Age of Empires Online is a fantastically fun strategy game. I've been playing it off and on since before its release with my son who is entirely new to not only the series, but the genre.

I figure he's likely not the only inexperienced gamer drawn to this flashy, new (sorta free) real-time strategy game for the PC, so I went to Microsoft and asked them to whip up a little strategy guide that might be useful to those new to the game. There may even be a few tips in here that those who've been playing Age of Empire since that first release, will find interesting.


Age of Empires Online is broken down into two distinct segments. There's the bit where you play strategy games against the computer (quests), against your friends (PvP), or with your friends (cooperative) and there's the persistent home city that you use to build up and strengthen your army. For this initial strategy guide, we're going to be talking just about some tips you might be able to use while questing or playing with or against your buddies in matches.

Don't forget that in Age of Empires Online you unlock your full technology tree by playing through and level up your home city over time. Some of these things, like the market, may not be available to you in the early quests.

Click through the images to read the guide. Make sure to click on the bottom right expand button to see each image in all of its full-sized glory.

Don't Forget to Use The Market
The Market allows players to quickly purchase resources they may be low on during a quest. It can also create caravans which travel in-between the Marketplace and Town Center, giving the player gold.


In battle, consumables provide boosts to your civilization in the form of unique units, abilities, and resource caches. You can purchase these items, craft them, or get them as rewards.

To use a consumable

1. In the consumable bar at the top of the screen, click the consumable you want to use.

2. Click where you want to place the consumable.


You can use each consumable only once, and each has a cool-down period that must pass before you can use the same type of consumable again. Hover your cursor over a consumable to view its cool-down period, as well as specific information about the benefits that consumable provides. 

While some resources may be near your Town Center, others may require a little exploration to find. That's where the Scout comes in. With a high traveling speed and long line of sight, the Scout is perfect for discovering resources far afield.

Livestock and Herds
Did you know herds of deer can spread out over time? In the early game, use your scout to kill the deer while they are still packed close together allowing your villagers to more quickly gather food later on.

Did you know many maps have capture-able livestock, like goats and cows, that are an excellent source of food? Use your scout in the early minutes of a match to scan the map for livestock and bring them back to your town center for easy gathering. You can also capture enemy player's livestock if they do not have a nearby unit.

Don't stop building villagers! Villagers are the backbone of your economy and in Age of Empires Online, economy is everything. A strong economy will lead to a strong army allowing you to crush your opponents whether it is in PvP or a Quest. With that in mind harass your opponent's economy whenever the opportunity arises to disrupt their production!

Unit Counters
Don't bring a knife to a gun fight! In Age of Empires Online different units have different combat roles.


Units are split up between four main categories; Infantry, Ranged, Cavalry, and Siege. Each unit has specific strengths and weaknesses. For example Spearmen are strong against Cavalry but weak against most Ranged. Meanwhile the Hoplite is strong against both Ranged and Cavalry units. Learn the different counters to build a strong army and effectively destroy your enemies on the battlefield.

Army Composition
Make sure to diversify your army composition. Having all infantry units will lower the overall damage you can deal because a large force of infantry cannot get into hand to hand combat all at once.


Adding in ranged units will boost the amount of damage your army can deal on the enemy units. Hard countering your opponent is the most effective strategy but be ready if your opponent to switches unit types on you.

The longer the straight-line distance between these two buildings, the greater the amount of gold received per caravan.

Control Groups
Control Groups allow you to bind a selection of units or buildings to a number key. This allows players to quickly recall different selections of units on the battlefield. To create a control group select the units you want then while pressing the Ctrl key, press a number. Every time that number key is pressed, that unit selection will be brought up. Double tapping the number key will jump the screen to the location of the units selected.

Multiple Town Centers
Once the third age is reached, players can build multiple Town Centers. Not only do Town Centers increase your population by 20 food but they allow you to produce more villagers! Keep this in mind when reaching the third age as this will allow you to quickly build up a larger economy.

Use that Shift key!
By holding shift while issuing a command you can order units to complete several tasks in order. Shift can be used to chain all types of commands such as movement commands with scouts or armies and gathering resources with villagers.

Fast Effective Reinforcements
Ever find yourself in a distant land, raiding your enemy when all of the sudden you run out of troops? Set your production buildings to a hotkey and set a rally point near the front lines of an attack. While you are watching the battle quickly select the hotkey and build some reinforcement troops. Now go back to managing your attacking force. Without even leaving sight of the battle you have just built reinforcements and because of the rally point they will automatically move to the front lines!

Rally Points
Rally points allow units to immediately move to a specified location after being built. While a production building is selected, simply right click on the area of land you wish the units to rally to. Once the units are built they will automatically move to that point. This is extremely useful with villagers as you can set a rally point from the town center to a resource and the spawned villagers created will automatically gather that resource.

What Tips Do You Have?
There you have it: A short list of tips to get you started in the game from the folks who made it. But what about you long-term Age of Empires fans? Surely you have your own tips about Turtling versus Booming, Greek versus Egypt, Tending Wounds versus Critical Strike? Drop them in comments below. Also make sure to check out the online Empire Handbook for more detailed instructions and some tech tree tips.


You can pick the game up here, but it requires Games For Windows - Live. Hit me up at Crecente if you want to play online.

Dojo is an semi-regular series of stories that offer readers useful tips to mastering the games they love.

You can contact Brian Crecente, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

Be warned: I am a strident fan of classic computer real-time strategy series Age of Empires and when finally given the opportunity to play a new take on the game I will go to great lengths to make sure it sticks around.
Usually that wouldn't be a problem. Continue Reading