Anno 1404 puts the player at a great disadvantage in the beginning of the game regarding military actions versus the AI. In fact, you cannot even build military units until 510 patricians live in your city, at which point you get access to the Keep building. Therefore, the number one goal when playing against hard AI is to avoid war until you've at least built a "Small Town" that is running a decent surplus of gold.
This guide will aim to show you how to maintain peace, build a proper military force, and destroy hard AI players when the time is right.
Keeping up with the AIsEdit
One crucial factor in maintaining peace is to not fall behind in your city growth compared to the AIs. You will lose reputation very quickly if the AI feel they are outpacing you and therefore, more powerful. So with hard AI, advancing your main settlement to new civilization classes quickly is essential. Do not delay getting the first citizens and patricians to move in because the AI achieve this status in remarkable time.
Beginning settling of islandsEdit
There are always a few large islands that are ideal to take. Some players recommend a rather cheap strategy of sailing around and mapping the world and then starting the map over again through the menu and sailing directly to your already selected island(s). If you want to play fair however, since time is of the essence on hard, it's advisable to take the first semi-large island with cider and hemp fertilities you find.
Settling the orientEdit
It's imperative you settle your oriental settlement as soon as possible. This means you should purchase your first diplomatic letter from Northburgh immediately once you have 50 honor accumulated. Sail to Al Zahir, deliver the letter, and take his new oriental trading ship he gives you and go settle a large oriental island with dates and spices fertilities at least. Hopefully you already explored much of the map with your flagship after you founded your original settlement.
Get an oriental city going and start producing spice as soon as you can so you can ship it home to meet your citizens' needs so they can quickly advance to patricians.
As stated in the introduction, maintaining peace is absolutely essential to surviving with hard AI in the beginning and mid-game. You will lose if they attack you in the first 10 to 15 minutes because you simply do not have the resources to defend yourself.
Tip: If any AI declares war on you and destroys all your ships, you have virtually zero chance of winning in the long term. Don't waste your time and just load an earlier save or restart the map.
As said, the number one goal is maintaining peace. And you maintain peace exclusively by boosting your reputation with the AI players. Your reputation can be checked on the diplomacy screen. The following are all the ways to boost your reputation early on.
One thing you must do is always pay the AI tribute when they ask for it. Giving them the gold they demand will increase your reputation with them. Not doing so will lower it. Moreover, if they don't ask for tribute for a while, you can manually give them a tribute through the diplomacy screen. Do this when the percentage chance of success is moderately high.
Completing quests for neutral powers, Northburgh, and Al Zahir more often than not increases your reputation with the hard AI. Although, doing quests for Al Zahir will mildly anger Cardinal Lucius. Still, it's always advisable to complete all early game quests, not only for the possible reputation boosts but for the rewards. Earning lots of money is critical on hard because you will be paying tribute constantly, which is very expensive.
Tip: If you get certain goods for completing a quest that you don't need, be sure to sell them to Northburgh or Al Zahir for some extra gold.
Once you reach 355 citizens, which you should reach quite quickly if you hope to win, immediately build a Tournament arena and hold the first level tournament. Tournaments will very often boost your reputation with several of the hard AI players. This is very critical to building up enough reputation to enter into trade treaties.
In stead of making lots of houses in the beginning of the game go very fast to citizen. Most AI will like it when you grow and they will think you're stronger. First 4-5 wood, a fish and town with just enough houses to build a church and cider. (dont forget to build a orient city as fast as possible). Make citizen and as fast as possible a tool chain production, then you can extend your houses and wood production but dont forget to upgrade fast to patrician. You will have to ask for gold once ore twice, but your population is more advanced and AI are likely to agree.Now you can realy start to extend you city and take some extra islands. With this strategy you should always be a step ahead of your enemy.
Here's a summary of first 15 minutes of gameplay against a Hard AI, Giovanni di Mercanti on small archipelago with hard, ragged and tiny islands.
- Why Giovanni di Mercanti is difficult to beat
It is difficult to beat Giovanni di Mercanti, because:
- Mercanti knows where to colonize, he will snatch the best islands from you and do it before the game really gets started.
- Mercanti is a very fast builder and he can satisfy many needs of his people at once.
- Mercanti rushes port-upgrading and starts churning out his first warships 15 minutes into the game.
Giovanni di Mercanti's first 15 minutes Edit
- Mercanti scans two islands before he finds what he wants, he claims the biggest Occidental island with Hemp and Cider fertilities
- Mercanti quickly covers the island with half a dozen market places
- Mercanti's immediate next step is building one Fisherman's Hut and five woodcutter's huts
- Now with wood and food Mercanti proceeds to building a Marketplace and surrounding it with houses in a very neat pattern.
- After Mercanti is satisfied with the number of houses he has, he invests in cider plantation and a chapel, the first citizens appear almost the same second.
- With citizen buildings unlocked Mercanti expands his production base adding Stonemason's Hut and loops to produce Linen Garments and Ropes
- Tools and harbor upgrade
- The remainder of Mercanti population becomes citizens half a minute later and now he rushes to erecting a tools chain. Being an aggressive buyer, Mercanti may have bought additional tools from an NPC merchant who visited his island.
- Ten minutes into the game Mercanti has most citizen buildings unlocked. Mercanti has a stable Tools and Stone inflow.
- Mercanti then upgrades his Harbor, adding a repair crane and a small shipyard
- Mercanti adds another dozen or so houses which almost cover 100% area of influence of his marketplace and quickly builds a small trading ship.
- Oriental exploration
- Mercanti sends this ship to claim the biggest oriental island with dates fertility.
- Mercanti builds a dozen houses on this Oriental island to unlock spice
- In the meantime, Mercanti builds another ship.
- While the second ship is built, Mercanti's flagship claims the biggest island with spice fertility and plantations soon follow.
- Almost the same minute new set of tools are delivered to his first oriental island which results in satisfying Mercanti's population's needs for dates (two plantations) and milk and also adding another dozen of nomad houses.
Tips to beat the hard AI Edit
- Have Cider and Hemp on your first island, there's no time nor Tools to go look for an auxiliary Occidental island early on.
- If you see a good island, do not hesitate, take it right away. If you later find out the hard AI has got a better one, you can restart the map and then rush there. A good island is not just big. It needs cider, hemps, at least 1 stone, at least 1 ore but also the location is very important. If you have a good but not best island in the middle of the map than take it. Your trade routes will be shorter, which means better to protect and faster delivery of goods. Protecting your trade ships can then be done by using towers and your flagship in stead of more expensive war ships.
- Block ascension rights right away and upgrade only as many houses as you need to get to higher levels. Do not waste a single tool or piece of wood.
- Or build 4-5 woodcutters, little city, advance to citizen (around 5min), build a tool chain. With this strategy, AI will like you because you are more advanced and you wont need to buy those expensive tools. Now you realy have to extend your wood production.
- Rush into citizens level not caring much about building layouts and how many houses you have, just pop them left and right until you get enough population, you will have plenty of time to correct the layout later.
- Rush into stable Tools and Stone production very fast. Buy Tools through your warehouse as soon as possible. If it's 10 minutes into the game and you can't produce Tools yet, you've lost and might as well restart.
- Have at least 5 Woodcutters.
- EXPLORATION. You need to know hottest islands of Orient and get them fast. It's best done with your Flagship and Lord Northburgh's Tools and Wood he sells right away. Go, find big Dates and Spice islands and claim them under 10 minutes of your game... or you will lose them. Again, take an island which is not to far from your first island.
- Honor and Vizier. The first recommendation letter from Lord Northburgh to the Vizier will earn you a ship full of Tools and Wood, you should use those to claim a bunch of new islands, one with Crops and Herbs (Beer and Bread for first Patricians), one with Indigo and Silk (Carpets for Nomads) and for the future two more to produce Leather Jerkins (River and Brine deposits) and Glass/Mosaic (Quartz and Clay). Or DONT do this. You will have a lot of resistance of the AI, its expensive and there are enough islands to get to nobleman. With nobleman its very dificult to avoid war and then you just have to destroy one of the AI's to conquer the right islands (in stead of vice versa).
- Ship production. You need Ropes right after you have Tools and you need a Shipyard built during first 10 minutes. No matter what. (Make ropes, but wait with the shipyard until it is realy needed)
- The first priority for the patrician level is to provide the patricians with Beer and Bread, leave Jerkins for a few minutes later.
- The second priority is to get Warship production started. You can't beat the hard AI without jamming his supply lines and driving him bankrupt with his population ravaging his streets. This can also be done by using your honor in stead as for other upgrades. If it is possible, you can do the first two upgrades for a larger fleet and you get large war ships.
- Trade with the hard AI a lot. Every time a player trades a certain amount of money, the AI respects the player more and more (from +1 to +3 reputation points depending on the amount).
- Complete all quests and get as much honor as possible.
- Use the honor to upgrade your flattery diplomatic option, and use it as often as it maxes out.
- Use your honor to upgrade Lord Northburgh's and the Vizier's auxiliary fleet, so then when war does come, you have some instantly-buyable ships.
- Save often, and be prepared to load an earlier game if the AI suddenly decides to land an army on your island. Rule one in war, take initiative. Be prepared to build a castle and at least two armys. In case of war, send them to HIS island and when he is to strong than protect your armys with your ships. If you dont have ships than you lost the sea. In this case you can only pray.. or load a previously game.
- Hold tournaments. This pleases the AI very much. (As an aside, the amount of Honor you receive from tournaments depends on the population of the island, so build the tournament building on your main island.)
- In most games (not just against the difficult computer opponents) you don't do your economy any good by building shipyards, weapon smiths, rope yards, etc any earlier then you absolutely have to. All of them come with pretty steep upkeep costs, so the longer you can put them off the more cash you'll have for other things. Until you're up to the noble level never keep multiple warships sitting around "just in case", and even then you don't want to keep all that many (I usually have no more then 5). You have to use your honor very carefully instead, and always try to make sure you have enough to call for at least one auxiliary fleet (two is better).
To use a real world analogy, back in the middle ages very few kingdoms had much in the way of a standing army or navy because they cost too much in comparison to the overall economy. The solution was to have a very small core body of troops during peace time, but to expand the army as fast as possible once war broke out. As soon as the war was over, the army shrunk again. Same thing goes for this game, because nothing will sink your economy faster then a high military upkeep. The biggest difference is that you shouldn't keep ANY troops on land during peacetime- your (small) navy should be your entire defense, possibly backed up by some walls/towers on your home islands.