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The Byzantine Empire

Culture: Greek
Religion: Orthodox
Notable Units: Varangian Guard, Kataphractoi, Fire Ships

Byzantium is the shadow that remains of the old Roman Empire. It is a mere shadow because despite retaining the civilised ways of the Roman legacy, the Byzantines have done little to further it. Despite boasting the world's trade capital and home of Orthodox Christianity in Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire is well past its zenith and is now in steady decline. The outer regions of the empire have been slipping from the Emperor's grasp for decades now. To the west, the Normans have taken southern Italy, and in the east the Turks have moved into Asia Minor after their decisive and terrible victory at Manzikert. The latter of these two losses was the worst defeat the Empire had suffered in its entire history. To make matters worse, general corruption, chaos and dissent has lead to some of the other provinces closer to home to rebel. If the Byzantine Empire is to once again become the dominant power of the east, then it will first need to reclaim its heartlands wholly before encroaching upon the borders of another power. The Byzantine legacy is long and predominantly proud, but unless the Emperor can turn things around in a hurry, it is a legacy that will soon end.

  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards:
    • The Varangian Guard, Scandivanians and Englishmen fighting as royal bodyguards for the Byzantine emperor, in the classic nordic style of war - two-handed great axe and round wooden shield, in mail.
    • Latinkons, foreign mercenaries from all over Europe who fight with swords and kite shields in heavy mail, on foot or on horseback as knights.
  • A Commander Is You: Ranger/Specialist (Naval) with a bit of Economist. Byzantium has poor infantry but strong archers despite the lack of armour-piercing longbows or crossbows. Heavy cavalry start out terrible but Latinkons and Kataphractoi soon make Byzantium competitive in this regard. Fire boats have an incredible advantage against early game navies. Constantinople is one of the largest and most developed cities in the world by the start date of 1080, but being surrounded by enemies, you will need it.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Turks, who are pushing west along the Anatolian peninsula and represent an existential threat to the empire. In the Short Campaign the Turks have to be eliminated as a win condition.
  • Crutch Character: Byzantium starts with very strong professional units while everyone else is making do with militia and rabble. They start strong overall, but they are also completely lacking in strong late-game units and technologies. No late period gunpowder infantry or artillery for you; in real life Byzantium didn't make it that far. To overcome this, a Byzantine player must ensure they keep hold of veteran units with plenty of upgrades and experience to make up the technology deficit.
  • Shining City: The capital, Constantinople is one of the largest and richest cities in the world.
  • Vestigial Empire: Make no mistake, the Byzantine Empire has seen better days. The Turks are closing in and the Byzantine ways are falling behind, but it is possible to avert Byzantium's fate.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Norse Axemen, Obudshaer, Norse War Clerics

Denmark is a relatively new kingdom in the world of Christendom, emerging from centuries of paganism under Viking rule. Exactly one hundred years ago, Harold Bluetooth, the Viking King of the Danes, embraced Christianity, not just personally, but also on behalf of his people. The Danes have no illusions that maintaining such authority abroad is an easy feat, having lost control of England within the last half century. So it would seem that both diplomatic and militaristic expansion are something the Danish Kings are yet to master. Arguably the most expedient move that the present King Knut II could now make would be to try to take the Scandinavian lands to the north rather than continue to negotiate with them. No mortal army could possibly dream of approaching Norway or Sweden's northern reaches, making the region an ideal set of easily defendable homelands. Crossing the Baltic Sea is also an obvious option that offers the Danes several access points into Eastern Europe without having to deal with the Imperial forces in Saxony. It is more than little ironic that the Catholic powers of Europe that have secured Denmark's future are now the main obstacles to seeing that future improve.

  • A Commander Is You: Brute/Specialist (Shock Infantry). Denmark has some of the best melee infantry available to any faction - Dismounted Huscarls, Viking Raiders, Norse Axemen and soon Obudshaer and Swordstaff Militia. All are devastating especially on the offense and most have armour-piercing attacks as they use axes and other heavy weapons. However the rest of the army is rather subpar, with basic archers and crossbowmen. Heavy cavalry is quite decent however.
  • Arch-Enemy: Conflict with the Holy Roman Empire is practically inevitable as Denmark, and it represents the one kingdom you have to eliminate as a win condition.
  • An Axe to Grind: Many Danish units are armed with axes instead of swords, and this gives them significantly more punch against heavily armoured troops than even their decent stats would indicate.
  • Church Militant: Norse War Clerics, Scandinavian bishops who take to battle on horseback, clad in heavy armour and wielding maces. These men of the cloth are a formidable force on the battlefield.
  • Horny Vikings: The days of the viking raids have come and gone, but many Danish units retain a nordic flavour like Viking Raiders, Norse Axemen and Huscarls. They also use longboats and dragon ships in the early game, though these get phased out soon.
  • National Weapon: Danes just love giving all their neighbours the axe.


Culture: Middle-Eastern
Religion: Islam
Notable Units: Tabardaiyya, Mamluks, Royal Mamluks

At a time where religious intolerance is common throughout the known world, Egypt stands out as an enlightened melting pot of religions and ideologies. Descendents of Mohammed's daughter Fatima, the Fatimid rulers of Egypt are Shiite Muslims, but Sunnis, Jews and Christians still hold offices and government positions. Unlike the age of the Pharaoh, bloodline is now considered secondary to ability and talent in Egypt, making it a very progressive and balanced nation. Though the problems facing the Egyptians close to home aren't anything a decisive ruler can't deal with, any Egyptian forays into the Holy lands will no doubt be subject to Catholic invasion from across the Mediterranean. Regular military pilgrimages by European Christians to Jerusalem seem an inevitability, as do counter-attacks from other Muslim powers such as the Turks. Expand and consolidate quickly and the world could be your oyster.

  • A Commander Is You: Generalist/Economist. Quite strong all-around army, with some really outstanding units that can easily rival or surpass their European counterparts, such as the Tabardariyya and the Mamluks. Holds some of the richest provinces in the game, and as such boast a very powerful economy. It's hard to go wrong with Egypt really.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Moors and the Turks, who you must eliminate to win in the Short campaign.
  • An Axe to Grind: Tabardaiyya are normally found around the Sultan's palace, guarding him and keeping him safe. Their weapon of choice is the tabar axe, similar in size and function to the famous Danish greataxe.
  • Kill It with Fire: Naffatuns are men who throw burning pots of Naphtha, a sticky burning concoction, at enemies. Needless to say even the most heavily armoured troops are not safe and even the bravest warriors are unnerved at the prospect of a fiery death, but they are few in number, short ranged and not the greatest fighters in melee.
  • Old Soldier: Sultan Al-Zahir, your starting faction leader, is sixty years old and can lead troops into battle and fight.
  • Slave Mooks: Mamluks and Royal Mamluks are soldiers recruited from slaves. They form into elite cavalry groups.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Longbowmen, Sherwood Archers, English Knights

Having recently wrestled control of England from the Saxons, many would expect the conquering Normans to be somewhat spent and weakened. However, the new rulers of England have swiftly replaced and improved the taxation system so as to replenish their coffers in quick time. Most importantly, William the Conqueror came with the support of the Pope, as well as a mixed force of well-trained infantry, archers and heavy cavalry. England's new masters have a more modern approach to the art of warfare, and the will to utilise the country's rich resources to maximum effect. Though they presently face trouble on multiple fronts, the English are in a rather promising position. The Scots to the north are isolated from the rest of Europe, and should be easy to wear down without a strong ally from the mainland. The French royal forces are more than a match for the armies in Normandy, but they also have enough fronts to deal with right now that they are unlikely to be able to drive them from the continent anytime soon.

  • Aerith and Bob: Despite ostensibly starting as Norman and Plantagenet England, you can have members of your royal family with Anglo-Saxon names like Tostig, Morcar and Uhtred well into the 15th Century. It gets even worse when you have a general with a very Anglo-Saxon first name and a very Norman surname, such as "Aelfgar Beaufort". England in the Britannia expansion generally averts this.
  • A Commander Is You: Ranger early on, Generalist later. Starts out with excellent Longbowmen archers and Billmen to protect them, and later get much stronger equivalents like Retinue Longbowmen, Armoured Swordsmen (a Dismounted Feudal Knight with more armor and less upkeep), and English Knights for a well-rounded army. So England is quite strong overall and their isolated island position keep them relatively safe as well, making them a good choice for a first time player.
  • Arch-Enemy: Eliminating Scotland in the north is not only a win condition, but it will leave you unchallenged in the British isles, and Scotland is considerably weaker than you so focusing on them first is recommended. France is also a target but France will be harder to destroy.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, hard. Longbows and their long-range, armour-piercing projectiles give England an absurd edge in the opening skirmish. Only end-game gunpowder units have a chance of outshooting them.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Where would England be without her English Knights? Clad in steel plate and exceptionally well trained, English Knights lack the wild abandon of their mainland counterparts in France and Germany.
  • Men of Sherwood: You can recruit the famed expert archers of Sherwood Forest.
  • National Weapon: Two. The longbow, a large bow crafted of English yew wood that can shoot arrows at incredible distances and velocities, and the bill, a polearm derived from an agricultural tool where the cutting blade curves inwards, able to sever limbs and find weakspots in armour.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Lancers, Noble Knights, Aventurier

France is a shining example of feudalism in its rawest, and arguably, most delicate form. The French lords eagerly embrace the system that splits the country up into smaller provinces, duchies and fiefdoms, actively building up their forces to ensure their own security and power. About the only thing the French lack at this point is a sense of unity. The Ile de France may be where the monarchy resides, but the royal family rarely leave Paris. This is not because of a great love for the city, but rather because the surrounding lands are under the shadow of bastions owned by "Robber Barons" that serve their own interests. Frankly, the way things are now, the King isn't truly safe to wander a kingdom that is supposedly his. Even less pressing concerns like Spanish and Milanese expansions will soon become a royal headache for the monarchy if France does not establish solid fronts to the south.

  • Arch-Enemy: Perfide Albion has the gall to claim Normandy as their own, when it is rightfully French land. Eliminating England is a win condition for France.
  • Blade on a Stick: The Voulgier infantry fight with a Voulgier, a curved-bladed polearm of French origin.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Aventuriers, French nobles equally skilled in the use of the sword and the crossbow, fighting to protect France from her enemies in heavy plate.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The Scots Guard are Scottish soldiers who fight for the French king as archers.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. France is the bane of the Moors or the Holy Roman Empire, with large armies of formidable units pulled out of nowhere, and France is also one of the most aggressive factions in the game, constantly calling Crusades on the Muslim and Pagans and waging war with their neighbours for little reason at all.
  • A Commander Is You: Brute Force/Elitist. France has some of the best heavy infantry and cavalry in the game, but also fields very good late ranged units in their Aventuriers (armoured crossbowmen) and Scots Guard (armoured longbowmen) and very good gunpowder artillery later on. However you pay a premium for these expensive, heavily-armoured noble units.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: If France has a hat, it is surely a shiny knight's helmet. Noble Knights are the creme-de-la-creme of France's noble class, who fight on horseback in steel armour with a deadly lance and a headstrong spirit that shocks their enemies. French Lancers are arguably the ultimate evolution of the European knight, with sophisticated all-body protection that will stop any attack short of a well-aimed musket bullet. No other faction besides arguably Poland has such supremacy in heavy cavalry.
  • Shining City: Paris, of course!

The Holy Roman Empire

Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Forlorn Hope, Zweihanders, Gothic Knights

The Holy Roman Empire is a particularly misleading name for Europe's largest collective of kingdoms and fiefdoms, regardless which way one looks at it. For starters, it is the Byzantine Empire that truly carries on the legacy of the ancient Romans, and the notion that the Kaiser (the Germanic name for "Emperor") truly serves the Roman Catholic Church is presently quite laughable. The Empire itself is Europe's middle ground, centrally located, with opportunities to expand in almost every direction, but also potential competition to come with each opportunity. It is a far cry from the days of Charlemagne when all of Western Europe answered to the Emperor. Now France is a separate entity, Italy has become a formidable group of city states, the Danes block the route into Scandinavia and the kingdoms to the east are more of a threat than a place to lay claim to.

  • A Commander Is You: Elitist/Specialist (Two-handed Swords): Has some of the best heavy troops in the game, both infantry and cavalry, but more focused on infantry with hefty two-handed swords, devastating on the charge but suffer in a protracted melee due to the lack of a shield. Though like the Byzantines they are lacking in late-game technology and professional troops.
  • Arch-Enemy: Denmark represents the main rival of the HRE in the north (and the faction you have to eliminate to win) but honestly the kingdom is surrounded by them: France to the west, Venice to the south, Poland and Russia to the east...
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The Forlorn Hope, prisoners and volunteers desperate for glory, armed with thick armour and heavy swords and thrown into wall breaches and pike formations. They are strong, but lack discipline and numbers.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: In vanilla, infantry with two-handed weapons have a considerable windup before each attack and are prone to being stunlocked, making them much weaker in combat than their stats would indicate. No other faction is affected as badly as the HRE, as two-handed sword infantry are the kingdom's main feature. It also bears repeating that as they lack shields, missile troops will usually pick them apart, especially armour-piercing troops like gunpowder, crossbows and English longbows. This bug is rectified in the Teutonic campaign and German zweihander swordsmen are fierce troops indeed.
    • Gothic Knights of both varieties are this - they wear the distinctive style of armor like their name suggests, but dismounted ones suffer from the aforementioned drawbacks of two-handed weapons, and while the mounted ones even get to use armor-piercing maces in melee, their lack of shield and no defense bonus because of this still means they will probably lose against other comparable late-game cavalry despite being of a greater cost than them.
  • National Weapon: The mighty zweihander sword, able to shatter pikes and cleave armour with ease. Also, crossbows represent the ranged weapon of choice for the Germans.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Holy Roman Empire is not Roman in culture or origin, it continually feuds with the Pope, and it doesn't even qualify as an empire in the classic sense, being a collection of feuding petty kingdoms and fiefdoms instead.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: The Gothic Knights, so named for the distinctive style of their plate armour, are the elite German heavy shock cavalry, armed with a lance and a hefty mace.


Culture: Eastern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Battlefield Assassins, Magyar Cavalry, Bosnian Archers

Exactly a full millennium since the birth of the Messiah, the Christian Kingdom of Hungary was born when Pope Silvester II sent the "Holy Crown" to signify that the pious noble István I, had become the founding Christian monarch of the realm. Dying without leaving an heir, pagans soon once again assumed control of Hungary, but it would seem this is a land Christendom was destined to call its own. Regardless what László's first move is, nothing will change the fact that Hungary has become Catholicism's physical front line against all other faiths - Something that will doubtlessly bring great glory, yet even greater bloodshed.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla/Ranger. Starts with good light infantry and ranged cavalry, but no heavy melee cavalry to speak of. Later gets excellent heavy cavalry and Hussars, one of the best light cavalry in the game, but their heavy infantry is always lacking.
  • Born in the Saddle: The Magyar peoples who constitute much of Hungary's population and lend one of their most notable unique units.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: The so-called "Royal Banderium", who fight on horseback with lances, swords and heavy plate armour as the bodyguards and personal retainers of Hungarian nobles.
  • Ruritania: Accept no substitute.


Culture: Southern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Famiglia Ducale, Genoese Crossbowmen, Genoese Crossbow Militia

Milan is a city of both possibility and problems. The Archbishop of Milan was until very recently the most powerful political figure in Northern Italy, with the city well and truly under his thumb. Though still Catholic, the Milanese are breaking free from the control of the church to form a mighty, expanding municipality. Though better positioned to expand into the rest of Europe than the other Italian peoples, the Milanese are also the most likely to have to confront the Northern European powers first, and will need to consolidate their position swiftly by working their way into the nearby provinces that the French and Germanic forces have not secured... yet.

  • A Commander Is You: Spammer early on, Specialist/Technician later, Economist through out. Starts with lots and lots of cheap and better-than-average Italian militia, but later gets units like Famiglia Ducale, Genoese Crossbowmen and their Militia variant, also Musketeers and Monster Ribaults once gunpowder has been discovered. Genoese Crossbowmen are the best missile infantry in the game, but Milan's melee infantry and cavalry options are lackluster, leading them into a Specialist role. Like Venice on the other side of Italy, Milan has a very good starting position to build up a trade empire.
  • Arch-Enemy: Venice is your main rival in the Italian peninsula, and France also presents an existential crisis for Milan.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Milanese AI tends to betray any alliances made with it and attack their neigbours at the worst possible moment.
  • National Weapon: The crossbow, wielded by Milanese and other Italian militias and favoured for ease of use and stopping power. The Genoese who fight for Milan are professional mercenaries who fight with the crossbow and sometimes with a pavise, a large shield that provides cover while the crossbows reload.


Culture: Middle-Eastern
Religion: Islam
Notable Units: Tuareg Camel Spearmen, Christian Guard, Lamtuna Spearmen

The Moors were originally a nomadic people, the original inhabitants of Mauretania on the north coast of Africa. They rose from obscurity in the 8th century when they converted to Islam, and proceeded to spread rapidly in several directions - including north-west into the Iberian peninsula. They soon had almost total dominion over all of Iberia with the exception of the lands to the north where some resilient Christians held fast, but Islamic Spain was a collection of cities more than a true caliphate - until now. Once weak, uncultured and disorganised, the kingdoms of Leon and Castile are now unified in their challenge against Islamic rule of the peninsula, and look set to actually launch a genuine offensive to revive their Reconquista. Their heroes such as El Cid are extremely admirable adversaries, as men who are driven with what they believe to be a noble purpose always are.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla/Specialist (Cavalry) and a dash of Economist. Very good skirmishers and desert units, strong sword infantry in the Urban Militia and Dismounted Christian Guard, adequate heavy cavalry, and in the late-game very dangerous gunpowder units with Sudanese Gunners and Camel Gunners. Potential Game-Breaker with Timbuktu and Arguin, two of the richest provinces in the game, isolated from everyone else in the world and almost impossible to lose once you take them.
  • Arch-Enemy: Sandwiched between Spain and Egypt, the Moors have a desperate fight on their hands on two fronts.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Christian Guard combine this with The Quisling. They are Christian knights who lend their services to Muslim Sultans, which is beneficial for the latter as guards from outside the Muslim culture cannot attain power themselves and their loyalty can thus be relied upon.
  • Crutch Character: They have exceptional light cavalry and infantry in the early period, some of the best available, but they lack heavier late-game units.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In the 8th Century the Moors were a simple nomadic people living along the north coast of Africa. They converted to Islam and spread rapidly in all directions, including into the Iberian peninsula.


Culture: Eastern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Hussars, Polish Nobles, Strzelcy

The Kingdom of Poland is still a relative infant, but an infant that already appears to boast a considerable grip on the lands around the capital of Krakow. The Polish people can attribute their rapid rise out of obscurity to the Drang nach Osten (Drive towards the East) of the Holy Roman Empire, which saw the Kaiser searching for allies to help crush the Polabian Slavs. However, the lack of an immediate Imperial threat does not ensure that the Poles have an easy option to expand either. The Hungarian King László is simply too formidable and familiar with Polish ways to make moving southward a viable option, making securing the lands of the Baltic Sea the most appealing choice... Despite the fact it involves beating the Danes, the Russians and the Reich to the draw.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla early on, Brute Force later. Needs to employ hit-and-run-tactics early on, due to the generic Mailed Knights being replaced by ranged Polish Nobles, but gets some very good heavy cavalry units later. Generally lacks good missile infantry, so Polish armies will often be outshot.
  • Arch-Enemy: Russia will be sweeping west to get contact with the other courts of Europe, and while weaker than you initially, they have plenty of room to grow and lack other immediate rivals unlike you - you have the Holy Roman Empire breathing down your neck, and Hungary to the south.
  • Born in the Saddle: The Poles pride themselves on the quality and diversity of their cavalry. They adopted western knightly traditions quickly, and their Polish Knights are some of the most formidable in all Europe.
  • National Weapon: The javelin, a weapon used by Polish nobles on horseback to deal heavy damage before closing into melee.


Culture: Southern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Portuguese Arquebusiers, Portuguese Knights, Aventuros

Of all of the European royal courts, Portugal is the youngest, having only just recently come of age, growing from county to Kingdom. As is typical at this stage of life, there have been more than a few growing pains for Portugal, and its inaugural King, Afonso Henrique. As if being recognised as the sovereign of a land were not hard enough at the best of times, Afonso's own mother attempted to seize power for herself before he was forced to defeat and then exile her! Some of the Portuguese believe that the best tyranny to face is that of distance. Poised on the edge of the civilised world, perhaps Portugal's fortunes lie across the seas and oceans, rather than across her immediate borders.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla early on, Elitist/Brute later. Has some of the best skirmisher units in the game that stay useful throughout the game, but later gets things like Conquistadores from New World settlements (both mounted and on foot), Portuguese Arquebusiers and Aventuros (elite pikemen) allowing for very powerful and relatively high-tech pike and shot armies. Portugal also has a very good naval game too.
  • Arch-Enemy: Spain is the faction you must eliminate to win. King Alfonso has made it his goal to become King of all Iberia, so you are right in the firing line.
  • Cool Boat: The Caravel, the most powerful late-game warship, ensuring Portuguese dominance in naval affairs.
  • Magikarp Power: They start with good militia and skirmishers but little else. However they soon develop large and powerful professional armies bristling with gunpowder weapons and elite cavalry.
  • The Musketeer: Portuguese Arquebusiers are deadly with their guns, but also comfortable in melee, fighting with swords.
  • Rising Empire: The youngest fledging power in Europe, Portugal is a nation with a lot of potential, as they proved in real life.


Culture: Eastern European
Religion: Orthodox
Notable Units: Boyar Sons, Tsar's Guard, Cossack Musketeers

The Rus' are a people divided, though that is hardly a character judgement for the folk who live in the largest single kingdom in Europe. Kiev may actually be the royal capital of this Kingdom, and the site where the Rus' embraced Christianity, but it is far to the north that the true power of the realm currently lies. Positioned just off the eastern end of the Baltic Sea, Novgorod is presently one of the most important trade hubs in the region, while in Kiev, disputes over succession have destroyed any sense of organisation or unity. The fledgling kingdoms of Poland and Hungary to the southwest are just as well placed to move and assume control of the Rus' capital. Byzantium to the south is also desperate to restore its former glory by taking new territories. Unless they can start recruiting from several population centres at once again, they will not be able to field a force capable of stopping any of the serious foreign powers at all.

  • A Commander Is You: Spammer early on, later Ranger, Technician or Generalist, depending on the playstyle. In the early game, Russian troops are strictly mediocre, especially in regards to infantry. Russia's cavalry is a much different story, with superb missile, medium and heavy cavalry in the Cossack Cavalry, Boyar Sons and Tsar's Guard. In late-game Russia's infantry improves marketedly with good (and in the case of missile infantry, downright impressive) units like Berdiche Axemen, Dismounted Dvor and Cossack Musketeers.
  • Arch-Enemy: Poland is the kingdom that separates Russia from the rest of the world and will be your main competitor in vying for territory in the east. Later on, the Mongols will arrive and pose the greatest threat to Russia's existence.
  • Born in the Saddle: Who else but the famous Cossacks, who fight as skilled (if unruly) horse archers?
  • Early Game Hell: You start isolated with no nearby allies, facing a Polish kingdom who likely will have superior forces to you, and what's worse, you are right in the firing line of the Mongols, so you will be wiped out if you do not prepare for their coming.
  • Horny Vikings: The Rus retain much of their Nordic ancestry. Druzhina fight in the classic Scandinavian style, with a wicked axe, chainmail or brigandine and a round wooden shield. The Lad'ya ship is like a cross of a Cog and a longship.
  • Magikarp Power: Poor and isolated from the rest of Europe, Russia is a kingdom with very limited power early on. Poorly-armed militia and Woodsmen will make up the bulk of your armies. Survive, and the rewards are great: superb heavy cavalry and one of the best gunpowder units available, the Cossack Musketeers.
  • National Weapon: Nearly all Russian units prefer axes over swords in a fight, but Bardiche axemen particularly strike fear into the hearts of their enemies, right before striking at their enemies!
  • Not the Intended Use: When playing as Russia, several campaign guides advise that you load your starting forces onto a ship and take them to Scotland. There are several Rebel settlements present to gain a foothold and, being an Eastern Orthodox rather than Catholic faction, you don't have to worry about excommunication when the time comes to wage war on your Catholic neighbors. Russia's biggest weakness is its impoverished, resource-poor territories which are surrounded by enemies that keep it from reaching its elite, late-game roster units for a very long time. The territories of the British Isles and western Europe generally don't have this problem, turning Russia into a juggernaut. Plus, you'll be very far from the eastern edge of the map when the Mongols show up, another major obstacle for the Russians when remaining in their historical territories.
  • Palette Swap: Novgorod in the Teutonic campaign is functionally the vanilla Russia with a new colour scheme. They have all the same units.
  • The Power of Friendship: Druzhina roughly translates to "Fellowship" or "Brothers" in Ukrainian. They serve as the bodyguards to Rus chieftains and are formidable in battle.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Highland Nobles, Highland Rabble, Highland Pikemen

William the Conqueror may have undisputed claim over the Kingdom of England, but he must still deal with the Celtic Lords of Scotland should he have designs on calling himself monarch of the British Isles. Scotland may have a proud track record of defying much greater powers south of the border, including the mighty Roman Empire, but some of the highland nation's more brilliant scholars are now preaching caution to Canmore. The Britons are no longer a distant set of islands on the edge of civilisation, and to continue to think of this position as being truly secure would be to lie to one's self. The arrival of the Normans, with their heavy cavalry is proof that continental powers are now capable of arriving in force across the sea, and that warfare itself is evolving. At present, the French would appear to be Scotland's most logical ally.

  • A Commander Is You: Brute/Specialist (melee infantry). All of Scotland's melee infantry hit hard on the charge with near-unbreakable morale and shred armour like chainsaws, and they also have good pikemen, but by far the worst ranged units in the game (with poor range and zero access to armour-piercing) and below-average cavalry. Possibly also a Pariah, due to the dominance of cavalry over infantry generally.
  • Arch-Enemy: Eliminating England and establishing Scotland's control of Britain is the first task at hand, but Denmark might also attempt to invade.
  • Artistic License – History: Scotland in this game is depicted as "Braveheart-land". Their best units are highlanders going for the Mel Gibson's William Wallace look, complete with ahistorical kilt and blue woad. Averted by their late-game units, who follow the medieval fashion and wouldn't have looked so out of place in Scotland at the time.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The most isolated and primitive of the European kingdoms, but fierce in battle and lovers of war.
  • Brave Scot: Scottish troops, even their basic Highland Rabble, are Blood Knights with high morale who will only ever flee if the situation is clearly utterly hopeless.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Scotland is considered one of the lower tier kingdoms in the game, as they are heavy infantry specialists in a game and time period where cavalry was king. As many Scottish units are lacking shields and armour, they also take casualties when shot at by missile troops or counter-charged by heavy cavalry.
  • National Weapon: The pike, and the claymore.


Culture: Southern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Norman Knights, Muslim Archers

Although Sicily's proximity to Rome has given the island a rich history, it now stands as a true fledgling among the European powers. Six years before the Normans successfully conquered England, their first true island invasion was launched against the Saracens that occupied Sicily... with more than a little encouragement from the Papacy. King Roger I's nation may be a relative infant, but with an island capital, southern Italy under his control and a healthy relationship with the Papal States, it is an infant that looks likely to survive the journey to adulthood. It would seem that the Normans will once again have to take to the waters to expand their latest kingdom. Close to home, other islands like Sardinia and Corsica make tempting targets for invasion. However, the Sicilians will need to look over the horizon to have a hope of long term survival. To the east, the Byzantine Empire is fractured and relatively vulnerable, and there's ample opportunity to take advantage of the chaos on the Iberian peninsula to the west.

  • A Commander Is You: Spammer early on, Generalist later. Starts with high-quality Italian militia, above-average Muslim Archers, and excellent Norman Knights once Palermo has been upgraded once; later fans out into an average all around, but without the Carracio Standard for Italian armies morale can be a problem.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Of all the knigtly traditions in Europe, none surpass the Normans. They practically invented the concept! So it comes as no surprise that Sicilian Norman Knights are some of the strongest knights available to any kingdom, with incredibly heavy armour and high morale.
  • Melting Pot: A medieval European example. Sicily is a mish-mash of Norman, Christian and Muslim influences, and this is reflected in their units.


Culture: Southern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Tercio Pikemen, Conquistadores

Any man who is born on the Iberian Peninsula would call himself a "Spaniard", so when King Alfonso VI declared himself the "Emperor of all Spain" three years ago, it was a truly bold claim. After all, not since the times of the Western Roman Empire has one noble court truly ruled the peninsula unopposed. Currently, the Moors hold southern Iberia quite tightly, and Portugal's declaration of independence really proves Alfonso wrong. The first moves for the King of Spain are obvious, but beyond Iberia, there is far less certainty. The king of France may be cowering in Paris to avoid facing other French noble robber barons, but crossing the Pyranees to take his southern fiefdoms is more likely to unify his people than split their loyalties. The Spaniards have always shown an affinity for the water, and make fine seafarers. Who knows, perhaps the great empires of the future will be forged at sea rather than on dry land - If so, the people who mastered this art of war first would inherit the earth.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla early on, Elitist/Brute Force later. Has some of the best skirmisher units in the game that stay useful throughout the game, but later gets units like Sword & Buckler Men, Tercio Pikemen and Conquistadores once they capture settlements in America.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Moors. The Muslims must be driven out of the Iberian peninsula, and Portugal also represents an early rival as well.
  • Elite Army: By the end game, Spain will have one of the most powerful and varied unit rosters in the game, fittingly as they became a superpower in the time-frame represented in game.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Conquistadores are some of the bravest, most skilled and most ruthless fighting men around. They can only be recruited in America, and are devastating against the Aztec natives.

The Turks

Culture: Middle-Eastern
Religion: Islam
Notable Units: Janissary Musketeers, Ottoman Infantry, Qapakulu

The Turks may very much be relative newcomers to both Anatolia and the Holy Lands, but the impact that they have had upon these realms since they migrated from the steppes east of the Caspian has been profound enough to shake the pillars of the oldest and mightiest neighbouring dynasties. Having seized control of the Abbasid Caliphate from the Buyids, and utterly crushed the Byzantines at Manzikert, the Turks have restored unity to the eastern Islamic region, making them arguably the greatest power Arabia or Persia has seen for centuries. In the foreseeable future, arrogance and complacency are likely to be the biggest threats to the mighty Seljuk Empire. To expect Byzantium to underestimate Turkish forces after the slaughter of Manzikert would be folly, and it can be taken as given that they will attempt to regain control of Anatolia. So long as the Turks manage to combine their new system of centralised government with their innate abilities as mounted warriors, then their position in this corner of the world looks most secure. After all, how likely is it that an even more fierce and formidable race of nomadic warriors sweep down from the steppes?

  • A Commander Is You: Guerrilla/Ranger early on, Brute Force/Technician later. Starts out with mostly light infantry and ranged units, leaving them with issues when contending with heavier opponents and in sieges. Later on the Turks get Qapukulu, Janissary units and Monster Bombards, all very impressive units. While Byzantium is strong and slowly peters out as her rivals catch up, the Turks start out leaving quite a bit to be desired, but soon become a force to be reckoned with.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The famed Janissary troops, made up of levies of Christian boys and prisoners who have converted to Islam, often at the point of a sword. They are renowned for their courage and skill.
  • Barbarian Tribe: Early on, the Turks represent the Seljuks, a tribal people who migrated west from the steppes of the Caspian.
  • BFG: The famous Dardanelles gun is available as the Grand Bombard. It is an insanely effective siege gun able to smash most walls in one shot, but it is inaccurate against infantry.
  • Born in the Saddle: The Turks have exceptional cavalry, like the famous Sipahi lancers and Qapakulu.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Armed with a composite bow, a sword and light armour, Ottoman Infantry are just as much at home fighting in melee as shooting at enemies.
  • Composite Character: The Turks represent the Seljuk early on, and the Ottomans later.
  • Slave Mooks: The Qapakulu, or "court slaves", are fierce heavy cavalry raised from poor noble sons. The entry requirements are strict and so is the training, but they are one of the few troops who outrank a Janissary.


Culture: Southern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Venetian Heavy Infantry, Stradiots, Venetian Archers

The city of canals is a reminder that starting from a great defensive position is an ideal foundation upon which to build an empire. With the city itself perched on the Ri'Alto island and the Venetian Lagoon serving as a massive moat for the city, Venice is a natural fortress. Although the Venetians do not boast a noteworthy land army, they are the leading seafarers of the time. this gives them the ability to confidently defend their capital from direct attack, as well as establish trade routes more readily than most any other major power. Through clever diplomacy, Pietro Orseolo, "Doge" of the Venetian Republic was able to isolate the marauding pirate Slavs into small, manageable groups that he then forced to surrender. this opened the door for Venice to evolve from an isolated trading city into a European power in its own right.

  • A Commander Is You: Spammer early on, Specialist/Technician later, Economist throughout. Starts with lots and lots of cheap and better-than-average militia, but later gets units like Stradiots (one of the best light cavalry in the game), Venetians Archers and armor-piercing Venetian Heavy Infantry. Venice is in a good starting position to build a trade empire and benefits a lot from gunpowder technology, with armies bristling with matchlock muskets and ships equally bristling with cannons.
  • Arch-Enemy: To the north, the Holy Roman Empire looms over Venice, and to the east the Byzantines represent Venice's greatest obstacle in founding a Mediterrainean trade empire.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Venetian archers are the ultimate fusion of east and west; clad in European armour but equipped with an Asian composite bow. They hit hard and defend well.
  • Drop the Hammer: Armed with a heavy armour-piercing warhammer, a shield and plate armour, the Venetian Heavy Infantry are some of the greatest heavy infantry since the Roman legions.

    Americas Campaign 

Apachean Tribes

Culture: Native American
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Koitsenko

On open plains and under a pale blue sky, around mountains and rugged mesas, the many Apachean tribes roam far and wide over the north of the New World. Most peoples of the Apachean tribes hunt bison on the plains and live in hide tents that are easily constructed and taken down, so they can follow the movements of the herds. Some tribes use dogs to haul their belongings and carry trade goods, which they exchange for goods such as corn. The Apachean warriors are brave, fearless, and highly skilled at warfare, whether using bows, spears, hatchets, or weapons taken from their enemies. The tribes have a deep spiritual connection with the land, passed down through stories of heroes and spirits. Spiritual dances are often practised to bring improvements to the lives of the tribes, such as rain and good harvests. Although the tribes fight amongst themselves, they band together to fight off foreign invaders, including the Chichimecs to the south, and other nearby enemies. Woe betides the enemy who angers the Apacheans enough to go on the warpath.

The Aztecs

Culture: Mesoamerican
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Jaguar Warriors

The Aztec Empire of the Triple Alliance dominates the heart of the New World. Formed by the three great cities of Tlacopan, Texcoco, and the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, it is ruled by Moctezuma II, the ‘Hueyi Tlatoani’, or great speaker. Made up of three separate tribes, the Aztec alliance acquires its name from the dominant Mexica tribe, known amongst the others as the ‘Aztecs’. The Alliance rules over many nearby city-states, enforcing tribute on pain of invasion and sacrifice. There have been many troubling portents for the Aztecs lately. A comet has been seen streaking through the heavens, the temple of Huitzilopochtli was destroyed by a great fire, and another temple was destroyed by a bolt of lightening! For the Aztecs, these are sure signs of defeat and conquest. If these omens were not worrying enough, a mysterious ghost woman has been seen wailing through the night and strange visions of men riding deer have been seen. The Aztecs are surrounded by enemies - the Tlaxcalas to the east, Tarascans to the west and Chichimecs to the north.

Chichimec Tribes

Culture: Mesoamerican
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Guachichil Warriors

The Chichimec tribes are a fractured and nomadic people. When they roamed the scrubby deserts to the north of the hated Aztecs, the Chichimeca were prone to vicious infighting and raiding, especially between the two major tribes, the Zacatecos and the Guachichil. A recent series of events have forced the Chichimeca to put their internal disputes aside. With the Aztecs sending out more and more raiding parties from the south to capture people for their lurid sacrifices, and the rumour of strange new men appearing far to the south, the tribes of the Chichimeca are now unifying and mobilising for war! The Chichimec themselves are a fierce and hardy people, well-versed in hunting and guerrilla warfare. Many Chichimec warriors ritually paint themselves with red dye before going into battle. The Aztecs are very cautious when launching raids into Chichimec territory, as they are often turned into ambushes by the crafty Chichimec commanders.

The Mayans

Culture: MesoamericanReligion: PaganNotable Units: Hornet Throwers

The Mayan people of the New World are not dominated by one ruling aristocracy. Instead, they are formed from many small city-states, each with their own royalty and a large temple for worshipping their gods. The Mayan people have a long history when compared to their Aztec neighbours, spanning over a millennia, during which the Mayan’s riches, power, and territory waxed and waned. The Mayans are once again on the rise, with many strong city-states, including the Itza Maya, Kowoj Maya, and K’iche Maya. They are resettling previously abandoned areas and creating new settlements. With many proud temples being raised to the great Kukulcan, the quetzal-feathered serpent god, the Mayans believe that destiny is once again at hand. The reinvigorated Mayans are now in a position to strike out across the New World, spreading their influence amongst all the peoples, from small nearby villages all the way to mighty Tenochtitlan itself!

The Tarascans

Culture: Mesoamerican
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Priests of Quetzalcoatl

The Tarascan people have a bloody past, something they share with others who have had contact with the warmongering Aztecs. Having been at war with the Aztecs for over a hundred years, the Tarascans have fortified their common border, preventing the Aztecs from moving into Tarascan lands. However, things are now changing. The Aztecs, in fear of a great calamity, have been repeatedly raiding Tarascan lands in search of sacrifices to quench the thirst of their gods. Under the wise leadership of Tangáxuan II, the Tarascans have begun to rapidly increase their military forces. They are all too aware that the Aztecs will soon attempt to invade their country and capture them all for blood sacrifice.

The Tlaxcalans

Culture: Mesoamerican
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Priests of Quetzalcoatl

The recent history of the Tlaxcalans is one of hatred and bloodshed. With the misfortune of having the belligerent and powerful Aztecs as neighbours, the Tlaxcalans have been in a state of war for the last hundred years. These so-called 'flowery wars' are little more than the Aztecs harvesting able-bodied Tlaxcalan warriors for their sacrificial altars. Only the fear of becoming weakened and vulnerable to other nearby enemies has kept the Aztecs from total invasion. This fear is now fading as the Aztecs increase in power, thrusting the Tlaxcalan army into a constant state of alert. A new development has brought a surprising shift in the balance of power. Strange, new men dressed in metal, who ride deer-like creatures and wield fearsome, new weapons, have been encountered. Could these people be convinced to help in the fight against the hated Aztecs, or will they too attack the Tlaxcalans?


    Britannia Campaign 


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Deisi Javelinmen

England’s invasion of Ireland which began some one hundred years ago is still well under way. English lords have now divided up sections of their Irish conquest amongst themselves, each ruling his section mostly independently, as their King now focuses his attention on issues closer to home. The Irish chieftains have determined their best chance of driving the English from their lands is to throw their support behind one man, fellow chieftain Brian O’Connor, who they have recently appointed King of Ireland. As their English overlords are no longer unified, the Irish people ready themselves for conflict under the banner of their new King, confident that once they reclaim their own lands, they are more than capable of taking the fight to England and beyond.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerrilla/Technician. Lots of skirmishers and light troops, very good Calivermen gunpowder units (infantry and cavalry), and some decent light and medium cavalry too. Unfortunately they lack quality spearmen and heavy cavalry, and their line infantry while decent are also unreliable.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Gotland Footmen

Norway has used its considerable naval power to control the Isle of Man and Orkney Islands for many decades now and has only recently shown interest in establishing a greater presence on the Scottish mainland. While King Haakon remains in Norway, dealing with issues at home, he has placed his son Magnus Haakonsson in charge of the war effort in Britannia. As the Norwegian people look to establish a foothold on the British mainland, they may choose to adopt their traditional naval raiding approach of surprising and sacking poorly defended settlements, before returning to the ocean as quickly as they appeared. Scotland is Norways first obvious target for expansion, however it may be in their best interest to assault the east coast of England or Northern Ireland, as the factions in these regions will surely be distracted with their own war efforts.

  • A Commander Is You: Brute Force. Mostly a copy of Denmark, with the addition of Gotland Footmen, heavy two-handed swordsmen. Focused on heavy infantry with some cavalry and ranged units acting in support.


Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Saethwyr

Determined to prevent the ongoing English encroachment into Welsh territory, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd has now declared himself King of Wales, and with the help of his brother Daydd, recently succeeded in liberating the people of Gwynedd Is Conwy from their English overlords. With these defiant acts, Llewelyns intentions are now apparent to all, and open warfare on the Welsh English border is nigh. Llewelyns greatest strength is his ability to unify the Welsh people, something which the English nobles are most aware of, and they will surely seek to end his life as quickly as possible in an effort to break the spirit of the Welsh people who follow him. As Welsh armies are primarily comprised of light infantry and archers, their generals will need to employ clever tactics to ensure their forces can overcome the armoured juggernaught that is England. If Llewelyn is successful in ending the English threat to Wales, many believe he will not simply be content with this victory, and will instead look to ensure the Welsh people are never again threatened by another faction of the British Isles.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerrilla/Ranger: Wales has a focus on superior longbowmen (better even than England's) and light infantry, but no real heavy infantry. Many Welsh units have multiple functions; their Magnelwyr gunners for instance also have heavy armour and an axe, so they are quite capable faux-heavy infantry as well.

    Crusades Campaign 

    Teutonic Campaign 


Culture: Eastern European
Religion: Pagan
Notable Units: Dievas' Guard

Labelled as heathens by their neighbours, the Balts are some of the last remaining pagan worshippers in the region. Under the leadership of the great Mindaugas, they have been compelled to unify under the banner of the Kingdom of Lithuania. The new Kingdom achieved some early military success and earned respect as a true nation of the region. The gods have been with them so far, bringing hope that their culture and beliefs will continue to prosper through many Lithuanian generations. Lithuania is locked in a bitter war with the Teutonic Order and their parent nation, the Holy Roman Empire. Lithuania can draw much strength by holding to the old ways. Following the pagan Gods of Perkunas, Giltine, and Dievas will unleash religious warriors that instil fear in the hearts of all men. However, surrounded by Christian armies on all sides, the Lithuanians may be forced to change their ways to avoid death, enslavement, or exile at the hands of the Christians.

  • A Commander Is You: Guerilla/Loyal as Pagans, Generalist as Christians. Unable to stand to the Teutonic Order man-to-man, but with some really scary pagan melee troops and high-morale religious fanatics. After their conversion to Christianity, they get heavier infantry and some very good gunpowder troops.

The Teutonic Order

Culture: Northern European
Religion: Catholic
Notable Units: Ritterbruder

The Teutonic Order, fuelled by a need to redeem their souls through conquest, has grown into an unrivalled military power on the shores of the Baltic. Their religious fervour comes at a great cost to the lives of their pagan and Orthodox neighbours, but even their fellow Catholics are not exempt. They war with many and are trusted by none. Poland looks on with fear, concerned where the fervent expansion of the Order will take them next and when they will turn their greedy gaze to Poland. The Orthodox people of Novgorod, always mindful of the atrocities they suffered during the Order’s failed attempt on their great city, stand strong and ready for further assaults. Denmark remains neutral, but grows wary of the Order’s presence in the Baltic and watchful of their increased interest in trade. The Holy Roman Empire watches the Order’s actions like a proud parent, but the knights are forging their own great empire. It is the pagans of Lithuania, however, that feel the full force of the Order’s zeal and the sting of their swords. Hunting pagans has become almost a sport with so-called “Crusaders” flocking in from the West to kill their share.

  • A Commander Is You: Brute Force/Elitist. Brimming with heavy troops, yet little in the way of skirmishers and only mediocre ranged units, save the Livonian Auxiliaries.


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