Age of Empires II is returning! The game that was first launched in 1999 forever influencing the strategy genre in PC gaming once again graces our screens! So what better way to celebrate other than talking about its epic civilizations? In this article I write about my most used and favorite civilizations back in the days of The Conquerors.
Ah, the Saracens. I still remember when I started using them, my friends followed and then everyone wanted to use them! We tried to play with exclusive civilizations to make it more unique to each player, and our games more interesting.
Strength: The Saracens's strength comes from their camels which have +30 HP thanks to their unique tech! Their unique unit, the Mameluke, is the legendary ranged mounted unit that can play with infantry, annihilate cavalry and raid complete towns! They also have the complete tech tree of the siege workshop at their disposal (only lacking the Heavy Scorpion), so their siege is at full-power and serve their superior camels and mamelukes well.
Weakness: One of the downfalls of the Saracens is that the Mameluke is the most costly unique unit in the game, in terms of gold. That could become a problem for the economy. When talking combat, I'd say the best bet against a horde of camels is a nice army of archers and siege to support, like the all-powerful scorpions.
Learn more about playing with the Saracens in Age of Empires II.
The Turks was a civilization I only started using in my later days of the game, so I could never unlock their true potential in my local games. The truth is, the Turks are overkill in the right hands, and if I had to choose the best civilization, I'd say the Turks.
Strength: Being the civilization with the longest range for bombard towers and bombard cannons (+2!) thanks to their unique tech, they can outrange and bombard pretty much anything, thus being the civilization of choice by experts. Their Janissary's inaccurate, but abusive firepower can also be of help if your enemy starts to get too close.
Weakness: Know how to use the Turks, and I see no weakness. Heck you could even take down 2 civilizations working together with their cannons. They are that good. I think the first thing to consider when facing a Turks player is to try and cut off their economy routes as soon as possible since they need a lot of resources to grow strong, especially stone. Otherwise, good luck, you're gonna need it.
Learn more about playing with the Turks in Age of Empires II.
The Koreans eventually rose to become my favorite civilization from during my friendly games. They have a decent mix of units, bombard towers and the ever-annoying War Wagon!
Strength: The particularity of the War Wagon is that it is a Cavalry Archer with range, power and HP! Their weakness lies in their poor hack defense and their slow movement for cavalry. However, war wagons en mass can be a tricky enemy! Combine them with bombard towers and cannons, as well as pikemen to protect them from charging horses and you've got yourself an army!
Weakness: Again, I'd say the weakness is the economy. All these powerful units are costly and to have an army of them you need resources. In this particular case, stone and wood can become scarce. To fight an army of wagons, I'd recommend fully upgraded paladins with siege onagers, or else plenty of huskarls, the Goth's heavily armoured and cheap unique unit, to outnumber the wagons and cannons.
Learn more about playing with the Koreans in Age of Empires II.
Unstoppable Cavalry Archers!
The Mongols, a civilization I picked up after the Saracens and that eventually became one of my war buddy's favorite civ.
Strength: The Mongols' strength is a no brainer, it's their combination of fast-firing mangudai, hussars at the front and their fast-moving siege at the rear. This civilization simply has the best combination of toys available. As a bonus, the Mangudai's fiery arrows have bonus damage against siege units as well! Yep they can be unstoppable.
Weakness: Another civilization that is hard to counter when well-played. Since they rely heavily on cavalry archers and siege, the best bet would be a horde of resistant cavalry with high piercing armour, so the traditional Paladin is a choice. Since mangudai are mounted units, they are weak against camels and mamelukes, the problem is that the camels will probably fall before getting near them... Well-protected onagers can counter the mangudai.
Learn more about playing with the Mongols in Age of Empires II.
The Persians, the civilization with elephants! I remember this as the first civ I used that completely destroyed my friends! At the time we didn't have much experience with the game or lacked the knowledge of some mechanics, but eventually they counter-attacked.
Strength: In my opinion the Persians have the best cavalry in the game for the reason that they have them all. They have the mighty war elephants, maxed paladins and maxed heavy camels. This means that you have a lot to choose from. An army of elephants can and will cause chaos and havoc!
Weakness: If there is one resource that the Persians need is food. Those elephants aren't fed on gold! You need 200 of food for one single unit so building an army of war elephants can be a challenge, if you don't have your farms prepared. Even if you have plenty of food the Persians are not without weaknesses. Elephants are slow, so they can easily be converted by priests, and one elephant converted is one elephant that will stop another one of yours. The paladins can be taken down by camels and pikemen, and the camels fall easily at the hands of pikemen and other heavy infantry, like champions.
Learn more about playing with the Persians in Age of Empires II.
Oh the Huns, another civilization whose power I misunderstood. These nomad beasts can and will make you have a run for your money.
Strength: The very unique characteristic of the Huns is the fact that they do not need houses! This makes the difference in a rush game because of 2 main factors: you start without a population limit and you don't waste precious clicks and time into building houses. Right from the start you focus on gathering resources to build a small army and raid your enemy villagers. Good Game. The Huns have great cavalry thanks to their paladins, cavalry archers and tarkans, useful to take buildings down rather quickly.
Weakness: The main weakness of the Huns I'd say, is that if you fail at an initial rush game you're going to have a bad time. You will have to recover lost resources and by that time your enemy will be prepared with pikemen all over the place. The Huns are a great civ to use if you use them correctly, otherwise they may not be the best civ for your play style.
Learn more about playing with the Huns in Age of Empires II
The Celts were the civ I started to use after the Mongols and before the Koreans became my favorites. This was after reading somewhere that they were one of the best three civs in the game, together with the Turks and the Koreans if my memory doesn't fail me.
Strength: And one of the reasons for that statement was because of the fact that the Celts' siege weapons fire 20% faster and have 50% more HP thanks to their unique tech, and everyone knows that siege units in numbers become forces of destruction, very hard to deal with. Taking into account that the Celts have all Siege Workshops units with all upgrades, plus their HP and fire-rate bonuses, an army of heavy scorpions, siege onagers and trebuchets will be able to take down virtually anything, and their town...
Weakness: However... if you focus on siege armies, manoeuvring them will prove to be quite a complicated task! If you can achieve that level of organization, though, 40 scorpions, 40 onagers and 20 trebs will simply become an unastoppable force. Of course there is always the risk of ruining your economy, but as long as you focus on wood and gold, you should be ok. These units aren't as expensive as bombard cannons which are probably the best counter to this strategy, now that I mention them. So if you are going against an expert Celts player, go Turks. Watch out for sneaky woad raiders though.
Learn more about playing with the Celts in Age of Empires II.
The Byzantines and the Teutons were our most used civs in our beginning days of the game. We didn't understand much of the mechanics and weren't that proficient in English. We just knew that these civs had tough castle units!
Strength: Both Byzantines and Teutons are great civs and easy to play with. Build your town, build your economy, build and army, defend and attack! However, I decided that I would only choose one of the two for this selection of 10, since there other unique civs I wanna focus on, while the Teutons rely on their balance and reliability. (Yes I'm kinda going on along with the flow here, I didn't have a plan or structure for this article!)
Resuming, the Byzantines have the best defense in the game, granting them sturdier walls, castles and towers, and they have the... how do you spell it again... the Cataphract! Cataphracts have 2 particularities: they cause trample damage thanks to the Byzantines' unique tech (damage to nearby units)- a trait shared with war elephants actually, and they have, realistically, no weaknesses! Cataphracts are the only mounted unit in the game that don't suffer the bonus damage dealt by camels and mamelukes, they cancel Pikemen's bonus damage to mounted units as well (rendering them obsolete), and they also resist the Japanese Samurai, a unit that deals bonus damage to other unique units! Why the developers decided to benefit these so much is behind me, but then again, they gave us the Turks.
Weakness: So, Cataphracts will definitely be hard to stop, but contrary to Paladins, they have poorer piercing defenses. Taking that into account, a way to get rid of them is to gather a nice number of heavy scorpions or go with the Koreans. The economy can also be a problem here. To build great defenses and benefit from their bonuses, the Byzantines will need plenty of stone, and the cataphracts aren't exactly on the cheap side of the coin, being the Mameluke the only unique unit that is more expensive. Concluding, stone and gold are their most precious resources, so that can become a problem in the long run, and a possible target for you.
Learn more about playing with the Byzantines in Age of Empires II.
Not much space left... There is another great archer civilization out there (the Mayans), but I can't make a list of the 10 best civilizations and not mention the Britons- a favorite amongst archer users. I never used them much, their lack of numerous things made them unappealing to me. But the thing is, they can be deadly with the range and accuracy of their longbowmen.
Strength: Not only does the Longbowman have the highest natural range of any archer (6), but he also has all the archer upgrades (except Thumb Ring), and an additional +3 range- thanks to the Britons' unique traits! What does this mean? That they can outrange almost anything. When playing the Britons, a favorite strategy of many is to keep popping up longbowmen! This is lethal for beginners or unexperienced players since masses of longbowmen at full power will kill even armies of horses before they can touch them.
Weakness: How do you counter this? Go siege. Longbowmen are fragile, so if you can get some onager hits on them, their numbers will be drastically reduced and their damage power weakened. You can then charge in with paladins. Be careful though, an experienced player won't just have archers in their ranks. However, there are other counters. The Goths' huskarls are specialists in dealing with archers and are cheap and fast to make, while the Koreans' war wagons are powerful units that can withstand them. The problem with the wagons is that the Britons will almost always be numerically superior. I once found myself annihilating my friend's Briton strategy using the Turk bombard cannons, so that's another civ you could use to try and counter the Brits.
Learn more about playing with the Britons in Age of Empires II.
This became way longer then what I expected. The last spot of my top 10 age of empires II civilizations goes to the Chinese!
Strength: The Chinese win when it comes to versatility! They possess a vast array of units you can choose from, as well as counters to everything! That is a big plus when playing experienced and versatile players. Pikemen, skirmishers, champions and arbalests have all the upgrades and are cheap, so you can play cheap! Another fantastic toy of the Chinese is their scorpion, which can also be fully upgraded and benefit from the Chinese unique tech, that gives it +4 piercing attack! This is huge, use them in vast numbers with cavaliers to sneak upon enemy siege and you've got yourself a winning strategy. In my opinion, these scorpions are the best units in the game, only comparable to the Celts' siege.
Weakness: Alas, the Turks once again can counter this. Their cannons' power and range is just too lethal and hits well on scorpions. Janissaries will also sweep clean all of the cheap Chinese units. Korean onagers and Celt siege are also great counters to Chinese units. Apart from these, the Chinese Heavy Scorpion and his friend Trebuchet can go far.
Learn more about playing with the Chinese in Age of Empires II
And there you go!
I chose my, not top 10, but favorite civilizations from this legendary medieval strategy game, including the ones that came with the expansion pack (probably the best pc game expansion of all time- The Conquerors).
I know I missed some, but if are reading this and played the Goths, the Teutons or any other civ, take into account I couldn't fit all of them into this list of 10. I'm also sorry for the lack of images and naval information on the civs, but that would make this article just too big. No one wants to read a huge chunk of text about a game! I wanted to focus on the main points and avoid ramblings (which I failed miserably).
Age of Empires II: The Conquerors is not perfect and not 100% balanced, but it's pretty darn near there. In the end it all comes down to using your favorites. I know I could perform better with the Turks, but I'd rather go with the Koreans or the Mayans which give me more enjoyment and fulfilment to play with.
If there's one thing that this amazing game gives you is choice!
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