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Rise of Nations is a real-time strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft on May 20, 2003. The development of the game was led by veteran Brian Reynolds, of Civilization II and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Concepts taken from turn-based strategy games have been added into the game—including territories and attrition warfare. Rise of Nations features 18 civilizations, playable through 8 ages of world history.

On April 28, 2004, Big Huge Games released Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots, an expansion pack. Later that year, a Gold edition of Rise of Nations was released, which included both the original and the expansion.


Rise of Nations employs the concept of "territory," as employed in the Civilization long series of games; the area near the player's settlements is considered their territory, and players may only construct buildings within their territory or that of an ally. A nation's borders can be expanded by the creation and expansion of cities and forts, a technology tree, and obtaining access to certain rare resources. Other technologies and resources cause enemy units to suffer attrition over time, which can eventually destroy an unsupported invasion force.

Cities are centrally important to gameplay; most buildings can only be built within a certain distance of a city, borders are most easily expanded by building and expanding cities, and cities are the only source of the resource-collecting Citizen unit. Only a limited amount of cities can be built and cities can only be destroyed by its owner. Conquered cities join the conquerors faction.

Citizens (resource-collecting workers) in Rise of Nations don't remain idle after creation until orders are given to them; rather, after a brief pause, idle citizens look for any nearby construction sites, unoccupied resource gathering sites, or damaged buildings and automatically move to build, gather, or repair there. This option can be disabled if desired. All resource patches in Rise of Nations are infinite, unlike the finite amount of resources found in, for example, Warcraft single-player campaigns; the main limit is the player's maximum-collection-rate cap, which must be upgraded via research.

Unlike most RTS games, which feature three (Warcraft), only two resources (StarCraft, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War) or even one (Homeworld, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars), there are six resources in Rise of Nations, five of which (Food, Timber, Metal, Oil, and Wealth) are used mostly to build units and buildings. The sixth resource, Knowledge, is used for researching technologies, though it is also necessary for the construction of missiles and the last two World Wonder (Supercollider and Space Program). Despite this proliferation of resources, each building, technology or unit type requires only one or two types to build; thus, gameplay is streamlined. While creating harvesting infrastructure can be time-consuming, it is partially eased by the fact that certain resources only become very available after progressing to a certain age; for instance, the player cannot harvest Oil until they have entered the Industrial Age because oil was not needed until after the Industrial Revolution.

As in the Civilization series, any nation can be played during any age, regardless of that nation's fate throughout actual history. Some unique units are based on units that those factions had, if certain nations were not destroyed in real-life history: for example, the Native American nations (the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca) have unique units in the Modern and Information ages which resemble real-world Iberian-South American guerrillas. The end conditions are also made to be historically neutral, in that one can win the game by a capital capture, territorial superiority, researching four dominating technologies, or the usual wonder and score victories. It is also worth noting that the same city can be built by multiple nations: if the Romans, Greeks, and Turks are found in the same game, it is possible that the cities of Byzantium, Constantinoplemarker, and Istanbulmarker will co-exist during the same game, despite the fact that these are different historical names for the same city.

Each of the 18 civilizations in Rise of Nations has its own set of between four and eight unique units spread throughout the ages, if at the age of play the faction did not exist in history the faction uses default units that were used in that time. Rise of Nations uses a hybrid 2D/3D engine to render buildings, but a 3D engine to render units, terrain, and special effects.

A single player campaign, Conquer the World, is included in the game. It is comparable to the board game Risk, except that attacks on enemy territories take place using the in-game battle engine, which can last as long as 120 minutes depending upon the scenario. The campaign map is similar to Risk's, but luck is not a factor. The player can also purchase reinforcements or bonus cards and engage in diplomacy with other nations. The campaign starts at the Ancient Age and progresses slowly over the course over the campaign to end at the Information Age (present day). Within the context of a battle, it may be possible to advance to the next available age (and thus benefit from the associated potential unit upgrades in that battle).There are five different campaigns, "Alexander the Great", "Napoleon", "The New World", "The Cold War", and "Conquer the World". They all follow a set formula in which the player either chooses a nation (New World, Cold War) or is put with their general's historic nation(Alexander the Great, Napoleon) aside from "Conquer the World", in which any nation may be chosen to play throughout every age in the game.

Rise of Nations uses an Elo rating system to rank players.

Rise of Nations was shown in 2008 to improve a variety of "critical cognitive skills," most prominently working memory and task-switching ability, in older adults.


A screenshot from Rise of Nations.
Gameplay focuses heavily on creating a balance between Offense, Defense, and the nations economy based in the city. It is also notable that if a nation loses all of its cities that nation has lost that battle. Generalship is also needed in this game like most RTS games; this includes a knowledge of the troops and what they are good at fighting (pikemen will kill cavalry easier then cannon will). Learning the surrounding terrain of your empire to defend from attack and to flank an enemy army will allow a player to fight more efficiently. Generals can also be created from a fort to aid an army.

Five tactical formations are also available, including the ability to compress or expand the line of battle. When a formation is chosen, the selected units automatically reposition themselves accordingly, typically with faster moving units in the front and slower moving, vulnerable units in the rear. With sufficient skill in creating proper unit distributions in an army and fielding that army, it is possible to defeat a numerically superior enemy in Rise of Nations.

In a manner similar to chess, slight strategic mistakes early in the game can turn into major tactical problems later on. For example, if a player starts with the nomad setting (where no city is build at startup) it is wise to scout for an area that has recources before building a city, for without resources there is no army and the player will lose.


There are more than 200 different types of units in Rise of Nations, ranging from the Ancient Age Hoplite to the Information Age Stealth Bomber. Military units are created at certain structures: the Barracks, Stable/Auto Plant, Siege Factory/Factory, Dock/Shipyard/Anchorage, Airfield, Missile silo and Fort/Castle/Fortress/Redoubt. Unit types such as Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry and Ranged Cavalry are upgraded as the player advances through the ages. These upgrades usually represent revolutionary changes in their particular field. For example, the Arquebusier of the Gunpowder Age becomes the Musketeer of the Enlightenment Age, representing the great advantage of flintlock muskets over the earlier matchlock muskets and showing increased attack power and reload speed. Also, each nation gets its own set of unique units. For example, the Greeksmarker can build Companion cavalry, the Russiansmarker can build Red Guards infantry and T-80 tanks, the Britishmarker can build Longbowmen, Highlanders, and Avro Lancaster Bombers, and the Germansmarker get the Tiger and Leopard tanks.

Because of the wide variety of units in the game, players have the opportunity to create an army customized to their tastes. Most units have a cost that is roughly equal to that of their peers. Additionally, most units use only two resource types, making the creation of diverse armies easier and almost required. Terraced costs further contribute to the incentive for a diverse army, as each additional unit a player creates of a single type will cost more.


There are 18 nations in Rise of Nations and each has its own special ability. The nations and their special ability are:

In the expansion pack Thrones and Patriots six other nations become available:


Rise of Nations received many positive reviews from most websites and magazines and won several awards.



  • GameSpy 2003 Game of the Year - PC RTS
  • GameSpy Top 10 RTS Games
  • Best Strategy Game of 2003 by Gamespot
  • Best PC Game of 2003 by Gamespot


On Microsoft Windows Rise of Nations uses the GameSpy matchmaking service.

On Mac OS X, Rise of Nations uses GameRanger as a matchmaking service. The LAN networking provides a system for people on the same network to play together.

Cross platform play is not supported between Windows and Mac users.


Rise of Nations and its expansion pack Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots have received combined sales of over 1 million copies.


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