How do I have fun and play this game properly?

Yes. Pros even recommend overbooming. So, 140 villagers in a 200 pop. When you are able to sustain military production with a full 200 population, then start deleting villagers.

A related tip is to consider how many TCs are right for a map and an age. On closed maps (Arena, Black Forest), you often want to go to 3 TCs in Castle Age. Keep them pumping out vils for wood and food. When they start to backlog vils, add another TC (etc). In contrast, on open maps or under aggression, it is better to have a single TC that is constantly producing vils and military buildings constantly producing military.

Lastly, sometimes it is okay to have TCs not producing vils. For example, if need just a little bit more food to age up. Or, if you placed a TC at a remote location to gather resources and have a garrison location, but the map is aggressive and you need to produce military, it is ok to intentionally idle your ‘remote’ TC.

In summary:

  1. Keep TCs busy producing vils
  2. Balance the number of TCs to the aggressiveness of the map
  3. It is okay to idle a TC if you are doing so intentionally as part of a plan