Raiding: Before you Start
Before you get all fired up and start picking fights with your neighbors, there are a few things any would-be raider needs to do. First, ask yourself how much time you are willing to commit to the game. You can make good profits from raiding without being on all the time, but the more time you devote to manage your raiding parties the better your results will be, and the more competitive you will be with your neighbors. Plus, even on a normal server, just keeping raids going can keep you busy from dusk till dawn. Second, you have to ask yourself how ruthless you are. You don’t need to crush weaker cities under your bootheel, but understand that you are taking resources from another human player. Many of them will be beginners, or inactive, so you need to either accept that it’s a game and be prepared to fend off tragic messages, or find a different line of work.
What you will need
The requirements for raiding are fairly simple, but at any point in the server they can be fairly expensive. You will need a level 3 main building, a rally point, and a barracks. You may or may not need to upgrade a wheat field depending on what you have bought. The minimum raiding force that you need to raid an undefended village and not lose any troops is two. So you will need either two macemen, two legionnaires, or two phalanxes. Teutons can get all of these requirements out of the way and be raiding in a matter of hours. Romans and Gauls will take a little longer. As long as you keep your buildings queued, you should be ready to start raiding no later than half a day after you started.
Once you have your two raiding troops, you need to start looking around your 7x7. Are there any players out of beginners protection? How big are they? What tribe are they? If there are no easy pickings, look farther. Ideally, with so few troops, you want to hit mostly Romans and Teutons with less than 9 population. 9 is the minimum you need to build troops (if you built nothing but the requirements for a barracks, then that’s what you will have). Anything less than that and you are safe. Hit small population targets until you have built up a fairly large force - how big is variable. Ideally, you want as many troops as possible, but it can be hard to manage large armies this early on, so stick to what you’re comfortable with. When you start to get more troops, you can hit bigger targets - many large population players have few defenses. But be careful around Gauls, as they have traps that can wreak havoc on your army with little expense to them. Even if they do have troops, it is often just a few, and these are good for hero XP. Avoid attacking players in alliances unless you are sure there won’t be retaliation. Soon enough you should have expanded your raiding operation to your 13x13 and beyond. You are ready for the next step.
Expanding and Growing Your Raiding
If things are going well, and they should be if you are not surrounded by high population Teutons or crafty Gauls, you will start to pull in large amounts of resources. This means you should start looking to the future. You want to get bigger and stronger than your rivals, and there are a couple of ways to do that. If you are Roman or Gaul, you will most likely want to consider teching up to your next raiding unit - Equites Imperators or Theutates Thunder - which will allow you to gather more resources from farther away. If you are a Teuton and you are doing well, you may want to keep building maces and start working toward a second village, in which case you should build the prerequisites to a Town Hall and start throwing parties. Make sure your strategy fits your situation - well-off Romans and Gauls can expand right away and struggling Teutons can push for Paladins and wait for a second village. But your first unit won’t suit you forever, especially when large raids of cavalry troops come knocking from distant enemies.
Raiding in the Mid and End Game
As time wears on, you may start to wonder if raiding is the best way to continue fueling your empire, especially if you have multiple villages that you are trying to build. These are good thoughts to have. Fields, even though they produce resources slower than raids, can outshine everyone but the very top raiders by the mid-game and trading resources between your villages and those of your alliance can be just as time consuming as raiding. It is a good idea to start building up your fields after you’ve settled your second village, and after that, it’s up to you if you want to keep raiding. Many raiders with the time and resources move their raiding army to a 9-cropper and run a full time operation from there - if you have the time and resources, I highly recommend this. But if you are finding the life of a raider taxing, then it is fine to cut back your raiding operations and focus on building your empire. Do what fits your availability and play style - raiding helps you get to this point alive, but it doesn’t need to carry you to the endgame.
Raiding is ultimately dependent on the competency of your neighbors, no matter how good you are - it is 24/7, no holds barred, unlimited PvP. If the people around you cranny up and built traps, you may find yourself with an army that can barely feed itself, and if you can’t compete with other raiders, you may become a farm yourself. This strategy is a lot less assured than a safer, defensive field based strategy, but it is how almost all of the top players on every server reach the top. It is more involved than a defensive strategy, but it is also more time-consuming. It would be a good idea to include some raiding in every strategy, but if you don’t want to rely on it, that it equally valid.