Vive la différence

The developers have said that some civilizations will play as usual, but other will have important changes. Here I’ve read a post about “asymmetric balance” and about units being too similar between factions, and I want to build on that. Here are my ideas. For clarification, I use the present tense for implementations in the game, and the past tense for what happened in real life.


  1. Only Europeans get Longswords and Two-handed swords. Infantry from the rest of the world used Spears, or maybe the shorter kind of sword, like that of the Roman Empire. The Aztec Jaguar Warrior wields a club with obsidian shards – I think that should be the standard American infantry.

  2. Non-European factions, whose Infantry consist of Spearmen, will also get Pikemen. What I mean is this: there continues to be two kinds of Infantry: the regular one, and the one that has an attack bonus against Cavalry.

  3. Europeans don’t get Cavalry Archers. I mean, they did have bows and horses, but they didn’t really combine them, or they didn’t became popular by doing so. Cavalry Archers are a thing of the Mongols and Huns.

  4. Every warship in the Middle Ages was a transport ship. Ships didn’t really have offensive power until cannons were invented. So, that thing we have now, which shoots bolts, needs to go. Actually, the fireship was real – it was a vessel that spit the renowed Greek fire. But I’m not sure if it was that popular after the Ancient Ages ended.

So, offensive ships, only come around after researching Chemistry, and we have two types: siege ones (the current Bombard Ship) and sea battle ones.

  1. Chinese monks have some offensive skills. I mean, kung fu didn’t really help in war, but it should be incorporated here. They were very different from European and Arab priests.

  2. Archers are cut out from certain civilisations. Franks, Celts, Spanish, Aztecs; all of them weren’t really reputed by using archers. Britons, Mongols, Magyars, Chinese, are the ones that keep them. Britons of course get the Longbow.

  3. All European Infantry is slower but stronger. It’s the concept of the Teutonic Knight for the whole region. Infantry from the rest of the world is faster but weaker.


  1. Mongols don’t build walls or castles. They get a free Cavalry Archer everytime you create a Villager. Huns could play the same, with a Tarkan coming out instead of the Horse Archer.

  2. All European buildings are stronger. This would help to balance the early attack made posible by the previous point.

  3. American factions get three Villagers for the price of one. This would give some balance to the deplorable position they are in for not having Cavalry. On that note. I still can’t understand what they were thinking of with the Eagle Warrior – 50 Gold for a weak Infantry.

  4. Arabic factions slowly generate gold, and European factions slowly generate Food. This is based on the fact that Arabs controled the gates to the East and earned taxes (which is why Columbus set sail to find a way around that), and that Europeans had more pastures and farms than Arabs (or at least I imagine that).

  5. All American units move 20% faster because they are fiercer than European.

  6. Aztecs get some bonus by killing enemies. This is based on their love for human sacrifices. Rise of Nations made it that you get extra resources when you play Aztecs and kill someone. But giving you resources would negate the “real life” feel I’m trying to achieve. So, maybe, the bonus could consist in your Villagers working faster for a few seconds after you kill an enemy, and those few seconds stack if you kill several enemies quickly. After all, human sacrifices were meant to enthrill the Aztec population.

  7. Art gets its place. You have three mutually excusive technologies: Literature, Music, and Sculpture. Literature improves Monks with 4x conversión speed. Music boosts all your Military (I can’t decide if it’s Hitpoints, Attack, Armor or Speed). Sculpture benefits Villagers. You can only research one; the other two disappear.

  8. A new civilization is introduced: American Nomad Tribe. It’s gameplay is radically different from everyone else. While Aztecs and Inca built strong cities, further up North and down South there were nomadic tribes that clashed with the English and French settlers in North America and Spanish and Portuguese in South America. So, this new faction builds nearly nothing. Its units are invisible to the enemy unless the Nomad Tribe attacks them. Their warriors steal resources.


My starting point to think about all this was the Mongols, about them not building Walls or Castles and getting free Cavalry Archers. This mechanic was implemented in the very first Age of Empires II: it was the Goths. No Walls, cheaper Infantry and faster working Barracks meant that their defense was their attack. They were designed to churn out soldiers easily. Then came The Conquerors and they were given the technology to produce them 100% faster.

Regional units were also there from the start. The 3 or 4 Arabic factions get Camels. Then the 3 American ones get the Eagle Warrior; although this needs to be balanced better. Finally, in Rise of the Rajas, the 4 new factions get the Elephant.

I also keep thinking about Age of Mythology. It was essentially three civilizations. But they were so different that every military unit was a Unique Unit. Norse didn’t even have Archers. Now: it was Age of Empires II the one that became insanely popular and is still played 20 years later. Maybe, Age of Mythology didn’t appeal that much to people because of the fantasy element – controlling Hydras and Cyclops feels childish. Then came along Age of Empires III, which also depicted major differences between civilizations, like Dutch Villagers costing Gold. But this game also had that wierd mechanich called Home City, which made it feel lousy and not as fun as its predecessor.

Will Age of Empires IV revamp everything to create a fresh experience, instead of making a convoluted product that isn’t fun anymore? I’m all for expanding differences between civilizations. But the risks are too high.

Alot of these are way over the top. For example an extra civ that doesn’t build buildings at all? Base building is as core as it can be for AoE series, especially in combination with eco management. You actually removed both and gave no way of how to produce units and how to balance the gameplay with something else to do… Don’t get me wrong ideas are wonderful but they have to be usable. You can add a “fun” gameplay mechanic that actually ruins a game.

On an another note, fire ships were things of the middle ages. Byzantines used them on multiple occasions and most notably in siege of constantinople by ottomans and arabs. Europeans mostly tried to find alternative route to India because the ottomans controlled all trade and they became hostile to even venice that was forwarding that trade to the rest of europe.

I really love assymetric design of civs and i really think it is for the best of the series to go that way. But that needs to be really careful on how it is done. The assymetry should be focused on different units, and gameplay mechanics in combination with map mechanics (different speeds in various terrains or other bonuses).
Removing core gameplay features i think is out of the question…and drastic changes like no archers for a whole civ must be really debated too

Okay, I think nobody liked my ideas, judging by the ammount of replies this has had. I agree with the user above that a lot of them are over the top. To be honest, most of them have no place in Age of Empires.

I think the best one I’ve come up with, is Mongols not building walls or castles, and getting free Horse Archer with every Villager created. They will be a civilization for which their defense is ther attack. This will be balanced by the fact that other civilizations can build walls, thus making their defence a real one. Take note from the Goths in the very first Age of Empires II - no walls, cheaper Infantry and faster working Barracks.

The second best one are the mutually exclusive technologies. I chose art as the theme for them, but that could change.

The third best is giving Longswordmen and Two-handed swordmen only to Europeans. I’ve seen some pictures posted recently, which are zoomed-in on the Mongol units. There actually are swordman, but the sword looks Oriental. That’s a very good step. At least they are looking different from European counterparts. There is definite room for innovation about different kinds of infantry between civilizations.

The rest of my ideas are rubbish, I admit.

Lets take another look at this

  1. Well, europeans had longswords but other civilisations had equivalents, so while it would make sense that the atztecs and similar civs dont have swords it probably won’t matter (by much) if you have any eurasian civilisation it will have a sword like a longsword (western), scimitar (middle east) and katana (far east)

1.a) for the nations who don’t have swords there are still other alternatives like axes and clubs who sometimes filled similar roles

  1. of course one would have to balanced against the once that have swords but I think the way to go would be more in the direction of above stated 1.a)

  2. a quick search basically confirmed this, this would be adequate but it would probably fair to have some unit filling a similar role in western civilisations (maybe kind of a ranger)

  3. I agree to a certain degree - ships with cannons should be certainly for later ages and the baseline would probably be ships with archery, but ships with other weapons tied to deck existed and would probably fit well into the game (but AoE2 ship combat is kind of silly, agreed) and I think fireships should really go

  4. not all asian monks were trained in martial arts, some were purely spiritual, also there were warrior monks in other civilisation - i guess an additional unit would be fitting, but should not be the baseline for some civs

  5. I think some sort of archers were present in most civilisations, this clearly goes a little far. Of course the development might be different but it’s probably save to say that every civilisation has at least some very basic archer

  6. Totally disagree. A full-plated armor does not slow one down that much and other civilisations hat their own partially encumbering armor

Next over to gameplay

  1. partially agree, but free units for creating archers sounds really strong. Movable buildings might be interesting though. And there are sure structures who can take a role similar to a caste

  2. I raise your argument by a chinese wall. Seriously, there were other civs who can build strong buildings (egyptians, chinese, atztecs) and there are some rather flimsy european ways to build (loke up frame houses) but that mobile civ buildings are weaker (and possibly cheaper) is a fair argument

  3. I would not exactly bet on american civs being in the game from the the start

  4. nope nope nope nope - reducing costs to build up economy to counteract military strength would be a disaster

  5. faster units would be an idea to counter the lack of cavalary, not sure if its because they are ‘fiercer’

  6. That is a rather complicated idea I would really have no idea how to integrate it

  7. Art technology sounds interesting but not exactly like fitting for AoE (also I don’t get the mutually exclusive, if an civilisation discovers art it usually does it in all ways)

  8. Okay, I am all for asymetric balance but honestly this would be a nightmare for everyone to balance it out - and even nomadic tribes had buildings of some sort, just not as permanent structures

Generally some ideas of those are interesting but some are really hard to integrate

One possible idea for exclusive technology could be for militia line development
you could develop shields or two handed weapons for offensive or defensive focus (asian nations get only two-handed)
and/or you could research to get a weapon focus for swords (fast, average damage) axe (higher damage, slower - counters shield defense) or clubs/maces (average damage, slower but ignores armor) - some nations would also get only limited options there

in ranged combat you could go a similar way with bow vs crossbow

some nations could have the possiblity to get multiple options (basically a second militia line who can pick up other options then your main line)

It would be also interesting to have units that can fill multiple roles (samurai were originally mostly horse archers and should be a good unit for ranged + melee options, as are skirmishers in a different way)

Someone here zoomed-in the Mongol infantry, and this seems to be the case. Their swords won’t be the same anymore.

But the thing is, a club with obsidian shards isn’t quite like a sword. In-game, this means they can’t be the same type of unit.

In today’s society, a ranger is quite different from a soldier. In the Middle Ages I think it’s also the case – someone in charge of local order didn’t have the same training or weapons as a man sent to fight far away.

As I said, the concept of the Teutonic Knight is that it’s so armour clad that he’s slow. Isn’t it?

Yeah, it does sound really strong! That’s why I think it’s good. Of course, you mean it’s going to break the balance. But that’s why I propose to strip Mongols and Huns of castles. It would be appropiate if Mongols have movable buildings.

Yes. This point wasn’t very thought through. It was meant to give balance to the Mongol thing.

The developers would make a mistake if an American faction wasn’t included in the first installation. Aztecs and Mayans have been around for 20 years. They are part of Age of Empires II as much as the original ones. They should totally pick the Aztecs. It’s just one; it won’t brake any Eurocentric ideology.

I didn’t quite understand this. This point (Arabs generating Gold and Europeans Food) was stupid and not worth commenting anymore, but I’d still like to get what you meant.

Nevermind, it was a stupid one too. (Aztec units having a speed boosts when you kill an enemy because human sacrifices.

I’m not saying that Villagers should play the flute to gain Creativity points as if this was The Sims. Art could be a technology like any other.

But, why did I make it the mutually exclusive one? Heh, I was saying it off the top of my head. Your idea is much better. Clubs ignoring armor is a very accurate picture.

No; the game developers are in charge of balancing the Nomadic Tribe faction. What you meant is that it would be a nightmare for the players. And that is were the fun begins. The Nomadic Tribe would be the black sheep of Age of Empires. It would be, in multiplayer online games in which factions are randomized, the one that everyone would dread to get. It would add a sense of luck, like gambling.

I’m talking of the real life nomad tribes that had even less structures than the Mongols or the Huns because they didn’t capture any city. In-game, as I said, Its units are invisible to the enemy unless the Nomadic Tribe attacks them. Their units steal resources from the enemy, and there’s a technology to increase the amount of trasure they steal. But then, if their units are invisible, how does the other player defeat them? Nomadic Tribe as an Idol unit, or a Totem if you will. It’s the only unit that’s visible to the enemy. When the Idol is destroyed, Nomadic Tribe loses. This unit is movable, and it’s speed is average, like that of a Pikeman.

As the user who replied first noted, buildings are core to the Age of Empires series, and removing them is quite out of place. But if it’s done correctly, it can be fun. It could be a joke, an ironic take on the very same series. Just picture it: Nomadic Tribe only has two buildings: the Town Center and a Barrack. Of course, they are movable. There’s no dropsites because they steal resources. There’s no University because there’s no building hitpoints to increase. There’s no Monastery because Monks were quite useless to begin with, and because, again, they steal resources (I’m referring to lack of Relics). There’s no Siege Workshop because Nomadic Tribe also has a mechanic in which they kill all inhabitants of a building instead of destroying the building itself. The possibilities are endless.