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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Age of Empires Online - The Scout

Xericor's Tactica Empires – The Scout

At the start of a game we all receive a free Scout unit, and with the exception of consumables or priest conversion, we only get one of these very versatile units, but are you putting him to the best use? In this article I will discuss the role of the Scout and hopefully show you new ways to improve your early game.

The Scouts Main Purpose – Revealing the Map

Find the Enemy!
One thing you can be sure of in nearly every game is that somewhere, out there in the darkness, in the fog of war, lies the enemy, hell bent on your destruction!Your Scouts first job therefore is to locate the enemy base (or bases), so we can see the distance between them and us.
Once you have set your villagers to work, there isn’t much you can do with your Town Centre until the resources start flooding in, so concentrate on using your scout to reveal the map. Remember to use his vision to the full extent. The Scout can see 360 degrees around him, so don’t have him running down one side of the map where part of his vision is wasted. Keep him moving so that the edge of his vision is the edge of the map, or the edge of his vision is the edge of his last revealed area. By doing this we reduce the time he needs to reveal the battlefield leaving him more time for other duties.

Don’t forget – pick up any herd animals your scout finds and send them back to your TC straight away.

Now that we have the map and the location of the enemy revealed we can start to plan the rest of the game. From the location of the enemy and the terrain features of the map (locations of forests, cliffs etc.) we can plot all the possible attack routes our enemies will take to reach our base. In the case of the AI they tend to take the most direct path. From this we learn where to concentrate our defences and where we can safely expand to. We do not want to build any storehouses in the path between the enemy and us, we want to expand away from the danger zone, for when the attack does come we need our villagers to safely continue gathering the resources in peace and quiet away from the conflict.

Top Tip – once we have located the most direct route, what can we do about the others? Well, we could build watchtowers, or send units, but these all cost resources, and resources are too valuable at the start of the game to waste on 'what-if's'. So, remember those herd animals we have collected? Well they have a small LOS, but more importantly they instantly switch control as soon as they are contacted by enemy forces. Position the animals along the paths of concern, if you lose control you know the enemy is there!

Scout Tactic #1 – Harassment

It is important to remember the Scout is not a military unit. He does not excel at fighting, leave that to the Hippokons, but that isn’t to say the Scout is completely useless, what he lacks in strength and DPS he more than makes up for in speed and LOS. Once we have the map revealed we can see not only our possible expansion locations, but those also of the enemy. The Scout now reveals his 2nd useful purpose – worker harassment.
With his extended LOS he can keep tabs on mineral patches, fishing spots, great locations for next Town Centres etc. and when he sees an enemy villager begin work, he can swoop in and attack the villager.
It is important to note his intention should not be to kill the villager, this will take to long, but to force a cancel on the building and delay the enemies progress.

Avoid prolonged fighting, and concentrate solely on the workers who are trying to build. The whole purpose in harassment is not to inflict casualties but to delay the enemies build, buying us time to gain an advantage. If the worker doesn’t withdraw, its likely the scout will kill him and stop the build. If the worker does withdraw, the AI (or player) saves a worker, but our harass is complete as we have delayed the building.

Pic 1. The Scout locates an enemy villager starting to build a dock, from here the Scout can attack the villager and force a cancel on the building

Scout Tactic #2 – Observation and Early Warning

Given his long range of sight a Scout can keep tabs on the enemy from such a distance that he remains out of sight of any hostile forces, except other scouts. Most players, as well as the AI have, or set, rally points for the units they are creating. Position your scout so that he can see the rallied forces. From there we can see what the enemy is producing, and at what rate, allowing a clever player to figure out what materials and in what quantities the enemy is gathering.
One you know the type of units the enemy is producing, you know what the best counter is.

Pic 2. Using his long range vision the Scout keeps watch on the enemy forces

In the scouts role as 'early warning' you know when the enemy is moving out, and by which route. This is perfect for spotting any tricky manoeuvres designed to take you by surprise.
If things get too tough for the scout or he is spotted, he is fast enough to relocate, but always try to keep his vision between your base and the enemies base. The more warning you have on when the enemy is on the move the better.

Pic 3. A Scout spots a small detachment of enemy forces moving for the attack.

Another role the scout is good at is keeping watch over mineral/resource patches. If the player, or the AI, isn’t savvy about his placement of storehouses, he could find several vulnerable villagers out of position for his forces to protect, allowing you to send in a small detachment of troops, kill the villagers and burn the storehouse before the enemy military can react.

Scout Tactic #3 – Kiting

The method of kiting is like a chase – the Scout gets the AI to focus on killing him, then leads them round and around knowing that the Scouts speed means the enemy unit will never catch him, all the while the enemy is taking hits from nearby buildings (Town Centres, Guard Towers, etc.).

This tactic is best used to deal with early level attacks, the type where the AI will send out 4, 5 or 6 infantry units early on to harass the player. In this case its the Town Centre that does the shooting while the Scout kites the enemy in a circle. Dealing with early attacks using this method insures no time is lost by villagers gathering resources as there is no need to sound the Town bell.

The Scout is also unique in that he cant be snared by enemy hits, so even if you do slip up a little and the enemy lands a couple of blows it will not effect the usefulness of this early strategy.

Pic 4 and 5. The Scout leads the enemy in a circle while the Town Centre continues shooting arrows.

In summary the maximum use of the Scout can be achieved by remembering these simple steps -

Explore – reveal the map

Gather – collect any herd-able animals

Harass – attack enemy workers to delay building construction

Observe – keep an eye on enemy forces and when they move out

Kite – deal with early threats by playing 'chase me' within range of your Town Centre

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