To truly understand the term "booming", you have to go back to the days of Age of Empires. AoE was the first game where you could build multiple Town Centers (or the equivalent of ), thus multiplying your villager count with more speed. It didn't take geniuses to realize that you could build up your empire faster with multiple TC's producing vils. Soon, a strategy was developed : The powerup. The powerup was a term from Warcraft II. Ways to make it more efficient and innovative twists as the strategy evolved came along. Certain players became legendary for their booming skills, notably maimin_matty and _Methos_ST among many others. Methos wrote an excellent article on the old "GX - AoE Bible".
When Age of Kings was released, players had to start over; new starting build orders, different gameplay forced changes in how people went along in building up empires. Booming reached a new level in AoK, villager counts reaching 120 often. Recorded games allowed players to see how experts boomed, making booming a more common skill than in Age of Empires.
Now, in The Conquerors, booming has been made harder. TC's now cost 100 stone on top of the 275 wood. Once again, new build orders were experimented with and players were noticed for their booming skills.
Yes, recorded games do allow players to see how their favorite experts boom, but it is a skill that is not grasped completely by most of the community. There is no "build order" for a boom. You have to know what you are doing and why. Having a good power-up is the key to victory. It is hard to truly explain how to go about booming because it isn't as simple as most strategies. Economic strategies are quite touchy, because of the depth of AoK. So many different possibilities, 3 resources to deal with, etc.
With all this flushing madness right now, many players don't even have to make it to the Castle Age to take wins. How many games have I won that I was beaten in the Feudal Age but rebounded in Castle because my opponent didn't know how to boom? You would be surprised.
I certainly am not the best boomer out there, whatever I may say in this article is purely opinion and consequently not everyone will agree with what is written in these pages. Take what you want from it and leave aside what you think is wrong.
Once again before reading I'd like to warn you all that build orders are the devil. You shouldn't follow them blindly, figure out what works best for you.
2.) The Boom:
Reaching population 100 in under 30 minutes and if booming straight to imp, reach the Imperial Age under 30 minutes.
You are probably thinking right now you would never be able to do that, you have never managed imp times close to that. Others are probably just confused, they are booming consistently to 100 population in 30 minutes, but can never manage to imp under 32, and to top it off they have barely the resources needed to champ flood or make a sizeable imp army.
I am ready to guarantee that anyone with any intelligence and minimal amount of skill will be able to understand how to achieve this and do it with similar results. It's not brain surgery, it's playing video games.
First off, you need to choose what type of booming you are going for. In every game you make it to Castle, you will have to do some sort of booming, but if you know before-hand you will attempt heavy booming, here is what works best.
2.2) Choosing your civilization:
Top civs for Imp-Booming:
Britons: Fast sheeping for a good Castle Time, cheap Town Centers for a less expensive boom, need further explanation ?
Persians: The faster working Town Centers will make not only creating vilagerls faster, but also researching Wheelbarrow and Hand-cart technologies, vital to booming.
Byzantines: Cheap counters to defend yourself from a feudal rush or castle attack. The less expensive Imperial Age Upgrade will make a big difference for when you are shooting for a sub-30 imp time.
Other notables: Celts for the wood bonus, Chinese for speed and cheaper technologies, Vikings for their free wheelbarrow and free hand-cart.
Top civs for booming and building a Castle Age attack:
Celts: Added wood bonus will help you a lot considering all the buildings you will need and the faster siege bonus will allow you to start your attack sooner.
Chinese: Grab that time advantage (+3 villagerl start) and never look back; cheap techs will come in handy to upgrade your units and get wheelbarrow and handcart cheaper.
Vikings: Free wheelbarrow and hand-cart will give you a big resource advantage, the best infantry in the game will give you a killer imp army.
2.3) When to execute an Imperial Age - boom:
Now, when is the right time to go ahead with an imp-boom ? This form of the power-up is quite risky because you are vulnerable for a good 29 minutes in the game. The enemy would have time to amass a big Castle Age army before that time. If you decide to go ahead with this, certain things have to be on your side.
Map: This could work on practically any land map except for Arabia. You must be able to wall yourself from enemy attack, Continental, Highland, Oasis, Rivers, Black Forest and Mongolia are all maps on which walling is made easy.
Location: You can't expect to boom well with one boar, a small hill forest, stone surrounded by forest and hill gold (ok maybe that is pretty rare). Point is, don't go for it with conditions you think will slow you down too much. The enemy will be swarming you in little time.
The pocket would obviously be best for you; protected by your two allies (assuming a 3v3), making it to the Imperial Age will be easier.
2.4) From the Dark to the Castle Age:
Everyone seems to have a different way to get to Castle Age, most of them have advantages and all have disadvantages. What you want in a build order for an Imp-Boom is at least 600 wood, 300 food and around 250 stone when you Castle. Whatever way you choose to reach that is up to you, here is what I suggest.
Some people would think that the more villagers you build in the Dark Age, the better your powerup would be. False. Making more than 30 villagers before Feudaling will not only make you vulnerable to enemy attacks but also slow you down. Getting one more TC up than you would with a few less villagers or two will not make up for time lost. I agree that it would be stupid to attempt 14 minute 25 villager castles for a good boom, but according to some tests I conducted, the best combination would be 29 villagers in the Dark Age and two more during the Feudal Age while constructing the two required Castle Age buildings.
Why not research Wheelbarrow in the Feudal Age ? I used to do this myself, but with time I have realized that it is in fact more efficient to build two extra villagers instead of quickly grabbing the upgrade. Those two villagers will have an impact on your economy right away, contrary to the wheelbarrow, which will mostly effect your farming (which you are not doing much of, yet), and takes a while to be noticed. More in the upgrades section.
Hit your H+C+C+C+C to queue up your villagers and build your two houses near at the limits of what you have explored, again as said in my Galley Rushing article, this could find you your sheep, as your villagers will uncover a bit of uncharted terrain. Send out your scout and start eating sheep as soon as you can.
The simpler way would have you put your first 6 villagers on sheep and the next three on berry picking, but if you're looking to try something new that has worked great for me, try putting two woodcutters on stragglers near your TC after the 6 sheepers and then send two villagers build a mill near some deer. Deer hunting being faster than berry picking, the time you should have been picking berries will be made up and you will have more wood. After having sent your deer hunters or your last berry picker, start chopping trees with the next few villagers.
Keep your eye on your scout, it would be a shame to have to go back and scout through a spot again if you didn't come close enough to some sheep to "convert" them. Start thinking already where you would place your lumber camp and mining camps. Walling up around now is recommended if you have a good idea of where you could wall.
Build your lumber camp as soon as you can, ideally between two forest, preferably at a single good forest, and hopefully at flat land. The placement of your lumber will have a great impact on resources.
I have always farmed in the Dark Age but some people still don't. I build farms with villagers (pop) 20-27 if I'm going for a 29 villager - start. Pop 28-29 and one boar hunter go mine gold.
If you choose to hunt deer, you will eventually need to build another mill either for deer hunting if you have found another deer herd (optimal) or near some berries which could serve as long term food income.
Raising your barracks and house at spots you think would make for good tower or forward base placement - be sure to secure at least one mine of stone, place a house or other building near it. You could try going Castle with only a Market and a Blacksmith, which would save you wood, but in my opinion this it too risky and a bad move for your team. Go for blacksmith and stable.
2.5) The actual booming:
If you did things right and your economy wasn't disturbed, you have enough wood to raise 2 Town Centers every game, with almost enough wood to build a third TC', usually enough. If not, review this build order and try and see what went wrong.
Where to place your Town Centers - sweet spots:
To eventually build more Town Centers and Castles, you will of course need some stone, so priority one should be stone. There are a couple things to consider before deciding which stone mine you will place your Town Center near. An ideal location would be on the backside of your base, near a good forest and on highland. You could define that as a sweet spot.
The way I see it, those first three TC's will be the core of your boom. The reason many of you are imping late with not enough food and too much wood is that you raise too many TC's !
As soon as your Town Centers have been raised, you must build farms with every villager to be created, except of course the Town Center near stone where you will need more stone miners to raise a castle for defense and to advance to the Imperial Age.
Building up defenses for an Imp boom:
As soon as you reach the Castle Age, queue a few knights. Keep them on the patrol stance to watch out for forward bases and big armies. Secure your mining resources, this is probably where the enemy will build up.
A Monastery will be a must. Train a few monks, and if you see a big attack coming up, queue up more knights and build some more monasteries. Monks require a lot of micro-management, so you have to be aware of where your monks are and what is going on all the time. At 100 gold each, monks are a big gold investment.
The secret to getting a good Imp time:
Once you see your clock getting near 22-23 minutes, add villagers to gold mining so you won't be waiting on gold to trickle in when you want to imp. Every once in a while you will need to send villagers to chop wood instead of raising a farm because you won't have enough wood, usually in early castle.
Orienting your economy towards wood income to be able to raise more Town Centers faster is useless here. That is the real secret to having good imperial age advancement times: farming, and lot's of it. Player_Xi_ ( retired from aok ) was known for her 80 villager - champ floods, before anyone would be imp. The secret was getting farms up instead of TC's. Less villagers, more food. An excellent example of this strategy was a game in AoK between Meldin and pak_se_ri [you can find this game in our Downloads-section; it only works with AOK unpatched though]. Quick imps and enough resources to champ flood by both players.
Don't get through the game on your 4 TC's though, you will want to build one or two more to secure your other resources, and perhaps one at your forward base. Wood surplus will grow with time, slowly the cost for your farms will be less than your wood income. That is when you should raise more TC's, don't suspend farm building for TC building.
Of course, you will have researched double-bit axe, horse collar and faster gold mining while upgrading to the Castle Age. Castle Age upgrades are a little bit more touchy, which ones do you really need and which ones can wait ?
-- Wheelbarrow and Hand-Cart: Are both very good economic upgrades, but you really shouldn't get them until later in Castle. As Lothaire_IV put it, think of wheel and hc as loom. You don't get loom after your fourth vil, do you ? Wait until your first three Town Centers are up to research the wheelbarrow. Players who research wheelbarrow and handcart as soon as they can are sacrificing one Town Center ! The wood costs of these two upgrades amounts to 275 wood, the equivalent of raising one TC.
-- Second Wood and Farm upgrades: Should all be researched some time in Castle. The second wood upgrade, you should get ASAP, realize that this upgrade is vital to good boom. Wood will be scarce with all these farms going up. The second farm upgrade you can wait a little be#fore researching, because your horse collar farms should last for a while anyways, get it before hand-cart, but after the second wood and wheelbarrow upgrades. It is more of a luxury to me, and certainly not a game-deciding factor.
Good booming, as I said before, comes with experience, as you start getting used to booming, you will develop a "Sixth Sense" for your stockpiles. You will know when you are low on food, or whatever resource at a particular moment in the game. Keep practicing, try to give yourself time marks, what you should have accomplished at a certain time.
2.6) After Clicking the Imp button:
You will need to shift your economy. You probably have around 10-12 gold miners right now, you will need much more than that to build your imp army and get the military upgrades you need. Selling wood and food is an excellent idea right now, prices for both of these resources are high. This will give you an advantage for when gold piles run out. The selling price for food and wood will already be low when your enemy wishes to sell off these two resources.
Build your military buildings right now and start building units from the unit tree you wish to build your imp army on. Get your unit tree and unit upgrades as well. This will allow you to counter a castle age army if the enemy has one as well as allowing you to hit the opponent earlier.
Minos suggested building two blacksmiths while upgrading to the Imperial Age to get your upgrades faster. This will allow you to get upgrades from two different lines faster, but I am usually short on gold at this time, so I would suggest to lay off the upgrades for a bit and get your unit line upgrades (champs, arbalests, hussars).
Well there it is, from the Dark Age to the Imp Age, I tried to cover almost any economical concerns you might have. Don't expect instant results after reading, as I said (a few times) in this article, you can't follow an exact build order to boom. All I can offer are general guidelines to help you out as you experiment with new ways for your powerup. After all, what separates the good players from the experts is creativity.