Age of Empires 4: 10 beginner tips and tricks to lead you to victory
Age of Empires 4 is a lot like previous Age games, but it also employs a bunch of new systems. These tips and tricks should help you get off to a good start.
Age of Empires 4 is a deep game with plenty of viable strategies, so jumping in blind can be a bit overwhelming. If you're new to the Age series or the RTS genre in general, some beginner tips and tricks can go a long way to helping you get your first victory. I've already laid out a guide on Age of Empires 4 civilization bonuses and units, but these general tips and tricks should apply no matter how you're playing.
Never let your Town Center sit idle
This is a classic Age of Empires maxim that continues to be important in Age 4. Villagers — your most valuable assets in most matches — are the backbone of your economy. You should always assume that your enemy will be constantly creating villagers, and you don't want to fall behind.
Not having enough Villagers to task with gathering resources and building new structures will result in your enemy pulling ahead economically and militarily. Once the ability becomes available, consider also building new Town Centers to improve Villager creation speed.
This maxim also applies when playing through the campaign. Despite receiving, in many missions, a huge army to work with, play is set up in a way that requires you to build up an economy and add to any granted units.
Use fishing boats to repair military vessels
If you're on a water map and have a dock built to wage naval warfare, chances are you're also going to have a fleet of fishing ships on the go (see the next tip). Because warships are so expensive, it's smart to cycle out the damaged ones as you fight.
Bringing them back to your shoreline for repairs by Villagers was necessary in Age 2, but Age 4 has changed things up a bit. Fishing ships can now repair warships, so seeding a few in with your military fleet is not a bad idea. Just be sure they're protected since they go down fast if focus-fired. If need be, know that Villagers can still repair ships that are near land.
Don't ignore shoreline and deep-sea fishing
If your Town Center is dropped near a shoreline, be sure to watch out for fishing spots along the coast. These offer a ton of food without much investment, and they're a quick way to boost your economy if domestic sheep and wild deer can't be found. Villagers can drop off food at docks, speeding up the process even more.
Deep-sea fishing spots are also plentiful on water maps. Unlike in Age of Empires 2 where these spots ran out and were not replenished, they can now be fished (in moderation) throughout a game. There are no more Fish Traps requiring wood to be replenished, which is a huge deal on some maps where trees are scarce.
Pay attention to areas of influence around buildings
Age of Empires 4 does something interesting with areas of influence around many of its buildings. Take the English Mill, for example. Farms built in a tight radius around it cost 50% less wood and are harvested 15% faster. Similarly, Rus Hunting Cabins built in the range of trees generate more gold.
Each civilization has some sort of influence mechanic at play, and understanding how to exploit each one will be a huge boon.
Research the Textiles technology
Like Loom in Age of Empires 2, Textiles in Age 4 is a technology that makes your Villagers harder to kill. It's fairly cheap, it becomes available in the Feudal Age, and it should be a priority for pretty much any player.
If you have a strategy that requires the resources elsewhere you might have to delay its research, but otherwise, the earlier you get Textiles the better.
Mount units on your stone walls
Stone walls play a bigger role in Age 4 than ever before. For the first time in the series, units can actually be mounted atop them. This can be done at an attached Tower, Gate, or ruined portion of the wall. Once units are on the wall, they can traverse the entirety as long as it remains unbroken.
Units on walls receive less damage from ranged attacks, and friendly ranged units can fire further and deal more damage to enemies below. Be careful with mounting only Archers on your walls though as a Siege Tower or breach in the wall can lead to enemy infantry swarming them. Mixing in some Man-at-Arms or other infantry that deal good melee damage is recommended.
Add weapon emplacements to your defenses
Age of Empires 4 separates Outposts and Towers. Outposts, which start as basic standalone structures with extra line of sight, can be upgraded quite extensively. In this regard, something like a tower rush from older Age games is still possible.
Towers, on the other hand, must be built onto an existing stone wall. Once built, you can upgrade them with weapon emplacements and other techs that help bolster your defense. Some civs have extra options if you research the proper techs at other buildings, like the Siege Workshop.
Use the fire mechanic to your advantage
New to Age of Empires 4 is a fire mechanic for buildings. Once a building drops below 25% hitpoints — no matter the type of damage that reduces it that low — it catches fire. A flame emblem appears above it to signify that it's ablaze.
At this point, you as an attacker can move on to another building. Left unrepaired by a Villager, a building that is on fire will eventually burn down to nothing. You can certainly destroy each building completely, but it's not entirely necessary.
If you're playing as the Mongols, know that setting buildings on fire grants you free resources. Happy raiding! And if you're playing against the Mongols (or just want extra protection) there are technologies available that add fire armor.
Make good use of siege equipment
Siege equipment is a crucial part of sieging an enemy, especially now that stone walls play such a big role. Infantry can build Battering Rams and Siege Towers, both effective tools used to breach an enemy's defenses. Siege Towers are essentially elevators to the top of your enemy's walls, while Battering Rams can take down any building while soaking up arrows.
If you want to keep your distance, something like the Trebuchet or Bombard makes more sense. These units should be protected at all cost due to high resource requirements.
Find yourself falling quickly to enemy siege equipment? Springalds are effective ranged tools that deal extra damage against other siege engines. They can even be built as emplacements in Keeps and Towers.
Understand the Age of Empires combat triangle
As with previous Age games, Age of Empires 4 employs the classic combat triangle. Ranged units like Archers are weak against cavalry, mounted units like Knights are weak against Spearmen, and infantry like Spearmen are weak against Archers. It's this system of counters that combat revolves around, and understanding it properly will lead to more wins on the field.
It's never a bad idea to have a mix of units available to protect against whatever the enemy throws your way. Good scouting is also crucial, as you'll have an idea of what you need to make to best counter your enemy. If the enemy is massing Knights, you'll no doubt want to upgrade your Spearmen.
You can use this to your advantage as well. If you know the enemy has scouted your base and discovered what you're up to, quickly changing tactics (and barring any Scouts from getting close again) can set the enemy back.
There are undoubtedly countless other tips and tricks for Age of Empires 4, but these 10 should get you off to a great start. If you're worried that your current PC might not be able to run the game, be sure to have a look at our Age of Empires 4 system requirements guide. And if you do need a new PC, our collection of the best gaming laptops should have something suitable.
Age of Empires 4 hasn't reinvented the RTS genre, but it has perfected many aspects of it. The campaign is absorbing, the multiplayer is competitive, and the visuals and audio are a near-perfect fit. If you're a fan of the Age of Empires series, this is an easy recommendation.
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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.