Fast Feudal? Fast Castle? Fast Imperial please! Aiming for a fast feudal age will do it on most open maps. Closed or resource heavy maps usually ask for a fast castle. But how about going for a fast imperial? Let’s see what it gives.
Under some circumstances you can skip feudal on open maps. Usually when there’s an abundance of resources or an easy to wall map. Maps that are closed by nature, like arena or black forest can take a step further and aim for a fast imperial. The purpose is then to make an army of cost effective units to overrun your surprised enemy.
Civs & Units
A fast imp is usually achieved in 20-22 minutes with around 30 villagers or more. This means you have a very narrow economical window to make units. Cavalry is excluded by definition because the accumulated cost of food and gold is way too high. The same story for regular infantry because they need a lot of upgrades to shine. Above that you’ll need siege to backup your units. The key is gunpowder. Hand cannoneers need no more than 3 upgrades and you can immediately make bombard cannons to back them up.
This leaves us 10 civs: Byzantines, Franks, Goths, Japanese, Koreans, Persians, Saracens, Spanish, Teutons and Turks. Let’s break them down in detail.
- Turks: Turks are definitely the best FI civ. They have better guns, free chemistry and a gold mining bonus. Above that they get free upgrades to hussar. Especially the chemistry upgrade is a plus because it saves them 100 seconds of waiting.
- Byzantines: Byzantines have a cheaper imp and therefore can start this time-consuming upgrade faster. They’re for sure the civ that can get to the imperial age the fastest. But what to do after that? Guns are the most obvious way to go, but unlike Turks they have to wait to research chemistry. Those 100 seconds don’t weigh up against their faster imp time. They also have cheap trash units and camels which can jump in later.
- Persians: Another civilisation from the middle east to top the charts. Persians have a faster working TC, so their bonus is a bit similar to the Byzantine one. This is the last civ in the chart to have a viable FI. We’ll run further down the list but from now on the effectiveness of a FI is only determined by its effect of surprise.
- Spanish: With faster firing gunpowder units (15% faster), Spaniards have an obvious bonus. But without any aging bonus they’re not so speedy at achieving it.
- Saracens: Their market bonus can help you compensate some resources. They’re a great civ for “combined FIs” but for a pure one they’re just a normal civ.
- Teutons: Their cheaper farms give you a good boost all the way through since fast impers usually suffer wood shortage. They lack camels though, but we’ll explain the strength of camels later.
- Franks: Their only bonus is the free farm upgrade, which obviously saves a good amount of wood, but it won’t make the cut.
- Koreans: Koreans have no bonus to benefit a FI. Not for a gun-based FI at least.
- Goths: Goths are the only civ without any real economical bonus so their FI capabilities aren’t anything special. Given the fact they can’t stone wall you must be guaranteed not to be attacked for 25 minutes.
- Japanese: They save a good amount of wood but this only gives them a very narrow advantage in aging up. Besides that they’re the only gun-civ not to receive bombard cannons. Which makes their FI quite useless. You could add rams but it’s not nearly as effective.
We will only consider Turkish FIs in the upcoming examples.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Surprise: The biggest strength is the effect of surprise. Especially on teamgames a FI can be a surprise. And if you attack a player who went for an all out boom, nothing can stop your path to victory. This is because bombard cannons tear through buildings extremely fast and hand cannoneers have very few counters in the castle age.
- Response time: A well executed FI should give the enemy about 1-2 minutes to respond if he doesn’t anticipate. If you attack well, that should leave him without a chance.
- Signals: on duels a FI is usually signalized by slower aging times. A 17-18 minute castle age is not-done on pro levels so at that point you have 4 minutes to come up with a response. Which is doable. If you can scout him out you may even signalize a FI in dark age.
- Disturb the Peace: First units will come out at about 21-22 minutes so assuming you did a FC that gives you 5-6 minutes to launch an attack yourself. If you can wreak havoc on his town before he hits imp he’s most likely to lose.
Practical Example I
In this game from BCC3 we have a battle between [RVK]Cain and [RVK]RiuT. RiuT is Turks and Cain is Goths. It seems that RiuT tries to eliminate the weaknesses of an FI and in the meanwhile increase the strengths by playing mindgames. In BCC3 arena is always played on all visible. Which makes mindgames a lot different. Anyways, RiuT went to mine stone in dark age, which usually signalizes a castle drop. Cain noticed this and made a barracks in dark age to create some archers in feudal/castle in order to secure the arena and prevent a castle drop. RiuT was aiming for a FI however and just sold the stone for gold. He imped in 21 minutes while Cain had nothing but some archers and a boom going on. RiuT broke into Cain’s town soon and started to plunder his base. Cain tried to respond with archers but because bombard cannons have splash damage the archers were decimated in a blink.
What did we learn?
A Fast Imp that comes unexpected will most surely lead you to victory. You can try to confuse your enemy by slightly modifying your buildup.
Practical Example II
Nothing stops you from going aggressive yourself. And if you’re confident with your monk micro skills, you can easily mess up a fast imper. I’m using a picture series of a game of Chinese vs Turks. Chinese have a good monkline. It’s a game of my own, so no record is included, mainly due to my silly start where I couldn’t find my second boar. The fast imp was executed in 22 minutes though, which is how any FI is done nowadays.
At about 20 minutes I start ramming the enemy. I know he’s going to imp at any moment now.
The moment my rams tear down his walls the Turk imps and the fun can begin. For me at least.
I immediately send my monks out to convert the siege shop and the archery ranges. I use my siege to catch fire and kill the first hand cannoneers.
I now have a converted bombard cannon, 2 ranges and still all my monks. My enemy soon loses his TC and another bombard cannon. He has no choice but resigning now. Battle report: I lost 3 units in a match that only lasted 25 minutes against a normally executed FI.
Because a rec is still worth a thousand pictures, I’d like to include a record between _MYST_IORI and CNA_ConquerorS (CNA_HS, HuaShuan) The game is between Turks and Aztecs, but any civ with good monks can pull this off.
What did we learn?
Monks beat the crap out of a fast imp. If it’s a good aggressive one at least. Every civ with redemption (and possibly sanctity) can pull it off.
Practical Example III
But what to do if your forward fails? We’ll take the rematch between [RVK]Cain and [RVK]RiuT in BCC3 as an example. RiuT tries to forward with a castle but Cain towers his castle and kills all of RiuT’s villagers and makes him leave a half built castle behind. RiuT now had to come up with a new plan and this plan was knights. Cain imped in 22 minutes and started to pump hand cannoneers and bombard cannons. RiuT gathered knights in the meanwhile and launched a long series of attacks on Cain’s guns. RiuT lost a lot of knights but he kept on par with Cain’s guns. Which prevented Cain to gather a solid force. Cain tried to incorporate camels now to counter RiuT’s knights but he kept running instead of fighting. RiuT kept Cain busy all the time running around and by picking small fights he could avoid a big push. RiuT imped now and with cavaliers, heavy scorpions, halberdiers and bombard cannons Cain was forced to resign.
What did we learn?
Knights beat guns. Only with a small margin but they beat guns if you can get a sufficient number.
Practical Example IV
Goths obviously have bloodlines, other civs are a bit more troubled but that doesn’t mean their knights don’t make the cut! In this game we have Japanese vs Turks, Japanese have one of the worse knightlines in castle age so it’s not the most obvious unit to make. But it’s their best bet nevertheless. Watch how DauT uses them to kill kkab in this BCC2 training game.
What did we learn?
Knights beat guns, even if they don’t have bloodlines. And if your eco is strong enough, you can blend in skirmishers to absorb some fire.
Practical Example V
Last but not least I’d like to share this game with you, it’s from an tournament where L_Clan_Chris and ThuG_RuKie played the finals. It’s a Turks-war on arena, so brace yourself for all the things that have been mentioned earlier combined into one thrilling game.
Meso civs vs Guns
The Meso-American civs (Mayans and Aztecs) don’t have cavalry to counter guns, so they must come up with something else. Aztecs can rely on their powerful monks if they decide to do an early rush. But Mayans -who lack redemption- can’t choose that path. Their strength is in their cheap archers however. Especially in their plumed archers, which don’t die so easily to bombard cannons as regular archers. Meso civs must anticipate more than other civs though, so just sitting around and waiting for the FI to strike will make it a lot harder on them.
A fast imperial comes with a risk, you need to be untouched for about 23 minutes and hope your enemy is unprepared. If you can surprise your enemy or play some mindgames with him you’ll have a great chance on succeeding. If you face a fast imper, then there’s only one golden rule if you want to give yourself an easy time: offense is the best defense.