The growing problem of "Mechanics Creep", and why it's bad in the long term

I have been hearing a lot about how the older civs feels bland compared to some of the new civs, and how some unit or tech (shrivamsha rider, you aren’t dodging this one) doesn’t “feel like AoE2”. So, I thought about this a lot and came to the conclusion that “Mechanics creep” is a thing that has been happening in the game a lot. Note that this is a lot of theory crafting. I hope you enjoy that kind of thing, but if you don’t, this might not interest you.

To explain this, let me start with what I call “Standard Mechanics”. This is a bonus, or UT that changes one or more of the properties of a unit, or building. However, the property that is being changed is just a number attached to the unit. Additionally, this number must also apply to all other units of the same category (or all units in general), and should have a visible effect on all those units.
These are things like creation time, cost, attack rate, attack range, movement speed, armour, bonus damage, bonus damage resistance, etc.

Most of the older civs only have bonuses or UTs that adhere to the standard mechanics. Britons have archers with longer range, franks have cheaper castles, goths produce infantry faster, Japanese get faster attacking infantry, In fact, most bonuses and UTs across all civs in the game fall into this category. This also includes building bonuses like Inca house giving 10 pop space, frank castles being cheaper, teuton castles having extra range, and japanese towers firing extra arrows. This is the standard aoe2 feeling of mechanics, and anything that fits within this is okay for the most part.

Note that Standard mechanics can be exciting or boring. Mongol’s drill, Ethiopian’s Torsion Engines, and Spanish Supremacy fall within standard mechanics.

The second category I propose is “Resource Alteration Mechanics”. This includes bonuses or UTs that change the type of resources that is generated from an action, or that is required by an action. Note that discounts or bonuses of the same resources type (like aztec relics giving extra gold) doesn’t fall under this category. Some of the examples are pole’s stone mining bonus, portugese berry bonus, Detinets changing some of the cost of castles and towers to wood, bengali trade bonus, Vietnamese Paper Money, and Keshiks and viking infantry creating gold while attacking.
This category has weird oddities, but is still okay for the most part, I think. The community generally dislikes “you get x type resource while doing y” bonuses, but these don’t feel totally out of place.

The last category that I want to propose among the general mechanics is “Transposition Mechanics”. This only applies to buildings and technologies(except UTs). This is when you allow one building to serve the function/create a unit of another standard building (building available to most civs and not unique buildings), or allow a building to serve a function it can do in another age.

An example of the first type is Khmer vils being able to garrison in houses, and teuton infantry being able to fire from towers and castles. Goth huskarl being able to produced from Barracks and Tarkans being able to produced from stables also fall under this category. afaik, there are no buildings that fishing ships can garrison in. Therefore, the gurjara bonus of fishing ships being able to garrison in docks does not fall under this category, in my opinion. Examples of the second type include cumans being able to build TCs and rams in feudal age, and bohemians being able to research chemistry in castle age.

These 3 main categories of Mechanics are what I would consider AoE2 Mechanics. These are broad categories that generally “feel like AoE2”. There are more than at least 5 civs that get bonuses or UTs from each of these categories, and most mechanics in the future should also stick to these, imo.

To avoid confusion, let me also describe what a mechanic means in this context. What is a Mechanic? I do not think that this is a super important question, nor do I think that one can give a perfect and definitive answer to this question. I’ll give a general answer, which is open to interpretaions.

A mechanic is the broadest set of rules that can encapsulate a phenomenon or occurrence. This set of rules cannot be the complete lack of existence of a thing. These rules should be described in terms of, and considered as being applied to general categories like “units”, “buildings”, “economic units” or “siege units” or “monk units” rather than individual units like “leitis” or “hussite wagons”, whenever possible. However, it can, and should, take partial occurrences and numerical differences into consideration. Two or more different mechanics shouldn’t explain the same phenomenon, and all mechanics taken together should describe the game completely.

There are a few other mechanics in the older civs (those included in the HD Edition). These include Feitorias, a building that can produce unlimited amount of resources, attacking through units in Kamayuks and Steppe Lancers, and a unit taking up pop-space which is not 1, in karambit warriors. Units being able to garrison in other units (Rams, Siege Towers), Units being able to pass over walls and buildings (siege towers), projectile blocking (rams, hussite wagons), Units being able to do splash damage (Slav infantry, Elite Battle Elephants, Siege Rams, Cataphracts, etc) .Please feel free to mention any which I might’ve missed.

SO, HERE’S THE PROBLEM. There are mechanics that does not fall with any of the generalized categories that I proposed, and their number has been increasing with each new expansion. Most importantly, these mechanics only applies to few units and civs. In many cases, these only apply to one unit or one civ. Let’s go over them. I’ll keep track of them in the format [EM1] (extra mechanics 1), [EM2], etc.

EDIT NOTE: The numberings are partly broken because a few changes from comments had to be included, and I don’t want to break any references.


  • [EM1] “Charged Attack” with Coustillier. This mechanic has now also been added to urumi swordsman. So, this is a mechanic affecting 2 civs/units.
  • [EM2] The more egregious example of a mechanic is the infamous “Felmish Revolution”. This is a mechanic that converts one unit into another unit in the game, and there is only one civ that is affected by this mechanic.
  • [EM3] A non-villager unit is able to create a building. This is a new mechanic that only affects one civ as well.
  • [EM4] The sicilians are able to create x number of units instanty with a UT, which is another new mechanic. This is now also present in Bengalis, where 2 vils instantly spawn (per TC), upon reaching a new age.


  • [EM5] Obuch. A unit which can reduce the melee armour of a unit which each attack. This is a mechanic that affects just Poles.
  • [EM6] Poles get another unique ####### in the folwark, which collects x number of resources instantly from a resource.
  • [EM7] Folwark is also the first building with an AoE (Area of Effect) mechanic. Hindustani Caravensarai and Celt stronghold castles have since been introduced, making it a total of 3.


  • [EM8] A unit that can change its attack in the Bengali Ratha. No other unit in the game can do this.
  • I wouldn’t consider this totally new, but Bengalis having a tech which changes the pop space of vils and monks is an oddity.
  • [EM9] Arguably the worst civ for new mechanics, the Gurajaras. Shrivamsha rider dodging projectiles is the first one.
  • [EM10] Herdables being able to garrison in Guraja Mills to produce food.

In the upcoming DLC, we get a brand-new mechanic.

  • [EM12] Romans have a unit which can affect other units in an area around it.

Only two of the DLC civs lack new mechanics, Bohemians and Dravidians.

If we consider all the civs added in Definitive Edition, with The Last Khans expansion, we have the following additions to the list.

  • [EM13] Bulgarians Konniks, which is 2 units in one unit. They turn into infantry after being killed in cavalry form. Note that Konniks spawning from Kreposts is not a new mechanic, and falls under Transposition Mechanics.
  • [EM14] Lituanians Leitis, a unit which can ignore melee armour. Melee armour is something you can upgrade with blacksmith bonuses, while you have little to no control over bonus armours. This mechanic has since been repeated in the Dravidian UT, “Wootz Steel”
  • [EM15] Tartars get flaming camel. This was the only civ unit locked behind a UT. Burgundian Flemish militia has since been introduced, making it a total of 2 civs/units.
  • [EM16] Cumans UT allos their allies to create their unique unit for free. All of the other “shared units” are available as a team bonus, and not locked behind the civ’s UT (Genitour, Condottieros, and Imperial Skirmishers)

In my opinion, the addition of all these new mechanics will make the game feel disjointed and fragmented, over time. We know that the community has vocal against some of the new mechanics, but I think the issue is broader than that.

While these new mechanics might make these new civs feel a bit more special, there are a lot of negative effects

  1. It makes civs without any new mechanics feel a bit more stale
  2. It increases the complexity of the game without necessarily increasing its depth. New players have to learn that some of these new civs have mechanics which doesn’t fit in with the orignial game at all.
  3. It makes the game more difficult to balance. Some of these new mechanics, like Flemish revolution, can completely destroy balance.
  4. It makes the game feel fragmented. If you add like 10 more mechanics, this game will feel like a disjointed collection of civs which should’ve belonged to different games.

Here’s my hot take: A mechanic that only affects a single civilization, or a single unit, shouldn’t exist. I realize that this is not possible any more, but there is a fix. Don’t introduce new mechanics with any new civs. Make these “Extra Mechanics” part of a broader category. For example, add like 3 more civs with units which have charged attack, and now charged attack doesn’t feel like an isolated mechanic any more.

Maybe the devs can add in a new infantry unit which has an area of affect property, and give it to all civs. That mechanic will then feel like an inherent part of the game, and work better.

So, that’s my thesis. Please chime in if you have any opinions, I’d love to listen to some interesting theory crafting. QED.

EDIT: A few corrections and additions, as recommended by @SMUM15236, @Nerathion, @TwerDefender @Apocalypso4826

The following entries are removed because of errors:

  • [EM7] Hindustanis get a building with an AOE (Area of effect, heh) property which isn’t just arrow fire. With the latest update, celts get one as well, in their stronghold. Still, just 2 civs. Poles get the folwark, a building with an AoE effect.
  • [EM11] Changing the environment to add new resources, in the guraja bonus of 2 bushes under TC Incas have a bonus of extra Llama spawns, and tartars have a bonus of extra sheep spawn. All these mechanics are functionally the same, in that they provide a means to produce extra resources which is not through farms.

Hussite Wagon blocking arrows? Urumis also have a different charge attack from the Coustillier, the Urumi one deals splash damage on the charge.


And then there are people who call other people crazy because they just want the units we already have ingame being used by more civs (Eagle Warriors, Steppe Lancers, Battle Elephants).

The mechanics creep is real.


Hussite wagon mechanic is similar to the ram mechanic, so I would group them together. It is definitely a mechanic that only affects 2 units, but it affects almost all civs. So it’s fine, I think.

Urumi is a combination of two mechanics. The splash is shared by slav FU infantry, Polish Hussars, Urumis, Cataphracts, and most importantly, Elite Battle Elephants, Siege Rams, and Siege Elephants. This is a mechanic that’s shared by like a dozen civs.

The charge is only shared between Urumis and Coustilliers.

Rams are because the arrow is hitting their hitbox. Hussite Wagons are because the hitbox is reducing the damage of projectiles that pass through it. They are not the same.


In my opinion this game desperately needs new mechanics to stay relevant. After playing Cossacks 2, Starcraft, Age of Mythology, Total War, Battle for Middle Earth and others it really feels like this game doesn’t have a lot of strategic depth outside of making numerical based decisions for attack and defense strength. There is still some basic RTS micro and positioning that makes battling interesting, but it’s pretty limited compared to the other titles I’ve played. New civs should introduce new mechanics so that they’re not retreading the same bonuses and make for interesting choices in playstyle.

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This one is not new as Malay exists for a while.

You were very clever to say environment to avoid Incas extra lama. But in the end, these 2 r same type of bonus. I also don’t lile Coustiler, Leitis, Urumi, Keshik, S.Rider ability. But there is no going back now.

I just want to throw some light on the topic, the devs do try to re-do the old civs, for example:
Vikings can heal themselfs
Celts can do something with their castle in their range
Britons got a trebuchet walking unit
Byzanties are badass horses
Bulgarians, Konnik is a horse and a infantry + Krepost
Goths are uhm Goths ? ahahahah
Incas 1 range spears
Japanese have attack speed

U get the idea, sure not many civs do feel special, but I do believe with the time, they will :slight_smile:

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I would consider them as being in the same category. Let’s say there is a unit that block 25% of projectile damage. Is that a new mechanic? what if it’s 90%? What if it’s 99.99%? It’s 100% for rams, and 50% for hussite wagons. It’s just a difference in numbers, not the mechanic itself. Both rams and hussite wagons take damage as well. If you want to consider it as different, that’s fine. It’s opinions anyway.

I know, which is why I phrased it that way. If you noticed, I also didn’t include that in the counting of new mechanics.

No, I just forgot. In fact, there is one more civ with the same mechanic, which is the tartars. With them, every tc will spawn 2 sheep. Editing all the numbers is a pain, so I’ll wait a bit for more feedback and edit the post.

New mechanics in of themselves aren’t the problem. As I mentioned in the post, the problem is adding too many mechanics, but not exploring them properly. AoE2 is fundamentally different from something like Starcraft. In starcraft, there are only 3 “civs”, and each of them are extremely different. AoE2 civs are more alike than different. When you have 42 civs, that has to be the case. But that also means each new civ shouldn’t get a new mechanic because that will break the core of the game.

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For me it comes down to two things really. 1) It’s portrayed as a new and different mechanic by the devs. And 2) The Hussite Wagon is blocking damage that doesn’t hit its unit sprite directly, and doesn’t feel like the ram.


Unless they intend to give a unit an MG42 I don’t think they will brake the core of the game. The new civ mechanics haven’t put in anything that feels non-period or doesn’t work well with RTS mechanics. I think they are nice embellishments and add some extra flavor to the typical bonus structure.

Some thoughts:

  • EM2 and EM4, imo, are somehow the same - the iconic part is that one civ suddenly spawn X units out of nowhere. The negative effect of all villagers dying should be seen as a cost instead of mechanic.

  • EM5 is kinda same as Letis imo, in the sense that they are armor stat-affecting abilities.

  • EM6 is semi same to the Slav bonuses - I do feel like it is different enough tho

  • EM10 is more or less like you gain X resources every minute, or like +X food income (instead of +X% food income). I won’t treat that as different mechanics

  • EM11 is not new as you mentioned.

I do feel like there are tons of mechanics, but I would like to direct the discussion to that some civs plays so differently than others, as opposed to checking the individual mechanics -

  • Dravidians has no (useful) stable. That is new, because they don’t get eagles to supplement as well
  • Poles has the UT which encourages some form of all-in castle knight push
  • Gurjaras don’t have knight but have knight variants

Imo you can have funny mechanics but still play the same as old civ, e.g. Sicilians have the funny tower mechanics but was played almost as another Frank civ in the end (and the UT was used but not iconic anyway)

I’ve heard that take before, but I completely disagree. From a game design perspective, they achieve fundamentally different things. Flemish Revolution is an all-in mechanic, most of the time. You either win with the revolution, or you lose. There are extremely few instances where you’ll be able to reboom and win from a reboom. But also, Flemish revolution is pop-dependent. How many units you have at the end is decided by how many units you have now. Additionally, you don’t require any buildings (except the castle) for flemish revolution.

The Sicilian UT is not pop-dependent. It’ll allow you to go over 200 pop limit. It is especially broken on, say, a 35 pop game where an extra 35 units will basically decide the game for you. However, it is TC dependent. You always want more vils, but you don’t always need more than 3 TCs. This tech forces you to create more TCs.

Flemish militia is not a tech you pick up in most games. However, you should always aim to pick up the sicilian UT if you can.

But all that is secondary to me. A mechanic that spawns a batch of units out of nowhere is fundamentally different from a mechanic that converts one type of unit (especially a villager) to another unit.

Nope. The difference is, Leitis mechanic only affects the leitis. However, the Obuch mechanic can be used by other units. So, a unit that is fighting an Obuch will have its pierce armour lowered, and skirmishers are suddenly a huge threat to that unit.

Let me describe it another way. Leitis mechanic doesn’t change the unit it is attacking. If it attacks a teutonic knight, the nature of the teutonic knight doesn’t change. Obuch on the other hand affects the unit it is attacking. The game now has to remember that the teutonic knight the Obuch attacked is fundamentally different from every other teutonic knight, and not just in terms of HP.

A leitis attacked teutonic knight is still a huge threat to a halb. However, an Obuch attacked teutonic knight will die to a halb (depending on HP, ofc)

It is a different mechanic because of one simple reason. It is dependent on the herdables garrisoned. This means that it is worth a lot more to lame the gurjara early and steal their herdables. It also makes gurjaras stronger on maps with lots of herdables. Lastly, it takes up no pop space, making it even more different from portugese feitoria.

From a mathematical perspective, there is a new formula for how much food a mill generates based on how many herdables are within it.

If you don’t want to treat it as a different mechanic, that’s fine. But I’ll take a hard stance with this one and say that you are just wrong here.

I don’t think this is even remotely true. Sicilians are one of the few civs which use infantry in castle age. In maps like black forest, oasis, or water maps, it is a common strategy to sneak in a few seargents, build donjons, and then spam that sequence repeatedly. There is some insight you need to figure out when to research their UT for maximum advantage. That timing is crucial.

Franks on the other hand are just a cav civ. You spam paladins and add support. Drop in a few castles too, I guess. There is literally nothing more to them.

This is actually really cool, and this is more of what we need, in my opinion. You don’t need entire new mechanics to make a civ feel unique or fresh. You have given some good examples.

The Standard Mechanics I’ve described are enough to create unique flavours for civs. I don’t think anybody is going to claim that Britons or Goths lack flavour, all both those civs don’t have anything outside the main 3 categories I described.

Rams and mangonels only block projectiles of defensive buildings. HW blocks all projectiles. That’s a very big difference.

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Side comment: Shrivamsa Rider’s dodging ability is a good fit on Woad Raiders who currently don’t have much character. Sandy Petersen in his Unique Units video (or was it an Ask Sandy post?) said he wanted them to have some kind of invulnerability power granted by the magical body paint (seriously).

Less fancifully, we can just say it’s them being agile warriors.


In addition to Hussite Wagons, Bohemians also give you the Hand Cannoneer one age early. The only other civs that do that are the Burgundians with eco and Cavalier upgrades one age earlier, and Cumans with Rams one age earlier.

I think in addition to just new mechanics being introduced, almost all civs from post-DE have had several of the mechanics at once. Even DE civs had at least one - Leitis with armor ignoring, Keshik with gold generation (and getting access to a new unit through UT research), Cumans with Rams but also Mercenaries giving your team free units (that you have to train - somewhat separate from Sicilians who insta-train all of the units), and Bulgarians with a new mini-Castle and a unit that resurrects as a weaker unit.

It does make old civs feel a little stale in comparison, and perhaps the new changes to UT for some civs can help them feel more modern, like Celts with Stronghold - even if I personally hate the idea of aura mechanics in AoE2. It just feels very Warcraft-y to me, and I don’t want the game to copy Warcraft that much. And I love Warcraft!

The supposed ‘hero’ UU from Roman civs, while admittedly making sense wrt morale and whatnot, I don’t want to see that mechanic introduced at all into the game.


Functionally, it is. As a mechanic, I don’t think so. Let me explain what I mean, feel free to disagree.

The way I conceptualize a mechanic is as the broadest set of rules that can encapsulate a common phenomenon or occurrence. This set of rules cannot be the complete lack of existence of a thing. These rules should be described in terms of, and considered as being applied to general categories like “units”, “buildings”, or “siege units” rather than individual units like “leitis” or “hussite wagons”. However, it can, and should, take partial occurrences and numerical differences into consideration.

This is a general definition which might not be intuitive without any examples.

So, let’s take the rams and hussite wagons. The broadest possible set of rule I can find here is:

“A unit is able to block some, or all of the projectiles of some, or all of defensive buildings, archers, gunpowder units, and siege. A block here means to prevent the projectiles from moving across the unit, and/or defend other units across it from the projectiles”

So, rams and hussite wagons would fall under rule. If the devs create a new unit which can block only gunpowder projectiles in the future, that unit would fall under this mechanic as well.

True, and this falls under the category of “Transposition Mechanics” I’ve described in the post.

I completely agree. That feels like such an odd thing and doesn’t fit into the larger picture of AoE2 at all. It is the second worst mechanic in this mechanics creep problem, I feel. After the shrivamsha Rider mechanics.


Mechanic creep has, totally ruined age of empires 3 to me. It used to be my favourite aoe game. I only came to aoe 2 due to it being more “pure”.

This changing slowly and slowly. And centurions aura is the tipping point. A maybe that was actually the leitis
When you start losing fights because of not knowing some special werid mechanic, then the game LOST its elegenace of simple but hard to master. Instead it becomes like League of legends where yiu need to know every single champion and what he can do or you are helpless.


They did this too in age of empires 3… :frowning: redid many perfectly fine vanilla civs like Dutch, brits etc. Because they are “too plain”. Ruined it for me. Aoe 2 will have the same fate. Same devs after all.

You can safely ignore any new additions and keep playing the civs like it was in 2006.
That’s a unique advantage of AOE3. It can hold a lot of contents without changing the “core”.