The Russians are an offensive civilization that emphasizes overwhelming infantry and cavalry forces and quantity over quality. Their units are weaker than those of other civilizations but are cheaper and easy to mass-produce.
They have a versatile and good assortment of cavalry and the only civilization with cavalry dedicated to destroying buildings and killing villagers making them deadly when rushing or facing opponents with no strong counter cavalry.
They start off the game with extra resources but fewer villagers. They can use these resources to either produce extra villagers or create early military units to raid the enemy and disrupt their economy.
Most Russian units are trained in groups, which is a double-edged sword: Units are trained faster but it means the player needs a larger amount of resources to train them. Fortunately Russian units are cost effective as they cost 10% less than normal. So a villager (normally costing 100 food) will cost 90 food. This allows the Russians to be great at rushing due to their ability to train a large amount of soldiers in such a short amount of time. Most of their units only take up a single population slot, aiding them even more in building a massive force. Infantry can be produced quickly with Mass Army, Fencing Duel and TEAM Dueling School for use in attacks and defence.
Russians have excellent raiding capabilities compared to the other civilizations; this is due to their many high siege damage units they can muster. However, there are other, cheaper alternatives such as the Cossack, which is a cheaper Hussar, only taking 1 population slot. At the Fortress Age, the Oprichnik can be trained; unlike other cavalry which is designed to deal with infantry or other cavalry, the Oprichnik is designed to raze buildings and kill enemy villagers quickly. Combined with Grenadiers, which is also one of the Royal Guard units, a player can easily destroy plenty of buildings quickly. However, if playing alone, this is not advised unless the enemy is far away from their colony.
Their unique church upgrades are far more valuable compared to other civilizations. The most valuable ones are their Westernization and Petrine Reforms tech. Westernization will upgrade all Russian units that have not reached the Veteran level for only 900 Lumber. Petrine Reforms costs 2000 Gold, and will upgrade all Russian units to their Guard level (excluding cannon artillery). Upgrading them normally would cost much more resources and time, and allows for a properly balanced force with less resources.
Russians have the cards Barracks Hitpoints and like most other civilizations, Improved Buildings. Barracks Hitpoints is a TEAM card and will help allies, boosting their Barracks hitpoints by 100%, essentially double their health. Blockhouses on the other hand, gain a 50% hitpoints bonus instead, due to their ability to act as Outposts. Improved Buildings increases the Blockhouse's hitpoints by 80%, which will help even more if the Blockhouses are turned into Fortified Blockhouses. Blockhouse Cannon allows Blockhouses to train Falconets and Mortars, although Artillery Foundries should still be used by the player for production of Grenadiers and Culverins.
In addition, they have other cards such as Strelet Horde; unlocked at level 25, this card will make all Blockhouses produce 5 Strelets one-time only. With 7 Blockhouses, this equates to 35 free Strelets. Ransack, another card unlocked at level 25, increases the siege damage Russian infantry deal to buildings by 30%, making them superior to other infantry when attacking buildings. The Boyars card also increases Strelet, Cossack and Oprichnik health and damage by 10% which can prove helpful when attacking another player.
Having only 5 settlers at the start of a match, this can severely weaken their economic output despite the extra resources at the start of the match. In addition, Russian infantry and settlers are trained in groups, costing more resources and cannot be changed to train how much you want at a time. The only way Russian infantry can be trained at the amount you want can only be done so is through a Fort on the mainland or Galleons in water. Blockhouses also are double-edged swords, as they serve as the Russian's Barracks, and if destroyed can severely dampen the player's ability to train more troops when they are under attack.
Russian infantry are also weaker due to the fact that they cost 10% less than normal in addition to being trained in groups. Therefore, an Russian Imperial Musketeer will be weaker then a French Imperial Musketeer. Their cavalry are not as powerful compared to other civilizations in a hand-to-hand fight; as Russian cavalry are designed for raiding and not fighting.
Like the Spanish, the Russians can only send one Factory from the Home City unless The Asian Dynasties is installed. This can severely limit economic growth.