An analysis of how existing "unique" units are designed in the game

The reason why I’m writing this:

  1. I’m bored.
  2. Some mod creators or civ concept writers might find it helpful, especially when they got stuck, or not sure about whether to make something unique.
  3. I’m tired of the “no it’s not unique” argument.

Some people, including myself, might dislike some of the categories listed here. I’m not personally judging any one of them, but just listing them out. However, if you want to criticize other people who “force uniqueness”, think twice because that may have already been done in the game.

Also these are not hard splits. There are a lot of overlaps between the categories.

0. The basis

The regular units and buildings are modeled after standard 16th~19th century military, with the most generic names in English. Most of them refer to the function, weapon, etc. like “musketeer” and “barracks”. Some are specific to a time period or a region, but still quite common for many nations like “hussar” and “dragoon”. These units do not really have strong cultural characteristics.

1. Names

The native language of the game is English so of course these are all from the perspective of the English language.

  1. The true unique name with a unique meaning: these are English words that can usually relate to a unique concept. This is quite rare because most of the civs do not speak English. I’d count redcoat, sharpshooter (I feel like this word mostly refers to US Civil War units so I’d consider it as somewhat unique).

  2. Transliteration of a specific concept: the English language has the habit of directly transliterating foreign words to refer to very specific concepts from that language. E.g. rodelero, janissary, changdao, samurai, ruyter, “qiang” pikeman, “yumi” archer, “shotel” warrior…most of them.

  3. Transliteration of “what a generic unit is called in that language”: I’m listing this out as a separate category because the loan words from the previous one have already gained some specific meaning like samurai. You can find them outside the context of the game, but names like “soldado” when used in English usually do not really remind people of the image of a “Spanish (or Spanish speaking country) soldier” ---- they will think you’re speaking Spanish.

  4. Some region/people name + the generic unit role: E.g. jungle bowman, Fulani archer, Chimu runner.

  5. Actually a generic name, but only given to one civ as something “unique”: e.g. blockhouse, lancer, arquebusier, club warrior, regular, sentinel, javelin rider.

  6. Just a fictional name that sounds cool and fits the culture’s (stereotypical) image: e.g. coyote runner, cetan bow, plumed spearman.

2. Appearance

Different upgrades with skin changes are considered as different appearances.

  1. True unique look: this is much easier than “true unique names”, because we have a lot of materials of what different units from different cultures look like.

  2. A common design, but with a “unique color scheme”: this usually applies to European (as well as US/Mexican) units with standardized uniforms. For example, when it comes to a 18th century musketeer people might think of the same “tricorne + coat” image. The shared veteran musketeer just uses player color for the coat. But we also have three other “tricorne + coat” units: soldado (white coat + player color on the cuff and belt), veteran/guard carolean (yellow pant + player color coat), veteran Russian rekrut (mostly green + some player colors). These designs tend to use player colors on the decorations, not the main color. Other examples include veteran/guard soldado, Hungarian grenadier, and many reskinned units from revolutions. Many royal guard units in the coming patch are also made unique in this way.

  3. Actually a generic look, but only given to one civ as something “unique”: e.g. ruyter (it’s just a common 16th-17th century pistoleer).

Also considering age progression of the unit:

  1. True progression: this is actually quite difficult. Most units do not last the entire time span of the game. Some “evolves” into a new unit irl. The best example is of course the musketeer and its equivalents like carolean and rekrut, representing the common line infantry with standardized uniforms, with a clear and well-documented evolution of uniform designs (unupgraded ones are trickier because there were no standardized uniforms in that era, and the looks of age 2 musketeer, carolean, and the native royal arquebusier are all interchangeable).

  2. Variants from roughly the same era: this is quite common for units that are “stuck” in a very specific time period, and those that are irregulars with no standardized uniforms. When you put them next to each other it’s hard to tell which one is upgraded. E.g. strelet, sharpshooter, cavalry archer, cossack.

  3. The same design, but fancier: This is very common. Many units maintain almost the same look just gained a hat, more armour, a golden brim or a bigger plume. E,g, lancer, jannissary, most African/Asian/Native American units, especially the Aztec units with big insignias for commanders in their final upgrades (of course not realistic).

  4. Reverse color scheme: a “lazier” version of the previous category. Usually the upgraded look does not feel stronger or more advanced, only the colors of the coat and pant get reversed. E.g. caçadore, ruyter, chu-ko-nu.

3. Gameplay

This surprisingly is the simplest part.

  1. Same as the standard one, with slightly tweaked stats or maybe one or two unique abilities: most of them.

  2. Combinations of mostly two units: this usually applies to civs that do not have regular artillery, namely Asians, Africans and Native Americans.

  3. True unique units with no functional counterpart (not counting natives and mercenaries): this is quite rare now especially after the expansions. E.g. lancer (after the shotel warrior is given a penalty, it is now the only cavalry that counters all infantry), abus gun (as a siege damage skirmisher, it is very effective against other skirmishers), humbaraci (the only counter-artillery grenadier), urumi (the only melee skirmisher).


This is one of my bugbears - ‘common’ unit names being for a civ’s specific unit. Arquebusier could be a common unit for all (don’t worry not discussing any of that) however it’s stuck as a unique Chinese unit.


The old Hakkapelit was a fun and interesting unit, as was the old Oromo Warrior (basically a ranged hussar).


This is very much untrue. The old Oromos were a horrible design. They were almost universally better off in melee and the ranged attack was essentially an annoyance that needed to be switched off. There are a few cases of fundamentally flawed designs that the devs never fix successfully because they refuse to address the root cause, but in this case they absolutely made the right call.

Ranged heavy cav just isn’t a workable design in the role heavy cavalry are supposed to fill. Hakkapeliitta and Harquebusiers only worked in the role because they were/are overtuned.

Now doesn’t that mean that the change to Hakkas was good. The new trend of light cavalry with massive melee attack is also really bad because they can just shred through all their counters. I think Hakkas should be something like what they were trying achieve with the first rework but tagged as both heavy and light cavalry. Essentially a high melee Dragoon with a melee multiplier vs all cavalry. That would let it win most melee engagements but be vulnerable at range.