They have slightly different purposes. Militia line changes the most out of any unit, imo.
I agree that slavs and japanese are very good, but I like malay the most because they’re food only. Burmese obviously get a good bonus which makes them really strong in man@arms rush. Malians are almost huskarls, and are very bulky to arrows, which makes them useful.
I haven’t played much with bulgarians, but I think that bagains should make longswords more bulky than any other champ on the melee side. I’m not surprised they lose against japanese and druzhina champs, but I think they should win against all other champs. Like burmese, the bulgarians militia are really good for rushing cause you get more attack faster.
What amount of units are you trying? I feel like 40 vs 40 could show a different story than lower numbers.
Yeah, Slavs and Japanese should have the strongest Champions…probably Vikings are up there too, especially because of their bonus against cav - makes them really good allrounders.
Bulgarians should indeed not be as strong as you might expect. They suck against ranged units and even against melee units they are not nearly as dominant as they would have to be to make up for that weakness against ranged - as you said, they even lose against Japanese Champions for example, which should be their biggest strength.
The only thing they’re really good at is fighting against trash units (they take very little damage from Hussars compared to Champions (which are already good vs trash)) - but that’s clearly not enough imo.
Why should they be good against japanese champions in particular? I don’t think bulgarian longswords should be some sort of tank, I think they’re supposed to be as better at some things, but overall as little worse than the average champion. Remember, you don’t have to upgrade this unit apart from bagains, so bagains is the only cost barrier into using a unit to an imperial age unit.
For most other civs - japanese and celts included - Champions are a big, expensive answer to enemy units which don’t cost gold. Apart from M@A and drush, the 1H Sword and Longsword are generally never used, but unless you’re Bulgarians, you still have to pay for the upgrades.
If bulgarians had champions right away when they got to imperial, then they’d have a large power spike in early imperial as they can blast these comparatively powerful units. If they had a UT on top of that, they’d probably be stupid strong. Instead, we get longswords, for a lesser power spike in imperial, and bagains is there to make them comparable but different to champions if you decide to use that unit.
Try playing against Persian Crossbows with the no gold tech with any Champ for that matter aside from Malians. That trash unit is the most broken unit in the game currently.
Off the topic slightly to the OPs post, Goths getting nothing in compensation for every other civ in the game to get supplies is absurd IMO. I don’t believe Goths should get supplies, but they should get some type of perk or added bonus to make up for them not getting supplies.
Well, Begains is expensive (more than the Champion upgrade btw) - so if you get it, you’d expect to get some kind of long term value, but you don’t.
And if you don’t get it, there’s no point making that unit as Bulgarians at all (except for some rare early imp situations as you mentioned - I think that’s very situational though and rarely happens)
Then these boys would really be discount Teutonic knights. Also, for the OP, how is “not beating Japanese and Slav champs” a good metric of this unit’s viability? Japanese champs are the strongest champs in the game 1v1 (about tied with Aztecs), and Slav champs are the strongest in the game in mass. This is like saying a cavalry unit is not worth making unless it can beat a Lithuanian Paladin with its +8 attack.
Try Bagains 2H Swordsman against generic, fully upgraded champions. They win with about 1/4 of their HP left, and do even better against champs missing an armor or attack upgrade (e.g. Goth or Malian champs). So against literally all but 5 civs (Japs, Burmese, Slavs, Vikings, Aztecs), Bulgarian swordsmen do well against other swordsmen, and even against most of them they do better than a generic FU champion. That’s hardly what I’d call “not worth going for” most of the time. Sure, it doesn’t make them the strongest infantry, but why should they be? Bulgarians already have a strong UU that can be built from discounted mini-castles, an amazing siege line, and the best light cav/hussars in the game. They don’t also need the best infantry.
And yes, missing 10 hp relative to champions makes them slightly weaker to units that deal pierce damage. But they make up for it by how well they tank melee damage. They do better than even Japanese champs against Eagle Warriors (take 5 damage instead of 9), Halberdiers (Take 2 instead of 6), Light Cav/Hussars (Take 3 instead of 7). You get the idea.
So I can understand how not seeing the niche, you might think this is a bad unit. But the takeaway is that unless you’re going toe-to-toe against a civ with superchamps (Japs, Burmese, Slavs, Vikings), the Bulgarian 2H Swordsman will do quite well, and is better than a generic champ for melee fights. Though it suffers slightly more than FU champs against pierce damage (which isn’t really a big deal, every swordsman line except Malians is weak against pierce units), they are in the ballpark of being twice as good against melee trash as generic champs.