This guide assumes several things:
1. You are an offensive player and prefer starting up with pure-offense or at least a higher ratio of offense to defense.
2. You should first know some basic terms commonly used in tribal wars.
3. It is recommended you have played at least two worlds before attempting to follow this guide.
4. That you have high activity. If you cannot reach a level of activity that you are comfortable with, I recommend you find a coplayer. You will need to be farming for more than 10 hours per day.
With this startup guide you will be aiming for 3 things. If you do not plan to aim for these things then feel free to follow a different guide:
1. An almost complete nuke by the time you're ready to noble.
2. A full 4-noble train. You won't be nobling until you have a full train ready. (3 nobles on package worlds)
3. A village with efficient building levels by the time you have a train ready. This includes: high barracks, high stable, balanced resource income.
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Use 1 and 2 to switch quickly between tabs. This can be used for almost anything requiring multiple tabs, including farming.
Got a few negative comments from my original post because of the farming method I suggested. Because it seems to be a sensitive issue I will not comment much on farming methods this time round. I will justify what I said last time by saying now that despite what people may have said or think, I was very successful using that method. I enjoy experimenting with new styles of playing and I found that method to be successful. To each his own.
However as far as scouts go, I recommend you build as many as needed but not much more than that. Once you have 300+ LC and have a decent income then this changes slightly as you have the resources to support the recruitment of "additional scouts which you *may* need".
Something to understand: during startup, highest rank doesn't always indicate the best player. A rank 5 player could easily be in a better situation than the rank 1 player. However, in general, a high rank comes with a good startup strategy. It is not a requirement for a good startup, it is a result. Note the difference.
Notes on headquarters
I won't be explaining step by step on how to reach LC. There are other guides for that, and this guide is for those who don't enjoy looking at a guide every 3 hours to see what to do next. The general concept here is to be understood, and then it can be applied without needing to constantly re-read.
Optional reading/links for more detailed building levels before LC research:
Nauzhror startup guide: http://forum.tribalwars.co.uk/showthread.php?t=265
Purple Predator startup guide:
...and on with this guide.
1. Plan for pure-offense.
2. Plan for building between 100 and 250 spears at start. 102 spears are need to clear an inactive player's warehouse, 204 allows you to clear two simultaneously, and 250 are to cover losses.
3. Plan for researching axes before LC.
4. Plan for researching scouts after LC, unless they are needed urgently.
5. Split farming runs between about 15 spears and 3 axes per target. When in doubt, use the simulator.
6. Scout and farm low point player villages as soon as beginner protection is off. Below around 90 points you can farm without scouting.
7. A few swords can be built before you research axes if there is a huge surplus of iron, as it allows you to split up your spears sooner. Do not go much beyond 20 swords until you have LC and a decent income, assuming going beyond 20 swords is your goal.
8. Until you have significant income, don't build more scouts than absolutely necessary.
9. Early-on, as a general rule, when faced with a choice of upgrades or troops, choose troops.
Once you have LC, everything from this point onwards that you upgrade will either slow you down, or speed things up. What most guides, even the high-level guides sometimes miss, is the timing of the HQ rush, and as to whether you rush HQ before or after getting workshop, as mentioned before. If you go straight for workshop soon after hitting LC, then you'll have a slightly less efficient startup. Keep your smithy at lvl 5 unless having a workshop early becomes absolutely necessary.
Early on you're going to have problems with resources. You've just started building LC, and you can't always keep the HQ running. To counter this delay, use this time to balance your resource mines, and to upgrade your stable, within reason. The aim is to have the stable running 24/7 a few hours after these upgrades. Having your stable around lvl 7 when that time comes is better than having it at lvl 3, because the stable does take a long time to upgrade.
Keeping resources balanced with consistent farming isn't too straightforward. Sometimes you can rely on the market, sometimes not. Farming hauls in your area could be skewed in favor of a specific resource, so there is leeway for change here. However I have found that assuming that farming is balanced, (timeframe: just before you begin the HQ rush), these resource levels generally work well:
Timber: 11 - 12
Clay: 1 - 5
Iron: 16 - 18
Keep on lvl 1 until about a day before you are able to research LC, in which case you upgrade to around lvl 5 (higher is ok) and if an imbalance does occur, store 1000 iron in lvl 1 market temporarily.
If there is a serious iron deficiency nearer the time when you are HQ rushing, queueing a HQ or barracks upgrade is often a good way to burn up the excess wood & clay.
Before and after the HQ rush
The headquarter rush gives you a false impression on your rank, temporarily boosting rank, and then leveling off or dropping your rank once the HQ is complete. This may differ if you rush it significantly high, such as HQ27. The point I'm making here is that you should ignore your rank during this period, and indeed, during the remainder of the startup stage.
By all means, embrace your fun side and celebrate your rank after you have nobled a bunch of decent villages. After all, what is the point of playing a game if you're not having fun?
I cannot cover all aspects of startup in a single guide, but hopefully by reading this you have a better idea of how to proceed with such an offensive strategy. I have achieved top 5 startups in all my core-start worlds since I began using this strategy myself. I have seen other players successfully using very similar strategies; the proof is in the results - the rest is up to you.
I will end the guide here this time, removing section 3 (defending) and section 4 (post train launch checks) as some people seemed to think that they were out of place. If you wish to learn how to defend or learn about train checks then there are other guides available on those topics.
For defense a good start would be this, for covering the basics:
(I did not make that image, credits go to the creator)