Civilization Leaders - An Alternate Framing of "Variants"

All of the upcoming variants are based almost entirely on individuals (Jeanne d’Arc, Zhu Xi, Saladin, and Sigismund of Luxembourg) but are essentially styled as distinct civilizations. This is obviously hugely inappropriate since it defies all conventions of the Age of Empires series where civilizations represent a culture or empire. Yes, they are called “variants”, not civilizations, but the way they are displayed and selected is no different from the proper civilizations. Ultimately, the game is Age of Empires, not Age of Individuals.

One simple solution to this inconsistency could be to introduce civilization leaders for all civilizations. The variants would then be manifest as swapping out the leader of the civilization and replacing it with a new leader with different attributes.

This could work in a manner similar to leaders in the Civilization games. In that game you choose both a leader and a civilization, and the leaders come with attributes that modify your empire. For example, as the Greeks, you can choose either Gorgo or Pericles to lead your empire, and play the base civilization slightly differently.

Leaders are not unknown in the AoE series. AoE3 already has AI personalities that represent each civilization. However, they only serve to chirp the player with witty remarks in games with AI, and don’t impact how a civilization plays.

Instead of this confused mess of individuals and proper civilizations, the original civilizations could be given a leader and the new variants would be selected by swapping out that leader.


  • Default Leader - There are a few good options like Philip the Fair who centralized French power and subjugated the Papacy or Louis the Prudent who was known as the “Universal Spider” for his plotting and intrigue.
  • Jeanne d’Arc - Leader of the upcoming new faction.

Other potential leaders/variant:

Holy Roman Empire


  • Default Leader - Harun al-Rashid would be the strongest contender since he ruled at the start of a golden age and established the House of Wisdom.
  • Saladin - Leader of the upcoming Ayyubid variant.


  • Default Leader - The dynasty system doesn’t lend itself well to picking one specific leader. Instead, China could switch its leader every time a new Dynasty is picked. The default option could be called Mandate of Heaven since a ruler would only last as long as they had the mandate.
  • Zhu Xi - Represents the Confucian bureaucracy that remained constant even when dynasties changed.

Other Leaders/Variants

The other civilizations could have a variety of leaders. For example, Mongols could be like this:


  • Default Leader - Obviously Ghengis Khan
  • Chagatai Khan - Leader of the Chagatai Khanate
  • Özbeg Khan - Leader of the Golden Hord
  • Timur - Leader of the Timurid Empire

He was the most prominent leader of the Golden Hord, a state founded by Mongols.

Timur actively portrayed himself as an heir to the Mongols. It’s always possible to do a separate Tatar civ like AoE2 with Özbek and Timur as leaders and give the Mongols options like Hulagu or Batu Khan instead, but then you are missing out on the distinctiveness that a variant could bring.

Lol, thanks for your chauvinistic rant. Turkic nationalism is on another level of toxicity.


Obvious Vinifrss alt…Disengage the Turco-Persian nationalist zealot…


He was an Uzbek, not a Turk. Stop stealing other people’s cultures by claiming all Central Asians are Turks.


Nah, only Karakalpaks are true Turks. The rest are just Turkic wannabes.

This hero thing can be expanded and separated from the core original experience of the game.

Make a hero variant of every civ and pit them against each other in some kind of Hero Wars mode.

Relive history as a legendary leader in Age of Empires IV: Hero Wars! Build, fight and grow your skills as you carve your path to everlasting glory!

Or something like that.

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The leader of the Holy Roman Empire would be Charles V (because he appears on a badge in the game)…

Leaders =/= heroes. Some may feature as heroes on the battlefield but most shouldn’t.

Is this about the same Age III mechanic with leaders when you play skirmishes against AI?

Good, because i like it. I find it an interesting mechanic, although in general I would prefer it to be Optional for Aoe IV squirmishes (“Historical AI Option”), but yes, I would like it a lot.

I still remember how when I fought against Tokugawa in III and he kept insulting me, even surrendering with pride, that’s why I always destroyed his entire base.

It would be funny to implement it for AoE IV, and have the AI try to surrender if you destroy 3 of their 4 landmarks and are setting the 4th on fire.

  • Consider that in a future, the Timurids could come out as Civ. Variant of the Mongol, or even Civ. Variant of the Persians, then their own leader would be Timur, so it would be better to reserve it for them, but anyway, all this is hypothetical.

  • Other possible leaders could be Subotai, the one from the campaign or even Kublai Khan, who led the invasion of Japan.

I agree with the OP, we need to find a solution to this, I suggested to reclassify them as “Factions”, but this approach is also good, the English King could be used as one of this new heroes.

Yikes, I’d like to do away with the idea of heroes, not introduce more of them. This is the wrong way to look at IMO, civ isn’t AoE and AoE isn’t civ. We don’t have to convert the entire game into even more of the thing everyone is complaining about; consistency is not the entire issue at hand. It is the fact that focus shifted to heroes, and making it more the case would not solve that fundamental problem, only exacerbate it.

Would be cool, but he’s so renaissancy. It seems a somewhat more medieval Emperor would be more fitting? Charles V would be a sweet variant ngl.

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I’d be hesitant to put him as the default leader since he’s so late. But if there was a Spanish civ it would be interesting to have him as a leader option for both Spain and HRE.

Well I don’t think that’s useful. That’s different from what we’re getting with JdA. Since variants are not about changing a few bonuses around this system wouldn’t replace them. It could complement them but it’s not needed.

If we could at least have historical leaders’ names for the AI just like the first AoEs… The extra extra step could be having actual personalities that you can choose for the AI determining their play style. Long way to go from here

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Yeah, speaking of which, what we really need is more unique civs right now before the variants! Where are those Iberians at??

Adding a few new units and abilities is exactly what the variants revealed so far do. I’m just saying re-theme it as an attribute of your chosen leader instead of trying to present it as equivalent to a full civ.

I dont see the point of leaders if they are not in game and just arbitrary names we never see or have 0 mecanics in game related to them. Doesn’t make much sense to have a leader for 4 ages. Current naming is much better.

The current naming is literally “Jeanne d’Arc civilization”. I think France with Jeanne d’Arc as leader is at least a little less ridiculous.

No one has said you’d never see them or they wouldn’t have mechanics related to them. They’d be visible just like in AoE3 and there are plenty of ways to include mechanics relavent to each leader.

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I think this is a good direction to go in. I made a similar point at the end of my video on the Jeanne d’Arc reveal:

It’s not that I necessarily “want” this civ leader model for AOE4. BUT, AOE4 does not exist in a vacuum. Civ 6 was one of the biggest history-themed strategy games in the past decade. There’s a large audience that’s familiar with seeing heroes/civ leaders. Most popular games have been moving more and more towards heroes.

It might be too early to commit to this direction just yet -we should see how the Jeanne d’Arc faction is received upon release. But I have no doubt that the devs are thinking the same thing.

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Nobody got a problem with Civ 6 naming because they are “Faction Leaders”. What we got here is literally them naming Jeanne as a country, if they are consistent on naming variant civs as “Faction Leaders” we wouldn’t have forum protesting like this.