Strategies to use at the Iron Age in Age of Empires 2: Return of Rome
If you just started playing AoE2:RoR or want to improve your gameplay, I might be able to help you out.
I have been playing AoE1:DE quite a lot in the past years, and these are the most common and effective strategies that can also be applied on Return of Rome!
Please consider that in general, for Iron Age strategies to work well, you would need to build a good economy, with at least 60 villagers before you click up to Iron.
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Legionnaires are very strong and cheap units. You will often make them in the bronze age already, as swordsmen, but you will soon find out how lots of them you can produce!
Their low cost allows to create a very high number of Legions, and they are perfect for attacking an unprepared opponent. If you can produce them without receiveing attacks or damage, you almost already won.
Also read: How to upgrade to Legion
In addition, you will be able to research Logistics already in the Bronze Age, and this halves the population occupied by barrack units. In other words, it means that you can even make more than 300 legionnaires!
On top of that, if you use the Choson civ their legionnaires will be almost doubled, as they have a bonus that grants +80 hitpoints to these units. With Romans instead, they will have +33% attack speed.
The ideal is to make a fast bronze with about 25 inhabitants and then, at the Iron Age, start producing swordsmen with at least 2-3 barracks and two gold inhabitants for each barrack. Clearly, you will need to increase the number of barracks up to 20-30 in the Post-Iron Age (late game).
Or, you can make a fast iron with around 35-45 villagers, build the temple for researching Fanaticism, and send many villagers to food and gold.
Of course, upgrading to Legionnaire is expensive, and you'll have to do attack and armor upgrades as well, not forgetting Logistics.
Consequently you could also choose for a strategy of pure "booming" up to at least 100 inhabitants, so as to have a solid economy. This works best on maps like Highland where walling is easier when you're in the "pocket" position. It will work much less on open maps like Continental or similar.
2) Heavy Horse Archers
Typically for this strategy you will have already done a rush of composite or chariot archers in the bronze age, and perhaps a tool rush of archers or axemen. Instead, I advise against going for a fast iron age because I think it is difficult to be able to produce horse archers efficiently, given their high cost compared to other units such as legionaries.
The ideal is to have a good economy with at least 60 villagers and research as soon as possible the archer armor upgrades, that you need for researching the heavy horse archer upgrade. Other useful upgrades are the wood cutting upgrades in the market, Nobility, Alchemy, and Ballistics in the Government Center.
You might like: Important technologies in AOE2: Return of Rome
You will need to build numerous archery ranges, I suggest you make at least 10 then increase to 20 or 30 as well, and keep producing horse archers.
The Yamato have a bonus of 15% cheaper horse archers, and the Hittites have a +1 attack for all archers, including those on horses.
Centurions are the most powerful unit in the game and undoubtedly difficult to counter. Priests are excellent for defending themselves against centurions, but when the latter become too many they are very difficult to manage. Helepolis are also a great way to counter Centurions in combat.
The best civilizations to use them with are the Greeks, Macedonians, and Carthaginians.
The useful upgrades are obviously the Aristocracy, which is needed to research Centurions, and then the attack and armor bonuses in the storage pit.
Also for this strategy I do not recommend a fast iron age because you will need to have a strong economy. The ideal is to go for a fast bronze or Tool Rush followed by a Bronze Rush.
Generally speaking, you'll want to build about ten academies and start making phalanxes as soon as you're in the Iron Age. Research Aristocracy in the government center and then upgrade to centurion in the academy, then start producing units. You can also build academies close to your opponent to deal damage to them faster.
Don't face large groups of Ballistae or Helepolis - in these cases you'll need to use catapults or scythe chariots (if you can make them) to clear your way, or change your strategy if you can't gain ground. In a team game, you might as well try to switch opponents, at least trying to destroy some other player's economy.
4) Scythe Chariots
To research scythe chariots you must develop Nobility in the Government Center. The upgrade to scythes is researched in the stable and takes a long time.
Because of this I advise against a fast iron age, although it is still doable, but you will start producing military units very late.
On the other hand, scythed chariots are excellent against groups of units, thanks to their splash damage that damages multiple enemies simultaneously.
They also do not require gold to produce, so much so that in AoE1:DE, in team games, they are practically the winning card when facing civilizations that require gold. Fortunately, land trading is now possible on RoR, because running out of gold was definitely a weak point in the game.
Their excellent mobility makes them very strong even against units that should counter them, such as centurions, helepolis and camels. Sure, Centurions are much stronger, but they're also slower and cost a lot more. However, the splash damage of scythed chariots allows you to damage multiple centurions at the same time.
Remember that the Egyptians have a+33% hit points bonus on chariots.
5) Armored Elephants
Clearly very expensive but equally effective units, armored elephants are perhaps the most difficult unit to counter because they have a lot of hitpoints and, in addition, they have splash damage, hitting multiple units and buildings at the same time.
You can still defend yourself using priests, ballistas and centurions, but if the elephants become too many they will be difficult to stop. On the other hand they have a very high cost, so you will have to prevent your opponent from having a strong economy, or at least surpass him in this.
The best civilizations for using them are Phoenicians (elephants cost 25% less), Persians (+25% speed), and Carthaginians (+25% life points).
To research the armored elephant upgrade you will first need to research the iron shield in the warehouse (anti-piercing armor upgrade).
Before getting to produce these units you will need to have a good economy, possibly running a fast bronze that leads you to produce camels or chariot archers, to then reach the Iron Age with 60-80 inhabitants or even more.
They are therefore a post-Iron Age unit, and are mostly dangerous in large numbers, because in small groups they can be countered quite easily. However they have a really high destructive power.
As with centurions, you will find that having 50 or more armored elephants will allow you to bring down a city in seconds.
6) Full siege
A less used but still valid strategy is to create almost exclusively siege weapons: catapults and ballistas. The former excellent against buildings and archers, the latter against cavalry, elephants and centurions, especially after researching ballistics.
To research Heavy Catapults you will need to research Siegecraft in the Market first, while to research Helepolis you will need to have developed Craftmanship.
The best civilizations are certainly the Sumerians, Hittites and Macedonians, who have bonuses for catapults. Also remember to research Engineering to increase the range of siege weapons.
Moreover, Assyrians have a 50% reduction on the cost of siege weapons upgrades.
You'll need a lot of wood and food, and I recommend creating some other units as well to support your advance. They could be at least phalanxes or longswords, or even horse archers. Helepolis are already great at defending against cavalry attacks, but they're also quite slow.
For sure if you manage to combine Helepolis and Heavy Capults, you will destroy anything since Helepolis have a total range of 12, and Heavy Catapults go up to 15.
Now that you know some good strategies to use in the Iron Age, try them out and let me know!
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