In Forge of Empires, many people often wonder what the best offensive army or the best combination of units is. Too often, I see people unnecessarily wasting resources and space on military buildings/units that are useless or offer less benefits than others. So here is a walkthrough on what units will help you glide on through the game.
Stage 1: Starting out – Spearmen and slingers
When starting out, it's pretty obvious what units you'll be using. Spearmen are incredibly cheap and can be replaced in 25 seconds, and so they are very dispensable. But because they are melee units, they suffer from retaliation damage. Once you unlock slingers, you should throw in some into your army to decrease the damage/losses you receive. Generally, a good combination is 4 spearmen and 4 slingers. In some cases, 8 slingers is a very good setup, but they are rather weak and so it might not always work out. No more than 2 spearfighter barracks and 2 slinger ranges are really required.
Stage 2: A consistent offense – Archers
Once you move into the Iron Age, your immediate goal should be to unlock archers. This unit is quite the damage output powerhouse in the early stages of the game. 8 archers in your offensive army is probably all you need to tear through the PvE map and all of your neighbors' defenses. They are capable of defeating units as advanced as the late Early Middle Ages, and can even defeat units from the High Middle Ages in certain cases. And because each archery range takes up 4 squares of space, you can easily fit them into your city. If you don't plan on participating in the Bronze Age tournament, then swap out your barracks and slinger ranges for 4 archery ranges, and this should keep you going until you unlock crossbowmen in the High Middle Ages.
There is probably 1 or 2 fights in the Continent Map that will not be possible with an 8 archer army, in which case long-ranged units will need to join the mix.
(Optional) Stage 3: The useless addition – Mounted Archers
For those wishing to participate in the Early Middle Ages tournament, a single mounted archer range is sufficient. Just putting one mounted archer in your army along with 7 archers should be sufficient. For those who don't care much for the Early Middle Ages tournament, this step can be skipped. Mounted archers are incredibly weak, the military building takes up way too much room, and the training time is far too long for them to be considered a viable replacement/enhancement for archers.
Stage 4: A Much Needed Upgrade – Crossbowmen and/or Trebuchets
Having advocated that short-ranged units are the best possible option in the game, I've come to love long-ranged units for many reasons. They can start firing away at the defending army from the first turn, and they pack quite a punch. The reason why long-ranged units are only recommended from the High and Late Middle Ages is because previous long-ranged units like the catapault and ballista are too weak and the buildings take up a lot of room.
Crossbowmen are a very nice upgrade from archers in terms of increased damage output and a bit more defense. They'll usually get 2-hit like archers, but can sometimes require 3 hits to be taken down. A downside is that they have a range of 5, whereas archers have a range of 6. But, it's a small price to pay. Once you unlock crossbowmen, be sure to sell off your archery ranges and build 3 or 4 crossbow ranges, depending on how frequently you fight. Usually 3 is sufficient.
Once you unlock trebuchets in the late High Middle Ages, you can choose to either stick with just crossbowmen or build 2 trebuchet camps. A combination of crossbowmen and trebuchets is a very good offense, and trebuchets are an excellent defending unit. You can even make things easier on yourself by getting rid of crossbowmen and just sticking with trebuchets. The recommended setup is 3 or 4 trebuchet camps.
Step 5: Preparing For the Endgame – Longbow Archers and Cannons
You've gotten quite far, and now all the hard work has paid off in the form of these offensive powerhouses.
Longbow archers are absolutely magnificent. They have an incredible range of 7 tiles, and so they can often hit the defending army if the defending units move ahead far enough. They have been beefed up quite a bit compared to crossbowmen, and so they can take a few hits against lower-tiered units and even cannons. Their damage output is very high, and can add the extra punch you need against defending Late Middle Ages units. 3 longbow archer ranges should be sufficient, and later on a 4th range might be necessary when facing neighbors with tougher defenses.
Cannons are a viable replacement for trebuchets, although they have a disadvantage: their range is 2 less than that of a trebuchet. Trebuchets can attack defending units without even moving, but cannons need to move up at least 2 tiles in order to attack defending units that haven't moved. This is really only a problem when it comes to an 8 vs. 8 long-ranged unit battle, and so it's not a big deal. They pack a bit more punch than trebuchets, and can take down Late Middle Ages units a lot better than trebuchets. Replacing trebuchet camps for an equal number of cannon camps is the way to go.
For those interested in competing in both the Late Middle Ages tournament and the High Middle Ages tournament at the same time, keeping about 2 High Middle Ages military buildings should be sufficient enough.
Longbows are going to be the best option to take out some of the earlier Colonial Age provinces, which can be quite tough. Some regions won't be possible without Colonial Age units, but a good chunk of them can be beatable, despite being a challenge.
Step 6: The Endgame – Colonial Age Units
Compared to Late Middle Age units, Colonial Age units have been beefed up quite a bit. These units are very hardy, including the short-ranged units. They'll require several shots from Late Middle Age units alone, and are formidable against all other lower-tiered units.
The Colonial Age is arguably the first age where there is decent balance between the different unit types. First, I'll introduce each unit, and then I'll talk about strategies.
The first unit you will unlock is the short-ranged unit: musketeers. They have the same range and movement as longbow archers, but they pack an incredible punch and have a boost in defense. These will be the backbone of your Colonial Age army, and fare quite well against most Colonial Age units.
The next unit you will probably unlock is the main infantry unit: rangers. They have the same movement as great sword warriors, but have extremely high damage output. They gain a large defensive bonus in bushes, and are the only units so far with a special ability. Rangers become completely immune to ranged attacks when they stand in forests, and so the only way to ever damage them when they are on a forest is to stand right next to them and attack. Of course, this leads to some retaliation damage, and so it's best to target other units and wait for the rangers to move out of the forest.
The third unit you will probably unlock is the cavalry unit: dragoons. They have the same movement as heavy knights, and have the highest defense in the game. It takes quite some strength to take them down, and since dragoons pack quite a punch themselves, these units are great if you use them, but are formidable if you must defeat them.
The fourth unit you will probably unlock is the infantry-ranged unit: grenadiers. These are a peculiar unit, and are unlike any unit we've seen before. Grenadiers are infantry units, but they use a ranged attack. Their range of attack is 2 tiles, however. Although they have a measly movement of 12 (6 normal tiles), they are tied with dragoons as the unit with the most defense in the game. They also gain defensive bonuses when on normal terrain, and so they are extremely hardy.
The final unit you will unlock is the long-ranged unit: field guns. These are my favorite. They are absolutely magnificent. As with all long-ranged units, the damage output is not nearly as great as the other units, but their advantage lies in the fact that they can attack from the first turn. With an enormous range of 15, this unit is an incredible upgrade from cannons, which have a measly range of 12. They can pack quite a punch, especially in large numbers.
Now that the units have been covered, let's talk about the unit balance. Musketeers are going to be the average unit. They deal a good chunk of damage against grenadiers, rangers, and field guns. Against grenadiers, about 2 to 3 shots are required. Against rangers, 3 to 4 are required. And field guns always require 2 hits to be killed. Rangers are excellent against field guns, great against musketeers, decent against dragoons, and extremely poor against grenadiers. And since grenadiers have a range of 2, you can not count on retaliation damage when the grenadiers attack. However, when rangers attack, grenadiers can retaliate. Dragoons fare fairly well against all units, but are especially great against musketeers due to their speed and defense. Finally, field guns are good against musketeers (3 hits, or sometimes 4), grenadiers (3 to 4 hits, or sometimes 5), and do very poorly against rangers and dragoons.
This knowledge of unit balance can help determine what units to use for offense. Despite the heavily defensive units in this age, the recommendation does not change from previous ages, and the ideal setup is a mix of musketeers and field guns. You will need field guns to help pick off enemy musketeers, and you will need some musketeers to provide the punch that field guns lack against other units. And although this army does not fare too well against an 8-army of rangers or dragoons, all other armies should be manageable with this arrangement.
Rangers are an option if you want to take down lower-tiered defenses. They will take 1 bar or less damage against a trebuchet shot, and so they are useful for taking down 8-trebuchet armies. As for using them on offense, I do not like the idea too much, and as such I have not really tested it out. You'll have to see if you'd like to try them out when observing their defensive power.
Grenadiers are probably the most useless unit in the Colonial Age. They are extremely slow, and can easily be picked off by musketeers and field guns. If you're not going up against an army that has any, then they are quite good. But that's almost never going to be the case.
Dragoons are in the same field as rangers.
Building military buildings/units solely for the purposes of defense is not something I would recommend. Getting plundered is very trivial, and if you time things well, you can avoid having your goods plundered, which is really the only thing that you should worry about. Being plundered a couple of coins or supplies is meaningless in the long run.
Along the way, if you want to minimize the number of attacks on your city or annoy the attackers, there are several defensive options that you can deploy. Remember to place your units in the defending army slot and not the attacking army slot, as that will do nothing for your defense. Defending units do not get killed or lost, and so it's something that you may as well do, unless you are trying to avoid giving PvP players some battle points.
Unfortunately, defensive options are really only available towards the end of the game. Just about every defensive combination before the Late Middle Ages is breakable. And because I have not dealt much with defending, this section of the guide will be very brief.
Step 1: Starting out – 8 Spearmen
When you first start out, your defense should just be all spearmen. They have quite a long movement range, and so for new players, 8 spearmen is a tough defense to break through with just Bronze Age units. And even against archers, they can sometimes require 3 or more hits to take down, and so the attacker will most likely take some damage. The goal here is to annoy and deter, not so much successfully defend.
Step 2: Not much change – 8 Archers
The Iron Age does not offer many good defensive options, and so when defending, you might as well just stick with 8 archers as your defense. It'll at least damage the attacker's units to some extent, and the only way they can avoid any damage is if they use 8 long-ranged units.
Step 3: The extremely annoying defense – 8 Mounted Archers
Here we get the first defense that is very handy. Mounted archers, though offensively weak, are defensive champs. Due to being cavalry, and the added bonus of being ranged, mounted archers can almost always move and attack on the first turn. Because of this, the attacker's army gets damaged about 99% of the time. This proves to be extremely annoying for the attacker, as they probably cycle through the neighborhood and attack everyone. By damaging many of his/her units, you cut down the number of fresh units he has remaining and make it annoying for the attacker to fight you each time. He/she may reserve you for the final neighborhood fight, or just leave you alone after first seeing your mounted archers.
Step 4: The certain-to-damage defense – 8 Trebuchets
Mounted archers don't always damage the attacking army because of random terrain configurations. If the attacker gets lucky with a bunch of swamps or forests in the middle of the field, then the mounted archers can't attack on the first turn and get picked off instead. The remedy to this is the 8 trebuchet defense. Trebuchets can attack on the first turn without even moving, and so when you have them in your defense, you know for sure that the attacker is going to lose a couple units. The best possible way to combat an 8 trebuchet defense is to use 8 mounted archers, as the 8 mounted archers can go first and take out 4 trebuchets on the first turn. However, almost no one uses 8 mounted archers as an offense.
Step 5: The offensive-to-defensive switch – Longbow Archers and Cannons
In the end, most people have a combination of longbow archers and cannons for their offense. This also proves to be an effective defense, as both units have great damage output and range. A simple defense of 8 longbow archers, or a combination of longbow archers and cannons, should be a very good and annoying defense to go through.
Step 6: The First Iron Wall – Great Sword Warriors and Heavy Knights
Until this point, all defenses are penetrable. But once you reach great sword warriors and heavy knights, that no longer holds true. With the recent unit buffs and stat changes, great sword warriors are no longer as useless as they were before. Their movement bumped up from 10 to 16, making them able to quickly traverse across the field and get to the attacking army. They have incredibly high defense, and take multiple shots from any ranged or melee unit to take down. Generally, they hold their ground against just about any defense, but the downfall is that if the terrain arrangement is crowded with swamps, rocks, and forests, then this defense can be defeated.
That's where heavy knights come in. Because of their extreme movement range and their high defense, these units are similar in defensive capabilities as the great sword warrior, but don't suffer as much from random terrain generation. It is very hard to take down a single heavy knight with even Late Middle Ages units, and so taking down 8 is just about impossible.
A simple arrangement of 8 of either unit will probably be sufficient to have an impenetrable defense. However, as I have almost no experience with such defenses, I can not guarantee that they are impenetrable. But from what I've seen when attacking players with a couple defending great sword warriors or heavy knights, it does seem to be the case. Only when they go up against Colonial Age units will this defense prove a bit weak, but this is always the case when a defense meets a higher-tiered offense.
Step 7: The Impenetrable Defenses – Colonial Age Units
With the heavy defense buffs of the Colonial Age units comes the option to create truly impenetrable defenses. Not all are meant to be impenetrable; some can be effective deterrents for lower-tiered attackers. So first we'll start off with the general defenses.
Using 8 musketeers in your defense will probably be the first option you get. And it's not a bad defense at all. Musketeers have good defense and great offense, and will be hard to take down for non-Colonial Age players. However, against other Colonial Age players, it probably won't do too well, since they can be picked off by field guns and don't stand much of a chance against rangers and dragoons.
Another option will be a mix of musketeers and rangers. This can be quite effective, as the rangers can act as the shield for the musketeers, and the musketeers can help protect the rangers from being picked off. I have not really tested this defense, but a mix of field guns and musketeers can probably take it down, albeit heavy casualties.
8 field guns is quite a troll of a defense. This is because of a little-known fact for players that have never seen field guns: they attack before any other long-ranged units. Many players have adopted long-ranged units like trebuchets and cannons into their offense. And what happens when they attack a player defending with field guns is that the field guns will all fire before the trebuchets and cannons. Once the attacker sees this, they will immediately surrender, as they have no chance. However, once the attackers catch on, they'll bring rangers, dragoons, and musketeers into the mix, which will break through.
Now, time for the truly hard to beat defenses. A defense of 8 rangers or 8 dragoons is probably impossible to defeat currently unless you use 8 grenadiers or 8 rangers/dragoons and get very lucky. Even then, the casualties are going to be enormous, and so the attacker will probably never attack again, making this an extremely effective deterrent.
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