The Goth UU problem

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!

The Goths are already pretty weak on most open maps, due to the lack of an early eco bonus, and they kind of need the Huskarl, it’s one of their best units. They definitely don’t need nerfs like this, and it actually makes the civ more boring. Right now, each of the three Gothic infantry units have a specific role, Infantry Killer, Archer Killer, and Cav Killer. Take out the Archer Killer, and what do they have? Sure, you can play Skirms or whatever, but that doesn’t really work as well with the theme the Goths have. Goths are an average civ at best on most maps, so don’t nerf what doesn’t need nerfs. Also, historical accuracy is nice, but definitely not something to balance around like this.


Uhhh ok? But the civ is supposed to be about infantry only, that’s why they get the Huskarl to deal with archers and HC.

How would you replace the Huskarl without ruining their identity?


Goths are a strong and terrifying civ until you reach a certain elo after that its mid tier and when you become a 1700+ player you’ll realize that its one of the weakest civs for 1v1 except for maps like Socotra.
There are several threads even suggesting some kinds of buffs to make the civ playable

Can we have a TL;DR?


This is an extract that fills that purpose:
“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.”


I don’t think Huskarls are a problem, but since part of your issue seems to be with them not making historical sense, here’s my take on the design:

The Goths civ isn’t just based on the Goths, but more broadly on early medieval Germanic peoples. The high pierce armour of Huskarls is presumably based on shield wall tactics; the Huskarl’s shield design is based on the shields used by early medieval Germanic soldiers (e.g. Anglo-Saxons) in shield walls. Whether shield walls actually provided good protection against arrows, I don’t know (I think they were usually used in infantry vs infantry situations), but it makes some intuitive sense.

As for Elite Skirmishers, pretty much every civ gets them, so I wouldn’t read anything into it. Cavalry Archers and Bracer might be there to help them against units that are difficult to beat in melee, like Teutonic Nights and Cataphracts.

Not sure if you’re being sarcastic here. Huskarls acted as royal guards and fought for kings (e.g. for Harold Godwinson, as seen in the Bayeux Tapestry). It doesn’t get much less anarchist than that.


I can concur with this.

I myself realized that Goths are exceptionally weak if attacked in the early game.

The mantra goes thusly: “A Late-game Goth is a nigh unbeatable Goth”


I find that the Gothic Huskarl is a bit OP as an anti-archer unit, both for historical and gameplay reasons and I think that perhaps it ought to be retooled in order to make the Gothic Archery Range roster more useful.

…how’s that?

YES! Exactly. Well done @TheConqueror753 !

I was being serious.

“Anarchy” stands for “that which is chaotic” and having Huskarls able to be produced from the Barracks is chaotic for any player fighting the Goths as the Gothic player can switch to Huskarls, Halbs, or Champions depending on the situation and since it is only from ONE particular building, it makes it difficult to react too, especially to rookie players in Ranked gameplay.

If a player has, say 3 Stables and is just building 2 Archery Ranges, you can at least reasonably guess that that player is going to shift from his Scout/Knight Rush into cavalry archers/Skirms/or Crossbows. But if a Goth player is making… more Barracks, then you can only guess what is being produced from them, until said units are produced and fighting against you!

I am aware of their historical origins. Technically, besides a “Gothic” unit they ought to be a Vikings unit as well.

Yeah, the name ‘Anarchy’ makes sense when interpreted figuratively but not literally. I don’t think there are any other upgrades with figurative names though. (But there are a few that don’t make sense, e.g. Furor Celtics, El Dorado, Chatras.)

This post is something I would have taken semi-seriously in the AoC days. Since then, not so much.

Sure there are some historical inaccuracies. Welcome to AoE2. Yes, the huskarl is a mold-breaker type unit that is one of the (few) things that is still good about Goths.

Nope. Goth infantry is countered by a single unit (militia line) comp of any civ with very strong infantry. Also by specialist units like slingers and hand cannoneers. Also by massed scorps. To say nothing of mixed comps that can do well.

By who? 800 Elo players who never bought an expansion since The Conquerors?

Yeah, no need to put the devs out of a job.

there’s your problem right there

if you approach it with this mindset you’re already on the back foot

No, I would argue the Goths are a weak civ. So there is doubt about it. A lot of doubt about it.

They are a strong civ if you don’t know how to punish them before they get their Huskarls out or don’t know how to counter their Huskarls, both of which as possible.

And beside Huskarls, the Goths aren’t that great. The Goth civ is the Huskarls. They are a one trick pony and even that trick isn’t that great. So the Goths are a weak civ imo.

Historically speaking, you are right about Goths not being historically accurate. But what I think the devs wanted to do is create that “Gothic invasion” kind of feeling where a horde of units attack you and devastate everything in their way. Which in Age of Empires 2, it’s not possible with a unit that can easily be killed by arrows.

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Besides my own experience, after I take into consideration the games of my friends and other online games I have been a part of or have seen on YouTube, Goths are powerful. I see no evidence that they are “weak”.

Yes, I am well aware that there are counters to fight the Goth spam whether it be knocking them out early in Feudal Age or Castle Age rushing, to in raiding their eco so thoroughly to keep the Gothic player from any economy recovery, or to fight the Goths with Siege Onagers, Samurai, Cataphracts, gunpowder, etc.

But I find that if a Gothic player is well entrenched in the pocket, with a safe eco, they the spam becomes very difficult to handle.

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You could start with the bad stats for them, and then add in the fact that they rarely see use at higher levels of plsy in tournaments. Plenty of evidence right there