What is the Home City, and why is it such a big addition to the Age series? The HC adds a new layer of depth to strategy of every game you play in Age of Empires III. It can change the outcome of a game depending on what kind of shipments the enemy or you choose. You will be able to build different kinds of strategies before you even start the game. Want to rush the enemy? Select military-oriented shipments. Want to dominate the seas? Select naval-oriented shipments. The HC RPG element makes every game you play full of different decisions and situations.
The real-city locations of the Home Cities are the following:
- British: London
- Dutch: Amsterdam
- French: Paris
- Germans: Berlin
- Ottomans: Istanbul
- Portuguese: Lisbon
- Russians: St. Petersburg
- Spanish: Seville
Experience Points, or "XP", are the points you gain by destroying enemy units and buildings, building units or buildings, picking up treasures, or just simply being in the game. It's actually a fourth resource that you must collect over time, much like Favor in Age of Mythology. XP automatically generates, but not nearly fast enough to give you immediate shipments. The amount of XP gained from training or killing units varies; destroying a Cannon will obviously provide more XP than killing a Musketeer. Buildings follow a similar pattern -- large, expensive buildings are worth more XP than smaller, cheaper ones. A common misconception is that Home Cities provide "free stuff", so you don't have to try as hard. However, XP limits the amount of shipments you can send at a time and forces you to earn them as the game progresses.
Once you acquire a certain amount of XP, you earn a shipment. As the game progresses, each additional shipment requires a greater amount of XP. Want more XP? Try to secure a monopoly on Trade Posts. Each generates a small amount of XP at every pass, providing you experience without having to fight for it. However, if you want to get a lot of XP, conflict is the best method.
Shipments, also known as "Cards", are technologies, units, or resources you can send to your New World colony from your Home City. Although these shipments are not physically "playing cards", using them requires a similar strategy. Just like in a competitive card game, you build a deck that would complement your strategy. Since a single deck is limited to 20 cards and each shipment must be earned through XP, you must plan your deck carefully.
Only shipments that have been unlocked can be used. You can have a maximum of 20 cards in a deck during each game. Certain cards, such as the Crates of 300 Food, are available immediately and can be used repeatedly, as their benefit diminishes later on. More powerful cards, such as the Fort card, are not available until the Fortress Age and can only be used once. These restrictions discourage players from stacking decks with all powerful cards and forces them to adjust either their deck or strategy accordingly.
All Home Cities begin at level 1 and provide 15 cards. As you gain XP, your Home City can level up. Each time you level up, you can add a new card to your deck after the game. To accumulate the most XP out of any game, make sure to manage your army and economy well as you thoroughly crush your opponent's.
When faced with the decision of choosing which new cards to select, always consider the opportunity cost and how it affects your strategy. You can try to rush your opponents early on by stacking military shipments, but in doing so, you give up other cards, such as shipments of settlers, which could have helped stabilize your economy should your preemptive strike fail. Because every choice comes with its consequences, think carefully before purchasing new cards.
Many cards must be unlocked (usually after your Home City reaches a certain level) before you can purchase them. Some cards can also require you to purchase other cards as prerequisites. By focusing on specific units or technologies, you can minimize the number of new cards you have to buy.
The Home City has several buildings where you purchase a new card or technology, and the basic buildings you can find are:
- New World Trading Company - Economic shipments
- Military Academy - Military shipments and technologies
- Cathedral - Defense and building upgrades
- Manufacturing Plant - Economic technologies
- Harbor - Naval shipments, technologies and Mercenaries
Generally, decks are decks of cards you can choose to play before each game. Since each deck can contain a maximum of 20 cards, you may soon find yourself with too many unusable cards. Fear not, for you can create multiple decks. Should your ambitions lie in conquering the high seas, considering loading up on naval wood benefits so you can quickly dominate the oceans. If you're playing on an all-land map, you can play with another deck. Perhaps you want to emphasize strengthening your military to raid your opponent's economy. When building your decks, however, keep in mind the limitations of your civilization. For example, the Russians may find themselves ill-equipped to create a viable "booming" deck as they lack villager shipments.
The decisive part of Decks is that you must choose wisely what you will include, and you should look at your opponent's decks in multiplayer games. You don't know what they'll pick, so you must be cautious in what you do. They could easily be choosing a Deck that will defend against any strategy you pick, which will turn the tide of a game in their favor.
Note that you will not see what deck your opponent picks and vice-versa until the game begins. This is where the unknown factor plays in. You must understand a civilizations weak spots and strengths if you want to predict what sort of deck they will assemble, and knowing the cards of a civilization only works in your benefit. You can name your decks anything you want, so when you choose a deck before the game, a descriptive name will help you pick out the ideal choice.
The host of any multiplayer game has the option of setting a minimum and maximum level for the Home Cities of other players before they enter a room. Only those who have a Home City that falls within that range would be eligible to play that game. You can also use the ESO2 Quick Search to filter out all Home Cities that are not in a certain range so the game is fair.
There will be several ways you can customize your Home City so it looks unique from any other player's Home City. Customizations are varied; you can add entertainment to the streets of your HC (Jugglers, Artists, Drunks...), or even market vendors and nobles. You can even design the buildings by changing the building color, adding "Market Day" flags, etc. Ensemble's aim was to make the customizations unique and varied enough so you can distinctly tell the Home City of one player from another's. Of course, the customizations are purely cosmetic -- they only affect the look of your Home City, nothing more.
You gain customizations by earning them, which aligns with earning cards with levels. Every new level lets you select a new customization.
Mercenary units are a special shipment from your Home City (The Harbor), acting as a very powerful version of your typical units. Jaegar's, for example, are powerful Skirmisher units, while Swiss Pikemen are advanced Pikemen units. Unlike their counterparts in Age of Mythology, however, the Mercenaries in Age of Empires III do not disappear shortly after their creation. Instead, they can only be shipped in groups, and can only be shipped once unless you reach the Imperial Age. In order to ship Mercenaries, you must be either in the Fortress or Industrial Age (depending on the Merc) and fork over large amounts of coin. While they may be expensive and difficult to obtain, Mercenaries are easily more powerful than any common soldiers and are definitely worth the price. Under intense attack from the enemy? Hire a band of Mercenaries to fight off your foe. After your Home City level reaches 10, you will be able to unlock the ability to ship over armies of Mercenaries.
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