This guide is meant to help out players ease into Italian game-play without overwhelming with detailed Build Orders, given how those are still being decided upon.
Italy is an extremely interesting and demanding civ to play, and one that can be quite rewarding if played to their strengths. It enjoys a great variety of unique mechanics that require the player to play differently to utilize them, so for newer and less skilled players, it can be a difficult civ to play at start.
With this guide, those difficulties will be resolved, and you will be left with an unconventional and very powerful civ. that will encourage you to actively think about your next steps, and in turn make you better at the game in general!
This guide will be divided into several segments, that being:
- Unique bonuses
- Unique Buildings and how to use them
- Unique units and how to use them
- Interesting cards
- Strategy suggestions and Build Order tips
- Closing thoughts
Immediately we get to something very interesting about Italy.
Every technology you research gives you a Settler for free - an extremely powerful bonus so long as you have cheap techs to utilize, and in the early ages, that is pretty much most of them. You want to take advantage of this bonus as much as possible, especially with regards to the Market, which will be your second TC in the early game.
This comes at a downside however, that is the fact that you start with 3 vils and an Architect, that is a unique unit to the Italians. He will be elaborated on later, but to summarize, he likes to build.
You want to take advantage of your bonus to catch up in Settler count ASAP, and the Market is your best friend.
Additionally, Italians have access to several buildings and units with unique interactions, which we will look into next.
Unique buildings and how to use them
Italian buildings are quite powerful in their own right, but require a different approach to game-play compared to most other civs.
Let us start with the Lombard, an economic building and Saloon, rolled up into one. The way it works is rather unique, focusing on returns for your investment.
Invest 300 food, you get a trickle of wood and coin, 150 each in total.
Invest 300 wood or coin, you get a trickle or the other two, 225 food and 150 coin/wood.
The trickle adds up to 1 of each resource a second, 1.5 if trickling food, and it adds up if you invest different resources into them. Additionally, building multiple Lombards adds to the trickle, letting you get your returns faster.
This gives you an interesting strategy to consider. Given how food is fastest to gather, and you will likely be rushing the hunting technologies, you can go for a strategy where you place most vils on food, and use Lombards to convert said resources. Especially useful on maps with an abundance in hunts, even more so if the map has lots of Herdables to collect, giving you a very efficient source of food. That being said, you will want to gather other resources as well, especially if you’re relying on using the Pavisier, which costs wood, in your army.
The usefulness of the Lombard is tied to specific builds, given how they ease resource management and allow efficient conversion from food to other resources, but no direct benefit. A forum member recently did a calculation of Lombard benefits, which sums up the point nicely.
At Age4 and afterwards, however, Lombards have a specific card which majorly improves their Yield, and in those circumstances it can be useful to add resources if you have a surplus. That being said, outside of treaty it’s unlikely to find use unless you opt for the aforementioned hunt strategy.
Given that the Lombard also functions as a Saloon, there is also the option of using it to train Outlaws/Mercenaries from it, however this runs into the issue of required resources and extreme map dependence. But, if possible, it also can work better than even merc-dedicated civs as Lombards can all train mercenaries, allowing them to be massed much more efficiently compared to using a single Saloon or having to bypass the mechanic via cards, like in Sweden’s case. Plus with Italy having access to some generic cards for upgrades, those mercs are certain to be upped without going out of your way. Plus a specific Arsenal card which is a solid pickup.
The Basillica is the other Italian unique building, and it’s quite the doozy.
First, it serves as your church, so you get the XP trickle and the upgrades. Did I mention that the LOS increasing ones are cheap and give a vil?
Second, it allows you to “train” additional unique units, such as the Schiavoni and the Papal Units which have the unique ability to soak up damage for nearby allies. The way that it functions is that for 300f/300w/300c you ship a batch of either unit, which serve as support for your army. Each unit will be elaborated on later in this guide, however it’s worth noting that due to the slow shipping time and it interfering with your regular shipments, it’s unlikely that you will be able to make an army based on these units. Instead, look at them as support, to pad out a composition for durability or countering weaknesses.
Third, it speeds up construction near it, so you want to have your architect working around it as much as possible, for example when you’re transitioning to mills and estates.
Unique units and how to use them
Italy has a lot of unique units which define its game-play, so let’s get to it.
The Architect is a second Villager, which serves to build buildings. The way it works is that you set a building, and the Architect starts working on it slowly, but for free! At any point during the building, you can invest whatever resources remain for how far the building went along, and finish it quickly.
For example, a house normally costs 100 wood. Architect starts building one, and is halfway done with it. You invest 50 wood into it, and architect quickly finishes it, letting him focus on other tasks.
Especially in the first few minutes, managing the architect separates a bad Italy player from a good one, and means Italy is a civ that requires active and forward thinking to play well. Several possible strategies will be discussed in the Build Order section, and before i move on, I want to recommend keeping the architect busy building something at all times, for example houses and economic buildings if you have no priorities. Also, the forum user that studied Lombard benefits also talked about Architect efficiency, and it’s a worthwhile resource to consider when planning ahead.
For maximum efficiency, set him to build for free near the Basilica, since it means you save more time and resources in the long run. If all else fails, he also chops wood, but there should always be something to be built.
Next, the normally trainable units. Italy has two unique infantry units, both being Light infantry, interestingly enough.
The Pavisier is the Xbow replacement for Italy, being slightly more expensive at face value, but offering more durability. So, what’s the catch? In line with recent trends from the Developers, Pavisier changes armour based on stances. Normally it’s 20% ranged armour, but in Stagger mode, designed to counter artillery, it’s 20% siege armour. in Melee it’s 40% melee armour, and for the other two it’s 10% of each.
General idea is to switch stances for the Pavisier based on the type of enemy you’re fighting, however given the slow animation when switching and typical encounters, plus the fact that Pavisier use their ranged shot when attacking a unit next to it, you should stick to the 20% ranged resist unless versing say Abus Guns, in which case Abus go from a cost effective counter to a loss, owing to the added resistances and similar range.
Also worth noting is the two cards in age3 which buff Pavisiers directly. They allow them to keep up, which is quite good as you may well end up relying on them in age 2, however you must have the 2 shipments at hand, and the Pavisier is an archaic unit, which means that it falls off hard in age 4, by which point you should switch to…
The Bersagliere is a unique and very mobile skirmisher available from Age 4 onwards. As evidenced by its stats, it hits harder while being more frail, and most importantly, it has 5 speed! The 5 speed allows it to force engagements and get away from poor engagements more effectively. Using the unit is also extremely fun if you’re into skirmisher-Dragoon combo, which many players tend to be.
But that’s not all! Bersaglieri also have a unique ability, which you may have not seen, but have definitely heard(sic). When killing a unit, the Bersagliere sounds a trumpet, which provides a solid speed boost to nearby units, and stuns a unit near the killed one.
[line-through]And yes, this does open a strategy where you mass them and give PTSD to your opponent from all the trumpets he will be hearing[/line-through] Please don’t.
Hit and Run is the name of the game with these guys!
That is about it for the normally trainable uniques, and while it does seem small, it’s worth noting the solid Dragoons through the Royal Decree, the generic upgrade cards available, and the Royal Guard Culverins/Mortars, which, while niche, allow Italy lots of flexibility when planning, much like with France.
Now, for the Basillica units. Keep in mind their unique training method, and their uses, whenever deciding to train some.
First, the Schiavone. A personal favourite of mine, an anti-skirmisher skirmisher, available in age2, with 20 range and trading favourably with musketeers too, especially with micro. Truly a shame the training method is so convoluted and slow, but thankfully there is an age2 card which costs the same 300/300/300, and ships 7 of them and 6 Crabati, which are essentially a Dragoon in Age 2! Overall, Schiavone is a very good unit, that also shadow upgrades. Only downside is the fact that its firing animation is a bit slow, making kiting a bit harder
Next, the Papal Guard. Similar to the Halberdier, but clearly aimed at defending thanks to absorbing damage for nearby allies, with lower damage and even ranged resistance, as opposed to melee resistance which is the norm. This indicates a clear role for the Guard, and that is defending nearby units, whether from ranged shots with their ranged armour(use cover mode, it’s hilarious how much they can tank), cavalry thanks to their multipliers, albeit lower overall damage, or just using their ability to take hits for allies. Unfortunately suffers from the Basilica issue, otherwise an amazing unit for defending your mass of Pavisieri or Bersaglieri.
Come Age 3, you get the Papal Lancer. Comparable to the Spanish Lancer, but much more durable and somewhat slow with only 6 speed. The idea with them is fairly clear, either they work with your Hussar mass to help them get to the intended target in larger numbers by soaking up damage, or they snare enemy units for ages thanks to their extremely high HP. In either case you only need a few of them, and that is fine.
In Age 4 you obtain the Papal Zouave, which will most likely stick with your mass of Bersaglieri, albeit slowing them down somewhat. Most notable is their 20 range, clearly indicating that they’re meant to work with Skirmishers in general. Again, a few to pad out an army, sacrificing Bersaglieri mobility for durability. While I personally dislike them due to preferring Bersaglieri mobility, you may find circumstances where you can use a few for durability.
And last unique unit is not in the Basilica, nor military buildings, but the Factory! Instead of Heavy Cannon, the single Italian factory produces Papal Bombards. These lot are extremely bulky and produce quite slowly, but offer good damage and coverage for other Artillery pieces near it. Given these, I would recommend relying on them in team games primarily, as the one focusing on artillery. Otherwise, hard to recommend.
Important to note is that all of the Papal units and Schiavoni shadow upgrade, so you save on resources and which can lead to some very impressive numbers, such as 1400 HP Lancers.
This concludes the unit segment. All in All, two skirmisher-types and lots of support units to pad out whatever comp you think of. This makes Italy flexible and able to respond to any situation well.
Unsurprisingly, Italy has lots of interesting cards to work with, some being unique, some being just very synergistic. Such as…
Merchant Republics - You gain more resources from trade routes, works retroactively to some extent. Idea is clear, you use this on maps where you can secure multiple TP spots and use the trade route to jack up your economy, much like an Ottoman with Silk Road. Not a bad addition given how efficient the architect is at building TPs for free, but extremely map dependent.
Machiavellianism - Stronger and faster explorer, that also takes treasures instantly. The card is more suited towards trolling in team games, but can find its uses as high level team games tend to focus on those extremely rewarding treasures that can swing the game around. Not a bad card, but there are much higher priority choices
TEAM Lombardy - unless you’re teaming up with other Italies, not recommended as Lombards one designs strategies around, and a single one tends to be less than impactful
Trattoria - 3 Taverns! In Merc dedicated strats it’s worthwhile to consider if you’re not keen on using Lombards, especially given the 1 coin / second trickle each of them offers. However, Lombards can be built in age 1 and don’t require a shipment that can be something else. If you want to build a TP as your third building, worth considering then in outlaw semi-FF as your first age 2 card, given the shipment surplus you will have from the Trade Route.
Monte de Pieta, Genoese Financiers, Florentine Financiers - grouped cause they serve a similar purpose. You need Lombards to utilize them, which get a 700(plus a Lombard).1500 and 3000 coin investment respectively. Lombard centric strats can actually utilize them well, but if you’re running short on time or doing something else it’s better to just ship the respective crates.
TEAM Pizza - the perks are unfortunately a bit spread out, but can be quite nice in 3v3 and 4v4 where the direct value becomes quite big. Just don’t put pineapples on it, or Garja will tear you a new one
TEAM Frutta di Mare - delicious, and a legit solid card for water maps, giving up to 40000 food in fishes, 4 whales and 16 fishing boats in a 4v4. Definitely a worthwhile investment for the rare water map gameplay, and even in 1v1 can prove useful once the fishes run out.
Guardia di Finanza - For every unit you kill, this card gives more coin based on 5% of its cost, adding up to 3000. This seems like a good card at face value, but it is so slow to pile up, when you need to kill 60000 resources worth of units to get maximum benefit. Not recommended due to how slow it is to become useful.
Heavy Pavises, Steel Bolts - the aforementioned Pavisieri upgrade cards. With these they keep up in age3 quite nicely, with extra durability and range, plus countering heavy infantry better. Best suited to games that are to be finished in age3. Only downside is that in Age 4 you want to transition to Bersaglieri and the 2 shipments needed. If relying on Pavisieri, might as well add them.
Alpini - a very interesting card. 15% extra damage to Bersaglieri and when firing, they prioritize Heavy Infantry and Light Cavalry, the units they counter. 15% damage is nice, and the card reduces late game micro massively. Definitely worthwhile as attack move hit and run is the best way to use Bersaglieri, which will be actively used late game.
Schiavoni Swords - All of your units gain 15% melee damage. If relying on Hussars, pretty solid pickup, otherwise not that worth for obvious reason.
TEAM Marco Polo Voyages - my favourite card! The entire map is now explored, and all resource treasures are doubled! Very reliant on you actively getting those treasures, but a really good card overall, especially if you struggle with exploration. In team games it’s basically a must pick to turn those difficult treasures into free 1000 food. Also useful on maps with herdables, letting you snag them first. Did I mention the doubling works retroactively and you get all the resource treasures you already collected again when you ship it? Long, long ago, this card was in age 1 and a must pick. Now, it’s harder to squeeze it in given that Age 2 is generally tight on space, but allows to scout forward bases safely.
Uffizi - You get a second Basilica and Lombards trickle XP when investing resources, 0.5 for each. For dedicated Lombard strategies, this is can be a useful card as it enables up to an 2.5 xp/second trickle if the Lombards are working full time. If you’re certain that you won’t be pressured early, say facing Portugal or Japan, useful choice to get those shipments rolling.
Papal Arsenal - Basilica shipments arrive faster and Papal units get unique abilities. Given how it’s an age 4 card, this is quite late-game focused, and given that you will have much less shipments to send, it would make sense to use the shipment time more productively and ship more Schiavoni or Papal units. So long as you have the resources, useful late game card for extra support units. Likely will require Lombards if turtling due to wood consumption
Statuto Albertino - Italian Royal Decree card, and its worth depends on the techs you get from it.
Papacy is meh as an additional Basilica provides a bit more XP and another shipment location, which can be handled by other buildings too, such as outposts.
Risorgimento is a full-on comeback card, as the initial 750/750/750 cost is quite limiting for only 15 Revolutionaries, but this can go to 50 if you lost 35 vils. Given how it requires you to be losing or managing vils poorly for maximum benefit, it is not recommended unless it just happens that you get raided a lot and rely on one last tech to salvage it.
Carabineri, for 2000 wood, ships 10 Carbine Cavalry and has your ranged cavalry fire faster and train faster. Only downside is its 2000 wood cost, which can be quite difficult to muster, but it does give Italy above average Dragoons once amped up with it and the shipment, plus extra Carbine Cav which serve the same purpose.
All in All, not that useful beyond Dragoon strats.
Milanese Arsenal - Free arsenal, available advanced arsenal techs, and all techs are half off! If relying on infantry strategies, a very useful card that easily pays itself off, as all of the Arsenal techs fall to 100-200 resource cost, you get a Vil on top, and improved armies. Only downside is how slow it is to research everything, usually demanding an extra arsenal to help out, afterwards those Arsenals become useless, unless…
Venetian Arsenal - Arsenal makes nearby Military buildings and docks work 60% faster! Quite a useful card late game to help with spamming units, and makes arsenals useful beyond just the techs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with the Lombard for merc strats, so get the 2 Saloon card in that case.
Florentine Football - I get it, you’re too cool to use French vil strategies. Knock yourself out, but dont bother otherwise.
Advanced Politicians - Another interesting one. Next age-up researches twice as fast, and all politicians give extra rewards. Alternate first or second card you should send, for it offers quite good perks while letting you get to age 2 faster or with a better eco. Also a must if you wanna use the TONK.
Note that Italy has only 1 Factory card, unlike other Euro civs barring Malta.
Usury - improves the yield of invested resources in the Lombards, making them more resource efficient in the long run. Lombard-centric strats should pick it up assuming they get to Age 4.
Advanced Lombards - doubles the work rate of Lombards. Simple, and just works. You know what to do by now.
Freemasons - Thanks to investments from the Rothschild family, Architects now work much faster and run faster. Not a bad card per se, but its usefulness is rather niche overall. Could be useful in treaty.
Gondolas - all techs send a fishing boat on top of a vil. The fact that it’s in age 3 and not retroactive is the only reason this card isn’t absolutely broken on water maps. Unfortunately, that’s also the reason why it’s not that good unless you intentionally delay your techs(and vils) to take advantage of it, which is not something Italy can usually afford.
Regarding the Harbour merc cards, I will quickly go over how to use them, as the same applies in all cases. Use them to support whatever army you have massed.
For example, if you have an army of Musketeers, the Croatian and Albanian companies become very useful to counter their Skirmishers. It’s easy to see how others would apply.
Shoutout to the TEAM House of Savoy that is also an infinite card, making it a useful asset in team games where it can shine.
Theaters - This card makes all of your Outlaws cost only 1-2 population, turning them from a liability to a potentially viable strategy given that Lombards are more spammable. Map dependent, but potentially very useful on European maps with all the new Outlaws added. Plus with the special Tavern tech, Church tech and Fencing/Riding School they train nearly instantly, which opens up good strategies so long as you can ensure the coin income, say with Lombard conversions.
The naval cards fall in the same vein. Make your ships better, and given aoe3’s simplistic water combat, just stack upgrades as far as you can on water maps.
Phew, that’s a lot. Overall the cards have clear game-play themes to them, and in most cases it should be understandable what you should go with.
Strategy suggestions, Build Order tips and Deck suggestion
Understandably, there are no definitive strategies or build orders set for Italy yet, especially with the balance changes switching things up. What I will provide is general tips and a few strategies you can do well with Italy. speaking from experience. Baseline decks for each of the strats are in the attachments, tweak them per preference
- Use the Architect to build a market ASAP. It is worthwhile to spend 100 w immediately to get it up and running for upgrades, and hence vils.
- Mold your strategy based on what treasures you get. This applies to all civs, however for Italy it’s critical given how impactful those early techs are. Getting coin for hunting dogs and, if lucky, Steel Traps makes a huge difference because of the free vils.
- Your second building should be a House, because you will quickly reach pop cap with the Market Techs. Architect, use him!
- Third one depends on your strategy and map opportunities. Again, Architect.
- If you can secure lots of herdables(Texas, Deccan, Mongolia), a Livestock pen can help you get them up quicker, plus another cheap and useful tech.
- If you’re going Lombard boom, then a Lombard obviously.
- A TP isn’t a bad option either for extra xp, letting you snag 2 shipments age 1
- Advanced Age-up is a safe choice for first card, given how it helps in all strategies and pays itself off quickly.
- Try to determine the opponent’s strategy quickly and pick the appropriate Politician.
- Outpost + coin is good for FF and defensive strategies
- Vil + Lombard is a good pick for Lombard boom strats
- 500f is a good “when in doubt” pick.
- With advanced politician, 700f and 2 vils + Lombard stick out nicely. The Balloon is really niche, and the Arsenal one is interesting, but hard to determine usefulness given that Arsenal techs shine when you have a mass of fitting units. Plus, It’s unlikely you will go for Venetian Arsenal that early.
- Basilica units are there for support, and ship those that compliment your army well. Musks would love some Schiavoni, and Pavisieri would love some Papal Guards
- Do not over-invest into the Lombard. Once those resources are in, you can’t get them back.
- Italy is flexible, much like France, which lets you change up units on the fly if needed. Don’t be afraid of doing it.
- The Company shipments are really useful if you have the resources, which Lombard strats tend to be able to on average. If you need them, use them! They are very powerful.
- Lombards double as Taverns, so if you have extra coin, why not patch up the army with some Mercs?
- Italy’s strongest point is in early Age 4 thanks to Bersaglieri shadow upgrading. If the game lasts that long, try to amass them with a few supportive Culverins and Dragoons, and watch the numbers fly.
CONTINUED IN FIRST REPLY