It is always hard to decide how to open and which strategy to follow in Crusader.
You want to have some units to defend, but also a good economy to start expanding and fuel your war industry. In 2,000 gold games it is even harder to decide what to do, as it fairly depends on your opponent's plans. You want to counter their rush attempts and win the game by successfully defending, or go to mass industry mode and whittle down your enemy's gold stocks and stockpile, thus crippling his economy.
I like to go into the late-game, however I like defending first. Gold is your vital resource when it comes to spending money on units and goods. You want to track the following aspects:
- Raw materials: this includes mainly wood and stone. Wood is used for most bulidings and you want to have more than enough of it to build everything you need. Stone is also an important resource used to enclose your keep and estate. You can buy some stone to spend it on walls and a few gatehouses, but it is a costly process and you want to watch your gold stocks.
- Recruiting units: this includes barracks' units and Arabian troops. Barracks units cost less, but they need money to invest in first (either for workshops or buying equipment), making mercenary units more useful. Arabian bows have decent firerate. Assassins deal high damage compared to their cost. Horse archers are agile and fire while moving. Slaves are cheap and they can dig moat. Your choice.
- Enemy actions: you want to adapt to your adversary. If he is rushing, you must prepare for a huge attack and sacrifice more gold for units. If he is going to heavily improve his economy, you may want to do the same. You can punish your enemy for his actions: if he is rushing, you can have a better economy than his and after successfully defending the attack, he is left with little to no gold and no eco. When he ecos, you can rush him to make use of his lack of defense.
Note that these builds give a rough quantity for each building type and unit. They all depend on the map size, distance between you and the enemy and the location of raw materials. You would adjust/rearrange the build orders to fit to your strategy as well.
1. Rush build
This build is used for catching economists off-guard. It is used to create many troops in the beginning either for killing the Lord or causing enough damage to cripple their game.
- Open with: granary near oasis, market, mercenary post, 5-6 woodcutters, 6 apple farms near the granary, 2 hovels.
- Recruit assassins constantly until you have 20-25 of them. Sell up to 30 stone and up to 40 bread to free up gold for even more assassins.
- Place one or two gatehouses to favourable locations and recruit slaves on your remaining money to dig moat around your castle.
- Don't move your assassins, but rather place their rally near (on) the enemy keep. The assassins will move quickly to their position. Bring your starting ranged units as well.
- When they arrived, divert them to target the enemy granary and market. You don't want your enemy to cash out and sell his food and leftover raw materials and mercenary post.
- Command your units to kill the enemy Lord. Sell apples and wood to send reinforcement assassins. Don't stop with them, you should be able to kill the enemy Lord without much trouble.
- If the rush would fail, don't panic. You can keep recruiting assassins to target exposed enemy buildings and/or build up your economy. Don't give up your tactical advantage or your enemy will be able to rebuild his defense and economy, maybe even counter-rush you.
2. Anti-rush build
This build is used against rushing opponents. This build focuses on getting enough troops to deflect the rush with better unit control, while stabilizing economy to be in a better position later. You can identify opponents spending their gold and having many units in the overview.
- Open with: granary, market, mercenary post, 5-6 woodcutters, 3 hovels, 2 wheat farms, mill, 2 bakeries, 2 quarries with 4 oxen.
- Lay down 2 or 3 gatehouses (whichever you prefer) and add a drawbridge for each of them. Recruit about 40-60 slaves as possible and surround your castle with moat. Send the slaves in small batches to multiple locations to make the moat finish earlier. Don't leave your gatehouses vulnerable to assassin attacks.
- Recruit about 15-20 assassins from your remaining money. Use a cathedral to minesweep enemy assassins (you can spot their location by positioning the cathedral over the map and see if red squares do move) and resite the assassin rally constantly to intercept their attack.
- The key of this build is to have your moat completed before the assassins arrive. If you can finish the moat, the assassins won't be able to get in, thus they will need some slaves or other moat diggers, being easy prey for your starting archers.
- Build more quarries and bakeries and outclass your opponent's economy by selling bread and stone to fuel your war industry. If he encounters a tough defense, you found yourself in a better position.
3. Defensive engineers-build
This build is rarely used by me, but it actually works if your enemy brings heavy troops or his buildings are close enough to be vulnerable. It is particularly useful against the Wolf and other opponents who rush with knights or macemen or deploy siege engines around.
- Open with: granary, market, mercenary post, 5-6 woodcutters, 3 hovels, 2 wheat farms, mill, 4 bakeries. 2 quarries with 4 oxen.
- Wall off your settlement with low walls and throw down the engineer's guild. Create 10 engineers with 5 fire ballistae. Position them well.
- Create assassins from your remaining money for guarding your fire ballistae.
- Build more quarries and bakeries from your incoming wood. Emphasize on quarries and tethers since they bring in more income. You can add more wheat farms if needed.
- Start adding fletcher's workshops and optionally tanners with dairy farms to build up a cheap archer/crossbowmen defense. Continuously sell your stone and food (if you can afford that) to create more units and siege engines.
- Build a few towers to overlook the area and spread your troops. You can add crenulation or higher walls as your stone is incoming.
4. Economic build
This is a normal build and mostly used by me to build up for the late game. It has a huge variety of options to offer and it is relatively stable. It is based on wheat/flour/stone/bread trade.
- Open with: granary, market, mercenary post, 5-6 woodcutters, 3 hovels, 3 wheat farms, mill, 4 bakeries, 2 quarries with 4 oxen.
- Wall off your settlement with low walls and add some layers of moat in front of them. Hire some slaves and send your starting troops to dig the moat.
- Recruit a few assassins and Arabian bows to guard your castle. You can optionally add some horse archers into the mix.
- Add more quarries and bread industry to expand your growth. Add some bowmen/crossbowmen industry for defense purposes. Lay down the engineers guild and build some defense engines.
From here, you can build anything you want. You can rely on low walls or add more walling, build an attack force or more defenses, or just expand and gain even more gold.