A Guide for Beginners

Mar 25, 2010
note: This guide is only for complete beginners. If your rating in Voobly is higher than 1450, we suggest you take a look at some of the other articles.


Welcome to AoC (Age of Empires II: The Conquerors),

So let me guess, you recently started playing AoC online and thought how you would beat everyone but then you got completely creamed, right? If the answer is yes, don't worry about it. Most of the players have gone through something like that, including me. You type „marco“ and „polo“ only to find out cheats don't work and when you've started building your city you incredulously watch as your opponent's score is three times higher than your own before he completely wipes you out with his imperial army.

This simple guide will introduce you to the very basic rules of AoC and point you in the right direction to become a better player. Even though AoC is quite an old game it is still being played around the world by thousands of players every day. The two main servers for playing are currently Voobly and GameRanger. The latter is where most beginners or „noobs“ play, so for you that is the place to go right now. Voobly is for professionals and experts and it is also the place where most tournaments and leagues are played. There are also several Chinese zones with thousands of players but these are available to the Chinese community only.

But back to becoming a better player. Before we start about playing the game itself, it is important to establish the settings of AoC. Before the game starts there are many options which you can check but rather than checking whatever you like it is better to go with the standard settings for AoC which are as follows:

Map size: 2 – 8 players (depends on how many people are playing)
Resourses: Standard
Pop limit: 200
Map view: Normal
Starting age: Standard/Dark age
Victory: Conquest (which basically means that the game is not affected by people building wonders or collecting all relics)
Team together: yes
Lock teams: yes
All techs: no (checking this one would make all civilisations the same and would destroy the variety in AoC)
Game speed: normal (some beginners check fast speed because they don't want to waste time. Normal speed is AoC standard as players require time to think, move with the units, manage the economy etc.)
Lock speed: yes
Record game: yes – This is the most important one of them all and brings us to the next chapter

Recorded games:
One of the greatest things about AoC is that it is able to record an entire game and players can then play it and watch it as if they were playing it themselves. Recorded games are stored in your AoC subfolder „Savegame“ along with your saved singleplayer games. They can be played the same way you load a regular saved game, only instead of playing you see a control panel in which you can choose the PoV (point of view) of each player in the game and watch him (or her, even though that's rare) play. Watching recorded games is the main key to mastering AoC. You can download games of experts, see how they do it and try to do the same - you can find plenty of them on this website.

Still, it is easier if you know what to look for in those records and know some of the basics of playing first, so here they are...

Basic tips for playing

In singleplayer, AoC seems like a very peaceful game during which you can walk away for five minutes and it doesn't matter. In multiplayer however, it is all about time. Every second matters and every decision can change the outcome of the game. Therefore, your TC (Town Center) should never be „idle“ - not producing villagers or researching something – and neither should your villagers be, so keep the villager production going and keep them working all the time. Unemployment shall not be tolerated :smile:

Since economy usually wins the game, you should be constantly working on it so that you have around 120 villagers and at least 3-4 TCs when you are in Imperial Age. With economy like that you can produce an army quickly and easily and are much stronger than someone who fights with 1 TC and 30 villagers, even if his army is larger.
Most beginners make the mistake of not using the economy upgrades in TC, lumbercamp and mill. I remember being one of them and thinking „20% faster cutting.. heh, that's hardly noticable“. Well, it really is noticable and it has a huge impact on the economy, so remember to research them as soon as possible.

A good start is very important in AoC and it is a big step towards improvement. Everyone starts with 3 villagers and 1 scout (except for some civilisations) and has 2 gold pits, 2 stone pits, berries, 2 boars, 8 sheep and 4 deer. Some maps differ so you may have to improvise a bit, but most should have this standard „equipment“ for start. Mastering the first 10 minutes of playing can best be learned by watching a record of a top player. One of the integral parts of it is hunting boars which looks tricky but is actually very simple.

If you know that you can't win a battle (that is if you have e.g. 5 knights and opponents has 12 knights), don't be a hero and run. Trying not to lose your army is very important, especially when you're in feudal or castle.

If the enemy is attacking your base, don't ring the bell. Ringing the bell is the last resort if you have the opponent's army all over the place, in other cases just garrison the villagers that are in immediate danger. This has a lot to do with the economy – if you ring the bell, you give all the villagers a break from work and lose a lot of resources just because they are hiding in TCs. If the attack lasts 2 minutes, such a loss of resources can result in you losing the game.

If the opponent has knights and is raiding your town, spearmen or pikemen are the units to choose. Most beginners are not aware that these are the counter units to cavalry, same as skirmshers are the counter units to archers. You can see the full Counter Unit Table here:

Some basic strategies:
There are so many strategies, it would be nearly impossible to summarise them in one article but I will try to list the 3 basic ways of playing that you can encounter as a beginner.

These two letters stand for Fast Castle and it is basically trying to reach Castle Age at around 16-17 minutes, so that you can start making knights (or in some cases other strong units) and surprise the enemy with an early, but strong attack. There are several guides but I think it is best to watch a recorded game and simply try to copy everything the player does. FC is mostly used in 3v3 or 4v4 games if you are one of the players positioned in the middle.

Feudal Rush
This is not so much a strategy as it is a way of playing in which you attack as soon as you reach feudal. There are many variations and combinations in which a player can attack – archers, spearmen, skirmshers, scouts, towers etc. Once again, there are countless articles on specific variations of a feudal rush and you can also watch recorded games and learn it from that.

Once again a very general word for a strategy. As the word itself implies, it is about trying to create a huge economy as quickly as possible. The beginning is similar to FC, only the aim is to build at least 3 TCs (Town Centres) after reaching Caslte age and to keep producing villagers and expanding your economy. If done right, you should reach the Imperial Age at around 30 minutes and start fighting. Like I mentioned before, your economy should have at least 100 villagers.

It can sometimes be difficult to decide what strategy to choose in the game. Generally, if the map is open (such as Arabia) the players on the sides should try Feudal Rush, and the player in the middle FC to help them with knights later on. If the map can be walled easily (such as Black Forest), it is better to build walls so that nobody can get in and boom.

Also known as Galley Rush is intended for water maps, especially Islands. The objective is to reach feudal at around 10-11 minutes, build 3-4 docks and start making galleys. It is important to have control over water areas and it can decide the outcome of a game. The start is slightly different as you need to send more villagers to wood and also use fishing boats to get food. It is best learned by watching a recorded game of an expert player.

How to play Land Nomad:

Land Nomad (or LN) is a very popular map but most beginners fail there simply because they don't know it. In LN, player doesn't start with a TC but only 3 (or more in case of certain civilisations) villagers. What you should do is build a lumbercamp and get enough wood to build a Town Centre. From then on you progress as usual, only you need to scout with sheep that you find and try to obtain some food (there are usually plenty of boars and deer), otherwise it's nothing difficult. You should also be aware that LN has quite a lot of forests and can be walled easily. Most people choose FC or boom.

Who are expert players?
I realised I keep telling you to watch „expert players“ and you may be thinking „How do I know who is an expert player?“.
The gaming server Voobly.com provides rating for players, based on their wins and losses. Everyone starts with a clean sheet – rating 1600, as you play with others, your rating changes according to whether you lose or win and against what kind of players you play. With the exception of some „traders“ (=players who try to make themselves look better than they really are), it works very well. Since you have nothing to compare it to, let me explain what each number means in Gameranger terms. 1200 – 1300 are so called „noobs“, they can usually be easily recognised by not being able to hunt boars. 1300 – 1400 are usually called „better noobs“ or „low avg (= low average)“. 1400 – 1550 are known as „average“ or „good“ in Gameranger, in Voobly they are still considered noobs. 1550 – 1650 are called „pros (=proffesionals)“ if they play on Gameranger, but for Voobly players they are mere „rooks“. Having 1600+ rating in Voobly already makes you a very good player, but it's not enough for tournaments yet. 1650 – 1800 are good players who participate in clan leagues and tournaments but rarely get to win because there are simply better ones. 1800+ are considered professional players. There are still many of these so only the best ones get to win the tournaments.

As for the recorded games, you can learn from anyone whose rating is 1700+ but it is recommended that you watch the experts, since even a 1700+ player can have some imperfections. Once again I used the word expert and still haven't established who exactly i have in mind, so: Expert players usually have rating higher than 2000 and are fairly well-known in the AoC World. You can choose probably the most popular player in the world DauT, who has won countless tournaments and has played AoC for almost ten years, or you can choose RiuT, the winner of Brain Champion Cup 3 (latest 1v1 tournament), dogao – another Brazilian expert player, Tim – the best Chinese player, Ruso, goodboy, Jordan, Chris, Dreams etc. Names probably don't tell you much so feel free to roam our news section where you can read a bit about these players, what they have achieved and see their recorded games.


You may have seen most players sporting a „clantag“ before their nickname such as [RVK]RiuT, or [Viper]_DauT_. These mean that the player is a member of a clan and participates in clan leagues. Clans are something similar to Clubs in Football. The top ones such as Viper, RVK, Legion Clan or FJ are in AoC the same as Real Madrid, Manch.United and Bayern Munich in football.

Statistics and Hotkeys:

Some beginners are disadvantaged merely because they don't know how to use certain features of the game, so I'll list a few of the most common ones:
F11 = shows in-game time in the upper left-hand corner. Be aware that the in-game time (normal speed) is about 30% faster than real time (more precisely, 1 real time second = 1.5 game time seconds).
Flare = it is the left icon in the picture below, flaring is showing your allies where to go or where something is. People usually flare to tell you where the enemies are, or where they want you to go to help them.
Score = the right icon in the picture below, it shows the overall score of each player.

You may already be familiar with the term hotkeys. As you progress and become a better player, you find out that it is impossible to outclick someone with 2 mousebuttons, and so you need to start using both hands.
Many players use the default settings of hotkeys in the game but sometimes it is better to pick your own so that it fits your hands. The most important thing however, is to learn to use the hotkeys as much as possible. It is no more difficult than learning to type with all ten fingers, but it takes time to get used to really using them instinctively.
Hotkeys are also very important for the above-mentioned first 10 minutes. As soon as the game starts, the first thing a player does is pressing HCCCC – in default hotkeys, H selects TC and C creates 4 villagers – the first example of how hotkeys can save a few seconds.


The last thing you will need to be fully equipped for improvement is the knowledge of some common AoC abbreviations and slang.
pocket = in 3v3 and 4v4, a player in the middle.
gg = abbreviations which stands for good game. When a player loses, it is polite to say gg before resigning, the winner responds in the same way.
ca = cavalry archers
kts = knights
ew = eagle warriors
xbows = crossbow archers
d = dock (usually indicating where your or opponent's dock is)
w = water (usually informing your allies where you can see water)
gl hf = good luck and have fun - often used before starting the game

I hope this article has been of some help and that AoC will become one of your favourite games.


Oct 7, 2010
great work, butt like a beginner i must say one thing. recorded games ok, butt you can see when you download a game from this place, and the version number ex. 1.0c; where can i see the version for my installed game? i think i have 1.0b cause almoust all recorded game i'ved watch are out of sync. can you pls tell i there is a way to find out the version of game i'm using ? and if i need a 1.0c patch, where can i find a good working patch ?


Jun 24, 2010
when you're in-game on the main screen click on the microsoft age 2 banner and it will display the version
Oct 7, 2010
@ Tom... thx very much, and most of all for the quick response.
i'ved done like you'ved said....but version number its stil only 1.0 no letter after 1.0. And now i know i have patch 1.0e from this site. i'm more concern on what;s after the number so i can see recorded games, and not having the out of sync message.
Mar 17, 2010
TO help new players, would it be possible to include a "Noob tools" download? This should include

- a windows folder Shortcut to default 'Savegames' folder
- A few recs labeled (Fast Castle, Flush, Grush)
- The Patches
- And whatever you guys can think of.

I think this would really be helpful to the new players!


New Member
Aug 21, 2010
Give more about hot keys as in recorded game u don't know which hot key is in process.

a list of hot keys for first 10 minutes will be useful to the beginner


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