Back on the old forum, I took some really comprehensive notes from some of our top PvP players. I ended up with a treatise that is about 90-pages-long and covers almost every strategy, match-up, and map available. Frankly, it's too dense to burden others with. But now that Sparta is back, I boiled down some basics. I hope some of this stuff finds new readers and inspires new players. The Five Fundamentals of PvP 1. Always make villagers: constantly spam vils until you have somewhere between 70 and 100. The only time your TC should not be training villagers is when is when it is researching something else. 2. No idle villagers. Make a nicely-located hotkey for finding groups of idle villagers and make it an unthinking habit to press it all the time. I use the spacebar and rest my thumb on it for constant banging 3. Spend your damn resources: Keep all resources below 300. Banking resources is a sign of inefficiency. The only thing that matters are the units on the field. If you are running high on one, reassign vils to other resources. If you are always running high, it is because you don’t have enough ways to spend them. So make more buildings so you can make more units and research more stuff. Focus on these 3 tips at first. Get used to cycling from TC to idle villager button to checking your resource levels. You should be doing this all game. Seriously, if you just do these 3 things, you will immediately see better results. Your economy will be humming so fast that not even you could figure out a way to at least put up a decent fight. 4. Always make military: constantly train military (the only exception would be when you are saving up for a large purchase like an upgrade, aging up, or a fort or TC) 5. Always make buildings: many new players don’t make enough buildings. Buildings open up your bandwidth to quickly produce units. Buildings provide good lines of sight around the map. Buildings soak up damage so your units don’t have to. Remember, if you ever catch yourself floating a lot of wood, grab a villager or two from your wood line and throw down a handful of buildings. This is not high strategy. These Five Fundamentals are totally brainless and will become reflexive soon enough. It doesn’t matter what civ you are. It doesn’t matter who your enemy is. It doesn’t matter what your enemy does. If you ignored these five things and did everything else in this guide perfectly, you would lose every time. And if you did nothing else but stay in your base doing these five things perfectly, you would still win more than you lose. The Five Fundamentals simply focus on making lots of things. They do not discuss how to choose what to make or use what you make. That's next. Part Two: Advanced Fundamentals Again, everything here applies universally to every civ in every matchup on every map. We can deal with different civs and different maps later 1. Always scout: Scouting saves lives and wins matches. If you don’t know what is happening on the map, you will lose (but for the grace of god). Your scout sucks at everything except running around and maybe building watchposts. If he isn’t running around, he is a total waste. But if he is running around, then he is feeding you critical information. Here is the order in which your scout should do his job: Scout your treeline: Get a quick look around to see what you have handy. Ideally you can put your first loggers behind your TC and close to its range of fire. Scout your first hunt: First, scout your closest hunt and kill the animals. This saves time. If you don’t kill them, they will eventually scatter and take a ton of time for your vils to gather. Scout enemy bases: Determine (1) whether a barracks (and thus a spearman rush) is coming and (2) whether he is gathering stone. If he has a few vils on stone, then he is likely going to boom in Age 2 with a TC rather than storm your gates right away. Find your enemy’s 2nd gold mine: Everyone gets one free gold mine underneath their TC. But on most maps, that’s all. If you can stop him from getting to a second mine, you will win the game in Age 2. Huge Trick: Once you have scouted mines, even though they remain in the fog of war, you can click on them and see how much gold is left. So you can tell from anywhere whether they are being mined and whether you should send a raiding party. Now Scout the entire map. Always be scouting. Constantly re-scout. Pay particular attention to (1) finding out what units your enemy is making and (2) finding enemy villagers to raid (or, again, see the Huge Trick above). Don’t forget watchposts: Consider using watchposts along the edges of the map. This helps you find undefended villagers and marching armies. Because of their cost, you should wait until at least Age 2 to make watch posts. Your wood should be spent on other things at first. Anyone can scout. Your scout may die, but scouting may not. Scout with fast units. Scout with slow units with good Line of Sight. Scout with buildings (storehouses have good Lines of Sight, are cheap, and abandoned ones far from resources are often overlooked by armies as necessary to worry about). Here is cG Brutish Jarl: "Scout your opponent early and often […]. first priority is to find out if he’s making an early barracks and/or gathering stone for a TC. this scout should be at around the 1:15-1:20 mark to catch an early rax [barracks]. If you see neither of these, keep scouting his base until you work out what he's doing. As Persia/Greek/Babylon he may be going archery first. If you see him gathering stone, check his base again after a minute or so to make sure he is actually getting enough stone for a TC - if he goes for aggressive towers instead you need to be ready for this." 2. Get the most out of your Villagers: Let’s get back to the Five Fundamentals for a minute and pour some actual strategy on top. Avoid idle vils Besides constantly using the idle villager hotkey, be sure to anticipate idleness by shift clicking a group of villagers to move from one task to the next. You can be even smarter by sending one villager from a group of miners or hunters to the next resource early to make the next storehouse. Prefer Hunts over Berries Hunts (1.3 food/second) are faster than berries (.9 food/second) Save time and reduce the herd scattering by using scout (or military) unit to kill the animals Spread vils so that they all gather from their own animal. Otherwise, they will bump into each other, causing traffic jams Shift click Vils onto the next available animal If you must use Berries, get Picker’s Gloves. If you commit to berries, then get picker’s gloves immediately. Berry picking is too damn slow. Also, spread the vils around the different bushes so they don’t bump into each other and slow down. Seriously, these details matter. I know it sounds OCD. Fish! He who wins water wins the match. Fishing boats free up your food-gathering villagers to focus on other resources. But since they cost wood, you will obviously need a few more on wood. But overall, docks are awesome investments Wood Again, spread the vils around the storehouse to maximize speed and avoid traffic jams. Shift click vils onto the best available tree. Keep making storehouses deeper into the woods. The cost (50W and 30 secs) will pay for itself with increased speed. Here is the math: A vil with a 1 second roundtrip to a storehouse gathers at .9 wood/sec. A vil with a 4 second roundtrip gathers at .71 wood/sec So after 5 minutes, a group of 7 villagers with a 1 second round trip would have gathered about 450 more wood than the same group with a 4 second round trip. My goodness! Consider removing trees strategically to create good paths (especially for your market caravans). But don’t chop down natural forest walls. Gold/Stone Build the storehouse one space off a mine, so vils can stand in the middle and have 0 walking time. Spread a big group of vils around the whole mine. Again, it avoids traffic jams. We are like 5 pages into this and all we have really talked about is making villagers and scouting. Let’s work a little on offense. 3. Avoid idle raiders: Treat fast military units as scouts. If they are idle, you are wasting them. Constantly raid. When raiding, hunt villagers first. Remember, one dead villager is better than 10 injured ones. So micro them all onto the same targets. At worst, even if you die, raids still distract your opponent from doing other things. 4. A few basic hotkeys. I’ve always found hotkeys intimidating. So let’s start with a few. We are only talking about one hand. ASDF Unit creation. Rest your fingers on those keys. Anytime you want to tell a building (like a Barracks) to create a unit, instead of using your mouse, simply press the corresponding button. A creates the first type of unit (such as Spearmen). S creates the next unit. And so forth. A: Attack Move. Instead of grabbing a unit on the field and blindly clicking on the map to send him there, consider hitting A then clicking. Now your dude will fight any enemy he meets on his way. S: Stop Move. 1 thru 0. Assign buildings or groups of units to the number keys by highlighting them and holding Ctrl + the number. Now you can instantly control them from anywhere on the field by simply hitting the number. (So if you assign your TC to, say 4, then even if you are in your opponents base, you can simply hit 4 then A to call up your TC and tell it to make a villager. Again, these tips are all rules of thumb that apply to every civ in every match-up on every map. Everything written above should become habit. As you get comfortable with these basics, then you can start worrying about everything else. But if you find yourself losing a bunch, come back to these because you are probably screwing up something above. It may be more than one thing (but scouting is definitely one of them).