Zeus is definitely considered one of the stronger gods today. He can do many different strategies, its hard to know whatâ€™s coming when your opponent is Zeus. The reason Zeus is so versatile is because he is greek, meaning the basis of his civilization is balanced (not one portion of his gameplay particularly stands out as strongest). This means unlike atlantean or Egyptian, its hard to predict what he will do on any given map. One of these strategies linked to Zeus is the Athena rush or gold strangle. Depending on the setup of the map or the civ you are playing against dictates which of these he will most likely try and do.
So why is the Athena rush so strong? Zeusâ€™s units are strong and expensive. This means his economy is going to take more of a toll producing mass classical units, especially expensive hoplites, and his villager production will suffer. However, with good eco management, the â€œexpensiveâ€ part can be heavily outweighed by fact his units are the strongest, as long as they are used with care.
The perhaps most crucial aspect of the strategy is restoration. If used right, it almost gives your units a second chance at winning the battle, saving Zeus a lot of resources trying to reinforce his expensive army. If used right, it can give you the game by itself, unlike many other classical godpowers. Aside from restoration, Athena gives your strongest units, your hoplites, two huge upgrades, each improving their hack and pierce armor, respectively. This is just another step at making your expensive units deal more damage before dying and having to reinforce them.
The strategy I am going to explain is the strategy most Zeus players use against Norse and Eggy on low/central gold and low/central food maps, with my own personal touch on the strategy (simply because I know how I do it better than I know how anybody else does it from first hand experience).
Archaic Age : Build order and planning ahead.
Lets start with the build order. The objective is to reach classical at a decent time(most often at 5:15 or before) with the economy to have enough resources to produce units out of three military buildings, as well as keep a fairly solid villager queue out of your town center.
Hereâ€™s mine, but please do modify to something that suits you better.
3 starting to food
3 to food
3 to wood
3 to gold(last one makes house)
3 to food
1 to wood
Press button @ 4:15.
(if your looking to rush sooner if the map suits it, forget the last 2 villagers and Jason).
Only handaxe, no pickaxe.
Scouting is crucial, and thereâ€™s no excuse because Zeus has the best scout in the game. By advance, you should know a) where his starting gold is, b) where his outside gold mines are and c) where his outside hunt packs are if it applies. Knowing where the outside gold mines are is extremely important, because vs. a good player its hard to get to their starting mine, especially if its located in a back corner of their town.
At this point I think itâ€™s a good idea to address the differences between Athena rushing a norse player and an eggy player. As you already know, eggy gets free tower upgrades and free houses to protect them. I more aim to prevent eggy from reaching their second gold instead of wasting a lot of expensive units vs. tower fire. Itâ€™s still important to give it a shot, especially if their starting gold isnâ€™t protected by a tower or is very forward, but chances are they wonâ€™t be.
As for against Norse, you want to take a more direct approach and use as many units to prevent him from mining gold as possible, as well as killing his more expensive buildings and unupgraded towers to cripple him.
You should already have your temple waypoint at his tower protecting his starting gold, or his pack of hunt heâ€™s currently at. This makes sure your getting instant use out of your free Minotaur. You should have already begun this same process with Jason if you built him before you advanced. The only scenario where he shouldnâ€™t be harassing the other guy is when there is a helpful relic on the map that relates to the rush(if it doesnâ€™t, like for example villagers carry more food, donâ€™t bother at this very moment) like infantry train faster or infantry have more hack armor).
Also slightly previous to advancing, you will want to mentally mark which three units you will be building your barracks and ranges with. More often then not these are 3 food villagers that are at a forward hunt pack. You donâ€™t always have to forward build when doing this strategy, but it can give an advantage.
Upon advance a few things should be done kind of simultaneously. First, you want to make those 3 villagers start buildings 2 military barracks and 1 archery range. You also want your scout to go around his other hunt packs, and then sit at his 2nd gold mine(by shift clicking). You also want to have your tc waypoint going to gold until you have about 7 or 8 on wood(to be able to afford Odysseus fairly early).
The next step is AQing units our of those 3 buildings, setting their waypoints to his gold, or wherever you think is most crucial, then sending those three villagers back to hunting.
From here on its managing your economy best to accommodate making soldiers. A few things to keep in mind is never having more than 10 on gold with pickaxe, donâ€™t let your wood get cluttered, and make sure you donâ€™t have a bunch of hunters at 1 spot. From then on, its just feeling what you think is needed.
From a fighting standpoint, you want to press his starting gold as best as possible and keep him inside his base. Microing to keep your expensive units alive, and getting upgrades when available (after getting full pop of course) is important as well). Keep in mind how much gold he has left and when he will need to try and make his move to his other gold mine, if hes not dead yet. The real strength of the Athena Rush is that a norse or eggy player can mass an army to compete with yours to try and reach their 2nd mine, but restoration gives you basically twice as many units.
Using walls to prevent him from getting to his mines, or letting your army making a quick escape from a/e or getting outnumbered can change the game, as well as making sure you are keeping tabs on a number of different things in game. The most important thing is you are pressuring him and making him make the hard decisions, that you have can mark the tempo.
Here's a few example recorded games:
The reason I decided not to get much into water is the only maps you will be going straight for land on will be midgard and maybe highland, and the basic concept is the same, except the build order to get a good amount of fishing ships is more flexible and should be made yourself anyway. The biggest difference will be deciding how u will compensate for most likely losing your fishing ships when you abandon sea for land( which is always a possibility)
Also, I have had some people ask me why I don't do Mino+Tox. I find it to take too long to get setup, which gives the Norse or eggy player more time to get prepared, and mino's arent as good at killing buildings as mass hops, which is my favorite thing to do anyway . This is the same reason why the only time I would ever recommend going 2 archery range/1 barrack is on very very low hunt maps.
Well that's it for my short guide to the Athena rush. I was sick of watching Zeus players boom, so I figured I'd give you all a little nudge to be more aggressive .