|“||Players start in the Feudal Age with a small town and must quickly ready themselves for battle.||”|
|—Age of Empires II description|
Every player starts with a Town Center, a Mill, three Lumber Camps, one Mining Camp, six Houses, five Farms, a Blacksmith, and a Barracks. Besides the Scout unit, 27 Villagers are tasked with the following distribution:
- 5 on gold
- 11 on wood (distributed among 3 Lumber Camps)
- 11 on food (5 on Farms and 6 on Berry Bushes)
All civilizations will start with the standard resources of 200 wood, 200 food, 100 gold, and 200 stone. Even civilizations that would normally have bonuses that start them with more or less resources, such as an additional 150 food for Lithuanians or Huns starting with 100 less wood, will start with the standard resources. Similarly, Chinese and Mayans do not start with their extra Villagers, having the standard 27 Villagers and standard resources. The only exception is the Ethiopians, who start with an additional 100 food and 100 gold.
Civilizations that have free technologies researched starting in the Feudal Age will start an Empires Game with those technologies immediately researched. Vikings start with Wheelbarrow researched for example.
On maps that start with the standard 27 Villagers, no herdable animals will spawn.
Generally speaking, Empire Wars bypasses the initial buildup stage of the game. As such, it creates a disadvantage for some civilizations that thrive in the early game due to early economic bonuses, such as the Japanese, Malians, and Tatars. Conversely, some civilizations that lack early economic bonuses and need to reach the Feudal Age or later to thrive are strong fits for this mode, including the Spanish and Turks.
Civilizations that start with free technologies perform extremely well in Empire Wars. Vikings with free Wheelbarrow, Franks with free Horse Collar, and Magyars with free Forging are all very strong and popular picks in Empire Wars. Archer civilizations also do well on Empire Wars, as starting in Feudal Age avoids many of the problems that one normally encounters when going Archers, such as being up later than a player going Scouts.
Empire Wars games often times see heavy Feudal Age aggression, with either Scouts or Archers. Starting with a Barracks means players can drop a Stable or Archery Range almost immediately, and Spearmen can be trained to defend against Scouts very early. Since players start with no walls and military can be created quickly, players will try to rush their opponents economy to kill Villagers. This leads to fast, aggressive games.
While being aggressive early is normal for Empire Wars, it's not rare to see other strategies either. Much like normal Random Map games, players can Fast Castle, usually with a civilization such as Saracens that can achieve this quickly. Players may also opt to go for fish on maps that have water. Starting with 200 wood and in Feudal Age means a Cuman player can drop a second Town Center within a minute of gameplay as well, though this is very risky as it leaves the player open to harassment by the opponent's army.
- With update 36906, Chinese, Mayans, and Incas start with the standard number of villagers and resources.
- With update 42848, players now start with 5 farms as opposed to the previous 8. One additional Villager starts on berries, wood, and gold.
- With update 42848, Aztecs start with the standard amount of gold.
- With update 42848, Herdable animals no longer spawn on maps that start with the standard number of Villagers.