(0:18-0:39) The cross-game theme in today’s post is opportunity cost as seen through the lens of advance timings in Age of Empires II HD. In AoE2, a player’s access to higher tier units and technologies is gated by their empire’s advancement through the Ages. There are four Ages: Dark, Feudal, Castle, and Imperial. Progressing from one to the next requires an investment of resources and town center time. Spirit Of The Law addresses a common misconception in the AoE2 community: the belief that faster age advance times indicate stronger play. It is true that a strong player’s efficient resource collection lets them advance through the ages more quickly than an inefficient player could. However, it is wrong to blindly believe that quicker advancement is always better. Resources and time sunk into an age upgrade are not available to be spent elsewhere. AoE2 players need to marry their targeted advance time to their gameplan, and keep their eyes peeled to spot the opponent’s advance time in order to predict what is coming for them:
(3:40-4:25) A player’s buildings change appearance depending on the age they are in, and players scout to spot the opposition’s advance timing. The time a player targets for advancement is an important clue about their chosen strategy. A quick upgrade from Dark to Feudal indicates some type of rush attack during Feudal. Slower advancement to Feudal tends to be more economically focused, allowing the town center to pump out more resource-gathering villagers before switching it over to researching the Feudal Age:
(5:09-5:38) A fast push to the third age, Castle, is usually part of an economic boom strategy, since villagers can only be recruited at town centers, and extra TCs (beyond the initial free one) can only be built starting at Castle. But advancing too hastily will backfire, because the town center cannot make villagers while it is busy researching Castle. “You run into trouble putting down town centers or making units, and it’s a bit like changing gears in your car too early and stalling the engine.” When your too-early Castle research finishes, you won’t have the villagers/income to actually take advantage of the overly-quick timing:
(8:20-8:54) Spirit asks top player TaToH questions relating to advance times. Scouts are a higly mobile mounted melee unit that become available in the Feudal Age, and TaToH shares his thinking on how a quick Feudal timing relates to the effectiveness of a scout rush. He tells Spirit the scouts have to hit while the opponent’s resource gathering areas are still vulnerable. The opponent wants to protect their resource patches to protect their economy against harassment. Striking before they make defenses and close the window of vulnerability lets one cause enough economic damage to offset the opportunity cost of the low-eco rush build (low-eco due to the lower villager count and lack of Loom research involved in a quick Feudal uptick). It’s not just that “earlier is better,” although there is some truth to that. There is a particular window that must be hit for the payoff to be reached:
(12:17-12:46) An early aggressive approach to the Feudal Age involves getting quickly out of the Dark Age, but TaToH shares how an aggressive (as opposed to economic) plan for the Castle Age will likely involve a slower than normal timing. The resources that would otherwise go towards an earlier Castle upgrade instead are put into military production buildings and technologies to upgrade the armor and/or weapons of the appropriate unit type. This type of lean attacking plan tries to keep extra unit production of units with weapon/armor upgrades going instead of focusing as much on extra town centers and villagers. As a result, it needs to strike damaging blows with its superior count and quality of units. Failing to cause real damage in this pushing window results in one’s low-villager economy sinking into irrelevance:
There are costs to making buildings, recruting units, researching techs, advancing to the next age, setting villagers to gather one resource type (instead of another), and so on. Spending resources one way incurrs the opportunity cost of not spending those resources in a different way. Players of all games are faced with these types of tradeoffs. Having a strategic plan will guide you to making fitting choices when faced these forks in the road. Tracking how other players allocate resources will clue you in to their thinking and help you respond with correct play.