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Video Game / Cossacks: European Wars

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Cossacks: European Wars is a 2000 Real-Time Strategy PC game by GSC Game World, and the first entry in the Cossacks series. The game has an isometric view and is set in The Cavalier Years, 17th and early 18th centuries of European history.

Its Age of Empires-like gameplay originally featured sixteen playable nations each with architectural styles, technologies and units of its own. Cossacks was notable at the time of its release for the very large number of units players could control on the battlefield. It got two Expansion Packs, one that needed the original game to work, Cossacks: The Art of War in 2001, and a stand-alone expansion, Cossacks: Back to War in 2002. A Downloadable Content pack called Campaign Expansion was also added.

GSC Game World released American Conquest in 2003, which was essentially Cossacks on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (a sequel in all but name), and two official sequels, Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars in 2005 and Cossacks 3 in 2016.



  • Achilles' Heel: Despite being armored cavalry, Polish winged hussars have only 1 point of protection against firearms. If they won't charge range units instantly, the weakness of their armour will make them suffer significantly higher damage than any other heavy cavalry, though they still soak up enemy fire somewhat better than Hussars or Zaporozhian Cossacks, who don't have armor.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some campaigns of European Wars such as the French one take place entirely during the 17th century (the last French mission takes place during the Fronde civil war, which ended in 1653), yet players have access to 18th century units.
  • Anti-Cavalry:
    • Pikemen, at least to a degree (in one-on-one, the heavy cavalry unit will always kill the pikeman, hence the need of having many -preferably upgraded- pikemen).
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    • In the 18th century, musketeers and grenadiers are perfectly capable of defending themselves in melee, since fully upgraded bayonets deal around 70 damage, outclassing four times what pikemen are capable of.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Walls and palisades require truly absurd amounts of stone and wood for their maintance. While lack of those two resources doesn't destroy the fortifications, it makes the side building them utterly unable to construct new buildings, as they won't be able to have more than 0 stone and wood. This was done intentionally, to prevent players from simply walling their bases with few layers of walls and thus leading to protracted sieges.
  • Anti-Structure:
    • Artillery deals heavy damage to buildings, as do ships, grenadiers and archers.
    • Mortars in particular are only useful against buildings, they are nigh useless against units otherwise.
    • Galleys have mortars equipped onboard in case they are too far from the buildings to shoot at them with their cannons.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Completely averted. While initially a global population limit of 8000 existed, it was removed entirely in Back to War.
  • Arrows on Fire: Archers and Tatars shoot flaming arrows at buildings and ships.
  • Art Evolution: Prussia got new, more unique models for its 18th century musketeers and mounted hussars starting with The Art of War, more in line with what Prussian armies looked like during the Seven Years' War (it also helps that there's a Prussian campaign in said expansion).
  • Artistic License – Engineering: One of the technologies decreasing reload time is Wheel Lock. Wheel-locks are by far the most laborous and time-consuming type of firing mechanisms.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Victoria, the 18th century battleship. The game might be long decided or even end before you will do the pre-requested research and construct the damn thing. If you managed to build one, it will be a massive drain of your gold and coal, but the ship itself? It can obliterate everything within the range of its guns with just a handful of (quickly reloaded) salvos. It's just getting there that takes forever, even with the shipyard upgrade speeding up ship construction 10 times.
  • Baseless Mission: Some of the hardest missions in the campaigns give the player a limited number of units to manage without any base to bring reinforcements.
  • Bayonet Ya: 18th century musketeers and grenadiers (as well as mercenary grenadiers) can attack with bayonets at close range.
  • Blade on a Stick: In Back to War, Switzerland has halberdiers instead of pikemen.
  • Bling of War:
    • The Polish Winged Hussars, who were famous for their huge "wings", a wooden frame with feathers mounted on their saddle.
    • The French King's Musketeers, who wear their iconic blue casaque with a white cross.
    • 18th century Cuirassiers have a pretty shiny armor.
  • Cannon Fodder: The player's units on the battlefield, especially when they are not fully upgraded and going against fully upgraded enemies. Any cavalry or pikemen formation going against a fire barrage of riflemen or artillery (cannons, howitzers or multi-barreled cannons) is also this. Mercenaries are universal cannon fodder, being the fastest-produced and squishiest units in the game.
    • Roundshiers are a literal cannon fodder, representing cold steel infantry of tercio formations, used by Habsburg armies until the 30 Years War as shock troops between artillery salvos. Doubly so when they are mercenaries, having a pitiful HP pool.
    • The Light Infantry used by Algeria and Turkey are even weaker and cheaper, having no anti-musket armor at all.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Ships damage themselves by a few health points when firing. But since they have thousands upon thousands of hit points, its entirely negligible.
  • Chain Lethality Enabler: The Polish campaign from the Art of War expansion has a few levels with a leader unit. Said unit looks like a plain Winged Hussar, but the more he kills enemies, the more his attack and defense points increase.
  • Classic Cheat Codes: The player can press "enter" and type them.
    • "money" to get 50000 of each resource.
    • "www" to suppress the Fog of War and unlock the editor on any map (control the enemy, create units by simply clicking and so on).
  • Clown Car: Ferries can transport 80 units (and up to 280 in the expansions), artillery included, on seas and rivers. Their size makes them look like they can transport 10 units at best.
  • Combat Medic: Each nation has a chaplain unit with this sole purpose — they heal with prayers somehow. Catholic nations have the priest, Orthodox nations (Russia, Ukraine) have the pope and Muslim nations (Algeria, Ottoman Turkey) have the mullah. Piemont has its own exclusive chaplain unit, the padre, who is twice as good in healing.
  • Competitive Balance: Averted with vengeance. Various countries have (or don't have) their special, distinctive units that are oftentimes far more powerful than the regular version, without any disadvantages to it and no real counters against those. Multiplayer matches set by "Random" were infamously decided in first second of the game, where players with terrible picks simply quitting when facing against, say, Ukraine and its pesky Serdiuks. Cossacks 3, while being ostentiably a 1:1 remake of the original game, introduced heavy game rebalance, simply to solve the various issues of the original.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: The population limit can be expanded by building town halls, 17th and 18th century barracks, and dwellings. Since each following building gets progressively more expensive, it is often more useful to construct town halls and barracks using captured peasants of other nation than piling up one's own structures.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides:
    • Many nations share the same pikemen, heavy cavalry, riflemen and ships, and artillery is the same for everyone (bar those who can't get multi-barrelled cannons), but each nation has at the very least one or two specific units with their own stats. 17th century units from Russia and Poland and all units of Ukraine, Algeria and Ottomans are entirely different compared to the other nations. By 18th century, almost everyone is using the same units, although the expansions toned this down with the likes of Prussia and Bavaria, whose units reflect more the variety of uniforms of the Seven Years' War and have significantly different stats.
    • Every nation has its own architecture save for mills — Western European nations have all the same stone windmill, Russia and Ukraine have the same wooden windmill, and Algeria and Ottoman Turkey have a non-wind powered mill.
  • Creator Provincialism: The amount of special attention Ukraine has in terms of gameplay and campaigns really stands out. However, the game was originally planned as something for the internal Ukrainian market rather than wide-release export.
  • Damage Is Fire: Buildings catch fire when their health bar is below 15 per cent.
  • Damage Reduction: Armour decrease the incoming damage by its own value. Depending on unit and how much upgrades it received, it might go as far as reducing damage into a scratch one. Formations also add an extra few points to it. In case of units with natural armour, it also includes reducing damage from firearms and granting almost complete immunity to canister shot, which normally leads to One-Hit Polykill.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: European Wars was not as polished as The Art of War and Back to War. It didn't have any music upon release, and units didn't have sounds as various, realistic and reverberating as The Art of War and Back to War.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted, because while you don't have to micromanage the provision of food, pay and ammunition to your soldiers in the field, these are deducted from your resource stockpiles constantly to support your armies. Hence you need to maintain a consistent supply of resources, rather than just stockpile enough to train an army.
    • All units need food to survive. If you run out of food, the game will warn that you have met with famine and your units will rapidly start dying off.
    • All gunpowder and artillery units need coal and iron to fire their weapons. If you run out, they will be unable to shoot at the enemy.
    • Some units need gold for upkeep, and if you run out they will mutiny and attack you. This includes extremely powerful ships of the line!
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Unguarded civilian buildings (bar religious buildings), unguarded military buildings under upgrade loading, unguarded artillery pieces and unguarded peasants (save for the Ukrainian ones) can all be captured. Half the time, civilian buildings will be set on fire and explode, artillery pieces will be destroyed and peasants will die instantly.
  • Escort Mission: Some of the most dreaded missions in the campaigns are purely this.
  • Fake Difficulty: Various campaigns have Baseless Missions. That alone makes them tough. The fake part comes from the fact you have no means to upgrade your units, even if you're sitting on piles of resources, so you're stuck with their baseline performance - which is oftentimes terrible.
  • Fog of War: Only buildings can keep a zone discovered, otherwise it blackens again when the player's units move away. Drummers and bagpipe players have the largest visual field. The whole map can be revealed through the hot-air balloon research at the academy (or through cheats).
  • Fragile Speedster: Light cavalry units (Cossack mercenaries especially) are useful for scouting or fast raids against underdefended enemy bases, but don't last very long against pikemen, heavy cavalry or riflemen. One exception to this is the Polish winged hussar, which is both as fast as light cavalry and just as armored as the other nations' heavy cavalry units (though that unit is still more vulnerable to musket fire than normal speed heavy cavalry).
  • <Hero> Must Survive: Most campaign missions give an officer to the player. Should he die, the mission would fail instantly.
  • Hero Unit: Downplayed. Even if a campaign has an unit that represents a specific character, it's just bog-standard unit, either an officer or some cavalry. However, they usually either have slightly better stats or can gain stat increase via killing other units.
  • Hired Guns: Mercenary units can be recruited at the Diplomatic Center. They cost only gold and are produced faster than any other unit in the game, making it easy to create a makeshift army in no time. The other side of the coin? Their presence makes the gold counter decrease, thus requiring a steady production of gold otherwise they will rebel against the player (and that spells disaster if the player has a huge number of them in his base), they have weak hit points, weak defense, and cannot be upgraded. On top of that, the more you produce 18th century dragoon mercenaries the more their price increases, and they require more iron and coal to fire than normal dragoons while having weaker hit and HP points.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: What light cavalry is for, especially the extremely annoying Sich Cossacks, who are the fastest units in the game. The sole existence of light cavalry forces players to train additional units and spread them all over his bases to protect peasants and mines, lest they want to suffer the consequences of raids that will wipe out the workforce.
  • Hollywood Tactics: For the most part, the game punishes players for using blind charges and ignoring tactical advantages formations and armour can provide. On the other hand, using literal cannon fodder is almost expected, because someone has to soak the artillery barrage during assault.
  • Horse Archer: Ottoman Turkey's Tatar units are mounted archers. Unlike typical game with such units, they are one of the weakest cavalry that can be trained and their aim is terrible.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Archers and horse archers have terrible aim against other units, and their meager chance at One-Hit Kill doesn't compensate for that. That being said, they're great against buildings and ships.
  • Loud of War: Drummers (or in the case of 18th century England, bagpipe players) are required alongside officers to create infantry formations.
  • Made of Explodium: All types of buildings, regardless of how they have black powder inside or not, explode once they reach 0 health points. Bringing a building below the 15 per cent health bar will set said building on fire and it will explode after a few seconds if not repaired.
    • The same about transport ferries that don't carry artillery.
  • Man in a Kilt: Some 18th century units in the English nation:
    • Instead of a drummer, the unit that's necessary for battle formations outside the officer is a bagpipe player wearing a kilt.
    • Highlanders, riflemen who have better stats but are more expensive than musketeers.
  • Medieval Stasis: Ukraine, Algeria and Ottoman Turkey don't have access to the 18th century upgrade and thus don't have 18th century units. That being said, they also don't need said upgrade to fully upgrade their mines, unlike nations with access to the 18th century.
    • Until Back to War when it got the Bedouin, Algeria did not even have access to its own native gunpowder units, with its only musket-armed units being the weak mercenary grenadiers and the very expensive mercenary dragoons.
    • Ukraine directly has access to some 18th century technological upgrades such as the hot-air balloon, but can't have multi-barrel artillery, has no officer (though cavalry formations became possible with The Art of War), can build neither stone walls nor towers, and the only war ships it can produce are galleys.
  • Million Mook March: The selling point of the game. RTS titles back then (2001) offered players 100-200 units to command. Cossacks started at 8000 units cap on release - and then the cap was removed entirely. This seriously affects the gameplay, too, as technologies and buildings are priced accordingly, so your settlement is going to need a few hundred peasants just to afford sufficient unit production and research, while clashes between a few thousand soldiers are the norm by mid-game.
  • More Dakka: The multi-barrel artillery piece functions like a 17th century machine gun. It's particularly effective against lightly armored infantry and cavalry.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Any fully upgraded unit can kill non-cavalry mercenary units in one hit.
    • Once upgraded, 17th and 18th century officers can kill any infantry unit in the game in one hit. The Ukrainian Hetman cavalry unit can as well even without upgrade, dealing enough damage to murder absolutely every single unit in the game in one hit aside other hetmans.
    • French King's Musketeers have the highest basic hit points of any range unit in the game, and thus can kill any infantry unit in one shot. However, they take longer to reload compared to dragoons (and Bedouins in Back to War) and cannot be upgraded, leading to some units of the expansions actually getting better than them once fully upgraded.
    • Archer units have a very small chance of killing other units in one hit (hence having plenty of them can pay off a bit, though never to the point of even coming close to being as good as musket-equipped ranged units). That certainly doesn't compensate for their absolutely terrible aim against anything that's not a building or a ship.
    • Starting with The Art of War, 18th century Prussian and Bavarian musketeers get truly murderous once fully upgraded, out-firing even the French King's Musketeers by a small margin.
    • Musket-equipped range units have a small one hit kill chance in general. Particularly visible against the cavalry.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Cannon canister shots can mow down the entire first ranks of infantry or cavalry formations when they are close enough. It takes a long time to reload however. Regular shots, along with those fired from ribauldequins, still deal enough damage to kill substantial amount of units due to hefty splash damage
  • Pirates:
    • The English campaign in European Wars is all about piracy. More specifically, the player controls English corsairs who attack or ransom Dutch and Spanish ships or colonies in the Caribbean, and also fight against pirates.
    • The Dey (Algeria) campaign of The Art of War also has the player fight against some pirates in addition to aggressive neighbors and European powers.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Downplayed, given the technology advances within the game. Ukraine's only infantry unit, serdiuks, are armed with primitive, lockless arquebuses. They outrange everyone but two other, special units from 18th century and are the 4th hardest hitting ranged unit in the game. All while being standard, cheap infantry with fast recruitment and ability to start production within first minute of the game. Their sheer range makes them absolutely murderous already, but once fully upgraded, serdiuks can laugh at everything that is not artillery.
  • Sequence Breaking: Has its own page.
  • So Last Season: Cavalry charges toward musketeers turn into suicide the moment bayonets show up on the battlefield and training of musketeers gets faster than that of 17th century pikemen.
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: In Back to War, when a Bedouin dies, his camel has the same sound as dying horses, somehow.
  • Speaking Simlish:
    • Worker units are the only "talking" units along with the officers, and talk this way.
    • Kind of applies to the officers, who all shout the same 17th/18th century battle formation order in a kind of dandy way.
  • Starting Units: 17th century units are this for most nations.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Heavy cavalry slaughters most infantry units, pikemen slaugter cavalry, archers and mortars are great against buildings but suck badly against other units and so on.
  • Technology Levels: After finishing the required buildings and gathering enough resources, players can get to the 18th century at the Town Hall (the only exceptions being Ukraine, Algeria and Ottoman Turkey). It gives access to new Academy upgrades and 18th century barracks units and 18th century cavalry, as well as 18th century ships in The Art of War and Back to War.
    • Most units have seven levels of offensive and defensive upgrades. Officers and drummers only require one level of upgrade.
    • Cannons and howitzers have upgrades to reduce their cost and increase their production rate.
  • Tower Defense: All nations except Ukraine can build cannon towers than can engage enemies from afar. They can be upgraded to improve their rate of fire and range, but said upgrades are long, and if the tower is not guarded while upgrading, it can be captured by the enemy. They are absolutely useless at close range.
  • Units Not to Scale: Mostly averted, though some buildings such as French dwellings or cathedrals still look not to scale compared to the units' size. The most notable example is Victoria, the 18th century battleship. It's about twice the size of your shipyard building and dwarves everything else.
  • We Have Reserves: The high population cap and the fact that some units (eg the 18th century pikeman and the Algerian archer) can be trained in literally less than a second means that this is a perfectly viable tactic. Even high-powered late-game units like the 18th century musketeers and grenadiers only take a matter of seconds to train, and can be used to swarm the enemy in a long game with ample resources.
  • Worker Unit: Every country has peasants to build buildings and gather resources. Russian serfs are the slowest builders, and Ukrainian peasants are the only ones that cannot be captured.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Resources are not just needed to build units and research upgrades. Iron and coal are needed for firearm units, artillery and ships to fire. There must be a constant production of food otherwise human units will starve and die. Similarly, the more expensive ships of the line, artillery and mercenaries there is, the more the player will need to produce gold so they will keep firing or just obey him (running out of gold with a huge number or mercenaries causes mutinies). Both wood and stone fortifications also require maintance, rapidly decreasing the counter of both resources even with extensive gathering operation.
  • Zerg Rush: Algeria, in particular, has to rely on this tactic to overwhelm the enemy with their weak, but cheap and quick-to-produce archers and light infantrymen in the early game.
    • European nations have 18th century pikemen, which are melee units with a relatively low attack compared to other 18th century units. However, they are incredibly cheap and can be massed in the thousands in a matter of minutes and used to flood the enemy base.


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