DeathMatch Game Overview

Article written by TOAO_DaVe
Originally published on 01-16-2005 ; updated on 08-17-2014
Tags: Deathmatch Strategy

What It's All About

This article is a basic overview of what DM is, and why I, and thousands of others enjoy playing DeathMatch (DM) games.

Hopefully this will help your knowledge of the 2nd, of the 3 halves of AoK (random map, deathmatch and scenario designing/scripting). Note that this just the outline, and contains no specific guides on how to win using a certain strategy.

It Begins

DM is game-type obviously very different to the other popular game type that is named random map. Due to such a large difference in the starting resources when compared with a random map game, it is possible for someone to easily lose a game on the Zone in just a few minutes.

To be able to become a good deathmatch player, first you must learn how the game is played. The most usual settings are as follows:

Multiplayer-Screen: The Settings

  • Map Style: Custom
  • Location: Green Arabia DM B6
  • Population: 200
  • Reveal Map: Explored
  • Starting Age: Post-Imperial Age
  • Victory: Conquest
  • Speed: Fast

Note that there are many different versions of Green Arabia for DM, but "Green Arabia DM B6" is the most common, another is "[DM GA]". Blue Arabia is also popular under the name "-blue arabia-".

Green Arabia DM is a version of Arabia where it is very green (as it will always be grass base terrain) and RM-only objects like sheep, straggler trees, and boars, etc are gone. Relics are still on the map, though.

Obviously you can feel free to play any other map, but Green Arabia is the most commonly played map in DM.

Now that we know what the standard settings are, what exactly do we start with?

0 Seconds IG (Into Game)

Helpful Hint
If you want to get faster starts but your computer is slow and loads up 5 - 10 seconds into the game you can queue the villagers up before you even show up in the game by hitting H+Shift+C, H+Shift+C, H+Shift+C, etc. until the game loads up, then hopefully your villagers will be queued up so you can straight away build a house, or stable, or whatever you want without losing too much time from the slow computer.
  • Villagers: 3 (plus any extras if you get a bonused civilization like Chinese).
  • Town Center and most-upgraded available version of your scout (either the scout-cavalry line, or the eagle-warrior line).
  • Resources: 20,000 food, 20,000 wood, 10,000 gold and 5,000 stone (less, or more than, depending on what the bonuses of your civilization are).

Click to expand

The second after the game starts, we immediate are baffled by the amount resources we start off with. This amount makes some people assume that is all you will need for the rest of the game. If only. Sadly, that is definitely wrong.

Even though you start with all those resources, they will quickly run-out as you begin building your army.

What To Do?

Now that we've gotten all the basic information we need to play deathmatch, we must learn how to play it well.

Queue Villagers

As soon as the game starts, queue up 15 villagers at your town center. These villagers are here to help out your starting villagers in the first part of building your army.

Create Your First Military Buildings

After 15 villagers have been queued, it is time to rub your hands together and get started. Each villager will get started on their own building. What buildings? This all depends on the civilization.

If you are not the Huns you must always get your first villager to build a house right where he has been standing since the start. Why? Because you will be housed the second the first queued villager from the TC is created until the house is built. You will even be automatically housed if you are the Mayans, plus, you don't get any extra points for having buildings neatly placed.

What the other villagers build (by themselves) depends on what civilization you are. If you are a civilization which gets paladins or heavy camels, you should get each of the remaining villagers to build a stable each. However, if you don't receive either the paladin or heavy camel, you should try to put down barracks first.

There are exceptions, like the Celts, where you get paladins. Build barracks instead, you get fully-upgraded and bonused infantry, and your paladins are not fully-upgraded. But if you still aren't too sure what to do, below gives you the best possible starts for each civilization:
  • Aztecs 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Britons 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Byzantines 1 House 2 Stables OR 2 Barracks (The Byzantines are a special civilization since they get practically everything, although their units aren't as strong. However I would suggest you make stables first because the camels are cheaper than normal.)
  • Celts 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Chinese 1 House, 3 Stables (Chinese have an unusual but strong start because of the fact that they get 3 extra villagers, so there is practically anything you can do with them, like getting 2 vils onto one building to get a really fast start.)
  • Franks 1 House, 2 Stables
  • Goths 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Huns 3 Stables
  • Japanese 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Koreans 1 House, 2 Barracks
  • Mayans 1 House, 3 Barracks (With the extra villager you can do anything from 2 barracks, 2 on 1 house, or 1 house, with 3 separate barracks, etc.)
  • Mongols 1 House, 2 Stables
  • Persians 1 House, 2 Stables
  • Saracens 1 House, 2 Stables
  • Spanish 1 House, 2 Stables
  • Teutons 1 House, 2 Stables OR 2 Barracks (Fully upgraded paladins apart from husbandry, yet a great infantry line, too)
  • Vikings 1 House, 2 barracks
As Huns don't need, nor can build, houses, you can allow each starting villager to build their own stable.

Scouting What Is Already Explored


Now, you may wonder what you should do with your scout. You have an option of either running it to the enemy's base and killing random villagers, or leaving it on aggressive stance to kill the enemy's scout if tries to kill yours.

The way of finding where your enemy is, is by looking for the forage bushes in the fog of war. That will always be where your enemy is on Green Arabia.


Click to expand

After the Initial Explosion

Once you have done the above, set your town center's gather point onto one of your military buildings. Once the villager comes out, get it to build more of the military buildings you have just built by puting the gather point of the town center onto an unfinished building. The villager who should've by now finished the house, must be sent to create more houses on his own, not too far from your starting town center so you don't find yourself housed too early on if you are not the Huns.

If you are the Huns, you have the choice of creating a few more stables, or either plopping down some barracks and/or archery ranges.

In either case, make sure to keep the town center's gather point on an unfinished building so then villagers will automatically go to other unfinished buildings after that one has been completed.

A big mistake lots of newer people to DM make is that they don't make enough military buildings. I said above that you will need a lot more than just your starting resources for a typical DM game, but that doesn't mean you don't have enough resources for a good amount of buildings. I am talking about 15 - 20 or more military buildings depending on who you are, and the current situation.

Time To Create The Army

As each military building is up, you should create the most appropriate unit, depending on who you are and what the enemy is. If you are Franks, create paladins from your stables, if you are the Goths, but your enemy is Franks, create halberdiers, etc., but always remember to gather every military unit you create from these buildings with a gather point out in front of your town so it is easy to select all your soldiers when you want to do something like attack with them. Obviously switch to different units depending on the situation - like the enemy decides to make throwing axemen, so you have to stop the halberdiers.

Now, I said you would make 15 - 20 or more military buildings, but they do not have to be all the same building. Here is where our secondary units come in.

While you are making paladins as Franks, and the enemy is Franks, the only way you can beat them like this, is just by making more stables and paladins than them, and this is very costly so your secondary units, to remove the enemy's paladins, will be halberdiers. Drop down quite a few barracks, at least more than the amount of stables you have and queue up 15 halberdiers in each, with of course the gather point in front of your town, just like every other building.

Obviously you may make any other buildings and units you want - like how about getting rid of those annoying anti-cavalry infantry. You have throwing axemen, ranged, but melee attack which easily defeats halberdiers. But then onagers or paladins beat that, so in the end you'll end up with a mess with lots of different combinations of units, apart from the primary unit you built in the beginning (the paladin).


Regaining What You've Lost - Resources

Through all this that has been going on, obviously you will have no doubt lost quite a few resources through all this building, queuing, etc. and somehow, you must get it back - but how? Get the resources by building your economy with a sort of random map "boom".
Helpful Hint
By 30 minutes or so you will want to have a good-sized economy, say 120 - 130 or so. If you use only 8 TCs, you will need to make 15 villagers from them all to just get 120 villagers and also they will build at a much slower rate than 12 town centers, making 10 villagers each. So I 8 town centers producing 15 villagers is the minimum amount you would want to have, because though you may make more vils after vil 1 of 15 is created, they will be made slower, producing a weaker economy.
To get your economy going, get villagers who originally built your first buildings to create each their own town centers in important places like next to gold mines, wood, stone, and even some open space which could be good for farming. You will need about, at minimum, 8 town centers, but you should make more for when gaining "map control".

These town centers are built because they do many things:
  • Create villagers - as each town center is built, queue 15 villagers at each one, and set the gather point on to the nearest resource. You need to get these resources in quickly to support your military population.
  • Provide a shelter for villagers - if your villagers are under attack while they are working, you can simply garrison them into the town centers to protect and kill.
  • Easy-to-get-to drop-off point - the town center, being 4 tiles wide makes it easier for villagers to drop off their resources if there are many other vils, than if they had to dump off to a small 2 tile wide camp or mill. However, do not forgot to create lumber camps, mills, etc as the walking distance for villagers increases.

A popular thing to do is to make 2 town centers on your main gold pile (the 7-pile gold mines) so you'll get a larger amount of gold, quicker, and easier.

It is always good to create a castle in front of some of your out-lying town centers for extra protection against raids - castles will immediately attack the hussars (or whatever unit they are raiding with), plus castles provide extra garrisoning and to stop enemy villagers from forward building.

Obviously how you distribute your villagers will depend on what you are making. So if you are franks, you will have most on farms and gold mines, with just some lumberjacks to support more buildings and farms and halberdiers.

Attacking

The only way to win a game is by attacking and so you need to know how to attack, otherwise all the above would just be a waste.

Patrolling In

Perhaps the most common way to attack in standard DM games is by selecting a group of units, from say 20 units, and patrolling them into the location of the enemy, by either clicking the patrol button itself, or hitting z (standard hotkey for patrol). Patrolling in units is the most popular way to attack because all the units in the same group will target and attack the closest enemy unit to that group together, making it a smart way to attack, without requiring too much micromanagement.

Normally it would be recommended to patrol in your units to the enemy all the time early on in the game, before about 15 minutes or so. If everything is going your way, you can continue to patrol the units in even after 15 minutes.


Click to expand

Rushing

Rushing in DM is almost instant from when the game starts, in comparison to rushing in RM. Rushing the enemy consists of setting your military building gather points, instead of just in front of your base, to the enemy's base, in an attempt to kill enemy villagers, and as a result practically saying "good bye" to the game (which is often not realised by many people who can think that rushing is to just completely destroy everything of the enemy early). Rushing can be a very smart move in certain situations because killing the enemy's villagers early means they cannot make more military buildings, or town centers for that matter, which means slower creation of military units to fight off your units that are rushed at the enemy. And that means you can overwhelm the enemy, perhaps winning the game quickly.


Click to expand

However, usually the rushes won't be so effective, although vils may be killed, if the enemy is quick enough. Once you see the rush begins to lose all effect, stop it straight away to remove the risk of wasting your units, and your resources.

It would be recommended to rush the enemy if the enemy, for some reason, had a bad or late start to the game, or if they chose a strategy called "the market" where they straight away build a market, to sell their wood, food and sometimes stone for extra gold, as they won't have any military buildings up if your scout does enough to harass the enemy villagers, and can easily end the game in 5 minutes or less.

Standing Back

If you don't want to be too aggressive early in the game, you can choose to "stand back", and get everything you need in the game set up. That includes, but is not limited to your economy, build up of military and relic gathering. You may stand back early if you got a bad start (from any of the reasons stated above), or you just want everything set up so you won't lose as many units and resources during the first 15 minutes of the game.

If you have good enough micromanagement of your units, standing back and staying a little defensive early can help you crush the enemy's other attacking tactics like patrolling in, and will give you an edge as the game progresses.


Click to expand

Theories & Tips

Map Control

Map control is a theory in any type of game in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors where if you have more coverage of the map than your enemy, you can use it all to win the game.

Together using things like town centers (put next to resources so resources can be used), castles (stops enemy villagers or small groups of units from passing by) and other military buildings, you can "take control" of the map (hence "map control") by either using resources for yourself, meaning less for the enemy, stopping the enemy from making buildings there themselves so they have a smaller area to build, stopping them from passing through a side of the map so you can't be attacked in any secret places, or to create fort-like towns where you can make buildings supporting castles to raid or even destroy the enemy's whole economy.

Map control is so widely known and acknowledged that many games you can see players fighting from 3 points on the map - the middle where the main battle is being fought, and one the left and right of the main battle where smaller attacks can weaken the enemy's economy, or reducing the resources possible for the enemy, leading them to their downfall.


Click to expand

Raiding

Raiding comes as a result from map control, explained just above, which when done constantly and well, can really make or break a game.

Raiding in not only DM, but RM and every other sort of game in AoC, has the target of destroying, or at least crippling, the enemy's economy which means the game is lost for them. You raid by creating units like hussars or if you can afford it - paladins, from stables, with the gather point near the enemy's economy like the open farmers or lumberjacks. When the units finally get to the gather point, they will freely kill the enemy's villagers; and fewer villagers mean a weaker economy.

Killing Vils Early

If you don't want to rush, but still want to do some early-game damage on top of your scout killing villagers, you can send groups of 4 paladins or whatever else you may have to the enemy. When they get there, pretend nothing else but villagers are there, and make each unit target a different villager. Remember that every time you kill villagers you are slowing down their build up, puting you ahead.

"Fort" Castles

You can build castles to make forts like I said above to also gain map control, of other things. One thing you have to is prepare the area that you will be getting that villager to build the castles. But how exactly do you prepare for it? Bring 2 or so paladins to the area you want to build the castle so you can clear out any of the enemy's villagers who are trying to do the same, or just to make sure they can't attack your own villager. Once the area is clear you can send one villager over to build the castle.


To make sure your villager can't be killed from an ambush of a few paladins by the enemy, you should block all non-ranged melee to your villager who is building the castle by walling up in a triangle. That means one stone wall on the left, on the right, and behind the villager who is building the castle. They don't even have to be completed. Just enough so the enemy can't knock them down in 3 seconds. This triangle-walling can be used even when you make other buildings like town centers in a neutral or dangerous area, or if you are fast enough, you can do it when being rushed.

Relic Gathering

Relics will really help in the long run as the game goes on further, gold becomes more and more valuable. Usually once the gold runs out the person with the most relics has the edge since you can train more of the stronger gold units like paladins or champions, than the weaker "trash" units which cost no gold like halberdiers, elite skirmishers, etc.

The sooner you can collect these, the better, and if you really want to, you can create "forts" near the relics.

Trading

Knowing when to trade is always a difficult thing in DM. It will never happen at the same time as another game because you do it when you believe the situation in the game is right to start trading. However some this to think about are that if you absolutely destroying your enemy early (because they are a bad player, or other reasons), get trade up early since you really don't need 170 military population, and with trade coming in early, you can hopefully get a good and constant flow of gold throughout the game to keep making paladins, etc.

Other Tips

Here are a few odd tips to help your game.

If you have a really good computer, you can try to send your scout over to the enemy before anything else within the first 2 or 3 seconds of lag, which could mean one more villager killed, slowing their start even more.

When you have about 500 wood and gold, and you want to create heavy cavalry archers, queue up just two or so at each archery range so they will be created quicker to help your battle. This not only helps in DM, but in all other game types, too.

Never feel afraid to pull back your units. If you are losing a battle, or have no resources to back up your loses, pull back your units to a safe area where you are able to mass even more units before attacking again, increasing your chances of winning the battle, and the game.

And of course, practicing is perhaps the biggest tip of all anyone could give you. Practicing, combined with learning your hotkeys will help you become a really quick player and you will need to use less time to do many early-game things.

"That Is All"

Well, I believe that is about it for this article. Even though you may not play DM seriously, hopefully you've enjoyed reading this, and perhaps even have learnt more about DM to make you a better player.