Old World – Definitive Multiplayer Guide

Comprehensive Guide to Multiplayer


There are lots of different ways to play MP. You can play network games in real time which tend to last several hours, or play by cloud, taking turns as and when, which are more likely to take months.

You can work together vs the AIs or Barbarians in the Horde scenario, play a 7 player free for all (FFA), play against each other in teams or in 1v1 duels.

In this guide I am going to be focusing on fast paced network duels, though a lot will also apply to other MP modes and single player (SP).

Differences From Single Player

If you are used to the SP game, there are a few important differences to be aware of:

  • Early conflict is likely. Players are less likely than AIs to give you a break, ignore weakness or be bought off with tribute if the war isn’t going your way. Opportunistic players will declare war to kill a damaged scout left in the open and if you don’t build an army you will get invaded. Be prepared.
  • Turn timers are often turned on in network games as waiting for other players isn’t much fun. You will have to make decisions quickly and with a fast turn timer you will almost certainly have turns where you run out of time. If you are played with a tight turn style (recommended), prioritize your military unit actions and events first, as you can deal with civilian units and city production on your opponent’s turn.
  • For games with more players, communication is important. If you are playing in a team you will be most effective if you can coordinate well with your teammates. Choose research paths that complement each other (i.e. one player focuses on melee units and another archers), share resources where needed and plan your attacks to support your teammate. Voice chat is highly recommended here.
  • In a FFA, game negotiation with other players can be a useful tool to peacefully agree on borders, agree ceasefires and peace deals where mutually beneficial and work together in alliances.

No Characters Mode

There are a lot of customization options in MP but the one that will have the biggest impact is no characters mode. This is designed for competitive MP to reduce randomness. When this option is enabled large portions of the game are removed. As the name implies there are no characters but also no families, events or legitimacy. No characters means no leader, no heirs, no councilors and no generals.

All cities get a governor which grants +2 growth, +2 science, +4 training and +4 civics. This has a huge impact on making military units a lot faster to train and growth units slightly faster. Orders will also be severely limited as you won’t get any bonus orders from legitimacy. Ancient ruins give bonus resources instead of events, making them considerably less important.

Early Game Strategy

Picking A Nation

Assuming the host has allowed players to choose their own nations on game start, the first decision will be picking a nation. Things to consider:

  • How big is the map and how many opponents? Duel maps strongly encourage picking a militaristic nation such as Assyria or Rome, on larger maps with more players you may benefit from more of a tech/economy focus with Babylon or Egypt.
  • What type of map is it? A Hardwood Forest map is going to make life difficult if you want to focus on ranged units, so Persia and Babylon may not be good choices. An Archipelago map will benefit Babylon more due to their high science rate leading to faster ships and Artisan families making the ships stronger.
  • Are random leaders / families enabled? Some nations are strictly worse with random leaders (Greece) where others are generally better (Assyria).
  • Are tribes enabled and how strong are they? A Carthage merc hiring campaign can be very effective with plenty of tribal units around, if tribes are off or only spawning infrequently then Carthage is considerably less powerful.
  • For duels, what nation has your opponent picked? Consider counter picking – i.e. on a duel map with a Persian opponent, there is a strong chance Chariots will be in your near future and Egypt with its easy access to Spearmen would be a good choice. Greece might also be a good choice on a larger map against Persia, Carthage or Egypt as they will have an advantage when Unique Units (UUs) are facing each other.

Family Choices

In a fast-paced MP game, the Family Seat Founded bonuses can often have a larger impact on the game than in SP. For your capital I highly recommend Riders for the free Scout, Artisans for the free worker and Champions for the free Garrison.

All these families also have other bonuses which are useful in MP. Good options for later families are Statesmen for the Civics and Sages for the free tech. The free tech will be selected from the cards in your tech deck – with Sages as your 3rd family and a bit of luck you can sometimes get 3rd or even 4th level tech from this.

Expansion and Scouting

Much as in SP, the early game is about fast expansion. Prioritize food and growth with your first worker to speed up settler builds and get your military to clear barb sites. Concentrate on settling towards your opponent / the center of the map to claim territory first. Churn out settlers and workers to get your empire and economy up and running, focusing on getting a good resource income first before urban buildings.

The main difference in MP is scouting is even more important. You want to get as many ancient ruins as you can as these can have huge effects on the early game. Free technology and councilors in particular are often massive advantages. AIs will often ignore these so you can hoover them up at your leisure, but competent players won’t let you do this.

A side benefit of early scouting is increased legitimacy and harvesting particularly for culture or possible events such as a free Elephant when harvesting Elephants. You also want to know where the other players are and what they are doing but this is more important later in the game. If you are playing a nation with the Riders family then it’s often worth making this your capital for the free Scout.

Tech Choices

There are some techs that you just can’t do without. You will regret not researching Stonecutting ASAP if you don’t start with it. Iron Working and Trapping are also important to allow you a mix of tier 1 (T1) units. You don’t want an all melee or all ranged army. The sooner you can get Labor Force the better as Slavery is essential for orders.

You also want to get access to a T2 unit ASAP. Spoked Wheel is an obvious choice for Persia as they start with the prerequisites. Other nations with a rider family can also get a good benefit from Chariots.

Similarly Phalanx is an option for Egypt, though this is a bit more situational due to their weakness against axemen. Consider what your opponent is likely to be building and confirm this with scouts where possible.

Steel is the most common T2 choice as axemen have no weaknesses vs other unit types. Assyria will likely go this route as they start with Military Drill, though not Iron Working or Stonecutting so one of these will need to be delayed.

Composite Bow is the final option but it requires twice the research of the other T2 unit techs and lots of wood to build, so this generally only makes sense when you have a good tech rate and plenty of nearby forest to chop.

An early rush for Unique Units (UUs) is possible. To build your nations UU you need a Stronghold which requires both Developing culture and 4 laws active, which means you need culture, tech to unlock laws and the civics to enact them.

In practice tech wise you need Aristocracy, Rhetoric, Labor Force and either Sovereignty or Navigation. Don’t forget some nations need Horses or Elephants for their UU, unless you have a Riders family seat with Developing culture.

Military Build Up

At some point you will need to turn your focus from expansion to military. A couple of units will suffice initially for clearing barbarians and tribes but you will need a big army to compete against another player. Once you have a worker in each city and a high growth city focusing on settlers the rest of your empire should mainly be focused on military.

Cities that can build cavalry or UUs should focus on those while your other cities build a mix of melee and ranged units. Try and increase training production wherever possible.

Barracks and mine specialists are your main options here. High courage governors are fantastic though these are rare as Archetypes that start with high courage can’t be governors, so you may need to rely on leaders and tutored heirs for this.

While you always want a mixed force of units, the map and your opponent may dictate what types you focus on. A preference towards ranged units is usually a good idea as they are more order effective and better at focusing down enemies but heavily wooded maps will make using them effectively harder.

If you have a lot more ranged units you might consider chopping trees on the front lines to deny cover, though this can be risky. If your opponent has invested heavily in cavalry you will want a larger force of spearmen to counter them, and more cavalry to counter siege units. Scouting is still important here as it will help to know what you are going to be facing ahead of time.

Some of your military will likely be occupied clearing more sites and it’s wise to keep a small force on the back lines to deal with rebels, but most of your troops should be in your border cities.

Keep in mind that war can come swiftly and without warning, so keep your troops in defensive positions where possible. On forest tiles and behind rivers are the best places to be and don’t forget to fortify your melee units if you aren’t planning on moving them in the short term.

Consider how best your units can move between cities and reinforce your front lines. A road network over difficult terrain can be invaluable. Also don’t neglect movement over water where that is possible.

On inland sea maps, a string of cities along the coast where the coastline is all within your borders will make troop movement massively faster. It’s worth trying to fill in border gaps and Builder leaders can really capitalize on this by building a line of urban tiles along the coast to expand borders.

Even a single coastal city has the advantage of water movement in and out of the city, allowing for reinforcements where otherwise Zone of Control (ZOC) would cut them off.

When To Attack

If you are listed as Stronger or Much Stronger than an opponent you should definitely take advantage of this and press the attack. Failing that, as soon as you get a new unit tier upgrade and can upgrade or rush a few of the new units would also be a good time.

Try and get good visibility with scouts before rushing in, not just of the area you are planning to attack but of anywhere reinforcements can come from as well. Lone enemy units can be tempting but be aware of possible counter attacks if you leave yourself in a poor position. Don’t send in one or two units that could be surrounded and picked off unless you are trying to bait your enemy into exposing themselves.

This applies to attacking barbarian and tribal camps as well. You don’t want to exhaust yourself against a strong tribal camp only to find another playing swarming in, finishing off your damaged units and taking the site for themselves.

Be aware of what other players can see via their units and borders and what they might be able to see from scouts. You can clear cut an area to deprive enemy scouts visibility, though bear in mind Schemer leaders can have a scout anywhere.

Send in units en masse. Gather your forces and move them up together, sticking to defensive terrain where possible. Attack with all your units at once and make the most of the first strike advantage to kill units as many as you can before they can counterattack.


Some basic combat tips:

  • Use terrain to your advantage and pick a fight when the terrain favors you. Forest and at a pinch scrub is great for protection against ranged attacks and melee units will struggle to attack across rivers. Urban tiles give a defense bonus to infantry against any unit, though be careful with this if facing siege weaponry. Use hills to get a range advantage for your ranged units and to negate a range advantage from an enemy being on a hill. Ensure units with Ranger and Highlander promotions are on the right terrain to benefit from this and place Amphibious units next to rivers to maximize that advantage.
  • When placing units also think about ZOC, how many units can attack and routing. If you are facing all melee units, a tight line of units can ensure each unit can only be attacked from 2 hexes, making it much more difficult for an opponent to pick units off. On the other hand, once cavalry are on the scene you need to consider separating your units to prevent devastating rout chains.
  • Check what generals and if you have time what promotions opposing units have. Nothing is more frustrating than combining all your units to get a kill on a tough enemy only to realize they are a Zealot and you are short 1HP worth of damage.
  • Prioritize targets. You are better off killing 1 unit then damaging a couple. A leader general who is a Tactician or Hero should always be the top priority to kill, followed by any units with Rout, then units with generals that have high attack strength or critical chance.
  • Kill units before attacking cities. Cities can’t fight back, will take several turns to make a new unit and can repair quickly. One caveat to this may be if you are attacking a Developing culture or higher city that is rushing units every turn. In this case it may be worth sparing one unit to keep the city damaged to prevent them from rushing. Conversely, if you need to fall back you are often better doing so behind a city, tempting the opponent to waste their time attacking the city while you regroup.
  • Retreat when you need to. It’s pointless getting your units picked off one or two at a time trying to defend a position when you are outgunned. You have a better chance of recapturing a city later if you can preserve your army, whereas if your army is dead the city is going to fall anyway, probably followed by the rest of your empire.

Know Your Enemy

I have already mentioned the importance of scouting, it’s essential to know where your opponent’s cities are, what their army consists of and where it is massing.

Another thing you need to keep an eye on is other players leaders and their heirs. In the nations tab, hovering over a nation will show their diplomatic status with other players and their relative power and tech levels. Hovering over the leader’s portrait will show you their stats, archetype and traits and clicking on it will show their immediate family. This is all useful information.

Clearly, if another nation is stronger than you then you need to redress this as soon as possible. Focus on building up your training and making more units. A tech lead is harder to make up on as you have less options here but it’s important to know that you may be facing stronger units.

In a FFA game it’s easy to miss when other players diplomatic state changes, so checking this information can be vital when your two closest neighbors are at war with each other (time to join in for easy pickings) or have allied (time to look for your own ally and get your defense in order).

The archetypes of a nation’s leader can have a huge impact. The main two to look out for in MP are Tacticians and Heroes. Beware of fighting nations lead by these characters as both stuns and launch offensives can be decisive in battles. `Don’t forget that players can abdicate at any point, so you need to check what heirs are as well to determine the potential for this.

Archetypes and How to Use Them

It’s important to play to your strengths to take full advantage of them.

Your nation bonuses, families and starting techs all play a part in this as discussed earlier. Another important factor is your leader and their heirs archetypes.

Consider which archetypes would be most useful to you both now and in the future and train your heirs appropriately to try and maximize the chances of getting a heir with the archetype you need.

Don’t be afraid to bypass heirs to get the next leader you want and it can sometimes even be worth abdicating to get them immediately, particularly with Hero heirs.

In MP, the best archetype for a leader is without question the Hero. The ability to attack twice with a launch offensive is incredibly powerful, not to mention the extra training per kill and bonus to melee attack strength. Put the leader on a ranged unit in order to maximize the amount of hexes you can affect with it and don’t be afraid to use it liberally.

Remember units don’t get fatigue back, so try and position units so they can attack again without having to move. You can also use this if you are already in position to attack and then fall back and heal afterwards. All hero generals can also heal in neutral territory which is a handy ability to have.

Following this is the Tactician, with the ability to stun units. Also best on a ranged unit, to increase the number of potential targets and to make them easier to defend. This is incredible early in the game when unit counts are low to completely unbalance a fight and can lead to early domination on Duel sized maps.

It’s also still useful later when you need to take a particularly powerful enemy unit out of the fight, especially if the enemy is also fielding one of these leader generals. The ability for ranged units to hide in trees can also be a nice surprise for an unsuspecting opponent. Non leader tactician generals ignore critical hits, which is ok but not amazing.

You can rush units in the capital with Commanders using orders which is somewhat more situationally useful but Commander rushing several units before a war is great. Commander generals are decent if not exceptional.

Zealots can rush any production with training in any city that has a state religion. If you can get a religion up and running (which isn’t always the case in fast paced MP) and can generate a load of training this can be very powerful. Outside of leaders, Zealot is likely the best archetype for a general to give them a little more survivability.

Builders can spam urban tiles quickly and cheaply which is fantastic for expanding your borders. This is useful for quick coastal movement, the ability to heal and combat bonuses from being in territory.

Diplomat leaders can get tribal alliances are handy if you can pull it off but otherwise they are not very useful in MP.

Scholar leaders can redraw techs, perform inquiries in the capital and tutor children which are all great abilities both in MP and SP.

Orators and Schemers can spend legitimacy to hire mercs and buy orders respectively which doesn’t seem amazing but could save your hide in a tight spot. Schemers also have permanently invisible scouts which means you have free reign to roam over your opponent’s land.

Judges – well, they can Hold Court to exchange Training for Civics which could be useful, but I would avoid this archetype in a leader.

Egor Opleuha
About Egor Opleuha 7011 Articles
Egor Opleuha, also known as Juzzzie, is the Editor-in-Chief of Gameplay Tips. He is a writer with more than 12 years of experience in writing and editing online content. His favorite game was and still is the third part of the legendary Heroes of Might and Magic saga. He prefers to spend all his free time playing retro games and new indie games.

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