Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition 'Drush' build order and strategy guide
Rushing your opponent in the Dark Age is a key Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition strategy for beginners and pros alike. Here's what you need to know.
An Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition Drush (shortened down from Dark Age rush) is a great way to get the upper hand early in a match, but it doesn't come with its fair share of risks. If you're wondering how you can harass your opponent early and effectively in your next game, this guide should help you nail and basics of a Drush.
Why Drush your opponent?
There are many Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition strategies to choose from. If you prefer applying pressure to your opponent early and not letting up as you move through the ages, the Drush is no doubt the best option.
The Drush involves sending militia (the only military unit available in the Dark Age) to the enemy's base to disrupt early economy. The goal of the Drush isn't to pad your kill-to-death ratio. It's instead meant to distract and delay your opponent to the point where they cannot keep up to the pressure you continue applying through the ages. Worry less about killing villagers and focus more on pulling them away from their assigned duties.
If your opponent is playing as a civilization with strong cavalry, it's natural to assume they will attempt to hit you with fast-moving Scout cavalry as soon as Feudal Age is reached. Harassing their foragers, hunters, and even farmers (if they're not too close to the Town Center) will cause food shortages.
On the other hand, if the opposing civilization is strong with archers, crippling their wood and gold economy as they head into Feudal Age is paramount. An Age of Empires 2 match is generally a number of small opportunities that, when seized, grow into a victory.
Some civilizations are better geared for a Drush, including those with extra food and gold bonuses (Lithuanians, Aztecs) or those with cheaper infantry (Goths). However, all civilizations can pull off the Drush to some extent.
How to Drush in Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition
Like any good Age of Empires 2 strategy, there are multiple ways to pull it off depending on the game's current meta-state. I will focus here on a Drush that will have militia harassing your enemy at around the 10-minute mark of the match.
The Drush is best paired with mid- and late-game strategies; it alone will not win a game unless your opponent is seriously underprepared. Two common exit strategies will take your Drush into archers or into a standard Fast Castle. Since I've already written an Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition Fast Castle strategy guide, I will focus on a Drush into archers with the following build order.
Most civilizations begin a match with three villagers and a scout, which I will focus on here. I will also ignore individual civilization bonuses (like extra starting gold or food) to make it better suited to all playstyles.
- Immediately queue up as many villagers as possible in your Town Center (TC). You never want to let your TC idle.
- Your scout should be on the move, searching out domesticated animals (like sheep) and wild animals (like boars) near your TC. Immediately send any found sheep to your TC.
- Send two villagers (1, 2) to build one House. Remember to save room for farms around your TC.
- Send the other villager (3) to build a separate house.
- The new villager (4) created should begin harvesting sheep under the TC.
- Send villagers (1, 2, 3) to harvest sheep once houses are built. Try to always harvest one animal at a time to avoid wasting food due to carcass decay
- Send two new villagers (5, 6) to harvest sheep. Keep adding new villagers to the TC queue to ensure there's no downtime.
- Send new villager (7) to build a lumber camp on a large stand of trees. Toward the back of your base is preferred but not always possible.
- Send new villagers (8, 9, 10) to chop wood at the lumber camp.
- Send new villager (11) to build a house. Try building it near a boar or other wild animal since you will use the same villager to lure the animal back to your TC. Think defensively when placing new buildings. Walls aren't the only structures that can delay invading armies.
- Send new villager (12) to build a mill next to berries.
- Send new villagers (13, 14) to collect berries.
- Attack boar with villager (11) once then retreat to your TC. When in range, order the villagers harvesting sheep to attack the boar to bring it down as quickly as possible. Harvest boar with same villagers.
- Send a villager currently harvesting boar to lure the next boar back to the TC. Aim to send the villager out to lure when the previous boar has about one-third meat left depending on proximity.
- Consider sending your scout away from your base to find the enemy. Knowing the position of enemy resources and gathering points is crucial.
- Send new villager (15) to build a house near a gold deposit at the front of your base.
- Send new villagers (16, 17) to gather berries.
- Send villager (15) to build a barracks next to the house just built. Ensure you remain close to the gold deposit.
- Send new villagers (18, 19, 20) to harvest sheep and boar.
- Send villager (15) to collect 10 gold from the nearby mine. No mining camp is needed. Have the villager drop off the gold at your TC as soon as it is collected.
- Queue up three militia at your barracks. As soon as all three are trained, group them with your scout and send them to the enemy's base to harass villagers. Assign the military group to a hotkey so that you can switch back and forth between micromanaging them and your economy.
- Send the two villagers weakened by luring boar to build one farm each. Not a huge rush here, just build them as wood supply allows.
- Send villager (15) to build a house once gold is dropped off.
- Send new villagers (21, 22, 23) to harvest sheep and boar. Consider hunting deer if they are close enough to your TC or mill.
- Send new villager (24) to chop wood.
- Research Loom at your TC.
- Research Feudal Age at your TC.
- Send one villager from sheep/boar to chop wood.
- Send six villagers from sheep/boar to build a second lumber camp.
- Send four villagers from sheep/boar to build a gold mine.
- Send two villager from sheep/boar to build a house. Think defensively. Once the house is built and Feudal Age is researched, build two archery ranges toward the front of your base. Finally, build a blacksmith.
- Send the two builders to mine gold.
These final few steps will differ depending on your civilization's needs. If you're low on one resource, retask the sheep/boar/deer villagers as needed.
You're now in Feudal Age with the buildings required to train archers and upgrade their equipment. All villagers are tasked with gathering resources, and your militia and scout should continue to cause issues at the enemy's base if they're still alive.
Start training archers from both archery ranges, and be sure to pull villagers away to build more houses as needed. As resources allow, research Double-Bit Axe at the lumber camp, research Fletching at the blacksmith, and research Padded Archer Armor at the blacksmith.
New villagers created during Feudal Age should be tasked to farms; the current six villagers on gold and 12 villagers on wood should be enough to support your archer production. If your gold production is lagging behind, move new villagers to gold as needed. Castle and Imperial Ages will see huge demand for gold.
With Fletching and Padded Archer Armor researched, send a group of archers to the enemy base. Focus on killing villagers and keep your archers away from the enemy TC. Consider splitting your archers up into groups to make it harder for your opponent to defend. Never send archers in to fight one at a time.
Quick-glance summary of Drush steps
Following are the above steps condensed down to make them easier to read while in a live match.
- Villagers (1, 2, 3) build houses then harvest sheep.
- Villagers (4, 5, 6) harvest sheep.
- Villager (7) builds lumber camp.
- Villagers (8, 9, 10) chop wood at lumber camp.
- Villager (11) builds a house then lures boar.
- Villagers (12, 13, 14) build mill and collect berries.
- Villager (15) builds a house near front gold.
- Villagers (16, 17) gather berries.
- Villagers (18, 19, 20) harvest sheep/boar.
- Villager (15) builds a barracks then collects 10 gold from nearby mine.
- Queue up three militia at barracks. Send them to attack as a group once trained.
- Injured villagers (boar luring) build one farm each.
- Villager (15) builds a house.
- Villagers (21, 22, 23) harvest sheep/boar. Consider hunting deer if close to your TC or mill.
- Villager (24) chops wood.
- Research Loom.
- Research Feudal Age.
- Send one sheep/boar villager to chop wood at existing lumber camp.
- Send six sheep/boar villagers to build new lumber camp.
- Send four sheep/boar villagers to build gold mine.
- Send two sheep/boar villagers to build a house, two archery ranges, and a blacksmith in that order. Send them to mine gold once building is complete.
- Begin training archers from both ranges.
- Research Double-Bit Axe, Fletching, and Padded Archer Armor as resources allow.
- Villagers (25+) build farms and mine gold. Keep your economy balanced. Move villagers who were foraging berries to resources that are lacking.
- Send archer groups to harass enemy villagers once Fletching has been researched.
Perfecting the Age of Empires 2 Drush
There are plenty of variables and unforeseen happenings that can cause your Drush to fail. The enemy might wall their base early, boxing your militia out. You might not be able to find the enemy's base in time to surprise them. Or the enemy might plan their own Drush, surprising you at home while your units are across the map. Good scouting, as with any strategy, is required to pull it off successfully.
If a Drush goes according to plan and you surprise the enemy with militia, focus on keeping your small army alive. The longer your units run around the enemy base, the more distracted and frustrated the enemy becomes. Don't rush in and stand your ground to attack a group of villagers. Militia are relatively weak, and a group of villagers will put up a strong fight. Instead, try to lure villagers away from their work; they can't attack you and gather resources at the same time.
Keep your militia and scout together. They are stronger when grouped up. Keep them away from the enemy TC's arrow fire. And don't worry if the Drush units die. As long as they delay the enemy, you should be able to reach Feudal Age first. In this case, it means your archers will be ready to attack before the enemy can prepare a proper defense. If possible, pull your scout away before death. It can continue exploring the map.
The Drush is not a game-winning strategy (most of the time), but it provides an excellent foundation for a win gained by making the most of small opportunities. Plan your Drush at the front of another strategy (like Fast Castle or Feudal Archers) for best effect.
Be sure to have a look at our Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition Ultimate Beginner's Guide for some great tips on getting your game off the ground. And if you're yet to take the plunge due to not having the right PC, check out our guide to best laptops for playing Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition.
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Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.