This guide goes over the basics of each civilisations bonuses, tech trees, strengths and weaknesses at a more competitive level and is up to date to the latest patch (update 46777).
Hi there, I thought I’d take the time to write a new guide giving a bit of rundown for each of the civilisations in the game as the other civilisation guide here on Steam is out of date and there are several points that are somewhat off and not quite right for a few civs in my opinion.
I’m far from a top tier player of the game and I mostly play AoE2 in the Age series, but I have a decent amount of knowledge of how the game is played at a slightly more competitive level. A lot of the discussion is going to assume that you’re taking the game a bit more seriously with my opinions being slightly more linked to how the game tends to be played at a slightly higher level in a 1v1 setting. For people that aren’t too familiar with the competitive side of the game I’ll give you a quick rundown.
First off, games tend to be relatively short. This is because it’s quite hard to defend as walls can’t be built until being researched in the Tool Age and villagers are very weak. For those players familiar with AoE2, there isn’t a tech like Loom to make your villagers a bit tougher and you can’t garrison villagers in your Town Centre. Your Town Centre also can’t fire arrows so basically provides no form of defence. All these things make early rushes very effective on most maps other than maybe Islands. While walls are quite strong it often takes too long to actually get them into play for them to be effective.
The second thing is that the most competitive unit in the Tool Age is usually the Slinger. This is mostly because you can build it from the Barracks as soon as you hit the Tool Age making them much faster to mass than Bowman or Scouts. It also heavily counters the Bowman and is reasonably effective at taking out buildings due to some extra bonus damage. The Stone Mining upgrade from the Market also gives +1 range and attack to the Slinger which actually gives it the same attack as the Bowman (though fires very slightly slower).
Slingers are countered by Scouts, but Scouts are much more expensive (90 food vs. 40 food + 10 stone) and take a little longer to hit the field as they require a Stable. This means there will often already be too many Slingers in play for a Scout player to really have a chance to fight back.
Axemen rushes can also be reasonably effective as you can build a few Clubmen while still in the Stone Age and upgrade them as soon as you reach Tool Age. This rush is slightly faster, but usually not as good at dealing a killing blow like a Slinger rush can as the Axeman lack range.
This tends to mean that the stronger civs in the game are ones that have bonuses that apply right from the beginning of the game. It’s quite rare that a more competitive game will reach the Iron Age and will also often be over before reaching the Bronze Age, but I’ll still discuss these parts of the game for each civ as not everyone is going to be playing at a top tier level.
As an additional note, having access to chariot units is considered quite strong as they don’t cost gold, making them very useful if a game does end up going longer where gold is more likely to run out. The Chariot Archer is also a good unit in general.
- Villagers move 10% faster
- Archers fire 25% faster
- Decent starts from extra villager speed
- Very strong Chariot Archer
- Full Siege Workshop
- No Slinger
- Very few late game unit options
- No real bonus for water maps
The bonus to villager speed the Assyrians get helps a reasonable amount early on as you will be able to much quicker scout for your early resources and will have a small increase in gathering efficiency due to less time spent moving when dropping off resources. It also helps defensively, allowing villagers to more effectively escape from early rushes that can sometimes mean keeping a villager or two alive when another civs’ villagers would get caught. The effect of the bonus somewhat diminishes once everyone has Wheel researched and the bonus also has no effect on the gathering efficiency of farmers making it much less meaningful later in the game.
The bonus to archers is quite strong, but actually ends up not being very useful in the Tool Age as this is when the Slinger is most powerful. In fact a big weakness of the Assyrian is that they don’t get their own Slingers. Later in the game the bonus becomes a lot more useful though, with Assyrian Chariot Archers being very powerful in the Bronze Age even without Nobility. The bonus can make Horse Archers still decent early in the Iron Age if the game goes that far, though the lack of the Heavy upgrade hurts them if the game goes on for longer after that.
In Bronze Age Assyrians have a good amount of choice for military options only lacking Improved and Composite Archers. Going into the Iron Age actually leaves you with much more limited options. Assyrians do get both the Legion and Cataphract, but the Legions lack all the Pierce Armour upgrades and the Cataphracts lack Nobility making them both sub-par. The only redeeming assets in the Iron Age are full access to the Market and Siege Workshop.
Overall the Assyrian are slightly on the weaker side as they only really excel at one thing (the Chariot Archer) and don’t have a hugely strong eco bonus. Their biggest bonus is heavily countered in the Tool Age due to the popularity of the Slinger and not having the Slinger themselves can often put them in a tough spot.
- Stone Miners work 20% faster and carry +2 stone
- Market technology costs are reduced by 30%
- Wall and Towers have 60% increased HP
- Priests rejuvenate 30% faster
- Strongest defences in the game
- Access to most of the technologies in the game
- Cheaper Market techs gives better access to eco upgrades
- Slow starts with bonuses only really coming online in the Tool Age
- Not the best unit options in the Iron Age
- No real bonus for water maps
The Babylonians are known for having very strong defences thanks to their increased wall and tower HP and faster stone gathering that helps you pay for those defences. On more closed maps this can be quite strong, but as discussed previously this can be worked around by early rushes.
A weakness of the Babylonians in general is that they are very slow out of the gates, which puts them behind many civs in the game. The newest bonus of cheaper Market techs is nice (especially as they Babylonians have access to all of them), but is just another option that helps you invest in the long game which against better opponents won’t often come.
The Priest bonus is very situational as you have to convert a unit and then hope the Priest is still alive long enough for it to regenerate and gain any advantage. The bonus also does nothing if you want to use the Sacrifice tech to instantly convert more expensive units in the Iron Age. This is definitely the worst of the three Priest bonuses.
If they aren’t too far behind, the Babylonians do become quite strong in the Bronze Age where they have full access to the tech tree and their Market bonus should be having much more of an effect. Going to the Iron Age does leave you with much fewer options in terms of military as you only gain access to the Legion, Horse Archer, Heavy Catapult and Scythe Chariot. A lot of the time the best option with the Babylonians later on is going to be pushing forward with your towers.
Because of their slowness in the early game Babylonian is another of the weaker civilisations in the game. If left alone their bonuses can make them hard to break, but against better players you’ll usually be on the back foot.
- Start the game with +50 of all resources
- Academy and elephant units HP increased by 25%, Camel Rider HP increased by 15%
- Fire Galley +25% attack
- Transport Ships move 25% faster
- Very strong start
- Tanky elephants can be hard for an opponent to deal with later in the game
- Fire Galley bonus makes them quite strong in late game naval battles
- No eco bonus after the start of the game
- Lull in the midgame before their later bonuses kick in
- No access to chariot units
The Carthaginians used to be one of the worst civilisations in the game as most of their bonuses only really became relevant in the Iron Age. The addition of their newest bonus of extra resources at the start of the game actually completely flips them to being one of the best in the hands of a strong player. It may not sound like much of an eco boost, but the amount of difference those resources make for getting a solid start to the game is huge.
The extra 50 food means you can instantly queue up 5 villagers instead of 4 making it far less likely that you’ll get idle TC time early on and also allows slightly faster up times. An extra 50 wood is almost enough to cover your first couple of houses. The extra 50 stone means you can create 5 more slingers before having to collect stone, which makes their Slinger rushes much more competitive. The 50 gold is the least helpful part of the bonus, but will give you a small discount off something if a game does reach the Bronze Age. This bonus mostly excels by gaining fine margins early in the game so won’t be as strong for weaker players that aren’t quite as good at min-maxing their efficiency. Even in this case the extra resources are still a nice little boost.
The other Carthaginian bonuses are ok, but only become relevant much later into the game, which is why they weren’t previously considered a very strong civilisation. They do lack most of the Storage Pit upgrades in the Iron Age, but the free bonus HP does make up for this and is more of a way of pushing you towards elephants and Centurions and away from some of the early Iron Age options that they have available. They also have access to the fully upgraded Helepolis which is always nice.
The Carthaginians are also decent on water maps where their strong start helps them get onto the water quicker. The Fire Galley bonus can also be quite devastating later in the game especially after Alchemy has been researched.
As mentioned, the Carthaginians are one of the stronger civilisations, but only really in the hands of a more experienced player that can make the most out of their strong start. Outside of this they still have the problem of being much more of a late game civilisation which can be quite punishing for players that don’t manage to get that extra edge early on.
- Axeman, Short/Broad/Long Swordsman and Legion have +5/+15/+20/+60/+80 HP
- Storage Pit technologies costs are reduced by 40%
- Towers have +2 range
- Priests cost reduced by 30%
- Can be strong in drawn out Tool Age battles
- Highest range towers in the game
- No real eco bonus
- Heavily reliant on Swordsman line
- No access to chariot units
The Choson are another civilisation that struggles through lack of an early game bonus. The infantry bonus being changed to give Axemen some extra HP can slightly help their rushes, but they will usually be slightly slower than more competitive civs where speed is the main point of the rush.
Their newest bonus to Storage Pit techs does give them a slight edge if the game continues into the Tool Age and beyond, but still falls behind many other eco bonuses in the game. The Choson also lack all Storage Pit techs in the Iron Age other than Metallurgy, which somewhat reduces the effect of the bonus.
The lack of defensive techs is balanced out by the increase in HP for Barracks units and the Choson are more hurt by lack of unit choices they have in the late game than the Storage Pit. They do get the Helepolis, but lack Engineering making it less effective against civs that have the tech.
The extra range on towers could in theory make the Choson pretty good at tower rushing as you’d just be able to outrange every other civ, though this isn’t a strategy I’ve seen utilised often in AoE1. It is still quite a nice bonus if the game does go late as the Choson do have access to the Ballista Tower (though lack Alchemy).
Cheaper Priests is also not a terrible bonus as it makes using Sacrifice for instant conversions less costly in the late game. It also makes the unit more useable in general for the civ. This said, Priests aren’t generally used that much as Chariot Archers are quite common in the Bronze Age and resist conversion.
The Choson are another of the weaker civilisations in the game as their best units are their Barracks units that tend to be some of the easier to deal with and they lack a strong early bonus to get themselves ahead. Their bonuses also seem to stretch them in a lot of different directions, which makes some of them only situationally beneficial. Changing one of their bonuses to something like having a cheaper Barracks would massively improve the civ.
- Farm cost reduced by 20%
- Gold miners work 20% faster and carry +2 gold
- Chariot units have 33% increased HP
- Priests have +3 range
- Solid late game economy
- Some of the best chariots in the game
- Arguably the best priests in the game
- No Stone Age bonuses
- Very limited Iron Age unit options
The Egyptians have some fairly strong bonuses, but like many civilisations can fall slightly behind early in the game due to having no Stone Age bonuses. Their newest bonus of cheaper farms has done quite a bit to improve the civ as it makes for a much easier transition for your food economy in the Tool Age when you start shifting into farms. The bonus will save you a large amount of wood in a longer game and has the advantage that you get the wood saving straight away compared to the Minoan and Sumerian farm bonuses that take longer to kick in.
The gold mining bonus is one of the weaker gathering bonuses in the game as there is nothing that actually costs gold until you get to the Bronze Age. It also doesn’t help much for their best units as chariots also don’t cost gold. The gold bonus seems more to encourage you towards using their Priests that have the considerable advantage of having +3 range. This makes Egyptian Priests far more effective at getting conversions as they can stay safer much further from the action.
The Bronze Age is definitely where the Egyptians shine as this is where all their bonuses come online and are most effective. The only real downside here is lacking access to Cavalry, but they do get their stronger Chariots as well as access to the Camel Rider which mostly makes up for this.
Moving into the Iron Age though, the Egyptians have a serious lack of unit options only gaining access to the Elephant Archer, War Elephant and Scythe Chariot. They’re also stuck with just the Bronze Age Stone Thrower in terms of siege. Here the Scythe Chariot has to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
On water maps the Egyptians don’t have any early bonuses that will help them get onto the water sooner, but the cheaper farms will help free up more wood as the game goes longer. This makes them somewhat competitive here having access to the Juggernaut, all the relevant techs and only missing out on the Fire Galley.
As said, the new farm bonus definitely helps the Egyptians out a lot giving them a much stronger Tool Age, but are still left behind the slightly stronger civs earlier on. Their bonuses are fairly solid though which puts them middle of the pack.
- Town Centres work 10% faster starting in the Tool Age
- Academy units have 30% increased move speed and 20% reduced cost
- Ships have 20% increased move speed
- One of the best Academies in the game
- Full access to siege and ships
- Strong boom in the Bronze Age
- No Stone Age bonus on land maps
- Very poor unit selection even in the Bronze Age
- No chariot units
The Greeks are very good at the things they do well and very poor at everything else, which at least gives them a clear idea of what they want to do in most games. On water maps the extra movements speed will slightly increase the efficiency of fishing boats and make their Fire Galleys much better at closing the distance on Triremes and Juggernauts making the Greeks decent on water maps. On land maps however, as with many civs, they don’t have too much to help them get ahead earlier on.
Their newest bonus for Town Centre work rate is decent, but doesn’t really have a massive effect until you can get to the Bronze Age and put down extra TCs. It does technically kick in at the start of the Tool Age, but the bonus essentially lets you make 11 villagers in the time it takes another civ to build 10 which means it’s going to take a while for any advantage to be noticeable.
On reaching the Bronze Age though you get access to the Greeks last bonus of cheaper and faster Hoplites. This makes them the most useable out of any civs as it overcomes the two biggest obstacles for the unit to usually be viable in the Bronze Age even if Hoplites from some other civs are stronger 1 for 1. This is about as far as it goes for Greek military though as they have among the worst Barracks, Archery Range AND Stable in the game. The only thing of note is access to Cavalry.
This then carries over to the Iron Age as they only get the Centurion and Heavy Cavalry outside of siege. A lack of Metallurgy isn’t too bad for a Centurion that already has 30 base attack and is cheaper for the Greeks, but it does hurt the Heavy Cavalry. They do at least get full access to the Siege Workshop and all the relevant upgrades, so you’ll definitely be relying on this a lot in the Iron Age.
The Greeks are still one of the weaker civilisations in the game despite the number of improvements that they’ve had since the launch of the Definitive Edition. The only thing that they really excel at is using the Hoplite in the Bronze Age, where the Hoplite is generally not considered too strong of an option if you’re opponent is prepared for it. They can be more competitive on water maps, but even here there are much stronger options.
- +1 attack to archers
- Stone Thrower line has 50% increased HP
- Warships have +2 range in the Tool Age or +3 in Bronze/Iron Age
- Very strong Heavy Horse Archer and archers in general
- Extra ship range can make them very strong on water in the mid game
- Lots of strong military options in the Iron Age on land
- No eco bonus or even fishing boat upgrade
- Lack of Trireme makes water bonus much weaker in Iron Age
- No Slinger
The Hittites have a very similar weakness to the Assyrians in that they both don’t get access to the Slinger, with the prominence of the unit also negating their own bonuses to the Bowman in the Tool Age. For the Hittites this is also further exacerbated by the fact that they have no eco bonus to speak of, whereas at least the Assyrians get faster moving Villagers. This puts the Hittites massively on the back foot early on.
The plus +2 range for warships early in the game is quite strong when put to good use, so this can at least help you try to even things out on water maps. A lack of an eco bonus can mean you might still struggle against other civs that are simply able to amass bigger fleets. Though the +3 range is still very strong in the Iron Age, the fact that Hittites don’t get the Trireme mostly undoes any real benefit from the bonus at this point. The Trireme has 40 more HP, 4 more attack and 1 more range than the War Galley just for context.
On land maps the Hittites do have access to a good amount of units, particularly in the Bronze Age. The +1 attack to archers also makes their Chariot Archers very strong here especially as they also get Nobility for the extra HP. The extra HP to Stone Throwers can situationally be quite strong as it allows them to take an extra hit from any other civs Stone Throwers making them difficult to deal with if you can stop your opponent getting into melee range.
These strengths carry over to the Iron Age where the Hittites have access to all the Storage Pit and Government Centre techs giving them a good number of unit options, which is actually quite rare. The +1 attack to archers here continues to give you an edge for both their fully upgradeable Heavy Horse Archers and Elephant Archers making them some of the strongest in the game. The extra health on Heavy Catapults again makes them extremely hard for an opponent to deal with at this point.
So the Hittites actually have one of the best late game militaries in the game and are also solid in the Bronze Age, they’re just massively undermined by having no eco bonus which will always put you behind a stronger civilisation. This makes them much more of a Death Match civ where they can be very good if that’s your preferred game mode.
- All non-ranged units get +2 Line of Sight
- Academy units get +1 Pierce Armour in the Bronze Age or +2 in the Iron Age
- Siege Workshop unit cost reduced by 25%
- All units 4 times more resistant to conversion
- Extra LoS makes early exploration much more effective
- One of the most powerful Academies in the game
- Don’t have to worry about wololo
- No direct eco bonus
- No chariot units
- No bonus on water maps
The Macedonians are quite an interesting civilisation. They lack a proper eco bonus, but the extra line of sight applies to villagers which means you can much more regularly find your resources faster and get yourselves setup nicely (remembering that you don’t get a starting Scout). This is obviously not on the level of some of the stronger eco bonuses in the game, but it will still regularly help you with how random map generation can be. It can also make things like Axeman rushes more effective as you will be better able to track down opposing villagers.
The extra Pierce Armour on Academy units makes them extremely hard to deal with as it means that use of Archery Range units against them will be much less effective when combined with the extra upgrades at the Storage Pit. This covers one of the weaknesses of the units for Macedonians making their Hoplite very threatening in the Bronze Age. This is reinforced by Macedonian’s extra conversion resistance which also makes Priests much less of a threat. This means the only way to really counter the Macedonian Hoplite is with your own Hoplites until you can get to Iron Age and use something like the Ballista to deal with them.
The Macedonian bonus to siege is quite nice in the Bronze Age as it allows you to much more easily field Stone Throwers that are usually fairly expensive at this point. The bonus does fall away in the Iron Age though as you don’t get access to either elite siege upgrades and they also lack the Engineering upgrade for the extra range. This means they’re much more quantity over quality at this point in the game.
The Macedonian’s have decent options in the Bronze Age, though lack chariot units and Nobility for their Cavalry. In the Iron Age they get access to the Heavy Horse Archer, Cataphract and Armoured Elephant to add to their very strong Centurions. The lack of Nobility does hurt again here though and the Heavy Horse Archer is also missing the last range upgrade so these units should be considered more support units to your Centurions if needed rather than a core part of your army.
To restate though, the Macedonians don’t have any direct eco bonus which prevents them from being one of the stronger civs, but the extra LoS can definitely help a stronger player get much more consistent Stone Ages. They are also the only civ in the game to not get the Temple, but Priests are not generally used that often so this isn’t considered too much of a downside.
- Cost of ships reduced by 30%
- Composite Bowman gets +2 range
- Farms have +60 food
- Very strong on water maps
- Access to all fully upgraded siege
- Have access to all Storage Pit, Market and Government Centre techs
- No early bonuses on land maps
- No chariots units
- Very limited unit options in the Iron Age
The Minoans are arguably the best civilisation in the game on water maps. Their large discount on ships makes them very hard to contend with, with both fishing boats and warships benefitting from the bonus. On land maps however the Minoans can struggle as their only other bonuses only really kick in once you reach the Bronze Age.
The extra food on farms does save some wood in the long run, but you only start making any saving at the point where another civ’s farms would run out, which makes the bonus much slower to come into effect than the Egyptian farm bonus for example. It’s also just a straight up worse version of the Sumerian bonus.
+2 range on Composite Bowmen does make them very strong in the Bronze Age, but the unit is one of the slower ones to tech into requiring to first hit the Bronze Age, then research Improved Bowman and finally upgrade to Composite Bowman. They do also get a decent unit selection in the Bronze Age, but in the Iron Age all you get is the Long Swordsman, Centurion and siege units. The Composite Bowman can still be useful in the Iron Age due to their bonus, but they definitely lose effectiveness compared to some of the stronger Iron Age units so using the Helepolis can be a better option for ranged damage.
As said before, on water maps the Minoans are definitely near the top of the pack, but fall way down the order on land maps. This means you should mostly avoid the civ unless you know what map you’re going to be playing on. Outside of their cheaper ships, their other bonuses take too long to really make much of an impact.
- Villager cost 75, but have +1 armour and pierce armour and work 25% faster
- Start with +75 food
- Camel Riders move 25% faster
- Tributes are free
- Trade Ships return more gold
- Faster working villagers makes for an efficient economy
- Best farmers in the game
- Fast Camel Riders are strong against the popular Chariot Archer
- Early game is quite different to other civs that can make them hard to use well
- Missing quite a few Iron Age techs and upgrades
- Tribute and trade bonuses only relevant in team games
The Palmyrans are one of the stranger civilisations in the game as sometimes their villager bonus can seem like more of a hindrance then helpful. In theory you should be able to get an economic edge as you can create villagers at the same speed as everyone else, but each Palmyran villager works much faster. The reality is that you’ll often have idle Town Centre time early in the game as it can be difficult to gather enough food to keep constant villager production going. This is especially true if you don’t manage to find your berries quickly and makes them quite reliant on good map generation.
The bonus really kicks in once you’ve got to late Tool Age and have a lot of farms setup. Palmryans have the best farmers in the game as no other civs have bonuses that increase farmer gather speed. When playing games using lower population settings the bonus is also exceptionally strong as you will be able to gather the same amount of resources as other civs with fewer Villagers, leaving more population space for military.
The extra starting food was a much needed bonus to the civ, added in the Definitive Edition (initially +50 food). This makes it so you can queue up 3 villagers from the start of the game as in the Rise of Rome expansion you could only queue 2. The extra armour on the Villagers is also helpful against early aggression and means Palmyran Villagers can easily kill another civs Villagers 1v1 other than the Sumerian’s. Generally the extra HP bonus that Sumerians get on their Villagers is stronger as anything that does more than 3 damage will kill a Palmyran Villager faster, but will obviously fare better than most other civs.
The extra speed for Camel Riders is quite a strong bonus as it makes them much more effective against mounted archers and is particularly useful against the Chariot Archer that is often a go to option for a lot of civs in the Bronze Age. They do also have access to all units in the Bronze Age, which means you can always try to get good unit match ups against an opponent backed up by your strong economy. In the Iron Age Palmyrans still do get access to a decent number of units, but a lot of them are missing key upgrades meaning you will mostly need your strong economy to pump out more units and go for a quantity over quality approach.
Overall the Palmyrans can be a strong civilisation, but are very reliant on having a strong Stone Age which can make them quite hard to play for an inexperienced player. Due to the high cost of their Villagers it can often take a while for the increased gather rate to make a noticeable difference, which can put them behind some of the stronger civilisations that are often more simple to play.
- Hunters work 30% faster and carry +3 food
- Elephant units are 25% faster
- Triremes fire 25% faster
- Hunter bonus can put you ahead early in the game
- Strong navy in the late game
- Good number of unit options in the Iron Age
- Hunter bonuses can be very dependent on map generation
- No chariot units
- Weak economy in the late game
The Persians have the potential to be one of the strongest civilisations in the game with their hunter bonus being extremely strong early on. Unfortunately its effectiveness is very reliant on map generation as if you don’t find (or don’t have) decent hunt then the bonus becomes close to meaningless. If you get lucky though, Persians can get some of the quickest Tool Age up times making their early rushes very potent. In most situations this usually means it’s safer to go with some of the more consistent civilisations, especially since the other two Persian bonuses only come in when you get to the Iron Age.
The Persians also lack 3 of the 4 Market upgrades in the Iron Age (everyone gets Coinage though), which combined with a lack of an eco bonus at this point makes their late game quite weak. Especially when you add in that they don’t have access to chariot units. Outside of the lack of chariot they do have a very good unit selection even into the Iron Age other than the strange caveat of completely lacking access to the Academy. The Archery Range units do lack Ballistics and the last range upgrade though, which can be a hindrance to their effectiveness.
The movement speed bonus for elephants used to be much stronger and at the current 25% means that elephants units are still going to be slower than Barracks units and foot archers making the bonus not too strong. Fast firing Triremes however make Persian late game navies quite competitive, though like the archers this is somewhat offset by a lack of Ballistics and the last range upgrade. This said Persian Triremes are by far the best when it comes to damage output.
So even though the Persians have some strong units in the Iron Age they lack a strong economy to back it up and mostly rely on getting a strong start from their hunter bonus. This means that they generally only really excel in the early game when they get good map generation that allows them to take advantage of the faster food income. Their later bonuses don’t do too much when compared to some of the economically stronger civilisations in the late game.
- Woodcutters work 15% faster and carry +2 wood
- Cost of elephant units reduced by 25%
- Catapult Triremes and Juggernauts fire 25% faster
- Very strong early eco bonus
- Access to all units in the Bronze Age
- Effective on all map types
- Missing a lot of Iron Age Storage Pit techs
- Lack Iron Age siege
- Don’t excel at any one particular thing
I think this is where my guide disagrees most with the other guide here on Steam as it claims the Phoenicians are a “very slow and ponderous Civ”. This is actually not true as the faster woodcutter bonus is one of the strongest eco bonuses in the game and is giving you an advantage as soon as you start gathering wood, giving value from the very early on. This is especially relevant on water maps where wood is at much more of a premium. The bonus is extremely versatile and will help boost your economy for almost any strategy and places the Phoenicians up in the higher tiers of competitive civs.
If a game progresses into the Bronze Age the Phoenicians have access to the entire tech tree with the exception of Architecture at the Government Centre. The extra wood is particularly helpful if you want to go for chariot units here, but the open tree gives you a number of options if you wish to use them. In the Iron Age you do still get some decent options, but the lack of any Iron Age siege and missing all Storage Pit techs other than infantry pierce armour does hurt a little bit here. That said, having cheaper elephants does make these units much more accessible with the Armoured Elephant being a decent siege alternative.
As mentioned before, the wood bonus also makes the Phoenicians very competitive on water maps in all ages. Their bonus to Catapult Trireme and Juggernaut fire rate also makes these extremely deadly if a game goes long enough for the units to become relevant.
All in all the Phoenicians are definitely one of the strongest civilisations in the game as their eco bonus is simply so flexible and applies almost from the very start of a game. They may not have as distinct of an identity as many other civs, but they should definitely be considered by players that like to have a good number of options available to them.
- Building costs reduced by 10%, except for towers, wall and wonders
- Towers cost reduced by 40%
- Swordsmen attack 33% faster
- Strong early eco bonus
- Access to all siege units
- Access to all Storage Pit techs
- Very weak Archery Range
- Towers can only be upgraded once making the discount not that great later
Ever since the release of Rise of Rome way back in 1998, the Romans have been considered one of the best civilisations in the game. This is mostly due to their reduction to building costs being a strong bonus that helps from the very start of the game and is useful on any map type. The bonus has been nerfed from 15% to 10% in the Definitive edition, but is still strong throughout the course of a game especially as the bonus also applies to farms.
The cost reduction for towers has also been nerfed from 50% down to 40%, but still makes the Romans the most capable of using towers both defensively and aggressively in the earlier ages of the game. The bonus falls away in the Iron Age though, as the Romans don’t get access to either Guard or Ballista Tower and also don’t get Alchemy for the extra attack.
The Romans last bonus puts their Swordsmen among the most powerful in the game, though it can be argued that the durability of Choson Swordsman makes them more useful by making them slightly better at getting into the fray. As said in the section for the Choson however, Swordsmen tend to be one of the easier units to deal with in the game, but at least the Romans have a decent eco bonus that will give them a much better chance of building up a bigger mass of units.
In general the Romans have quite good access to a variety of military units other than a glaring weakness of their Archery Range that only has access to the Improve Bowman outside of the standard Bowman. This is made up for with full access to siege units in the Iron Age, but is definitely a weakness for the Roman Bronze Age. Strangely the Romans are also the only civ to get access to the Chariot, but not the Chariot Archer.
My personal opinion of the Romans is that they are definitely strong, but possibly a little bit overrated. For a standard Stone Age build of 5 Houses, 2 Barracks, Storage Pit and Mill the wood reduction bonus is only saving you 64 wood. Comparing this to other bonuses like the Carthaginians starting with +50 wood as well as +50 to every other resource helps put this in perspective. The Roman bonus obviously has the advantage that it carries on through a whole game. Another way of looking at the bonus is that a 10% reduction is equivalent to an 11.1% increase in gather rate. This puts it behind the Phoenician 15% woodcutter bonus, which also applies to all wood not just wood spent on buildings.
This said the Romans are still definitely a good civilisation with some decent options at basically every stage of the game. In my opinion they’re pretty much a straight upgrade from the Choson as they do mostly the same thing, but almost always better.
- Villagers cost 40 food
- Start the game with -40 food
- Wall HP increased by 60%
- Very strong early eco bonus
- Full access to the tech tree up to the Bronze Age
- Access to all Storage Pit techs
- Lack a few key Government Centre techs in the Iron Age
- Poor navy in the Iron Age with no Trireme of Alchemy
The Shang are the most consistently strong civilisation in the game with their cheaper villagers giving them a huge head start on other civs. Starting with -40 food does offset this for the first four villagers you make, but from then on you’re saving 10 food on every villager. In a standard build you will often go up to the Tool Age on 20 villagers at which point the bonus has already saved you 130 food and will continue to save you more food until you stop making villagers. This means the Shang will regularly be able to click to age up before other civs that will often have to idle the Town Centre for a short time to build up the 500 food to advance.
Having full access to the tech tree up to the Bronze Age grants you a good amount of flexibility in your unit choice depending on your opponent. The Shang only really fall away in the Iron Age as here they don’t gain many unit options. They do get the Helepolis, but lack Engineering and also get the Heavy Horse Archer, but lack Alchemy. They do get access to fully upgraded Cataphract though.
On water maps the strong early bonus will help you reach the Tool Age earlier, which means you’ll regularly be the first to get Scout Ship production going. Outside of this though, the Shang don’t really have any bonuses to their navy making a number of civs better when it comes to the water. This is especially true if a game reaches the Iron Age where the Shang’s only option is the Fire Galley that lacks the Alchemy tech. This probably makes Shang the weakest civ on water at this point.
On land maps however, Shang are definitely at the top of the pile as their cheaper villager bonus is helping throughout the whole game and is always relevant. There’s a reason why this bonus is staggered for the Hindustanis in AoE2.
- Villagers have +15 HP
- Stone Thrower line fires 30% faster
- Farms have +125 food
- Villagers harder to raid
- Decent economy later in the game
- Very powerful siege
- No early game eco bonus
- Underwhelming military units in the Iron Age
The Sumerians are definitely one of the weaker civilisations, especially earlier in the game. Two of their bonuses only really do anything starting in the Bronze Age and the villager bonus only helps you lose less and doesn’t actually do anything to give the civilisation any real advantage.
The +125 food to farms used to be much stronger, but is still fairly good being an increase of 50% on the base 250 food on a standard farm. This in some ways has the effect of making Sumerian farms 33% cheaper, but you only get any actual benefit at the point where a regular farm would need reseeding so it takes a long time to get a meaningful advantage. The bonus also diminishes once Market techs have been researched (with Irrigation the bonus drops to around a 23% food increase).
The bonus to the Stone Thrower line is very strong, but it’s often difficult to get a good number of them on the field due to their high cost in the Bronze Age, making the unit only really an option in the Iron Age. Outside of their catapults though, the Sumerian military is somewhat poor. They do get decent options in the Bronze Age, but lack Cavalry and in the Iron Age they are missing quite a few key techs that make their options subpar. Their Scythe Chariots lack Metallurgy, their Heavy Horse Archers lack Craftsmanship and Sumerian Centurions are the weakest in the game (definitely not top tier as described in the other guide).
To summarise, the Sumerians are probably the only civilisation to not really excel at any point in the game. Their bonuses take too long to become relevant and even when they do there are many civs that are better than them.
- Villager move 10% faster
- All cavalry and horse archer costs reduced by 15%
- Ship HP increased by 20%
- Decent starts from extra villager speed
- Best cavalry in the game
- Strong on all map types
- Limited unit options
- No Iron Age siege
- No chariot units
The Yamato are the only civilisation in the game to have all of their bonuses nerfed in the Definitive edition (some multiple times) and despite this are still one of the strongest civilisations in the game. They share the same villager bonus as the Assyrians, with the extra villager speed helping out a lot in the Stone Age. Unlike the Assyrians though, the Yamato get access to the Slinger which makes their transition to the Tool Age much stronger at a more competitive level.
Despite lacking a lot of unit options at the Stable, the discount makes Yamato cavalry the strongest in the game. The discount also applies to Scouts which makes Yamato one of the few civs that can effectively use this unit to counter Slingers in the Tool Age. In the Bronze Age it also helps field larger armies of the usually very expensive Cavalry making the Yamato extremely strong if a game reaches this point. This then extends into the Iron Age where the Yamato have fully upgradeable Cataphracts and the discount also extends to their fully upgradeable horse archers.
Outside of this though their options are not great, so if you’re looking for variety this is not the civ for you. Their Barracks is among the weakest in the game; they lack chariots for games where gold start running out and don’t get any Iron Age siege. They do at least get decent Centurions as an option that are only missing Tower Shield, though most of the time you’ll want to stick to their stronger mounted units.
On water maps the Yamato are still a major contender thanks to their ship HP bonus making Yamato navies much more durable and amongst the best in the game. Arguably the Minoans are the only civ that are better when it comes to power on water, but Yamato are much better on land making them a bit more of a rounded civ.
So while their start isn’t one of the strongest, it’s still solid and the unit discounts gives the Yamato a very clear game plan of powerful units to use throughout the whole game. Even though the discount was slightly nerfed (was 25% in RoR) improvements to the cavalry line have made the unit much more powerful and the bonus still very significant.
I’ll just finish off be listing how regularly the civilisations tend to be picked at a more competitive level to give people and idea of the stronger and weaker civs at a glance. This isn’t necessarily a tier list per se, but could be considered to be a rough idea of one.
Shang, Yamato, Phoenician, Roman, Carthaginian
Persian, Macedonian, Egyptian, Minoan, Palmyran
Sumerian, Choson, Assyrian, Hittite, Babylonian, Greek
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