History Vs Gameplay and Beginner Tips for Future Civ Crafters

History lesson after history lesson after history lesson and CMON! This aint school. Im not here to do chores, Im here to baby a bunch of workers and armies to beat some doofus who’s up against me!

Some of you, many of you even can post picture after picture of some historical artifacts or buildings. Often in such civ concept threads y’all forget to actually design the GAMEplay for this, are you sitting down!? For this GAME!!!

Remember that historical imperfections have existed since forever. Spanish have worse crossbows than the Middle East and the dang Huns oh and the Aztecs they attacked.

Speaking of, Arbalest is a french weapon that the French civs can’t use!

It is known history that only Khmer had the power to enter houses and nobody else. Its also known that the se supposedly universal elephant techs like tusk sworda and Howdahs and Chatrahs were totally used only by the civs that get them.

The Celts are a wierd mismatch since the start. China should have almost every tech and unit!

But all of these effects are in place because gameplay comes first. This isn’t me on my knees praising corporate or the fact they haven’t given us a banger as earthshattering amazing like the first Conqs expansion. Far from it. It’s me going on about how we go so hyper history hyper ventilation.

So as someone who perhaps has been civ crafting since forever to the point that early era AokHeaven called it spam (which is weird) let me give some tips for design philosophy.

1: History is nice sure. But gameplay cohesion is most important to designing a game. Your civ might’ve had great skirmishers but they’re likely going to need more units than that.

2: Remember power spikes. A civ should have something good to look forward to as time goes on. Often the most important spikes I hear about are arriving to Castle and Imp Ages but it can also be something like a bonused unit or a powerful new castle mainstay like the Conquistador. Or it can be an economic explosion like the Viking free wheelbarrow line techs. It can also be a bit more subdued like the Ethiopian resource spike which is more than compensated by the fast firing crossbows.

3: Every civ should have at least one defining bonus that comes into effect by the Feudal Age. Even a late game gunpowder civ like Turks have faster mining. By this point you should have something anything that makes you stand out. In the original Conquerors the weakest here was Franks whose only early bonus was free farm tech… wow! Also think of this not just from gameplay but from even the historical perspective:

4: even if the civ is naval power it needs something good for land battles or land economies. This should be straightforward. Consequently they need some form of navy even if landlocked! Some way to survive on Nomad so every civ needs probably at least War Galley tech especially considering how linked every naval option is to that one tech!

5: Some level of overlap is okay! The world is big and there are many civs to be had. While this big new mechanic is cool try to remember that programming a new mechanic is an excuse, mayhaps even a legitimate reason civ releases are more sparsely done. Need i Remind you the tech now for game engines are way better than what they were in 1999-2001 and yet…

This even includes the mechanics. Its okay if another unit uses the Konnik rebirth effect because you arent gonna find me at civ 70 and tell me using it again would be sacrelige!

6: Try and avoid negative “bonuses” at all costs! Unless its like a starting house or starting unit avoid it. None of this lame as heck cavalry +2/2 armor but they move 20% slower or even 5%. Over the years Ive seen junk like that many times. It’s awful and I will call it out it’s a hill Ill die on even if I dont get an elevation bonus for doing do!

To explain from a gameplay perspective the reason it sucks is because it’s anti-fun! It takes power away from the player! Thats not a good thing. That minus speed on cav means the units you most need to run from, who dont care how much melee or missile armor you have, will catch you way faster. Monks will steal you away that much easier and Camels and spears will shred you up!

Sure we have convert gold cost techs and even those I have some grievance with especially in situations where gold isnt an issue like maps with many relics on it or maps where trade is abundant but wood isnt.

That said it’s smaller a concern and less gold is good.

7: sometimes one bonus for a unit line is enough to define the civ as that unit line. Ethiopia only has increased fire rate and thats enough to consider Archer spam! Huns don’t even get a super direct non team bonus for their knights and that too is often enough. Not every civ needs 5 million bonuses for their unit of choice like Goths or Britons. Remember other civs will need bonuses for their armies too.

8: if you can. Keep it simple! Before you jump for something advanced try and see if something less complex is an option!

As I think of more I will add more.

Oh and by the way. This isnt easy to do and it’s often not seen as rewarding. Youll rare get a thank you or a thumbs up because its just words but you do this because you love doing so. Maybe you’re lucky to understand modding in which case more power to you!


Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid nearly all of these, while also providing useful historical backgrounds.


i generally agree with you, but

if we ever reach 70 civs I think I will have abandonded the game. No way a casual player can remember how to play that many civ matchups


Wow my popcorn box finished while reading this wall of text.


Ignoring off topics, I will say this, if you dont know exact numbers then remember that a ballpark number is fine. After all any bonus can hypothetically work if the numbers are tame.

I invite the community to interact with this as it took a lot of time to prepare and plan

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I broadly agree with a lot of the points, but I find this a rather strange undertaking TBH. I mean the idea of giving tips for something that has no apparent measure of success and creates no finished product. And then there’s the matter of authority - forgive me, but your credentials are that you’ve been doing this for a long time to the point that someone on AoKH called it spam. I don’t mean this as a dig against you, it just seems to be the nature of the beast if “civ-crafting” is one’s chosen hobby. Nobody has achieved a substantial following or achieved monetary or critical success by civ crafting, so I don’t know why a new person posting a concept would be in the market for such advice, or recognize anyone as an “expert.”

People make civ designs for fun. People critique them for fun. I think there are some general best practices, but whether or not they’re adhered to doesn’t matter much, except for official civs or at least mods. And personally I’ve noticed from responding to individual concept threads, that a lot of people will go their own way regardless of critiques. Even if they acknowledge some kind of design principle, they’ll have a reason for why they didn’t follow it, or even say its good that they didn’t since it’s what makes the civ unique, etc. Which is fine, it’s their party. Anyway, this probably isn’t the kind of feedback you wanted, but I don’t ever see people asking for civ design tips.


You’d think that but on reddit on AoK heaven on aoezone its hard to feel welcome.

Thats my last sentence is about. The time you devote. Compare to a guy who still has a heart surgery license after 20 years and still practices, he is a trusted source.

Maybe Im not at that level but this is certainly an effort level above all those polls that dont offer any insight.

And dont short sell yourself either by the way! Remember all civs need a person who designs it even at the corporate level. Its a dream job Im sure.

Even here people come to spam and troll. Did I do something worth that? Not at all. None of us civ crafters do.

I do suppose you’re right in the grand scheme but one position I will NEVER waver on is this whole representation buzz word flying around and the stringent historical adherence when Celts exist and Khmer are the only house dwellers

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Yeah, nothing wrong with trying to identify what makes a civ design good, or making more concepts, although people on Reddit or wherever may get burnt out on them temporarily. I just think the people who need this type of advice the most would be most unlikely to have the humility to accept it. So apart from identifying some general guidelines I see this mainly as an individual hobby. The consequences of “succeeding” or “failing” at civ design are basically nil even if you try to have a system for ranking and analyzing civs (like the civ contest last year). Even if the devs themselves “fail” by releasing a wildly OP/UP civ, no one has the power to compete with them and they can eventually fix their designs through iteration, even if it takes years.

I agree that sometimes people try to history-max too much, although that seems to be more of a balance suggestion thing than a new civ design thing, at least on this forum. I seldom come across a civ concept that I consider very well researched but also poorly designed in a way that seems mostly attributable to overemphasizing historicity. Lots of balance suggestions seem to fall more or less into that category though.


Well I know I cant be important. I’m not lucky enough to code or program or nothing like that. Im just a person who can be perceived to have ideas.

I do however want the community to feel less stuck and perpetually arguing about this civ or that. I suppose I wish I could almost make my own game inspired by aoe.

Anyway that sounds off topic. If anyone has any tips to share with others who havent done this before or are doing it wrong/poorly please share and help your community in arms.

Have a good holiday if today is one for you as well.

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Agreed. civs should have options. My rule of thumb for my own theory-crafting is a civ should be S-Tier at something, and A-Tier in two other things. I know “thing” is pretty loose as a term goes, but basically if your civ does well thing very well (unit, strategy, even just an eco booming bonus), but you’re against a civ that counters that one thing, you’re going to want some secondary options that don’t let you feel completely flat and generic.

Agreed. Also if you can manage it, if you can make naval bonuses/UTs have both land and naval benefit that works out pretty well too. Persian TC/Docks, Byzantine Greek Fire, Viking Bogsveigar.

More and more I fear the history obsession needs to be curtailed. I dont care how amazing this culture’s archers economy and heavy cavalry were, one of those if not more than 1 need to have their power curtailed to control high level runaway winrate.

Not to seem like a hopeless bump i do wonder what you fine people want to learn about? Cmon Im here to help


The first lesson will be on the design philosophy as to why negatives ladened bonuses feel so awful to conceptualize or design.

I must reiterate for all fledgling civ crafters and civ modders what design philosophy do you want to learn. No I cant teach programming tricks but thats fine everyone has their weaknesses

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I totally agree – to me, bonuses with negatives feel unsatisfactory. Thankfully I think there are only four in the game, all resource penalties. Of those, the Mayan one is fine because you’d definitely spend that food on a villager anyway, and the Georgian one is so obviously unnecessary that it will surely be removed in a month or two. One could argue that the Huns one makes thematic sense as well.

In a similar vein, I think bonuses that are balanced by tech tree holes can feel similarly unsatisfactory. No Bloodlines for Burgundians comes to mind as the obvious example (and in AoE1, no improved/composite bowmen for Assyrians).

I think the worst example is actually no Siege Engineers for Chinese or Italians – but presumably you don’t mind that, given that the main topic of the thread is that civ designs should be historically inaccurate.

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It\s a little different. To date the only disadvantage bonuses are “start with unit but lose proportionate unit costs” bonuses or hun house bonus

I’m talking about something like this:


The focus is the HP loss which is supposed to be offset by a slightly more expensive outpost with a healing aura but that does not work because its an outpost! You wont have it while scouting and if your scout gets into a tussle it will always lose.

Your drush sucks. Your aggression is also gonna lose every time. This is bad design!


What about bonuses that are debuffs on other players? My Vandals civ, instead of having a direct eco bonus, instead causes enemy TCs to work progressively slower. It’s an unusual bonus that hopefully isn’t too toxic, and also fits the Vandal theme of destruction rather than construction.

it is because it passively and indirectly ruins their plans, their strategy and their timings. Even if only 2 seconds, you are now 8% villagers and seconds ahead and there’s nothing they can do to prepare for this. They just accept a permanent negative and that’s called anti-fun.


I figured as much. How would you change it while keeping the same basic idea?

Maybe if you attack a building it slows down work/attack rate or drops less resources? Not sure honestly in this case, but it needs to be something more proactive and not something that punishes an enemy without your hard work besides “pick Vandals”

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Yes, this is easily the single worst bonus I’ve ever seen proposed by anyone. From a gameplay point of view, it would render you completely unable to play aggressively at any point of the game. The fact that it’s rounded up makes it particularly bad for archers. It would have be balanced by a significant HP bonus or discount and training time reduction, and even then, it wouldn’t be fun to use. From a thematic point of view, it makes no sense at all. Are we to believe that all Persian soldiers are so incompetent that they will literally kill themselves? And why would a temple function like an outpost?

On the other hand, I think this kind of suggestion is pretty rare. I don’t remember seeing many other negative bonuses proposed by anyone.

Yeah, this sounds anti-fun to me – especially in team games. It’s hard to know what else to suggest because I also don’t understand what you’re trying to convey thematically with it. You mentioned

the Vandal theme of destruction rather than construction.

but I don’t see how it’s related to that. For that, I’d expect something that helps you destroy things, e.g. cavalry benefit from arson.

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The gist I believe is to build heal aura outposts as you fight to offset your self mutilation. Its still garbage. Just grt rid of it and reduce the regen aura accordingly to balance out and it works fine

Also then you have less extreme but still godawful bonuses like “train 33% faster but cost 66% more” or the reverse and or inverse of that!

It’s still bad either way.

Another bonus to avoid is the newb trap. a bonus like “can train militia at the town center” is bad because it may make you think “wow I can drush harder and faster… why is my economy so dead!?”

This is bad because it gameplay design encourages players to not keep a flow of villagers pumping out because of the suggestion to make an infantryman!

The old Goth bonus exemplifies this well as going from a 0% to 35 discount doesn’t inspire the idea of going for a drush at all. By starting smaller however it can still make you feel like you havent sunk cost wasted your money on an early raid.

Another bonus that can bother me is the start with free berry bush. It’s there ripe fresh and under your TC super safe and juicy… wait were my boars lured again?!

I fear newer players will assume they need to start berrying asap instead of going for a normal build order. Same is true when I once suggested starting with 2 free farms. Its not bad at all just a newer player will be tripped up.

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