Most players only use typical fighting techniques(rushing, gushing, etc.), but there is a different way to play that is relatively useful, if used with the more common techniques. The use of psychological manipulation is very useful, as you can trick your opponent rather easily. Granted, some of these strategies could cost a rather large amount of resources, they can make your opponent bang his/her head on the computer in frustration. Confusion and anarchy are your friend, and you need to learn how to utilize and control them. When your opponent is not in a state of peace(mentally), he or she will not perform as well as before, making him/her more susceptable to an attack.
1. Civilization stereotypes: Most players are rather stubborn in that they will focus on one strategy and will not stop, you must use this to your advantage. Usually the opponent will be stubborn in this way when he/she realizes that you are a civ that "specializes" in a certain line of units or strategy(Viking: Infantry, Persians: Cavalry, Mayan: Flushing, etc.) He/she will mainly only use the counter to the unit or strategy that he/she expects you to employ in battles(Persian: Pikemen, Viking: Archers, Aztec: Appropriate flushing defenses, too many to list), so you most likely already know what he/she will build. What you need to do is use the counter strategy or units to the units/strategy your enemy will use in order to try to defend himself against you. Although powerful if pulled off, using this strategy is rather risky, because your opponent may anticipate your strategy and build the counter to the "radical" unit that you are planning of creating. Though this is somewhat confusing due to all of these opposites, here is a diagram, with the civ example being the britons, that should help you in understanding this technique:
2. Staggered formation: Along with protecting yourself from hazardous scorpion and magnonel fire, when your army is in staggered formation, it looks much larger than it really is. When you have large units such as cavalry or seige engines, the army's size is exaggerated even more. The effect of your army looking larger than it really is, is that your enemy might get frightened and may retreat. Even if they do fight, they may be in a confused frenzy to fight off your seemingly large army, which means that the amount of extra troops that your enemy might train could severly slow down his/her economy. Although your army may be destroyed, your enemy's economy should be worse off, because 1. His army was hurt also, and 2. He did not take the economical "prerequisites" that are usually needed in making a strong army.
3. Double fronted attacks: (Note: This strategy is best used with an ally, so you will not have to switch from one part of the map to another.) Situate 2 armies on either side of an enemy. First attack with one army, and when a it seems a large portion of your enemy's army is defending against your first army, attack with your second army. Most likely, your enemy will have sent all of his/her army to the other side of his/her territory, so one half will be nearly completely unguarded, not counting whatever towers or walls in that area. Although the buildings will hurt your army somewhat, they will be very weak without any unit support. This will make it much easier for your second army to break into the city. Eventually, your enemy will be forced to send his/her army to defend against your second army, allowing your relieved 1st army to break through the city much easier. During the time that your enemy's army takes to get across his/her territory your armies will both only be fighting around 1/2 of the opponents army. With 1/2 of the enemy's defenses obliterated, the other 1/2 will fall easily. This diagram should allow you to understand this strategy more easily:
4. Initial Scout Raids: This strategy is rather useful in the start of the game, using your initial scout. Although it takes a bit of micromanagement, you can use gather points on your town center, making the computer do what you would normally do, although slightly less efficiently. Using the scout, attack one of your opponent's villagers. If it defends itself, order your scout to retreat. Most likely, your enemy will send a couple villagers out to kill your scout, in order to stop your harassments and put you at a disadvantage(no scout means it is tough to mount an attack, because you are unable to scout your enemy). During the time that he/she is focused on killing your scout, some of his villagers may become idle. Also, villagers that are trying to kill your scout cavalry will not be gathering resources, further putting your enemy behind economically.
5. Houses or Trebuchets?: When you have reached the Imperial Age, you will have access to trebuchets. Just that fact may frighten your enemy. When your army has reached the outside of your city, lay down several houses, but don't build them. By some strange coincidence, unbuilt houses look exactly like trebuchets unpacking. Your enemy will send Cavalry, so kill them with pikemen. With the enemy's cavalry killed, pull out your real trebuchets, as it will be easier to destroy the enemy's city. If you are lucky, your enemy will think that your real unpacking trebuchets are houses, so he/she might not attack. If he/she does attack, simply defend with your army. Since most of his/her cavalry was killed in the first charge, it will be rather easy for your army to keep the trebuchets from being destroyed.
6. Villagers vs Buildings: In the Imperial Age, research sappers, which will give your villagers a +15 attack vs. buildings. Keeping them fairly guarded from enemy troops, these sappers can demolish building rather quickly. Most players do not expect villagers to come in and raze their city. They player will usually ignore the attacking villagers, or just send a couple troops to try to fight them off. Your guarding troops will dispatch the defending soldiers, and several buildings may be destroyed before your enemy finally sends enough troops to repulse your attack.
7. Verbally confuse: This is the "strangest" of these strategies, but it works rather well. There is several ways to confuse an enemy, be it saying gibberish, etc. If you say something like "I will flush you in the imperial age", your enemy might be confused greatly. There is no need for me to say why. You can also tell your enemy what you are "planning" to do. This will get your enemy to think if you are insane to tell him your strategy, and if what you said is true. Because he/she will be distracted thinking about what you are going to do, he/she will start to neglect his/her economy or play the game not as well as he would normally.
8. Buildings= Enemy "Distractors": If your enemy is about to attack you on land, quickly build several cheap, relatively strong but quickly built buildings, such as houses or lines of pallisade walls, all over the area of land between your enemy and you. When your enemy reaches these buildings, most likely he/she will attack them, moving from building to building. Since the enemy has been busy razing your buildings, you will have saved time to strengthen your defenses and reinforced your army. These buildings also give you the knowlege of how far away your enemy's army is and what the army is comprised of, due to their LOS.
9. Fast Castle Booming?: It is possible to trick your opponent into thinking that you are going to fast castle rush them, when you are actually booming. Advance to the castle age in the typical time that a fast castle time would be(15:25-18:00), while keeping a robust economy, rather than a strong army. The enemy will use the typical defenses against fast castle rushes, and will not boom or expand much at all. This leaves your nation free to boom and expand all over the map, giving your already ahead empire even more of an advantage. Eventually the opponent will realize that he/she was tricked, but by that time it will have already been too late.
Many of these tactics will not effect the most seasoned, expert players, but many times they can be successful. When successful, you will have an enormous advantage. Though sneaky, these tactics are very useful and can mean the difference between a glorious win or a horrible loss.