*** UNDER CONSTRUCTION ***
Age of Empires III = an oldie but a goodie
I've been playing this game against the computer AI for Ages, desperately trying to improve my score. Yet no matter how quickly I moved my "focus" around the map, from Workshop to Barracks to Town Center, I never seemed to produce units or create villagers to gather resources as fast as the AI.
I had got to the point of suspecting that on the higher 'difficulty' levels the AI 'cheated' when I noted how the expert players who posted their games on YouTube etc. always seemed to continuously reinforce themselves with perfectly timed and evenly spread streams of units from multiple production buildings all over the map.
So I went and read the Tutorials (also found on various YouTube channels) that introduced me to concepts such as Control Groups, Way-Points and Patrolling. Together with a numeric keypad with reprogramable Function keys, this is the secret of beating the AI (and other players).
Your PC is quite capable of accepting multiple 'keypad' devices plugged into it's USB ports. With one Keypad dedicated to eg Comnbat, and a second to eg Production, you can maximnise your use of the available time without needing to think about Key Lock or Mode switching ... What's more, some Keypad drivers have a 'macro mode' that allows you to program a string of characters into a single key stroke ! This allows the player to finally equal the speed of the AI when it coes to issuing commands
I was familiar with the concept of assigning units to a control group. For instance, in the Dark Age I assign my Scout to control group 1 by selecting the scout using my mouse, holding Ctrl and then pressing 1. From that point on if I tap the 1 key it selects my Scout, if I quickly double tap the 1 key it selects my Scout and puts it in the center of my screen. Later on in the game, during the Castle age might have a bunch of crossbowman assigned to group 2 and a bunch of rams assigned to group 3.
I was also familiar with assigning the building to a particular control group. In the dark age my town center is on control group 3. I use the 3 key if I want to select my town center as a dewetination for a unit without actually switching focus to it.
I was also familiar with selecting all buildings of the same type that appear on your screen by double-clicking on one of those buildings. For example If you have five barracks on the screen and you double-click one of them you will then select all five barracks and then you can set a common gather point for all of them so that pikemen for example, that are produced in any of the 5 buildings will automatically go to the same gather point. Nice.
However what I didn't know until recently is that you can assign not just units but buildings to a control group. First select the buildings, then press the number key to set that group of buildings to that group number. Later, you can queue up units spread over all the buildings at the same time.
For example (and I'm labouring the point to try in an effort to make it easy to understand) :-
First note that the hot-keys A, S, D and F can be used for all unit production at all the military buildings. For Archery Ranges, A is for archers S is for skirmishers D is the cavalry archers F is for hand cannoneers The hot keys always match up with the order in which units appear on the 'build' screen. So if the archery range is selected, A means archers. If you happen to have some other building selected, eg Siege Workshop, then A will be whatever is first in the Siege Workshop build list. Specifically :- For Siege Workshops A is for rams S the mangonels D is the scorpions F is for bombard cannons. Now whilst this is good for speed - your hands only have to find the 4 keys that are all in the middle row on the keyboard - it's a pain having to remember what is #fisrt' for each building. For Monasteries, A gets you Monks, for Castles A is for 'unique' unit. You get the point. Anyway, back to the topic of assigning the buildings to a control group. I've just tested this against the computer. I built 4 archery ranges. I assigned them to control group 2 and set a common gather point. Then I hit the S key 4 times in quick succession and a skirmisher was produced from each of the four archery ranges at exactly the same time. Amazing. I tested it further by then holding shift and pressing S twice. Holding shift has the effect of queuing 5 units at a time instead of one unit at a time. Holding shift and hitting the S key twice queues 10 skirmishers. This is a bit of a pointless trick when you've only selected one range because it will queue up 10 skirmishers and that takes ages. I was curious to see what would happen if I queued 10, a number of skirmishers that was not divisible by 4, across my 4 archery ranges. I paused the game and checked. To my delight (I know it's really sad) 2 of my 4 Ranges had queued 2 skirmishers and the other 2 Ranges had queued 3 skirmishers for a total of 10. The first 4 skirmishers came out of the ranges simultaneously and went to the gather point. They were followed by another 4 in a second simultaneous wave. Finally, two of the ranges had stopped working but the other 2 produced the final 2 skirmishers in a 3rd simultaneous wave.
Next subject :- Pi UPS - (Uninterruptable Power Supply)