An analysis of naval strength, according to the latest patch

Note: I’m only comparing the “standard” navies, so I’m not including Native Americans’/Africans’ “weaker but more numerous” design which is a totally different system.
LS: light ship (caravel & equivalent)
HS: heavy ship (galleon & equivalent)
FG: frigate (and equivalent)
MT: monitor (and ironclad)
BS: battleship
European cannon is counted as offshore support , East Indiaman counted as schooners, because they are functionally similar.


  1. Shared cards like admiralty, advanced dock, 2 caravel (& equivalent) are not listed
  2. US/Mexican steamers and Asian ships start with lower range so European cannon is less impactful on those civs than offshore support on others (however US/Mexican sloops has longer range and frigates are the same)
  3. Japanese has some additional fishing buffs so I count it
  4. Additional TCs of Portuguese may also aid naval control so I count it
  5. Fireship is actually quite unique and impactful so it is also counted (Maltese need a card)


  1. Schooner, 2 caravel & 1 frigate (& equivalent) are probably more important than any other card. Because of that, most of the cards may never be sent.
  2. Unlike land units which have much more classes and every civ could have some bonuses on certain units, most ships benefit from most bonuses. Exceptions include Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italians which have more specialized buffs on the one ship type.
  3. I thought improved warships is also standard, but oddly US does not have it. It has some other bonuses instead.
  4. Maltese seem to have too many bonuses, though there may not be enough card slots for them.
  5. British loses offshore support and semi-“loses” naval gunner. It still has some production & price bonuses, but may not be that useful. It is now at a similar strength level as most other civs.
  6. Surprisingly Dutch seem to have pretty poor navy, despite there is a HUGE hp buff for fluyts (which are not very useful compared to caravels and frigates)
  7. Current state is, unlike land units, where a civ that with better cavalry IRL usually have better cavalry in the game, the naval strength is now quite uniform on its own among the civs. This is probably because naval units have less variability, and you cannot apply the same balance rule on land (i.e. “good at some units but poor at some others”) to the sea. Or shall we treat naval powers as one aspect in a broader balancing picture alongside “infantry/cavalry/artillery/eco”? (for example, in AOE1 and 2, there are “naval civs” with better navies just like some civs have better infantry/cavalry)

Please tell me about your thoughts. Does naval strength need to be balanced on its own? If not, what civs should get better/worse naval units than it is now?

Also please let me know if there is anything I’ve missed.


Malta has a card that sends a Xebec and turns Frigates into Xebecs. Since Xebecs do not share the same build limit as Frigates, it is possible to have 4 Xebecs and 3 Frigates on the field. Personally I think Xebecs and Frigates should have the same build limit.

But that would just be a one time thing. Once you lose those Xebecs you can’t replace them.

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I play only ranked 1v1 and tbh I rarely see people go water these days, at least since port and inca became so bad. Most civs seem to be fairly even on water it’s just some civs are better off doing other stuff, like dutch is better just using the wood for banks.

The previous patch which nerfed water dance has balanced a lot of the natives, now they have to get upgrades at the dock as well and water dance has a much smaller effect.
The recent change so that all euro civs get coastal defences card is quite impactful, if you make an anti-water deck it’s worth using that so you can drop an outpost or 2 and shut down water completely.

Schooners is less impactful these days imo because it’s not such a huge change as it used to be, I can still water boom as inca perfectly fine with no schooners for example.
The most impactful cards in my opinion are improved warships, 2 caravels and 1 frigate. They will have the most obvious effects in a real situation. Spains 2 battleships card is also capable of just immediately taking control of the water from any civ, though you must reach age 4 to send it.

I think US is actually capable of a very strong navy if you take the federal card that allows minutemen to boost ship attack by 10% each, the hulk card for an additional ironclad and the deflect ability is also quite powerful. I imagine 2 ironclads would clean up a battleship easily, possibly even 1 if it was stacked with 6 minutemen and a couple of cards and techs.

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Reviving this topic.
Now every Euro civ gets a “unique battleship card”, it seems to me the trend is to give everyone average navy. Everyone has either naval gunner or offshore support (or equivalent), then a unique battleship ability.

Do people think this is a good trend? For infantry, cavalry and artillery, every civ has more bonus on one or two of them then fewer on the rest, most of which have historical basis. But does everyone need an average navy? The traditional naval powers would not stand out in this case.

Also ironically Portuguese may have the worst navy now because the only buff they have is…an age 3 hp buff on caravels? (Compare it to other age 3 naval cards, i.e. naval gunner)
Look at Spanish and Dutch. They do not have naval gunner or offshore support like Portuguese either, but they have massive buff cards on galleons/fluyts.


Ports never had a particularly special navy, it’s the town centre wagon in age 2 which you place along the cost that makes them good on water.


Yes I mentioned that in the original post.

Worst navy but best on water seems fair enough.

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Should asian civs be given a battleship equivalent ??

The Carracks card needs to increase the build limit at the very least. That way it would apply to a few more units and let you at least compete by having superior numbers.

Naval Infantry is also supposed to be a buff to their navy but it is just comically bad. Maybe if it also gave infantry a multiplier against ships and let them construct docks it could have a niche use.

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Necroing this thread again because I’m still bothered by the lack of true “naval power” civs now.

Danes should thematically be a naval power. It would be a pity if it becomes yet again average on water like everyone else.

And at least British, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese should have more distinct naval bonuses (ironically the last two actually have pretty poor navy due to lack of common cards and bad unique cards)

I feel the same, especially as one of the Danish strengths will almost certainly be naval and probably their stand-out use of small gunboats, which makes me fear that the naval powers that were higher up on the scale (as you’ve listed) are going to sink into obscurity in comparison which will be frustrating.

A lot of the more limited naval cards seem fairly wide spread with the civs, so unlike the land military composition, the naval element ends up being a narrow and bland area of interaction.

Their should be some nuance and Ages more suited to certain Euro civs. For example if we take a leaf out of the history books, we could say that Spain and Portugal should get a pretty good early navy and with generally fairly tanky ships (Galleons in particular) throughout. The Dutch and Danish could be considered the mid-way powers and the Brits mid to late power.

This could easily be reflected in more unique naval HC card bespoke to individual civs, or in groupings (such a the above). On the more harder to implement side we could look at the possibility of each Euro civ getting a unique vessel (‘Nao’ Carrack replacement of the Caravel for the Portuguese) or again, shared vessel for a particular grouping (Baltic Galleys for Swedes, Danish, Russians and Polish for example).

Best naval power in the whole game now is held by German who revolt into Gran Colombia, just need to put Offshore Support in the deck while GC grants Naval Gunner and Improved Warship card.

Sloop is one of the highest damage light ship, and German version will have +2 range as well another 15% combat strength from Colombia Navy card. Frigate and Monitor Imperial upgrade can also be unlocked by that card. They also has infinite 2 Steamer and 2 Ironclad, all of this at the cost of Battleship imperial shadow tech, but German BS card only made it enable to train merc anyway.

So for German Colombians their navy can get 5 Sloops, 3 Galleons, 3 Steamers, 3 Frigates, 2 Monitors, and 4 Ironclads. Spanish Colombians in second place with the trade of damage and range for more HP.

I thought brits getting a generic battleship was quite poor as they were 1 of the strongest naval powers and at 1 point the strongest. I know they get the 1st battleship free but it would have been nicer if it had unique features like the others.