A random idea about civ bonuses

Just an idea that came to me that is probably gonna get shat on by everyone but I am wondering what everyone’s opinion is on this… So as we know, there is basically 3 things that set civs apart from each other in this game:

  1. access to techs and units,
  2. civ bonuses and
  3. access to unique/regional units and more recently unique buildings

Now generally speaking, most civs from what I can tell are blanaced in such a way that their various civ specific bonuses that appear as text on the left hand side of the tech tree generally give the civ a net positive effect of some sort like increased resource gather rate, improved unit stats, discounts of various types and so on (hence why its called a “bonus”), this is then usually counter-balanced in some way by penalising the civ by restricting their access to some techs and units.

So lets call this the basic “civ design philosophy” in AOE2. Ok so far so good…

But then this got me thinking, what if the devs designed some civs with a different design philosophy that is the opposite of the standard design philosophy? So that some of their “civ bonuses” have a negative effect on the civ which is then counter-balanced in some way by either better access to techs and units or more powerful civ bonuses. Why don’t we see more of this?

Granted we have a couple of examples of this already in the game (Huns starting with -100 wood offset by not needing to build houses and Chinese starting with no food offset by having more villagers) but these examples are fairly tame and surely we could definitely have some more crazy ideas. There are so many more ideas and concepts that could be tried, like giving some units a movement speed/attack speed/ or cost penalty but then buffing some other unit or some other aspect of the civ to counter balance it. Or making a unit longer than usual to train but making it stronger than its generic counterpart in some way. The possibilities are endless and restricted only by our imagination (and gameplay balance considerations). So what do people think? Why do we not see more of this?


If I comprehend it correctly, Castle and Trebuchet are available in Dark Age but stone miner works 10% slower will be such type of bonus?

In that case we actually have a couple more. Mayans and Khmer farmers work 3% slower or something around that.

I always wanted Lithuanians lumberjack work 5% slower in Dark Age as a penalty instead of reducing the starting food to 100.

Yea I guess that would be one such example of what I mean.

These are not currently in the game. Or do you mean they are a couple more ideas?

The problem with things like this is that it would make the game impossible to balance across all maps and all modes.

Ideally, you want a win rate of 47%-53% for all civs, across all maps, and all modes(1v1, team game, 9 vil start, empire wars, etc). This is already super hard to achieve.

Now, if you add new civs which go against the design philosophy, you will destroy this balance. It might even be theoretically impossible. i.e, there would be no cases, under all modifications, preserving the integrity of this mechanic, where the game is balanced for all modes.

Not to mention that this will add to the learning curve for new players, upset traditionalists, etc, etc. So, no. If I were a designer, something like this would never go through.

Ok I am just riffing here, so haven’t given any of this much thought but what about something like a civ where:

  • archers only fire 10 arrows and have to garisson in an archery range to reload, but their arrows do significantly more damage.


  • farms cost significantly more wood to seed but also provide significantly more food.


  • advancing to the next age costs significantly more but all military buildings fire arrows and are like little forts.


Khmer farmers do work a bit slower because they don’t need mills to drop food from farms.

Generally, this is a fun idea. I think of the Teutonic Knight: really slow but really powerful. But indeed, negative bonuses (contradictory, I know) need to be implemented only ocassionaly.

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Yea fair enough, these are all valid points. Still fun to think about and come up with some ideas even if just to figure out why or how certain things would be overpowered or unbalanced if implemented.

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Oh right, I didn’t know this… I didn’t see it mentioned in the tech tree.

I suggested in another discussion the following civilization that maybe what your are suggesting:

A civilization with stronger-than-normal towers and stronger priests

Their bonus would be “Fanaticism”

Make your priest able to covert ALL BUILDINGS, Castles, TCs, monasteries, wonders…all of them. (except walls) and every building you convert you gain any technology already researched and the ability to create any of the units produced on that building by the enemy, but no new technologies.

The downside is by researching this tech, would make all your buildings only able to produce trash units, cheap ones with no upgrades possible, and all units already built would be converted to generic trash units.

So this civilization can build vanilla /generic units or research Fanaticism and capture enemy buildings to create their units…

So this is somewhat like chinese/khmer/mayans boni with penalty?

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Civis with negative bonuses for themselves should never be added unless its very minimum like khmers.

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Yeah, they are. I still remember a patch note that says Khmer farmers now work 3% slower. They still work faster than generic though not as fast as they initially were. And almost a month ago @casusincorrabil confirmed Mayans still work slower. If latest patch didn’t change that secretly, they should still be slower. They are just not mentioned in tech tree.

We already have negatives, like missing techs or upgrades.

I’d be down for more of them, though. Imagine, say, Halbs attack half as fast, but do double bonus damage.

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This has already been imagined by some YouTuber I can’t say the name because someone last time harassed me…
There are ways to make it work imo.


They need to be careful with negative bonuses, but I think it could work and it could be fun.

Teuton’s “knights are 10% slower” is implemented via a missing technology, and I think a civilisation with “archers are 10% slower” would also work (depending on the design of the rest of the civ)

Civ nerfs which are too extreme, such as those sugested by @Kamandaran probably wouldn’t be fun. But I won’t claim to be certain.

I designed a civilization with a rather strong negative bonus a while back, and though the discussion exposed some flaws I think it could be made to work:
Civilization idea: the Elves

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I don’t like negative bonuses, it’s poor civ design. The current system of positive bonus + limited tech tree elsewhere to offset it is way better imo. Negative bonuses always seem too forced, especially the ones suggested by Robbie Lava, it just seems like it’s trying too hard to be different. I like the fact that aoe2 civs have a lot of similarities. It makes the 43 civs less overwhelming. Imagine if aoe2 civs were all as different as aoe4 civs. It would be impossible to learn them all.


Well, they were always slower. They got extra armor 21 years later. So the design was reverse - They are slower, so make them powerful.

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He means the cavalry unit, not the Teutonic Knight. The missing tech is Husbandry.

Why do you think that?

So is this something that is happening behind the scenes and isn’t referred to anywhere in the tech tree? Because I don’t see any info about that.

Ok interesting, can you DM me the name? I’d be keen to check it out.