Fast Castle strategy in actionSource: Windows Central

Age of Empires II, the classic real-time strategy (RTS) game, has been remade and released in a Definitive Edition for its 20th anniversary. New artwork, new animations, and new civilizations are included, but some strategies are still paramount in winning matches. Let's take a look at the "Fast Castle" strategy, including how it works, why it's effective, and what to do once you pull it off.

See our Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition Ultimate Beginner's Guide

An RTS for the ages

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

A lot of game for the asking price

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition manages to make the classic RTS feel new while not straying away from what made the game great in the first place.

Why Fast Castle?

Knights attacking an opponent who is still in Feudal AgeSource: Windows Central

The Fast Castle strategy aims to get your civilization to the Castle Age in less than 17 minutes. Along with the powerful upgrades and buildings you receive in this age, you should have plenty of resources at your disposal to begin creating military units or to continue booming your economy.

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The Fast Castle strategy is certainly not foolproof, and it's not going to work in every game. If you're rushed by the enemy, for example, you'll likely have to modify your plan to defend your base. Still, if the strategy can be pulled off, it sets you up for a strong mid and late game against any opponent.

Once you reach the Castle Age, you essentially have two reliable options. You can continue to boom your economy if you're not being threatened, or you can begin producing knights to harass the enemy.

What you need to do to Fast Castle

There are multiple versions of the Fast Castle strategy out there, and you can certainly take these steps and mold them to your liking, especially if you're playing a civilization that comes with certain economic benefits. However, these are the basics to help you get to Castle Age in less than 17 minutes. Most civilizations start with three villagers and a scout, which is what we'll focus on here.

  • 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

Houses are built and first villagers are harvesting cows and sheep.Source: Windows Central

  • Send new villagers (5, 6) created by the TC to harvest sheep. Continue queuing new villagers at the TC to avoid any downtime.
  • Send new villager (7) to build a lumber camp on a large clump of trees found by your scout. This will serve as your main woodline, so try to find a spot that's not easy to attack.
  • Send new villagers (8, 9) to chop wood.
  • Send new villager (10) to build a house near the boar you've found with your scout. Pro players will often position houses between chokepoints to wall out enemies without actually using walls.
  • Send new villager (11) to chop wood at the woodline.
  • Attack boar with villager (10) who built your third house. Allow the villager to land two arrow shots before running back to the TC. This ensures the boar doesn't give up and return to its original spot. The villager (10) will take some damage, but try to get the boar as close as possible to your TC. When in range, order the villagers harvesting sheep to attack the boar to bring it down as quickly as possible.

Villager luring a boar back to the Town CenterSource: Windows Central

  • Send new villager (12) to chop wood. Consider harvesting the straggler trees around your TC to make room for future farms.
  • Send new villager (13) to build a mill adjacent to the berries your scout has discovered.
  • Send new villagers (14, 15) to harvest berries.
  • Pay attention to the food remaining in the boar at your TC. This is now made easier thanks to resource health bars in the Definitive Edition. Once the boar has about 100 food remaining, pull one of the harvesting villagers away to lure the other boar you've scouted near your TC.
  • Send new villager (16) to harvest berries.
  • Send new villager (17) to build a house. Move to harvest berries after completion.
  • Send new villagers (18, 19) to harvest berries.
  • Send new villager (20) to build a house near an untouched treeline. This villager will help build a new lumber camp on a secondary treeline once complete.
  • Send new villager (21) to help build new lumber camp at new treeline. Splitting up your lumberjacks help against raids where one treeline is threatened.
  • Send new villagers (22, 23, 24) to chop wood at the new lumber camp.

Two lumber camps and a mill with villagers at workSource: Windows Central

  • Begin building farms with the food harvesters near your TC as wood stocks allow.
  • Send new villager (25) to build a mining camp on the safest gold near your TC.
  • Send new villagers (26, 27) to mine gold.
  • Research Feudal Age at your TC. You should have 14 villagers collecting food, 10 villagers collecting wood, and three villagers collecting gold.
  • Pull one lumberjack villager away from wood and build a barracks while Feudal Age is researched. Try to place it near the front of your base in order to quickly mobilize units. Move the villager back to wood once finished building.
  • Once Feudal Age research is complete, immediately queue up to more villagers at your TC.

Blacksmith built in anticipation for Castle AgeSource: Windows Central

Upon completion of Feudal Age research, you have a couple of logical options to thrive in the Castle Age. If you're interested in producing knights, you'll want to build a stable and blacksmith. If you'd rather boom your economy because you're not feeling threatened by the enemy, a blacksmith and market is a better choice.

  • Pull three berry harvesters away and build a blacksmith and your choice of second Feudal Age building.
  • Send new villagers (28, 29) to mine gold for knights or to chop wood for booming.
  • Research Castle Age at your TC.
  • Research Double-bit Axe at your lumber camp.
  • Research Horse Collar at your mill.

Quick-glance summary of Fast Castle steps

Don't forget to research crucial resource upgradesSource: Windows Central

To easier follow while in-game, here are the basic steps in an easy-to-read format.

  • Villagers (1, 2, 3) build houses then harvest sheep.
  • Villagers (4, 5, 6) harvest sheep.
  • Villager (7) builds lumber camp.
  • Villagers (8, 9) chop wood.
  • Villager (10) builds house then lures boar.
  • Villagers (11, 12) chop wood.
  • Villager (13) builds mill on berries.
  • Villagers (14, 15, 16) harvest berries.
  • One boar harvester lures in second boar to TC.
  • Villager (17) builds house then harvests berries.
  • Villagers (18, 19) harvest berries.
  • Villager (20) builds house then builds lumber camp on new treeline.
  • Villager (21, 22, 23, 24) chop wood at new treeline.
  • Villager (25) builds mining camp.
  • Villagers (26, 27) mine gold.
  • Research Feudal Age.
  • One lumberjack builds barracks.
  • Villager (28, 29) mine gold or chop wood based on strategy.
  • Three berry harvesters build blacksmith and stable or market based on strategy.
  • Research Castle Age.
  • Research Double-bit Axe at your lumber camp.
  • Research Horse Collar at your mill.

What to do when you reach Castle Age

Knights queued up at the stableSource: Windows Central

Once you've hit Castle Age, you should already know whether or not you're going to continue booming your economy or if you're going to begin producing knights to attack the enemy. In any case, you want to continue creating villagers -- also research Loom if you haven't already at some point -- and be sure to build enough houses to support your growing population.

If you're going all-in on knights, build at least another stable for faster production. Blacksmith upgrades for cavalry are available, but be sure you don't sap your economy by researching them too soon. Continue building farms as wood allows, send villagers to mine gold, and consider mining stone if you plan on building multiple extra TCs or a castle. You want to keep your economy balanced, so if you notice a considerable surplus of one resource coming in, you can move villagers elsewhere.

If you're booming your economy, build extra TCs in strategic locations, and continue producing villagers from all TCs. Research economy upgrades, and don't forget to trade with allied players at their markets. You're going to be attacked at some point, walls or not, so plan on building up a military sooner rather than later.

When does the Fast Castle strategy work best?

The Fast Castle strategy works best on land maps where you don't have to worry about a naval military, and it works best if you're left to your own devices. Keep in mind you won't be able to Fast Castle in every game, and you'll likely be interrupted at some point by aggression from the enemy.

A Fast Castle is especially potent in team games where you're positioned as the "pocket" player. This means you're in between a couple of allies, tucked away from the violent frontlines. This gives you more time to boom and produce units without dealing with pressure, and your allies will benefit from any resources you can sling their way as they defend the homeland.

And if you're tower rushed by Koreans in the Feudal Age while you're busy getting set for a quick trip to Castle Age, forget everything mentioned here. Send villagers to mine stone, build defensive towers, and start praying.

An RTS for the ages

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

A lot of game for the asking price

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition manages to make the classic RTS feel new while not straying away from what made the game great in the first place.

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