Age of Empires 4 is a massive real-time strategy game with countless stratagem combinations. From defensive tips to siege weapons, how to group your units, and when to build farms (spoiler: always), there’s plenty to keep in mind even in the early ages.
All that freedom can be a bit overwhelming, especially for beginners, so we’ve put together a list of helpful tips and tricks guide to help you navigate the centuries and dominate the world regardless of the win conditions. Here’s how to play the early Ages.
Age of Empires 4 Tips & Tricks
It Takes a Villager to Raise an Empire
Villagers fuel your empire, and you’ll want to produce plenty of villagers as soon as possible. Villagers are the life force of your civilization. They are responsible for producing food, gathering wood, and mining stone and gold. More villagers means constructing buildings faster.
They need minding, though. Villagers will continue with their tasks indefinitely as long as resources and tasks are available. If work is interrupted or resources run dry, they’ll need some redirecting.
Use the “.” key to cycle through idle villagers and put them to work, or view them by clicking the button at the top of the menu in the bottom left corner of the screen.
You can also keep track of how many villagers are assigned to gather specific resources. This is shown to the right of the resources and your stockpile numbers in the menu in the bottom left corner of the screen.
Ol’ McEmpire Had a Farm — and a Mill
And you should too, multiple ones. Don’t waste your time with berries since they provide little sustenance for the time it takes to harvest them. Your best bet is building a Mill and plonking down Farms around it.
Always put Farms as close to mills as possible to keep your villagers from having to travel too far. Some civilizations, such as the English, gain production boosts from building Farms adjacent to Mills.
Technologies such as Wheelbarrow and Horticulture allow your villagers to gather more food from farms and faster, so be sure to research them quickly.
Mills and similar civilization-specific structures are also a good idea if you plan to focus on hunting or herding in the early Ages, which is a viable strategy to conserve wood resources. Researching the Survival Techniques technology, for example, is then important because it increases how much food you get from hunting. Use your scouts to herd sheep to your Town Center, Mill, or Pasture for your villagers to harvest.
Lastly, if playing on a map with rivers or oceans, don’t discount building a dock and fishing as a viable supplement to farming when you enter the mid-game. Keep in mind there are no fish traps in Age of Empires 4 to acts as water farms. And the only issue fishing is that you’ll need lots of wood not only for fishing vessels but also galleys and warships, wood you could spend elsewhere.
Diplomacy Never Pays — Until It Does
Your overall strategy will likely vary how you approach diplomatic issues. At some points during your campaigns or skirmishes, you’ll have the choice to pay off a potential rival or engage them in combat.
If you manage your units well enough, you can leave a small force at your main base to defend it and send the overwhelming majority of your army to deal with the second threat, bulldozing your enemy into submission.
If you have more resources to spare, though, and a more pressing threat elsewhere, it’s almost always just worth paying them off. That way, you don’t have to wait while Stables and Barracks produce more units to replace those you lost, leaving you vulnerable to other nations.
The Triangle of Death
Age of Empires 4 features a simple, but important unit hierarchy.
- Barracks units (soldiers, lancers, etc.) are strong against cavalry
- Cavalry is strong against archers
- Archers are strong against barracks units
As with any AoE game, you can technically overpower any enemy just by throwing a huge army at them. If you want to be more efficient or even roleplay, it’s worth taking the early-game tutorial and Art of War lessons to heart.
Deploy archers to harass footsoldiers, and keep them out of harm’s way by placing them in Stealth Forests and up on cliffs. Run down archers with your horses, and deploy spearmen against cavalry.
Utilize Control Groups
Age of Empires 4 lets you lump units in groups using the “Control” key and numbers from zero through nine. This somewhat eliminates the need to constantly double-click units or draw boxes around them in combat, for example.
- Highlight the units you want in a group
- Hold the Control key
- Press the number you want to create the group
Get used to doing this because it’s the easiest way to divide your soldiers and handle specific threats.
You have a few avenues for approaching this. You can copy how your own reinforcements arrive and group them into mini armies with foot soldiers, archers, and cavalry, or you can lump unit types together, such as having one group for cavalry and one for archers.
I found good success with the first method, at least early in the game on a smaller scale, since it made targeting specific enemy groups easier.
Upgrade Early and Often
Age of Empires 4 doesn’t toot its trumpets about upgrades, but they’re some of the most important parts of any strategy. You have few upgrades in the first age, but advancing to the Feudal Age unlocks enhancements for buildings and new buildings that help upgrade units. Click on a building or unit, and you’ll see upgrades marked in turquoise-colored tiles.
For example, you can research the Double Broadax upgrade from a Lumber Camp to increase the speed at which villagers gather lumber, or you can build a Blacksmith to unlock new soldier upgrades like Bloomery, which increases melee attack damage.
Early on, it’s most important to focus on resource upgrades, while sprinkling in some attack and defensive upgrades for your military units. The key here is gathering resources faster than the AI enemy can gobble them up.
In the same vein, be sure to balance upgrades with creating new units and villagers. Always chase resources and build some defenses with military units. Upgrades do you no good if you’re without resources or find your base ablaze and on the verge of destruction.
Build a Good Defense
You should devote most of your resources to establishing your cities and building an army. However, as you get closer to your enemy’s strongholds, you’ll want to divert some of those resources into fortifications as you make it into the later ages, such as the Castle Age and Imperial Age.
Villagers can build wooden palisades — and, later, stone walls — to keep advancing enemies from burning your buildings, but Outposts that become Guard Towers are your best option early.
If you position them well and keep them upgraded, you can take down enemy forces before they even reach your defensive walls. AI enemy units are often woefully focused on anything attacking them or in their way, so towers can at least distract them long enough for your forces to arrive and cut them down.
It’s also important to use terrain to your advantage. Position units and towers along the high ground whenever possible and create chokepoints with mountains, valleys, and even forests you haven’t harvested.
Lay Siege (Sort Of)
Some siege weapons become available as early as the Feudal Age, while the Siege Workshop becomes available in the Castle Age and brings with it some important upgrades. However, building siege weapons isn’t always necessary and depends on the situation.
I found battering rams to be largely useless most of the time, but mangonels (catapults, essentially) are effective both at tearing down walls and stopping groups of foot soldiers. If you’re attacking a stronghold, make sure to bring a few mangonels or trebuchets along.
Take a Research Trip
If you want to try any of this out in a no-pressure environment, head to the Skirmish menu under “Play,” to the right of “Campaign,” and choose to create your own game. There, you can set a match with no enemies and a high amount of starting resources, pick the age you want to start in, and essentially customize it as you see fit.
It’s the best way to explore new strategies and understand how units, buildings, and upgrades work without those pesky French or Mongols setting your walls on fire every two minutes.
That’s it for our Age of Empires 4 beginner’s tips and tricks guide, but keep an eye out for more Age of Empires 4 guides in the coming days.