9 villager start for ladder

care to elaborate? I gave reasoning for why a 3-vill start is awkward, for example deer don’t work as intended originally.

Hera or TheViper (I think it was Hera) said recently that it is not worth to push deers, because it is better to scout the opponent early. So there is a choice. Pushing deer is a startegic choice and also involves skill.

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The game isn’t balanced for a 3 villager start either. There are many civs being considered OP or broken. To your point, yes, balancing needs to be done for some civs like Chinese, Mayans but other than that this format alone isn’t an issue.

Not really. If it was something like 16 villager start, your point is valid but except for civs like Lithuanians or Britons or Khmer, every other civ goes for 2 houses, first 6 on sheep and the next 3 on wood. All this start does is skip to the part where that has already happened. Remaining game is exactly the same.
It reduces the amount of time available for pushing deer and that’s probably a good thing and can make drush/man-at-arm friendly civs more viable.

I think it shouldn’t replace the 3 vill start altogether but I think its good to have that as an option. Like how sometimes RM-Arabia is very open and unwallable and sometimes its very closed with 4 dense forests in a 15-tile radius, about 20% of the games should randomly start with 9 villagers or there should be a menu options where if both parties choose to have a 9 villager start game starts that way.
Btw, michi and fortress already start that way.

Add a barracks. And lower the food to 300. I highly doubt anyone will do Drush if you start with 500 food without a barracks.

Alternatively, I once thought EW start in Feudal Age but with 21 villagers + 1 scout, 300 food, 300 wood, 150 gold, 200 stone, 1 mill, 2 lumbercamps, 1 barracks, 4 houses. Since there is no Blacsmith, archer opening would be less common than current one. And due to having extra food and gold, Militia → M@ would be slightly more common.

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Not really. If it was something like 16 villager start, your point is valid but except for civs like Lithuanians or Britons or Khmer, every other civ goes for 2 houses, first 6 on sheep and the next 3 on wood. All this start does is skip to the part where that has already happened. Remaining game is exactly the same.

There are some more civs for which different build orders are common like Gurjaras, Huns, Inca, Dravidians, but I agree that it is suboptimal that the 2 house-6 to sheep-3 to wood build order is overall very common.

However instead of skipping this phase of the game it would be a better idea in my opinion to make this phase more interessting by making other build orders more viable. Ideas to achieve this could be moving straggler trees closer to TCs to make early lumber camps less necessary, different placements of sheep, deer and boar, slightly different starting ressources, changed gathering rates on sheep, deer and boar, make deers fear TCs more than scouts. I’m not sure if this would work out as intended, but I think such attempts would be a better approach than a 9 villager start.

Hera recently said “deer luring meta is broken once people realize it” and the way I took it is that if you are fast enough you can BOTH push deer and scout opponent decently. Viper when he really tries starts pushing 1st deer by 9th villager and is done pushing 2nd by like 15th - again leaving plenty of time to scout pre Mill rush etc. Pushing even 2 deer can mean a free Horse Collar or free early Fletching whvih are both understandably huge (Horse Collar especially makes your farms not kick you in the butt in early Castle Age).

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Changing the whole 3 RM to 9 seems overkill. They should introduce 2 of the RM maps as 9 vil starts - 1 open and 1 hybrid map. Lets people decide themselves which they want to play.

All the 3 vil players can just ban both 9 vil maps and not deal with the hassle. People who want to try it out can freely play 9vil. Does not seem so complicated to give people what they want.


you guys realize 9 vill start has largely identical BOs to the 3 vill start right? Just you don’t need to sit through the drop 1st lumber camp and so on.

how is Inca or Dravidians BO start different from your regular start? Incas drop 2 houses anyway and just don’t do the house at 13 pop, Dravidians are a fully generic civ in Dark Age.

Why fixing something that isn’t broken at all for [the majority of] people playing the game?

As far as I understand, the main argument goes like this: people watching competitive games and are new to AoE2 find the dark age repetitive and boring, and might prefer a faster start to the game for the sake of viewer experience. Alright. Well, I don’t care a lot which settings professional tournaments use, if it streamlines the schedule, so be it.

But then why changing the start on the ladder for the ordinary people who actually play the game?
That doesn’t make much sense to me. Empire wars is a good example. It might be fun to watch, but who actually wants to play it?


this is not the main argument that was given in the OP, the main argument is, Dark Age feels slow for the people playing it. Streamed tournaments are obviously important too, there’s a reason why Microsoft sponsors 9-villager start.

because if you have 3 hours at night to play the game, skipping most of Dark Age could be the difference between playing 3 and 5 games.

This is a massive exaggeration. How many minutes in real-world time are actually saved? Maybe around 3, certainly no more than 5.

Edit: Please factor in the time it takes for the casual player to adapt to a new start, figure out / practice build orders, etc. It’s a lot work for very little gain.


increasing vils at start makes chinese eco bonus weaker, since its a lower relative gain, i dont think theyll need a nerf

9 is possibly too much initially, as in a too great meta change across the board

others have suggested a 6 vil start (9 for chinese) i think it gets the ball rolling faster than current matches, but doesnt change the physical decision making for most players (unlike 9, where you now have a lot more possibilities that need considering)

either way would be happy to try 9 a well, but my bet is it will be too much (and have the similar detrimental appeal as EW)

Largely, yes but not exclusively. For instance what about the increasingly popular fast archer BO for tg with only 2 on wood? Or similarly cuman boom, khmer fast feudal, some of the monk rush BOs which use 2 on wood?

Irrespective of that sometimes you wanna know how your map looks like before you decide if going for 3 or 4 on wood. There’s no denial the 9 vil start reduces the strategic variety of the game even if in most cases it does not matter.

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Did you mean changes strategies or did you actually mean reduces? You can still have same amount of map awareness with same time.

normal Chinese start has loom + 25s idle TC if you do it perfectly, with 9 vill start you only get loom and little idle TC. Effectively you gain +1 vill compared to the RM start.

Well both actually. It reduces the amount of strats because it excludes some BOs listed above. If you don’t use these (which indeed will be the case in most instances) it does not reduce the amount of strats but it changes decision making as to reducing the amount of criteria according to which you decide what strat to pick. With the 9 vil start you need to decided immediately how many vils to put on wood. Sometimes you make the decision to go drush, maa or scouts based on how wallable your map is and how much res you have forward.


We could just create a new game mode. You can’t make this radicale change for the start of the most iconic mode for a 20+ years old game that trives on nostalgia basically


how is Inca or Dravidians BO start different from your regular start?

There are build orders for Dravidians where the lumber camp is build later, because they get 200 wood at the start of the next age so the dependence on chooping wood is lower. Similar build orders exist also for Tatars (https://aoecompanion.com/b/y0vymeq3yac). Incas could skip a house at the beginning, and also need less wood for further houses, so there is at least a lower dependence on wood as well.

An other factor that can change early build orders are different maps like maps with a nomad start or maps with some special characteristic like Black Forest or Socotra. With a 9 vil start it would be less punishing to send villagers forward for whatever reason.

They should just introduce 2 maps to RM with 9vil starts and then look statistics. Theorycrafting about stuff that noone actually has any real world reference seems moot…

Even without all the balance complications this would cause, it really doesn’t take that long to get up to 9x villagers. Gives you time to scout your base, push deer, scout your opponent etc. Starting at 9x vills with an unexplored map, no boars or gold found, only 4x sheep discovered. It will just make every game feel rushed. Dark age is when you plan your long term game, losing that time will mean rushed decision making and a messy dark age in general.

You would also have to change the starting resources to account for the lumber camp and 2x houses already built. Also having a lumber camp at the start of the game means you won’t have enough wood if you wanted to go for non-meta strats.


I find it so funny how DE made a bunch of changes to make dark age simpler and now as a result people want more changes because now dark age is boring.
If you think dark age is boring then the fist thing to consider would be undoing those changes that made it boring. Make the Celts militia move faster again. Make the sheep (including the first 4) difficult to find again. Remove autoscout.
But that said I don’t agree with the premise itself. Dark age is not uneventful at all. Even pro players who get complacent about dark age can and do lose games in dark age. Militia can and will kill you if you aren’t making the correct scouting and walling decisions. Furthermore, as pointed out above, most of the variation in this game comes from the fact that sometimes you get good maps and sometimes you get bad maps. That’s why you will see pros sometimes go very aggressive and sometimes go messy and sometimes go meta with the same map and civ matchup. Because they make decisions after scouting their base and their opponent’s base. You need time to do both of those things.
Your argument about deer I think is just wrong. Sure, you most often have to push 1 deer. But should you push 2? 3? That’s a real strategic tradeoff and it will affect things like how easy it is to go scouts vs archers in feudal, even though you aren’t always sure at that point which you want to do, making it all the more interesting.
But more than all that, I just don’t buy that dark age is completely “standard”. The most fun I’ve ever had with this game was when I spent 2/3 months just working on my Japanese 12vil feudal scout rush build order. Trying to calculate everything I needed to do in dark age and exactly when to get it to work.
I’m also one of those people who believes that laming is a fundamental part of the game. The fact that a civ has a bonus which reveals the enemy’s location directly impacts the ability to lame. I spent a lot of time learning how to lame pigs with a scout and that was a lot of fun. And when I get lamed, that’s when you gotta improvise and try maybe make stuff messy and tower rush or something because playing meta will mean you’re just objectively behind. And those games are some of the most fun by far.
All these simplifications that are happening and that people want have tonnes of unintended consequences and remove variation from the game, making it more boring. Age 2 is not starcraft or age 4. It’s age 2. And it’s consistently popular because the quirks give it more depth than any other game.