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Support is a team strategy where players that are weak at the start of a game (usually because of the chosen civilization) are supported and defended by their allies until they can properly defend themselves. Usually, the defended player ends up being the dominant player in later stages of the game.
Age of Empires II Edit
While this strategy is most often found in Age of Empires III, due to TEAM Cards and Trade Routes available in this game, elements of Support are also present in Age of Empires II, mainly in the form of Team Bonuses. The closest thing covering the purpose of Support (weaker early game, early reliance on allies, later game advantages) is the Springboard strategy; a civilization with a powerful early game (and economy) tries to catapult through the Ages a teammate with a potent later game, in order to abuse their late strengths, while also probably being boosted by their Team Bonus.
Another support-like feature is featured from the The Forgotten expansion on; Italians, Berbers and Vietnamese can provide a unique unit to each to their teammates, in the form of Condottieri, Genitours and Imperial Skirmishers. Depending on the other teammate's faction, they could put the unit into good use and even fill a lacking niche (e.g. Aztecs can benefit equally from both the Atlatl-boosted Genitour and the Imperial Skirmisher as a better alternative to Arbalests, with Genitours also serving the otherwise nonexistent role of a light cavalryman). The Berbers Kasbah technology is also by itself an excellent example of support, as it is a "team technology", affecting all team members in a game.
Unlike the two others however, Berbers aren't highly dependent (outside multiplayer) of a teammate at early game, as their faster Villagers are (at least indirectly) an economic bonus. Italians and Vietnamese however, have few early advantages (an Aging bonus and an archer boost) and can easily be rushed by certain civilizations. Until they manage to get to the Castle Age, they will fall short in favor of early game factions, so they have to be protected/covered by a more powerful civilisation that can counter Rushes, preferably one that can also act a Springboard to help their teammate advance quickly.
The Vietnamese, in particular, are the purest example of a "support civilisation", as unlike the Italians (who have cheaper Aging), they totally lack eco bonuses and fall behind to a purely supporting role at earlier game, by providing LOS of enemy Town Centers at first (a fact that can be abused by Rushers or the Portuguese), then by providing ranged support at the Feudal Age. After they reach Castle Age however, their strengths start accumulating, with Rattan Archers and robust Cavalry Archers and escalate at early Imperial, when Conscription is free and archers are at their finest. Support however doesn't end here, it goes on with Paper Money offering a 500 gold tribute to the entire team (but a 300 gold tribute to the Vietnamese, for 800 food). This is probably the primest example of Support in the game, as this technology's purpose is strengthened according to the number of allies in the game. And last but not least, the Imperial Skirmisher upgrade provides many allies (among others, Aztecs, Incas, Britons can really benefit) with a better trash and sometimes, a better alternative to archers (this being the case of Aztecs, in particular).
Age of Empires III Edit
The support strategy is for civilizations who have many TEAM Cards but are useless in some ages and rely on the protection of allies (not from Consulate because they are not in game civilizations). In skirmish battles, besides having many TEAM Cards on the deck, they give large amount of Tribute to allies and usually try to claim all the Trade Routes in map for prolonged wealth.
It's not a very well known strategy but it is usually used by weak economic Civilizations like the Ottoman that need to advance in age to get a faster economy it's like the Boom but this takes more time because they produce slow Settlers (because they're free) and you have to advance in age if you want have more Settlers.
Another example of these Civilizations are the Portuguese who have to produce a fishing fleet and have a less number of other units to generate gold from Whale and on the other hand they have very fast producing Mills at the Imperial Age.
The natural enemy of these kind of players is the Rush Strategy.
It should not be confused with the Boom because sometimes the player has to arm an army at the same time of spawning Settlers.
The best civilization for this Strategy are the Chinese because of there exaggerated populations.