A Brief Guide for Climbing the Ladder


The tutorial is prepared assuming the readers are not completely new to the Age of Empires 2, that they have some fundamental working knowledge of some important things like units, hotkeys, civilizations, etc.

That being said, some of the information will seem very basic to some players. But still, I hope to attract and provide guidance to those who want to start and/or improve but do not know how to begin.

Please keep in mind that this tutorial is aimed to serve as only a “general guideline”. You should not try to do exactly as written here simply for two main reasons; firstly, Age of Empires 2 is a very versatile game. The “best moves” are mostly improvised during the game and you can find exceptional situations that could render every word, tip, and trick of this tutorial ineffective or wrong. Secondly and more importantly, there are literally no “flawless” or “perfect” plays. There are so many things that you need to control together and making mistakes while playing is the very nature of the game. Therefore, do not lose your motivation while making mistakes. AOE2 is all about making the smartest moves with a decent speed and “fewer number of mistakes”.

In this tutorial I will be specifically talking about the map “Arabia” and how to approach each of the ways you can improve your gameplay. Step by step I’ll be covering all the build order knowledge and applying it to improve your gameplay and help you win you every battle you partake in.

The Beginning (900-1600)


At this level, the important thing you should be focusing on is that your Dark Age is as close to perfection as possible. What I mean by “Perfection” is that you should have little to no idle time in your Town Center (ie. always be producing villagers). This implies that the Town Center should be working at all times and never go idle until you have enough resources to click up to the next age.

Now let’s discuss the topic of idle time. As TheViper famously said, “An idle villager is as good as a dead villager” so it always a thing you should be careful about! The other aspect of idle time is military. Binding hotkeys to locate idle villagers and military will help you quickly locate them and have those lazy villagers working.

Scouting is also an important aspect of the game. It lets you make decisions in terms of what strategy you and your opponent are going for. For example if you observe that your opponent has 4 on wood really early on that means he would like to play with either a Drush or a Man at arms rush the two most popular opening with 4 on wood on the other hand if he has 3 on wood that indicates he would like to go for scouts. So in this manner observing the number of villagers on resources from your enemy will help you make decisions to either counter him or make him react to you with a opening that can throw him off his gameplan.

Strategy Choices :

1.) A good man at arms build order can carry you all the way to 1700s easily because the early pressure from that rush will usually throw your opponent into panic. Men-at-Arms work best when paired with additional support troops. A good raiding party composition should be of around a dozen Men-at-Arms, some Skirmishers to counter enemy Archers, and optionally some Spearmen if the enemy employs a large number of Scout Cavalry. Even at the top level a clean man at arms rush will usually get a lot of value from the investment in it. Studying this build order will help you learn the essentials of applying pressure and not letting your opponent relax to do his thing.


2.) A good scout rush into archers is also a really good option. Scout cavalry are automatically upgraded upon researching the Feudal Age, gaining +2 attack, +2 Line of Sight, and +0.35 movement speed. With this opening you use the mobility of the scouts to harass the enemy, while building up a strong food economy by placing down a lot of farms. Then you transition into archers to counter all the spearmen your opponent has made to deal with your scouts. Spending some time learning this build will help you reach the top and compete with the best.


3.) The good old Forward . This usually means that you have seen that your enemy has a weaknesses in his map that you would like to pressure and exploit. So there are two main ways to pressure the enemy one of them being by making your military buildings near enemy base which will require you to send your villagers forward or using a combination of Men at arms and villagers to construct towers to zone him off the particular resource which is exposed using the man at arms as Bodyguards to your villagers. So this is only the basics of the Feudal Age. Anything after this will usually depend on how the situation is looking. Any transition into a castle age army using the newer technology and units will give you an advantage over your enemy.


The Ending (1700+)


The Castle age and imperial age is the stage where you will translate all the advantages and disadvantages you gained in feudal age into a victory .

This is where your critical decision making will come into play . Being able to assess the situation and come up with a plan to move forward is they way to win the game. You will have to gain control and commit to either economy or military.

General Gameplan:

3 ways to play from castle age are as following:

1) The Defence

Using the existing army as a defensive measure to secure the map and starting to expand your economy using defensive structures like walls and castles will greatly help you secure important locations on the map and play to your advantage.

2)The Offence

Instead of expanding your economy you would like to apply pressure and crack open the enemy’s defence playing with a constant flood of army to take control of an area that is important to your enemy and using that advantage to end the game early on in the castle age

3) The Half and Half

Don’t want to commit for an all-in army push early on in the castle age ? You can just wait and setup your economy before pushing. One of the ways people expect you to play is that after setting up your economy they would expect you to click up to the next age but instead of doing that what you can do is just add more production buildings and just use that economy setup you have made throughout the castle age to create a dangerous push. A good way to know when to do this is when you see that your enemy has a major weakness in his map and can be exploited with a massive push . For example if he has 2 exposed golds so eventually he would like to come out of his walls and take those, you can just make a lot of army and deny him access to that .

The Conclusion (2000+)

Bonus tips

1) Play:

There is no magic wand that can improve your game in an instant. The only way to improve is to play a lot consistently. Now that does not mean that you will automatically get good by just playing the game. The point is, that playing a lot of games may not be sufficient, but it is necessary to get to the top.

2) A GamePlan for Playing:

What is better than just playing the game a lot? Playing the game a lot with a plan in your head. Two hours of effective dedicated practice are better than mindlessly playing on for five hours. What do I mean by dedicated practice? Dedicated practice can either be done by playing on the ladder or with a training partner and means focusing on one aspect of your game for a session. Ideally it should focus on an aspect of your game that you feel weak in. For example: By reviewing your own games you notice, that you constantly fall behind in army, because you forget to produce units. Now for your next practice sessions your focus should be on producing units primarily, until you are satisfied with your results.

3) Rating:

Rating can both be a great incentivizing and decentivizing tool for improvement, depending on your approach. I generally advise you to take rating as only a peripheral indicator of improving someone’s skill. Depending on who you play against and what you are trying out, your overall ability could increase while you lose rating and vice versa. Same goes for losing and winning a game. More important should be your in-game performance and if you make progress in the areas you are focusing on. The rating will come by itself over time.

I hope you enjoyed reading some of my thoughts on this instructional article for elo climb. I wish everyone success and a good time applying these tips.