Age of Empires Series Wiki
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
—-Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Strategy indirect prev

Indirect approach refers to a military strategy that emphasizes detouring away from powerful concentrations of enemies and avoiding the gnawing of friendly and/or allied troops, by following the path of least resistance. It consists on avoiding direct attacks on firm defensive/offensive positions and to disrupting the enemy's balance by exploiting their weaknesses. It also gives emphasis to knowing the enemy, and striking where the ratio of losses of an enemy will be larger.

A type of warfare that favors indirect approach is irregular warfare (including Guerilla warfare).

The opposing military strategy is the direct approach, which primarily emphasizes striking the center of weight of an enemy, usually an important structure, a military leader or the main corps of an army.


Following the Indirect Approach isn't just limited to a strategic level, but also finds application in the tactical level, where it is quite recommended by some famous strategic analysts in real life, among them the semi-legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu, as it allows for avoidance of losses. It is often a necessary choice on behalf of the weakest party in a war.

In the Age of Empires series, elements of indirect approach exist in all games of the series, mainly in the form of hit-and-run tactics and in conversion, but each game also has its own unique features that benefit an Indirect Approach (for example, see below for the stealth mode feature in Age of Empires III).


The most common indirect combat is raiding the undefended or vulnerable parts of an enemy's base, which can be done either alongside fighting their main army or besieging their defenses (primarily to keep them busy) or avoiding those and only focusing on destroying the enemy's economy.

AoE2-DLCicon-0 Age of Empires II[]

The most favored units for raiding are units which are are fast, relatively cheap or easy to mass, are either ranged or can also resist arrowfire from buildings, primarily Town Centers. Examples of such units are the Scout Cavalry line (primarily in the late game where gold is running low), the Eagle Warrior and its Elite form (primarily in the Castle and early Imperial where there is abundant gold), and Cavalry Archers. The Gurjaras can also use Shrivamsha Riders for this purpose highly effectively, as they can shrug off arrows from defenses as long as they do not spend too much time near one, when their shields would be depleted due to receiving arrowfire.

Civilizations which excel in this strategy are those who have military bonuses or technologies for their raiding units, or economic bonuses which allow them to produce and upgrade sufficient numbers of their raiding units. Civilizations which have access to fully-upgraded or nearly fully-upgraded Hussars, a strong late game food economy (via farming bonuses), or discounts and other bonuses to these units, are considered the best for raiding.

Civilizations which are strong at raiding with Hussars are:

  • Berbers AoE2 Berbers: Their Hussars are 20% cheaper.
  • Gurjaras AoE2 Gurjaras: They have Hussars lacking Blast Furnace but with a significant discount of -25% food with their unique technology.
  • Magyars AoE2 Magyars: Their Hussars are discounted, and their attack upgrades at the Blacksmith are free.
  • Slavs AoE2 Slavs: They have fully upgradeable Hussars and a bonus to their farming speed.
  • Turks AoE2 Turks: They get the Hussar upgrade, which normally is neither cheap nor quick, for free as soon as they reach the Imperial Age. They also get bonus pierce armor on their Hussars.


Hit-and-run is a tactical doctrine where the player tries to inflict damage to an enemy position and then, withdraws to avoid an enemy retaliation. It is executed mainly from light cavalry units, who usually are tough enough to survive some enemy attacks, yet fast enough to exit an area, should there be resistance.

Ranged cavalry (for example Cavalry Archers or Dragoons) in particular, are an excellent unit for hit-and-run tactics, boasting decent HP, combined with speed and most importantly, a ranged attack. However, they are usually vulnerable to foot archer units, pike/spear units and other cavalry, so they are often have to be accompanied with melee cavalry units, that protect them and also provide additional power.

Ideal targets for such tactics are mainly soft ones, such as Villagers, Monks/Priests (depending on the game), and of course, trade units. In general, any casualty that can put a dent to the enemy's economy should be considered as a target. Usually, rusher civilizations are the best at executing hit-and-run, though there may be exceptions.

Examples of favorable hit-and-run

An example of ideal civilizations and units for hit-and-run, from the Age of Empires game, the Horse Archer and Scout lines are the prime examples of units that can execute such tactics, though at earlier stages on the game, it's the Scout that can be used so, as the Horse Archer is available at the Iron Age, with an excellent civilization for using them being the Yamato, as they receive a 25% discount on both cavalry lines.

It is highly advised that if a player can afford it, they should combine hit-and-run tactics with the creation of forward bases, ideally consisting of 1 or 2 military structures (e.g. Stables) and/or defensive structures. For example, a form of Castle drop can be executed in Age of Empires II by some civilizations (even outside the Arena), with the Castle denying a great area to the enemy, while their unique units harass nearby enemies. Ideal civilizations for such tactics include ones with good ranged cavalry (e.g. Berbers) or with fast infantry (e.g. Celts, Ethiopians, Malians).

In Age of Empires III, the game introduced a new mode for some units called the stealth mode. While in this mode, units that are affected move slower than normal, but also remain concealed from the enemy, allowing them to plan surprise attacks on vulnerable positions, kill some units, and then retreat before resistance can arrive, not unlike in real-life Guerilla Warfare. The best unit in this case is the Forest Prowler, who combines an attack with great range, good LOS and Stealth.

Benefits of hit-and-run

  1. Allows players to avoid casualties, thus saving resources.
  2. Withers the enemy's economy.
  3. Psychologically, it can catch off guard enemy players, and even make them do a wrong move.
  4. Allows to keep the pressure on enemies, while allowing players to safely Boom.

The concept of hit-and-run is related to the concept of Rushing.


Conversion, the act of converting a neutral or enemy unit or building can also be considered a form of Indirect Approach, as depending on what unit is converted, it can allow a player to increase the survivability of his/her army, while also wearing down that of the enemy.

Monks, Priests, or whatever else (depending on the game) can convert a unit should usually try to aim for units that are vulnerable to conversion, usually bruisers that are tough to defeat, and can kill much of the player's army, diminishing thus casualties while also using the converted unit(s) to strike its former army.

For example, in Age of Empires II, recommended targets for conversion in a battle include units such as War Elephants and Boyars, both vulnerable to conversion and very hard to beat. Likewise, in Age of Mythology, the best targets for Shennong Monks and the Traitor power are late game myth units, while treasure guardian conversion in Age of Empires III should usually aim for units such as Polar Bears.

Of course, conversion isn't limited to such units; among other units, one can also try to convert enemy Villagers, preferably close to enemy lines, and then use them to construct defensive structures, in order to harass nearby foes (not recommended for the Traitor power).

God powers[]

While most god powers in Age of Mythology are fairly straightforward, with many Mythic Age powers providing powerful, damaging effects with little else, many can still be used in a way that allows for an Indirect Approach.

A prominent example is the Underworld Passage power, as it allows for Greek players to launch surprise attacks from one point to another, even behind enemy lines. Others provide effects that while harmful to an enemy, don't usually destroy an entire town or army, yet prove to be useful by negating an enemy's strengths. Some examples include:

  • Pestilence - causes military structures in an area to stop producing for 45 seconds.
  • Locust Swarm - summons a swarm of locusts that damage Villagers and Farms, thus putting a dent into the enemy's economy.
  • Forest Fire - sets trees on fire, damages nearby enemies, great for denying Wood to an enemy.
  • Great Journey - grants a speed boost to a player's units, excellent for hit-and-run.


Strategy pages in the Age of Empires series
Blitzkrieg · Boom · Build order · Castle drop · Containment · Deathball · Indirect approach · Map control · Micromanagement · Rush · Sling/Springboard · Support · Tower control · Trash pile · Turtle
Age of Empires
ReturnRome-AoEIcon Age of Empires Assyrians AoE Assyrians · Babylonians AoE Babylonians · Choson AoE Choson · Egyptians AoE Egyptians · Greeks AoE Greeks · Hittites AoE Hittites · Minoans AoE Minoans · Persians AoE Persians · Phoenicians AoE Phoenicians · Shang AoE Shang · Sumerians AoE Sumerians · Yamato AoE Yamato
RomeIcon The Rise of Rome Carthaginians AoE Carthaginians · Macedonians AoE Macedonians · Palmyrans AoE Palmyrans · Romans AoE Romans
AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of Rome Lac Viet AoE Lac Viet
Age of Empires II
AoE2-DLCicon-0 The Age of Kings Britons AoE2 Britons · Byzantines AoE2 Byzantines · Celts AoE2 Celts · Chinese AoE2 Chinese · Franks AoE2 Franks · Goths AoE2 Goths · Japanese AoE2 Japanese · Mongols AoE2 Mongols · Persians AoE2 Persians · Saracens AoE2 Saracens · Teutons AoE2 Teutons · Turks AoE2 Turks · Vikings AoE2 Vikings
AoE2-DLCicon-1 The Conquerors Aztecs AoE2 Aztecs · Huns AoE2 Huns · Koreans AoE2 Koreans · Mayans AoE2 Mayans · Spanish AoE2 Spanish
AoE2-DLCicon-2 The Forgotten Incas AoE2 Incas · Indians AoE2 Indians (legacy) · Italians AoE2 Italians · Magyars AoE2 Magyars · Slavs AoE2 Slavs
AoE2-DLCicon-3 The African Kingdoms Berbers AoE2 Berbers · Ethiopians AoE2 Ethiopians · Malians AoE2 Malians · Portuguese AoE2 Portuguese
AoE2-DLCicon-4 Rise of the Rajas Burmese AoE2 Burmese · Khmer AoE2 Khmer · Malay AoE2 Malay · Vietnamese AoE2 Vietnamese
AoE2-DLCicon-5 The Last Khans Bulgarians AoE2 Bulgarians · Cumans AoE2 Cumans · Lithuanians AoE2 Lithuanians · Tatars AoE2 Tatars
AoE2Icon-LordsWest Lords of the West Burgundians AoE2 Burgundians · Sicilians AoE2 Sicilians
Dawn of the Dukes icon Dawn of the Dukes Bohemians AoE2 Bohemians · Poles AoE2 Poles
AoE2Icon-DynastiesIndia Dynasties of India Bengalis AoE2 Bengalis · Dravidians AoE2 Dravidians · Gurjaras AoE2 Gurjaras · Hindustanis AoE2 Hindustanis
AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of Rome Romans AoE2 Romans
AoE2Icon-MountainRoyals The Mountain Royals Armenians AoE2 Armenians · Georgians AoE2 Georgians
Age of Mythology
Greeks Greeks HadesIcon Hades · PoseidonIcon Poseidon · ZeusIcon Zeus
Egyptians Egyptians IsisIcon Isis · RaIcon Ra · SetIcon Set
NorsePortrait Norse LokiIcon Loki · OdinIcon Odin · ThorIcon Thor
AtlanteanPortrait Atlanteans GaiaIcon Gaia · KronosIcon Kronos · OranosIcon Oranos
Chinese Chinese FuXiIcon Fu Xi · NuWaIcon Nü Wa · ShennongIcon Shennong
Age of Empires III
3Icon48px Age of Empires III Flag BritishDE British · Flag DutchDE Dutch · Flag FrenchDE French · Flag GermanDE Germans · Flag OttomanDE Ottomans · Flag PortugueseDE Portuguese · Flag RussianDE Russians · Flag SpanishDE Spanish
3WCIcon48px The Warchiefs Flag AztecDE Aztecs · Flag IroquoisDE Haudenosaunee · Flag SiouxDE Lakota
3ADIcon48px The Asian Dynasties Flag ChineseDE Chinese · Flag IndianDE Indians · Flag JapaneseDE Japanese
Age3DE Icon Definitive Edition* Flag SwedishDE Swedes · Flag IncanDE Inca · Flag American act3 aoe3de United States · Flag MexicanDE Mexicans
The African Royals Flag Ethiopian aoe3de Ethiopians · Flag Hausa Hausa
Knights of the Mediterranean Flag ItalianDE Italians · Flag MalteseDE Maltese