Well, being us at the beginning of the thread, I would thus start from the very first rudiments of the gameplay and the essence of its precious elements.
The basic gameplay doesn't really differ so much from the usual RTS games. It's mainly focused on collecting resources, buying upgrades, recruiting units of different kinds and destroying your enemies. What makes the game unique from its famous ancestor (Age of Empires) is the active presence of each faction's mythology and the intervention of divine powers that could easily shift the tide of the contest in your favour or disadvantage.
Developing your village and acquiring new technology will grant you the opportunity to advance throughout the different ages and so strengthen your dominion. Logically, you need to reach the final age in order to unleash the very true potential of this wonderful universe, making usage of the most differentiated and unique features. I will leave the characteristics of each civilisation apart for now, as these are the main premises that characterise all mechanics.
: They are the fuel of all dynamics. They are the key and required tool to achieve the above-mentioned purposes. Without them, the game is simply blocked. In AoM, you have Food
. Structures, units and upgrades can cost a sole type of resources or multiple ones (according to their importance); the different combinations vary from civilisation to civilisation.
Food can be collected via the most diverse means, ranging from simple ('wild') methods as hunting, fishing or collecting fruits, to advanced techniques such as cultivating farms. Farms are the most reliable source, given that they provide an infinite influx of food (that is, you can't run out of it) and you can place them easily in desired positions. Wood and gold can only be collected by cutting trees and mining. Gold can though be collected with the establishment of a trading route between your town centre and a market; the further the market, the richer the profits (being more vulnerable, on the other hand, to enemy manoeuvres).
: As in all good RTS games worthy of their title, expanding your authority often means clashing with other opposite players. The art of war and military strategy increases of importance in time, while you get access to more features and typologies of units. Needless to say, the composition of an army is the usual: infantry, archery, cavalry, elite units and heroes. The strategy you are to adopt (in line with the circumstances) is the obvious key to triumph.
: The upgrades are the means which permit the evolution of your culture and of the technology you have at hand, whether it serve economic or military purposes. They can be of numerous sorts, going from more resistant armours to making irrigation systems (farms) more efficient. A technological superiority may be one of the factors of victory too.
: As the ages get more advanced, they unlock wider possibilities of development and growth, alongside with your warfare getting dramatically mightier. The ages are four. Archaic, Classic, Heroic and Mythical.
: Divine entities are the central theme underlying everything. Each civilisation is differentiated by different pantheons, and a very civilisation is divided in subcategories that are defined by three major gods. The choice of one of the three major deities will determine specific upgrades, minor gods, units and unique features. The ages are too linked deeply with mythology, as you must choose between two options from the minor gods offered by the pantheon of the civilisation, so that you may reach the following age. In synthesis, each civilisation has its own pantheon with three major gods at the top; the choice of one of the three will make available some other minor deities of the entire pantheon but not others. The scheme is structured so that a major god offers a combination of minor gods that the other major gods can't dispose of. Just to make an example, be the major gods 1,2,3 and the minor gods offered each age (the choice is always between two, and the maximum is three per age) A,B,C.
1 will offer A and B, 2 will offer B and C and 3 will provide you with A and C. As you can understand, each major god thus provides a unique combination. As we will see, there are some exceptions though, derived from conceptual and mythological reasons; you will then see how, in the mythical age, two major gods from different civilisations can offer A and B, while the other two of their own civilisation only B and C both (making thus the minor god A a unique choice for one sole major god).
Mythology is obviously intertwined with war as well. The most prominent aspect is the fact that each minor deity will ensure you the possibility to summon mythical units with their own abilities (turning them into useful supporters or terrible weapons at your disposal). One other fundamental point: every god, major or minor, endows you with a divine power to invoke at will. Divine powers, as well as upgrades, aim to enhance your economy, aid your troops or unleash the wrath of Nature against your enemies. If used wisely, they may decide the fate of all.