What initially may seem like a very ordinary civilization in Age of Empires II, the Celts can prove to have a capacity for achieving an immense destructive power in the late game. Expert players know this, and have learned to use the formidable weapons of this, sometimes underlooked, almighty civilization.
Similar to the Turks, the Celts are not an easy civilization to start a game with, as they need time to build up their forces and require a good number of resources for their best strategies, particularly wood. The Celts' main strength lies on their tough siege units, so that will be the focus of this article.
Infantry and Siege Civilization
Infantry move 15% faster
The Celts also have a big focus on infantry, so this is a great bonus for the their woad raiders and champions to close the distance between archers and buildings faster, and avoid some arrows in the process. It also aids the woad raiders sneak on enemy siege!
Lumberjacks work 15% faster
You can take for granted that you are going to need plenty of wood when playing competitively with the Celts! The siege you are going to produce isn't gonna build itself on scraps! So, this is a great trait for the Celts player, as it will enable a faster income of wood.
Siege weapons fire 20% faster
Celts' prominence with siege weapons starts here. With a starting passive 20% bonus to siege units' firing rate, this can and will make the difference in destroying your enemy castles and towers before enemy horses have time to reach your siege, or not.
Sheep not converted if in 1 Celt unit's line of sight
It's an interesting and original trait that's for sure. It can help you not lose sheep in the beginning of a standard game. I can't see the appeal, though, and I don't think this particular thing can make the difference in winning or losing a game.
"Woad is a plant found in the British Isles from which a blue pigment can be extracted. Celtic warriors painted themselves with this pigment prior to battle to look more fearsome and unnerve their enemies. Celtic warriors had been raiding more developed areas of Britain and Europe since ancient times. The Scots, for example, were originally Irish raiders who took lands from the Picts in north Britain that became Scotland. When the English sought to conquer the Celts inhabiting Ireland, Wales, and Scotland during the Middle Ages, the Celts were at a great disadvantage against the English mounted knights. The Celts often turned to guerrilla tactics, raiding English settlements and withdrawing before English armies. Raiders painted with woad devastating the borderlands. A renowned woad raider was William Wallace of Scotland who rampaged through Northern England for a decade."
The Woad Raider is a naturally exceptional fast foot-soldier. This fact, allied with the Celts bonus speed to infantry, makes the Woad Raider the second best infantry of choice- after huskalrs (Goths' unique units), to charge archers. They are cheap and fast to create, so you can keep popping 'em without worrying too much with your economy.
However, in my opinion, the excellence of the Woad Raider lies in its inapt ability to sneak on enemy siege and make wreckage of it, thanks to its swiftness and attack bonus versus siege units. Woad raiders are also town raiders as their story dictates. They can take down buildings quickly, and you can also use them to protect your siege from charging huskarls and eagle warriors- the exclusive fast-infantry of the Mayans and Aztecs.
The Woad Raider's weakness is obviously cavalry. The typical paladin enforced army will make mince meat out of your woad raiders, so always have some halberdiers amongst your ranks to defend against them.
"The warriors of Celtic Britain gained a reputation as very emotional fighters, capable of wide swings in their moral. Furor Celtica, or Celtic Fury, was a state of highly charged aggressiveness that all enemy armies sought to escape. If the fury could be withstood, it might vanish suddenly and turn into panic. If the Celtic leaders could manage and direct the fury of their soldiers, it was a daunting force multiplier."
And Furor Celtica is what makes the Celts' siege weapons unstoppable. Large numbers of siege that resist longer and kill faster will provoke panic and despair! Consider this: 40 heavy scorpions, 40 siege onagers and 20 trebuchets- how in hell are you going to stop such force in motion, moving in the direction of your town? You can build walls and castles, you can build bombard towers, you can produce paladins, you can produce war elephants or huskarls, heck you can even make counter-siege, but in the end, the Celtic siege will prove its superiority.
Celts also have all the siege upgrades as it was to be expected, so you can really count on them to be the foundation of your army. Have some woad raiders and halberdiers around for protection and you have a devastating force. The greatest trial of controlling large numbers of siege is really being able to maneuver them in the right direction. Those clumsy things can be such a pain! But when they start firing, oh boy...
Siege Workshops work 20% faster
Taking into account the time needed for siege units to be created and how the Celts player relies heavily on them, this is a great bonus for the civ right from the start. It's passive so you can count on those shorter times as soon as you can start creating your first scorpion or mangonel.
This is a good team bonus for other civs that use siege units as well, and there is always the need for siege weapons at some point in the game, for any civilization, especially as the game progresses to its later stages.
A good civilization to team-up with the Celts to reap maximum benefits from team bonuses would be the Koreans. The Celts provide faster-working Siege Workshops, while the Koreans provide +1 range for all onagers! Now, add that extra range to the bonuses that the Celtic Siege Onager already has and do the math!
There is more to Celt siege and infantry
Unfortunately, Celts don't get a complete Blacksmith and they don't have any particular man-unit that stands out from the crowd. However, they do benefit from a few key units that will aid 'em survive until they can create their hellish siege army.
When starting a game you will want to create an army of milita. They will be the bulk of your forces before being able to create more powerful units. The Milita is a balanced unit that you can always rely upon, to help defend your town from early attacks. In the case of the Celts, they can grow to become fully upgradable champions and benefit from the extra speed early on, aiding them in the fight against archers. Use them to raid unprotected buildings as well.
To complement your champions and woad raiders, the Celts have maxed halberdiers. You can start creating them early on to protect your other infantry and siege units from enemy cavalry. They don't cost gold, so go wild if you have extra resources.
Paladins and Hussars
Although lacking Bloodlines for more HP, as well as the last cavalry armor upgrade from the Blacksmith, the Celts can also make paladins and hussars. If you think your woad raiders need that little bit of extra power or speed to compete with your enemy forces, and you have some extra resources, then these options are available to you. I don't recommend it, though. Their paladin is fragile and the cost for its upgrades alongside the cost for the units themselves can be put to much better use when using this civ.
More Than Perfect Siege Rams
They are part of the Celtic superior siege weapons, but I'd like to talk about them separately. When going against a player who focus his resources on actual armies, a combination of woad raiders, scorpions, onagers and trebuchets would work wonders in raiding his town. However, if you are facing a player who concentrates on defenses by building bombard towers, castles and walls all around his town in the late game, then this becomes a good time to put the power of these chaotic babies that have more than 400 hit points to use! You will need numbers, though! Have also a number of heavy scorpions behind them to hit and distract the mere humans that try to fight such destructive forces, and watch how the Byzantine town of your friend is razed to the ground.
Hard and fun to play with, this is one of the most underlooked civilizations in Age of Empires II in terms of late game potential. They are used, but Byzantines, Saracens, Mongols, Chinese and the likes tend to be used more often.
Taking into account what was mentioned here, how do you counter a Celts player that has managed to achieve the level of siege force mentioned above? Not easily. The best bet against large numbers of siege is to counter with equal power, so the Turks is the civ of choice for their mobile siege weapon that has the longest range in the game, the Bombard Cannon.
Since we're talking about using power to take down large numbers of siege weapons out of their reach, you have the Koreans and their siege onagers, which get +2 range thanks to their unique trait and unique tech, thus being able to start firing first and reducing scorpion and onager numbers and their damage potential. There is also the Japanese Trebuchet which can pack, unpack and fire faster. Since siege units are slow, a large number of trebs can take many down before they can close the distance and become a real threat.
It's not easy playing with the Celts in Age of Empires II. Much like the Turks and the Koreans, this is a civilization that needs its preparation and the later ages to unleash its true power. However, put this civilization at the hands of a good player, and not even the best Turks strategy can take him down.
For more info on other civilizations read my 10 of the Best Civilizations from Age of Empires II: The Conquerors!