Here is a handy strategy guide for beginners. There will be two sections. While the former features the overview of unit and building types and maps, the latter will show how to use it to have an enjoyable game.
There are two types of units, civilian and military. Civilian units build, gather resources, and form the economic strength of a nation. They include citizens, merchants, caravans, scholars and fishermen . Since they are not specialized for combat, they are very weak against military units and should avoid encounters with enemy military units. The military units are further organized into infantry, cavalry, siege, naval, air, and special units. Furthermore, infantry, cavalry, and naval units have a general pattern of heavy and light units. Each type gaining bonus damage to one particular enemy type and, as such, resembles a complex "Rock-Paper-Scissors Game." In early ages, light infantry / cavalry can fight infantry / cavalry archers and these in turn can destroy the heavy infantry / cavaly easily, which can bring down masses of light forces. In late ages the system becomes more complex with many extensions and exceptions.
Heavy Infantry. Strong versus cavalry units, but weak versus infantry. They are melee/low range attackers, thus are often the first to bite the dust. Can be somewhat effective versus structures as well, if no siege weapons happen to be nearby.
Foot Archers. Early game units effective at fighting slow-moving heavy infantry and killing key units like Generals and Supply Wagons. Also very powerful when garrisoned inside a city, fort, or tower. Become obsolete in the Enlightenment Age and are merged into Gunpowder Infantry.
Light Cavalry. Fastest unit of the early ages. Group them with other cavalry and a general and place them on flanks. Use them to outflank the enemy and subsequently attack their support and siege units, then retreat. Upgrades to light vehicles in the Industrial Age .
Heavy Cavalry. Use them to cut down masses of supporting light forces and especially archers and support units. Beware of enemy heavy infantry.
Ranged Cavalry. A military innovation that combines the speed of horses and deadly effect of archers. They are not as swift as light cavalry but fast enough to distract enemy plans and tearing down infrastructure of enemy border towns. They should be accompanied by heavy cavalry in the ratio of three ranged cavalry to one heavy cavalry in case enemy light cavalry chase the ranged cavalry. The heavy cavalry can throw themselves into the enemy light cavalry and the ranged cavalry can engage the enemy's rear and flank.
Light Ships. Fast ships effective at exploration, sinking enemy fishing boats, and countering fire ships before they can do any harm. From Industrial Age on, they are used to detect and counter submarines.
Heavy Ships. Heavy firepower ships. Effective versus light ships, but weak versus fire ships.
Fire Ships / Submarines. Fire ships were originally invented to counter an enemy navy in close proximity to shore. They are a one-time-use asset (like a missile) and are destroyed on engagement with an enemy vessel. Effective against heavy ships and cause splash (or collateral) damage to adjacent enemies. They upgrade to submarines, which are invisible to most ships. They are countered with light ships.
Aircraft Carriers. Available from the Modern Age on, these heavily-armored vessels come with a squadron of seven fighter bombers, which can engage targets over a long distance.
Artillery Weapons. Slow-moving units with low armor, but very effective in attacking buildings and cities. Bring three to five of these when attacking an enemy city.
Supply Wagons. Provide protection from attrition damage while in hostile territory, enable faster reload and fire rates for artillery units. One to two supply wagons should accompany any army invading enemy territory.
Anti-Air. Available from Industrial Age, mobile air defense units provide effective defense against air raids.
Scouts. In early ages, these serve as reconnaissance units, later on they become special forces units with sniper rifles and the ability to plant demolition charges. They can detect and kill enemy spies.
Spy. Special units with several skills: Planting an informer allows you to see what the targeted enemy unit or buildings sees (try to use it on enemy cities). Bribing an enemy unit effectively makes it yours. Can also detect and kill enemy spies.
General. A morale booster carrying a flag. Provides additional armor to nearby units and, when garrisoned inside a fortification, confers +1 range. Additionally, they have the following special abilities: Entrench - provides additional frontal cover for your soldiers, but can be used in friendly territory only; Forced March - enables nearby units to move faster; and Decoy - creates fake units to draw enemy fire. The Thrones & Patriots expansion adds two special general units called the Patriot and the Comrade respectively, which are created automatically when adopting a government.
There are five types of buildings: military buildings (e.g. barracks and stables); infrastructure buildings (e.g. farms and woodcutter's camps, markets and universities); gathering enhancement buildings (e.g. granaries, and smelters); fortifications (e.g. forts and towers); and wonders (e.g. Colossus and Statue of Liberty).
There are two types of maps; sea maps and land maps. The former marks the importance of naval power and sea dominance while other points out the vitality of land armies. Map exploration enables location of resources (fish and whales, forests and mountains) and bonuses (either one-time bonus to a resource or specific production or economic bonus that can be exploited by merchants).
Plains: Good for fielding cavalry only because there is much space to ride. It is particularly striking when you play as a Russian when you concentrate your cities close to your nation's heart thus leaving much space between your frontier cities.
Forests: Provide choke-points for defending armies as most units are unable to pass through woods.
Rocks: Perfect places for positioning light troops. Rocks reduce damage from enemy forces by 33%.
Cliffs: Provide excellent vantage and defensive positions and may be effectively held with a few ranged units against a larger number of enemies.
Rivers: While crossing a river, the crossing units absorb extra damage and are slowed down. It is wise to build towers along rivers. U-shaped rivers provide good defensive sites for founding a city; however, during siege, the river may also impede the effectiveness of attacking the besieging enemy army.
Sea: Units automatically transform into transports when entering sea spaces (requires a dock and science level 1). They become extremely vulnerable to enemy ships and should be accompanied by naval vessels.
Strategy and tacticsEdit
Choosing a strategy is dependent on your selected nation. Some nations emphasize economy, some are offensive, and some defensive. Choose the one that would be suitable for you. Three well-known strategies are Rush, Boom, and Wave.
In the early game, build up a little economical strength. Then build two barracks and start mustering a small army, enough to hold off enemies while the reinforcements are the way. Then launch an initial attack on the enemy's newly-founded city. Take and hold the city while waiting for new troops before pushing forward. Keep you two barracks constantly producing more soldiers. After assimilation of the enemy city, build a barracks in that city to shorten your reinforcement travel time. Scout the enemy territory and send light cavalry to disrupt enemy economic activity and prevent the mustering of a large enemy army. This method lets you build up and upgrade your forces. With a series of clever tactics, capture more enemy cities and then try to take its capital. But your capital should be well protected too. This strategy is suited for just two players, requires constant activity, and needs a lot of good luck.
Build up your economy. Erect defensive towers and fortifications. Muster a small army to take care of any major threats. Then with a strong economy, muster a very large army behind your fortifications and set out to attack once and for all. Destroy the enemy nation completely.
Bring your economy up to a level to muster a medium army in about five minutes. Then prepare at least four armies each consisting of 20 troops and two siege engines. Launch the first army at the enemy's weakest point and send the second and third armies to a faraway target, another weak point. When the enemy is destroying your first army, he cannot use his full strength on the combined force of second and third armies. After destroying the first one, the enemy may assemble and march to meet your second and third armies. At this point, deploy your fourth army and send it to a location where you expect his forces to march. Arrange an ambush, then retreat and heal. Remuster the first army. The enemy force should be considerably weakened by the time it reaches your second and third armies such that it will be likely destroyed in the engagement. Being militarily depleted the enemy will not try to retake their city, so it is yours. Once assimilated, build barracks, stables, and siege workshops, then form more new armies (5th, 6th and 7th). Now launch a series of attacks until the enemy gives up one city after another. Finally, take his capital with all your forces combined.
Docks are the production source of naval ships. Try to detect and destroy them as soon as possible. Beware of shore fortifications and use bomb vessels or heavy ships and check ranges to engage effectively. On achieving a naval victory, don't assume you will enjoy uncontested naval supremacy. This is RoN not actual history. The enemy will quickly remuster his whole navy. Do not use your navy to uproot the whole enemy naval power. Station your ships offshore to guard the shore from enemy attacks. Land armies are vital. Bring them to the enemy shore and take the nearest city as a foothold. Send citizens and build up fortifications. Continually send more men until assimilation then build up troops locally. Then wield a wave strategy to destroy enemy city fortifications. Take enemy cities but don't hold them; this will keep the enemy busy retaking his cities. Then launch a full-scale offense. Take the enemy shoreline and destroy any docks to eliminate any naval threats. Disband the bulk of your navy to free up population capacity for ground forces and send them to the battle field. Your newly taken harbor cities will be very weak, so don't let them get attacked. You must attack first in order to prevent the enemy from attacking your cities. Enduring cities produce more resources and with a strong economy you are ensured to win the battle.
- In RoN: Thrones and Patriots. There is a hot key that select the seriously injured troops (usually yellow and red ones) automatically. So that you can garrison them to heal their injuries. It is very useful for me and other players who are lazy to pick up injured troops individually.
- Get yourself a terra cotta army as soon as possible. Usually got in the 2nd age by the time a real attack comes you will have an army of decent size for free. It pays for itself almost immediately. Add this to the Britains free units when a barracks is built and you can skip all military production until you need it and then throw 6-12 barracks down in one go and suddenly flood your opponent with units.
- In case you want to a reinforcement for every lost soldier in every army, you should do this. If you have three armies, give the groupings 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Then build 3 barracks. Group them 11 (key F1), 12 (F2) and 13 (F3). Then set the rally point of F1 barracks to the general of 1st army, and F2 barracks to the general of 2nd army, F3 and 3rd and so on. The units created from F1 barracks will be put into group 1. So when you reselect 1st army the newly created unit will be with the 1st army automatically. In this way you can smoothly refill your strength. But it is noted that the way they go through must be clear. If enemy cuts your reinforcement route, you will be forced to retreat. So raze every enemy soldier producing buildings on your way. However, when you lost that general, you have to set up a new rally point with a new general and that general must be grouped together to the army that lost the general.
- When your heavy infantry faces enemy archers, do not try to run for two reasons: one, the enemy archers are light troops and are thus faster than your heavy infantry; and two, by running away your soldiers' backs are exposed to the enemy archers thus making them excellent targets. Military units can only move forward to whatever map location has been specified. There is no WITHDRAW, FALL BACK, or RETREAT command. Don't forget this!
- An interesting strategy to save resources is to not upgrade your units through the ages (unless you are playing against an enemy that rushes frequently). If you have a patient enemy, make them with the lowest possible level of advancement so the costs are low, then when invasion strikes or when you decide to launch a campaign of your own, mass upgrade (helps to have multiples of a building type to simultaneously research all different types). The upgrade cost will usually be lower than what you paid for the low-level units and what you would have paid for the higher-level units, essentially saving you all that money.