The predominant archer civilization of Age of Empires II, the Britons are a favorite among players all over for their attractive unique units and impressive unique traits.
The Britons are one of the civilizations with least technology available in the game, and for this fact they became a unappealing civilization to me, as I like to have options in my games. I may have overlooked the potential of their tech tree, though.
Town Centers cost -50% wood in Castle Age
Wood is a precious resource for the Britons since they are going to be creating a lot or archers! Being able to set up a Town Center for half the wood cost is a welcome plus, although it is far from being an earth shattering bonus...
Foot archers have +1 range Castle, +2 range Imperial Age
This trait starts shaping the Britons' prominence with the bow. More range means more arrows fired in the time needed for the enemy to reach you and more damage potential as arrows rain from your armies!
Shepherds work 25% faster
A good bonus only really noticeable in the Dark Age. It works well to help you gather the much needed food to advance to Feudal Age, quicker than the other players if possible. This will help you to start establishing an economy and improve defenses against rushes. However, after the sheep are gone, there's not much more to this bonus.
"The longbow was very tall, 5 or 6 feet long, and crafted from a single piece of wood, commonly yew. It fired 3-foot-long arrows at a great range and, in the hands of an expert, could be extremely accurate. Edward I (Longshanks) of England grasped the value of this weapon and the English thereafter employed large contingents of longbowmen in their Middle Age armies. All sports other than archery were banned on Sundays in Britain to ensure that archers practiced.
The long bow was used effectively in longe-range barrages against massed troops, firing thin pointed arrows called bodkins that could pierce armor. Arrows were fired simultaneously by thousands of archers and aimed at a distant area rather than a specific target. Enemy troops within the area were forced to receive the barrage with no cover but their armor and shields. The barrage caused casualties and reduced enemy morale. The most famous examples of this tactic were the great English victories at Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt during the Hundred Years War. French knights recalled with horror the awful sound of thousands of arrows in flight and the sky turning dark from their shafts."
The Longbowman is the foundation of what makes the Britons so lethal in the right hands. At first sight, longbowmen might not seem much different than other archers. However, having the highest natural range for archers, and allied with the archer range bonuses of the Britons, the longbowmen become unmatched in the arts of killing from afar.
"The longbow developed in Wales became a favored British weapon under Edward I, who quickly understood how it could be effectively deployed. British longbowmen played havoc against French armies throughout the Hundred Year's War. British free men, called yeomen, were skilled and highly motivated by self-interest. The pay and loot from a successful campaign in France could set up a man in business for life."
The final boost for the range of Britons' archers. Yeomen gives foot-archers +1 range, which in addition to the natural +2 range bonus they receive at this point, make for a total of +3 extra range! Taking into account the Blacksmith upgrades, longbowmen can get a total of 12 range! That is just huge for a mere archer unit. Yeomen also gives towers +2 attack, which is good, but not incredible.
A fully upgraded Longbowman can only be outranged by trebuchets; fully upgraded bombard cannons, the Turks' bombard towers, the Koreans's towers and the Teutons' castles. Everything else in the game is at the mercy of these long-distance killers. When in large numbers, longbowmen can even kill paladins, in fact, when outnumbering, they can kill pretty much anything.
Archery Ranges work 20% faster
This bonus is not actually that useful to Britons as you are going to want to produce longbowmen from the Castle. They cost -5 gold per unit, have +1 attack and +1 range than the Arbalest from the Archery Range. In a pinch, it might come in handy, since you can make arbalests much faster by spawning Archery Ranges and fill in production queues. However, I can see this as a fantastic bonus for civilizations that rely on cavalry archers.
Saracens: They produce the strongest cavalry archers in the game, so they are going to want to use them! The Britons benefit from the team-up as well by receiving an extra +1 attack against buildings.
Turks: Fully upgradable cavalry archers from the archery range as well. The Britons won't benefit from their team bonus at all, but imagine a combination of these longer-ranged bombard cannons with longbowmen?
Persians: They also need cavalry archers to support war elephants. However, in a team-up with the Britons, just combine those elephants with longbowmen and you've got the most powerful town raiders covered by the most skilled ranged killers.
Huns: The raiding civilization that gets 20% faster working stables and cheaper cavalry archers. Being able to produce those faster, this homeless tribe can create even deadlier rushes. The Britons can benefit from the stable bonus, as their archers need some Cavalier protection.
It's all about the bow, and a front row
When playing the Britons, no matter how advanced your archer skill may be, there is always the need for protection against faster or more resistant enemies, especially when on open maps. The most notable threats are the Persians with their war elephants and the Goths with their huskarls. You can counter this with the great infantry this civ offers in addition to its superior archery. Mass produce halberdiers to annihilate elephants, or champions to clash with the huskalrs.
Perfect Arbalasts and Elite Skirmishers
Being the archer civ they are, the Britons can always count on the arbalests- much faster units to create thanks to the Archery Range cheap cost and production speed bonus; and skirmishers- cheap and cost-effective units that can protect your town from early rushes of fast-growing civs like the Huns or the Mongols.
The longbowmen are simply the most lethal units to have en mass. Their absurd range combined with numbers will practically hit anything coming at them. In order to protect them from those that do manage to break through, you have cavaliers. Despite lacking paladins, the Britons can research cavaliers in addition to all the Blacksmith upgrades. Heavy cavalry is the most reliable type of unit in the game for the combination of high and balanced stats, and can be used to counter many things, particularly the main enemy of fragile archers, siege.
I may have made the robin hoods sound like an invincible force up there. Well, the fact is that they can become unreachable if let, but even the best of the Britons player is not without weaknesses in its carefully structured and protected archer army.
Being an archer civilization, the best weapons against it would be siege and cavalry. Siege to break defenses, weaken armies and allow the charging of cavalry to take the scattered units down. The Persians have the most complete selection of cavalry units available and decent siege; the Celts have decent paladins and the best siege in the game; the Koreans have sturdy war wagons and extra-ranged siege onagers; while the Goths are really an anti-archer civ thanks to their huskarls. All these civilizations are decent choices to try and counter a good Britons player.
They might lack gunpowder, advanced siege weapons, really good cavalry or even a decent economy. Still, the Britons can become one of the most frustrating and infuriating civilizations to play against in Age of Empires II, especially if you have no idea of how to counter them.
If you liked the Brits, learn more about other great civs in my 10 of the Best Civilizations from Age of Empires II: The Conquerors!