I’m posting this here, this grand concept full of game design for an ancient era version of an Age of Empires game that is more fulfilling than the game that’s all but a footnote.
So maybe it resembles Age of Empires Online but that game is a little underfunded to add civs at a fast rate.
So let’s dive in and start where everyone wants to start: the civs.
The way civ choices work is that the civs should be semi-recognizable. There will also be smaller non-playable factions most correlating to playable ones. Small factions and full civs must not alienate the potential of further civilization additions.
Let’s go over a few of the civs:
The Greeks are a fairly average civ and technically beginner friendly but they have a unique caveat that only they possess. At your capital, you can change which Greek influence you want to use, there are five choices: Spartans, Athenians, Mycenaeans, Macedonians and Minoans. Depending on your choice you will get a different bonus to your Hoplite unit that exacerbates these bonuses as you advance the Ages, and at your Fortress, an expensive building, you can train a specially unique unit to that civ. Later you can build an Amphitheatre which doubles as a place to train your mighty Helepolis, a ram that can also throw darts at enemy units. By researching Deus Ex Machina, you can train those units at that location as well. Units vary by faction, so the clever Athenians can innovate the Gastraphetes, the warhungry Spartans get a battle crazed Myrmadon, the Minoans, the Aesthete who actually is more a support unit and the Myceneans get the rally crying Promachoi and Macedon gets its companion Cavalry, the defensive long speared Heteroii who hits hard with some reach.
Spartan Hoplites for instance have boosted missile armor and take reduced damage from anti-infantry attacks.
The Greek Military has decent archery and Infantry, strong siege, and slower yet durable cavalry. The Greeks are good on defenses although their military can be expensive. Now, your influence will determine which units excel, but most civs have better defined well rounded armies.
While less well rounded than the Greeks, Egypt is a bit more straightforward and a lot more Holy. Egypt relies less on military versatility as most of its infantry, from its basic spearmen and ax men tend to get the job done as counter units but are mostly better at cheaper numbers games. As the game goes on, heavier cavalry, namely in the form of chariots, as well as maybe camel and elephant units, grant more mobility and power.
While most civs have a single convert or heal priest, Egypt has a few priests that vary depending on how you age up and under which god. This is reminiscent of AoM but you don’t actually get too varied a priest. For instance your first priest can empower buildings like AoM pharoah and healing but say, choosing Ra will make that healing splash but not stronger and grants her missile armor. Choosing Isis will make her empower affect an area but her heal stays weaker and single target and Osiris’ priestess is durable in general and a really good single target long ranged heal.
The other priests made available in later ages are also affected by your god path. On top of your priest, each age grants a slight bonus to a unit or two.
While most civs achieve age up by researching it at Town Centers, Egypt sends villagers to pray at temples which trains the priests. This frees up the Town Center to train more workers and economy but living villagers are not gathering for a time while giving praise to the Pharaoh and gods.
If Egypt is a faster civ with a focus on religion and lighter armor, then their Hittite enemies are their foil. With no directly mounted units, Hittites have some of the slowest units in the game, but have some of the best armor. The Hasawa, their special priest, can use a disc of sunlight to blind enemies, reducing attack and sight range and slowing enemies. She can also empower but uses more than 1 population. Even their conversion Priest, a follower of Tarhunt, has a unique stun mechanic. In fact this whole civ on chariots and born of armored iron soldiers.
They can even create special Earth Gates in the last age that can let them bring their units to other Earth Gates, but those gates are expensive. Hittites thrive when you want to replace as few units as possible and can manage pitched battles that keep mobile units, especially those on horseback, from raiding your cities and forward economies.
The lavish Phoenecians are an economic force. If gold isn’t an issue for you, then the forces of the ancient masters of trade and Carthage won’t let you down. You’ll need it as this civ trains mercenaries, and these mercenaries have deceptive gold costs. After being trained, the unit starts out weak, let’s say their Libyan spearmen, but if a few minutes of trickled out gold pass, the unit will slowly get stronger until it peaks out and gets another bonus on top. For Libyan spearmen its extra armor, including missile armor. For say, Balearic slingers, it’s the ability to ignore some armor. Not all units are mercenaries mind you. This civ is also a naval powerhouse. While most civs have 2, maybe 3 warships, this civ has 4, and while sure, Minoan focused Greeks have a great navy, Phoenicia gives them a run for money. There are of course the Forest Elephants that marched on Rome, and the Sacred Bands. All powerful units, as well as the Cedars of Lebanon if you need safer unlimited trees, but they gather far slower than the wood out in the wild and cost more of that gold.
As painful as it is to combine Babylon and Assyria into one civ, Mesopotamians are almost like the Greeks with their influences, but more extreme spread between two factions. Instead of a basic template with a few bonuses, the Assyrians have a basic template and everything is a foil of its Babylonian counterpart. The Shieldbearer, the cornerstone of the civ, is an infantry unit for Babylon that can draw missiles towards it. For Assyria, it’s an individial upgrade that you can give to each of your units at the grand Ziggurat for added defensive (and even offensive through research) benefits for the foot units affected, although only foot archers, slingers and spearmen can benefit. Their Siege Towers differ as well. While Babylon can put units inside to provide healing for those inside and self repairs to the engine itself, the more units within the stronger, Assyria’s pulses a ‘taunt’ that draws missiles towards it every so often and reduces the damage it will receive. Differences haven’t been finalized yet. But the feel of the civ is more well rounded with either a focus on economic splendor as Babylon, or a more tactical and LoS favoring strategic play style for Assyria’s well oiled war machine.
Perhaps the most standard of civs. The gimmicks of this civ are in just how well rounded it is but it’s not so cut and dry. If this were a Nintendo game, Persia would be Mario to Luigi being Greeks. Good infantry such as the Immortals, strong bowmen and late game cavalry including brutal Scythed Chariots and elephants and nigh indestructible cataphracts with great horse archery as well. The Persians are so well rounded they won’t suffer much, but lack any stand out gimmicks to pull through in a pinch, although they can really increase the reach of their archers.
The Huns are an oddity of a civ. Their houses are yurts, give reduced population space of 3 instead of 5 and have half health, cost and build time. But your villagers and trade units can walk through them. Said villagers also have horses attached to them that can travel to dropsites for them while they work. The Huns are the master of cavalry. They are mobile enough that they have not just a stables, which they build to reach the second age, but a pen for camels as these Huns are the path to China and therefore are Xiongnu Mongolians as well. Their cavalry is fast though not always well armored and their horse archers are almost unparalleled in speed. The Huns aren’t much for frontal battles and best used as raiders running in and torching cities before escaping. They have 1 infantryman, a thug with a spear, an absolute unit so bulky he uses 2 pop slots and almost earns them. Even their priest unit is mounted.
The innovative Chinese have tech ahead of the curve. With crossbows and even some ancient blasting powder and earliest game siege weapons, the Chinese are a late game powerhouse with a ton of exotic weapons… sorta. See, the Chinese get special upgrade tokens they can use on ranged, infantry and cavalry units but only 1 token per age for a total of 3. For instance you can upgrade your crossbow man into a ChuKoNu for a slight stat boost and rapid firing rate and minor splash but then you can’t upgrade your Quiang into a halberdier giving him spearman cleave to slaughter horses. Their walls are almost unmatched although Babylonian and Hittite come close. And they even have a special tower, the Blast tower which is an area attack unit.
They have priests, though none are really religious. The Acupuncturist throws needles to poison and slow enemies at a range but in melee he has an unmatched heal that even makes units more flexible. The Taoist is a standard converter and in Age 4 they get the Martial Artist. He’s a priest, strong and able to reflect some % of damage based on what they’d take if they had 0 armor back at the enemy. The catch for these incredibly pop effective units? They cannot attack villagers, trade units, fishing boats or buildings. Chinese may have great defenses but are technically weak to them if you go monk mass. Bring their great siege.
Can’t talk about Chinese without talking about the emperor however. He is the centerpiece of your civ. When alive everyone around him works, attacks, and moves faster. He is where you age up although this slows his movespeed to a crawl and his aura fades. Keep him alive or your Town Center will need to retrain him. Once you can build fortresses or imperial palaces you can retrain them there or instantly rally him to that structure but it has a bit of a cool down.
So the big daddy of the world. Rome is a gold hungry powerhouse of loyal trained soldiers and auxiliary units. The Auxilium as it’s called let’s you call upon an area of the world to use as soldiers, however you are stuck with your unit lineup for the remainder of the match after selecting the area. Your options are: Iberia, Central Europe or Middle Eastern all with different perks but each set only has 3 units each.
Rome centers around its awesome might with troops like the Hastati, a spearman who can use a sword to hit infantry harder, the Veles, a javelin unit who is infantry instead of ranged, and the Decurion, an early game source of powerful cavalry. There are of course others but we need more time to workshop them. So pitch in everybody.
The wild Celts wear paint and not much else. Although that’s not even true. Celtic warriors may have naked woad savages but also long and great swordsmen in cloth armor and some very acceptable slingers and foot archery. The Celtic stable is a tad underwhelming as it has only the Headhunter, a raider whose spear can cut through cavalry and villagers but has low durability and the Charioteer who slices up most units. Their Carpentoms are ranged chariot riders. Their spearman, the Gaestae, can throw javelins eventually with enough tech and those javelins are poisoned.
Celts can train deer and sheep and use them for extra food or for Druidic rituals sometimes for permanent stat buffs. You can also sacrifice your own units for this end to offset their weaker units and sort of have a Magikarp to Gyarados to UBERGOD effect… if your enemy can’t break past your weakest of defenses.
Future Civilization Potential
Only a simple list of what ifs. Getting all the civs above as is is stretching my luck thin, but here’s a list with a few concept notes.
- Has great elephants and monkeys who can set buildings on fire.
- Great farms.
- Possibly an elephant who does economic work.
- There’s a lot of faiths borne of India.
- If Greeks having different cities to follow was your Jam, then picking a Germanic Tribe to follow is similar but even more extreme as certain unit upgrades change, such as their pikeman, their fortress units vary too but their military isn’t as balanced as Greek.
- Has a tavern. This building has unique techs based on your tribe.
- Possible Tribes: Teutons, Goths, Vandals, Suebii, Franks
- A civ with weak archers, the Steelbound Iberians have no bow units, only having javelin and sling archers.
- Great infantry and cavalry, not as slow as Hittites but worse archer and Siege support.
- Relatively strong, with good trade but no real archery even if they have good soliferrum javelins and poor siege.
- Many games give Koreans a tower focus so I might do that here.
- Stories of old religious men spreading fear and ancient Mudang whose traditions still survive.
- Iconic if obscure to westerners units like the Gaemamusa (Heavy Cavalry), Hwarang and Wonhwa.
- Great Siege.
- Will be hard to connect to the mainland storywise.
- Iconic Eagle and other animal warriors.
- No cavalry will make missions that are cavalry only a lot harder.
- Plenty of cool weapons like Macuhuitl and Atl-Atl.
- Possible second civ in the Central American location
- More axe and sling based combat.
- Rubber balls were commonplace.
- Still very infant in the idea stage.
- Female warriors, Amazonians and lots of cavalry
- Had burial rituals. Could be used for buffs and bonuses.
- Priests were called Enneri
- Tended to be low on armor and use paint and Tocs like Celts to a degree.
- Can pack and move buildings.
- No samurai or Ninjas!
- Good archery with longbows both in the form of unmounted Yumi and mounted Yabusami.
- Not the best navy but excellent fishing boats which have trained cormorants that can help gather in some unique way.
Now that we know the civs, let’s get into the gameplay basics.
At the start of most games you have a Town Center, a small number of villagers, a fast unit with decent Line of Sight (LoS) and in some cases, a special extra unit that defines the civ. The Hittites start with a Hasawa for instance and the Chinese start with the Emperor and Egypt gets a basic empower and heal priest that evolves based on your age 2 god if it survives.
You begin with a few hundred resources and the Town Center is not really too close to any resources that it can be used as a reliable dropsite. Instead it’s used to pump out your workers who build and gather more resources. You’ll likely want to scout out patches of huntable animals and lines of trees. If you want very early military aggression instead of booming (going to higher ages to get better upgrades) you’ll likely need some gold as well.
As in most RTS games, the best way to build good armies is to get as many villagers going as possible so food is vital. If your civ is a slower civ to get going, you may want a little stone to get walls and so you can start getting another Town Center once you leave the first age. A bit on the resources to come.
Feeds many units, most of them melee units and your villagers. Food has the most ways to be found, whether its wild claimable livestock out in the wild, or fish you can gather at the shoreline or by boat, or in the form of forage bushes, or slowest of all, plantable farms. Farms cost a fair amount of wood but are unlimited if they aren’t destroyed (easy to do).
Food is going to likely be the resource you need the most.
Most buildings, ships, siege and archers are wood heavy. Wood is gathered from trees, which when they’re alive are impassible, meaning that the felling of forests can be either advantageous or disadvantageous depending on if you need to either cut through or are using trees to create chokepoints. Wood on most map seeds is very common and likely won’t run out for a long, long time.
Most military units include a gold cost of some sort. Some civs are very gold hungry such as Romans, Hittites and Phoenicians but all civs need gold. Gold is gained by clumps of golden rock called Gold Mines found across the map. You can also build markets to get lots of extra gold. Markets provide the ability to spend gold for other resources or turn other resources into gold but there’s a bit of a ‘trade fee’ so it’s not a direct correlation. Not to mention, every time you buy a resource its cost goes up, same is true if you sell said resource. Gold is vital for most research and unit technologies so secure as much of it on the map. It’s a very late game resource. You can protect trade lines to maintain lots of gold.
While Stone isn’t the most commonly utilized resource, certain buildings use stone, mostly combat oriented ones: Fortresses (which can fire multiple arrows per volley), Towers, and defensive walls that have lots of HP and keep enemies from getting inside if you build enough to block a chokepoint. Stone is used in VERY few other instances, but certain civs with units that fire rocks can utilize stone. Stone is also key for Town Centers which you’ll want more of to get more villager production going so even starting stone before you hit the second age can be important to getting enough in time to thrive later on.
Maybe metal? he game about an era of Bronze and Iron after all! I was thinking possibly each civ could have a trade good that is uniquely their own such as Greek Olive, Phonician purple dyes and Egyptian cotton. Again this is all speculative and the lineup has worked for a long time as is for more than 2 decades of RTS games.
More information to come or pitch in, never know if this could become its own thing.