Just thought of a fancy idea, making villagers able to defend themselves. I think it would help with aggression early game, because you would need to create larger army to actually rush. Meaning you stay longer in Dark/Feudal Age. If you dont attack enemy at all, then its just free boom for them and thats bad for you, since they can just snowball you later on.
So the main thing is to give villagers weapon and damage bonus according to a tool they are using for work. For example, you are playing Steppe and you have 5 villagers hunting deer. Enemy sends 4 militia to attack, but since they are hunting, they use bows, so they can defend against 4 militia effectively. Militia can close the distance so you might have to micro the villagers more, as you would archers. So it makes you more idle etc. Which i believe is great way to have effective rush. More army more idle time.
I dont know how complicated that would be, but i would make it so that you cant just click to wood and get axe, you actually have to chop the wood. So if you want to defend with bows as archers then you have to hunt the deer or boar. So it wont be like just click wood, get axe, click deer get bow.
Villagers are already pretty decent at defending in dark age and feudal as long as they are not being outnumbered. Making them even tankier would break the game as every map would be a booming map which would kill the variety of strategies in the game. You might as well just play arena all the time (which is my favorite map tbh because I dont like dealing with early aggression either)
Also if you really want to have tanky vils play as incas, their villagers upgrade from the infantry black smith upgrades which might not seem like much at first but it really helps a lot. Also its nice because as incas you are most likely to be making infantry units so the upgrades come naturally. A lot of people will tower rush with incas because they can 1v1 other villagers and tank a lot of arrow fire from counter towers with their upgrades.
Also the Spanish have OP villagers after researching supremacy. There is a troll strat that viper does really well where you kill your enemy using nothing but vils.
Villagers are perfectly fine. Loom is basically already a good implementation of what you’re proposing. Making vills even stronger would cripple aggressive strategies way too much. Villagers should need military protection.
I can see that it’s weird to see vills using a bow for hunting, but not for fighting, but gameplay should be way more important than realism here.