In Edain, buildings are limited to buildplots. Buildplots in a base are relatively few (9 at most) and are usually dedicated to unit producing buildings, upgrade buildings, and some internal economy buildings. But the most of your income, especially in the early game, will be provided by external farms. Then, fighting for the map control (that is is, trying to own a larger percentage of external buildplots than your enemy) is essential to win a game. So, how do I get map control?
At the beginning of each game, most external buildplots are protected by creeps, neutral settlements consisting on one building (the lair) that spawns troops, and one or more units defending them. It is essential to know how to creep each different lair. Usually troops in lairs follow the same principles as normal units, so creeping a troll or warg creep with pikes is a good idea. Goodfella provided us with some wonderful videos explaining how to creep all lairs in different ways:
As a general rule, try to optimise your build orders to creep as quickly and effectively as possible. Using as few troops as needed to creep a lair is always a good idea, since your remaining troops can go and do something else (destroy other creeps or harass).
Anther important consideration of creeping is that it gives a small amount of resources, and for small creeps (wildman, goblins or wargs), it is enough to purchase the external resource building that has been unlocked. This means that that resource building will automatically produce a profit for you (doesn't have to pay for itself). So creeping gives you a big economic boost at the beginning, while helping you secure the map.
Harassing means attacking and damaging or destroying enemy buildings, usually external resource buildings. This hurts your opponent's economy, giving you an advantage, and hopefully, claiming one more external buildplot for you own economy. In the early game, splitting some swords/pikes battalions and sending them individually to harass is a very good idea. As the game progresses, your opponent will likely have some cavalry, and then you need pikes to harass (if enemy has a lot of cavalry, better use 2 pikes together at least, else they will die to cav). Harassing also forces your opponent to defend, limiting his capacity of creeping and harassing. As a general rule, once every lair has been creeped, your units should harassing at all times (unless you have a good reason not to-like when waiting to replenish your army or healing at a well, or waiting in position for an important battle). Also, the more buildings you harass at the same time, the less likely it is that your opponent can defend them all. Cavalry is especially effective at harassing thanks to its speed and building damage.
Splitting and clumping
As you can deduce from the previous points, splitting is a must to creep and harass effectively. Any good player will split as much as he can and avoid clumping except when needed. This includes when cavalry is present in the game (which forces lone swords to retreat and be protected by pikes), and also other kinds of fast units, like the wolves of Angmar, which can pick off lone battalions or small harassing forces and take advantage of their superior speed and numbers to kill them before they can be reinforced. I would also advise clumping most of your troops when attacking an important objective (like an outpost or a clumped enemy army), to ensure that you are at full strength in that moment. A small variation of this includes clumping when the enemy defends from your harassing with a superior force, which you can defeat by clumping some of your harassing battalions.
Creeping vs Harassing
While creeping is very important to get map control, good players don't creep every single possible creep on the map; they prefer instead to be aggressive and deny creeps and harass from the start of the game. The reason is simple: If you and your enemy get 4 external resource buildings, and then you are aggressive and harass, your opponent will likely lose at least one farm (which you can claim for yourself). This changes the ratio from 4:4 to 5:3. If you had instead creeped, the ratio could be 5:5 or 6:6, which is much less advantageous for you.
As an example of all the previous points illustrated, have a look at this replay (played in Edain 4.4.1 with Megafix 1.2/1.3) by myself, playing a very aggressive, harassing Isengard:
The important features of this game are:
- I creep two wildman lairs with my starting battalions (the Isengard Scouts), while taking two unprotected farms with my scout hero. This gives me three economy buildings outside, plus one wildman hut (my main barracks).
- As soon as I finish creeping, my scouts, together with Bill, go and deny a creep to my opponent. In this case, clumping the scouts plus Bill (instead of splitting them) ensures my victory, as the dwarven player only had one slow battalion there and gives me one more farm (ratio now, 5:4 in my favour).
- At the same time, I am producing my first wildman battalions that start attacking several buildings (sometimes three or even four) at the same time (I also harass a bit with the scouts). When some of my wildmen are opposed by any superior defensive force, I just retreat and choose another target, or reinforce them, or pretend to retreat and attack again. In the southern flank, I clump 3 wildman battalions because I only need to contest one enemy farm and splitting them would render them more weak.
- Thanks to the map control (harassing gives me 2-3 more farms that I deny to the enemy, so the ratio is something like 6:3 or even 7:2 at times) my economy is already much stronger, and I can afford warg riders. Observe how I don't get any inside resource buildings as my resources are better spent in keeping trading troops, pressuring my enemy in strategic points and denying any sort of map control. The wargs work very well with wildmen since wargs can trample defending swords and leave the remaining pikes for wildmen or scouts. Also the wargs can quickly move through the map, forcing my enemy to clump, which further reduces the amount of map that he can take (while I can split).
As you see, at the end of the game, half of the map is still uncreeped, including the trolls in the middle, and I have no inside economy buildings, but I have effectively denied my enemy any sort of map control. Without splitting and clumping when necessary and being more passive, I could not have gotten such a big advantage so early into the game. Also, I carefully chose important pressure points (where he had concentrated most of his external resource buildings) that allowed me to close on my opponent and keep him locked there.