I’ve been playing a lot of new civs lately at around 1400 elo. I think Poles of the 2 civs is the easier to use, and until Castle Age, they are very straightforward to play, with lots of options and good units. Bohemians, now I think this civ, which is claimed to be the better one of the 2 by people like Hera, I am personally starting to believe they are overrated. The main challenge I find with them is getting past the mid-game without falling behind in Imp.
The core issue with Bohemians is that they don’t have good cavalry AND Crossbowman/Arbalest is not a great option long-term. Furthermore, you have a below average Crossbowman in Castle age, because if you want to go full Archer, you can go Ethiopians (free resources), Japanese (the savings on Mills/eco buildings are better than what Bohemians get because until early Castle age you just save 100w on the Blacksmith which is much less than what Japanese get), Britons etc. Yes you get Chemistry, so you get 5+3 Crossbows, but in my view that’s still at best even with a FU Crossbow as you fire 11% slower due to lack of Thumb Ring AND you don’t get bonuses for your archers (cheaper for Mayans, +1 range per age for Britons, 18% faster firerate for Ethiopians). In short, even with Chemistry, your Crossbows are at best even with a generic FU Crossbow from a civ with no bonuses (let’s say it’s like a Cumans Crossbow), and inferior to those from an Archer civ (say Britons) who get bonuses/eco bonuses also.
The other “good” option for Castle Age is Hand Cannoneer. Now I admit, after the +5 HP AND faster projectile buffs, Hand Cannoneers are not a bad unit, hit far more than before and are now acceptable. They are still situational. If your goal is to engage into Archer vs Archer trades, the fact that they fire a non-ballistics projectile with 50% accuracy, or you go vs full Knights, there are better options.
I noticed that smart players go full Skirm/mix of Skirm/Crossbow/Skirm/Knight/ mix vs me. I would say, if you see 2+ Archery Ranges from the Bohemians player, this is always the right call and I think it makes it incredibly hard to gain an edge in Castle age as the Bohemians, because you are pigeonholed into 1 strategy (archery ranges) and this is countered by Skirmishers (even Hand Cannoneer in Castle Age can’t trade well vs Skirms). The best comp I’ve found to play in Castle age is Skirm/Handcannon/Pikeman mix, notice how all 3 are vulnerable to Skirmisher.
Which brings me to the core issue: cavalry. Now, many other archer civs have at least acceptable cavalry in Castle/Imperial age, maybe subpar but not to the point that it’s unplayable. 2 examples:
Britons: Britons lack Bloodlines and that’s bad, but in contrast they get full upgrades for their cav. Using Knights in Castle Age, assuming the situation calls for it (e.g. opponent goes full Skirm) is justified because if you get to early Imperial Age with 20+ Knights, you have +4 armor upgrade and Cavalier. Sure it’s only 120 HP Cavaliers, but for early Imp this is only slightly below average and you can take a decent fight with them.
Japanese: they get no bonuses for their archers, but better eco bonus than Bohemians and most importantly they have FU Knights in Castle Age. Japanese is quite a versatile civ with smooth transitions because in Castle age you are unpredictable. A Japanese player is as likely to do a small Knights/Skirm mix while booming, as going for their long-term unit (Crossbow). Both stand up to what most civs can throw against them fairly well (e.g. going full Knights vs Franks leaves you only at a slight disadvantage since Franks get free Bloodlines)
Ethiopians: they get cavalry that is as bad as Bohemians (no last armor, no Bloodlines), BUT their Crossbow line is far better and their eco bonus is also arguably better.
All these “archer civs” have it better than Bohemians it seems. In some cases, like Britons, the civ also has a strong late-game and doesn’t fall off. Don’t even get me started on the unique unit, I can elaborate on this if needed (post brevity), but in short I think it’s a very overrated unit and a meme.
tl;dr: Bohemians have an awkward Castle age with average (at best) Crossbows, unplayable cavalry, gimmicky unique unit. The Hand Cannoneer is a good unit but rly shines only vs infantry and, to a degree, cavalry and dies hard to full Skirmishers, which most smart opponents will mix at some point vs a Bohemians player. The civ lacks options in Castle age and ways to make smooth transitions and their strategy is very predictable AND also very static (they have only 1 unit composition they can go for in Castle age that makes sense, essentially, AND they don’t have any way to contest mobility/map control unlike even other archer civs like Ethiopians who can to a degree walk with their Crossbows around the map and abuse the fact that they fire faster to win unfavorable fights.