The Russians are an offensive civilization that emphasizes overwhelming infantry and cavalry forces and quantity over quality. Their units are weaker than those of other civilizations but are cheaper and easy to mass-produce.
They have a versatile and good assortment of cavalry and the only civilization with cavalry dedicated to destroying buildings and killing villagers making them deadly when rushing or facing opponents with no strong counter cavalry.
They start off the game with extra resources but fewer villagers. They can use these resources to either produce extra villagers or create early military units to raid the enemy and disrupt their economy.
Most Russian units are trained in groups, which is a double-edged sword: Units are trained faster but it means the player needs a larger amount of resources to train them. Fortunately Russian units are cost effective as they cost 10% less than normal. So a villager (normally costing 100 food) will cost 90 food. This allows the Russians to be great at rushing due to their ability to train a large amount of soldiers in such a short amount of time. Most of their units only take up a single population slot, aiding them even more in building a massive force. Infantry can be produced quickly with Mass Army, Fencing Duel and TEAM Dueling School for use in attacks and defence.
Russians have excellent raiding capabilities compared to the other civilizations; this is due to their many high siege damage units they can muster. However, there are other, cheaper alternatives such as the Cossack, which is a cheaper Hussar, only taking 1 population slot. At the Fortress Age, the Oprichnik can be trained; unlike other cavalry which is designed to deal with infantry or other cavalry, Oprichniks excel in terrorizing enemy settlements, due to their incredibly high siege damage and multipliers against enemy settlers. Combined with their Grenadiers (who have Royal Guard status), one could easily raze a whole settlement in seconds before the enemy has enough time to react - however, players must ensure that the enemy army is far away or occupied to ensure maximum damage. Oprichniks can halt an enemy player's progress, especially if they are directed to target economic buildings.
Their unique church upgrades are far more valuable compared to other civilizations. Westernization and Petrine Reforms are easily considered to be the best cards to utilize:
The amount of resources saved from researching these two is immense, and they can be redirected for other purposes such as buildings, ships and even advancing to the next Age. The two church upgrades do not affect heavy artillery nor do they have an Imperial-tier counterpart, so players will still need the resources if they are required.
Russians have the cards Barracks Hitpoints and like most other civilizations, Improved Buildings. Barracks Hitpoints is a TEAM card and will help allies, boosting their Barracks hitpoints by 100%, essentially doubling their health. Blockhouses on the other hand, gain a 50% hitpoints bonus instead, due to their ability to act as Outposts. Improved Buildings increases the Blockhouse's hitpoints by 80%, which will help even more if the Blockhouses are upgraded to fortified status. Blockhouse Cannon allows Blockhouses to train Falconets and Mortars; while useful on paper, additional Artillery Foundries negate the card's effects if the player requires Grenadiers or Culverins.
In addition, they have other cards such as Strelet Horde; unlocked at level 25, this card will make all Blockhouses train 5 Strelets after a while. With 7 Blockhouses, this equates to 35 free Strelets. Ransack, another card unlocked at level 25, increases the siege damage Russian infantry deal to buildings by 50%, making them superior to other infantry when attacking buildings. The Boyars card also increases Strelet, Cossack and Oprichniks health and damage by 15% which can prove helpful when attacking another player.
Despite the extra resources at the start of a game, the Russians only begin with 5 settlers, which can severely limit economic growth.
Russian settlers and infantry are also trained in batches - despite the 10% discount, players still have to gain the required amount of resources in order to train them. In addition to the 10% resource discount, Russian infantry are 20% weaker compared to other civilizations (a Veteran Musketeer from the Russians has the same strength as a normal Musketeer from other civilizations). Since the Blockhouses only churn them out in batches, the only way to create a select amount is through a Fort or Galleon, and even then they are still affected by the infantry weakness.
Blockhouses serve as a double-edged sword - while they act as Outposts, they also act as a Barracks. Because of this, the Russians cannot create an effective defense around their settlement compared to other civilizations. Destroying the Blockhouses will also weaken a Russian player's overall defense, since it reduces the amount of defenders that can be produced in the event of a surprise attack.
Russian cavalry is also somewhat weak - Cossacks can fall fairly quickly compared to Hussars despite their numbers, Oprichniks are not suited for high-intensity battles and Tartar Loyalists don't provide enough damage against infantry or artillery.
Like the Spanish, the Russians can only send one Factory from the Home City unless The Asian Dynasties is installed. This can severely limit economic growth.