Making Burmese and Khmer rely mainly on Battle Elephants instead of Knights. Opinions?

So, this is something that has been hovering around in my head for a while, and I’d like to know what you think. But first some disclameirs:

  • This is not something I think must be done. I’m not 100% convinced it would be good either. I just wanna express my ideas and see what are your opinions.
  • I acknowdlege Khmer are in a really good spot in terms of design and balance, Burmese, not so much.
  • Every change I mention here does not exist in a void. If you think something else should be changed to make these ideas plausible feel free to say it.

Now, to the topic.

I know that historical accuracy is not (and should not be) a prority when designing a civilization. However, I think most of us agree that a well designed civilization is built with some of their most know historical traits being somehow represented on the gameplay experience.

In this regards something that I feel like a dissapointment in terms of representation is the way Burmese and (specially) Khmer gameplay are oriented. Despite no direct bonus towards them, these civs tend to build their armies around knights. And it’s totally fne from a pure gameplay perspective, but you’ll see, I am a big fan of the concept of the game broadly representing different cultures from around the world, something only a handful of games do on pair with engaging gameplay.
And when I think about the empires and armies of Southeast Asia, this is what comes to mind:

This the fantasy the gameplay of these civs should evoke, and what the design of the RotR civs was oriented to when they released. Not this:


Currently the only ones to achieve this design direction are the Malay, being played mainly as an archer civ buth with the possibility of going for battle elephants supported by infantry and archers.
This is because their knights are utterly trash and, while their elephants are not top tier units precisely, they don’t have knights competing against them.
And that’s one of the issue with battle elephants. There are veeery few situations where you would choose BE instead of (decent) knights.

So, that was the “flaw”, if you want to call it that way, or rather, the aspect where I see room for improvement.

Now, my idea is, first:

  • A general buff to battle elephants. This has been already discussed in other threads, with changes including faster mov speed, cheaper cost and/or less damage recieved from halbs.

And then, in order to adress the unit directly competing against elephants for a place in the army, and as drastic as it sound, either:

  • Remove the cavalier upgrade for Khmer and Burmese

  • Remove the knight line altogether for those civs

This means that heavy cavalry is not there to directly compete against the elephants, making effectively the option of these civs for an all purpose cavalry units.
“What? You would destroy those civs. You’re making their gameplay less diverse and taking away their only viable option!” You may think.
I know it sounds like a lot for such a non issue, but let’s think about it.

Currently, those units virtually don’t exist for those civs. You never see BE in semi-competitive situtations and above. By making elephants good at the cost of knights it’s practically replacing a unit line for another one.

Burmese are already going through identity and balance issues. Devs have tried hard to keep their distinctive aspect of having bad skirmishers by trying to make their battle elephants thougher. But the elephants’ issues are too many to be solved by just giving them more piece armor. A general buff to this unit, along with other changes, could be part of a solution for the burmese.

Now Khmers do not need any of this, I know, it’s true. But I believe that with proper buffs to the battle elephants they would not suffer losing acces to cavaliers (or even knights) as much as it may seem, and it would give them a very disctinct immersion other than being a knight civ.

And besides everything I said, and far less important, it’s geographcal and historically accurate. The jungles of Southeast Asia were not a good place for breeding horses and developing equestrian traditions. I couldn’t find any reference to heavy cavalry being use for those civs, despite an extensive search. Khmers didn’t have their own heavy cavalry at all ! They imported some horses from China.

I genuinely believe the benefits of these changes are worth the troubles we may go through in order to implement them effectively.

That was it.
As I said, this is not something I demand to be done, or anything like that. I just wanted to share it and hear you thoughts. Thanks for reading.


Elephants are very different of knights and serves differents uses you cannot remove knights when wanting battle elephants to replace them, because, you should also changing the battle elephant to be a knight but with different skin which is a very poor design and reduce the gameplay variety. look at bengalis, dravidians do you see elephant instead of knights ? no we see crossbows instead and these civs are very weak.

Knight are knight and are very polyvalent.

Battle elephant is a unit which is very expensive and can be used in late imperial especially in tg, where in 1v1 ,the lack of gold income at post imp make them situationnal.

The lack of cavalier will make a nerf for nothing especially for burmese and the lack of knight line will make them unplayable vs elite skirm plays especially burmese again , you can buff elephant as you want that will not solve the issue because they are contered very easily with monks and are very expensive, if you make them going to take a place instead of knight you need to make a copy of knight which are a big no to me.


I like your idea, but as long as the Archer/knight meta persists, I think that this would end up being detrimental to their balance (they would become weaker). In an “ideal” balance where all units have a relevant role in the game this wouldn’t even be an issue, but some changes would need to be made, and it seems like the developers don’t want to experiment too much with the gameplay (remember that 2 decades have passed and the militia line is still subpar 11).

We already have Bengalis to demonstrate this would never work until BE are buffed so much that they will become uber-broken in team games.
They’re too food heavy and slow for competitive play. You can’t raid with them, you can’t force fights with them, you can’t retreat if anything goes wrong with them.
One Bengalis is enough.


Battle eles need to be redesigned. It’s just the truth, they don’t fit the requirements for a competitive unit and are too “strong” for non-competitive.


I will highlight this to everyone thinking removing Knight from Cumans, Mongols and Tatars would make Steppe Lancer to fill the role tho.


Well, this is an important point of disagreeing.

I do believe that knights, BE and steppe lancers are very similar units filling the same role. They are generalist gold units countered by halb and monks. Yes, steppe lancers do not cost as much gold and are slightly better at raiding, and elephants are tankier and slower, but those differences in stats are not enough to make up for a distinct role.

Let’s be honest, those units were created without a clear role in mind. They served only marketing purposes. Elephants were supposed to be the go to unit for the SEA civs, and steppe lancers were always promoted as “strong in group” as their only distinct feature. “Strong in group” is not a role. “Only viable when you have lots of resources in post imp” isn’t either.

Could they be reworked and given a unique purpose in the game? Yes. Steppe lancers could be the rading unit, and elephants… I cannot think of a role for elephants. But that would need a rework of the those units. Right now they are generalist units, same as knights. Just worse versions, useless in the case of battle elephants.

All of this is refering to the current version of battle elephants. I mentioned a general buff to them as one of the proposed changes to solve their main issues.
And asserting they can’t be viable in 1v1 without being broken in team games is a narrow mindset that resigns to any solution even before anything had been tried.

1 Like

Man… Steppe Lancer aren’t generalists, look at their stats, weaker attack, armor and HP, but faster, cheaper on gold and faster to mass.

They aren’t intended to replace Knights, but to be an unit able to kill villagers behind walls, and micro intensive.
They can gain some bonus vs eagles (since none of the steppe civs get supplies) and villagers, so they are great at that, but never be the same (or better than Knight line), I mean remember how OP were at release…
Plus actually pros find some nice uses for Steppe Lancer, check this game:

Some units just need roles to be great a that, no straight up better version of ordinary units (remember when Konniks at release or Leitis post buff used to be too strong? because ended up being straight up better than knight line).

Back when Konnik was OP, one example how Viper was just dominating with just Konniks nothing more.

Or back when Leitis was straight up better than Lithuanian paladin in 1v1.

I couldn’t find other games with battle eles, but check this old balance discussion thread on aoezone:

At the time battle ele was deemed too strong for good reasons.
At this point FE is already quite conservative when buffing other cav UUs to be viable in high levels.

This would be good and would probably be enough in and of itself without having to resort to some of the weirder changes.

This is a terrible substitute for actually making a unit viable, to say nothing of knightline and BEs having different roles. Trying to make BEs function as a knight substitute is just fundamentally a bad call in every way.

I assume you’re talking 1v1s? They’re one of the best power units in TGs and in those situations I se SE Asian civs make BEs more often than not.

This is entirely speculation/opinion on your part, has nothing to do with being honest. They had a pretty clear role when first introduced, but were too strong in that role (mainly for Khmer), hence the nerfs and our current state, where they are still useful in TGs.

1 Like

A general buff has already been tried in the form of the original battle elephants.
Go check the history of battle elephant in aoe2 and you’ll find that they were substantially NERFED because Khmer’s eco paired with their old stats made them super overpowered in team games.
Now if you proposed a REWORK like casus said then I’d not say the same, because a rework is not a mere buff, but you just said a bunch of things that make me think you’d just buff them

This is a straight buff and this will not work at all. This would make Khmer’s elephant OP again in team games. Moreover, we already have faster elephants (Khmer’s), elephants that receive less damage from halbs (Bengalis’) and elephants that are cheaper (Malay’s). You’re not proposing anything new or that makes me think elephants wouldn’t fall again in the same trap as before.
And just going lightly on this with, like, a 5% movement buff or 5% discount wouldn’t do anything to promote viability at all.

This is not a narrow mindset, this is an opinion based on what happened in the past.
And what happened in the past is a brutal nerf to every battle elephant because just one civ made them shine particularly in team games.


knight is too op for 20 years and it is time to nerf them to the ground. So that elephant and Steppe Lancer can be better to fill its role

This is hilarious, half the community wants BE buffed while the other half aka Arena clowns want them nerfed. Guess who the devs have listened so far

1 Like

Just to avoid misunderstandings

I don’t pursue a goal along these lines. What I wanted to adress was the “issue” of Burmese and Khmer beng a heavy cavalry cv when they didn’t even made use of heavy cavalry.

just buff the early game and nerf the late game and it fixed

I do like the idea of removing knight line from Burmese and Khmer. However, we need to see how they would buff BE before removing knight line for these civs because if the buff doesn’t suffice, it would be a disaster change. Also, if you are going to remove knight line for Burmese, then this civ will need a major overhaul as they literally has nothing else to play with aside from monk maybe, infantries are still irrelevant in castle age so it doesn’t count.

1 Like

It’s a well known problem in RTS design, having units that are too pop efficient in certain settings.
The simple solution lots of games adopted is a population resource, ie. Elephants cost 1.5 or 2 pop. That might open a can of worms however and is generally shunned upon in AoE2 community.

I get your point but given that elephant is now too weak, maybe knight will have 2 pop and elephant will only have 1 pop?

That’s backwards, a problematic unit is usually fixed much more readily by changing it and not a ‘competing’ unit. And it’s arguable if knights are competing with eles and I don’t think it’s a good idea to nerf 80+% of the game’s civs.

The idea is to buff elephants in a relevant way in 1v1 (like speed/bonus damage) while having them cost more pop. This way they aren’t too overbearing in team games settings as you’ll have a lower power ceiling no matter what. As I said it’s tried and true game design but it does require a redesign of maybe all civs (eventually) so probably not a good idea for aoe2.

1 Like

So, if I got it right, the problem is they are too strong in post-imp team games when close to the pop cap and resources are plenty, right?

Is it only the elite battle elephant the strong one? Or regular BE are broken as well?
Cause f it’s only the EBE, then it could be heavily nerfed (something like only +20 HP and +2 attack).

1 Like

I’m not too fan of the idea of changing the elephant’s population cost because in the games that use differen pop costs for different units it’s done for basically every unit while in AoE2 there are only 2 units on only 2 civs involved (and let’'s be real mahayana is Goth bonus bis so it’s kinda only one). Which means either:

  • you will have to change the ele’s stats so it’s not worse than the same pop amount of other units, but then why not just change its stats without changing its pop if its stats are going to change no matter what.

  • make some other units have different pop costs as well, but the reasons it’s unlikely to happen should be pretty self evident.