The Gothic unique unit, the Huskarl or “House Carl”, is both a beloved and despised unit, loved by players and loathed. Let us discuss this unit and the Goths civ:
For a recap: the Goths civ is heavily infantry-based, and geared for offensive gameplay lacking Stone Walls at all, no upgrades above Watch Tower and even lacking the final armour upgrade for their infantry. But their infantry are numerous and terrifying, being easy to produce with both Champion and Halberdier upgrade, as well as the Huskarl allowed to be produced in the Barracks upon researching the unique tech ‘Anarchy’ (aptly named to be sure).
Now, the Goths are a strong civ, no doubt about it, which is why they are both beloved and hated throughout the Age community. but recently, I have been thinking that the Huskarl is a strange unit given the massive pierce armor that unit has.
First off: there is no historical record–that I could find-- that the Goths were skilled at repelling enemy archers with only infantry, as the Huskarl in Age II can so aptly do (yes, I know this is just a videogame and not perfectly historically accurate but hear me out first).
In the Byzantine-Gothic War where the Byzantine general Belisarius fought the Ostrogothic kingdoms in an attempt to reconquer Italy for the Roman Empire he inflicted much defeat on the Goths using his elite bucellari cavalry, a hybrid of cavalry archers and heavy cavalry (which the in-game Cataphracts represent, and hence that unit’s anti-infantry bonus): "Roman cavalry once again utilized its familiar tactics, showering the dense mass of Gothic troops with arrows and withdrawing without contact. Thus they inflicted great casualties on the Goths, who were unable to adapt to these tactics, and by midday, the Romans seemed close to victory." Siege of Rome (537–538) - Wikipedia
Also illustrated in Epic History TV’s “Belisarius” series: Belisarius: The Battle of Rome (3/6) - YouTube
Now I can get why the devs back in 1999 wanted to make the Goths have an anti-archer unit in the form of the Huskarl, to make up for the weakness that the Champion and Halberdiers have… but the Goths have access to Bracer, the best archer upgrade which only benefits their Archery Range roster. The Goths can create Elite Skirms, which Bracer is incredibly useful for, as well as Heavy Cavalry Archer and the Crossbowman. But Goths cannot make Arbalesters. The civ itself has NO bonuses whatsoever to give any player playing Goths reason to use Heavy Cavalry Archers and Elite Skirms to perform an anti-archer role when the Huskarl exists, AND can be produces easily and quickly in the Barracks AND Castle, AND which is heavily promoted by all the Goths overly prominant infantry bonuses.
This is to say that despite the Goths civ have decent Archery Range and even Stable rosters, the civ is literally covered in all fights using nothing but infantry. The Goths do not even need to use Siege as their infantry has a uber bonus against buildings! (historically, this is reasonable though as the Goths themselves were terrible at siege warfare and made crude siege engines, as illustrated clearly in the 537-538 AD Siege of Rome (refer to the YouTube video linked above). But why even give Goths the Bracer tech, and Elite Skirms and H. Cavalry Archer when the Huskarl fills their roles completely if not better?
Now this could be a problem ever since “Anarchy” was introduced in the Age of Conquerors expansion, making Huskarls Barracks-created units, which upset the balance that was struck in Age of Kings but this is just me speculating. Perhaps Goths were quite weak without Anarchy? Love to hear your thoughts on this… but it is much agreed that Goths are one of the most powerful civs in this game.
Going back to the “Bracer” topic, Goths only benefit reasonably from Bracer with their Towers, Castles, and Galleons. Naval battles aside, the Goths are not particularly emphasized for being “defensive”. They only get Watch Towers, and there is no real need to make Castles except for defense, and to research Perfusion, Anarchy, Petards, Trebuchets, the Elite Huskarl tech, and more Huskarls. But once Anarchy is made, Huskarls can be made in Barracks, making the Gothic Castle as a UU production facility obsolete.
So I wonder why the Goths are structured thusly: a anti-archer infantry unit that makes Gothic Archery Range roster somewhat useless, is historically not proven to be really “archer resilient” (even the Huskarl’s actual armor does not speak as “arrow resistant”, with an open face covering, exposed arms, and simply plate leggings. The Teutonic Knight, and Sergeant by comparison visually look the part of “arrow resistant”. Methinks the Huskarl ought to perhaps be nerfed… perhaps take away their pierce armor and make them buffed else where like HP, foot speed, melee armor, etc. and make a Goth player encouraged to make more use out of Archery Range units, Mangonels, Scorpions, and melee cavalry to fulfill the anti-archer role to defend Gothic infantry. (The Goths in real life were also respectably cavalry warriors too. They were not just “all infantry”. Probably why the devs gave the civ Hussars and Cavaliers fully upgraded in the Stable roster).
This may seem like I am hating on the Goths civs, and in a manner… it is true. But I myself do enjoy playing the Goths and reenacting the terror they unleashed on the Roman world in Late Antiquity! I do not want to nerf the Goths civ into obscurity… but perhaps we should look at how to make the Goths both more historically accurate, and more fair in the current meta.
Share your thoughts below!