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Civilizations in Age of Kings and The Conquerors
BritonsArcher civilization boasting the longest ranged archers in the game.
- Unique Unit: Longbowman (long ranged foot archer).
Imperial Age (Conquerers)/Castle Age (HD expansions) Unique Tech: Yeomen (Foot archer range +1, Tower attack +2).
Imperial Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Warwolf (Trebuchets do blast damage, 100% accuracy against units).
Wonder: A placeholder cathedral.note
- Archer Archetype: Longbowman and Arbalest boosted by extra range from their civilization bonus and Yeomen unique tech.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger. 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.
- Balance Buff: To make up for the Britons' unimpressive siege and navy, The Forgotten adds Cannon Galleons to their tech tree and gives them a unique tech that makes their Trebuchets more accurate and deal splash damage.
- 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 prior to The Forgotten.
- 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 and techs such as the Paladin and Bloodlines, 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 which cannot get Thumb Ring, making their arrows less likely to hit their targets as 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 The Conquerors.
- Non-Indicative Name: Their historical basis is the medieval Kingdom of England, not the Celtic Britons that would eventually become the Welsh.
- Sacred Language: While their other units speak 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 player has built. This apparently leads the player to actually diversify their army composition and not just create Longbowmen.
CeltsInfantry civilization. Very powerful siege weapons supported by fast Infantry.
- Unique Unit: Woad Raider (fast infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Stronghold (Castles and Towers fire 25% faster).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Furor Celtica (Siege Workshop units HP +50% (Conquerers)/+40% (HD expansions)).
Wonder: Rock of Cashel.
- An Axe to Grind: Woad Raiders.
- A Commander Is You: Balanced. They have a Ranger faction's high speed, a Guerrilla faction's use of element of surprise and a Brute faction's 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 offense over defense 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. Their Siege weaponry 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, tough, and impressive than other civilization'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 Celtic 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.
FranksCavalry civilization. Strong heavy cavalry and cheap castles.
- Unique Unit: Throwing Axeman (ranged infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Chivalry (Stables work 40% faster).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Bearded Axe (Throwing Axemen +1 range).
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: Economist/Brute, with their free farm upgrades, cheap castles and bonuses towards cavalry, especially Paladins, but they also have Throwing Axemen as their unique units.
- 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.
- Skill Gate Character: The Franks possess a rather simple tech tree as well as strong heavy cavalry which a typical unit every player, new or veteran, learns to use well. They also one of the earliest civilizations new players usually play with (campaign-wise).
- Stone Wall: More accurately, Stone Castle Wall. The Franks have cheaper Castles than any other civilizations, so expect to see lots of them in a French town.
- 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. They are also good against siege units as their attacks are goes for normal armor instead of pierce armor which many siege units boast.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: ...or not. Throwing Axemen are pretty bad at hitting moving targets and don't benefit from Ballistics.
SpanishGunpowder and Monk civilization with strong cavalry and fast-firing gunpowder units.
- Unique Units: Conquistador (hand cannoneer cavalry), Missionary (cavalry monk).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Inquisition (Monks convert faster).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Supremacy (Villagers HP +40, attack +6, armor +2/2).
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: Elitist/Industrial. They specialise on units with a high gold cost, especially Knights, Conquistadors, Monks, Bombard Cannons, and Bombard Towers. Their villagers create buildings faster, their blacksmith upgrades cost no gold and one can infer that creating gunpowder weapons requires mechanical know-how.
- Confusion Fu: The Spanish have a diverse tech tree, making them open for different strategies except for archer rush (since the Spanish are known to be only the civilization not to have any upgrades in the foot archer lane). They are also the only civilization in the game to have a fully upgradable trash unit line as well.
- 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.
- Made of Iron: Villagers with the Supremacy unique tech. To give you an example, 10 of them can kill a Paladin with only 1 casualty.
- 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 the Inquisition 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.
GothsInfantry civilization. Cheap and fast training infantry, but no walls.
- Unique Unit: Huskarl (anti-archer infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Anarchy (Huskarls can be trained at Barracks).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Perfusion (Barracks work 100% faster).
Wonder: Mausoleum of Theodoric.
- Annoying Arrows: Huskarls have high pierce armor for organic 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.
- Artistic License – Linguistics: In the game, the Goths speak Old High German, not their own Gothic language.
- 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 the game. They're also a Brute faction with preference towards infantry, even more so than the other infantry civs.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Goths is considered to a civilization that is "easy to play, yet easy to screw up at the same time". The Goth's tech tree, civilization bonuses, unique units, and unique techs have some reasonable synergy with each other which much like the Britons and Celts, the Goths can easily be picked up for newer players. Unlike the Britons and the Celts, the Goths do not have any significant early game economic bonuses. Not only that, they are the only civilization that does not have any Stone Walls or any upgrades for their towers, making their early game incredibly weak. This makes the Goths incredibly punishing for newer players for early game mistakes. However, under skillful hands, the Goths have the tools to survive early game and then steamroll the enemy lategame.
- 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 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.
- The Goths have access to Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons despite both Visigoths and Ostrogoths being long extinct by the time these weapons were invented. Some players joke about how a barbarian tribe is more technologically superior than the Chinese, who do not have access to such units despite inventing them in real life.
- 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 vulnerable 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 most melee units 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 until The Forgotten. 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.
- 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!
HunsCavalry civilization. The 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.
- Unique Unit: Tarkan (anti-building cavalry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Marauders (Tarkans can be trained at the Stable).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Atheism (Wonder and Relic victories take +100 years, -50% Spies/Treason cost).
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.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Huns need to constantly be on the offensive in order to play them effectively.
- 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 Ranger faction with a preference towards cavalry, poor defenses but excellent offenses. Their team bonus towards faster cavalry creation also qualifies them as Spammer.
- 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.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Huns are considered to be one of the strongest early game civilizations since they do not need to build any houses, meaning more wood saved for unit production for cavalry archers. However, in order to play the Huns effectively, the player needs to play them aggressively with rushes, or they'll fall off lategame. They are also considered to be one of the best civilizations for professional players due to their strong economic bonuses and strong rushing strategies, especially in open maps like Arabia.
- 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. One explanation for this is that their campaign is set in Europe and they use the buildings of those they conquered, as seen in their Wonder.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lightning Bruiser: 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.
- 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.
TeutonsInfantry civilization. Strong defenses and a diverse tech tree.
- Unique Unit: Teutonic Knight (powerful but slow infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions)): Ironclad (Siege weapon melee armor +4).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Crenellations (Castle range +3, garrisoned infantry fires arrows).
Wonder: Maria Laach Abbey.
- Black Knight: The appropriately ominous looking Teutonic Knight is the closest equivalent to the first Age of Empires Phalanx: 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 faction. Despite being slow as molasses, their Teutonic Knights do tons of damage. 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 Teutons' 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.
VikingsInfantry and naval civilization. Maritime civ with cheap warships, great economy bonuses and decent Infantry.
- Unique Units: Berserker (self-healing infantry), Longboat (ship that fires multiple arrows at once).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Chieftains (Infantry +5 attack vs cavalry, +4 vs camels).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Berserkergang (Berserks regenerate faster).
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: Economist/Specialist (Naval). 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 can heal themselves. 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.
- Not the Intended Use: The Vikings are mostly meant to be played in Water Maps, but they are considered to be a viable competitive civilizaiton pick in land maps due to their strong early economic bonuses with free Wheelbarrow and Hand Cart. They can also do a viable, although suboptimal, Knight rush thanks to their said free Wheelbarrow and Hand Cart upgrades, hence allowing the Vikings to pump out Knights sooner than other civilizations despite having one of the worst cavalry in the game.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: The Vikings can ironically pull off a reasonable Knight rush, but Huns, Mongols, and Berbers can do this strategy better (not to mention, the said civilizations have access to key important techs that the Vikings don't have access to, Bloodlines and Husbandry in particular).
- 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.
ByzantinesDefensive civilization. A very balanced civilization with a wide tech tree and strong buildings, ideal for new players.
- Unique Unit: Cataphract (anti-infantry cavalry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD Expansions): Greek Fire (Fire Ships range +1).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Logistica (Cataphracts cause trample damage, +6 attack vs infantry).
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.)
- Artistic License – History:
- For some reason, the Byzantines use the Middle Eastern architecture, so despite being the bastion of Greek Orthodoxy the Byzantine monastery is clearly a mosque with Islamic engravings and minarets.
- Byzantines were historically known to use Horse Archers and heavy armored cavalry in battle, yet they are missing two important upgrades for them (Bloodlines and Parthian Tactics, although the Byzantines do have access to the Paladin upgrade). Them lacking Bloodlines is considered a justified trope, as the No-Sell nature of Cataphracts (where they negate all anti-cavalry damage, including damage from camels) makes them relatively difficult to counter properly.
- 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.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: 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). In general, the Byzantine civilization has all of the available units and upgrade, and has good buildings and economic upgrades.
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Cataphract is one of the best cavalry units in the game. After researching Logistics, they also give trample damage to other units around them, like the Persian War Elephants.
- Living Relic: By the end of its 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.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: Cataphracts have a large innate resistance to Spearmen and Camels' Anti-Cavalry bonus and are effective against those two units. On the other hand, they are the weakest non-ranged, non-camel cavalry unit when it comes to pierce armour, and are very vulnerable to massed archers as a result.
- Skill Gate Character: The Byzantines having no clear strengths and weakness, gets a significant discount for the Imperial Age upgrade as well as having a diverse tech tree, making 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.
- Unique Unit: War Elephant (powerful but slow cavalry).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Boiling Oil (Castles +9 bonus damage against rams).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Mahouts (War Elephant speed +30%).
Wonder: Khosrau's Palace.
- Achilles' Heel: The Persians lack Heresy, this combined with the War Elephant's vulnerability to conversion AND the Persian dependence on expensive units such as Paladins and War Elephants makes them perfectly countered by civilizations with good monks (i.e. Aztecs and Spanish).
- 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: 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 expansions add the Korean War Wagon, the Hunnic Tarkan and the Khmer Ballista Elephant).
- Herd-Hitting Attack: The War Elephants does trample damage, making them very effective against infantry and archers.
- Mighty Glacier: War Elephants are 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.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: They appear as antagonists in many campaigns, but there is only a single mission in the Battles of the Forgotten where they are playable.
- War Elephants: Their unique unit.
- Weaksauce Weakness: War Elephants are very easily converted by Monks. And then used against the Persian player!
SaracensA civ with a wide tech tree, weaker bonuses, and some bonuses towards water.
- Unique Unit: Mameluke (ranged camel dealing melee damage).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Madrasah (Monks return 33 gold when killed).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Zealotry (Camels, Mamelukes +30 HP).
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: Despite being labelled as the Camel civilization they have a wide tech tree thus capable of a wide range of playstyles, like the Byzantines. Unlike the Byzantines however they also have full blacksmith techs, giving them even more options on the offensive side.
- 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 a lot 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.
- Unique Unit: Janissary (strong hand cannoneer).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Sipahi (Cavalry Archer +20 HP).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Artillery (Bombard Tower, Bombard Cannon and Cannon Galleon range +2).
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.
- Crutch Character: Conversely with the Magikarp Power status in team games, the Turks are also this in 1v1 situations. While the Turks get their powerspike in late Castle Age and early Imperial Age, once late Imperial Age comes when running out of gold is an issue, the Turks will fall off drastically due to them having an incredibly weak trash-line unless if the Turks secure several relics during the Castle Age.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Turks do not have any upgrades for their spearmen and skirmisher line, this makes them extremely gold dependent. They are also known for their notoriously weak early game AND a notoriously weak lategame in 1v1 matches due to the lack of significant early game economic bonuses and lack of a strong trash unit line (with Hussar as their only trash unit option). Skillful players must make the best use of their gold to play effectively and secure the relics in the map, otherwise, the Turks will not have any trash unit options lategame. On the other hand, the Turks are considered to be a viable civilization in team games since the player can establish a trade line, hence not worrying about running out of gold.
- 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 Janissaries. The only strong, non-gold unit they have are the Hussars which they have a bonus for.
- Magikarp Power: The Turks are this in many teamgame situations. They have strong late game bonuses such as increased gold mining does little use early in the game, since the civilizations have no pikeman or elite skirmisher upgrades, lousy and their mangonels have no upgrades. Along with them missing a few important technologies in the earlier ages. However, if Turk players manage to age up to late Castle Age and Imperial is where they get their power. For example, their unique unit, the Janissary is the one of the three Castle Age gunpowder units available (The other being the Spanish Conquistador and the Portuguese Organ Gun). Their gunpowder units are cheaper, have higher hp, and can be created faster. The Janissary is basically a stronger hand cannoneer with higher damage, better accuracy, and increased range. They also get free light cavalry upgrades, with expert Turk players advancing with hordes of Hussars, Bombard Cannons, and Janissaries. Finally their unique technology "Artillery" increases the range of their Bombard Cannons, Cannon Galleons, and Bombard Towers. The Turks considered to be one of the most reliable late-game civilizations in teamgames (along with Portuguese, Italians, and Vietnamese) due to the fact that securing gold isn't an issue with an established trade line, and the Turks are one of the most gold efficient civilizations in team games since many of their civilization bonuses have good synergy with each other.
- 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 Janissary 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.
ChineseArcher civilization with bonuses in economy and research.
- Unique Unit: Chu Ko Nu (repeat-firing archer).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Great Wall (Walls and Towers HP +30%).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Rocketry (Chu Ko Nu attack +2, Scorpion attack +4).
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 before everybody else.
- Confusion Fu: The Chinese has a very versatile tech tree and can easily adopt to any situations. Knight and Cavalry Archer rushes are even viable tactics despite lacking important late game techs for their respective units (Parthian Tactics and Paladins). This makes the Chinese a reasonable competitive civilization pick in professional plays because their diverse tech tree and the cheaper tech costs make the Chinese incredibly unpredictable for many players despite being labeled as an archer civilization.
- Difficult, but Awesome: While the Byzantines are a Jack-of-All-Stats civilization meant to be straightforward for newer players, the Chinese have a similar functionality, but the direct opposite difficulty. The Chinese do not have their typical start up, since they start with 3 extra villagers, but no food and slightly less wood. This means during the early game, it requires good amount of micromanagement and economic decisions to make use of the extra three villagers. They are also a civilization that focuses on booming, which makes them incredibly vulnerable to early game rushes (especially Dark Age and Feudal Age rush strategies). However, under skillful hands, the player can make the best use of the extra three villagers and take advantage of their wide tech tree.
- 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 defenses.
- Gameplay and Story 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; giving them access to gunpowder units would be overkill.
- They also cannot research Block Printing and Siege Engineers, 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 The Forgotten, 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) and the entirety of the Lê Lợi campaign, but didn't get to have their own. Chinese campaigns are rare in the fandom for some reason. The 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 groups.
JapaneseMaritime based civilization with fast attacking infantry.
- Unique Unit: Samurai (infantry with bonus attack against other UUs).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Yasama (Towers fire 2 extra arrows).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Kataparuto (Trebuchets pack/unpack 4x faster, fire rate +33%).
- 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. With the addition of Bloodlines and Yasama in The Forgotten, they now fit more into the Balanced faction instead.
- Balance Buff: The Forgotten expansion gives the Japanese Bloodlines, giving them more versatility in their tech tree and strategies, and making Horse Archer rushes viable.
- 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.
- Out of Focus: They only appear in single scenarios in Conquerors and The Forgotten. Justified, since Japan was pretty isolationist.
- 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.
- Unique Units: War Wagon (armored cavalry archer), Turtle Ship (armored cannon ship).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Panokseon (Turtle Ships speed +15%).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Shinkichon (Mangonel line range +1).
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: Elitist/Brute/Ranger. 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-based civilization supported by siege weapons.
- Unique Unit: Mangudai (anti-siege weapons cavalry archer).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Nomads (Houses do not lose population when destroyed).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Drill (Siege Workshop units movement speed +50%).
Wonder: Great Tent of the Golden Horde.
- Balance Buff: The Conquerors are very kind to them by giving Bloodlines, Parthian Tactics and Thumb Ring to their cavalry archers as well as the Unique Tech Drills to speed up the naturally slow siege units.
- 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 a lot of strong foot units (they have the Arbalest upgrade that the Huns and Turks don't) 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: Ranger/Technical. Their cavalry archers and siege weapons are defensively weak and require hit and run tactics to be effective.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Mongols playstyle involves Hit-and-Run Tactics using Mangudai and Siege Onagers. This involves a lot of micromanagement with the said units, especially in multiplayer games where lag is a huge issue.
- Fragile Speedster: 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. On the other hand, the Mongols lack the important Imperial Age armor upgrade for their melee cavalry and archer units, but they make up for it with more HP for their Hussars, faster firing cavalry archers and them having Parthian Tactics.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The Mongols were known to use gunpowder in their expansion campaigns (mostly as a result of conquering China and forcefully conscripting Chinese siege engineers), but they do not have access to such units. The civilization is probably meant to stand for the Mongols before the conquest of China, with the Turks and Chinese taking over later "Mongol" dynasties like the Timurids and the Yuan.
- 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. They can even do this kind of tactics with Siege Onagers, a unit that is traditionally really slow.
- Horse Archer: Their Cavalry Archers fire 20% faster and the Mangudai is among the strongest, faster moving and attacking than most units.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: Mangudai arrows are deadly against siege weapons, their only cost-effective counter.
MesoamericaArtstyle introduced 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 Mesoamericans only used the wheel for toys.
- 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 Mesoamericans are three different civilizations with different actual sound clips of their languages and completely different playstyles. Played straight with their artstyle, as all three 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.
- Unique Unit: Jaguar Warrior (most powerful infantry in game).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Atatl (Skirmishers attack +1, range +1).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Garland Wars (Infantry attack +4).
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: Brute/Technical. 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 and micro-intensive Monks need to constantly be on offense.
- 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.
- Unique Unit: Plummed Archer (strong, fast foot archer, equivalent to a cavalry archer).
Castle Age Unique Tech (HD expansions): Obsidian Arrows (Archer line has +6 attack vs buildings/stone defense).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: El Dorado (Eagle Warrior line HP +40).
Wonder: Temple of the Great Jaguar.
- Achilles' Heel: The Mayans have an incredibly strong archery, yet their infantry line is not as durable since they lack the Champion upgrade and their only reliable infantry units are Halberdiers (which they get), and beefy Elite Eagle Warriors. Combined with the lack of cavalry and Hand Cannoneers (like all Mesoamerican civilizations), the matchup against the Goths is often seen as a lopsided and unfair matchup for the Mayans in the lategame, as explained in this videoExplanation .
- 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: Spammer/Ranger. 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
IncasInfantry-based civilization with building bonuses. They use the Mesoamerican artstyle.
- Unique Units: Kamayuk (Spearman with longer range, best used in massed formations), Slinger (ranged infantry with bonus attack against other infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Andean Sling (Skirmishers, Slingers minimum range removed).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Couriers (Kamayuks, Slingers, and Eagle Scouts +1/+2 armor).note
Wonder: Machu Picchu's Temple of the Sun.
- Badass Bystander: Villagers benefit from blacksmith technologies.
- Balance Buff: The Courier's unique tech was reworked where their unique units and Eagle Warriors gain extra armor and are given several technologies (such as Keeps, Guilds, Block Printing, and Thumb Ring) to help drastically improve their Castle Age and Imperial Age power.
- Blade on a Stick: The Kamayuk's Weapon of Choice.
- BFS: Where the S stands for 'spear'. The Kamayuk's spear is the longest handheld weapon in the game, twice and a half the height of its handler. That means that they can effectively strike their enemies from afar, including through walls and gates.
- A Commander Is You: Economist/Specialist. They can create farms 50% quicker and need less stone and houses than other civs. Army-wise, they seemed a bit focused on counter-units, making them the Mesoamerican answer to the Byzantine faction.
- 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 (used to be a turkey in the non-HD version).
- Fragile Speedster: In contrast to the Aztec and Mayan Eagle Warriors, theirs have higher speed.
- Mayincatec: Downplayed. The Inca use the Mesoamerican architecture set but 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.
IndiansGunpowder and camel-based civilization. Camels effectively replace the heavy cavalry line, which is wholly absent from their tech tree. They used the unique Indian artstyle (Middle Eastern prior to Rise of the Rajas).
- Unique Units: Elephant Archer (tough but slow cavalry archer, comparable to a movable tower), Imperial Camel (actually a unique upgrade to the Heavy Camel).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Sultans (all gold gathering 10% faster).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Shatagni (Hand Cannoneers range +1).
Wonder: Taj Mahal (non-HD version), Gol Gumbaz (HD version-The African Kingdoms), Brihadeeswarar Temple (Rise of the Rajas).
- Anachronism Stew: Prior to The African Kingdoms, the Indians used the voice clips of the Indians of Age of Empires III, 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."
- Art Evolution: The Indians used to share the Middle Eastern architecture with the Byzantines, Turks, Persians, Saracens and Berbers before the release of Rise of the Rajas, which changed their architecture to the newly-introduced Indian one.
- A Commander Is You: Elitist/Economist due to their bonuses with gunpowder units, their cheaper villagers and Unique Technology that gives them gold bonus.
- Balance Buff: The Indians at the time of the release were considered to be one of the most under-preforming civilizations due to their large amount of weaknesses they have and their economic bonus of cheaper villagers wasn't that significant in the early game. This led to several buffs where the Indians's civilization bonus of cheaper villagers became stronger as well as giving them Guilds and Ring Archer Armor to help improve their lategame. Apparently, this was a buff that went too well that the civilization was nerfed later on by removing the Indian's ability to obtain Arbalests (see Not the Intended Use).
- 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.
- Not the Intended Use: The Indians are meant to be designed as a Magikarp Power economic/boom civilization where they don't have access to the Knight line and have to rely on powerful expensive lategame units such as Imperial Camels, Hand Cannoneers with extra range, Elephant Archers, and Bombard Cannons for their late game power. However, due to a Balance Buff with the Indian's civilization bonus of cheaper villagers, several crafty competitive players have used the Indians for archer rushes (which is a viable strategy during the Feudal and Castle Age) since the cheaper villagers means the player can easily advance to the next age easily when only gold and wood are spent on archers (and any archers leftover can be upgraded into Arbalests in the Imperial Age). The Balance Buff was so powerful that the developers decided to remove Arablests from their tech tree, discouraging this kind of strategy while encouraging the player to play to the Indian's lategame strengths.
- Sim Sim Salabim: The architecture is southern Indian, the camels and gunpowder bonuses are northern Indian.
- Stone Wall: The Elephant Archer's 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.
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.
- Unique Units: Genoese Crossbowman (anti-cavalry foot archer), Condottiero (anti-gunpowder infantry that can also be trained by other civilizations allied to an Italian player).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Pavise (Foot archers armor +1/1).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Silk Road (Trade units cost halved).
Wonder: Basilica of San Lorenzo.
- Altum Videtur: The Italians speak Latin, not one of the medieval Italian dialects. Given the time period of their campaign, having them speak Italian would have worked better.
- Anti-Cavalry: The Genoese Crossbowman is one, the only foot archer in game to have this property.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger. 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.
- Only in It for the Money: The Condottieri's 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.
MagyarsLight cavalry based civilization. They share the Eastern Europe artstyle with the Slavs (Central European in the non-HD version).
- Unique Unit: Magyar Huszar (light cavalry with bonus against siege weapons).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Mercenaries (eliminates gold cost for Magyar Huszars).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Recurve Bow (Cavalry Archers attack +1, range +1).
Wonder: Hunyad Castle.
- Balance Buff: The Magyars were considered to be one of the weakest civilizations due to the Magikarp Power nature of their civilization. As a result, many of their civilization bonuses and unique techs were given significant buffs (such as their unique tech that boost their Horse Archer now give them an additional attack and their Light Cavalry is even cheaper) as well as giving them Siege Engineers to help boost their lategame power.
- Beast of Battle: In the first part of their Honfoglalás scenario, the Magyars make use of Hunting Wolves.
- 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.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger/Spammer. Their Cavalry Archers have longer range and their foot archers extra line of sight. They also have cheaper Light Cavalry and the Mercenaries UT which turns their Magyar Huszars into trash units.
- 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 Bulgars. The Magyars defeated the Bulgarians which earns them a Worthy Opponent label from the Bulgars. Then the Magyars are forced to retreat again from the Pechenegs. The scenario ends with the Magyars conquering Moravia, abandoned their nomadic ways, settled in, and adopted a lot of European customs (including Christianity).
- One-Hit Kill: Magyar villagers kill wild animals with a single hit.
- You Are the Translated Foreign Word: Magyar Huszár 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.
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.
- Unique Unit: Boyar (tough cavalry).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Orthrodoxy (Monks armor +3/3).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Druzhina (infantry deal trample damage).
Wonder: Khizi Church.
- A Commander Is You: Brute: 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.
Civilizations in The African Kingdoms
BerbersCavalry and naval civilization. They use the Middle Eastern artstyle.
- Unique Units: Camel Archer (anti-cavalry archer cavalry archer), Genitour (anti-archer cavalry archer available to other civilizations allied to a Berber player).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Kasbah (Team Castles work +25% faster).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Maghrabi Camels (Camels, Camel Archers slowly regenerate).
Wonder: Hassan Tower.
- 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.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger/Guerrilla thanks to the Genitour and Camel Archer units. 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.
- 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).
- Refitted for Sequel: The Genitour was planned for the original 1999 game already, but was scrapped and left unfinished in the editor. It is unknown if it was originally going to be a general or unique unit.
EthiopiansArcher civilization with strong siege weapons. They use the African artstyle.
- Unique Unit: Shotel Warrior (fast infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Royal Heirs (Shotel Warriors are created nearly instantly).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Torsion Engines (Siege Workshop units blast radius increased).
Wonder: Bete Medhane Alem.
- Archer Archetype: Their foot archers fire +15% faster, and that's before they get Thumb Ring, which increases it to 30%.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger/Economist/Brute/Spammer, with faster-firing foot archers, additional food and gold for each age advancement from Castle onwards, free Spearman line upgrades, excellent siege and deadly, spammable Shotel Warriors thanks to the Royal Heirs UT.
- Cool Sword: The Weapon of Choice of the Shotel Warriors is the titular, sickle-like sword, whose attacks are actually difficult to parry properly, which may explain their high attack.
- Dual Wielding: Shotel Warriors are armed with two Shotel at once.
- 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 for a weaker archery and average siege line (although the Malian tech tree is very balanced). The Ethiopian have offensive capacity while the Malians have better economic bonuses.
- Glass Cannon: The civilization has every siege upgrade, their archery options are well-stocked, only missing Hand Cannoneers and Parthian Tactics, and they make for a good all-around offensive civ. However, they lack champions, their navy is lacking, with Galleons 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.
- Magikarp Power: Zigzagged. Their early game is very weak given that they lack economic bonuses aside from the resources given at each age advancement. In feudal, they're not helpless given their faster firing foot archers that keep among the best as time goes by, but their strengths really take off around the Castle Age when they get the Spearman upgrade for free to keep Knight rushes at bay, and by Imperial they have all the siege upgrades as well as a greater blast radius from Torsion Engines, making this civilization potentially deadly towards the end. The free resources are also rather useful for Castle Rush minded players. As a crutch however, their frontline is rather weak in the lategame given their lack of Champions or good cavalry.
- 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.
- Unique Unit: Gbeto (ranged melee infantry).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Tigui (Town Centers fire +5 arrows at all times, even when ungarrisoned).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Farimba (Stable units +5 attack).
Wonder: Great Mosque of Djenné.
- Annoying Arrows: One civilization bonus gives their infantry an additional pierce armor per age.
- A Commander Is You: Generalist/Economist/Research. Their tech tree is well-balanced with no particular strengths or weaknesses, they have cheaper buildings and free gold mining upgrades, and their University works faster.
- Confusion Fu: The Malians have a versatile technology tree and are open to different strategies such as Knight rush (due to the extra attack from a unique Imperial Age tech), infantry spam (Malian infantry have increased pierce armor), hit-and-run tactics (Gbetos's fast movement speed and ranged attack), anti-infantry capacity (they have Arbalests and Hand Cannoneers despite the lack of Bracer), sieging (they have Siege Onagers and Bombard Cannons despite the lack of Siege Engineers), and naval warfare (they have a reasonable navy and the wood discount on buildings means more wood saved for ships).
- 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.
- Glass Cannon: Gbeto pack quite a punch and can slaughter most enemies before they can reach them, but are lacking when it comes to health.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Of the African civilizations, their tech tree is more balanced.
- Knife Nut: The Gbeto throw some kind of African throwing knife.
- 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).
- 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.
PortugueseNaval and Gunpowder civilization. They use the Meditteranean artstyle alongside the Italians.
- Unique Units: Organ Gun (anti-personnel siege unit), Caravel (anti-Galleon ship with Scorpion-like bolts).
Unique Building: Feitoria (economic building generating a slow trickle of resources)
Castle Age Unique Tech: Carrack (Ship armor +1/+1).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Arquebus (Gunpowder units fire more accurately at moving targets; slightly increases projectile speed of Bombard Cannons and Bombard Towers).
Wonder: Belém Tower.
- A Commander Is You: Economist/Ranger. Their unique building Feitoria gradually generates all resources at the cost of 20 population, which is more cost efficient than owning 20 villagers. Their units are cheaper in terms of gold and they have access to all archer upgrades and the Organ Gun, not to mention that their gunpowder units are affected by a Ballistics-esque Arquebus.
- Foil: To their Iberian neighbor, the Spanish, where both civilizations are navy and gunpowder based civilizations with economic bonuses in gold. Whereas the Spanish have a more mobile army with a stronger cavalry and 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.
- Magikarp Power: The Portuguese are incredibly weak early game since their gold discount bonus doesn't play into the later stages of the game and don't have any significant early game economic bonuses until they get the Feitoria building.
- More Dakka: Their Organ Gun is an anti-personnel artillery, having several muzzles. The second unique technology is Arquebus, which makes their gunpowder units save for Cannon Galleons affected by Ballistics and therefore being an accurate force to be reckoned with.
Civilizations in Rise of the Rajas
Southeast AsianArtsytle exclusive for the new civilizations in Rise of the Rajas. Each Southeast Asian civilization have access to a new common unit, the Battle Elephant, which is basically a weaker version of the Persian War Elephant, but available to train at the Stables. Each of the new civilizations have direct/indirect bonuses for their Battle Elephants. To offset the access to Battle Elephants, none of the Southeast Asian have access to Heresy (except for the Malay, which have access to the said tech) and the Paladin upgrade.
- Achilles' Heel: Much like the Indians and Persians, them accessing to Battle Elephants means they are incredibly vulnerable to conversion since all of the Southeast Asian civilizations except Malay lack Heresy. This is also a subversion. Unlike the former two civilizations, none of the said new civilization aren't exactly dependent on incredibly expensive units (especially the Burmese and Khmers, where they are known for their versatile tech tree).
- Doesn't Like Guns: Downplayed. All of the new civilizations (except for the Khmers) do not have access to Hand Cannoneers, but they do have access to Bombard Cannons and Cannon Galleons.
- War Elephants: Each of these civilizations has access to the Battle Elephant. The Khmers have a unique unit cavalry/siege unit called the Ballista Elephant.
BurmeseMonk and elephant civilization.
- Unique Unit: Arambai (ranged cavalry with low accuracy but high pierce attack).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Howdah (Battle Elephants +1/+1 armor).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Manipur Cavalry (Cavalry and Arambai +6 attack vs buildingsnote .
Wonder: Shwedagon Pagoda.
- A Commander Is You: Generalist faction like the Khmers since their tech tree is pretty well-rounded and balanced.
- Born in the Saddle: The Burmese were historically known for their fierce horseback and cavalry during their time period since many horsemen from Manipur served as mercenaries for many Burmese kingdoms. This is exemplified with their unique unit, the Arambai, which is a ranged cavalry that throws darts. Horseback dart throwing is a tradition within the region.
- Glass Cannon: Their archery range units are like this, as they not only don't get the Arbalest upgrade, but they also don't get the Castle Age and Imperial Age armor techs for their cavalry archers. The Arambai is a cavalry dart-throwing unit that has incredibly high attack (and low accuracy), but should they get hit by even archer fire, they get shredded into pieces.
- Humble Hero: Buddhism played an important role for the Burmese and Buddhism teaches the importance of not valuing any wealth and luxuries. This is reflected with their cheaper Monastery upgrades as well as their team bonus where Relics are visible in the map.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: To offset their raw damage, the Arambai's accuracy is abysmal, the worst in the game.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Of the Southeast Asian civilizations, their tech is known to be well-balanced, having a well-rounded cavalry, infantry, siege weapons, a reasonable navy during the Castle Age, and a strong monk rush. The only weakness they have is that their foot archers are weak, lacking Thumb Ring and even lacking the Castle Age armor upgrade. However, their cavalry archers are reasonable, having Parthian Tactics with them.
- Powerful, but Inaccurate: The Arambai's sheer attack damage (which outclasses many gunpowder units) is compensated by an abysmal accuracy of 20% (30% when upgraded to elite).
KhmerSiege and elephant civilization.
- Unique Unit: Ballista Elephant (heavy cavalry equipped with a Scorpion. Can fell trees.).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Tusk Swords (Battle Elephants +3 attack).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Double Crossbow (Ballista Elephants and Scorpions fire two projectiles).
Wonder: Angkor Wat
- A Commander Is You: Generalist/Technical. Their tech tree is well balanced, having decent accesses to everything, though they need careful micromanagement thanks to their building bonus.
- Confusion Fu: The encouraged playstyle as the Khmer. As not needing to build any pre-requisite building means they are incredibly open to different gameplay and strategies.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Khmers are considered to be much harder to play when compared to the Chinese since one of their civilization bonuses doesn't require them to build two pre-requisite buildings to advance to the next age or build a specific building to unlock another building. This means that the Khmers can build a Stable and an Archery Range directly in the Feudal Age without the need of Barracks. While this is an incredibly strong economic bonus, it can also be very punishing at the same time. Attempting to go for a massive naked Fast Castle Age rush can be very damaging to the Khmer economy and can easily be punished by early game rushes. Players need to be careful one their build order as the Khmer, since it can be very punishing if played incorrectly.
- Garrisonable Structures: The Khmer have a very distinctive bonus that enables the player to use the House as a supportive building when defending from a raid, as they can garrison up to five Villagers inside. This helps the Khmer to minimize losses, so in their particular case, is advisable to build Houses next to busy working places.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Much like the Burmese, the Khmer fit into this. Unlike the Burmese, they have access to key important Blacksmith techs for their archers and cavalry archers. In fact, one of the civilization bonuses does not require pre-requisite buildings to build important key military and economic buildings, making them open to different strategies.
- Lightning Bruiser: The Khmer Battle Elephants fit into this. Not only the Khmer have access to all the standard cavalry upgrades, but their Battle Elephants move incredibly fast and deal a lot of damage with Tusk Swords. The only big drawback is that they are easily converted by enemy Monks since the Khmers lack Heresy and Faith (Monastery tech that makes your units more resistant to conversion). That being said, the Khmers don't necessarily have to go with Battle Elephants, since they are open to different strategies depending on the situation.
MalayNaval civilization with strong economy bonuses on Fish Traps and faster age advancement.
- Unique Unit: Karambit Warrior (infantry with very cheap production cost).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Thalassocracy (Turns Docks into Harbors, which fire arrows at enemy units).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Forced Levy (eliminates gold cost for Militia line units).
Wonder: Sewu Temple
- A Commander Is You: Economist/Spammer/Specialist towards naval units, the Malays are a naval civilization that has an incredibly strong early game in land maps and are strong for most of the game. On water, they have strong economic bonuses and are able to spam towers in the form of Harbors that do not require stone unlike land-based ones. Their unique unit, the Karambit Warrior is cheap, quickly trained, and only takes half a population stat. Their unique tech Forced Levy which makes their Milita-line infantry no longer cost gold, making them into powerful trash units, and they also have the cheapest Battle Elephants of all.
- Crutch Character: The Malays in land maps are like this in a similar vein like the Vikings, having a strong early game that fall off late game in land maps and being a sold strong civilization in water maps. The Malays puts emphasis on early game dominance thanks to their ability to age up faster and ensuring dominance over the opponent in the Castle Age. However, once other players enter the Castle Age and advance to the Imperial Age, the Malays suffer greatly lategame, having very limited land unit options in the table (even when Forced Levy unique tech is put into consideration, the Two-Handed Swordsman unit upgrade itself is not a cost efficient infantry unit since the Malays lack the Champion upgrade). Unlike the Vikings, the Malays have access to Halberdiers and Bombard Cannons, giving them at least some anti-cavalry and long range siege options respectfully.
- Fragile Speedster: The Malays land army composition is like this. The Malay army mostly consist of cheap and fast deployed infantry units to overwhelm the opponent. However, the Malays lack the Champion upgrade, and their cavalry is infamous noted to be the worst, as they not only lack Bloodlines, but also lack the Castle Age Blacksmith armor tech for their cavalry units. This is compensated with the civilization bonus of cheaper Battle Elephants which puts emphasis on numerical superiority over quality. It is also worth mentioning that the Karambit Warrior is comparable to Zerglings in the Starcraft games where they are cheap and fast deployed in a similar vein like the Ethiopian's Glass Cannon Shotel Warriors. Unlike the Shotel Warriors, the Karambit Warriors are not meant as raiding units but more used as cannon fodder. Also exemplified with one of their civilization bonuses where they age up faster as well.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Much like the Viking Knight rush, the Malay have viable Battle Elephant rush thanks to their strong early game bonuses and cheaper Battle Elephants. The Khmer outclass the Malay in this kind of strategy because the Malay's cavalry is considered to be the worst.
- We Need a Distraction: The role of the Karambit Warrior is to serve as cheap cannon fodder to protect the more stronger units such as Arbalests and Bombard Cannons.
- Zerg Rush: The Malay unique unit, Karambit Warriors, are designed for this role. Though barely more powerful than villagers, they are cheap, quickly trained, easily massed, very disposable and only take half a population slot each. One of their unique techs, Forced Levy, also encourage this playstyle with their Militia-line infantry not costing any gold. The Malay Battle Elephants are also cheaper despite having the worst cavalry in the game, putting emphasis on numerical superiority over raw strength.
VietnameseArcher civilization with decent teamwork and team bonuses.
- Unique Units: Rattan Archer (heavily-armored archer), Imperial Skirmisher (upgrade for Elite Skirmishers available to other civilizations allied to a Vietnamese player).
Castle Age Unique Tech: Chatras (Battle Elephants +50 HP).
Imperial Age Unique Tech: Paper Money (The player and all allies receive 500 gold).
Wonder: Bút Tháp Temple
- Anachronism Stew: In the game, the Vietnamese speak the Vietnamese of the 19th-20th centuries, not the Middle Vietnamese attested during the 15th century.
- Annoying Arrows: The Rattan Archer has great pierce armor, which is comparable to the Huskarl's. They can reliably stave off enemy ranged units, despite lacking attack bonuses against them; even Skirmishers and Genitours may struggle killing them. They can also resist Scorpion bolts and base defense arrows.
- Archer Archetype:
- The Vietnamese is a strong archer civilization, having access to every unit and important unit upgrade at the Archery Range, except for the Hand Cannoneer and Parthian Tactics. The most noticeable quirk of the Vietnamese is that they are an archer civilization with strong anti-archer capacity. The Imperial Skirmisher upgrade is a unique unit upgrade for the Elite Skirmisher, and their unique unit, the Rattan Archer, is an archer with high pierce armor and reasonably high attack.
- Their Archery Range units also get more HP, allowing Vietnamese archers to survive more shots from Onagers.
- Artistic License – History: The Vietnamese, historically the only Sinicised and Confucian society in Southeast Asia, are depicted as an Indianised cilivisation by the game, sharing the India-influenced Southeast Asian architecture with the Indianised Khmer, Malays and Burmese, and having one of their unique techs called Chatras (a Sanskrit word). According to Word of God, the Vietnamese civilisation is supposed to be an amalgamation of both the medieval Vietnamese kingdom of Đại Việt and the Indianised Champa kingdom located in modern Central Vietnam; all while their units speak Vietnamese, not Cham; their campaign protagonist is the Đại Việt king Lê Lợi; while the Chams are closer to the Khmer or Malays in culture and were only absorbed by Vietnam in 1832, long after the game's timeframe.
- A Commander Is You: Ranger/Guerrilla/Gimmick. They receive bonuses towards archers and reveal the enemy's location. They are also a team dependent civilisation, as most of their bonuses are team-oriented. This means that the Vietnamese are weak in 1v1 situations.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Unless if you are looking for a civilization that excel in teamgames, the Vietnamese are considered to be one of the best team-oriented civilizations in the game. However, due to their Magikarp Power nature of the civilization, they will struggle in 1v1 matches since any civilization can effectively bully the Vietnamese to prevent them from reaching their lategame strengths.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: Historically, the Vietnamese were known to fend off enemy invaders and occupiers with the utilization of such tactics thanks to the Vietnamese terrain of hills, mountains, and forests. This is reflected on their team bonus, the Imperial Skirmisher, and one of their civilization bonuses of revealing the location of the enemy Town Center. The Vietnamese are also one of the few civilizations in the game that can also do a reasonable cavalry archer rush since their cavalry archers are beefier and have access to nearly all the important techs for cavalry archers except Parthian Tactics and Husbandry.
- Magikarp Power: The Vietnamese are very comparable to the Portuguese in retrospects. Both are team dependent civilizations that don't have any strong economic bonuses early game and many of their civilization bonuses only have a bigger impact in later stages of the game. This means the Vietnamese in 1v1 situations will get destroyed by early game civilizations such as the Malay, Vikings, and the Huns (not to mention, the Paper Money tech, where each Vietnamese ally get 500 gold, is not only incredibly useless in 1v1 games, but also works once). That being said, should the Vietnamese snowball the game, they are a very feared lategame powerhouse with not only tanky archers and Battle Elephants, but also having one of the best trash units with Imperial Skirmishers, meaning they can easily hold off in trash wars.
- Stone Wall: Their Battle Elephants are more durable thanks to the Chatras unique tech and their access to Bloodlines. However, their Battle Elephants don't have Blast Furnace and Husbandry, meaning their Battle Elephants cannot catch up to even foot archers and serve more as a meat shield to protect your archers. Ironically, the Vietnamese lack any building upgrades (Masonry and Architecture) that would make their defensive buildings more durable, meaning the Vietnamese need to rely on their tanky Battle Elephants and archers for defensive gameplay.
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.
- Badass Beard: His charachter portrait sports one along with barbaric long hair.
- 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.
- Cool Sword: Owned by Charlemagne, or so is said.
- 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 Hero: 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.
- The Hero Dies: After the fifth scenario, though this is much a Foregone Conclusion.
- 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.
- 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 Kung-Fu Guy: Continuously dismisses Joan's forces as a bunch of worthless rams and cattle. It counts as Hypocritical Humor, given that most of the time he's just sending wave upon wave of knights and rams to attack your base.
- 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." He actually survived the battle of Patay in real life, and was labelled as a Dirty Coward for the next 13 years for it.
- 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, but in the expansions he's introduced as an heroic mameluke unit.
- 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.
- The Worf Effect: In Battle of the Forgotten, it is mentioned that Saladin was often defeated by Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade, after the siege of Acre (which he lost, by the way).
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
- The Dragon: For Jerusalem, in the battle of Hattin.
- 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, a minor ally in the final level of Barbarossa and the protagonist of the Cyprus scenario in the Battles of the Forgotten. Represented by a powerful paladin unit.
- Ascended Extra: Becomes the main protagonist of Cyprus.
- Berserk Button: In Cyprus, mistreating his beloved sister Joan is his. He conquered the whole island of Cyprus and captured his king Isaac Comneus just for it.
- Genius Bruiser: A resourceful tactician and an expert warrior. Subverted in Cyprus, where his answer to hostilities from the local Sicilians and Cypriots is to steamroll their defenses and crush them until they surrender, with no finesse whatsoever.
- Gratuitous French: Mentioned that he spoke French, rather than English.
- Jerkass: Even the narration of Cyprus admit that, despite his military prowess he has many social faults and his behaviour outside of combat leaves much to be desired. This may explain why Philip August of France and King Tancred of Sicily aren't too fond of him.
- 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.
- In Battles of the Forgotten, he appears again as a rather rude, straightforward monarch who adopts brute force to solve any situation he's in (like forcefully invade and conquer Messina and Cyprus), and his later tactical exploits against Saladin depicts him as a military genius so great you'd think they're describing your standard Mary Tzu. (While he indeed won against Saladin multiple times, he was unable to actually conquer Jerusalem, as stated in the narration).
- 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.
- Badass Beard: A nice, pointy white beard as seen in his icon.
- 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:
- The cutscene after "Crucible" says that Genghis ordered the chiefs who refused to follow him to be boiled alive. According to "The Secret History of the Mongols", it was Genghis's rival Jamukha (who is not referenced in the campaign) who had Genghis's generals boiled alive after capturing them.
- In "The Horde Rides West", Genghis 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.
- Modest Royalty: Despite owning half of Asia, he dies in a yurt as humble as the one he was born in. The narrator hints that his descendants won't be as humble.
- Rags to Riches: His mother hunted rodents to not die of starvation.
- 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 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 Vindlandsaga 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: Like Genghis, only black.
- 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 and the expanions added him as a unique Teutonic Knight unit.
- 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. Henry the Lion and the narrator shares 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 Châlons 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: Attila continues to eat from a simple, wooden bowl while plundering the Romans.
- 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.
- 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
- Badass Beard: And a massive one at that.
- 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.
- Dashing Hispanic: Probably the most iconic hispanic badass.
- 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: El Cid Campeador is represented by a Knight unit.
- 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.
- Black Best Friend: To El Cid.
- Composite Character: A combination of three historical kings: al-Mutamid of Seville, al-Qadir of Toledo, and al-Mutaman of Zaragoza.
- 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.
- Nice Guy
Count BerenguerThe 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: A major problem during the invasion of the Spanish.
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, and was later made into an actual hero unit in the shape of an Eagle Warrior.
- 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
- 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.
- Evil Gloating: Although YMMV on the evilness, he gloats a whole lot during the mission. As soon as William's forces get in a transport ship and set for England, he says, with all due smugness:Harold: Go home, young William. This island will remain Saxon!
- The Ghost: He's never seen.
- Smug Snake: Constantly gloats and brags to William, even when his defeat is imminent.
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: It is a Berserker (who have red beards in the game), and uses El Cid's Icon.
- The Berserker: He is a Berserker. That throws axes.
- Fiery Redhead
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: 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.
- Horny Vikings
- The Lancer: To William, if they choose to ally.
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.
- Badass Beard: It is a Berserker (who have red beards in the game), and uses El Cid's Icon.
- 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.
- Composite Character: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The scenario begin with Mitsuhide's betrayal, but none of Nobunaga's ruthless deeds, many of which are speculated to be the cause of said betrayal, is mentioned.
- 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 DraculaThe protagonist of the campaign, and the head of the Kingdom of Wallachia. Represented by the Boyar unit.
- An Ax To Grind: Being a Boyar hero, he uses an ax, though the narrator find his Cool Sword in the intro.
- 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, who's an Ax Thrower.
- 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 Dăneşti 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.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: In his first appearance, his unit is ridiculously strong, and meant to be fled from.
- It's Personal: With Dracula
- 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 Murad's 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 Filippo, 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. 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, and this is offhandely mentioned in the cutscene.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Pulls this off to defeat Malatesta, after the destruction of his siege tower.
Filippo Maria ViscontiThe Duke of Milan, and Sforza's distrustful employer. Represented in-game by a king unit.
- Da Chief
- Smug Snake: Distrustful and paranoid, one moment he has Sforza blamed and incarcerated for Carmagnola's escape, the other he's offering him the hand of his daughter if he defeats the Venetians.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Filippo Maria himself is described as ugly and unsightly, but his daughter Bianca Maria is briefly seen as a Ms. Fanservice.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Blames Malatesta's death on Francesco and has him thrown into jail.
MalatestaA mercenary employed by Filippo, fighting against Carmagnola. Represented by a paladin unit.
- Out-Gambitted: By Carmagnola, int he second mission.
- Sacrificial Lion
- We Hardly Knew Ye: In the Scout section it's mentioned that he's defending Pizzighettone in the north. He only appears in the end, having succesfully defended Pizzighettone, only to die chasing after Carmagnola.
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: They act together for the first part of the scenario.
AlaricThe protagonist of the campaign, and king of the Goths. Represented by a huskarl, and later a cavalier unit.
- Action Duo: With Athaulf.
- Badass in Charge: He's in charge of the Goths, and showed his badass credentials by leading the sack of Rome.
- The Dog Bites Back: The first three scenarios have him trying to obtain a land for his people from the Romans. In the final scenario he has enough and decides to show the Romans how much he and the Goths are fed up with their plotting.
- The High King: Of the Goths, along with Athaulf.
- Pet the Dog: During the sack of Rome he orders his men to leave churches intact, for some reason.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Like, you know, looking for a proper land for his people and sacking Rome.
AthaulfThe second-in-command of Alaric. Represented by a woad raider, and then a knight unit.
- Action Duo: With Alaric.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Acts this way to Galla Placidia when he captures her. He ends up marrying her later in life.
- The Lancer: As Alaric's second-in-command.
- 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 Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.
- The Ghost: He is never actually seen in the game.
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.
- Badass Family
- Badass in Charge: Andreas.
- Generation Xerox
- The Hero: Mostly Panos, who leads the siege of Bari first against the Emir and later against the Lombard, and Michael, who gathers troops to fight the rebellious Melus. Andreas does contribute to the defense against the Norman siege, but at the last moment decides that the resistance is futile and leaves.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Andreas Nautikos eventually decides that he had enough fighting Normans and leaves Bari with a merchant.
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 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.
- 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 who 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.
Prithviraj (Indians)Warrior king of India, represented first by a crossbowman unit, then by a heavy horse archer.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Slightly subverted, he was already in reciprocated love with the girl in question, Sanyogita: when her father refused to consider Prithviraj and tried to have her married to someone else he sneaked into the city and eloped with her.
- Archer Archetype: His weapon of choice is the bow and arrow.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Blinded and tortured, he's challenged by his enemy Mohammad Godhi into a contest of archery. Using hearing alone, Prithviraj shoot him dead in the chest.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Makes himself a powerful Raj and repeals the armies of Godhi.
- Together in Death: His wife Sanyogita commits suicide upon learning of his demise.
Battles of the Forgotten
Khosrau IIThe protagonist and leader of the Persians in the Bukhara scenario.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: He himself take precautions to gather troops and resources to fight the White Huns who are plagueing Persia.
- War Elephants: He is represented by an Elephant Archer unit.
Aella of Northumbria
- Big Bad: He killed Ragnar Lodbrok, causing his sons to invade the British Isles to avenge the death of their father.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: The Blood Eagle is hardly a nice way to go, or to be displayed after death.
- Laser-Guided Karma: What? You thought that you could kill the big bad viking Ragnar Lodbrok and go away unscathed? Too bad for you and Northumbria...
- Blood Oath: Upon the Magyars' arrival in Etelköz, the seven chieftains of the Magyars take an oath to pledge their loyalty to Álmos.
- Horse Archer: He is represented by a Mangudai unit.
- Exact Words: Svatopluk of Moravia allows the Magyars to 'take as much as you want' when Árpád's messenger comes to buy land from him. The Magyars then proceed to seize Svatopluk's kingdom from him.Árpád: Leave our land, Svatopluk, until it is not too late!Svatopluk: How come it is your land?Árpád: We paid for it with the horse! You gave us grass, soil and water. Now we own everything.
- Founder of the Kingdom: The founder of the Principality of Hungary at the end of the Honfoglalás.
Minamoto no Yoshinaka
- The Lancer: To his brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo, as defender of Kurikara.
- The Ghost: He's not playable once you take control of Kurikara.
Taira no Kiyomori
- Big Bad: Leader of the Taira clan, enemy of Minamoto and notorious villain even in other Japanese media.
- Duel Boss: When it's time to siege Kyoto, he's your ally and cannot be harmed. Once you have conquered the town he can be fought, though you don't have to take him one on one, unless you invoke it.
- Defiant to the End: He still fights after the deaths of his vassals, the destruction of his army and the loss of the capital.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: The narration mentions that he's incredibly strong, stronger than anyone else in his service.
- Founder of the Kingdom: The petty beylik that he creates would eventually become the mighty Ottoman Empire.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Starts as an envoy of the Rum Sultanate, then inherits a small Byzantine village as a fief, and will eventually become the founder of the mighty Ottoman Empire.
- Horse Archer: He's represented by a Heavy Horse Archer unit.
The African Kingdoms Campaigns
Tariq ibn Ziyad (Berbers)
Tariq ibn ZiyadThe main protagonist of the Berber campaign, repredented by an heroic Genitour unit.
- Achilles' Heel: Being a Genitour, he cannot attack close enemies.
- Horse Archer: Sort of.
- Javelin Thrower: His weapon of choise are javelins.
- Out of Focus: He's much more present in the conquest of Iberia, but vanishes as the action shifts to France.
SundjataYoung prince of the Mali, born lame and weak, he has to defend his country from the wicked Sumanguru and forge a powerful empire. Appears as an heroic Light Cavalry unit.
- Beat Them at Their Own Game: Since most of the African countries fear Sumanguru's sorcery, Sundjata claims that he has sorcery on his side in the form of his baobab wood crutch, which is used as a relic to gather allies under his wing.
- Combat Pragmatist: When he learns of the mines of gold and salt around Djenné he decides to pillage them to weaken Sumanguru's power.
- The Chosen One: His birth and destiny were prophetized by an old shaman to the king.
- The Good King: Contrasting the wicked Sumanguru.
- Handicapped Badass: Born lame and weak, he grew into the Emperor of the strong Mali Empire.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Like actively winning back his kingdom from the much stronger Ghana Empire.
SumanguruThe main villain of the Malian Campaign, he's the emperor of Ghana and Sundjata's rival. He's rumored to be a sorcerer. Represented in game as a heroic Cataphract unit.
- Achilles' Heel: Rumors said that he can only be killed with the spur of a rooster. In game, disrupting his control over the rich mines of Djenné weakens his grip on his allies.
- Bad Boss: Implied, as in the pivotal battle against Sundjata both his allies can be persuaded to betray him and switch sides.
- Big Bad: Of the Malian Campaign as a whole.
- Defiant to the End: After his defeat he retreats in his capital where he has to be eliminated once and for all.
- Sorcerous Overlord: He's rumored to be a sorcerer, who can summon the spirits and grant victory to his armies in battle thanks to his magical instrument.
Francisco de Almeida (Portuguese)
- Outliving One's Offspring: His son was killed in Egypt between the fourth and fifth scenarios. Francisco's grief is a leading point in the fifth scenario, appropriately titled "A Son's Blood".
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: He kills the Emir by destroying his castle out of anger for said Emir's Face–Heel Turn. And then, when his son dies, he betrays Alfonso de Albuquerque and goes on a rampage against his enemies on anger.
Princess YoditThe royal princess of Ethiopia who was betrayed by her greedy nephew Gidajan and forced to flee Ethiopia and brew a terrible revenge on her kingdom. As Princess Yodit she's represented as a defenceless Queen unit, but she also has a model as an heroic Gbeto unit.
- Action Girl: Though alas, not in the campaign itself.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: She cacthes the attention of the Syrian Prince she wishes to marry by showy military actions.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Granted, Gidajan started it, but still...
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Against her own kingdom under Gidajan, to a tremendous extent.
- Shrouded in Myth: The real Yodit (also known as Gudit) was an obscure, semi-mythical figure who may have not existed but was known for her destructive behaviour and for burning down churches.
- Villain Protagonist: She's definetively not a nice girl, unlike previous heroine Joan of Arc.
DagnajanKing of Aksum and Yodit's brother, father of Gidajan. He's the main enemy in the third scenario and appears as a heroic Elephant Archer.
- Advancing Boss of Doom: After 50 minutes in game, his humongous army will march towards the unsufficiently protected mountain pass, and you will be defeated if he makes it to the pass. The only way to win the scenario is to stop him earlier.
- Horse Archer: Well, Elephant Archer, so not as fast. Still a Mighty Glacier to deal with.
- Misplaced Retribution: Technically, the one who conspired against Yodit was Gidajan. However, killing him does bring havoc on Aksum, as Gidajan and his brother take advantage of Dagnajan's demise to fight for the throne.
GidajanYodit's nephew, a scheming bastard who tries to take the power in Aksum but is fought and defeated by Yodit. Appears in game as a unique unit resembling an Eastern Swordsman hero.
- Asshole Victim: On the receiving end of a rather cruel revenge, he still deserves it.
- Big Bad: Of the whole campaign, being the cause for Yodit's exile and the final enemy she must overcome.
- Defiant to the End: Even after conquering Aksum and bringing down his castle you have to kill his hero unit in order to stop his continuously spawning army.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: His plot to frame and exile Yodit ends up biting him in the end.
- Sinister Scimitar: His weapon of choice.
Rise of the Rajas Campaigns
Gajah Mada (Malay)
Gajah MadaThe main hero and Majapahit general for the campaign, appears as a unique, champion-like unit.
- Downer Ending: He's had a good career going on nearly uniting the Malay Archipelago, until his plot to make Sunda submit went awry. His career crashes down and many people want him dead. Hayam Wuruk gives him an exile mansion far away in honor of his services, but Gajah Mada considers it a Fate Worse than Death and spends the rest of his time recounting that he was not a hero, but an ambitious fool who was just paying the price of his ambition. And for those who knew Indonesian history? That marks the decline of the Majapahit empire that he built so far.
- Fate Worse than Death: After his downfall, Gajah Mada considers death as something better than being demoted, exiled and having to spend the rest of his life in obscurity, contemplating the brutal consequences of his hubris.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Saving the life of his king from the rebels was good, but this act made the king arrogant and tyrannical, which resulted in his assassination.
- Off-Model: His hero unit is unique, though he vaguely resembles a Champion or a Two-Handed Swordsman.
Suryavarman I (Khmers)
Suryavarman IThe main hero of the campaign who became king of Angkor, appears as a unique Elite Battle Elephant hero.
- The Good King: Despite the below-mentioned coup d'etat, he's this.
- The Usurper: The first scenario of his campaign involves Suryavarman's usurpation of the throne from King Udyadityavarman.
BayinnaungThe main character of the Burmese campaign, represented by an Elite Battle Elephant hero and later by a monk.
- Badass Pacifist: In The White Elephant Bayinnaung decides to submit his enemies by showing them the power of Buddhist faith and sends relic-carrying monks to submit them.
- The Hero Dies: In the final scenario, after visiting all four the Buddhist temples, he dies, leaving his son to finish the scenario.
- Rage Against the Heavens: By the time of the penultimate scenario, Bayinnaung has grown tired of the Nat shamans and has to fight the Nat Enchantresses on the mountains to prove the strength of Buddhism.
- Take Up My Sword: He succeeds his brother-in-law as king of Toungoo after Tabinshwehti's assassination.
TabinshwehtiBayinnaung's sworn brother and King of Burma, he appears as a unique Elephant Archer and is playable in the first part of the campaign.
- The Alcoholic: Deconstructed, as the attachment to Portuguese liquor brings forth his ruin.
- Big Damn Heroes: In the second scenario, finding his camp soon enough can turn the tide on your Chinese opponents, as his advanced units and siege weaponry can make short work of their defenses.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: At first, though eventually he becomes slobbish and weak due to the Portuguese influence, which leads to his demise.
Lê Lợi (Vietnamese)
Lê LợiThe hero of the Vietnamese campaign, leading his people in war against the Ming. He appears as a souped up Champion unit.
- Combat Pragmatist: Since he cannot fight the Ming face to face he resorts to guerrilla tactics.
- The Hero: The main protagonist of the eponymous campaign. He's also more present in combat compared to the other heroes in the previous campaigns.
- Worthy Opponent: For Wang Tong, and the opposite is true.
Lê LaiOne of Lê Lợi's allies, represented first by an heroic Two-Handed Swordsman and later by a Champion.
- Heroic Sacrifice: When the Vietnamese army is under siege by the much stronger Ming forces, Lê Lai volunteers to pretend to be Lê Lợi and leads a charge against the Ming with his loyal men, acting as a decoy to help his lord and the rest of the army escape. While his ploy is successful, Lê Lai is captured and executed by the Ming.
Đinh Lễ, Lê Triện, Lưu Nhân Chú, Bùi BịThe four lieutenants of Lê Lợi aiding him in the battle against the Ming, they are represented by a Cavalier, a Champion, an Arbalest and a unique Monk unit.
- Archer Archetype: Lưu Nhân Chú, who claims that none can escape his bow.
- Badass Boast: Each of them has one if you select them in the beginning of the battle.
- The Big Guy: Lê Triện, who is tasked with the bloody task of stopping the enemy reinforcements and starts with all the military buildings available.
- Master Swordsman: Lê Triện's main skill is swordsmanship.
- Not Afraid to Die: Đinh Lễ is ready to ride for his country, even if it means to die.
- You Shall Not Pass: Lê Triện's part in the fifth scenario is to hold back the Ming reinforcement and prevent them from enlarging Wang Tong's troops.
Wang TongThe cunning general of the Ming Empire, appears as a unique Cataphract hero.
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me: At the end of the campaign, the narrator reveals himself as Wang Tong, the Ming general and nemesis of Lê Lợi.
- Big Bad: As the commander of the Ming armies in Vietnam, he serves as the main antagonist of the Lê Lợi campaign.
- Worthy Opponent: After his defeat he regards Lê Lợi as an opponent worthy of respect.