Heaven’s Reference Pages

Game Playing Tips By Sandyman, Ensemble Studios


A lot of erroneous opinions have been published about the various superunits in AoE, partly based on insufficient information (the unit descriptions don’t tell you _everything_), partly based on insufficient play time. Here are the facts, at least as seen by the best players I know. The information here may help you decide whether a particular unit is worth the upgrade or not. Basically, a super-unit upgrade is NOT worth the money unless you plan to emphasize this particular unit as the mainstay of your strategy. If you are planning an army of elephants, backed up by a few priest-killers, heavy horse archers aren’t worth the money. Regular horse archers will do the trick just fine.


Everyone I know thinks ballista towers are worth the upgrade. It’s so obvious why that I wouldn’t say anything more about it except that there might be beginners reading this. Ballista towers sink ships. They kill centurions and elephants. Everyone is prey to them. Priests can convert regular towers with the Monotheism upgrade, but ballista towers kill them too fast. Build them inside your opponent’s town for some lip-smacking fun! 


Regular catapult triremes are easy meat for triremes. Jugs are meat, too, but at least they’re a little harder to kill. If you have Phoenician jugs, they are actually able to fight (and win) against any but Persian triremes. But the real secret to the jugs is that they (a) have a larger radius effect and (b) they can destroy trees. This last is their most important trick. If you’re building jugs, it’s probably a naval game, in which wood is at a premium. Knock down your opponent’s forests and they’re thoroughly screwed. The larger radius effect is not to be sneered at either – one player here at Ensemble Studios regular blows up Wonders that are built “out of range” from the water by using Attack Ground to hit an area a little away from the Wonder – the blast radius hits the Wonder and cracks it open!


Like the jug, he is a tree-destroyer, and his enormous radius often lets him wreck two buildings at a time. That huge radius is kind of risky if you have soldiers up fighting in a melee as well, but there are ways around that (like using elephants, who survive the explosions). The tree-wrecking capability is not to be sneered at. With heavy catapults, you’re usually using this power to cut your way through to the enemy instead of just denying him wood, but either way the foes hate you. Also, he destroys three sections of wall at a time instead of one, and no one can repair the buildings he’s wrecking (because the radius catches them).


The doubled fire rate is worth every penny. Even centurions go down before the blizzard of tree trunks that a band of helepoli shove out. 


The most misunderstood superunit in the game, and the original reason for this essay. Here’s why he’s worth the $$. (a) he has 50% more hit points – this is _more_ than just 30 points, because everyone buys Nobility to go along with their Horse archers. He does a bit more damage, but his big bonus is that he is the Fastest Unit In The Game. That’s right, _nobody_ can catch up with him. Given room to maneuver, he can beat anyone else around. Now, that said, many players misuse horse archers – they build 20-30 and send them galloping out to destroy towers etc. When you have that many horses in a mass, they are unmaneuverable and clumsy. The best use for these precious units is to take a band of 3-6 of them and raid the enemy’s town. With only a few heavy horse archers, they can’t be trapped against a forest or something, and they can run rampant through the town, burning houses, massacring peons, and killing most soldiers sent against them. With their incredible speed, they are rarely hit by tower missiles, and if they are, they’ll survive them (circa 103 hit points), so you can pull them out when weak, send them home to a healing priest and get them back into action before your foe has managed to recover from the early hit. Remember, horse archers are raiders, not stand-up fighters. Once you build heavy horse archers and watch them easily retreat from pursuing enemy cataphracts, you’ll know what I mean – get ahead, stop and shoot, then run again. My heroes.


One of the most spectacular upgrades available – it _doubles_ the hit points of a longswordsman. That said, the legion is the puniest of all the superunits. He is, in fact, weaker than many _normal_ units; your basic hoplite, war elephant, or cavalry can make mincemeat of him. But he has one thing going for him; his cost. At only 35 food and 15 gold you can afford to build something like 5 legions for every cavalryman your enemy makes. The legion is definitely a quantity-over-quality decision. Just keep churning out the little suckers, backed up by a few appropriate support units, and watch them crawl all over the opposition. But you have to keep up the pressure; the pop cap means you can only outnumber him by so much before he can catch up.


I love cataphracts, because I often go for heavy cavalry as my main strike force anyway. Cataphracts help you win in a head-on fight vs. enemy heavy cavalry. They also kill towers & penetrate walls significantly faster than their predecessors. They also have 2 piercing armor instead of 1. Still, they are the weakest upgrade of all, and are most often NOT worth the money. Frankly, heavy cavalry can do everything cataphracts can do, and almost as well. But if you’re reaching your pop cap, and you have the extra food to spend (which is often the case), you may as well go for it. I usually do.


The fully-upgraded Centurion is the most powerful unit in the game, bar none. He kills elephants and knocks down towers single-handedly. Fear him. His only drawback is his cost, his lackadaisical pace, and the fact that only 6 nations get to build him. If you’re one of the lucky six, he makes a mighty unit. Make sure you give him sufficient protection from enemy priests & ballistas, though.