What is the skill of playing Arena?

Small rant time, but what is the skill in playing Arena? I normally have the mode banned, but now and again I unban it and go vs people who are really bad at the game but know some fancy BO like 23 pop Castle Drop Khmer or Fast Imp Turks. Sometimes, I even lose to them, as I’m only partially aware of the Arena meta (for example, I didn’t know until recently that 23 pop Castle drop as Khmer was possible. Overall, I feel people who play arena are very often horrible players, playing a subset of the available strats and meta civs and often relying on 1 BO which is made super safe by Stone Walls. To me it feels like going vs some build order monkeys, I am sorry if this sounds offensive but really it seems to me these people are playing with the BO written on a piece of paper by their keyboard and don’t really strategize or do anything particular.

I am starting to believe a 800 elo Arena player can probably hold their ground vs a 1.6 Arena-only player, the 1.6 maybe has a better Scout micro and collects Relics better but other than that both do some BO and try to boom or Castle drop.

Glad to hear differing opinions and be proven wrong, but I’ve never seen a player on Arena and thought “wow, this guy really outsmarted me/outplayed me”. It’s always some sort of cheese like Castle drop with a civ against which it’s not easy to counter (for example even Incas since their Eagle Warrior is immune to most counters early Castle Age), or Fast Imp etc.

Sending everyone to gold and Market abusing, which I feel is a semi-OP strat even on Arabia-like maps, is even more broken on Arena. You see people with literally 0 farms come out with Bodkin Crossbows cuz they sent 20 to Gold and 10 to Wood and bought their upgrades that way.

It’s a gamemode where boomer civs can shine. Or Goths can chill and relax, and boom hard and spam their infantry horde. And also castle dropping.


Well what makes a good arena player is precisely to know how to react against whatever cheese strat your opponent throws at you. The map is less about micro and more about strategy choice. Sure on some elos you might win with some BO you studied but it’s the same as on arabia. A well executed maa into archers can get you to 1300 but beyond that you need to have more skill than simply executing that BO. It’s no different on arena. Once you good knowledge about the map you usually don’t straight up die to this stuff.

Btw khmer pop 23 castle drop sounds horrible. What’s the point of that? Khmer can do some cheese strats but basically you go for a hoang like siege push.


Goth is one of the worst civs here btw. On arabia you’re way better off as goths.

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Depends. Can do well in a team game.

That said, Khmer are godlike in this map.

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on Arena, “civ wins” are more prevalent. Can’t react to Khmer Castle drop because

a) you can’t scout (stone walls)

b) you are still in Feudal with Feudal units.

on Arabia, after opening, BO doesn’t matter anymore.

I don’t care if it’s good or bad, I’m not even sure if it was 23 pop, maybe it was 24, maybe 25, the point is, what fun is a mode where the winner is (mostly) decided by civ pick + some nearly uncounterable cheese strat?

Civs are more important but there are always ways to make your civ work.

And pls tell me why a khmer castle drop would be threatening. Ballista elephants or what? 11 And you shouldn’t be stuck with feudal units because you don’t make units in feudal age unless you get trushed. If your opponent drops castle in your face while you’re on your way to castle age you respond with monastery, siege workshop, fast imp or whatever makes most sense in that scenario. A castle is a large investment and just dropping one doesn’t give you an advantage yoursef.

The timings and strats are different to open maps but the mechanics are the same. Each strat has counterplays.

It kinda does because the opening also sets up your eco like you usually don’t get horse collar with maa and you’ll be slower to castle age compared to someone just making scouts. It’s basically the same on arena.

Thing is there are no uncounterable cheese strats. This might be your perception but there is a reason scouts into boom is meta on arena. There are strats that are popular among lower elo players like turks fast imp hc bbc but once you know how to deal with these these strats are just bad. Like a lot of new players think on arabia fc knights is uncounterable. Basically the same. Game knowledge and execution makes all the difference.

Yes monk rush or forward castle fast imp are good strats and some people might consider that cheese but in the end it’s nothing else than the equivalent to one tc all in on arabia.

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This isn’t an Arena only problem, more or less every single map has been turned into a science at this point by people who are so desperate to win at all costs they poorly imitate the exact same build orders they’ve seen on Youtube with the same 5 civilisations. At least with Arena you can avoid the sweaty ghouls who want to run 5 scout cavalry around your base in box formation after 9 minutes


on Arabia-like maps however there is variety, which is lacking on Arena I feel. When you can’t do 21 pop MAA, Feudal Archers etc, basically there are only 3 boring strats from 5 meta civs that get repeated every game. I’ve seen even 800 elo players do fast Imp Turks, so definitely there isn’t any skill in it.

Arena for me is only some form of low-pop Castle drop (and you better pick a civ that can do a very low one, like Franks, Khmer etc. by the savings you get), fast Imp or minimal army in Castle followed by full boom. Or you can also do clown full Monk rush I guess. Of those 4, the only one that takes any skill/micro is fighting for Relics.

Damn clowns playing a no skill map, can’t they go noobbash weaker players like skillfull gamers do /s


I mean, we really need to cut down on maps that don’t take skill. Frankly, if it doesn’t play like Socotra, we shouldn’t have it in the pool, because it’s not as skillful. Speed, quick reactions, fast decisions, good instincts, speed, better micro, more efficient builds, speed, higher risk-reward, earlier options, speed, that’s what we want in AOE2.

I don’t see a logical reason why we should make any map available that doesn’t cater to these qualities we all agree are what we all play the game for.

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But you already forgot laming is bad! Surely we need a socotra without hunts but both TCs spawn in range of each other.


I like that part a lot. Do you honestly believe arabia is different in this regard? Are u telling me u are not playing the same openings most of the time with the exact buildorder?

The question is are we talking about 1vs1 or teamgames?

I play only teamgames and i enjoy playing arena far more than playing arabia, because it’s not as freaking boring. Arabia is always the same crap. Flank goes archer and pocket goes scouts into knights. Where is the fun in this after 100 games?

Not to mention that you see far more civs than on arabia. On arena you have more options than britons flank and franks pocket.


Damn. It’s almost like the AOE2 community isn’t one big collective mind, with all these competing things we want and don’t want alongside the ever-needed speed.

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That said, Khmer are godlike in this map.

Godlike how? By booming into units that all die to Halb Onager/BBC?

Any civ that dies to that combo of units is automatically out of the running as a “godlike” Arena civ 11.

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yep on Arabia there is more diversity, hard to wall map or easy to wall map, forward gold or back gold, forward berries or back berries, whether your civ has strong MAA rush or is good at something else, ALL of this contributes to early game diversity. Arabia is 1 of the maps where you see the most strats.

In contrast, on Arena you see the same 3 because most early game strats are unviable due to walls.

You do not see only 3 strats…or you could argue the same for arabia. The difference is just that u skip feudal age on arena(except sb towerrushs) and therefore the “mainevent” is around castle age/imperial age.

If you play teamgames, tell me how often do you see sth else than archer+scouts/knights on arabia? How many civs are usually played there?

Again i can’t really speak for 1vs1 but on arabia diversity is pretty much not existent.

yes and in Feudal is where the most strats find place… you also skip Castle age most of the time because you don’t really do full Knights, full Crossbow, it’s basically either Castle drop or boom so even in Castle age there are only 2 strats on Arena also.

I don’t play teamgames, and they have no meaning toward balancing or have any deep meaning anyway. Spamming extreme meta Paladin and Cav Archer civs and doing full Gold-based armies is not my idea of fun.

Just to give you a list of what you can do on Arabia:

  • 21 pop MAA into Archers
  • 20 pop Scouts
  • (with civ with eco bonus) 19 pop Scouts
  • 20 pop straight archers
  • 21 pop Skirms
  • fast Castle
  • 20 pop Scouts into Full Scouts
  • full Feudal with 20 pop Scouts into Skrims/Archers/adapt


And in Castle Age the diversity only grows.

After playing 1000 hours of Arena, although I am on a break, I must say build order, unit composition, timing and strategy matters the most. If you miss either of them, you are in trouble. With a bad unit composition you instantly die because you don’t have enough time switch before your opponent kills you. A bad strategy also leads to defeat because you won’t have enough time to recover. Build order and timing are connected, if you screw your build order even a little bit you are most likely dead because your opponent has a good timing and already started making military units.

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Before you go off calling everyone who beats you on a map “low skill”, maybe analyse your own gameplay?

Pointedly, why do you need to react to a Khmer castle drop? Just wall behind, go imp and treb it down. Turk FI gets beat by castle age military plays. (Turk FC janny is far more deadly).