What do you think makes a balanced civ?

Pretty simple question: What makes a civ balanced in your opinion? Is it having an open tech tree? Being able to counter anything the enemy throughs at you? Having at least one strong playstyle? Having a roughly 50% victory chance against any civ, preferably on any map? Comment below. Also, please don’t reply to comments that much, just so that the thread remains fairly uncluttered, unless you are also including what you think makes a civ balanced. Thanks. Also, if you like comments below, I will take that as you agree with everything they write in the comment, in terms of the different opinions about what makes a civ balanced.

Good eco bonuses, with cheaper military techs/units being sometimes a good replacement. Tbh I think you just have to compare eco bonuses most of the times

Clear powerspike, but also clear weakness in the civ. Some area should be better than average, some area should be lacking. Civ should have a clear game plan, i.e. when playing, you should be able to aim for a strategy with it consistently. The powerspike(s) should not be so strong that you can consistently beat all other civs that have powerspikes at the same time as your civ.

1 Like

Usable UU, good ordinary Units, clear designed wholes in the tech tree, a balanced eco advanatge, worthy team bonus and UTs, also advantages that your opponent can match and not left behind (yes, looking at the Burgundians eco bonus Kappa)

Winrates about 50% against the current meta civ picking on most maps. There are some things to look for, like a correction for the skill of the players when looking at civ picks and things like that. Also the data set needs to be sufficient large enough to be able to draw conclusions. And look at the difference for the winrates for pros and noobs and take that into account. So just winrates dont tell the full story, you need to look at some other details as well to get the full picture.

All civs should be a viable option to pick on most of the maps. That should be the main focus of balancing civs. I think you can never fully balance all civs, so the attention needs to be on Arabia 1v1, since that is the most popular competetive setting.

Another question would be: What maks a civ a good designed civ? That is a different question and my answer for that will be in line with other replies in this thread. Clear game play, clear powerspikes, no overpowered power spikes, usable UU, useful UT, no gimmicks, …

Imho a civ that is not shoehorned into a particular niche, that have broad enough tech tree to change playstyle according to the opponent and map, and with reasonably good economy with at least a bonus on something (I consider Saracen market a bonus) and capable of holding in the lategame.

To sum it up, a civ that you can pick blindly on any map against any opponent, knowing that there aren’t clear and guaranteed wins/losses assuming equal skill of the opponent.

Not sure these approaches work. You could name some factors but in the end these aren’t hard conditions because in aoe2 everything depends. Maybe you don’t need a significant eco bonus to be balanced. Maybe you have solid and military bonuses and still the civ doesn’t feel balanced. In the end there a so many possible condition that each interact with each other leading to a judgment on that basis being way to abstract.

I’d do it the following way: Play a lot with the civ in question and then judge: How many good matchups vs bad ones are there? How manymatchups fee rather equal. Then if you have say 50% equal ones and the other half divided between good and bad matchups the civ should be more or less balanced. If you have each 50% good or bad matchups but few equal ones the civ is not well balanced. Same if you have a huge amount of either good or bad ones ofc.

This way you probably will implicitly account for a lot of factors that were mentioned (eco bonus, military bonus, tech tree…) without stipulating them in some abstract formula. As Byzantines for instance dont really have a good eco bonus nor a clear game plan but still feel balanced. Or Huns that have some good matchups vs civs like Teutons (if we’re talking open maps ofc) or Burmese while having some bad one vs Berbers or so while having most ones more or less equal. However Burmese probably wouldn’t count as balanced as they die to archer civs while having like 5 unit options vs cav civs.

It’s quite difficult to give an hard answer to such question. There are multiple factors and arguments to consider, and at the same time no hard rules on how to make a civ, just general guidelines…

But in my opinion, the first question is what that civ is supposed to do?

Is it a civ designed for rushing on arabia? Or for booming on arena? Or is it a water map CIV? Then you need to consider that all civs should be at least decent in Arabia (both 1v1 and TG).

Then think of what are the main strategies for the civ, and how much viable are such strategies in the nowdays meta.

For example: franks were originally designed as a fast castle civ into knights, an arabia civ for the most. They were basically the only ones to have BL, and the farm bonus pushed in such direction too. Then the meta evolved, BL was introduced for most civs, and feudal aggression became ever more present. At that point, franks were really weak, since their scouts were yes with more HP, but most of other arabia map civs (like huns) had both BL and a better early eco. So they give them the berry bonus, and instantly they become a powerhouse. Then again they nerfed the berry bonus, and now at least they are in the 45-55% win rate interval.

So, depending on the goal in mind, you need to think about that and the current meta.

Then let’s look at non-arabia civs: italians for example were a constant problem, the civ was almost entirely designed for water maps, and for that they have the bonus of cheaper age ups (aging up fast is one of the most important factors on water maps).
They didn’t have a clear plan for arabia instead, if not for the consequences of some of their bonuses. In fact, the cheaper age ups allows for a better fast castle or fast imp, and then they give them some bonuses for that (FU knights, condos, cheap gunpowder). The problem is, that both strategies aren’t great in nowadays arabia meta (though, they make italians a good arena civ). At the same time, they were too strong on water, so buffing the discounts used on land and nerfing the discounts used on water made them more balanced.

Then you have how the tech tree and the bonus/strategies interact with one another. Usually, the two things balance each other out. A civ with some strong bonuses (either eco, or military) usually have a limited tech tree, or at least a tech tree that prevents them to abuse such bonuses.

For example a civ with strong archer bonuses, will have a mediocre cav tech tree, a civ with a strong eco lead, won’t also have a strong powerful unit.

For example, mayans have both a strong eco bonus and a strong discount, but few options in their tech tree. Chinese too have a strong eco bonus, but a flexible tech tree, and yet even if both are on the opposite side, you they are both balanced (more or less…). One have 2 bonuses for 2 strong options, the other a flexible tech tree to use.

It’s difficult to generalize those things. You should look at each civ in their context one at a time.

You could say that chinese needs a nerf since they are the best civ in the game at the moment, but kit just nerf them randomly. You need to observe what is broken in comparison with similar civs.

Quantitative data needs to be also supported by qualitative data, by which I mean analyzing cases and recurring scenarios.

In summary, first you need to think of what a civ should do, picture their game strategies, their meta (seeing also if it fun, since that is the priority). Then consider the meta of that specific civ have a place in the bigger meta, if it’s unique but also common enough to see it on their specialized maps as well as a bit on arabia.
Once you do that, you need to carefully weigh every single aspect of it, and make some choices, and then test it, and carefully observe how they evolve.
Basically, to balance an already existing civ, you need to think like you are making a new one.

The main thing that makes a civ balanced imo is that it has a solid chance at winning, by utilising the civ properly.
Usually this presents itself via a stage of the game. Furthermore, there can (and should) be more than 1 viable strategy to victory.
Great example is Franks, obvious knight play to dominate castle onwards.
But also Throwing axeman and cheap castle for those who punish too hard in feudal.
Also scouts to counter certain types of pressure in feudal.
Many options/tools that can be used, none of which necessarily the right choice, all about reading the game and circumstances. But one of these options is always the right one.

Some civs can only win in Feudal and lat imp.
Some civs can only win in castle age.
Some civs can only win late imp but are given just enough tools to help them get there.
Some civs will be dominated late imp, but have everything they need to win convincingly by feudal/early castle.

So long as there is a method to victory (but preferably multiple methods), with clear tools that can be used to achieve that given equivalent skill level. Then its balanced.
If a civ is a one trick pony, it deserves to be a damn good trick, because its too predictable. Therefore one trick ponies can be part of a balanced civ, but they have to be able to be stopped in some theoretical way.
It should be all about game knowledge and adaptibility.

I’ll bring you an more complete example on how I usually argue my suggestion using the Italians as an example, since I usually “attend” mainly to their threads.

I don’t want to argue about Italians here guys, I just want to show @TheConqueror753 how I reason usually with a civ familiar to me.

The italians as most people know suffer from a lack of an early eco bonus. The cheaper age up give you some powers spikes, and help you reach the ages when they are stronger, but it doesn’t seem to be enough most of the times on arabia. On the bright side though, they have a good tech tree, with some big holes sure but still better than the average.

Still, they are now borderline on the bad side of the win rate (about 45-46% if I’m not mistaken…) so how improve them without changing their nature so much, or making them too broken again on water?

An early eco bonus would create such problem, unless you ner or remove other bonuses, but then at that point making a new civ would be easier…
You need to give them bonus that affect only the land games.

Then what else doesn’t work? They have 2 UU, both are rarely seen.

Why isn’t the GC used? Mainly usually because it takes too much to mass (and it needs to be massed) and xbows in the countrary are the easiest choice. For that reason, the training time of the GC has been already reduced, making them seen more often (it could be lowered a bit more though). People suggest to add +1 range or attack, but would this incentive the use if the GC? The problem of massing them would remain. Other say that their elite upgrade is overpriced (which I actually agree…) but again, it doesn’t solve their problems, especially in castle age when they are almost never seen. If you look at the more common UU foot archers, they are either faster (plumes, rattan) or faster to mass (CKN), but both those don’t suit the Italians meta.

Then let’s look at the condos? It should be a gunpowder counter unit, but you don’t see it very often, why? Maybe because you also don’t see gunpowder too often? But even if you are against turk to name a civ, italians have other options? Well, both skirms and xbows are more effective at countering gunpowder, and are accessible in castle age, and are cheaper. You also have hussars, which too work well against both HC and BBC, so condos don’t really have a place.
Instead, people see them as a replacement for champion, which is more resistant, but with less attack, but more importantly you don’t need line upgrades.
So is a champion-like UU, but it also lack the bonuses that make champs useful in imp, against eagles for example. So maybe giving them a small bonus against such unit may work.

Their UU are situational, sure, but not the source of the problems right? So let’s return to the bigger picture. Italians should be a civ with 3 power spikes that can do a bit of everything with their flexible tech tree.

In the most recent change, what they tried to do is buff 2 of those powers spikes through the uni discount, so that if you go for archers in castle age, you don’t just save on the castle age but on ballistics too for example.

The reasoning behind that is good in my opinion, their main opinion is to go for archers, with an extra help, and they have good cav as a plan B. You are still weak in feudal age though, but now at least you know that you can more confortably spend resources there, knowing that some techs will be cheaper in the next age. That seems to have brought italians on that flattering 46% of win rate.

Lastly, they are also a gunpowder civ, with both chemistry and the gunpowder units cheaper. You can also age up earlier, and the HC have been recently buffed. But italians are still better off by going for xbows than HC. Then the bonus is maybe more for the BBC? Well, when you compare them with the bonus of other civs, you see that they aren’t that good…
Originally, italians lacked siege engineers because of their strong discount, to balance things out. Then, they were either confounded by civs like franks, with FU BBCs, but not help or bonuses, and turks, which have a better version of SE, but with a prohibitive cost. Then came portoghese, etiopians, burgundians, bohemians, and even turks’ UT was buffed. Italians now lag behind, struggling to keep up even with non gunpowder civs.

Ergo, that’s why I always suggest to give them SE. Both to further increase the initial reasoning behind the power spikes (the imp one would be more strong) and to adapt them to the new gunpowder meta.

Lastly, they could have a military bonus that affects land only. A lot of those were proposed, but giving them some units that becomes way more above average, would probably require a nerf on their tech tree (look at the mayans/chinese example of my precedent post).

This is more or less how I reason when I balance a civ. It’s also good to further argue with examples, personal experiences, or pro games that highlights the aspects of the civs and the meta.

Consider also that most of the times, you are biased, so listen to others opinions, if everyone tell you that something is wrong, and you can’t objectively counter argue their opinions, maybe you are biased, and consider doing all the process from the start again, considering their point of view.

I think that the key is the synergy between tech tree and civ bonuses

Agree about eco bonus. As for game-plan, I think the most usual plan is:
Survive early game. Keep holding out during mid-game. Get cheap imp, use the powerspike from cheap imp. Coz with Byzatines you probably won’t out-do most civs in Feudal/Castle. And if you manage to get the game to drag out till trash wars, you’ll win against most civs with cheap trash, as you need less exo to produce the trash, so you can flood the field with numbers.

1 Like

I can give you an example of what is not balanced:
The water game is not balanced at all when compared to Arabia 1v1
The current balancing threads center on Arabia 1v1; I understand that 90% of the game happens there, but the game should be balanced in all its game variants
Arabia 1v1 is in pretty good shape in terms of balance. Time to balance the game in its weak areas, IMO


What makes a civ balanced requires deconstructing “What is a game?”

At some level a game is a list of strategy choices S = {S_0, S_1, S_2, S_3, … S_loss/win} from each player. Each strategy lasts some amount of time and the next one starts where the last one ended. For example player 1 could go maa into archers (S_0 = maa, S_1 = maa->archers transition, S_2 = archers) and player 2 could go scouts (S_0 = scouts). Better players execute S more efficiently using tactical precision + efficient eco management and make better choices for which strategies to use.

A balanced civ will have enough strategy choices, and smooth enough transitions between them, such that a skilled, knowledgeable, and unbiased player can construct a strategy list S against any other civ and have a “decent” win rate (competitive criterion). AND the player cannot construct a strategy list S such that their win rate is exceedingly high in any matchup (no civ-blowout criterion). The competitive criterion implies the no civ-blowout criterion but I wanted to make it explicit. The theoretically “decent” and “exceedingly high” choices are up to you.

Balance is all about players who put in a reasonable amount of unbiased exploration and practice being able to generate a balanced win rate. That is a player who figures out most of the tips and tricks for a given civ should be able to generate good win rates.

Note that all of this is more or less independent of civ design. You can have a civ which is well designed and unbalanced, well designed and poorly balanced, poorly designed and well balanced, and poorly designed and poorly balanced.

1 Like

How can you write so much to say nothing? 11

Welcome to academic world

1 Like

A viable civ at any phase of the game, at all the most played game modes and frequently played maps with a reasonable matchup against any other civs, ideally with a perfectly average win-rate.

Most civs have at least one weak age or map though…

I cant think of many civs that cover those standards

1 Like

You say like it’s the same. Having one weak map among the many is more acceptable than being unviable at one of the three ages.

Eh I disagree.

Theres a lot of great civs with a weak age like Berbers or Mongols.

1 Like