The Chinese are a civilization that it is to Age of Empires II what balance is to life. When I started to use this civilization in my friendly games, I already had some knowledge of the game. Despite being a medium player, I was a very challenging one. I had played and faired well with the Persians, the Saracens, the Mongols and the Koreans before, just to mention a few of my most used civs.
However, my games were getting more and more competitive and intense, as my friends kept perfecting their own play style and trying new things. So, I felt the need to try something that could be the answer to many of the threats of a single game, and the Chinese seemed to be what I was looking for.
Start with + 3 Villagers, -50 wood, -200 food
Although the Chinese are mentioned as an archer civilization, they are really an expansion civ, looking to grow and develop faster than the others, while having a large variety of units to counter many types of threats. Starting with 6 villagers is a bonus that can decide the fate of the game in the first 10 minutes.
Technologies cost -10% Feudal, -15% Castle, -20% Imperial
As if the six-villager start wasn't a good enough boost, they also receive an economic bonus as they advance ages. With growing discounts that can make you advance ages first, you can prepare for that incoming rush, or rush a close-by civ yourself- if there are no Goths or Huns in the game!
Town Centers support 10 population
A nice little addition, that makes its real impact at the very beginning of the standard game, where building a house right away isn't a top priority, giving time for other things.
Demolotion Ships + 50% hit point
Honestly, I've never used the Chinese in a competitive water map, and I don't think I have ever used demolition ships other than messing around with them, so this is pretty much the most useless trait of the game for me.
Chu Ko Nu
"The crossbow was invented in China in ancient times and the chu ko nu was an improved crossbow invented there during European Middle Ages. The chu ko nu was something like a semi-automatic crossbow. It was fitted with a magazine of bolts. When the operator pulled back the bowstring, a new bolt was automatically loaded. When the bowstring reached its limit, the weapon fired automatically. The operator pulled back as quickly as he could to maintain a rapid fire. The weaknesses of the weapon were a short range and weaker power compared to larger single-shot crossbows."
The unit that makes the Chinese an archer civ above many others. The Cho Ko Nu is a nice little unit that is especially powerful in numbers, as they fire multiple arrows for a base damage of 8 for each one, so they can become pretty painful! Basic infantry won't stand a chance. As with most archers, some onager hits will completely destroy them, while a charge of paladins counter their short range.
"The Chinese are credited generally with the invention of the explosive we call gunpowder today. They used it extensively to power rockets for entertainment and military use. Although they never developed an accurate design, rockets could be used with great effect against enemies with no experience against these alarming weapons. Rockets were noisy, smelly, and spewed fire while traveling at a high velocity. They damaged anything they hit and did collateral damage if they carried an explosive charge."
The secret weapon of the Chinese. This tech gives their chu ko nu +2 piercing attack, making their arrows deadlier (especially if protected by cavaliers), while at the same time upgrades scorpions with+4 piercing attack. In my honest opinion, this is what makes the Chinese Heavy Scorpion one of the most powerful weapons in the game when amassed in great numbers.
The Heavy Scorpion is a siege weapon that deals piercing damage with each missile, damaging nearby units and piercing through enemy lines for half the initial damage, so it works as an area-of-effect blow. Now, make these fire multiple arrows together and their combined power becomes much greater, making it the most effective unit to use in numbers, comparable to archers. Allied with their great range and siege power, heavy scorpions, especially the Chinese ones, won't even let armies of paladins get the best of them, and the cost per-unit is practically exchangeable.
Not the most effective winning strategy for their cumbersomeness and fragility, but heavy scorpions can still be used to great advantage when clashing with an enemy town with rams or infantry, as their back row support will take care of many of the enemy soldiers trying to repel your building eaters. If you have dozens of heavy scorpions in your town, you can be sure that no infantry or cavalry can raid you down. They can kill some of your villagers or scorpions at the most. Onagers on the other hand, can counter scorpions, so always have an answer for those rock hurlers.
Farms + 45 food
A great bonus both for early and late games. In the beginning, your resources are scarce, so this bonus makes your farms last longer, saving you precious wood that will allow the set up of those military buildings sooner. As far as late game goes, this will add up, extra wood and food will accumulate, and your economy will slowly, but surely benefit.
I can't see a single civilization that will benefit more than another with this bonus. Food is the base of all economy in Age of Empires II, since it is what allows you to create villagers in the first place. However, I can think of a civilization that can never have extra food because of the cost of their armies, the Persians.
War Elephants cost 200 food and 75 food each, so a Persians player wanting to build an army of those will need plenty of food! Not to mention the high food cost of the other stable cavalry units as well. This is where the Chinese farm team bonus comes into play for them. On the other hand, the Persians would provide the team's knights, cavaliers and paladins with +3 attack versus archers.
Versatility above all
Perfect Arbalests and Elite Skirmishers
Besides the Chu Ko Nu, the Chinese have the other foot-archer lines available to them as well, allowing you to start an early archer army if you so desire, or protect against other enemy archers in the most efficient way possible.
The diversity of the Chinese is impeccable. Milita are the very first military units available to you in a normal game, and their fully upgraded version- champions, are great units to charge enemy towns with. Halberdiers however, are cheap and fast to create; can protect your archers, siege and infantry from cavalry; or can simply make your enemy think twice before going in with paladins.
Perfect Heavy Camels and Cavaliers
If you have extra gold, you can always go with heavy camels if you want the protection of your ranged-units to have a little bit more of sturdiness. While not having paladins, the Chinese still have all the researches and upgrades affecting mounted units, so cavaliers can also be used to great effect as well, as the reliability of heavy cavalry is always welcome.
The civilization of choice for players who want to have plenty of options in their games, and good ones! The Chinese offer variety and grant you the complete Blacksmith and the University lacking only two researches.
I don't see flaws in the Chinese, but then again, there is not any real field of expertise they can brag about. They have great economy, superior archery and a lot of technology, but there are other civilizations with a bigger focus on those departments. This is also what makes this civ not have any real counter. Almost any civilization in the game can counter the Chinese strategies depending on what the player is trying to do. One thing is certain, though: starting the actual game is one thing that the Chinese do excel at.
Not sure of who to choose? You are not that experienced? You are very susceptible to early rushes? Then the Chinese might be a good civilization for you thanks to their great game-start and ability to diversificate your game. This might be the civilization that will help you define your own play style and let you evolve from there.
If you liked this article, read more about other civs in my 10 of the Best Civilizations from Age of Empires II: The Conquerors!