-party time to pull off surprise raids.

As mentioned above, that scout will eventually see what it needs to see. All you can really do, I feel, is waste enough of the enemy's time micromanaging the scout to stay alive, without wasting too much of your own time. Occasionally you'll get lucky, and you'll be able to gang-beat their scout to death with a group of citizens... but don't hold your breath on that.

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.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Thrones & Patriots: My first thoughts...

I've had the game about 2 weeks now, since the prices dropped on the expansion at Future Shop.

I haven't played a lot of pvp, either online or LANing with friends, so I do not know how the expansion races actually hold up in pvp combat.

I have played quite a number of single player vs. computer AI, and multiplayer vs. computer AI, so I shall comment on that.

I've found that that Lakota are probably better as a player controlled nation, than an AI controlled nation. I don't think the computer AI picks particularly good places to expand to, where as players do. At first I was a little leary about food issues, since they do not get farms, nor do they get granaries. But, each cavalry, scout and citizen pull in food (as long as they are not garrisoned). I would have to play them a few more times, but I believe the food they get is not enough. You'll have to rely more on rare resources and fishing than you might like. This is probably a decent price to pay, though, for the ability to build on neutral ground, being able to place a city right near the enemy capital is a nasty surprise!

The Iroquois have a nice bonus of being able to heal while in friendly territory, and they get +2 food per wood chopper. With a nice rare resource, or perhaps some fishing, and a decent amount of wood choppers, you can almost have one city maxed (I've been able to get +98 food and +100 wood). I've only tried them once though.

The Americans are probably over-powered and likely to get nerfed. See what Out4Blood has to say, here. I agree with what he has to say, if the Americans had a slightly slower start, they'd be alright. As it stands, playing against computer opponents, I've yet to lose (two at toughest, working up the courage to try three by myself) when I play the Americans. They start with a free Science upgrade, get 1 free scholar for each university built, their first wonder is built instantly if no other nation is currently constructing it, AND each non-scout infantry unit which is not garrisoned adds +3 food, wood, metal and wealth to the economy. I'm still trying to figure out the rationale behind that last bit. Maybe more than a slower start is needed here... The TCA, built instantly, will give free infantry, which will give free resources... Think about that for a while.

The Dutch aren't too shabby either, with merchants, caravans and supply wagons ARMED, a free commerce research, two free light ships per dock built, and for every 100 wood, wealth, oil, metal and food saved they get an extra +5 of those resources. Those extra resources can go +50 ABOVE your commerce cap. Once these guys get going, they are hard to stop. I had an interesting situation where two computer armies, larger than mine, were held off by my dinky-sized army, a small navy and... two merchants and a caravan. By charging and retreating these three groups, I was able to chase off the computers. Probably wouldn't work as well against a human opponent, and it can get pricey since I lost the two merchants.

I have not yet played the Indians or the Persians, so I will comment on them later. I do like the Dutch, and the Americans so far. I think the Lakota have potential shock value against human players, so I will look forward to pvp with them.

The general additions to the game are decent ones, and overall I think the expansion is worth getting.

The Senate adds the option of several different government options, as well as adding a hero general to the game. You basically have two "branches" to chose from, one that gives military powers and bonuses, and the other gives economic bonuses and powers.

I like the larger Armageddeon Count numbers, I have played in games where people "accidentally" lost track of the number in all the action taking place on their screens. I say "accidentally" because I haven't decided if they did it on purpose, or if they're just stupid. :P

More on it as I play it.

My Rise of Nations blog...

So, I've been playing Rise of Nations for a year and a half now, and I thought I would start a blog to talk about my ideas and thoughts on the game, as well as strategies and tactics.

The few main links I use for RoN are:

Out4Blood's RoN Strategy blog
Mr. Fixit Online RoN Page
RoN Universe

This blog is a humble beginning, I'll have my own strategies, tactics and tips here as I work on them, hopefully you'll see this page linked elsewhere in the future.