What I learned about strategy after losing many Age of Empires II battles

Bruno Rigolino on

Do you want to practice strategy?

Play Age of Empires II (AoE) with someone very good at it. I’ve been doing it from time to time since last year and, although I lost every single battle so far, I learned strategy is more like a verb than a noun. To win the game, you don't need "a strategy"; you need to be strategizing.

There are many AoE strategies like “fast castle” or “economy booming.” Every good strategy has three core elements*: diagnosis, guiding policy, and coherent actions. But the trick to make them work is treating them as actions instead of static elements.

Here’s how my friend, and one of the best AoE players I know, applies each element and wins almost every battle:

#1 Diagnosis. He’s constantly exploring the scenario and updating his mental diagnostic. He doesn’t just look around and settle down; he checks for resources and opportunities to win or change the game from the first to the last second of the battle.

#2 Guiding policy. No matter the strategy, he always does things like exploring the map for opportunities, constantly managing resources, and learning from other players’ movements during the battle.

#3 Coherent actions. If your current strategy is “economy booming,” you must focus on upgrades, buildings, and units related to it and avoid the rest. When you start seeing that you need units and buildings not associated with your current strategy, you probably need to review it. Maybe you reached your goal; maybe the game changed.

*check the book “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt