Every update makes the game more complicated and less accessible for new players, because of unique names and units

I’m not one to say if the new update has good or bad or balanced changes. What I want to draw attention to is the way that every update so far has added more and more arcane, unique, and complicated naming schemes to every civ, which makes the game more confusing and harder to learn for new players.

In the old game, cards and units were already confusing enough, so the designers, tried, I think, to standardize things. Cards had names like “Cavalry combat”, which tells you exactly what the card does, and which is shared across many civs, so you can recognize it if you see it. Units were pretty standard except for 1 or 2 unique units that each civ got.

Fast-forward to today-- Dutch settlers are now renamed merchants. Ottoman settlers are renamed Yoruks. New cards from the last few updates have fanciful names like “Coffee” and 'Marvelous Year", and “Hamiltonian Economics”, which don’t tell you anything about what the card actually does. Ottomans have just been reworked to have a unit that is a Hussar but is named something else, and a unit that is a grenadier that is named something else. Every civ now seems to have 5 to 6 to 10 different unique units, and the trend is toward going back and giving all the old civs unique units too, like the new Landwehr unit for the Germans.

Here’s another example, a card that used to be self-explanatory-- Janissary Combat, has now been renamed something that is completely unrelated to its purpose: Enderun School.

The result of this trend is to make the game ever more complicated for new players to learn. It sets the bar higher and higher, for a game which is already known to be complicated and have a steep learning curve. If this trend continues, how do the people in charge expect AoE3 to add to its playerbase? Doesn’t this pose a problem for increasing the playerbase in the long-term?

I can tell you, I have personal experience with trying to get friends to play this game and the major complaint is, “it’s too much to learn”. Continuing to make ever more complicated features is going to increase this bar even more.

These unique and complicated new units and cards don’t add strategic diversity, because they all ultimately function the same. They just take longer to learn and recognize, especially for a new player. Like, what is the point of having different names for settlers for different civs? They all function the same, but to new players, the many different names mean that you can’t be sure of that. Good design would mean that things that function the same, are named the same. Personally I am in favor of more standardization of units and card names. Strategic diversity is the result of overall civ design and feel, not the result of having hundreds of unique units.


I don’t think it takes long for one to realize the new merchant and yoruk are basically villagers with some different functions.
I wouldn’t call it more complicated than the same villager portrait but with drastically different costs or build limits.

That has been the case since the very first version of the game. Most unique units are the standardized unit with a small stats tweak.
Unique units actually become more unique since the expansions or more accurately TAD.


I dont agree your post. These names are real names of units so game is more historical than ever. Devs add new civ releated things of every civ. This is so unique of the civ and the game Every civ is getting new cards about its history. I love this approach than ever. For example you are Brtish and want to play with England. You can play the cards with Brtish history that I think this is.so awesome. This game getting best historical game than age of 2 and 4. You will get used to them.


I do agree that that should leave the cards with standardized names and give them names like cavalry combat and such to make it easier for new players and players who don’t play all the time. I don’t know all the new cards and some of them are a little confusing especially at first. The new units I think are ok, especially the the Ottoman cavalry and new barracks unit, happy that they have the Germans a new unit too but they should have added them in age 2 for early age fighting. I don’t know why they decided to start renaming settlers I would just leave them make it simple

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You can keep playing with the civs you enjoy most or you are able to.

In fact these unique changes attract more people. If you are just fine to play with an odd western looking Ottoman units, you may just want to jump on an Aoe2de train.


Granted, Humbarači are not really like Grenadiers, rather they’re purely focused on siege and anti artillery.

Also, what you’re not noticing is the visual appearance, both in the UI and in game. Vast majority of units share a similar appearance, playing in line with how people remember via pattern-matching.

Say, Deli’s icon looking a lot like a Hussar, or the reskinned Dutch, Ottoman vils being exactly that

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This is just one example, but it’s hardly the only one.

In the original, you only had a small number of unique units with each civ. They generally fit easily into normal roles. The Royal Guard units were not complicated to figure out. They followed the exact same upgrade path as regular units. Learning a few differences is very different from having a large portion of the civ’s units being unique and with unique variations on what they do. The USA and Mexico each have 6-7 unique units. The African civs go beyond that because their units are often wildly different from the archetypes other units follow. The javelin rider is a good example of that, going far beyond being a simple dragoon replacement with attack or hp variation.

As an old school RTS player, I can adapt fairly quickly to that kind of thing. I grew up adapting to Starcraft’s 3 totally different factions. But we’re not dealing with 3. We’re dealing with, what, 18? in AOE3 DE?

Then on top of that, add in the decks: a critical part of good gameplay. You not only have the intrinsic differences in your standard cards, but you also have all of these civ-specific cards that have to be read individually and studied. When they do a rework like this, you have to play a game or two with the new card to really assess whether it’s worth using or not. Is Spain’s House of Trastamara card worth sending if you time it perfectly? Does an Indian player want to pick Grazing? Is that obscenely expensive Tupac Revolution card worth using as Inca? Which immigrants cards should I pick as the USA? It’s COMPLICATED. When Mexico first came out, it took me dozens of games before I really felt comfortable with all of the options they have. Even then, I still have to look at tooltips fairly often when I age up to remind me what I’m choosing. If I hadn’t spend hundreds of hours playing AOE3 and countless more playing older RTSs, I can only imagine the barrier that this kind of learning curve would create.

Good game design should aim to make a game simple to learn, while maintaining enough strategic depth to make mastery take a long time.


In the original AOE3, and also AOE1 and AOE2, you still always have units with the same name and appearance, but vastly different stats under different civs.
I would not call this more understandable.

At least units with similar roles have similar weaponry and animation. Very few units neglect their intended counters. You don’t see a unit with bayonet and thrown it onto artillery. You don’t charge your cavalry into guys with long pointy sticks. It turns out there is at most 1-2 exceptions for every civ, and they still not deviate too far from their standard counterparts.

For example I didn’t play a lot around when the African Royals come out but I already learned about all the units by reading the wiki. Took me one hour.


En tout cas avec 22 factions il y a de quoi s’occuper.

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You know what. When I first played AOE2, the super intuitive and understandable game where everyone has the same western European roster, I thought the swordsman line is a super effective unit. Longbowman is op as it outranges everything. Spam war elephants and win. Skirmishers are bad and no need to train them.
Same when I first played AOE3. I thought falconet is all you need. No need to train a lot of villagers. Free villagers from houses are useless and waste population. Rush to age 4 and get factories as quickly as possible.

Guess how I figured out? I playerd the game.
Give me a game that you do not need to test or read other’s guides to master.


I agree, on part, the new names are cool but they need to give first an immediately recognizable name upon a quick inspection. Then, they can add whatever they want on the description. High level play you can’t be wondering what the fuck is enderun school.


…so you guys lived happily with Virginia Company, South Sea Bubble, Tulip Speculation, and Acemi Oglan School for 17 years?


I think you’re misunderstanding my point here. With any game, there is a learning curve. Checkers has a learning curve to figure out how to move the pieces and what happens if you get to the other side of the board. It’s really short. You can learn the rules and basic strategy in a few minutes and play competently. Chess has a longer learning curve because there are more types of pieces that each move with different rules. The learning curve is longer, but quite manageable. The learning curve for something like Starcraft was long enough they included a full campaign with missions to introduce you to each unit. By the end, you’re playing a full game with full access to the tools, but it’s 20+ hours of content to learn between a dozen or so unique units for each of 3 civs.

AoE3 is a lot more complex. The learning curve is ten or more games per civ. We have 18 of them. You have to learn an early game, mid-game, and late game for all of them, plus learn the decks, plus the variants for water vs land maps, and if you play treaty, learn the variants for that mode vs standard supremacy game play. That’s just to play competently. That’s step 1. Then you start working on mastery.

You said you learned to play Hausa in an hour. Maybe you did. I won’t call you a liar, but I’d guess that is because you have played many hundreds of hours of AoE3 already and were able to rapidly integrate the new information. You’re already at the top end of the learning curve. If you were a brand new player, your experience would be very different. That’s my point.

We’re not seeing the devs streamline the game and make it more accessible. We’re seeing them commit to complexity. We’re seeing them embrace historical names in an effort towards creating uniqueness, but it’s a LOT to manage. How many different hussar or musketeer variants are there, for example? That’s not to say that the game cannot be mastered, only that they’ve created an exceptionally long learning curve. There’s more complexity than is needed. I think it contributes to the low player numbers we see. People just don’t want to put in the effort to learn it. You have to lose a lot in that learning process. We learn from making mistakes, trial and error, after all. That’s very discouraging for new players. With shorter learning curves, they get to the experimenting and the winning part a lot sooner.


Sometimes I really don’t understand some players. In age of 2 and age of 4, most units of each civilization are the same. Only a few buildings and units are different, but the units and buildings of civilizations in age of 3 are often different and this is the main difference that separates Age of 3 from these games. This difference is the most basic feature of this game, otherwise this game will not be any different from other age of games.


…so you guys lived happily with Virginia Company, South Sea Bubble, Tulip Speculation, and Acemi Oglan School for 17 years?

I would argue that in and of themselves, these were also bad design choices. But there were just far fewer of them in the past. There’s no qualitative difference, but when you have 20+ civs, there starts to be a quantitative difference that materially impacts the ability of new players to pick up the game and enjoy it.


These new names and previous card names are about related civs history so this is is so understandable and I this is so awesome. If you are an Ottoman player, you can like these names or you are an main British main player, you can like virginina company card. When I see other civs card, I want to learn these civs history so I think this is so cool.


No I didn’t learn to play Hausa in one hour. I learned what the units do in one hour. That’s two different things. The first part you’re complaining is the different unit looks and names make them more difficult to understand, which is not true.

I need to (though I do not have time to) play a few games to fully master how effective they are, as with every other civ and any other game.


Not all the changes are making things more complicated. Oromos and Hakkapeliitta are actually less unique with this update. You also don’t have to learn the entire complexity of the game to be good at it. The African and Colonial civs are incredibly complicated to learn to play, but playing against them is still rather straightforward. They at least aren’t any worse than trying to figure out what each unit is in a blob of similar looking Aztec infantry in the original game.


oromo and hakkas was a good change


That is also a tradition. Most tech names do not tell you what they do either (eg the whole monastery panel in AOE2 where every tech has a generic name and a generic icon but all do different things).

At least most cards have very intuitive icons.
But even also with that, I still need to read the descriptions. Even with a card that clearly tells me it improves one unit, I probably would not include it if the description says +10% in age 4.

BTW one complaint I have about AOE4 is the super simplified and generic icons for everything.