Heart of the Karambit Swarm (A Starcraft-inspired Civilizations Mod)

Based entirely on the conceit that Karambit Warriors are AoE2’s version of the Zergling, here’s my Starcraft-inspired civilization mod Heart of the Karambit Swarm:

This mod changes the Byzantines, Malay and Portuguese to be more Zerg, Terran and Protoss-like respectively. Thanks to this upgrade trick, this mod is playable with AI.

General Gameplay Changes

  • Civilization names changed to Modded Malay, Modded Byzantines and the Modded Portuguese
  • Villagers train in 20 seconds, to match Legacy of the Void’s eco training time (12 * 1.7 = 20.4). This faster training time also apply to the non-modded civilizations.
  • Start with 6 villagers, but with -150 food, matching pre-LotV eco starts
  • Shepherds work at Briton speeds
  • Multiple TCs allowed in Dark Age
  • Houses/Folwarks provide 8 pop space, TCs provide 10 pop space

Byzantine Features (Terran-like Defensive civilization with moderate cost units)

Civilization bonuses:

  • Byzantine building HP
  • Double tower garrison
  • Walls 50% discount
  • Khmer Farms
  • Stone mining also generate Gold

Barracks (units replaced in parenthesis)

  • Throwing Axeman (Militia) → Elite Throwing Axemen (Two-Handed Swordsman)
  • Spearmen → Pikemen → Halberdier

Archery Range

  • Chu-Ko-Nu (Archers) → Elite Chu-Ko-Nu (Arbalests)
  • Skirmishers → Elite Skirmishers → Imperial Skirmishers
  • War Wagon (Cav Archer) → Elite War Wagon (Heavy Cav Archers)
  • Hand Cannoneer


  • Scout Cavalry → Light Cavalry → Hussars
  • Centurion (Knight) → Elite Centurions (Cavalier)
  • Camel Riders → Heavy Camel Riders.
  • Centurions make Throwing Axemen attack faster
  • No Bloodlines.

Siege Workshop: All upgrades, plus Houfnice
Castle Unit: Elephant Archers
Castle Age tech: Paper Money
Imperial Age tech: Torsion Engine

Malay Features (Zerg-like Offensive civilization with cheap units)

Civilization bonuses

  • Cuman’s faster cavalry
  • Aztec training speed
  • Polish healing villagers
  • Supplies also apply to Scouts, Skirmishers and Spearmen
  • Eco buildings cost -50 Wood but +50 Food
  • TCs cost -100 Wood but +50 Food
  • Keshik-style Gold generation for all melee units


  • Karambit (Militia) → Elite Karambit (Two-Handed Swordsman)
  • Spearmen → Pikemen
  • Eagle Scout → Eagle Warrior → Elite Eagle Warrior
  • No Gambesons

Archery Range

  • Archers → Crossbows
  • Skirmishers → Elite Skirmishers
  • Kipchaks (Cav Archer) → Elite Kipchaks (Heavy Cav Archers)
  • Slinger


  • Scout Cavalry → Light Cavalry
  • Tarkan (Knight) → Elite Tarkans (Cavalier)
  • Flaming Camels (Camel Riders)
  • Steppe Lancer → Elite Steppe Lancers
  • No Husbandry or Bloodlines.

Siege Workshop

  • Organ Gun (Scorpion) → Elite Organ Gun (Heavy Scorpion)
  • Battering Ram → Capped Ram
  • Mangonel → Onager

Castle Unit: Battle Elephant
Castle Age tech: Kamandaran
Imperial Age tech: Drill

Portuguese Features (Deathball civilization with expensive units)

Civilization bonuses

  • Archers +20% HP
  • Teutonic melee armor bonuses
  • Monks +3/+3 armor
  • Donjons replace towers
  • Folwarks replace Mills
  • Health Batteries replace Bombard Towers. Health Batteries use Fortified Tower graphics. You can see a Health Battery in action at the top of this post.
  • Able to build Feitorias


  • Berserks (Militia) → Elite Berserks (Two-Handed Swordsman)
  • Kamayuk (Spearmen) → Elite Kamayuk (Halberdier)
  • Teutonic Knight (Eagle Warrior) → Elite Teutonic Knight (Elite Eagle Warrior)

Archery Range

  • Plumed Archers (Archers) → Elite Plumed Archers (Arbalests)
  • Huskarls (Skirmishers) → Elite Huskarls (Imperial Skirmishers)
  • Mangudai (Cav Archer) → Elite Mangudai (Heavy Cav Archers)
  • Genitours → Elite Genitours


  • Shrivamsha Rider (Scout Cavalry) → Elite Shrivamsha Rider (Hussar)
  • Cataphracts (Knight) → Elite Cataphracts (Cavalier)
  • Mamelukes (Camel Rider) → Elite Mamelukes (Heavy Camel Rider)
  • Shrivamsha Riders have 6 attack in Dark Age, 8 attack in Feudal.

Siege Workshop: All upgrades, Bombard Cannon.
Castle Unit: Ballista Elephants
Castle Age tech: Grand Trunk Road
Imperial Age tech: Furor Celtica

Other Notes

As you can see, comparisons between Starcraft and AoE2 quickly fall apart beyond the Karambit Warriors/Zergling stuff. AoE2 has nothing comparable to flying units, invisibility, spells etc. I’ve never figured out how to create self-erecting Protoss/Zerg-style buildings in Genie, nor have I figured how to do batch training.

I do think Folwark Farms are similar to how Protoss buildings need to be built around Pylons, while the Khmer Farms can be comparable to how Terran buildings can be built anywhere (and the default Farms similar to how Zerg buildings tend to be built near Hatcheries). The Malay building Food cost is meant to reflect how Zerg buildings consume a Drone when they are built. The Health Battery is obviously a reference to the Shield Battery. I’ve tried giving Malay units a 30% speed bonus when they move over Farms (similar to Creep), but it seems like the Task 155 stuff is currently broken. Otherwise, the bonuses I chose more reflected the perceptions of the three Starcraft races than any attempt to faithfully recreate them.

When it came to designing these civilizations, I tried sticking to the following rules:

  • 3 non-Gold bonuses
  • 1 Gold-related bonus
  • An eco tech for the Castle Age UT
  • A Siege tech for the Imperial Age UT
  • An Elephant unit for the Castle UU
  • All units/bonuses should be unmodified (except Villagers and Shrivamsha Riders)

I decided to give the Malay an extra bonus (i.e. Supplies also applying to trash units) because the Malay do not get access to new Castle units in Feudal, unlike the other two civilizations. I also originally had Kamandaran apply to Karambit Warriors (a la Forced Levy), but I felt like having trash Karambit Warriors would discourage Malay players from training anyone other than Crossbows and Karambit Warriors.

For me, a big question going forward would be about Elephants. While testing against the AI, it was a bit annoying fighting against a swarm of Elephants, especially Malay Battle Elephants. I’m interested in hearing thoughts on having Elephants take up more than 1 population space. I could also remove Scale Barding Armor, but then that’ll probably discourage Malay players from training Stable units.

Finally, I chose the Byzantines to be the Terran-like civilization because of their buildings bonuses and Cataphracts, while I chose the Portuguese to be the Protoss-like civilization because of their Feitoria. However, that meant that there were two civilizations using the Mediterranean architecture. To visually distinguish the two, I changed the Byzantine architecture set to Middle Eastern (you can read about changing civ architecture here). Because the Byzantines don’t have Cataphracts anymore in my mod, I’ll probably choose the Koreans be the Terran-like civilization in a future update, because why wouldn’t I?