Rise of Nations

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Rise of Nations
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Developer(s) Big Huge Games
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Release date(s) May 20, 2003
Genre Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Teen (T)
Platform(s) PC

Rise of Nations is a real time strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft on May 20, 2003. It was an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary step in the genre, keeping a similar structure to existing RTSs (like Age of Empires) while introducing many novel and innovative concepts to the genre. Many of these ideas are taken from turn-based strategy games, including territory, attrition and a much improved economic system. Rise of Nations allows a player to lead any one of 18 civilizations through a roughly historical time frame from Ancient Age to the Information Age. The leading designer at Big Huge Games for Rise of Nations was the veteran Brian Reynolds of Civilization II and Alpha Centauri. An expansion pack, Thrones and Patriots, was released on April 28, 2004 and made small improvements to the original game by increasing the number of playable nations to 24, adding 4 new campaigns, and adding governments.



Rise of Nations was innovative among other related real-time strategy games in that one could only build within one's territory, resource gather rates were capped at various stages pending further research, and the costs of units and buildings ramp up with each successive unit or building.

Due to these and other complications, the game also lacks an aspect that was typical and annoying of other real time strategy games: near perfect build orders that emphasize luck of the spawn and clicking ability. Since villagers (resource collectors) increase in price as they are built and resource gather rates are limited by scientific advances in the library, any precise build order will rapidly become useless after about 3 minutes when the game becomes very fuzzy.

Also, since one's buildings can only be placed within one's borders, rushing with an obscure far flung barracks immediately next to the enemy city is diminished and the emphasis is instead placed upon economic development, strategic decisions like city and building placement, and timing. The amount of required micro-management ability to play Rise of Nations decently is less than other games due to various hotkeys which allows greater time to be spent on command decisions rather than their implementation. One of these useful micro-management reduction features is the infinite queue. Once activated for a particular unit, the infinite queue would pay and begin production of another unit as soon as the last completed as long as resources were available.

One's borders can be expanded by (among other things) the construction of cities, so that ones power becomes based in that of large economic cities of great importance to one's victory or defeat.

Each of the 18 civilizations in Rise of Nations has its own set of unique units (the Japanese have the superior Samurai as their heavy infantry unit for example) throughout the ages as well as an unique graphics set within their respective culture groups. Nuclear weapons in the game produce a realistic and devastating mushroom cloud animation and dogfights in the sky between fighters are well animated. Rise of Nations uses a 2D engine to render buildings and terrain, but a 3D engine to render units.

The end conditions are also made to be historically neutral in that one can win the game by a capital capture, territorial superiority, researching four dominating technologies, or the usual wonder and score victories.

A single player campaign, Conquer the World, is included in the game. It is comparable to the game Risk, except that attacks on enemy territories take place during in-game battles that can last as long as 2 hours, depending upon the scenario. The expansion added four historically themed campaigns - Alexander the Great, the Colonizing of America, Napoleon and the Cold War.


Main article: Rise of Nations Resources

Resources also undergo a significant departure from the RTS norm in this game, being shown as constant flows of resources rather than as expendable irreplaceable resources, as in Warcraft, Empire Earth and Age of Empires. This simplifies the resource gathering aspects of the game, allowing the player to concentrate more on combat. Resource production is capped by commerce caps, determined by the level of commerce research you have achieved in game.

In another interesting twist, units and buildings 'ramp up' in cost, increasing their price as their numbers in the game increase. This causes the player to employ more balanced armies, instead of armies heavily composed of any particular unit. This is used to avoid the sort of problem encountered in games where certain units are so underpowered as to make them unusable, and other units are so overpowered as to make them unstoppable.

There are three initial resources of going concern in Rise of Nations - food, wood, and wealth. The first two are gathered via farms, fishing, and woodcamps. The third by establishing trade routes, various temple upgrades, and rare resources. Upon the onset of the second age, two more resources become available - knowledge and metal. Knowledge is by far the most important and is collected by scholars in universities that must be purchased with wealth. Metal is mined in mines built on impassable mountains that are present in the landscape and is paramount for a successful military until it is eclipsed by oil in the Industrial Age.



Rise of Nations has 8 unique ages to be researched, each with its own crop of units and batch of building art. Ages divide up military developments nicely, and each age is suited to a different style of play, even though many things stay true throughout.

Ancient Age

The Ancient Age limits the military strength of the player severely. The inability to mine metal prevents the player from developing a strong army or navy, because metal resource requirements for units are replaced by wood requirements 1.5x greater in cost. The lack of any great siege units prohibits the taking of any cities, and the lack of supply wagons prevents successful foreign incursions. That having been said, early rushing is not completely out of the question. A plus to rushing is the chance that no attrition will take place because the enemy has not yet researched it. If a rushing player builds a barracks early and targets an enemy who has neglected to build up a defense, he may be able to take his city. Unfortunately, these attacks are feeble at best, and can be easily taken care of with a small garrison. Most military ventures in the Ancient Age will probably be in the form of raids on woodcutters and farmers.

Classical Age

The Classical Age gives more leeway for aggressive players. Cavalry, generals, siege and supply all come into play, providing the player with many more options. Units become much stronger in the Classical Age, and are more than capable enough to capture enemy settlements. Economically booming players will probably have to miss out on the fun, however, because their need to reinvest their surpluses back into their economy quickly is greater than their need for military strength, and they will probably pass on to the Medieval Age without investing in their armed forces.

Medieval Age

The Medieval Age tilts the balance of war back in favour of the defender. Attrition increases again, and the discovery of castles only contributes to the favouring of the defender. The Terra Cotta Army makes its appearance as a wonder in this era, and does a good job of lessening the hassle of maintaining an army.

Gunpowder Age

The Gunpowder Age brings about a small revolution in arms in the game. Arquebusiers are a leap forward for light infantry, and do a good job whenever they are used. Bombards, as well, weaken the defensive strength of the large cities and castles of the Medieval Age. Sea warfare is revolutionized as well, with sea bombards, frigates and corvettes making navies much stronger and more important to victory on land.

Enlightenment Age

The Enlightenment Age finishes the developments started by the Gunpowder Age, as all infantry now become equipped with guns. The cannon makes sieging much easier, and the improved supply research at the smelter makes invading less difficult.

Industrial Age

The Industrial Age divides the game definitively, the half with oil, and the half without. The Industrial Age brings the player semi-automatic weapons, full motorization of the cavalry corps and highly powerful artillery. Land based combat becomes highly in favour of the attacker, and the faster the attacker the better. The Industrial Age replaces the Fire Ship, a one shot ship, with the submarine, which is able to be used over and over again. The replacement of wood by metal as the prime building material for ships makes the navy have much more strength, although it comes at a high cost to your already overstretched miners. The biplane is little more than a toy at this point in the game, incapable of real damage.

Modern Age

The Modern Age gives the player a dangerous double-edged sword, in the form of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are an expensive investment, and there is a limit to how many nukes can be used before the armageddon timer runs out, but their effects on enemy ground forces and infrastructure are devastating. Aerial combat becomes much more enthralling in the Modern Age, with the development of the bomber, aircraft carrier and V-2 rocket. Aerial control becomes a priority for the player at this point in the game, calling for an investment in anti-air defenses. Strong advances are also made by land forces as well, as the tank becomes the fastest cavalry unit in the game, and infantry are greatly quickened. Self-propelled artillery hit the scene too, making lightning warfare ever easier.

Information Age

The Information Age, the final age, is a collection of minor improvements in most unit categories. Nuclear missiles are strengthened, have their collateral damage increased, and have their range made all-encompassing, representing the twin developments of the hydrogen bomb and the ICBM. Helicopters, introduced in the Modern Age, make a much stronger showing, becoming the most valuable counter to tanks in the game. Artillery reaches its pinnacle, in the form of the Rocket Artillery, but its importance is lessened due to the development of the long-range Strategic Bomber (which resemble B-52 Stratofortresses) and jet fighters. The Post-Information Age library research also has its fair share of military research, with a missile shield to stop nukes, global prosperity to further the domination of the air, by way of Stealth Bombers, World Government for the instant annexation of cities, and instant unit production by way of artificial intelligence, finishing up the game nicely.


There are roughly two extremes from which to approach the game - pure economic boom or pure militaristic rush. The purely boom player will sacrifice everything else, especially military strength, towards the investment good of a powerful economy later on capable of fielding massive armies. The rush player will sacrifice economic gain early on in the hope of a quick capital sack or at least causing more damage to the opponent's economy than was incurred preparing and carrying through the rush.

Overall, a combination of these two approaches is superior as the pure economic player can be surprised by an early attacking army that destroys an important city or harassed forward builders and wastes building resources. Similarly, a rush can be easily countered in this game if adequate scouting is done, which leaves the rushing player with a crippled economy and an almost certain loss in a few minutes. Thus, many of the best strategies involve light raiding of the enemy resource gatherers whilst booming economically.

Because every unit in the game has its counter unit (pikemen kill knights for example) and terrain and military tactics matter - a keen sense of generalship is required to make the best use of one's army. Indeed, with sufficient skill in creating proper unit distributions in an army and fielding that army, it is very possible to defeat a numerically superior enemy in Rise of Nations.

In a manner similar to chess, slight strategic mistakes early in the game can turn into major tactical woes later on. For example, a poor and hasty placement of a city in an empty piece of land when some more reconnaissance would have shown a superior wood placement site can lead to severe wood gathering problems later on since a lumbermill cannot be built to increase gather rates for the city-isolated woodcamp. Also, for rushes, simply using the wrong villager can initially cause only a two second delay that later becomes a 15 second delay that makes all the difference in the enemy's preparedness.


Main article: Rise of Nations Units

There are over 200 different types units in Rise of Nations, ranging from the Ancient Age Hoplite to the Information Age Apache Choppers. Most military units are created from either the barracks, stable, siege factory, docks, airfield or fortress. Unit types such as Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry and Ranged Cavalry are upgraded as the player advances through the ages. These upgrades usually represent revolutionary changes in their particular field. For example, the Arquebusier of the Gunpowder Age becomes the Musketeer of the Enlightenment Age, representing the great advantage of flintlock muskets over the earlier matchlock muskets, shown by increased attack power and reload speed. Also, each nation gets its own set of unique units. The Greeks get the Companion Cavalry, the Russians get the Cossack, the Germans get the Panzer, and so on and so forth. Because of the wide variety of units in the game the strategy factor becomes integral, forcing the player to make difficult decisions regarding units. Fortunately, units in Rise of Nations are very heavily balanced with one another, each having its own counter and each having a roughly equal cost, although perhaps a cost in different resources, discouraging any great diversity in armies. Units scale in cost as well, increasing in cost as their numbers increase. This, too, discourages diversity and is maligned by many players.


Economic buildings


Cities begin as small cities and progress into larger and larger forms with construction and research. The first city built will be the player's capital city. The capital city is important because in most games it's capture will bring the capitulation of the rest of the empire with it. The capital can, however be moved, with the use of the Senate. The number of cities capable of being possessed by any one player is determined by their Civic research level. Building additional cities expands a player's National Boundaries and allows the creation of additional trade routes. Cities are necessary for economic success because many economic production buildings require the city, and others benefit greatly from its presence.


The Library is where a nation researches most of its technology. Libraries have their research grouped into 4 lines: Civic, Commerce, Science and Military research. Your nation also researches ages at the library.


The Market is where caravans, needed for creating trade routes, and merchants, needed for capturing rare resources, are created. Markets can also, with the pre-requisite research, be centers for trading resources for gold, and gold for resources, making for added economic flexibility in the game.


Temples expand National Borders and provide an increase in city attack range and health.


The Granary enhances the food production of all farms in the city in which it is located.


The Smelter enhances the metal production of all mines in the city in which it is located.

Lumber Mill

The Lumber Mill enhances the wood production of all woodcutters camps in the city in which it is located.


The Refinery enhances the oil production of all oil wells and oil platforms.


The Senate is the player's center for government research, and can be made to change the player's capital. The city in which the Senate is built automatically becomes the new player capital.

Military buildings


Barracks are where Infantry and Scout units are constructed.

Stable/Auto Plant

Stables are where Cavalry and Tank units are constructed.

Siege Factory

Siege Factories are where Artillery, Supply Wagon and Anti-Aircraft units are constructed.


Docks are where Naval Units and Fishermen units are constructed. Docks are also required to allow the safe passage of land units over sea.


Airbases are where Aircraft and Helicopters are constructed.

Missile Silo

Missile Silos are where Missiles are constructed.

Lookout Tower/AA Gun

Lookout Towers provide a long observation range and the ability to see invisible units, such as spies. Lookout towers have no offensive or defensive capacities. They upgrade to AA Guns in the Industrial Age, whereupon they gain the ability to shoot down enemy aircraft.


Towers provide weak defensive fortification and have a small offensive power. They are useful for Attrition research.


Forts provide large and powerful fortifications with strong offensive power. They can also train Generals and Spies.


Main article: Rise of Nations Wonders

Terra Cotta Army
Temple of Tikal
Porcelain Tower
Angkor Wat
Taj Mahal
Statue of Liberty
Eiffel Tower
Space Program


To date there has been one expansion for Rise of Nations: The Thrones and Patriots Expansion. The additions included some possibly unbalanced civilizations including the Americans and Iroquois and a government feature. By constructing a new building, the Senate, a player could research various government technologies that would allow various military or economic bonuses as the game progressed.

Tournaments and champions

1v1 play

An Elo ranking system is currently in place courtesy of BHG to rank players. As of whenever the list was last updated, the highest ranked player in the world is PCA_Frogman with a rating of 2441. An interesting note is that as more players stop playing rated games in favor of friendly games, their ratings drop due to BHG's rating attrition system. For every 2 weeks of rated game inactivity, a player's rating drops 25 points.

In 2004, there was a world-wide online seeded single-elimination tournament named "Expanded Hostilities" hosted by MrFixitOnline wherein each player could only use a civilization once. The winner, although probably not the world's best due to missing players, was DaRq_Vorfidus.

More recently, the Revolution Gang 1v1 Tourney produced another new champion: AU_wolf. His passive-aggressive Iroquois boom strategy led him to victory over the field. Coming in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively were TWC_Tascan, PCA_Frogman, and AU_sims.


The premier clans in Rise of Nations include Anarchy Unleashed (, Tactical Warfare Collective (, and The Unstoppable Forces ( Over 30 clans participate in weekly multiplayer play through the Masters or RoN League (

Anarchy Unleashed has dominated in these leagues because of their depth. They have captured the 2004 Team World Championships and the 2005 Masters of RoN League Cup in addition to finishing undefeated in Season 1 of the Master's League.

Playable countries and their powers

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A scene from Rise of Nations

Main article: Nation Powers


External links

As of April 2005, these are the most popular RoN websites.

Official sites

Community sites

Clan sites

zh:王国的兴起 ja:Rise of Nations~民族の興亡~


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