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BritonsBest foot archers in the game. Unique Unit: Longbowman (long ranged infantry archer). Wonder: A placeholder cathedral.note
- Arcadia: Shepherds work 25% faster.
- Archer Archetype: Longbowman.
- A Commander Is You: They have elements of a Ranger Faction with a dash of Specialist as their Longbowmen and normal archer units have the longest range in game, but they have a limited tech tree and is the only old world civilization without any gunpowder units. The Forgotten does add Cannon Galleons to their tech tree and gives them a unique tech that makes their Trebuchets more accurate and deal splash damage.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Longbowmen have the longest range of all archers to the point that you can use them to destroy towers and castles in a safe distance. However, this is a VERY time consuming process.
- Crippling Overspecialization: They get great foot archers and decent infantry but are lacking in everywhere else.
- Does Not Like Guns: Like mentioned above, they are the only old world civilization with no gunpowder units of any kind.
- Glass Cannon: One of the best civilizations for long range sieging thanks to their Trebuchet's splash damage and Longbowmen. The frontline is very weak however, as they lack good cavalry units (lack the Paladin and the Bloodline upgrade), making Champions and Halberdiers their only reliable frontline.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Their foot archers may have the longest range in the game but the Britons are the only archer civilization to not get Thumb Ring, which makes their arrows less likely to hit their targets (accuracy is inversely proportional to range).
- No Campaign for the Wicked: Despite appearing several times as villains, they're never playable, in a campaign, except for the Agincourt Scenario in Conquerors.
- Non-Indicative Name: Their historical basis is the Medieval Kingdom of England, not the Celtic Britons that would eventually be reduced to the Welsh.
- Sacred Language: While their other units speak an old dialect of English, their Monks speak Latin.
- Skill Gate Character: The Britons have a straightforward tech tree and is considered one of the easiest civilizations for newer players to play as. However, when it comes to foot archers, they are easily outclassed by other civilizations such as the Chinese with their Chu-Ko-Nu, and the Mayans with their Plumed Archers. note
- A common newcomer tactic (especially in Black Forest) for newer players is to create a large army of Longbowmen and wither down any enemies that come near you. More experienced players would counter this by building Siege Rams garrisoned with infantry units and slowly move towards the player's base, ignoring the Longbowmen, and destroying any buildings and walls the players as built. This apparently leads the player to actually diversify their army composition and not just create Longbowmen.
CeltsVery powerful siege weapons supported by fast Infantry. UU: Woad Raider (fast infantry). Wonder: Rock of Cashel.
- An Axe to Grind: Woad Raiders.
- A Commander Is You: They are the Balanced faction due to the tutorial campaign. Plus, they have the Ranger faction's high speed, and Guerrilla faction's use of element of surprise. Late game, though, they take on aspects of a Brute Force faction due to their incredible siege weapons.
- Fragile Speedster: Probably the closest the game has to one. Their infantry are 15% faster, their unique unit takes this Up to Eleven, and their siege weapons fire faster. They're very much focused on offence over defence though.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: While it is true that the Celts were known for their woodwork (as well as their architecture), the Celts weren't known for their siege weaponry as they prefer open combat in open fields or Hit-and-Run Tactics in forests. In fact, many of the Celtic attempts on sieging cities have actually failed before.
- The Celts were also known for their heavy use of ranged weapons in battle while in this game, they have the worst archers in their tech tree.
- Mighty Glacier: There are two halves to the Celts: their speedy Infantry and their slow but meaty Siege weapons. Actually their Siege is overall the strongest in the game and will overshadow their Infantry as the game goes on.
- Mighty Lumberjack: They're not necessarily more manly and tough and impressive than other civ's Lumberjacks but they do work 20% faster.
- Skill Gate Character: Much like Britons, the Celts are a straightforward and easy to play civilization. They are even the playable civilization of the tutorial campaign.
- Scotireland: The Celts are meant to stand in for all the non-Germanic peoples in the British isles (plus the Duchy of Brittany in modern France). Woad Raiders are based on the Picts of ancient Scotland and the Celtic wonder is the Rock of Cashel castle in Ireland.
FranksStrong heavy cavalry and cheap castles. UU: Throwing Axeman (ranged infantry). Wonder: Chartres Cathedral.
- An Axe to Grind: Frankish Throwing Axemen use these, combined with Throwing Your Sword Always Works. In-game, the axes are pretty huge but real life throwing axes are much smaller and well-balanced.
- A Commander Is You: Possibly Generalist since their bonuses are towards cavalry but they also have Throwing Axemen as their unique units. They also have free farm upgrades and cheaper castles of an Economist faction.
- Gratuitous French: Though, like Britons, their monks speak Latin instead.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Their Paladins are the strongest in the game, but that doesn't prevent their counter units such as Halberdiers or Teutonic Knights from beating them.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Throwing Axemen are really only useful at killing pikemen, whose one job is killing heavy cavalry and will be sent out when the Franks use their buffed Paladins. But if a Frankish player tries any other strategy, or the other player uses other counters (i.e. Camels) there is really no use in producing Throwing Axemen.
- Throwing Your Axe Always Works: ...or not. Throwing Axemen are pretty bad at hitting moving targets and don't benefit from Ballistics.
SpanishDurable cavalry and fast-firing gunpowder units. UUs: Conquistador (hand cannoneer cavalry), Missionary (cavalry monk). Wonder: Torre del Oro.
- Achilles' Heel: The Spanish are very gold dependent due to Conquistadors being fairly expensive for a unique unit. This is compensated with their blacksmith upgrades not costing any gold.
- Anachronism Stew: The game's Torre del Oro includes the third stage with a dome, which in the real building wasn't added until the 18th century (out of the game's timeframe). See also Toros y Flamenco below.
- Badass Bystander: Their unique technology, Supremacy, elevates villagers' combat stats up to the level of most frontline units.
- A Commander Is You: They are definitely an Elitist Faction that relies on units with a high gold cost, especially Knights, Conquistadors, Monks, Bombard Cannons, and Bombard Towers. They are also the closest thing to an Industrial Faction in Age of Empires 2, as their villagers create buildings faster, their blacksmith upgrades cost no gold and one can infer that creating gunpowder weapons requires mechanical know-how.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Duh.
- Horse Archer: The Spanish Unique Unit, the Conquistador, although he's a dude with a matchlock rifle instead of a bow.
- Lightning Bruiser: See Religious Bruiser below.
- More Dakka: All of their gunpowder units fire 15% faster. This means that their Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons even beat Turkish ones in direct combat. Their Cannon Galleons also benefit from the Ballistics technology. Normal Cannon Galleons are only good for anti-building bombardment thanks to their slow moving cannonballs and require an escort from combat ships, Spanish ones can fight ship to ship and win handily.
- Religious Bruiser: They have access to Heavy Cavalry Archers, Conquistadors, and Paladins. Not only that, they have access to all Monk technologies (and even have a unique tech that improves their conversion rate (which highlights the Spanish's missionary work of converting the native population in the New World) as well as the only mounted Monk unit in the game, the Missionary, to reinforce the previous point).
- The Theme Park Version: The Conquistador unit is a summation of what advantages the conquistadors had over the American natives (i.e. gunpowder, horses and steel armor; which incidentally are the strengths of the Spanish tech tree), rather than what an actual conquistador would have used in battle all at once. The rifles of the time were too big and slow to charge and fire to use them from horseback, though heavily armored cavalry made use of short-ranged pistols around that time.
- Toros y Flamenco: The Spanish Regional Riff is a flamenco-ish chant, despite flamenco appearing in the 18th century and thus out of the game's timeframe.
GothsCheap and fast training infantry, but no walls. UU: Huskarl (anti-archer infantry). Wonder: Mausoleum of Theodoric.
- Annoying Arrows: Huskarls have high pierce armor for flesh and blood units, which means that arrows from an archer or a tower only do 1 damage to them. With full upgrades, it takes as many arrows as each hit point a Huskarl has to kill them.
- Barbarian Tribe: For most scenario creators, the "go to" civilization when you want to feature European 'barbarians' that aren't Vikings or Huns.
- A Commander Is You: The Goths are THE Spammer Faction of Age of Empires 2. They're also the Unit Specialist faction towards infantry, even moreso than the other infantry civs.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation:
- Historians have described the Goths as more of a cavalry civilization with strong Horse Archers and were the only barbarian tribe to have laid waste and besieged Rome, yet they are portrayed as an infantry Brute Force Civilization with a strong frontline but a weak archery and siege line. And the Huskarls were more related to the Vikings rather than the Goths.
- Also the Goths have access to Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons despite the fact that they were invented way later than the time of the Goths. Some players joked about how the a barbarian tribe is more technologically superior than the Chinese (who do not have access to such said units).
- Glass Cannon: The playstyle for the Goths involve a Zerg Rush into your opponent with swarms of infantry units (and especially Huskarl). In terms of defensive gameplay, however, they end up being vulernable to early aggression since they lack stone walls or strong defensive buildings. Heck, the Huskarl unit itself is a glass cannon unit. While Huskarls are strong against archers since they can shrug off arrows, they will definitely loose out in a 1v1 fight against any melee unit due to their low melee armor, especially against units that deal bonus damage against other infantry units (Jaguar Warriors), unique units (Samurai), or high melee armor (Teutonic Knights)
- Gratuitous German: Makes sense for the actual German civ, the Teutons, but the Goths use the same exact voice clips as them. Gothic was more similar to Old Norse than Old German so using the Viking voice clips may have been more accurate.
- Magikarp Power: Do not let a Goth player take a heavy lead. Because if the Goth player does, the player will spam a shitton of cheap infantry units and swarm into your base (especially Huskarls where they can even shrug off arrows from castles and towers).
- No Campaign for the Wicked: The Goths are a frequent enemy in the Genghis Khan campaign, the Barbarossa campaign, the Attila the Hun campaign, and a scenario in The Battles of the Conquerors suite but receive no campaign of their own. May be justified due to the Goths having a significantly different gameplay than all the other civs, lacking stone walls, towers, and a strong economic bonus. The campaigns usually feature some form of defend and build up even if the civ used is not quite suited for it, like the Huns or Aztecs, but at least those guys have walls.
- Averted in The Forgotten, where you control the Goths in Alaric's campaign. They do have access to palisade gates to make up for their lack of stone walls.
- The Non Descript: The Goths are often used in campaigns for any European culture that is not big on chivalry and fortifications (excluding the Vikings and the Huns). They fill in for the Saxons in the Hastings scenario and for eastern European states like Poland and Russia in the Barbarossa and Genghis Khan campaigns.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: Normally, melee infantry are vulnerable to hand cannoneers or archers. The Huskarls completely reverses this with their higher than normal movement speed, high pierce armor, and bonus damage against archers.
- Zerg Rush: Lacking the powerful Paladin and the ranged Arbalest, their Infantry don't even get the final armor upgrade. Instead, their Infantry are 35% (the technology tree says 25%, though) cheaper than everybody else's and their Barracks churn out those Infantry 20% faster. Later on in the game, they are the only civilization who can create their unique unit from the cheap Barracks as opposed to the costly Castle and they can churn out Infantry 100% (again, the tech tree claims it to be 50%) faster!
HunsThe most offensive civilization in the game. Since they do not need to build houses they can rapidly spam units from the beginning and have bonuses in cavalry and destruction of buildings. UU: Tarkan (anti-building cavalry). Wonder: Destroyed Arch of Constantine surrounded by plundered gold.
- Achilles' Heel: The Huns military is mostly consist of cavalry and cavalry archers. This can easily be countered with halberdiers, onagers, scorpions, and skirmishers.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Mentioned during Attila's campaign that Attila was their king specifically because he was the strongest.
- Born in the Saddle: Cutscenes in the Attila the Hun campaign state that the Huns even had deformed legs due to being on horseback most of their lives. This was a true trope in real life, the Huns originally being a Central Asian people. Reflected in gameplay, too, since their foot troops are limited in variety and weak.
- Barbarian Tribe: Out of all the civs, the Huns are viewed as the most barbaric. The contemporary Goths adopted many Roman customs, and the Mongols take a pragmatic approach to conquest sparing anybody who backs down and making examples of those who resist. Romans during the campaign exclaim that the Huns care about nothing but gold and conquest. Hunnic notions of firing and retreating in battle was incomprehensible to the Romans, as was their refusal to eventually settle down in one place like the Germanic tribes. This is depicted in gameplay as the Huns don't need Houses, they lack access to more advanced upgrades to machinery such as Onagers, Bombard Cannons, or Arbalests, and lack many defensive upgrades.
- A Commander Is You: They are a Unit Specialist faction towards cavalry and Brute Force faction's poor defenses but excellent offenses. They are also Spammer faction in Deathmatches to due their lack of need for houses.
- Crutch Character: Good for early raids, falls off late game due to their predictable army composition (which is mostly consisting of cavalry) and below-average siege weapons.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Huns build monasteries that look like Christian churches despite not being Christian (they also have Catholic-looking monks, but so do all non-American civs). More bizarrely, they have access to several religious techs (Fervor, Sanctity, Atonement, Heresy, Illumination and Faith), but their unique technology is Atheism.
- Glass Cannon: Not as extreme as the Goths (at least they have access to stone walls), but the lack of good defensive upgrades really makes them poor for defensive gameplay.
- Lightning Bruiser: On the other hand, the Huns have access to Heavy Cavalry Archers, Paladins, and Bloodlines, something of an incredibly deadly combo. The other civilizations that have access to such combination is the Magyars, Spanish, and the Persians.
- Horse Archer: The Huns get cheaper Cavalry Archers to the point that they are barely more costly than regular Archers but still have twice the durability, more attack, and more speed. In real life of course, the majority of the Hun army was on horseback.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Their UT "Atheism" makes other players need more time to win after building a Wonder or collecting all relics from a map.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: This is generally their MO in their campaign. Their Tarkan unique unit is a horse mounted raider armed with a flaming brand, particularly effective against buildings.
TeutonsStrong defenses and a diverse tech tree. UU: Teutonic Knight (powerful but slow infantry). Wonder: Maria Laach Abbey.
- Black Knight: The appropriately ominous looking Teutonic Knight is the closest equivalent to the first Age of Empires Phallanx: 50% more HPs than a Champion, three times the melee armor, almost twice the cost, half its speed. They easily kill other melee units, even the dreaded Paladin, and unlike the Persian elephants they are resistant to conversion. However their decent pierce armor and HP doesn't make up for their speed and they are beaten by most ranged units. Combine them with rams and most opponents will still shit their pants as they walk to their base.... though veeeery slowly.
- Closest Thing We Got: After researching the unique technology "Crenellations", Teutonic infantry garrisoned in castles and towers will also fire arrows, rather than just archers.
- A Commander Is You: THE Brute Force faction. Despite being slow as molasses, their Teutonic Knights do tons of damage. Unlike most other Brute Force factions, they also have excellent defense bonuses, cheaper farms of an Economist, units that are resistant to conversion, and their monks have doubled healing range. Due to their reliance on expensive late-game units they also count as the Elitist faction.
- Germanic Efficiency: Definitely invoked when one looks at their castles or compares the Teutonic Knight to other infantry. Not fast nor cheap, but definitely worth to invest in.
- Mighty Glacier: A good way to characterize the Teuton's offense. Slow Teutonic Knights and siege weapons, along with encroaching fortifications. They are also one of the few civs to lack the movement speed upgrade for their mounted units.
- More Dakka: If filled with Hand Cannoneers or Janissaries, their Bombard Towers can fire two and three cannonballs respectively instead of the usual one.
- Rain of Arrows: "Crenellations" also increases the range of their castles.
- The Teutonic Knights: Their Unique Unit. They are mainstays in the armies of the Hospitallers and Templars in the campaign mode which is weird at first glance but the real life Teutonic Order started in the Holy Land. The Teutonic Knights were also present during the Battle of Mohi, the final Ghengis Khan mission, so the Hungarians being represented by Teutons is not completely out there.
VikingsMaritime civ with cheap warships, great economy bonuses and decent Infantry. UUs: Berserker (self-healing infantry), Longboat (ship that fires multiple arrows at once). Wonder: Borgund Stave Church.
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Longboats (like all ships in the game) have no oars, whose animation would probably cause lag on the computers of the time when the game was released.
- The Berserker: Their unique unit.
- A Commander Is You: Due to their limited tech tree, the Vikings are hard to pin down but they have a very strong economy in the middle section of a round such that they can get away with using units that they are weak with such as Knights. A common misconception is that they are poor on land but actually they are strong for most of the game. They are only weak late game due to lacking many of the strongest Imperial Age units such as Siege Onager and Paladins. However, they dominate water maps. When competitive players on teams get to choose their civs but have no idea what map they will be on, each team will almost always have a Viking player on the off chance they get a map with significant water on it as well as the fact that the Vikings are still a good land civ.
- Cool Ship: Their sleek Longboats with masts shaped like dragonheads, counterparts of the real like Drakkar.
- Crutch Character: Played straight on land where they are strong middle game but lack many powerful Imperial Age units, averted on water where their performances are consistently good.
- Healing Factor: The aforementioned Berserkers have one. The unique tech Berserkergang makes them regenerate even faster.
- Horny Vikings: Obviously. Though it's downplayed a bit, only the above mentioned unique unit actually has a horned helmet.
- Lightning Bruiser: Longboats are very fast and shoot volleys of arrows at once, making them perfect for sea-raids.
- Rain of Arrows: The Longboat's attack, which gives it an edge over the galleys and makes it dangerous to land units.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: A literal example. Though they are actually stronger on land than most players would make you think, Vikings are usually mostly picked on water maps.
ByzantinesA very balanced civilization with a wide tech tree and strong buildings, ideal for new players. UU: Cataphract (anti-infantry cavalry). Wonder: Hagia Sophia.
- A Commander Is You: They have traits of the Balanced Faction (no notable strengths and weaknesses in their tech tree), the Spammer Faction (their generic counter units are cheaper), and even the Research Faction (they have the lowest cost to reach the Imperial Age, which means that they can quickly field very powerful units while their opponents are still in the Castle Age.)
- Confusion Fu: They have access to most standard technologies. They are lacking in Siege and miss a crucial tech for Cavalry (extra HP from Bloodlines) and a tech for Cavalry AND Infantry (extra attack from Blast Furnace). This makes them capable of a wide range of playstyles, and unpredictable to face in multiplayer.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Despite being the bastion of Greek Orthodoxy the Byzantine monastery is clearly a mosque with Islamic-style engravings and minarets.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: The Cataphract is not only good against infantry and resists its supposed-to be counters, but also excels at doing things the generic cavalry usually do; raiding and decimating archers and siege (although the Cataphracts have lower than normal pierce armor when compared to a Paladin due to their anti-cavalry resistance to offset their anti-infantry strength).
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Cataphract is one of the best cavalry units in the game. After researching 'Logistica' they also give trample damage to other units around them, like the Persian War Elephants.
- Living Relic: By the end of it's lifespan, the Byzantine Empire could be regarded as such. It had essentially become a city-state, the inhabitants mostly spoke Greek, and their army was in shambles. A common Western European insult to the Byzantines was to call them the "Greek Empire" rather than their preferred name for themselves, the "Roman Empire."
- No Campaign for the Wicked: A very common enemy in campaigns (and the Arch-Enemy in the Attila the Hun one) but only playable in standard game. Fan-made Byzantine campaigns are very common however, and most of them center on Belisarius' invasions of Africa and Italy, since a Belisarius unit is available in the editor.
- Orchestral Bombing: Their Regional Riff.
- The Roman Empire: Historically, the Byzantines were a continuation of the Roman Empire and they stand for Ancient Rome in the game's Attila campaign. They were officially the "Eastern Roman Empire" before the Middle Ages and simply "Roman Empire" during it. They never called themselves Byzantines but Romans. This led to some interesting developments: the Seljuq Turks in control of present-day Turkey called their lands "Romaniyye," and while the origin of present-day Romania's name is quite obvious, it's not so much that Romanian and Moldovan are actually related to Latin rather than the surrounding Slavic languages. Latin was the official language up until it was replaced by Greek in 620 AD (they still referred to their language as the "Roman language") and their units speak Latin in game. After Constantinople fell, several nations laid claim to the title of "Roman Empire" including the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: Cataphracts ignore Spearmen and Camels' Anti-Cavalry bonus and are effective against those two units.
- Skill Gate Character: The Byzantines having no clear strengths and weakness, as well as having a diverse tech tree, makes the Byzantines an easy to learn civilization for newer players.
- Stone Wall: Have some of the toughest buildings in the game, and they're summed up as a "Defensive Civilization" in the in-game tech tree. The "counter units" of the Skirmisher, Spearmen, and Camel line are 25% cheaper; these units are specifically strong against one unit type (skirmishers beat archers, spearmen beat cavalry, camels beat cavalry) but weak against others making them good for defense. Their Cataphract unique unit is also one of only three units in the game with a specific attack bonus against infantry. Unlike the cheaper "counter units," Cataphracts are very expensive but are also useful in many other situations.
PersiansCavalry civilization with economy bonuses. UU: War Elephant (powerful but slow cavalry). Wonder: Khosrau's Palace.
- A Commander Is You: Elitist Faction for sure. They do not have access to many strong, cheap units like the Arbalest, the Champion, or even the Two-Handed Swordsmen. They rely almost entirely on their expensive cavalry. They do have a good ship fleet, though.
- Born in the Saddle: See Knight in Shining Armor below.
- Herd Hitting Attack: The War Elephants does trample damage, making them very effective against infantry and archers.
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Persians are this trope made civilization. They have access to all cavalry units and techs that are not unique to other civilization, and their own UU is the only siege cavalry in the original game (The Conquerors adds the Korean War Wagon and the Hunnic Tarkan).
- No Campaign for the Wicked: They appear as antagonists in many campaigns, but they are never playable outside Casual Maps.
- War Elephants: Their unique unit.
- Mighty Glacier: The biggest example in the game with even the Teutonic Knight being a wimp compared to it in terms of health, resisting high damage and damaging units adjacent to whatever they're attacking. Outside of units they're specially weak to, there's no cost effective way of beating them. They are extremely slow, but...
- Lightning Bruiser: The Persian unique technology (Mahouts) can bring them up to this level. In addition, the Persians have access to Paladins and Heavy Cavalry Archers.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Very easily converted by Monks. And then used against the Persian player!
- Mighty Glacier: The biggest example in the game with even the Teutonic Knight being a wimp compared to it in terms of health, resisting high damage and damaging units adjacent to whatever they're attacking. Outside of units they're specially weak to, there's no cost effective way of beating them. They are extremely slow, but...
SaracensA civ with a wide tech tree, weaker bonuses, and some bonuses towards water. UU: Mameluke (ranged camel dealing melee damage). Wonder: Great Mosque of Samarra.
- Archer Archetype: The Saracens and Japanese are the only civs to get every technology from the Archery Range. Their archers (both foot and mounted) even deal more damage to buildings.
- A Commander Is You: The Saracens seem to fall under the Elitist Faction, the Ranger Faction and the Technical Faction as their strongest and most important units tend to be gold-intensive, appear late-game and ranged. Arbalests, Cavalry Archers, Hand Cannoneers, Mamelukes, Siege Onagers, Bombard Cannons, Monks, Trebuchets, and even Galleons. In the 6th and final Barbarossa scenario, Saladin makes good use of this fact with an army of exclusively ranged units with only a couple of Heavy Camels to start the scenario. This is quite excruciating because the player uses the Teutons who are the slow and methodical civilization.
- Clown Car: Their Transport Ships can carry 2X more units.
- Confusion Fu: Like the Byzantines, they have a wide tech tree thus capable of a wide range of playstyles. Unlike the Byzantines however they also have full blacksmith techs, giving them even more options.
- Faceless Goons: Mamelukes wear black turbans that cover their face completely.
- Horse Archer: The Saracen Horse Archers specifically do more damage to buildings, and the are the only civilization to get every technology to upgrade them along with the Turks. Their Mameluke Unique Unit is sort of like this, playing like a short-ranged Horse Archer except he's a guy on a camel that throws swords and does melee damage instead of ranged damage.
- Magikarp Power: Due to lacking long-term economic bonuses they are very difficult to start with, but once they reach Imperial Age the Saracens can kill anything at sight with their strong camels and various advanced ranged units. This is obvious in the second Saladin scenario, where the player starts in Feudal Age with little resources, restricted to the Castle Age and many soon-to-be Imperial Age foes trying to kill the player.
- Our Elves Are Better: Interestingly they have alot of the usual traits of elves in strategy games. Besides their Ranger Faction tendencies, the Saladin campaign depicts the Saracens as originally peaceful and civilized who become warlike due to events around them. They are men who used to "enter battle as gentlemen" who "discuss mathematics and astronomy" and "seek to dignify their civilization" but the Crusades made them warlike. Their cities such as Cairo and Baghdad are described by the Norman narrator with awe. Their Wonder is even impressive enough to make do as a Mage Tower. In real life, the Arabs had advanced technology compared to the Europeans but they were as warlike as everybody else in the Middle Ages (although perhaps it is true that they weren't quite as divided as the Western Europeans, given that their warring states tended to be rather larger and more coherent, while in Western Europe local lords would gladly fight each other over an orchard if they had an excuse). Later narrations in the campaign mention that they became far more bloodthirsty and violent from all their battles.
- Sinister Scimitar: Their unique unit's Weapon of Choice.
- Slave Mooks: Muslim leaders had to get around the soft ban on Muslims fighting each other; slave mooks known as Mamelukes were the answer. Slaves usually came from Turkic sources, which meant the Mamelukes were probably a precursor to the Jannisaries. Eventually the Mamelukes took control from their owners and founded their own empires in India, Egypt, and Central Asia. In fact the first nation to call itself "Turkey" was the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Mamelukes throw their scimitars at enemies, they usually hit, and pretty hard at that. Of course, the Mameluke has an endless supply of scimitars to throw at people.
TurksGunpowder civilization supported by Light Cavalry. UU: Janissary (strong hand cannoneer). Wonder: Suleiman's Mosque.
- Achilles' Heel: The Turks are considered to be the most gold dependent civilizations due to their army mostly consisting of gunpowder units and the fact that they don't have good upgrades to their spearmen and skirmisher line (they do have access to Hussars for free though). This is compensated by their faster gold mining bonus.
- Born in the Saddle: Historically, the Turks used to be this type of civilization. When they moved to the Middle East, they quickly took on many Persian and Arab characteristics but still retained strong horsemanship into Ottoman times. In gameplay this is reflected by their free upgrades to the Scout Cavalry line as well as being the only civ besides the Saracens to get every upgrade for their Cavalry Archers (and even an upgrade that boosts the durability of their cavalry archers in the Forgotten expansion). The Ottomans made good use of infantry so the Turks have limited access to foot units but what they have is strong.
- A Commander Is You: Definitely an Elitist Faction. They lack the full upgrades for the cheap Spearmen and Skirmishers and must rely on gold intensive units like Jannisaries. The only strong, non-gold unit they have are the Hussars which they have a bonus for.
- More Dakka: They create gunpowder units faster, get Chemistry the instant they reach Imperial Age, get all gunpowder-related technologies for half cost, and their Cannon Galleons, Bombard Tower, and Bombard Cannon all outrange their counterparts in other civs. All of their gunpowder units also have 25% extra Hit Points. It's pretty obvious which units the game wants you to use when you play as the Turks.
- Slave Mooks: The Jannisary corps were slaves brought in from the Slavs in the Balkans and then from the Greeks. Young boys were captured and then given an exclusively military education, which for the Turks included warfare, wrestling, swordsmanship, Islam, chess, music, cooking, and engineering.
- Far East: All four civilizations get the same building style, which is nonetheless very Japanese-looking while the walls and ships look very Chinese. Justified as Japan gained its traditional architectural style by learning from China around the same time as the European dark ages, preserving it while other countries (including China) in the region has it being almost completely displaced by modern architectural style long after the span of the game.
ChineseBonuses in economy and research. UU: Chu Ko Nu (repeating archer). Wonder: Temple of Heaven.
- Automatic Crossbows: The Chu Ko Nu.
- A Commander Is You: They fit the Balanced Faction type along with the Research Faction. One of their advantages is cheaper research of technology which leads to the Chinese having more advanced troops than everybody else.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: The Chinese don't excel much either economically or militarily. They don't have clear strengths and weaknesses like other civilizations has. However, they strongly excel at long range sieging (thanks to Chu Ko Nus, various archer and siege weapon technologies, the trebuchet, and scorpions) as well as strong defense.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: More like Gameplay and History Segregation. The Chinese historically are well-known for their invention of gunpowder and the heavy use of it in warfare (and even the first hand cannon and the cannon were invented in China), yet the Chinese do not have access to the Hand Cannoneer and Bombard Cannon unit outside of campaigns note . This is justified because their gameplay already excels in archery and long range sieging thanks to their unique technologies, their bonuses, and their unique unit; and giving such access to gunpowder units will be a game breaker.
- Interestingly enough, the Chinese do not have access to the Block Printing and Siege Engineeers techs, even though woodblock printing was invented in China (and the official Age of Empires II guide admits that), and the fact that China was historically well-known for their siege weaponry. note
- The Great Wall: Referenced (and portrayed) in the Chinese scenario of the Genghis Khan's campaign. It is invoked once again in Forgotten Empires, where the new Chinese UT "Great Wall" increases their walls' HP.
- More Dakka: Chu Ko Nus fire 5 arrows at a time, though each arrow is less accurate than the last and makes their ability less pronounced on faster enemies. When you have an army of Chu Ko Nus, the number of arrows flying on the screen can actually cause the game to lag. One of the main upsides of the Chu Ko Nus is that while each arrow may do 1 damage to high pierce armor targets like Rams or Trebuchets, those units are so slow that they will probably be hit by 4 or 5 arrows. The Chu Ko Nus make a great defensive unit.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: Appear as antagonists in the third scenario of Genghis Khan's campaign (possibly the most popular of the campaign if not the whole game), but they never get to be playable, except for Casual Maps.
- Chinese campaigns are even rare in the fandom for some reason. The popular fan site Age of Kings Heaven even tried to correct this by making a contest of historically themed Chinese campaigns. Eventually they get their own scenario in Battles of The Forgotten.
- Rain of Arrows: The Chu Ko Nu, especially when in group.
JapaneseMaritime based civilization with fast attacking infantry. UU: Samurai (infantry with bonus attack against other UUs). Wonder: Todai-ji.
- Archer Archetype: The Japanese and Saracens are the only civs to receive all technologies in the Archery Range. Historically, the Samurai were expert archers for most of the Middle Ages and the developers originally intended for the Samurai to have two attack modes: melee with swords and range with archery. This was deemed too user unfriendly because a player could order his Samurai to attack a high pierce armor building destroyer like a Ram, switch to a different screen to micro another army, then switch back only to see his buildings gone thanks to the Samurai feebly firing arrows at the Ram.
- A Commander Is You: It's difficult to pinpoint the Japanese, but they are closest to the Brute Force Faction. They tend to have a strong economy and use cheaper foot units such as their Archers or their faster attacking Infantry. Like the Britons, they lack variety in siege weapons and have weak cavalry so their unit roster is limited, though their ship fleet is significantly better. Ironically, The Conquerors makes their Trebuchets very, very powerful giving them a single strong, expensive Siege weapon as an exception to the rest of their playstyle.
- Everything's Better with Samurai: Almost literally, Samurai get attack bonuses against all other unique units.
- Gratuitous English: Their unique technology, which makes Trebuchets fire faster, is called Kataparuto, which is simply 'catapult' spelt out in Katakana.
- Hero Killer: Samurai are almost average infantry units (one samurai can beat one champion, but barely) but their bonus against UUs means that they can kill any of them in a one-on-one fight, excluding Teutonic Knights, War Elephants and Cataphracts. The former two are too strong for the Samurai even with the bonus, and the latter's bonus damage against infantry counters the Samurai's.
- Horse Archer: The Japanese are lacking in cavalry units but a unique combination of technologies makes their Cavalry Archers able to compete with Hunnic and Persian horse archers man to man. The Samurai spent a period of time as horse archers who engaged in ritual duels.
- Prior to The Forgotten expansion, the Japanese were known to be the only civilization that have access to Parthian Tactics (making their Cavalry Archers more durable and more effective against pikemen), but lacked Bloodlines (a tech that gives cavalry units +20 HP, including Cavalry Archers). This apparently lead to a buff in The Forgotten expansion where they were given the Bloodlines tech, as the samurai were known to have one of the most powerful cavalry that rivals even the Mongols.
- Glass Cannon: Prior to The Forgotten expansion thanks to the lack of Bloodlines, they have to rely on their frail infantry, archers and Trebuchets.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: After the buff with the Japanese getting access to Bloodlines in The Forgotten expansion, they fit more into this.
- Jidai Geki
- Katanas Are Just Better: And Naginata, too. Although the Samurai is the only unit that actually wields a Katana, all Japanese infantry attack 25% faster. This means their Infantry defeat the Infantry of all other civs one to one in every age (including Aztecs with the feared +4 Attack), and their Halberdiers slaughter enemy cavalry more effectively if they get close.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman:
- How much use the Samurai get depends entirely on the enemy's unique unit, with a more useful one meaning the Samurai will get used to counter it. Otherwise, Champions are more cost effective.
- This also applies to them literally. While they are a decent land civ, their faster fishing bonus relies on water maps to be effective.
- You Are The Translated Foreign Word: Their unique technology, "Kataparuto", which makes trebuchets assemble and disassemble faster, is just the Japanese word for "Catapult".
KoreansBonuses in siege and fortifications. UUs: War Wagon (armored cavalry archer), Turtle Ship (armored cannon ship). Wonder: Hwangnyong Pagoda.
- Achilles' Heel: The Koreans gameplay is built around playing defensively and turtling up with their free tower upgrades and stone mining bonus that makes them powerful in Black Forest or Arena. In more open maps like Arabia they are vulnerable in getting raided and attacks at all sides as it's difficult to wall up and play defensively.
- A Commander Is You: They're a combination of the Elitist Faction, the Ranger Faction, and the Technical Faction. Their best units, Siege Onagers and War Wagons, are expensive but very powerful. Their melee units are weak, but it's easy to rely on their powerful ranged units.
- Cool Ship: Turtle Ships are undeniably cool: big, spiky turtle shells with dragon heads that spit cannonballs.
- Magikarp Power: The Koreans do not have any significant early game economic bonus, and their stone gathering bonus isn't that significant in the early stages of the game until the Castle Age. However, once they start building Bombard Towers, Keeps, and Castles and mass up War Wagons, they are incredibly hard to deal with lategame.
- Mighty Glacier: Turtle Ships are colossal, have lots of health points and are terribly slow. However, once a building or ship gets inside their (rather short) range, it's doomed. War Wagons could also be considered slower but stronger Cavalry Archers.
- Spikes of Doom: Just in case you though those spikes were for show, the Noryang scenario has a drawing of a Japanese boarder Impaled with Extreme Prejudice in one of them. The Turtle Ships' main strength in Real Life came from the fact that they could not be boarded and captured.
MongolsLight cavalry and cavalry archer civilization. UU: Mangudai (anti-siege weapons cavalry archer). Wonder: Great Tent of the Golden Horde.
- Born in the Saddle: Mongolian culture practically revolves around the horse in real life and it led to their military success in history. A cutscene proudly proclaims that a Mongol at war would even sleep in the saddle. In-game, their light cavalry have 33% more Hit Points and their Mangudai Unique Unit is a Cavalry Archer on steroids. Unlike the Huns or the Turks, they still have alot of strong foot units but their foot archers in particular miss a key armor technology making them a tad bit weaker than, say, a Saracen or Mayan foot archer.
- A Commander Is You: They are definitely the Technical Faction as well as the Ranger Faction. Their cavalry archers and siege weapons are defensively weak and require hit and run tactics to be effective.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The Mongols were known to have used gunpowder for combat and their empire expansion (more or less thanks to the knowledge of the Chinese), yet the do not have access to such units.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: The Mongols' gameplay is built around this, as the player needs to micromanage their cavalry archers and Mangudai to wither down their opponents.
- Horse Archer: Their Cavalry Archers fire 20% faster and the Mangudai is among the strongest, faster moving and attacking than most units.
- Lightning Bruiser: Mangudai are pretty fast, but their Unique Tech Drills will drastically speed up every siege engine made in the Siege Workshop. Resulting in Mangonels, Rams and Scorpions moving faster than infantry.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: Mangudai arrows are deadly against siege weapons, their only cost-effective counter.
MesoamericaArtstyle only available in The Conquerors. When the developers decided on creating an expansion, they thought about adding an African, Indian, or Mesoamerican set of civilizations to the game. They chose the Mesoamericans because they were the most exotic looking and because they could also include the Spanish. Their most obvious difference with other civilizations is that they lack any type of cavalry or gunpowder units, though their exclusive fast running Eagle Warriors cover the role of the former.
- Annoying Arrows: Eagle Warriors have high enough pierce armor to withstand archers and building fire, making them ideal for raiding. When fully upgraded, they rival Huskarls in this department and become powerful enough to destroy buildings with ease.
- Blade on a Stick: The Eagle Warrior is armed with a spear.
- Closest Thing We Got: The Eagle Warrior is in effect a replacement of the Light Cavalry line, as they have high pierce armor and can move as fast as cavalry units.
- Difficult but Awesome: Playing any of these civilizations (Maya, Aztecs, and Inca) will be relatively difficult for newer players since they lack any gunpowder or cavalry units. Experienced players find many of these civilizations to be the best in Zerg Rush strategies and the Eagle Warriors are considered to be one of the best and cheapest units for such strategies.
- Fragile Speedster: Eagle Warriors are fast but have low hitpoints and melee armor, making them susceptible to other infantry and cavalry.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Despite being from a wholly different continent, in game their infantry and archer units are virtually identical to those of other populations, resulting in Mesoamerican warriors armed with steel swords and armors or crossbows.
- Their trade cart is pulled by a man rather than a horse to account for the fact that they didn't have horses - but it is a cart which doesn't make much sense because the Aztecs and Mayans only used the wheel for toys.
- Also, as they keep the same artstyle as everyone else for the Dark Age, this results in their first mills still having a donkey visibly turning the grinding wheel, even though donkeys are not native to the Americas, nor did Mesoamerica know the milling wheel either. From the Feudal Age these get replaced by windmills, which weren't known historically in Mesoamerica either.
- Every single Mesoamerican civilization has access to Heresy. While it's true that Aztecs have their own cult religion based on warfare, the Spanish and the Portuguese had historically manage to convert most of the local natives to Catholicism and destroyed most of their culture (either through threats or persuasion).
- Joke Character: New players often shun the Aztecs and Mayans entirely due to their lack of cavalry and gunpowder units. Indeed, the Aztecs are designed as an offensive civilization which, when factoring in a lack of the above, tends to confuse newer players. Their unique unit is nearly identical in combat ability to the Teutonic knight, and its upgraded speed does not compensate for the limited options for the rest of the army.
- Lethal Joke Character: However, skilled players will quickly disavow a new player of the notion that they're useless. The Mayans and Aztecs are considered by competitive players to be among the best civilizations in the game on a wide variety of maps. Both civs are very good at advancing to the Imperial Age, then sending swarms of cheap, arrow-resistant Eagle Warriors to an enemy town before they can field upgraded Paladins or Champions, who are strong vs Eagles. Aztecs in particular have a strong economy that can quickly move them to the Imperial Age, and they are the best at attacking in the Dark Age with Militia which allows them to stall their enemies while they advance past the points of the game where they are weak, the Feudal Age and the Castle Age. Mayans are slower than the Aztecs but are more well-rounded and have more options overall. Their unique units run circles around most civilizations, and assaulting a Mayan city is usually an exercise in frustration.
- Lightning Bruiser: Once fully upgraded Eagle Warriors become this. Aztecs give them higher attack while Mayans make them more durable by giving them higher hitpoints.
- Mayincatec: Averted in that the Aztecs and Mayans are two different civilizations with different actual sound clips of their languages and completely different playstyles.
- Played straight with their artstyle, as both factions use the same exact building designs, save for their respective Wonders.
- Panthera Awesome: The development of Mesoamerican civilizations also brought tropical American maps and jaguars lurking in their jungles with them.
AztecsInfantry based civilization with the best monks in game. UU: Jaguar Warrior (most powerful infantry in game). Wonder: Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
- Badass Army: The Aztecs have access to all swordsman upgrades and their unique technology "Garland Wars" gives them 4 additional attack points. Then consider that Jaguar Warriors also benefit from these technologies, and that they themselves have a bonus attack against other infantry units.
- Badass Preacher: Their monks gain HP for each Monastery technology researched.
- The Brute: The Jaguar Warrior can beat any other infantry unit in one-on-one combat, even the Teutonic Knight if the Jaguar strikes first. And it is armed with a club.
- Carry a Big Stick sprinkled with Obsidian shards: Jaguar Warriors.
- City of Gold: Reflected by their team bonus, which generates gold from relics faster. In real life, Tenochtitlan houses many artifacts made from gold.
- A Commander Is You: Mostly the Brute Force Faction. Their buildings are the weakest in the game and they lack cavalry, but they can create all of their military units faster on a powerful economy to boot, and they have a technology that gives their frail Infantry +4 attack. The are not completely glass cannons because for every Monastery technology they research, their Monks gain +5 HP. This combination of fast Eagles, strong Jaguars and Champions, micro-intensive Monks, and the need to constantly be on offense lends them a Technical Faction feel.
- Crippling Overspecialization: They are pretty bad at everything other than Eagle Warriors and monks.
- Foil: To the Mayans. The Aztecs are the most well-known pre-Columbian civilization, fit "The Conquerors" theme, and were probably developed early on. Gameplay-wise, the Aztecs are very focused on offense, while the Mayans were probably developed later and are clearly much more defensive and have many techs the Aztecs lack.
- Glass Cannon: Their Infantry units have relatively low HP despite their high attack. The Aztecs are also one of the few civilizations to have access to the Siege Onager, a very expensive glass cannon unit.
- Nemean Skinning: They're not called Jaguar Warriors for nothing...
- Zerg Rush: All military units are created 15% faster. Aztec players will then use this to spam infantry and monks, which is mostly the only things the Aztecs are good at.
MayansCivilization with very cheap Archers and strong economy bonuses. UU: Plummed Archer (strong, fast foot archer, equivalent to a cavalry archer). Wonder: Temple of the Great Jaguar.
- Annoying Arrows: Eagle Warriors have high pierce armor, and Mayan ones have very high Hit Points.
- Archer Archetype: Rely mostly on archers and ships.
- A Commander Is You: The Mayans are a combo of the Spammer Faction and the Ranger Faction. They extract 20% more resources from the same source than the other civilizations, and their archers are dirt cheap. Combine the two, and they definitely have reserves.
- Foil: To the Aztecs. Their ships, archers, and fortifications are better, while their infantry, siege, and monks are considerably worse. The exception is the Eagle Warrior which is stronger than its Aztec equivalent and together with the also fast Plumed Archers, can effectively be considered a form of light cavalry - something that the Aztecs definitely lack.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: In Real Life, the Mayans weren't actually that big in archery, unlike what is suggested by their AoK UU. In AoE III, for example, the mercenary Mayan unit is a shield-bearing spearman.
- Mayincatec: Seriously ES? You couldn't think of a better name for a Mayan UT than El Dorado? The mythical City of Gold was supposed to be in South America and had nothing to do with the Maya!
Civilizations in The Forgotten
ItaliansRanged and naval based civilization. The Italians have their own artstyle, a version of the Roman one used in the previously developed Rome at War mod (that replaced the Aztecs with Ancient Romans) that was in turn modified and used for the Genoese in the total conversion mod Age of Chivalry. UUs: Genoese Crossbowman (anti-cavalry foot archer), Condottiero (anti-gunpowder infantry that can also be trained by other civilizations allied to an Italian player). Wonder: Basilica of San Lorenzo.
- Anti-Cavalry: The Genoese Crossbowman is one, the only foot archer in game to have this property.
- A Commander Is You: The Italians are mostly a Ranger Faction. They receive a ranged unit for every situation: Genoese Crossbowmen who shoot Cavalry to pieces, cheaper Hand Cannoneers who can decimate Infantry, Skirmishers who kill other Archers, and cheaper Bombard Cannons that destroy buildings and are effective vs other siege weapons. Most civs tend to have a specialization that keeps them from being pigeonholed in one role, and the Italians receive the melee Condottieri who kill gunpowder units.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: The can attack and defend equally well.
- Gratuitous Italian: Averted. The Italians speak Latin, not one of the medieval Italian dialects. There was no standardized Italian until Dante wrote The Divine Comedy.
- Only in It for the Money: The Condottieri availability to other civilizations is explained by the fact that they are mercenaries. In real life the Condottieri were renown for their fickleness, sometimes changing allegiances mid battle.
- The Renaissance: Referenced in their age upgrade bonus.
SlavsSiege spam civilization with strong Infantry and Cavalry. The Slavs also use an Eastern European artstyle based on the unfinished Russian mod that aimed to replace the Aztecs and Mayans with Muscovian and Kievan Russians. UU: Boyar (tough cavalry). Wonder: Khizi Church.
- A Commander Is You: Brute Force since their unique technology gives their infantry trample damage and their Boyar unique unit is a well armored cavalry unit (Essentially a mounted Teutonic Knight). Along with some Spammer elements as their bonus gives their military buildings five population and their siege units are cheaper.
- An Axe to Grind: The Boyar in the final HD version is armed with a longaxe.
- Herd Hitting Attack: The unique technology "Druzhina" gives trample damage to the Slavic infantry. The only other units that have this are the Persian War Elephants and the Byzantine Cataphract (after researching "Logistica").
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Boyar is comparable to the Byzantine Cataphract. The Cataphract destroys Infantry, even Halberdiers, as well as Camels but loses to Paladins and ranged units. The Boyar loses to Halberdiers and Camels but beats Paladins and is a little less weak to archery. Slavs lack Paladins, though, which is good because then they could help account for the Slavs' ranged weakness.
MagyarsLight cavalry based civilization. They share the Eastern Europe artstyle with the Slavs (Central European in the non-HD version). UU: Magyar Huszar (light cavalry with bonus against siege weapons). Wonder: Hunyad Castle.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger because their Cavalry Archers' longer range and their foot archers' extra line of sight. Their cheaper Light Cavalry gives them a good rushing abilities of a Spammer and the Research faction's blacksmith bonuses and their Unique Technology eliminates gold costs of their Unique Units
- Blade on a Stick: Outside of some knight heroes available only in campaigns and the editor, the Magyar Huszar is the only available cavalry lancer in the game.
- Born in the Saddle: A strong Magyar army is fully mounted, with Magyar Huszars, Paladins, Hussars, and Cavalry Archers. In real life, the Magyars spent their early history within a confederation of mostly Turkic peoples on the steppes and adopted a horseback lifestyle. They were feared throughout Europe as the most deadly cavalry soldiers.
- Early-Bird Cameo: They appear in the final Genghis Khan mission, which depicts the Battle of Mohi. They are represented by the Teutons here.
- Horse Archer: Their Horse Archers have the longest range of any other.
- Magikarp Power: The Magyars are considered to be one of the best lategame civilizations. The Magyars not only have access to cheaper Hussar units, but their unique unit costs no gold at all. In addition, they have a very versatile tech tree with mostly full archer upgrades (minus the Hand Cannoneer), full infantry upgrades, and full cavalry upgrades. Their only weakness is their mediocre siege weaponry and somewhat weak defense, and they don't have any significant early game economic bonuses across from the free Blacksmith upgrades for melee units.
- This is also highlighted in Honfoglalás scenario. The player starts out with a few villages where the Pechenegs come and attack the said villages. The Magyars then settled near the Khazars as a refuge from the Pechenegs, but the Pechenegs still continue to swarm the Magyars which forces them to retreat again. The Magyars then settled forward west with a few Pecheneg attacks, but the attacks were stalled when the Byzantine empire request help from the Magyars to defeat the Bulgarians. The Magyars defeated the Bulgarians which earns them a Worthy Opponent label from the Bulgarians. Then the Magyars are forced to retreat again from the Pechenegs. The scenario ends with the Magyars conquering Moravia, abandonned their nomadic ways, settled in, and adopted a lot of European customs (including Christianity).
- One-Hit Kill: Magyar villagers kill wolves with a single hit.
- You Are The Translated Foreign Word: Magyar Huszar means "Hungarian Hussar". The average Hussar unit is still available to the Magyars a.k.a. Hungarians, however, and cheaper than other civs to boot. The Magyars need the regular Hussar because they are one of the few civs to lack Faith, a late-game technology that makes units very hard to convert by Monks. Regular Hussars slaughter Monks.
IndiansGunpowder and camel based civilization (camels effectively replace the heavy cavalry line, which is wholly absent from their tech tree). Their artstyle is Middle Eastern. UUs: Elephant Archer (tough but slow cavalry archer, comparable to a movable tower), Imperial Camel (actually an unique upgrade to the Heavy Camel). Wonder: Gol Gumbaz (Taj Mahal in the non-HD version).
- A Commander Is You: Elitist due to their bonuses with gunpowder units, their cheaper villagers and Unique Technology that gives them gold bonuses of an Economist, and their reliance of camels gives them a Unit Specialist
- Anachronism Stew: The Indians use the voice clips of the Indians of Age of Empires 3, which depicts the Indians around the time of British colonization. Forgotten Empires thus gives us Indians who speak Urdu long before it existed and also say "Hello."
- Horse of a Different Color: Horses are only present as light cavalry. Camels, Heavy Camels and Imperial Camels serve as a cheap but worthy replacement to Knights, Cavaliers and Paladins.
- Glass Cannon: Prior to The African Kingdoms, their Camels deal more damage to buildings, but cannot withstand building fire.
- Mighty Glacier: The Elephant Archer, although its attack is not as devastating as the War Elephant used by the Persians. They can soak up tons of arrows that are fired back at them, though.
- We Have Reserves: Villagers get cheaper with each age, making an Indian player far less likely to protect theirs than others.
IncasInfantry based civilization with building bonuses. They use the Mesoamerican artstyle. UUs: Kamayuk (Spearman with longer range, best used in massed formations), Slinger (ranged infantry with bonus attack against other infantry). Wonder: Machu Picchu's Temple of the Sun.
- A Commander Is You: They can create farms 50% quicker of an Economist and building bonuses of an Industrial faction. Army-wise, they seemed a bit focused on counter-units Unit Specialist, making them the Meso-American's answer to the Byzantine faction.
- Badass Bystander/Made of Iron: Villagers benefit from blacksmith technologies.
- Blade on a Stick: The Kamayuk's Weapon of Choice.
- Big Fucking Spear: The Kamayuk's spear is the longest handheld weapon in the game, twice and a half the height of its handler.
- Discard and Draw: In The African Kingdoms the Unique Tech Couriers gives their Eagle Warriors and unique units more armor instead of higher speed.
- Everything's Better with Llamas: In the HD version, Inca players begin a new game with a free llama (replaced by a turkey in the non-HD version).
- Fragile Speedster: In contrast to the Aztec and Mayan Eagle Warriors, theirs have higher speed.
- Mayincatec: Played straight due to the Inca using the Aztec and Mayan architecture set. Subverted in that the Inca speak Quechua and have units wearing traditional Quechua clothing. Their Wonder is also undeniably Inca, based on the Temple of the Sun at Macchu Picchu.
- Misplaced Wildlife: The Incas get a free turkey (a North American species) instead of a llama prior to the HD version.
- Suffer the Slings: Only civilization in the game to get them. The stats and bonus against other infantry makes the slinger the Inca equivalent of the Hand Cannoneer, a soldier armed with a firearm. The "Andean Sling" technology eliminates the need of a minimum range to fire.
- The Unfavorite: If there is a civilization that got the cold shoulder from ES it's this, left out of both The Conquerors and later Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs despite the declared aim being to bring in playable Native American civilizations in both occasions, and the Incas being the obvious choice being the biggest native empire in the Americas, having pack animals, the most Old World-like army organization and fortifications, and keeping resistance against Europeans for 40 years without counting later rebellions. In comparison, the Mayans weren't politically unified, and the Aztecs went down in 3 years.
- The first HD version was released without an Inca campaign, even though an empty South America map is still there. When it finally came out, this "Inca" campaign actually turned out to be about a Spanish army Going Native... in the Amazon, outside of the (former) Inca Empire's territory.
Civilizations in The African Kingdoms
BerbersCavalry and naval civilization. They use the Middle Eastern artstyle. UUs: Camel Archer (anti-cavalry horse archer), Genitour (anti-archer cavalry archer available to other civilizations allied to a Berber player). Wonder: Hassan Tower.
- A Commander Is You: Mostly the Ranger faction thanks to the Genitour and Camel Archer units and the Guerilla faction. Also mostly Truth in Television, as the Berbers in land were known for their small skirmishes and Hit-and-Run Tactics in battlefield in addition to their naval pirates.
- Born in the Saddle: Medieval Berber armies were well known for their use of lightly armored but lightning-quick cavalry forces. This is also reflected by their unique units and their 20% discount towards the expensive Stable units.
- Dolled-Up Installment: The Genitour was planned for the original 1999 game already, but was scrapped and left unfinished in the editor.
- Healing Factor: Berber camels can regenerate damage after researching the Maghrabi Camels UT.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: Their unique units is built around this.
- Horse Archer: Both unique units qualify, although the Camel Archer rides a camel rather than a horse, and the Genitour throws javelins rather than shooting arrows. Ironically, the Berbers do not have access to Parthian Tactics (which boosts the defensive and offensive capacity of horse archers).
EthiopiansArcher civilization with strong siege weapons. They use the new African artstyle. UU: Shotel Warrior (fast infantry). Wonder: Bete Amanuel at Lalibela.
- Archer Archetype: Their archers fire +15% faster.
- A Commander Is You: The Ethiopians have elements of Ranger (faster-firing archers), Economist (additional food and gold for each age advancement from Castle onwards; free Spearman line upgrades), Brute Force (excellent siege and deadly Shotel Warriors) and Spammer (Royal Heirs making it easier to mass Shotel Warriors quickly).
- Crutch Character/Magikarp Power: Very weak Dark and Feudal Age, very strong Castle Age once they build a Castle to train Shotel Warriors, but fall completely flat late Imperial Age due to a very weak frontline and very predictable gameplay style that is far more predictable than the Huns. They can still be relevant late game in team battles due to their variety of siege weapons they have access to.
- Foil: To the Malians where the Ethiopians have a weaker cavalry and infantry frontline (barring free Spearmen upgrades) in exchange for a strong foot archer and siege weaponry while the Malians have a stronger cavalry/infantry line with access to hand cannoneers in exchange or a weaker archery and average siege line. The Ethiopian have offensive capacity while the Malians have better economic bonuses.
- Glass Cannon: The civilization has every siege upgrade, their faster-firing archers only miss Hand Cannoneers and Parthian Tactics, and they make for a good all-around offensive civ. However, they lack champions, their navy is lacking, with Galleys being their only elite ship, and their cavalry are the weakest of the expansion's civilizations, lacking Plate Barding and Bloodlines, making for a weak front. Worth mentioning are Shotel Warriors, that run fast and pack a punch (up to 20 damage, or 22 if Elite), but are naturally unarmored and can go down just as easily as a Man-At-Arms.
- Zerg Rush: Their first unique technology, Royal Heirs, allows the Ethiopians to train Shotel Warriors nearly instantly.
MaliansDurable infantry with economy and research bonuses. They use the new African artstyle. UU: Gbeto (ranged melee infantry). Wonder: Great Mosque of Djenné.
- Annoying Arrows: One civilization bonus gives their infantry an additional pierce armor per age.
- A Commander Is You: Falls into the Generalist faction (well-balanced tech tree with no particular strengths or weaknesses), the Economist faction (cheaper buildings and free gold mining upgrades), and Research faction (faster University tech speed).
- Foil: To the Ethiopians. The Malians have access to a stronger cavalry/infantry line with stronger economic bonuses in exchange for a weaker archery and average siege line (they have access to Hand Cannoneers to compensate this) while the Ethiopians have a weaker cavalry/infantry frontline in exchange for a better archery/siege line with strong offensive capacity.
- Gender Is No Object/The Smurfette Principle: The Gbeto is the only female (non heroic) combatant unit in the game. This is more or less truth in television, as many west African societies held women in high regards in society and some women even participated in military combat.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Of the African civilizations, their tech tree is more balanced.
- Knife Nut: The Gbeto fires some kind of African throwing knive.
- Proud Scholar Race Guy AND Proud Merchant Race Guy: The Malians was historically known for their scientific advancements in the African kingdom as well as being one of the wealthiest empires in Africa.
- Rule of Cool: The Gbeto is based on the possible ancestor of the Dahomey Amazons, even though neither was around in the Mali empire or its general area (for that matter, neither are African throwing knives).
PortugueseNaval and Gunpowder civilization. They use the Meditteranean artstyle alongside the Italians. UUs: Organ Gun (siege), Caravel (ship). Unique Building: Feitoria Wonder: Belém Tower.
- A Commander Is You: The Portuguese fall more into the lines of Economist (their unique building: Feitora, gradually generates all resources at the cost of 20 population, which is more cost efficient than owning 20 villagers, not to mention, cheaper units in terms of gold) and Ranger faction (has access to all archer upgrades and the Organ Gun, not to mention that their gunpowder units will be affected by Ballistics via Arquebus).
- Foil: To their Iberian neighbor, the Spanish, where both civilizations are navy/gunpowder based civilizations with economic bonuses in gold. Whereas the Spanish have a more mobile army with a stronger cavalry/monk line, the Portuguese are more focused with better accuracy with their gunpowder units in exchange for a weaker monk and cavalry line.
- Glass Cannon: Unlike their Iberian neighbor, the Spanish, the Portuguese have a weaker frontline and weaker cavalry. Their Organ Gun, however, is very devastating if guarded correctly.
- More Dakka: Their Organ Gun is an anti-personnel artillery, having several muzzles. The second unique technology is Arquebus, which makes their gunpowder units sans Cannon Galleons affected by Ballistics and therefore being an accurate force to be reckoned with.
Age of Kings Campaigns
William Wallace (Celts)
William WallaceThe main protagonist of the Celtic learning campaign that bears his name. Appears in the final map as a champion unit.
- Advertised Extra: Only controlled in the last scenario, when he arrives with his army to boost the player's forces after the battle has already been going for a while.
- Barbarian Longhair/Wildhair
- BFS: Equipped with a five foot long claymore, his model in game wields one too.
- The Hero: Of the First Campaign, though you only get to use him later in the last scenario.
- One-Man Army: One of the strongest heroic units.
- Silent Protagonist
Edward I "Longshanks"The king of England in the William Wallace campaign, does not appear in person.
- And That's Terrible: He stole the Coronation Stone and crowned himself King of Scotland!!
- Big Bad: Of the first campaign.
- Evil Brit
- The Ghost: Though frequently mentioned in the introductions and epilogues, he never appears personally.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: His villainy is far more accentuated in game. Probably to be blamed on an Unreliable Narrator.
Joan of Arc (Franks)
Joan of ArcThe protagonist of the Frankish campaign. Appears as two different units: Joan the Maid, which walks on foot, has little attack and has no armor, and her more powerful knight version, who has high attack, but is not as strong as other mounted heroes.
- Breastplate: Averted, even in cutscenes she wears a perfectly functional full plate armor.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: She becomes the head of the French army before 18.
- Escort Mission: Many knights are tasked with protecting her through the campaign (Sieur Bertrand, Sieur de Metz, the Duke of Alençon, etc). They can be killed in battle but as long as Joan survives it's okay.
- The Heroine: Of the second campaign. The game credits her with turning the tide of The Hundred Years War and turning the French feudal leves into an unified national army.
- Historical Badass Upgrade: Both playable versions of Joan are capable of combat, even though their historical counterpart was reputed to have never killed a person.
- Plucky Girl: The game shows Joan as a seventeen years old girl determined to chase the English out of her country at any cost.
- Red Baron: "La Pucelle" and the "Maid of Orleans."
- Silent Protagonist
- The Smurfette Principle: Only female warrior featured in the game.
- Took a Level in Badass: Goes from being a powered up villager to powered up cavalry unit after the first mission.
- Undying Loyalty: To the Dauphin Charles.
- Working-Class Hero: A common peasant girl that rises morale for her faith in victory.
Guy de JosselineThe fictional narrator of the Joan of Arc campaign. Has an unique model as cavalry in the final level.
- Author Avatar: Sort of. One of the developers of the game, Sandy Peterson, has a French ancestor named Josselyne.
- Been There, Shaped History: Though fictional, he ends leading the French in the Battle of Castillon, that ended The Hundred Years War and expelled the English from the continent.note
- The Lancer: To Joan.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Determined to avenge Joan in the sixth and last scenario of the Frankish campaign.
La HireA French Blood Knight, represented by an extremly powerful champion. He serves as The Lancer to Joan first, and then Guy.
- BFS: The unit representing him, the strongest infantry swordsman, wields one.
- The Big Guy: To Joan in the third scenario and to Guy in the sixth.
- Blood Knight: Sounds almost psychotic.
- Large Ham: "Ah, La Hire wishes to kill something".
- Made of Iron: La Hire is the ONLY unit in all of Age of Empires 2 who is simply "grievously wounded" if he gets killed in the 3rd Joan of Arc scenario, in spite of you being able to see his corpse rot. Gameplay limitations aside, he reappears for the 6th scenario but if he falls in battle there, it will be confirmed that he has perished.
- Neck Snap: His plan for a few English soldiers at Patay, according to Josseline.
- Only Known by Their Nickname/Red Baron: La Hire means "The Wrath".
- Third-Person Person
Sir John FastolfAn extremely arrogant English knight, and the antagonist of the third level in Joan of Arc. Represented by the Knightly Lance hero unit.
- Arrogant Knighthood Guy: Continuously dismisses Joan's forces as a bunch of worthless rams and cattle.
- Bonus Boss: In the third scenario he will personally storm your base with some elite troops if you destroy one of the English Castles, but neither killing him nor defeating his bloody tough armies is vital to win the scenario.
- Evil Brit
- Face Death with Dignity: If killed, he says "I die for England."
- Knightly Lance
- Oh Crap!: "Fastolf's Army advanced to the Imperial Age." He is the first enemy AI that hits the Imperial Age, all while the player can only advance to the Castle Age. A battle with him becomes Cavaliers and Capped Rams vs the player's Knights and Battering Rams. Thankfully, he seems somewhat handicapped and only has a few Imperial Age technologies available to him.
- We Have Reserves: He never runs out of knights.
SaladinThe leader of the Saracens, and the protagonist of his campaign, as well as a Final Boss of the Barbarossa campaign. Does not appear in-game.
- Berserk Button: Becomes very outraged when Reynald and his henchmen starts pillaging the caravans for no reason.
- Cultured Badass
- The Ghost: He never appears in game.
- He Who Fights Monsters: As the narrator noted, he became more and more ruthless as the crusaders continued the war.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The narrator, a captured crusader, routinely notes how different Saladin and his portrayal by Europeans is.
Reynald de ChatillonA French knight working for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the first enemy of the Saladin campaign. Is represented by the Knightly Lance hero unit.
- Arch-Enemy: Ends up becoming one for Saladin.
- Black Knight
- Fiery Redhead
- French Jerk: He's referred to as a "wicked French knight" by the narration.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Averted, considering how brutal the real Reynald was, what the game lists his actions are is arguable tame by comparison.
- Knightly Lance
- Off with His Head!: Captured and beheaded by Saladin himself.
Richard the LionheartedThe Final Boss of the Saladin campaign, and a minor ally in the final level of Barbarossa. Represented by a powerful paladin unit.
- Genius Bruiser: A resourceful tactician and an expert warrior.
- Out-of-Character Moment: In the Barbarossa Campaign, he appears with a small force outside the Saracen's walls surrounding Jerusalem, but sounds more fatalistic and stoic. He is also very likely to die and only serves as a brief distraction for your enemies.
- Worthy Opponent: Ends up being one for Saladin after Acre.
Genghis Khan (Mongols)
Genghis KhanThe protagonist of the Mongol campaign. Appears only in the first level, as a powerful mangudai unit.
- Advertised Extra: He only appears at the beginning of the first scenario and is never playable.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Even his heroic unit is quite powerful, you just never get to use him.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Infamous for inflicting horrible tortures and executions on prisoners and defeated.
- For the Evulz: After destroying Khorezm, the Mongols enjoy themselves making mountains out of the decapitated heads of men, women, children, horses, dogs and cats, and sow the Khorezmian fields with salt.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: In "The Horde Rides West", he sends two assassins disguised as merchants to kill the Shah of Khorezm without being at war with him yet. In the event that inspired this scenario, a caravan of actual Mongol merchants were rounded up by a Khorezmian governor and executed for no apparent reason (and without informing the Shah to boot), resulting in Genghis' Roaring Rampage of Revenge and the complete destruction of Khorezm as a state (Genghis also tried to assassinate the Shah later, but he escaped to an island in the Caspian Sea; the game's mission is therefore a combination of multiple events). Even historians sympathetic to Genghis agree that he used merchants as spies anyway, however.
- The Horde: Leads one.
- Horse Archer
- Large Ham: In the one speaking role he has.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: "Four Mongol tribes follow the standard of Genghis Khan. The rest of the world will soon learn fear". Oh, indeed.
- Villain Protagonist: Arguably he can be considered one.
- You Are in Command Now: According to the narrator, in his deathbed he "refuses to die" until one of his sons agrees to take control of his horde and invade Europe, upon which he names him his heir.
Ornlu The WolfA wolf carrying a minor role in the Genghis Khan campaign. The task to convince the Uighurs to join Genghis, is to kill Ornlu and his pack. A renamed version of him, called Son of Ornlu, inexplicably appears in Montezuma. H is a very powerful wolf.
- Breakout Villain: Despite his minor role, he is the best remembered of the fictional characters invented for the game.
- The latest patch for the fan made expansion Forgotten Empires gives Ornlu his very own Hero icon. Yep, the fans decided that spending their time making a Hero icon for only scenario-available Ornlu the Wolf was worth the time and effort.
- Mythology Gag: There are references to him in both Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III. And he turns up in the Montezuma campaign and Vindlandssaga missions in the Conquerors as well.
- Savage Wolves: Ornlu is such a problem for a particular tribe that they will pledge loyalty to Genghis if he resolves it for them.
- Unexpected Character: In a hilarious defiance of common logic, turns up in the fourth mission of the Montezuma campaign, as an Easter Egg. In the second level, a renamed version of him called Son of Ornlu can also be found.
KushlukThe antagonist of the second level of Genghis Khan. Represented by a cavalier unit.
- Dirty Coward: He flees as soon as he sees Genghis' men coming.
- The Horde: Leads one.
- "Get Back Here!" Boss: Flees immediately after the defeat of the Khara Khitai.
- Evil Scars: He sports a brutal one over his left eye, who is missing.
- Warmup Boss
SubotaiThe Lancer to Genghis, and later, Ogatai. Represented by a cavalry archer.
- Badass Beard
- Big Damn Heroes: In the last scenario after forty minutes of Hungarian siege, he arrives followed by a generous amount of saboteurs to save the day.
- Canine Companion: His two hunting wolves. Possibly a reference to his title of "Dog of War."
- Cool Pet: The Wolves gain a speed boost when they're directed at enemies, attack very quickly, and have the healing factor bestowed upon all Hero units.
- Historical Beauty Update: Subotai was actually extremely obese and had to be pulled around in a cart. He was such an asset to the Mongol army as a strategist that nobody minded hauling him around. Age of Kings presents Subotai as a rather lean man and the fastest military unit in the game.
- The Horde: Leads the ones that conquer Russia and Hungary.
- Horse Archer
- The Lancer: To Genghis and later his son.
- The Quiet One
- Right-Hand Attack Dog: His wolves.
Frederick BarbarossaThe protagonist of the teuton campaign. Appears in the final level, after his death, as the Emperor in A Barrel unit, which is a trade cart with more health.
- Anti-Climax: His death during the long march towards the Holy Land; he drowns in the cutscene after the penultimate mission.
- Badass Beard: Hence his nickname: Barba for "Beard" and Rossa for "Red."
- Escort Mission: Technically the last one, where the player has to make sure that a cart containing Barbarossa's body reaches Jerusalem.
- Fiery Redhead
- The Ghost: Never actually seen in game.
- The Hero: Though some people may consider him a Villain Protagonist.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Barbarossa had to put down rebellions in Germany, but not one seemingly comprised of all electoral princes going up in arms at once right after his election. He wasn't the leading man in Germany's expansion to the east, but something that Henry the Lion did mostly on his own (Henry ruled Saxony, which was by the frontier then, so any expansion of the frontier resulted in the Lion's own land and wealth being increased). And his conflict with the Lion himself wasn't as black and white as presented in the game (see bellow).
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Barbarossa launched five wars in Italy, and the conflict with the Pope (who was sometimes on the side of the Emperor against the Italian rebels and often had different goals than them) was far more tortuous and complicated than just a dispute over who had authority over the other. It also involved several popes, including three of them at once (rather than two as in the game), and Barbarossa switched allegiance between two popes more than once.
- Puppet King: The Holy Roman Empire is an Elective Monarchy and the electoral princes, the Church and the Italian merchant cities have grown accostumed to consider the imperial title meaningless. Barbarossa's long time objective is to put an end to this.
Henry the LionThe Starscream to Barbarossa, later revealed to be the narrator of his campaign, commanding forces in the second and fourth levels though he does not appear as an unit.
- Badass Moustache: Sports a large one with no beard, in the Germanic fashion.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In the game he betrays Barbarossa and tries to usurp the Imperial throne, is defeated but forgiven, then betrays him again at the absolute worst time. The second time is the last.
- The Dragon: He was meant to be Barbarossa's Dragon in-game. He ends up turning on Barbarossa twice and becomes The Dragon for the Lombard League the second time.
- Face–Heel Turn: Twice.
- The Ghost: Never seen in game.
- Historical Villain Upgrade:
- Actually, Henry the Lion never tried to usurp the Imperial throne and title from Barbarossa, nor took up arms against him while Barbarossa was fighting Poland. Henry the Lion was the one that made war in the east (against the last remaining Pagan tribes in the Pomerania region, rather than the actual Kingdom of Poland) though it was to serve his own interest and his troops were renowned by their cruelty.
- His part in the campaign(s) against Milan, where he served Barbarossa faithfully, is not mentioned.
- The Lion didn't rebel and ally with the Lombard League against Barbarossa either. All he did was not providing troops for Barbarossa's fifth Italian campaign (having supported and fought himself for him in other previous ones) because he was waging another war in the east at the time. When Barbarossa was defeated he blamed it on Henry, declared him an outlaw and stripped him of all his lands. The fact that Henry (who was actually Barbarossa's cousin) had collected a lot of land and power during Barbarossa's reign made him the perfect scapegoat, because many other nobles resented him already for that. The Lion did, however, return to Germany with a vengeance when Barbarossa left on Crusade, but was defeated and submitted to Barbarossa's son's authority years later.
- Narrator All Along: Revealed in the last cutscene. Most players probably noticed that Henry the Lion and the narrator have the same voice actor, but this is also true of many unrelated characters in the game, so they disregarded it before The Reveal.
- Pragmatic Adaptation:
- His Historical Villain Upgrade.
- In the cutscenes, he goes into exile in England and when his identity is revealed he claims to be too old to take up arms again. In real life, he took exile in Normandy (part of France, but ruled by the King of England), destroyed a city in revenge for siding with Barbarossa against him, was defeated by Barbarossa's son, accepted to submit in exchange for a minimal part of his former lands, and then decided he was too old to fight and became a quiet patron of the arts.
- Put on a Boat: He marches to exile in England after betraying Barbarossa a second time.
- The Starscream
- You All Meet in an Inn: He tells the story to the player in a tavern.
The Conquerors Campaigns
Attila the HunThe protagonist of the Hunnic campaign. Is an extra powerful cataphract unit.
- Anti-Climax: As with Barbarossa. Death by nosebleed in his wedding night seems pretty anticlimatic for such a ruthless, powerful leader. note
- Asskicking Equals Authority
- Bad Boss: The cutscene leading to the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields has Attila throwing the first spear and then turning back to his army to say that whoever remains still while Attila fights is a dead man.
- Beard of Evil
- Cain and Abel: With Bleda, though it is impossible to say who's who.
- Cool Sword: Wields a rusty blade, which he claims to be Mars' sword.
- Evil Versus Evil: There is no love lost in his fight for power with Bleda.
- For the Evulz: After massacring his way through Gaul, he puts the heads of his victims in a line of stakes. There are enough to cover all the way from Gaul to Pannonia (modern Hungary).
- Hidden Depths: The stories of the Franks and Romans portray him more as a monster than a man and he leads his Huns in plenty of Rape, Pillage, and Burn campaigns. However, he personally negotiates an alliance with the Scythians, he eats from a wooden plate and cup instead of using the huge quantities of gold he obtains for his Huns, he spares one of the narrators, Father Armand, after the Battle of Chalons and he decides to turn his army around when at the gates of Rome.
- Hopeless War: The Hunnic shamans predict that Attila will lose at the Catalaunian Fields, but that the enemy's leader will be killed. Attila considers it a just trade and fights anyway.
- The Horde: Leads a brutal one into Europe.
- Modest Royalty
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The whole Attila Campaign can be summed as this.
- Red Baron: "The Scourge of God."
- Silent Protagonist
- Villain Protagonist
Bleda the HunThe brother of Attila, and a Warmup Boss in his campaign. Represented by a Mangudai with melee damage, inexplicably.
- Beard of Evil
- Cain and Abel: With Attila.
- Dirty Coward: Bleda challenges Attila to hunt the "Iron Boar" at the beginning of the first Attila the Hun campaign scenario. He has Archers hidden in the place where the Iron Boar lairs. If Attila decides to betray Bleda and return to camp, the Archers will testify against him to the rest of the Hun army causing half of the army to attack Attila. If Attila saves Bleda from the Boar, Bleda will order his archers to attack Attila.
- Evil Versus Evil: His conflict with Attila.
- Healing Factor: Subverted in that Bleda is actually a named, regular unit and lacks the healing factor of the Hero units of the game. Even in the map editor, he appears under the regular units tab and not under the Hero units one.
- Horse Archer: Technically.
- Improbable Weapon User: Bleda uses the same model as the Mongol unique unit, the Mangudai...which makes no sense because the Mangudai is a horse archer and Bleda is a melee unit. This results in Bleda running up to units and firing an arrow from his bow at point blank range upward away from his enemies...
Flavius AetiusThe West Roman general fighting Attila in the latter part of the campaign, although he never appears.
- Badass Grandpa
- Climax Boss: Though you never see him directly in game, the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields count as this.
- Hero Antagonist: Technically for Attila's Campaign.
- The Ghost
- Mighty Whitey: He was raised among the Huns, making him Rome's best choice to deal with them.
- Retired Badass: Retires after the battle of the Catalaunian Fields, allowing Attila to invade Rome.
- To Know Him, I Must Become Him: Lived among the Huns before joining Rome's army and fighting them.
- Worthy Opponent: To Attila.
El Cid (Spanish and Saracens)
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a.k.a. "El Cid"The protagonist of the Spanish campaign, represented by a Champion at first, but after acquiring Bavieca, a Knightly Lance.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- BFS: His sword Tizona. However, while on horseback he wields a jousting lance instead.
- Big Damn Heroes: In the fourth scenario, where he has to save King Alfonso's troops from the Black Guards.
- Cool Horse: Bavieca.
- El Cid Ploy: Obviously. The player can't let the enemy damage his tied-up corpse in the last scenario or the ruse will be discovered.
- The Hero: Undisputed, even by his enemies.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: A lot is made of his honorability and religious tolerance. In real life, the first things he did after taking Valencia were burning alive the governor and turning the main mosques into churches (even though his forces also included Muslims and he was de jure under the command of a Muslim lord, Mutamid).
- Knight in Shining Armor
- Knightly Lance
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Which made him famous for his loyalty.
- One-Man Army: Probably the strongest hero unit the player is ever given control of.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: He becomes King after taking Valencia.
- Silent Protagonist
- Working-Class Hero: While an aristocrat, he's a minor noble and the crux of his conflcit is with the far more powerful King Alfonso.
Jimena DíazThe wife of El Cid, and the narrator of his campaign.
- Happily Married: To El Cid.
- The High Queen: Is the wife of El Cid, and becomes sole-reigning queen of Valencia after the defeat of Yusuf.
King SanchoThe king of Castille, and an useful ally to El Cid in the first map, until he dies. Represented by the non-combatant king unit.
- Cain and Abel: The Abel to Alfonso.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the cutscenes, Sancho is bearded and Alfonso is not. In the scenarios, it's the opposite.
- The Good King
- Sacrificial Lion: Is assassinated between maps by Alfonso.
King AlfonsoThe villainous king of León, and after Sancho's death, of Castile. He is constantly fighting and allying with El Cid through several maps. Represented by the non-combatant king unit.
- Aristocrats Are Evil
- Beard of Evil: He sports one in the animated cutscenes, although he is clean-shaven in the scenarios.
- Cain and Abel: The Cain to Sancho.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He keeps backstabbing El Cid even after being rescued by him.
- Dirty Coward/The Evil Prince
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the cutscenes, Sancho is bearded and Alfonso is not. In the scenarios, it's the opposite.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: In the game he seems to lack any positive trait.
- Karma Houdini
- Ungrateful Bastard: Is one towards El Cid.
YusufThe leader of the Black Guard berbers that invade Spain to stop the Christian advance in the Reconquista. Never appears in game.
- Big Bad: Of the later half of El Cid's campaign.
- Enemy Civil War: Is gone after his defeat in the fourth mission, because he has to take care of a Berber civil war in Africa.
- The Faceless: Jimena notes that his face is always covered.
- The Fundamentalist: In contrast to the local Muslim rulers like Mutamid.
- The Ghost: Never appears in person.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: The Iberian Muslims call him to help them against the Christians, but then he proceeds to submit ones and others alike.
- Outside-Context Problem: Christians and Muslims have been fighting each other in Spain for centuries. The Almoravids then arrive with the intention to swallow everything for themselves.
MutamidThe friendly Muslim King of Zaragoza. He puts El Cid at his service after he is exiled by King Alfonso. Never appears in game.
- The Good King
- Idle Rich: No wonder the moment El Cid is not by his side, his kingdom goes down and he is deposed by Yusuf.
- Muslim Best Friend: To El Cid.
- Nice Guy
Count Berenguer:The Count of Barcelona, trying to expand his territories by attacking the Moorish cities of Zaragoza and Valencia that El Cid is tasked to protect. Does not appear in person.
- Aristocrats Are Evil
- Arranged Marriage: His nephew is married to El Cid's daughter to unite them after the wars.
- Big Bad: He has nothing to do with Yusuf, but whenever he isn't around, Berenguer can be trusted as an opponent.
- The Ghost: Never appears in person.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: A pretty major one.
- Karma Houdini: Although he is briefly imprisoned, he escapes real punishment.
MontezumaThe focal character of the Montezuma campaign, though arguably not the protagonist; this would rather be his nephew, Cuauhtemoc. Never appears in person.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: The game describes Montezuma as slow to make decisions and seemingly afraid of going into combat. In real life the office of the Emperor is tied into military promotion. The warriors who come from noble families have a head start on commoners when it comes to rank so they always end up as the rulers but they have to prove themselves in battle time and time again until they become Emperor.
- Decoy Protagonist: Despite giving his name to the campaign, the real protagonist is Cuahutemoc.
- Distressed Dude: For part of the campaign.
- The Ghost
- Idle Rich
- Non-Action Guy
CuauhtemocThe protagonist and narrator of the Montezuma campaign, becoming emperor after his uncle's death. A Jaguar Warrior in La Noche Triste is heavily implied to be him.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Cuauhtemoc is the narrator for the Montezuma campaign. The story is some sort of journal or a chronicle written down by him. The first scenario starting cutscene is prefaced with "Passed down to you by Cuauhtemoc, Eagle Warrior of Tenochtitlan." The second starts with him as Cuauhtemoc, Jaguar Warrior of Tenochtitlan. The fifth mission dramatically and slowly starts with Cuauhtemoc, Emperor of Tenochtitlan. He then relates his crowning by the priests, which is not so awesome because Tenochtitlan had just been wracked by warfare and the only reason he succeeded was due to Montezuma's death.
- Carry a Big Stick/Nemean Skinning: Expected when he is Jaguar Warrior.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Jaguar Warrior armed with a very high attack during the fourth scenario of the campaign is implied to be Cuauhtemoc; at the time of the scenario, Cuauhtemoc is a Jaguar Warrior and the particular Jaguar has the same voice actor. He is the sole unit you begin the scenario with and recruits other soldiers to eventually retake the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. However, he is not a Hero unit and if he dies it is not mentioned and the scenario continues.
- Warrior Prince: Cuauhtemoc mentions a few times that he's Montezuma's nephew, and seems to be the unseen commander of your troops during the campaign.
- You Are in Command Now: After Montezuma dies in La Noche Triste.
Hernán CortésThe antagonist of the Montezuma campaign. He never appears in person.
- Big Bad: Of the Aztecs' campaign.
- The Ghost
- Only in It for the Money
- Outside-Context Problem: To the Aztecs. The Tlaxcalans have a few skirmishes with him but soon become allies.
Battles of the Conquerors (Several)
Henry VThe protagonist and leader of the Britons in the Agincourt scenario. Represented by a powerful Paladin unit.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- Henry V: The scenario takes cues from the Shakespearean play and even includes a portion of the Saint Crispin's speech. Henry V is also one of the few protagonists in the game with lines to speak.
- The Hero
- Escort Mission: Becomes one by the end of the map, when your only objective becomes taking him back to England.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- Stiff Upper Lip
William The ConquerorThe protagonist and leader of the Franks in the Hastings scenario, represented by a paladin unit.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Is a quite strong paladin unit.
- The Hero
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Much like in Real Life.
Harold The SaxonThe antagonist of the Hastings scenario, the leader of the Saxons. Does not appear in person.
- Arrogant Saxon Guy: Constantly gloats and brags to William, even when his defeat is imminent.
- Evil Gloating: Although YMMV on the evilness, he gloats a whole lot during the mission.
Harold: Go home, young William. This island will remain Saxon!
- As soon as William's forces get in a transport ship and set for England, he says, with all due smugness:
- The Ghost: He's never seen.
Harald HardraadeA Berserker and leader of the Vikings appearing in Hastings, whom can be allied with William, if the player chooses, and can be used as an army. Represented by a ranged berserker unit.
- An Axe to Grind: An inversion of Bleda and his melee bow, Harald takes the model of a melee unit, the Berserker, and uses it to throw axes at enemies, like the Frankish Throwing Axeman. He also throws these axes very rapidly and would be a one man army if it weren't for his low HP. He doesn't look as silly as Bleda because his animation is specifically cut off to make it look like he's doing an overhand throw.
- Badass Beard
- The Berserker: He is a Berserker. That throws axes.
- Fiery Redhead
- Horny Vikings
- The Lancer: To William, if they choose to ally. He can live up to the very end of the scenario and even participate in the final objective of destroying Harold the Saxon's Castle even though he is your rival to the throne, as opposed to Real Life where there wasn't any significant contact between them and Harald launched his own invasion that was separate from William's. The endgame cutscene mentions him dying at the Battle of Stamford Bridge before Harold fights William.
- Throwing Your Axe Always Works
Erik The RedThe protagonist of the Vinlandssaga scenario, represented by a Berserker unit.
- An Axe to Grind: Is the Berserker unit, although he does not throw axes like Harald Hardraade.
- Composite Character/Pragmatic Adaptation: Erik the Red was forced out of Norway, went to Iceland, was forced out of Iceland, founded the first Viking settlement in Greenland. Erik stayed in Greenland while his son, Leif Erikson, founded the first settlement in Vinland. In the game, Erik is forced out of Norway, but Iceland is not in the map. Instead, he goes directly to Greenland, which is already settled by (hostile) Norse, and then founds a settlement in Vinland.
- Badass Beard
- The Berserker: As any good viking hero should be.
- Bold Explorer: Notable because, unlike most other heroes, he is not a warlord or aristocrat in any way. He is actually a fairly common viking man, and not doing conquest, actually just exploring instead. If anything, he's trying to save his fellow vikings from famine by searching for a better land.
- Fiery Redhead
- Horny Vikings
- Working-Class Hero
Charles MartelThe protagonist and leader of the Franks in the Tours scenario, represented by a Throwing Axeman unit.
- An Axe to Grind: He's a souped up heroic Throwing Axeman.
- The Hero Dies: He can, and it's one of the few times where the Hero CAN die without any consequence. One of his soldiers claim the Franks hearts will not be in the fighting, but there are zero repercussions. He survived the battle in real life and the ending cutscene treats him as if he survived regardless of gameplay events.
- Red Baron: "The Hammer"
Yi Sun-SinThe protagonist and leader of the Koreans in the Noryang Point scenario, represented by a Turtle Ship.
- Badass Beard
- Badass Grandpa
- Cool Boat: He rides around in a souped up Turtle Ship, the only Hero ship unit. He also invented them.
- Cultured Badass/Science Hero
- Father Neptune
- The Hero Dies: An inversion of Charles Martel. He can die in the game and the scenario will continue on. HOWEVER, after winning the mission the narrator states that he died in the fighting as he did in real life but the Koreans still won the battle and eventually the war.
- One-Man Army: His personal ship is fully capable of finishing the mission on its own once the player gets it.
Oda NobunagaA samurai in the Kyoto map, who is executed in the beginning, leading to the revenge wished by his second Hideyoshi. Is represented by the samurai unit.
- Everything's Better with Samurai: Is represented by Japan's unique unit, the Samurai. Although subverted, since he inevitably dies.
- Failure Is the Only Option: His "rescue" attempt.
- Oda Nobunaga: Obviously. One of the cases where he's not portrayed as a monstrous warlord. Not that we see much of him beyond the start, anyway.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Dies just to allow Hideyoshi to swear revenge.
Toyotomi HideyoshiThe protagonist of the Kyoto map, and the antagonist of the Noryang Point map, leading Japanese in both occasions. Does not appear in person.
The Forgotten Campaigns
Dracula (Turks, Slavs and Magyars)
Vlad Dracula:The protagonist of the campaign, and the head of the Kingdom of Wallachia. Represented by the Boyar unit.
- An Ax To Grind
- Arch-Enemy: Vladislav and the Ottomans.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- Badass Moustache
- Badass In Charge: Does manage to kill Vladislav in hand-to-hand combat.
- The Caligula: Veers into this by the fourth mission, where he murders a monk for flattering him unrighteously.
- Disproportionate Retribution: He kills a monk for flattering him.
- Dressing as the Enemy: In the third map he disguises himself as a Turkish merchant (inexplicably represented with the king unit) to take over an Ottoman garrison.
- How We Got Here: The narration before the game is done by a bystander looking at Vlad's impaled head in Istanbul.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: This being Vlad the Impaler, it could only be expected. Happens to countless mooks through his campaign and eventually to Vlad himself (only his head, though).
- Kick the Dog: In the later levels, he stakes innocents and murders monks for flattering him.
- Villain Protagonist: Arguably, the main character portrayed least sympathetic. He at one point murders a monk for flattering him, and stakes several hundred Ottoman soldiers, all of which happened in real life. The fourth mission of his campaign also requires the player to burn down undefended Wallachian villages.
- We Used to Be Friends: To the Ottomans.
- You Killed My Father: Vladislav killed his brother and father.
Danislav, Jakub and IstvanThe three voivode princes who become the closest allies to Dracula. Represented by a cataphract, a paladin and a cavalier, respectively.
- Badass In Charge
- Badass Crew
- A Father to His Men: Seems primarily motivated by the well being of their peoples, rather than Dracula, who is motivated by spite and revenge.
- Horseback Heroism: Through three different units, all of them are heavy cavalry sans Danislav in the first scenario.
- The Lancer: To Dracula.
- La Résistance: Agaisnt Vladislav in their first appearance.
- Not Quite Dead: The narrator of the Dracula campaign is Istvan, having survived the night raid on the Turks.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: After serving as somewhat important characters for the campaign, they all unceremoniously die in the final battle of the fourth level, where only Dracula survives, with nobody even mentioning their deaths.
Vladislav IIThe leader of the Danesti clan, and the usurper of the throne of Wallachia, as well as the murderer of Draculas father and older brother. A secondary antagonist of the campaign. Represented by a cavalier unit, and later a king unit.
- Badass In Charge: In his first appearance.
- It's Personal: With Dracula
- Nigh-Invulnerability: In his first appearance, his unit is ridiculously strong, and meant to be fled from.
- Starter Villain: Presented as a major threat, but is quickly defeated and killed off in the second mission.
- The Usurper
Murad IIThe sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who sends Dracula to Wallachia after Vladislav takes over. Represented by the king unit.
- Adipose Rex
- Big Good: Serves as this in his only appearance in the first level.
- The Good King: Was sultan while he and Dracula were still allies. After his death, his ambitious and more ruthless son Mehmet took over, and things went awry.
Mehmet IIThe son of Murad, becoming the enemy of Dracula unlike his father.
- Arch-Enemy: To Dracula, after Vladislav and Murads deaths.
- Big Bad: Since he leads the Turks, the main enemies, from mission 3 and onward.
- The Empire: The Ottoman Empire.
- The Ghost
RaduThe younger brother of Dracula, and the leader of the Ottoman troops against him in the fourth mission.
Francesco SforzaAn Italian mercenary, captain of his platoon after his father's death, and the main protagonist of the campaign. Represented by a condottiero unit.
- Arch-Enemy: To Carmagnola.
- Bait the Dog: He sieges Milan, and deliberately starves the innocent citizens of the city, but when they surrender, he makes sure to provide plenty of food for them.
- Batman Gambit: Defeats Carmagnola this way.
- The Dragon: To Fillipo, at first.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Eventually turns on him to become Duke of Milan.
- A Father to His Men: Unlike his father.
- Generation Xerox
- The Hero
- Only in It for the Money
Muzio SforzaThe father of Francesco. After his death, Francesco takes over his soldiers. Represented by a condottiero unit.
- Anti-Hero: More so than his son.
- Generation Xerox
- Only in It for the Money
- Pet the Dog: Dialogue implies that he gave Francesco a proper childhood, despite his ruthlessness.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: Wanders straight into a powerful current, and unsurprisngly dies for it.
CarmagnolaA Venetian mercenary general, and the closest the campaign has to a main antagonist. Represented by a cataphract unit.
- Arch-Enemy: To both of the Sforzas.
- Batman Gambit: Used by him against Malatesta, and later by Sforza against him.
- Big Bad: Until the third mission, at least.
- The Chessmaster
- I Surrender, Suckers: Pulls this off to trick and defeat Malatesta.
- Out-Gambitted: Goes both ways: In the second mission, he completely out-gambits Malatesta through Xanatos Speed Chess, in the third however, he is Out-Gambitted by Sforza.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After his forces are defeated in the third mission, he disappears from the campaign without a word. In real life, Venice pulled off a You Have Failed Me, they called him back under the pretence of discussing the future, and he was promptly tortured and executed.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Pulls this off to defeat Malatesta, after the destruction of his siege tower.
Fillipo Maria ViscontiThe Duke of Milan, and Sforza's distrustful employer. Represented in-game by a king unit.
MalatestaA mercenary employed by Fillipo, fighting against Carmagnola. Represented by a paladin unit.
Simone and GeremioTwo spies sent by Sforza to infiltrate Carmagnola's camp. Represented by a man at arms unit.
- Badass Normal: While they have the health and armor of normal man at arms, they have a ludicrously high attack, enabling them to One-Hit Kill pikemen, necessary to retain stealth during the attack. However, they retain that high damage after the gurms turn build and destroy, making them lethal units.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Geremio, whom upon seeing a rat in the sewer, goes on rambling about how rats caused the plague. While they are on their way to a lethal stealth mission. Simone quickly shuts him up.
- Those Two Guys
AlaricThe protagonist of the campaign, and king of the Goths. Represented by a huskarl, and later a cavalier unit.
AthaulfThe second-in-command of Alaric. Represented by a woad raider, and then a knight unit.
- Action Duo: With Alaric.
- Badass In Charge
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Acts this way to Galla Placidia when he captures her. Fridge Brilliance when you realize he married her later in life.
- The Lancer
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Given when he's a woad raider.
HonoriusThe emperor of the Western Roman Empire, and thereby the main antagonist of the campaign.
- Big Bad: Though whether he is a Hero Antagonist is debatable, he is certainly the main antagonistic force in the campaign.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The reason he ultimately fails. He is close to an alliance twice with Alaric, but both times breaks it for no apparent reson. Eventually Alaric gets fed up with this. Though the second time, Saurus did it without the permission or order of Honorius.
- Dirty Coward: During the sack of Rome, he is nowhere to be seen, but the people and even his sister have been left behind.
- The Emperor
- The Ghost
- Smug Snake
SaurusA Gothic chieftain, responsible for attacking Alaric for no reason, destroying the option of peace. Represented by a knight lancer hero unit.
- Dirty Coward: As remarked by Alaric, when his fortress is defeated, he is nowhere to be seen.
- The Dragon: To Honorius.
- Knightly Lance
- Villain Ball: Grabs it when he attacks Alaric and Athaulf, bringing a whole lot of unnecessary trouble onto himself.
Galla PlacidiaThe sister of Honorius. Represented by the Joan the Maid unit.
- Damsel in Distress: Unusual case, where you have to kidnap the Damsel in Distress.
- Good Is Dumb: Simply snorts confused when stated pretty unvaguely that Athaulf won't harm her.
- The Ingenue: Implied. She simply acts confsued when Athaulf pretty plainly states that he will not harm her.
Battle of Bari (Byzantines)
Panos, Michael and Andreas NautikosThe main protagonists of each of the missions of the campaign. All represented by champion units.
Louis IIThe Carolingian emperor, appearing in the first mission. Represented by a king unit, and a cavalier.
- The High King
- Suicidal Overconfidence: Even when at the mercy of the Lombards, he insists on taking over Bari.
- Smug Snake: Shows traits of this, in his belief to take over Bari.
Admiral MelusA Byzantine admiral, rebelling against the empire in the second mission. Represented by a cataphract.
Stephanos PateranosThe commander of the garrison at Bari during the Norman invasion. Represented by a cataphract.
- Badass In Charge
- Distressed Dude: Has to be saved by Andreas during the third mission.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
El Dorado (Spanish and Incas)
Francisco de OrellanaThe main protagonist of the campaign. Represented by a conquistador unit.
- Badass Beard
- Badass In Charge: Is easily the strongest hero that you get to control in the game.
- Eyepatch of Power
- The Hero
- Villain Protagonist: Given that he is a conquistador, but unlike Cortés, does not engage in very villainous actions. His vilest acts are committed on order from Pizarro, with him in charge, nothing is really bad.
- Wrongly Accused: Of abandoning Pizarro, while in actuality, the strong current of the river kept him from returning.
Gonzalo PizarroThe commander of Orellanas expedition, until he is lost. Represented by a conquistador unit.
- Badass Beard
- Bald of Awesome
- Da Chief
- Villain Protagonist: A straighter example than Orellana, as Orellana was Just Following Orders, while Pizarro was the one giving the orders.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A consequence of following the events strictly through the eyes of Orellana. He is never mentioned again after Orellana is forced to abandon him. In Real Life, he returned to Quito with a starving expedition, but rebelled against the king and was executed six years later.
DelicolaA suspicious Native American chieftain whom leads Orellana astray with his stories. Represented by a plumed archer unit.
- The Archer
- Escort Mission: IN the short time he is in the players control, it feels like this, as he is not a hero unit, but a fairly weak renamed regular unit, that has to be kept alive.
- Hero Antagonist: Could be seen as this, as he works against Orellana, but mainly to save his people.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Done deliberately as he flees from the conquistadors. This carried on into real life, where he was never heard of again.