Sicilians are controversial. Many people have strong negative feelings about their donjon strategies.
Now, this alone wouldn’t be enough if they were decent, but they’re also currently the second worst civ in the game at both 1200+ and 1900+, so clearly there is some merit to these feelings. However, they are also quite decent below 1200, with around a 52% win rate, so simple economic fixes probably are’t on the table; they need to be fixed with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.
I think the biggest fundamental problem is the Donjon. At lower elos, the awkwardness of this building doesn’t matter as much, because people make enough mistakes by default, it tends to just fade into the background noise. But at higher elos, it quickly becomes apparent that the Donjon has some very awkward traits that make it frustrating to play with, to say the least.
- The Donjon can’t be built until the feudal age.
This is a problem because it completely eliminates the possibility of an infantry rush. Building 3 militia and upgrading them to MAA on the way over, creating a brief feudal power spike, is one of the most effective ways to use an infantry civilization. But since the Donjon can’t be built until the feudal age, and because it takes 90 seconds to build instead of 50, it forcibly delays the sicilian build order significantly. This also causes issues with other rush approaches; if you want to go for either archers or scouts, it’s unacceptable to have to wait an extra 90 seconds after hitting the feudal age to take advantage of it.
Essentially, this renders the ability to use the Donjon as a prereq for other production buildings useless.
- The Donjon’s cost.
Another issue with the Donjon is its higher cost. While on the surface, getting more bang should require more buck, the reality is that in the feudal age and even early castle age, coverage is often more important than raw offensive power. For the same price, another civ can cover 42% more of the map. In the event of being tower rushed, while the Sicilians will win any individual fight, they can easily lose the war, because they will be attacked in multiple places at once, and will lack the resources to defend against all of them. Plus, with their slower build speed, they’ll be up later, and may not even win the fight if they’re started at the same time!
The higher cost only really becomes worthwhile after the economy is developed and they can be placed in more locations around the map, but by then, the superior pinpoint offensive power of a castle instead tends to take the fore. Per cost, castle age donjons do about 65% the damage a castle can do, so their relative value is diminished by comparison. Only in the Imperial Age, when they reach their maximum stats and Arrow Slits is reasearched, do they begin to compete, which does align with their win rate, which becomes positive in the lategame.
- The Donjons overlap with the Castle.
A third flaw of the Donjon is its overlap with the Castle. Both produce the Unique Unit of the civ, but the Castle does many more important things, like researching vital techs and producing trebuchets. The question must be asked; why make a Donjon when a Castle will do? The only real advantage of a Donjon is area coverage, but by the time you can afford enough to achieve significant coverage, their lower individual offensive power, paired with higher enemy armor and HP, can mean an enemy simply running past with minimal damage, while a castle may do damage strong enough to make traveling through unacceptable. Furthermore, a Castle can heal garrisoned units at twice the speed AND garrison and protect cavalry units, which might not seem like major advantages, but which do add up overall.
Quite simply, Donjons dont produce enough value on their own just from their slightly higher damage and ability to produce Serjeants.
Now, the thing to bear in mind is, Sicilians are already powerful at lower ELOs. I think this is because it’s very easy to just spam donjons and build more serjeants to build more donjons. It’s a simple strategy, but simple is best at lower skill levels. So outright buffing donjons or their build speed isn’t a very viable solution, since it might make them OP at lower ELOs.
Something that doesn’t matter as much at lower Elos, however, is the sheer awkwardness of their earlygame use. I think the best answer is to allow donjons to be built in the Dark Age. The dark age variant shouldn’t be able to produce any units or fire any arrows, and should be very weak. On the flipside, it would count for aging up, and immediately upgrade to a feudal age donjon on reaching that age. This would save 90 seconds of vital time and allow a much wider variety of strategies to be used. This bonus wouldn’t have much impact at lower skill levels, but would make a major difference at higher skill ratings.
After this, there remains the issue of their relative mediocrity in the castle age. To fix this, I would lean into their capabilities as tactical bases, rather than making them outright better for combat purposes. Allow them to garrison cavalry, and increase their healing rate from the tower rate of 6/minute, to the full castle rate of 12/minute. Combined with Herbal Medicine, and the relative tankiness of the Serjeant, this could allow them to be used to R&R damaged units and apply greater pressure, especially in the middle parts of the game.
By going this way, they will serve a different tactical niche compared to the castle, and can be useful in different ways, justifying their existence, rather than their current version, which is basically just an inferior castle.
The last thing I’d really like to tweak with them is their team bonus:
Transport Ships: +5 LOS, -50% cost.
It’s…okay? I guess? But honestly, it’s not exactly the sort of thing that majorly changes the flow of a game. Generally speaking, you’re not spending so much on these units to make this really change a game too much, and it’s nowhere near as useful as, say, faster building stables or archery ranges.
What I’d like to see instead is for it to give a similar bonus to trade units. Something like:
Trade Units(Carts and Cogs) +5 LOS, +3/3 armor.
This could have some interesting effects even on 1v1 maps, since you could potentially use these much tankier units to steal gold from an enemy dock or market, but would also help significantly on team maps, making trade units significantly more durable!
On the whole, I think these changes are fairly reserved, but would go a long way towards making the sicilians more diverse and capable, especially in the early game.