I’m a mongol main, so to defend against french early raid, I keep my resource point in the TC coverage since I can move the building. He won’t come before 2nd age. When I’m going 2nd age, I build barracks, make 2-4 spears with OVOO, super cheap, easy defend. And some watchtowers to provide vision and cover.
Doing scout is another key, having a Khan sitting in front of his base can provide early warning of whether and how strong the raid is, and defend accordingly. Also to know how many vills he put to each resources can provide clear vision of whether he’s going fast age up or 2tc or build a big army, and you can react over that.
I saw one game a chinese can be really fast going 2nd age and starts to wall up with stone at choke points, that’s an another way to defend.
Early raid should be a high profit high risk movement, as a mongol main, I don’t think mongol’s darkage horseman raid can do any good against non-noob. Dark age eco cannot give you resourses to build many of these, I could at best build 4 before fast french going 2nd age, and they really can do nothing effective at the enemy base.
Also utilizing the map is another thing, no one should play the same at different map.
Utilizing civ specialty is pretty can really help defend for some. To defend at open maps, Chinese have a landmark work like a small castle, provide very good cover over the resourse point. Just by adding another TC, your eco could boom fast, and with 3 TC like defend building, I don’t think the early raid can do any harm to you. When you have 2 tc and the opponent has only 1, losing 5-6 vills are not a big deal.
I don’t know much about other civs, but maybe there is their own way to do the defend.
Early raid is just like the 5d strategy for zerg in SC, extreamly effective against noob and unprepared fully eco opponent, but as soon as people doing the scout well or learned how to do the defend properly, doing 5d is more of a suicide strategy rather than a winning strategy.
Learn from the opponent, if they use early raid to destroy you, you can copy that, can see how other guys defend that. You may get several wins until your rank is going up, and face the guy who can really do these things well. Then you’d learn there are multiple ways to defend any strategy.
Currently there aren’t any real pro guys with AOE4, everyone is experinmenting all kinds of strategy, even the top ones. And by learning from top ones, watching their replays, you can get much better very soon.