After battling for the Americas as the European powers in Age of Empires III, you'll get the chance to play as the Native Americans in the upcoming expansion, Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs. We recently got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the game to take our first good look at one of the Native American factions.
The work-in-progress version let us play as the Iroquois, which was the first Native American tribe to be revealed. (The second playable tribe is the Sioux, while the third remains a secret.) Not surprisingly, the Iroquois are quite a bit like the European civilizations found in the core game, which is probably for balancing reasons. The similarity doesn't hurt, though, since it will make the Iroquois easy to play for Age veterans. For instance, the Iroquois have a build tree that's very comparable to the European civilizations. There's a town center that creates new workers; various buildings such as the farm and the plantation that can generate food and gold, respectively; and so on. The Iroquois gather the same resources as the Europeans, as well, in the form of wood, food, and gold.
There are some subtle differences that are worth noting, though. Instead of barracks, the Iroquois can build up to seven war huts, which serve as both barracks and watchtowers that can defend against nearby enemy troops. And if you have multiple war huts, you can churn out a lot of infantry quickly, assuming you have enough resources and room for them under your population cap.
Yet the most interesting aspect of the Iroquois is the fire pit, which is exactly what it sounds like. The fire pit gives you access to various powers and abilities, and the more workers you assign to dance around it, the more effective those powers and abilities become. You'll start with a number of dances and unlock more throughout the course of the game. Some of the dances include the fertility dance, which speeds up unit production by 11 percent for each dancer assigned to the fire pit; the founder dance, which creates a new travois (builder unit) after a certain amount of time; and the alarm dance, which spawns warriors that are useful for defense. (These won't be too useful in offensive operations, though, as warriors spawned by the alarm dance continually lose hit points over time.)
The Iroquois' military units are comparable to the European militaries found in the core game. Again, you'll rely on a mix of infantry, cavalry, and artillery for the best effect. The primary infantry units for the Iroquois are the aenna, a sort of bowman, and the tomahawk warriors, who hurl their axes at the enemy. Cavalry comes in the form of the Kanya horsemen (a light cavalry) and musket riders, who provide ranged fire. When it comes to sieges, the Iroquois can build rams, as well as light cannons. Then there's the mantle, which is a mobile shield that offers protection against incoming fire.
Of course, we should also mention the WarChief, who is the replacement for the traditional explorer units found in the European civilizations. You can't miss the WarChief, since he's about twice as tall as regular infantry, and he's useful for both exploring the map and accompanying your troops in battle. You can beef up your WarChief with the (appropriately named) WarChief dance at the fire pit, which will not only boost your WarChief's hit points, but also resurrect him at the fire pit if he's killed.
The Native American tribes don't have home cities that send them shipments, but they do have tribal councils that serve the same purpose. As you gain experience throughout the game, you'll earn rewards, which come in the form of reinforcements or supplies that you can request from the tribal council. These range from extra workers to extra military units to new fire-pit dances.
With all of that taken into account, the core strategies of the Iroquois are about the same as they are for the other civilizations in the game. Expand your base, advance through the ages to unlock new units and new techs, build up defenses and a strong army, and then crush the other side's bases, preferably with artillery. Still, we'll be interested to see what veteran Age fans will be able to do with the Iroquois' special abilities and units. Either way, if you're looking for more Age of Empires III gameplay, you'll find it in the WarChiefs expansion when it ships later this year.