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Age of Empires 4 tips and tricks

age of empires 4 tips
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Need some Age of Empires 4 tips? This real-time strategy game can be quite challenging to get into, especially if you’re not that familiar with the genre yet. There’s a lot (and we mean a lot) of micro-management and know-how involved.

So if you need some Age of Empires 4 tips and tricks, we’re here to help you out. From learning the most important hotkeys to understanding the counters, this is how you win the game.

If you’re looking for some guidance on your very first steps (such as prioritizing food or gathering sheep with your Scout), you should check out our Age of Empires 4 build order guide as well. We can also help you work out how to rotate buildings in Age of Empires 4, too. 

Learn the Age of Empires 4 hotkeys

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Real-time strategy games are all about speed and efficiency. If you want to win a match, it’s therefore wise to learn the Age of Empires hotkeys. Instead of moving the camera back to your Town Center manually, you can go there at once by pressing a button. And instead of manually selecting idle Villagers, you can select them all at once. 

These are some of the most important Age of Empires 4 hotkeys to memorize:

  • Go back to the Town Center: press H
  • Select all units on screen: control + A
  • Select all idle Villagers: control + . [dot]
  • Select all idle military units: control + , [comma]

These are just the default settings though; most hotkeys can be re-mapped according to your own preference. 

Create unit control groups to better control them

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Besides using the pre-assigned navigation hotkeys, you should also create control groups for your combat units. You don’t want to manually select your troops during a battle, especially when they’re all mixed up. 

Start by clicking a unit (click twice to select all units of that type), then hold the control button while assigning a key (any number on your keyboard from zero to nine). If you need to select that unit again at any point in the future, you can simply press the corresponding number. If you need to focus on that unit (move the camera), press the corresponding number twice.

As these hotkeys will likely vary depending on the game, look at the little unit icons on the left side of your screen to see which key belongs to what type of unit. It can still be handy to create a pattern for yourself though, such as always putting your bowmen on the lower numbers.

Move units with the mini map

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Another great way to improve your speed, is to make use of the mini map. Select a unit (use the hotkeys), hold shift, and then click on a location on the mini map in the lower right corner of your screen. The unit will start moving to that location, without the need to go over there yourself. 

To name an example, you can use this method for your scout just after starting a new game. That way, you can focus on building your Village while the scout uncovers the map and picks up some sheep. 

Use Rally Points for new Age of Empires units

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What to do if you’re waging war on the east side of your town, but the barracks, stables, and other military units are on the west side? Or if you want your new Villagers to start gathering wood as soon as they arrive? It takes a lot of time to pick up fresh units and assign them to their tasks manually, so you should use rally points instead.

To create a rally point for fresh military units or Villagers, click on the building that spawns them (such as the Town Center or the stables), and then right-click on the location where you want them to go. Every new arrival will automatically move to that location and, when applicable, start fighting or working right away.

If you use a rally point on a resource (sheep, gold veins, trees, etc.) the line will be blue if the resource is indeed available for Villagers to work on. If it’s not, the line will be yellow. 

Learn the Age of Empires combat counters

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Quick unit management is great, but it won’t help you secure a victory if you use the wrong counters. Age of Empires has three main land unit types, and they all hold an advantage over one of the others. Here’s how it works:

  • Spearmen are great against cavalry.
  • Cavalry is great against archers.
  • Archers are great against spearmen.

Just remember that as the enemy units advance, so should yours. Longbowmen can take down spearmen with ease, but if the spearmen are upgraded to heavy-armor infantry, you’ll need crossbowmen to defeat them.

You can win Age of Empires with economy and defense

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

We’re pretty sure that you can’t win Age of Empires 4 without having some kind of army. However, that doesn’t mean you always need to play aggressively. Obviously, if you go for the ‘destroy all enemy landmarks’ victory, you’ll have to defeat the enemy at his core (by burning down the Town Center and every additional Age landmark). But this isn’t necessary for the ‘Sacred Sites’ or ‘Build a Wonder’ victories.

If you prefer to advance your civilization, you can aim for a Wonder (available in the last Age) and defend it for ten minutes. Economy and defenses are key here. If you enjoy territory expansion, you can explore and capture Sacred Sites. This type of victory allows you to find a bit more balance between aggressive and defensive playstyles. Neither requires you to wipe the enemy off the map.

Protect your Villagers!

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Age of Empires 4 Villagers are either not very smart, or just extremely dedicated to their work. Fact is, they won’t flee when the enemy starts killing them. As this bravery may disrupt your entire economy and thus weaken the army, it’s much better to call the Villagers inside the town gates when you’re under attack. You can click the default hotkey ‘G’, or manually select Villagers and click the ‘seek shelter’ action.

On top of that, it’s usually worth the investment to research textiles (also in the Town Center menu) to make your Villagers stronger. You can get the first Villager upgrade after reaching the Feudal Age. 

Replace lumber camps

age of empires 4 tips

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

This may seem a bit specific, but the lumber camp walking distance issue is often overlooked. At the start of the game, you probably placed your first lumber camp right at the edge of a forest. However, as the Villagers keep chopping away, the walking distance to the nearest trees will slowly increase.

You should therefore try to check on all your lumber camps from time to time and build new ones right next to the remaining forest (you can’t move them). Of course, you won’t face this problem with your mining camps or farms.

Hopefully these tips will help you secure your next Age of Empires 4 victory!

Marloes Valentina Stella

I’m a freelance journalist who (surprise!) kind of has a thing for videogames. When I’m not working on guides for GamesRadar, you can probably find me somewhere in Teyvat, Novigrad, or Whiterun. Unless I’m feeling competitive, in which case you should try Erangel. You can also find my words on PCGamesN, Fanbyte, PCGamer, Polygon, Esports Insider, and Game Rant.