Like the video game it is based on, players control one of three civilizations: the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Norse. Up to two players may play any given civilization (with additional parts, up to three players may play any civilization), and players are situated so that players playing the same civilization do not sit adjacent to each other.
As with the video game, players must gather resources, build units, and attack other players. Unlike the video games, however, players play for victory points, which may be earned by winning battles, by trading resources for them, having the largest army at the end of the game, having the most buildings built at the end of the game, or by building the wonder.
At the start of the game, each player is given an individual board, which is divided into two areas: the Production Area and the City Area, as well as a limited supply of resources, units, and production tiles, which are placed in the Production Area. On each turn, players must allot three victory points to one of four special victory point cards: the "Largest Army", the "Most Buildings", and the Wonder, which are only claimed at the end of the game, or "Won the Last Battle", claimed during a player's turn. Afterwards, each player draws Action Cards from either their civilization's Permanent Action Deck (which is unique to each player, though each civilization has identical cards) or Random Action Deck (which is shared between players with the same civilization) until they reach a hand limit determined by their Age (with later ages increasing the hand limit). Players in turn may play up to three of their hand cards, resolving any effects, before discarding cards or resources (each player may keep at most five units of any resource, eight with possession of a special building, at the end of the turn), if necessary.
The core mechanic are the Action Cards: the Permanent Action Cards may be chosen as needed, but tend to have weaker effects compared to the Random Action Cards. These allow players to add production tiles to a player's Production Area, assign workers to production tiles, gather resources, build units or buildings, trade resources, advance in age, and attack other players. Certain Random Action Cards are also God Powers, which have an additional effect if resources are paid. Because Permanent Action Cards are always available each turn, they are typically discarded if unused at the end of the turn.
Buildings have secondary effects, which include receiving discounts for purchases, improved actions, or additional villagers to work the Production Area. With the exception of the House, which supplies villagers, players are restricted to one of any given type of building. Villagers are placed or moved about on production tiles in the Production Area whenever their owner plays a Gather action, which collects resources based on which production tiles a player's villagers reside. The Explore Action may be used to increase the number of production tiles a player has in their Production Area. Resources may be traded with the bank using the Trade action, and a building allows players to trade resources for victory points.
Units are purchased by using the Recruit action, and may be used to attack other players with the Attack action (some units may also act as villagers). When attacking, players may attempt to attack another player's Production Area, City Area, or their supplies. Players may only attack opponents seated adjacent to them (thus, players may not attack opponents sharing the same civilization). Before battle, players commit a fixed number of units. In each round of battle, one unit is chosen from both the attacking and defending sides, and a number of dice are rolled for each side based on their relative strengths and advantages against each other (for example, myth units may typically roll more dice compared to mortal units, but less compared to heroes). The player with the fewer "6"s rolled loses their unit. After each round, each player may choose to retreat. The winner of each battle wins any victory points alloted to the "Won the Last Battle" victory point card. If the attacker wins, there is also another effect: if the attack was against a Production Area, the attacker may take a production tile from the defender, while an attack against a City Area allows the attacker to remove a building (two in rare circumstances) from the defender's City Area. An attack against a player's supplies allows the attacker to take resources from the defender's supplies.
The game ends when either the Wonder is built (the Wonder is a special building which requires the player to be in the final Mythic Age before building) or when 30 victory points have been allocated or awarded. At this point the victory points allocated to the "Largest Army", "Most Buildings", and the Wonder are given to their respective players (If there is a tie for Largest Army or Most Buildings, or the game ends without the Wonder being built, the victory points therein are not given to any player. Similarly, any points allocated to "Won the Last Battle" at the end of the game remain unclaimed). The player with the most victory points wins.
|Age of Empires series|
|Main titles||Age of Empires (The Rise of Rome) · Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (The Conquerors) · Age of Empires III (The WarChiefs · The Asian Dynasties) · Age of Empires IV|
|Spin-offs||Age of Mythology (The Titans) · Age of Empires Online|
|Steam releases||Age of Empires II HD (The Forgotten · The African Kingdoms · Rise of the Rajas) · Age of Mythology: Extended Edition (Tale of the Dragon)|
|Remasters||Age of Empires: Definitive Edition · Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition · Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition|
|Handheld games||Age of Empires: The Age of Kings · Age of Empires: Mythologies · Age of Empires III|
|Board games||Age of Mythology: The Boardgame · Glenn Drover's Empires: The Age of Discovery|