The folowing is intended as a guide for people new to the game and I am in no way claiming that it is the fastest or the best, it is simply how I do things. Using this method i average at empire age with a level 70 hero in 2 weeks, though i do put allot of time into the game.
---->NOT HAVING ARCHERS FOR EXP WEEKEND IS A DISASTER <----
To start off simply go the the event tab (top right of screen) and join your hero into the arena queue. Troops and pets are not lost in this event so don't be afraid to take the best you have. Even a naked hero with no troops will very quicky reach level 20 from arena matches and with a win here and there, level 30 soon after. It is a good idea to make your first hero a power hero with the majority of his points spent on the power attribute as the task reward gear has power requirements and heroes of this type are slightly easier to work with than other variants. When first starting out I recomend building no troops at all other than archers and focus on reasearch and upgrades to improving them, as these are the troops you will need to level with. Do not worry to much about buying gear for your hero until it reaches level 50 as you will find yourself reaching that level rather quickly and abandoning the lower level equipment. Simply equip yourself with gear purchased in the arena tab with honor points and the gear you recieve as task rewards.
Once you have a level 30 blue hero (or purple if you got lucky early) load him up with archers and head off to hunt wild elephants. Idealy you will have at least 3 stacks of tier 2 archers but the higher the tier and number the better. With the aid of EXP boost weekends and/or EXP boost food and books you will very quickly reach level 40. It is at this point where you can move on to horse thieves and start attempting the arcadian ladder. Please note that while completing the 4th floor of the arcadian ladder can allow you to turn your starting hero purple, you CAN permanantly lose your archers if something goes wrong. I recomend some further reading and a little caution before you throw yourself into the ladder. After reaching level 60 you should be capable of completing supression if you are carefull (also an event where you can lose your troops) which is the fastest way to gain experiance in the game. From here on out it is pretty much all supression and horse thieves or turks, making use of any EXP boosts availible to you.
The table below illustrates the differance in dps vs npc mobs for some of the differant ranged units and as you can see.. archers come out on top with the exception of tier 5 units. For this reason most of my guide is written with the assumption that you are using archers to level with.
A loss in the arena will gain your hero 10,000 exp and a win will gain 30,000 exp and 15 honor points with consecutive wins granting increasingly larger exp amounts. Each time a hero enters it costs 1,000 gold and there is a limmit of 30 matches per day with a 10 minute cooldown between matches. This means that even if you auto these matches while working on something else your hero has acces to an easy 300,000 exp per day minimum. At lower levels this is by far the easiest option for leveling with no risk at all of troop loss and it also can provide enough honor points for some starter gear. To enter the arena simply click the event icon at the top right of your screen, select arena from the even tab and choose a hero to enter. The cooldown for the arena can be removed using gift coupons or point vouchers.File:Arena01.jpg
A victory is scored in the arena if you destroy all opposing units or if you deplete the flag health in the enemy spawn to 0. If neither of these conditions are reached within the time limit then both players recieve a draw (ending any winning streaks). It is widely considered extremely bad form to force a draw by running when you know that you cannot win, I suggest not doing it(to counter this simply rush the enemy flag). Keep in mind that while the matching system will try to match you with an oponant roughly the same strength it is highly likely that you will come up against empire age opponents very early on.
The arcadian ladder is a multi-level instance event comprised of 5 levels, each with 10 floors. Each level is progressively more difficult than the last with a boss encounter on the 10th floor of each. The ladder provides a nice amount of exp (more so for the higher levels) and has a chance of dropping cobalt ore, jade hare ornaments, star upgrading gems, mid level set gear and other treasures. If you are new to the ladder I would suggest using the best archers availible to you in the greatest possible number as early in the game running out of time is a very real possability. You may only attempt the arcadian ladder once per day and may not add more troops between levels without the use of pv or gift coupons, once your hero exits the ladder your daily attempt is over.
To enter the ladder click events and select the arcadian button, then choose a hero and click begin. You can begin at a higher floor if you have previously finished lower floors but doing so requires a passport item and skips out on the chance of cobalt ore and other rewards so unless you are pressed for time... don't be lazy :P
While there is a "safe spot" or two on the level 1 map i have never used it, if your hero cannot tank through the level 1 mobs then you are probably not ready to be doing the arcadian ladder. Simply put your pet out of the way and let your units auto, perhaps allowing the mobs to get closer before doing so for lower level heros. Always let your hero into close proximity to the mobs long before your archers, especialy with boss mobs or you will end up with mobs chasing your archers instead of lining up to attack your hero.
In the picture below you will notice I have positioned my hero wedged into an "L" shape in the rock wall near the top right of the map for level 2. It is important that you imediately run your hero to this point and click the standby button, this will allow the hero to gain aggro on the mobs and minimizes the amount of mobs striking him at any one time. Keeping any pets well out of the way position your archers in the alcove below, allowing them to auto after your hero strikes his first blow (remember to keep your hero on standby for the entire battle). For the 10th floor boss it may be an idea to run your hero straight at the boss elephant before running your hero into possition as bosses will sometimes circumvent heros to attack archers if you fail to do so.
For the 3rd level I like to possition my troops as displayed in the picture below as other "safe spots" are easy to make mistakes with when tired and I really don't like my archers dying. Once again get your hero on standby in position early then carefully possition your archers and keep your pet out of the way. For this level, once your archers are in position make sure that they too are on standby just to ensure one doesnt get excited and atract the attention of a rogue mob. Again for the 10th level boss, run up and put a hit into the boss mob early before returning to position.
Displayed below is the positioning for level 4. This is another floor I like to standby both hero and archers once in position, keeping my pet down the bottom of the map out of the way. 2 of the floors on level 10 contain ranged mobs which have very little health but deal considerable amounts of damage. These range mobs have to be dealt with quickly by running your hero up to take them out before returning to position. A power/physique hero should have no problems doing this at a low level, though you may have noticed the hero pictured in my examples is a command hero. The floor 10 boss on this level can be a real pain for ignoring your hero completely and trying to rush your archers if you dont engage him very quickly, so if this happens just focus fire him down as quickly as possible while being careful not to drag the other mobs into your archers with your hero. Putting a pet between the boss and your archers can usually slow it down long enough for archers alone to take him out. Finishing this level will complete your purple hero task, allowing you to turn you starting blue hero purple.
Below is my posisioning for the 5th and final level, yet again with both hero and archers on standby. Some of the floors on this level contain fast moving cavalry mobs and/or more ranged mobs. For cavalry rush your hero out to meet them then drag them back in to be killed by the archers before rushing back out to kill the ranged mobs and once more returning to position. As with the other levels rush out to meet the 10th floor boss before returning your hero to his position on standby.
Clicking the missions button between floors will bring up the missions menu, displaying a list of tasks that can be completed inside the arcadian ladder. Some of these tasks require completion of levels within a certain time, using a certain troop type and other conditions like completing a level with no damage to your hero (using a health potion to heal before the end will help with that one). Rewards vary from ore and jade hare ornaments to skills and exp books. Once a task has been completed acces this menu, scroll through and click the highlighted mission and click accept up the top right of the menu to recieve your reward.
Suppression is an event for level 60+ heros that provides a huge amount of exp upon completion. It is identicle to a grasslands world npc battle in almost every way, unles you were unlucky enough to get a city spawn where your assyrians do not apear on a grasslands tile, in which case you may need to get a little stronger before being able to complete it or move your city (I would move). You may attempt suppression 5 times per day with an additional attempt per vip level. To begin just select suppression from the events tab, click recieve and then send out your hero to attack them outside your city (in the region). There are ten floors in each attempt with a break in between each floor to heal or grab more troops if you were unlucky enough to lose any.
If you position your troops as displayed in the picture below you will find that only one enemy can hit your hero at a time (with the exception of archers) which will greatly improve the survivabilty of your hero. Run your hero up to kill any archers in the wave before returning him to this position and keep pets well out of the way and you should have very little in the way of problems. The waves with cavalry will sometimes stand still until the cav are killed off but if you just remain in position you should still have plenty of time to wait for them and still complete the floor. Avoid getting hit by multiple cav and/or archers as you will find yourself dying rather quickly.
Lairs of various levels are scattered throughout the world map with the higher level lairs commonly found in the contested zones. To attemp a lair, click it and rally a hero inside then click "create" to start a raid party or "join" to join an existing party (you may not want to do that unless you have permission). All that is needed is a hero loaded with archers strong enough to tank through the battle and you can simply click start and auto the fight. Having a friend or two in with you will increase both your chance of succes and the drop rate of skills and loot (the higher the friend level of you partners the better). Even a very low level naked hero can complete a level 10 lair with just a handfull of archers but be carefull not to bite off more than you can chew with the higher level lairs as the difficulty increases dramaticly after level 50 or so. Each player may attemp a lair 10 times per day with additional attempts able to be purchased with gift coupons or point vouchers. All heroes in a raid party must have remaining attempts and no cooldown timer for the lair to begin. There is an auto lair function availible to vip levels 2 and higher which can allow lair runs to auto complete while afk or otherwise busy, non vip can join these parties to benefit from the function. Lairs are not really a primary levelling option but certainly do provide exp relevant to the level lair being attempted and a chance at some much needed gear and skills. Note that putting more than one of your own heroes in a lair party will still use 1 lair attempt each.. so you can use your 3 best to complete a high level lair at the cost of 3 lair attempts per run. Troops lost in lairs are permanently lost.
Level 1 skills drop from lairs level 10-20-30 with a slight increase in drop rate the higher the level of lair, level 2 skills drop in levels 40-50-60-70 and level 3 skills drop in level 80-90-100 lairs. Lairs also award glory to each hero taking part, level 10 awarding 1 point, 20= 2points, 30= 3 points, 40= 4 points, 50= 5 points, 60= 6 points, 70= 7 points, 80= 8 points, 90= 9 points and level 100 awarding 10 points. Equipment can drop from lairs, usually 10 levels lower than the lair it dropped in but gear set equipment can be either 10 or 20 levels lower. Lairs also have a chance to drop cooking, smithing and task items as well as gift coupons, pet items/skills and weapon fragments with drop rates increasing substantially with lair level.
List of lair level, number of units inside and availible exp (exp increased with friendship level)
Worls npc can be found scattered across the world map with the higher level npc residing in the contested zone areas. World npc drop a variety of items including cooking materials needed for exp food and other handy recipes. To attack a world npc simply click it, select a hero and march off into battle.
Attacking mobs on grasslands tiles is the easiest as the battle will take place on the map pictured below which has a very handy "safe spot". If you use the positioning displayed you should be able to defeat mobs far higher level than your hero without sustaining too much damage to your hero (which means less down time between battles and faster exp). Early research into the bandages skill will also help reduce downtime between battles.
Empty exp capsules can be equiped to a hero to store exp as it is gained by that hero, full capsule able to be unequiped and used by other heros to absorb the exp. Picking up some exp capsules off the auction house early on can give a nice leveling boost if you can get a reasonable price to make it worth your while. To use a capsule simply open the consumables section of your hero profile and use it from the list.