|“||Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.||”|
|—Sun Tzu, The Art of War|
Rush refers to a military strategy emphasizing rapid build-up as early as possible.
If a treaty is in place, early rushes will be negated.
To implement this strategy, the player should focus almost exclusively on building troops to harass the enemy economy in the shortest possible amount of time. However, in order to build these troops some basic economic build up is required. It is commonly used to counter the boom strategy or the turtle strategy if the enemy is unable to get their towers and walls up in time although it should be noted that a successful turtle can easily repel rushes. Another variation of the rush strategy is Blitzkrieg, which is a far deadlier version and is more effective than other rushing techniques but is more costly.
A rushing player will typically have a weak economy in favor of a strong military, ideally most rushes are executed within the first seven minutes of gameplay (even less versus human opponents). The longer a match draws on without the rush inflicting significant damage, the more likely it is that a rushing player will not be able to seize victory due to their slower economy.
There are three especially popular rushing strategies in Age of Empires: rushing in the Tool Age with Axemen, rushing in the Tool Age with Slingers, and rushing in the Bronze Age with Chariot Archers. However, other units can also form the basis of rushes, including Bowmen and Cavalry.
Some civilizations boast certain bonuses allowing them to perform better as early Rushers, at land or water. They typically include discounts on individual unit lines and/or economic or military bonuses kicking in from the Stone or Tool Age:
- Axeman Rushing Candidates
- Slinger Rushing Candidates
- Chariot Archer Rushing Candidates
- Other Rushing Candidates
An effective rush requires rapid economic growth in the beginning of the game then focusing on the military. Gathering resources quickly allows for military units to be created early on.
As noted in Rushing the Enemy, scouting before a rush is important as it allows the player to adjust their rushing tactics based on the enemy's situations (e.g. the enemy is walling up their town or forgot to close off a chokepoint), as is the constant training of Villagers to keep the economy stable in case the rush fails.
Depending on when each civilization's economical bonuses start to shine, there are different types of rushing allowing individual civilizations to use their advantages:
In the Dark Age, Militia are the only military units available but should be created in order to create the basis for an army in later Ages. A Militia raid in the Dark Age is known as a drush (Dark Age rush). Civilizations that can perform this kind of rush better than others include:
- Aztecs - Start with +50 gold, which allows for more Militia to be created without mining additional gold. Villagers carry more resources and military units are trained 11% faster.
- Celts - Lumberjacks work 15% faster, a helpful economic bonus. The ability to steal herdable animals is another raiding bonus.
- Goths - Infantry are 20% cheaper in the Dark Age. Villagers also get an attack bonus against boars and carry more food when hunting. Loom being researched nearly instantly effectively works as an minor bonus to Villager production, freeing up the same Town Center time as it takes to train one Villager.
- Gurjaras - They start with two Berry Bushes at their Town Center and can garrison herdables in their Mills.
- Huns - Despite starting with -100 wood, the freedom from building houses frees Villager time and resources.
- Incas - Benefit from Houses supporting twice the population and an extra starting Llama for food.
- Lithuanians - Start with +150 food, giving them potentially the fastest Drush.
- Poles - Can generate gold alongside stone, meaning they can get additional gold for their Militia as well as adding synergy to their tower rush. In addition, the Folwark immediately stockpiles 10% of the Farm's food, making it easier for them to go for this strategy.
Persians (with their double hit point Town Centers) can perform an unusual rush called the "douche" by deleting their Town Center and placing it next to the enemy Town Center. In the original The Age of Kings, the Teutons often performed the Teutonic Town Center rush (with their increased range), but this gave them such an unfair advantage that it was nerfed in The Conquerors.
In the Feudal Age, (flush) more units are available and can begin harassing or killing enemy Villagers to disrupt their economy. For rushing, the focus should be on cheaper units so greater numbers can be created to overwhelm the enemy. Variations of the rush in the Feudal Age, largely depending on each faction's focus, include: Tower rush (attack with Villagers and Watch Towers), Scout rush, infantry rush, Archer rush. For example, Ethiopians, a civilization highly vulnerable to drushes, can put their Age-up resource bonus and faster firing bonus for Archers into good use and launch early flushes of said unit. Likewise, Burmese can abuse their boosted infantrymen and their free Lumber Camp upgrades to flush enemies with Militia/Men-at-Arms or even Archers.
- Tower Rush Candidates
- Incas - Have a stone discount making Towers cheaper, on top of their extra starting Llama and houses supporting twice the population.
- Koreans - Stone Miners work 20% faster. Villagers have +3 Line of Sight, valuable for placing towers in strategic locations and avoiding danger.
- Poles - Their stone miners also generate gold, so the additional gold can be used in conjunction with their Dark Age Militia rush mentioned above. In addition, their Villagers slowly regenerate hit points, giving them extra protection when building towers.
- Sicilians - A variation of a tower rush involves their unique building, the Donjon (also known as the "Donjon rush"), which can be built in the Feudal Age like a tower, but it is stronger. In addition, the player can train Serjeants from the Donjon to further apply pressure to the opponent. They start with +100 stone, meaning they only need to mine 50 stone to build a second Donjon.
- Scout Rush Candidates
- Cumans - Their Scout Cavalry have increased movement speed and their Stables cost -75 wood, allowing them to initiate their Scout rush sooner than their opponent. The saved wood from their Stables can be used either for an extra Town Center to help with their scout production, or for their Feudal Age Battering Rams to push into the opponent's base.
- Franks - Though they lack Bloodlines, their 20% HP increase for cavalry arguably makes up for it in the meantime, having a lesser effect in exchange for being free and not requiring Stable work-time. Meanwhile, faster Foragers and free Farm upgrades give more food to train Scout Cavalry.
- Huns - Stables work 20% faster. Do not need to build houses.
- Khmer - Can skip building a Barracks and immediately build a Stable instead, saving the equivalent cost of a Stable. Their farming bonus also slightly increases the amount of food available.
- Magyars - Scout Cavalry are 15% cheaper and get free Forging.
- Poles - Their Scout Cavalry deal +1 bonus damage against archer units. In addition, their Folwarks immediately adding food to the player's stockpile makes it easier for them to train Scout Cavalry.
- Sicilians - Their Scout Cavalry absorb 50% of enemy Spearmen bonus damage, allowing them to be more cost-effective against enemy Spearmen.
- Infantry Rush Candidates
- Bulgarians - The Man-at-Arms upgrade is free and Blacksmith upgrades cost -50% food, saving both Barracks work-time and 225 food and 40 gold in the Feudal Age.
- Dravidians - Barracks upgrades and technologies are 50% cheaper, making it easier to afford Man-at-Arms and Supplies.
- Goths - Can create 25% cheaper infantry (fully covering the lack of Supplies) with +1 damage against buildings in the Feudal Age.
- Japanese - Infantry attack 33% faster (starting in the Feudal Age). Economic buildings are cheaper, saving some wood.
- Slavs - Supplies is free, effectively lowering the food cost of the Militia line. Farmers work 10% faster and military buildings like the Barracks provide 5 population space, meaning less Villager time and wood needs to be spent building Houses.
- Vikings - Infantry have +20% HP (starting in the Feudal Age). Wheelbarrow is free, giving an early economic boost in the Feudal Age.
- Archer Rush Candidates
- Britons - Archery Ranges work 20% faster. Shepherds also work quicker, giving more food quickly and allowing for a faster Feudal Age, or alternatively allowing the Britons to devote an extra Villager to collecting wood in preparation for the Archer Rush.
- Cumans - Their Archery Ranges cost -75 wood, allowing them to initiate their archer rushes sooner than their opponent. The saved wood can either be used to train more archers, build an additional Town Center to help with their archer production, or for their Feudal Age Battering Rams to push into the opponent's base.
- Dravidians - Receive 200 wood upon reaching the Feudal Age, allowing them to build an Archery Range immediately. In addition, their Skirmishers attack faster, giving Dravidians an advantage in archer trades.
- Ethiopians - Archers fire 18% faster. They receive 100 food and 100 gold upon entering a new age, enough resources for a few units or an upgrade such as Fletching.
- Koreans - Their archers cost -20% wood (5 wood saved per unit) and Padded Archer Armor is free, saving 100 food in the Feudal Age.
- Mayans - Have economic bonuses from the starting extra Villager and longer lasting resources. Archers are 10% cheaper in the Feudal Age.
- Sicilians - Their archer units absorb 50% of enemy Skirmishers bonus damage, allowing them to be more cost-effective in archer trades with the opponent.
- Vietnamese - Their archer units have +20% HP, allowing them to be more cost-effective in archer trades with the opponent. In addition, their economic upgrades do not cost wood, allowing them to build more Archery Ranges and train more archer units, and their enemies' first Town Center location is revealed to them.
In the Castle Age, siege weapons become available as well as powerful upgrades and new units. This allows for the siege of enemy towns and the building of Castles, which if built near an enemy town can disrupt them even more by preventing Villagers from moving out to gather resources as well as allowing for the creation of a constant flow of units to attack the enemy (this tactic is known as a Castle drop). A Saracen rush version is a Castle Age rush of Monks due to their refund after death (with Madrasah researched). This is known as a smush (Saracen Monk rush). Another popular Castle Age rush tactic is a Knight rush. Being able to slaughter most units and having little effective counters, they can dominate in the early Castle Age, until their counter units come into play. Two examples of civilizations that can perform a Knight rush are the Berbers (thanks to their cheaper Stable units) and the Franks (thanks to their cavalry HP bonus, which fully covers the lack of Bloodlines for the Knight line).
- Knight Rush Candidates
- Berbers - Knights are 15% cheaper in the Castle Age.
- Burgundians - A variation of this strategy is the Castle Age Cavalier rush, where they can research the Cavalier upgrade in the Castle Age. Plus, their Stable technologies are 50% cheaper, allowing them to hit their power spike in the early Castle Age. This results in a slower rush, due to the Cavalier upgrade's long research time, but a Cavalier-based rush can be very powerful.
- Cumans - Their Stables cost -75 wood, allowing easier production of Knights. In addition, their cavalry speed bonus fully covers the lack of Husbandry. Having an extra Town Center from the Feudal Age makes it easier for the Cumans to go for a Knight rush as well.
- Franks - Though Bloodlines is missing, the +20% HP bonus for Cavalry makes up for this. Frankish Knights have +2 Line of Sight, reducing a major weakness of the Knight line. Franks also benefit from faster Foragers and free farming upgrades.
- Huns - Stables work 20% faster. Houses are not required, saving wood and Villager work time.
- Lithuanians - Benefit from +150 starting food, helping them in a Fast Castle strategy. Knights gain +1 attack per Relic held in a Monastery.
- Persians - Town Centers have an increased work rate starting in the Feudal Age, which only gets faster over time. Knights deal +2 bonus damage to archer units.
- Poles - Their stone miners generating gold alongside their Folwark makes it easier for the Poles to go for this strategy. Additionally, Szlachta Privileges opens up several possibilities by lowering the gold cost of Knights from 75 to 30. Players can either slow down their Knight rush to pick up this technology first (helped by their stone mining bonus) or can save it for later in the game, allowing them to continue using Knights even as gold becomes more scarce.
- Sicilians - Their Knights absorb 50% of the bonus damage from enemy Camel Riders and Pikemen, making their durability against counter units comparable to a Cataphract. Researching First Crusade makes them more resistant to conversion.
- Monk Rush Candidates
- Aztecs - Have all Monastery technologies, each of which also add +5 HP to Monks. Start with more gold, and Villagers carry more resources. The bonus granting extra gold from Relics also rewards players who focus on Monks.
- Bohemians - Their free Mining Camp upgrades allow the Bohemians to more easily mine gold for their Monks.
- Burmese - Monastery technologies are 50% cheaper, with only Heresy missing.
- Byzantines - Cheaper Imperial Age makes it easier to research Imperial technologies. Only lacking Herbal Medicine.
- Italians - Similar to Byzantines, but reaching the Castle Age is easier. Only missing Heresy.
- Lithuanians - Monasteries work faster, and Relics give a bonus. All technologies available.
- Malay - Aging up faster; as a result, they can pursue their Monks earlier. Missing Fever and Theocracy only.
- Malians - Monasteries are cheaper, Gold Mines last longer, having every technology except Illumination.
- Portuguese - Monks are cheaper and researching technologies is faster. Only missing Illumination.
- Saracens - The Saracen Market bonuses can make gold easier to come by in the Feudal and early Castle Age.
- Slavs - They have almost all Monk upgrades.
- Spanish - Missionaries are faster, short-ranged Monks that cannot pick up Relics. Having both Fully upgraded Monastery tree and unique technology makes their Monks fearsome.
- Teutons - Having all technologies and conversion resistance will give an advantage when Monks convert other Monks.
- Battle Elephant rush candidates:
- Khmer - Their Battle Elephants move 10% faster, allowing them to close the gap on fleeing enemies. In addition, their Castle Age unique technology, Tusk Swords, gives them +3 attack, making them even more deadly. Plus, their farmers do not need to drop food, making it easier for the Khmer to pump out Battle Elephants.
- Malay - While their cavalry is considered to be the worst in the game, a Battle Elephant rush strategy should be considered in the early Castle Age because their Battle Elephants are 30% cheaper, making them cheaper than Knights. In addition, they can advance ages faster than most civilizations, allowing them to develop their economy more or initiate said rush sooner.
- Bengalis - Their Battle Elephants receive -25% bonus damage and are more resistant to conversion. In addition, their unique technology, Paiks, makes their elephants attack faster. They also receive two villagers when advancing to the next Age, allowing them to have an economy to support this strategy.
- Dravidians - Despite having the worst Battle Elephant, the Dravidians still have a potential to use it as well, due to Medical corps, which will make them more durable as they can regenerate. In addition, their Castle Age Battle Elephants can be a meatsheild for their archers.
- Elephant Archer rush candidates:
- Bengalis - Their Elephant Archers receive -25% bonus damage and are more resistant to conversion. Their unique technology, Paiks, compensates for the loss of accuracy and fire rate from Thumb Ring. They also receive two Villagers when advancing to the next Age, allowing them to have an economy to support this strategy.
- Dravidians - While their Elephant Archers are less durable and mobile, they attack 25% faster (which stacks with Thumb Ring). In addition, their unique technology, Medical Corps, allows their Elephant Archers to slowly regenerate hit points, giving them better survivability in longer fights.
- Gurjaras - While their rush is more delayed when compared to other civilizations, their unique technology, Kshatriyas, allow them to save even more food for their Elephant Archers. The Gurjaras can also garrison herdables in their Mills, making it easier to go for this strategy.
- Cavalry Archer rush candidates:
- Cumans - Their Archery Ranges and Stables cost -75 wood, meaning more wood can be saved for their Cavalry Archers. In addition, their cavalry speed bonus fully covers the lack of Husbandry. Having an extra Town Center from the Feudal Age makes it easier for them to go for a Cavalry Archer rush as well.
- Huns - Their Cavalry Archers are 10% cheaper in the Castle, allowing them to train more Cavalry Archers than other civilizations. In addition, they can save a lot of wood for Cavalry Archers since they do not need to build Houses, making them one of the best Cavalry Archer rush civilizations in the game.
- Mongols - Their Cavalry Archers fire 25% faster, allowing more damage output. In addition, the Mangudai is a strong Cavalry Archer with very low frame delay and bonus damage against siege weapons (although this requires massive investment in Castles to maximize Mangudai production).
- Tatars - They get Thumb Ring for free, allowing them to go for a Cavalry Archer rush immediately. In addition, their Cavalry Archers are more durable thanks to their unique technology, Silk Armor.
- Turks - While it requires a Castle, the Turks can go for a Cavalry Archer rush thanks to their unique technology, Sipahi, which adds +20 HP to their Cavalry Archers. Their gold miners working faster can also help with Cavalry Archer production.
- Vietnamese - Their Cavalry Archers have +20% HP, making them more durable. In addition, the Vietnamese save wood for their Cavalry Archers with economic upgrades not costing wood.
- Unique unit rush candidates:
- Bengalis - Ratha can be regarded as a wood-costing Knight and beefier Cavalry Archer, both of which the Bengalis lack.
- Berbers - The Canel Archer is more durable, and powerful Cavalry Archers in the Castle Age, making them a good raiding troop and fullfill Hit and Run Tactics.
- Bohemians - Hussite Wagons are very tanky and have powerful attack. In addition, due to free mining technologies, they can boom very easily.
- Burgundians - Coustilliers are very lethal for archer units, since their charge attack is very high. Meanwhile, they are not very expensive, and Burgundians themselves have a very strong economy.
- Burmese - Arambai have powerful attack and are suited for hit-and-run tactics. Combined with their free lumberjack technologies, this will make them easier to create.
- Cumans - Kipchaks are a great harasser, as they not only move faster, but additional projectiles deal good damage.
- Koreans - War Wagons are tanky and mobile, also benefit from the Korean civilization bonuses such as free archer armor and cost less wood.
- Malay - Karambit Warriors are cheap, easier to produce, and take half of the population, making them a fearsome units when spawned.
- Mayans – Plumbed Archers move fast, and are good at harassing. Patches have made them expensive and less attractive than cheaper Crossbowmen, but they are still an effective choice when raiding.
- Mongols – Mangudai are very powerful Cavalry Archers, since they are agile, have decent attack, and most important, have bonus against siege weapons.
- Portuguese - Researching technologies faster and for less gold, the Organ Guns can be a favor for Portuguese, as they have powerful enough attack, and additional 2 damage from secondary projectiles make them more fearsome when massed.
- Spanish – Probably the best tactics, as their early economy is very weak, but compensated by their lethal Conquistadors, since they have high enough armor and suited for Hit and Run. As a consequence, only a few units can counter them effectively when they raiding.
- Tatars –The Keshik is relatively cheap, and durable, while also collecting gold when attacking units. As a result, they are an appealing choice for Tatars.
- Turks – Janissaries have an amazing attack, and having 8 Range means microing them is easy. Also, the Turks have faster gold miners, making them easier to mass.
On maps like Archipelago and Islands, players can perform a pure Galley and Galleon rush (known as the grush), while the counter to a gush is a Fire Ship rush, a fire rush. If a player decides to grush or fire rush, it is recommended to target all Docks before moving to attack inland. When gushing or fire rushing, the players should bring some Archers in Transports to land after softening defenses. Civilizations that excel in such tactics are mainly the ones with great naval bonuses and preferably a strong economy to back up their navy.
- Naval Rushing Candidates
- Berbers - All ships move 10% faster.
- Bengalis - Ship regenerate hit points.
- Byzantines - Fire Galleys attack 25% faster. In the Castle Age, Greek Fire increases their range.
- Dravidians - Receive 200 wood on age advancement.
- Malay - Can save wood spent on Farms by instead building Fish Traps with three times more food. Docks also have +100% Line of Sight.
- Portuguese - All ships have +10% HP, and warships cost -20% Gold. This gives Galleys +12 HP while costing -6 gold, while Fire Galleys gain +10 HP and cost -9 gold.
- Saracens - Galleys attack 25% faster. Markets cost -100 wood and give better trading rates.
- Vikings - Docks are 15% cheaper (saving 22 wood each), as are warships in the Feudal Age. Wheelbarrow is free.
The following civilizations have great rush capability:
The following major gods are well suited for a rushing strategy:
The following minor gods are well suited for a rushing strategy:
- Leto (Kronos)
Rushing allows a player to gain control of the map and its resources, and also to restrict opponents' access to them. An ideal rush succeeds if it is well timed and strongly backed. Thus, with a successful rush strategy executed, the enemy will starve and eventually will give up. The main objective is to attack the enemy as soon as possible, that is, within the Commerce Age. A good rush deck typically consists of the basic Villager cards and while possessing a heavy number of resource crates, unit shipment cards and unit upgrade cards in the Commerce Age with little focus on economic cards. Scouting before a rush is important as it allows the player to adjust their rushing tactics based on the enemy's situations (e.g. The enemy is building a military building to defend himself or trying to directly reach the Fortress Age), as is the constant training of Settlers/Villagers to keep the economy stable in case the rush fails. There are three types of rushing. They can be classified as:
- All In
- Economy Focused Rush
This rush strategy, as the name suggests, focuses mainly on building military and attacking the enemy as early as possible. Although this may not give the best outcome on the economical side, it allows the player to catch the enemy off guard if perfectly executed. It involves shipping military unit shipments first most of the time. The best examples are rushing with Ottomans, Russians, Lakota. The Ottomans are considered to be one of the best rush civilizations due to the availability of the Janissary, a strong Musketeer unit, and the Abus Gun, a strong Skirmisher unit, in the Commerce Age. However, these units are expensive and their Settlers train very slowly even though they are free, thus the Ottoman economy falls behind while rushing. Similarly, The Russians are also strong due to the large number of military units consisting of Musketeers, Strelets and Cossacks which they can train in a few minutes, but their Settlers can be only trained in a batch of 3 for 270 food; hence, the player has to sacrifice their production for a very short time, to consecutively train military units. This affects the Russian economy negatively due to the lack of Villager cards, but still allows the player to gain map control, swift advantage over opponent in military and similar. Lakota does not require any Houses since they already start with 200 population. This allows the player to only focus on building their military units, especially their strong cavalry units such as Axe Riders and Bow Riders, and also their infantry. On the other hand, All of their military units are food-heavy, so their nearby food sources run out quickly while rushing, which starves them for a long time.
Economy Focused Rush
This rush strategy is a slower but safer strategy due to the availability of additional options if the rush fails. Setting up a perfect economy before building military units is the purpose of this strategy. It involves upgrading gather rate of Villagers by researching technologies at the Market, sending Villager cards, Resource crates initially followed by military unit shipments most of the time. This lets the player maintain a good economy while rushing, and thus it always has good backup plans and is adaptable into any kind of situation. The player is able to make many decisions with ease (e.g. Whether to reach Fortress Age after rushing to gain technology advantage, or to continue being aggressive in the Commerce Age). Best examples are rushing with British, French, Indians and Japanese. All of these civilizations are able to set up their economy initially using special houses such as Manors, Shrines etc. or by sending Villager shipments or their equivalent such as 4 Coureur des Bois, 5 Settlers, Foreign Logging etc. A well timed rush with a mass of Musketeers and Hussars can be unstoppable when executed by British or the French. Similarly, An Indian mass of Sepoys and Gurkhas or Sowars or a Japanese mass of Ashigaru Musketeers and Yumi Archers or Naginata Riders can be very lethal for the enemy to face. Even if the rush fails, the player is able to adapt to age to the Fortress Age or to focus on rebuilding the army.
The main intention of this strategy is not to attack the enemy directly but to make sincere attempts to cripple the enemy's economy to gain an advantage, and then using that advantage to launch an attack. While raiding is already one of the objectives in every game, it can also become an essential part of a rush strategy. Best examples are raiding with Germans, Lakota and basically any civilization with a decent cavalry or shock infantry unit. Germans get free Uhlans from Home City shipments. They are very effective at raiding. This allows the player to just reach Fortress Age to gain technology advantage or to prepare an army of decent mass, simultaneously while keeping the enemy busy. Similarly, Lakota can raid efficiently with their Bow Riders, which are specialized light cavalry units with no negative multiplier versus Villagers. Raiding is not exclusive to cavalry units. It can be done with Infantry units such as Musketeers. They can be primarily used to siege Trading Posts, Special Houses such as Shrines and Torps (which is also considered as raiding). However, the player has to be more attentive while raiding with them because they lack speed and might get caught by enemy units.
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