Saturday, June 19, 2004

Off Topic: Gmail

Woo, writing this blog has earned me an invitation to Gmail, Google's new email service.

Now I'll never lose my forums registrations again!

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.

Friday, June 18, 2004

How to Lose at Rise of Nations

No, it's not about how to play a crappy game of RoN.

This post is about how to lose tenaciously and graciously.

Big Huge Games has an article entitled Die Slowly, which is a very good read.

What I hope to do is build a little on that article.

Something most people realize after a short time of playing, is that once you lose critical mass, you will have an incredibly hard time recovering. Critical mass is basically a large army backed by a rocking economy. If the enemy can crush one or the other, you will definitely be on the ropes. It is very bad to lose your army while defending your territory, since the enemy is right there at the gates. If you have your army smashed in enemy territory, you have a some time to recover your army before the enemy arrives to knock on the doors.

You find yourself in a bind, the enemy has sacked two of your cities and is rushing headlong towards your capital. Your army is gone, and your economy is in shambles. You know that it is just a matter of time before you go down harder than a 90 year old falling down the stairs. Now what?

First thing is, don't give up. Once your shoulders sag in defeat, you are done for. You will find that there may be many situations that seem hopeless, but it is possible to pull yourself out of the fire. As mentioned in the the BHG article, your allies are depending on you to die as slowly as possible. If you are playing alone, taking a long time to die can be a matter of pride.

The second thing to remember is, be courteous and polite. Calling someone a cheater is just rude, especially since every game be viewed in the replay. People won't want to play you if you keep calling cheat every time you start to lose.

After a deep breath, you should take stock of the situation. You'll likely have the city cap to build at least one city, maybe two... immediately start looking for a spot to set down a city. In your ally's base, or in an otherwise out of the way location you can reach. If you have a city that is under attack, but is not your capital or last city, you should move some of your citizens from this endangered city to your new city to jump start your economy. Your ramping costs for buildings and citizens should be lower, since you've lost some already. Build a market, a temple (you may need the push), a library, and a university. Build farms, a mine and wood cutting camps. Basically, get your people back to work as quickly as possible. Remember to build the granary, lumber mill and smelter to increase your output.

Meanwhile, back at your endangered cities, you should continue the resistance with what remaining troops you have. Ideally you would want to save up your troops in a secluded spot, then come charging out with a decent sized army, but you might not have the time to do that, I normally continue reinforcing the troops right at the front. Rotate troops and citizens in and out of forts, towers and cities. Basically you need to last as long as possible. You should try to prevent your capital from falling until you have had a chance to raze your senate building, and construct it at your new city.

And as much as you would like to build troops to counter what the army facing you has, you will be building according to what your economy is able to pull in. If what you need is cheap at the market, buy and sell to get it. If you have a stockpile of one or more resources, sell it off. Face it, any resources left in your bank when you die are wasted resources.

Another suggestion, if you have the resources, is to build a secondary line of defenses, away from the fighting, but between your new cities and the battle. Build troop production buildings at this secondary line as well. If you are able, start constructing a new army at this location, while keeping up troop production in the falling/fallen cities. A fresh army, even if half the size of a damaged one, can inflict lethal damage, especially if you can flank it.

Basically, one of you will win the grinding match. If you win it, go for your fallen cities quickly, before enemy reinforcements arrive. If you lose it, continue to expand away from the area, keeping your economy going.

Another thing that gets lost in the battle is... teching and aging. If you're able to age, do so. If you can afford to upgrade your troops, do so. These two things can turn the tide of battle.

Anyways, it's probably not new to experienced players, but I hope it can help the newbie players a little...

'Ats all for now folks, more later on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Battle Tactics, Part Two...

Next up in micromanaging your troops in battle is the use of formations.

Have you ever noticed your troops splitting into multiple groups to move around obstacles? Or that your army is strung out in a long line, and the flanks are getting picked off?

Chances are adjusting your formation would have helped in that situation. The mouse scroll button is the default button for changing your formation. You can adjust the length of your lines, making them shorter or longer at will.

If you are attacking a wide area, and you aren't currently facing any opposition, use the mouse scroll button to make your lines longer, bringing the lines closer together, allowing all the units opportunity to fire.

Shortening the lines will allow your army to move smoothly through the tight areas found on some maps, Mediterranean for example, which has many mountainous and forested areas. Large armies will have a difficult time moving through such terrain. Shortening the lines has a slight disadvantage though. While it concentrates your firepower onto a smaller area, conversely any army attacking it will be targetting a smaller area. I find that the turnover rate for cavalry is rather high. :P

There are other formation types than just the line formation. Subtle variations of the line formation is echelon left and echelon right. I've not used these before, but I would guess that there are situations for both. Envelope formation surrounds the attack point with your army, while the Refused formation forms an arrowhead, with your siege safely protected by the army aiming outwards.

There you have it folks, nothing big, but sometimes it can be just enough to pull your ass outta the fire.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Undocumented feature: The CEO

A good friend of mine, EMELT, seen handing me my ass in a recorded game just recently, has found what looks to be an undocumented bonus given by the CEO.

In watching a replay, he noticed a sharp climb in one of the players' knowledge rate. After some preliminary experimentation, EMELT says that when the CEO has a city within it's command radius, and that city has a university, the scholars within that university gain a +50% bonus of knowledge. Only the scholars, not the university itself, gain the bonus, and it only works in that one city. If the CEO has more than one city in it's radius, the bonus only counts at one university.

He's going to experiment more with it, and hopefully I'll have a link to a recorded game proving it. Someone want to give it a shot themselves and see? Has this been documented before anywhere? I don't see it on BHG's site, and a cursory search in Google didn't bring up anything. Someone let me know...

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.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Poll Time: Thrones & Patriots

I'm starting to get a little traffic now, so I think I can ask a question and reasonably expect answers.

What do you guys think of the Rise of Nations expansion, Thrones & Patriots?

Is it worth the money? Or should it have been a patch?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Recorded Games: Tempest vs EMELT

Well, in a game with me playing the Chinese (as Tempest) and my friend playing the Spanish, I get my butt handed to me.

I tried a citizen rush. It was funny... but ultimately it failed, and I lost. The rush was make or break, I should have looked harder for a barracks, maybe I could have destroyed it, maybe not. I did not recover from the that rush, and in the end, EMELT came out ahead. I manage to stop a first siege assault, but the second wave basically runs over me, and I eventually quit, feeling the game was well in his hands.

Ah well, time to go over the replay, and see where I could improve.