Do any of these have less of a learning curve than others? Or at the very least a really good tutorial.
Not really. Most RTS games have a very similar play style and tutorial; the tutorial usually being the first few maps of the campaign and just explains the units and what they do, not really giving any tactics or strategy.
Here's some tips I found on a novice's guide to RTS that you might find helpful:
The real-time strategy genre, or RTS games, as they are also known, can be intimidating, as they call for players to manage dozens of units at a time, build structures, and organize battle tactics. The genre is more rewarding for those who come to the game with a basic knowledge of strategy, and that's where this Novice Guide comes in.
What it is
First, you must understand the structure of the game itself. In its simplest form, RTS games ask you to build, manage, and use units to overcome an evolving obstacle, most often another force controlled by another player or artificial intelligence. The key to these games is that the game takes place in real time, as you play it, so you need to be constantly reacting and making decisions on the fly.
Typically these games involve building and developing massive armies to do battle. This often includes harvesting various resources to build units like soldiers, and to construct buildings to both produce and upgrade your units, such as developing more powerful weaponry.
The following tips apply generally to the real-time strategy genre generally, and should cover the basics you will need to feel comfortable tackling any game in the genre. Good luck!
The RTS genre is action-packed, but that action is preceded by long spells of preparation. First-timers may struggle to understand this as they pull together a team of green units to throw at their opponent. Rather, choose at the beginning to focus on developing technology, setting up a perimeter defense, and organizing your fighting force. You must make dozens of decisions before going into battle, and while you may be tempted to get right to it, seasoned players understand that preparation is the key to Real-time strategy in space.
Rush and Attack
This idea may seem to fly in the fact of being patient, but mounting an immediate attack on your enemy actually buys you time. Build several of the cheapest, quickest units you can, and when you have four to six units, send them to your enemy's base. Once there, concentrate on damaging their buildings and resource gathering units, and ignore the attacking units.
In the first frantic minutes of a match, inexperienced players will plop down buildings wherever there's room. Unfortunately, this lack of foresight will typically come back and bite them where it hurts.
When placing a building, determine its importance to your success, and place it accordingly. For example, if you plan on utilizing vastly upgraded infantry, you want the building that develops those upgrades to be heavily defended.
When battle does begin, the new gamer may tend to get flustered by what they perceive to be a lack of control. Dozens of units can be involved on screen, and sorting them out can be disastrous if you're unprepared.
When first learning to play an RTS title, take some time to familiarize yourself with unit selection. Specifically, understand how to select "all" of one unit type at a time, as well as how to group a variety of units into a single group.
Learn the balance between units in combat.
For example, in Battle for Middle-earth II, utilize your cavalry to run down enemy archers. You can simply hold the left trigger and tap the A button to select every mounted unit on the screen and attack them swiftly, instead of scrambling to click every cavalry unit on the screen.
Researching upgrades for units is expensive, and throughout any RTS game, your resources will be precious. Don't spread your focus on research options, but rather make sure to choose one or two specific unit-types to upgrade.
The Battle Begins
Victory in RTS games comes from preparation and clutch battle decisions. Far too often, once a battle begins, a player will simply sit back and hope for the best. Instead, you should be engaged throughout the battle, matching up your units to focus on their strong suit, toggling back and forth between the battle and your home base, making sure to build replacement units and continue research even while fighting. Make sure to watch the tide of battle carefully to see when you need to use a special attack, such as calling in a missile strike, or granting your troops a stat boost.
When instigating a major battle on your enemy's turf, never show your full hand. You don't want a surprise or special attack to destroy your entire army, but the element of surprise is always a huge factor in any RTS game.
The classic example of this strategy is allowing a mid-level army to engage your enemy's base, while holding back your more powerful forces just out of sight. Once the enemy is engaged and is confident they have you in hand, bring in the second wave to clean up the mess. This can be particularly effective against human opponents online.
It can be wise to build a second base on a remote part of the map, particularly when fighting a human foe. This can be a very effective ruse. Your opponent will typically always be aware of your primary base, so having a backup means you cannot be taken down so easily. If you abandon your initial base when it comes under attack, your can lure your opponent into thinking that they have already won, setting them up for an effective counterattack.
Contrary to popular belief, not all RTS factions are created equally. Yes, the design is balanced to that no power can dominate over another, but they do not always have corresponding strengths and weaknesses.
After a few rounds of play you should start to get an idea of what kind of strategy you are comfortable employing. Whether you like holding back and playing defensively, or rushing your opponent immediately, whether you like light mobile units or heavily armored ones, there should be a faction just right for you. Once you make this decision, focus on developing your skills with that one faction. It is very difficult to be successful focusing on more than one faction at a time.