Often considered a weak civ by many players, the current climate of AOC is well suited to their strengths and could well see their introduction INTO competitive play.
This guide will take a quick look over their strengths and weaknesses and how best to take advantage of them.
- 25% cheaper Spearmen, Skirmisher and Camel lines.
This bonus is the strongest in the Byzantine arsenal. It is most effective in feudal and castle ages where troop costs are more important, but will also save you a lot of resources in Imperial. The Spearmen line costs just 26f 19w, Skirmishers 19f 26w, and Camels 45f 41g.
This gives you extremely affordable access to the commonly used troops of these two ages - skirmishers at a significant discount for feudal and camels for used against the hordes of knights usually encountered in castle.
- Buildings receive a hit points bonus (+10% Dark, 20% Feudal, 30% Castle, 40% Imperial).
You probably wont notice this bonus in most games, but it can be the difference between victory and defeat at a push. Think of those vital situations - your house or palisade wall is taking a hammering in feudal, theres an army waiting to come through - will your villagers manage to patch something up in time before he gets in? Youll be glad of +20% extra hit points then.
- Free Town Watch on hitting Feudal Age.
A nice little extra that saves you 75 food and 30 seconds of TC time. It also makes you a lot more difficult to forward build on without your knowledge. To make best use of it, get a few radar houses up early.
- Upgrade to Imperial Age costs 33% less.
Another very useful bonus that usually means you get to Imperial age sooner, and without such a hit on your resources. Can also be used strategically in Team games FROM the pocket, as the early presence of trebs on the castle age battlefield can be extremely decisive.
- Fireships do 20% more damage.
This bonus is a nice boon for the Byzantines once you hit castle, but they dont stand up well to massed war galleys or better. Theyre most effective on maps where you need a small naval force while you fight on land - eg. Scandinavia or Continental.
Monks heal +50% faster.
Yes, you could be right, that might not be the sound of the Earth shattering ;-). This bonus simply isnt in the same class the top civs team bonuses such as cheap docks or fast working stables. However, it certainly isnt useless.
If nothing else it reminds you to make use of Monks - convert enemy troops, heal your own (and very quickly), and collect relics. Persian and Aztec allies might well thank you, even if nobody else does
Through the Ages:
The Dark Age:
The Byzantines get a measly +10% hit points to their buildings in Dark, but that is their only bonus. This technically qualifies them as a slow civ, but theres no real difficulty attached to a standard 22-24 villager feudal, or 27+2 fast castle for them - they simply dont receive an economic bonus.
The Feudal Age:
This is where the Byzantines come to life. Youll immediately receive the benefits of Town Watch, giving you much increased visibility around your base. In a feudal war, you want to concentrate your efforts on mass production of your cheap skirmishers and spearmen - the bonus really add up when youre saving 15 resources per unit.
If youre producing FROM 1 barracks and 2 archery ranges, while maintaining constant villager production, youll save an average of 56 resources per 5 pop, which compares favourably with the Hun house bonus (which saves you around 40 resources per 5 pop). The down side of this is that you receive no bonus on scouts, archers or m@a - while a Hun still would. They also receive no bloodlines for their scouts.
The building hit points bonus also comes in handy here, with house and palisade walls and towers all being 1/5 tougher than their enemy counterparts.
On water the Byzantine are poor in feudal, with their only bonus being slightly tougher docks. Much better to head quickly onto castle for Fireships, or land and put those cheap troops to use.
The Castle Age:
The Byzantine bonuses carry over INTO Castle age, and if you have significant feudal forces left over, you will strongly want to consider upgrading them. The main addition to your forces should be cavalry. I find a mixture of knights and camels works best - without bloodlines your knights will be inferior to the enemy, but with cheap camels and pikemen mixed in, you shouldnt find it difficult to counter a player making heavy use of their cavalry lines.
Fully upgraded elite skirmishers are a very useful unit to have in castle, effectively countering x-bows, pikemen and horse archers, plus with 5 attack and good pierce armour, being useful as a villager killer.
As you continue to boom in castle age, keep an eye on your resources, as you only require ~650 food and ~550 gold to advance to imperial age. A few Byzantine priests are useful to have around, as they can rapidly heal your injured troops.
The Byzantine navy makes something of a recovery in the Castle Age, with the best fireships in the game, although heavy use of War Galleys is still recommended to compliment them.
The Imperial Age:
Imperial age is where the Byzantines hit their peak, and with a little luck you should hit it several minutes before your opponent. They have access to the fullest tech tree in the game, giving you a lot of options, FROM Bombard towers to Paladins. The most effective way of using this plethora of options is to counter what your opponent is throwing at you, and continuing to make effective use of your cheap counters units.
Getting bracer and gunpowder for your elite skirms is a priority and this also gives you access to the expensive gunpowder units. Halberdiers is a usual upgrade to get, and you might want to also consider Heavy Camels if your opponent is making heavy use of cavalry.
Your buildings are now also a lot stronger (at +40% hit points), giving you the toughest castles and walls in the game. Think of it like this, enemy trebs will have to fire 40% more shots to take down any of your buildings.
There are two drawbacks however. First of all, the Byzantines can be seen as jack of all trades, master of none as their troop lines receive no special bonuses, and all of them have flaws that effect their performance. They lack Blast Furnace which effects all their melee units, and their cavalry are further hampered by lack of bloodlines. They also lack a few favourite technologies, Heavy Scorpions, Siege Engineers and Treadmill Crane. They do receive every single economic upgrade however.
On water the news is better, you have access to the full naval tech tree, including the now useful shipwright. Although not quite up to duking it out with the Vikings or Saracens, the Byzantines have an extremely effective and versatile late game navy.
Name: Cataphract/Elite Cataphract
Cost: 70 Food + 75 Gold
HP: 110/150 (No Bloodlines available)
Pierce Armour: 1
Elite upgrade cost: 1200 food, 550 gold
The Cataphract is easily one of the top UUs in the game, as there are so few units that easily counter it. The Cataphract not only gets a hefty damage bonus against infantry (+9/+12) but it also takes less damage FROM them - particularly FROM pikemen. Combined with the trample damage FROM logistics, this makes it a fantastic shock unit, good for cutting through the usual mass of late game trash troops, and a nightmare for infantry dependent civs.
However, this is balanced against the high upgrade costs for the Elite upgrade and Logistics (Their Unique Technology), weighing in at 1600f, 800g and 1000f 600g respectively, a total of 2600f and 1400g. This means that the Cataphract is only seen well INTO the game, more often in team games than 1v1s. Cataphracts are best countered by other cavalry, priests or simple attrition. They also lack some of the pierce armour of other heavy cavalry.
Logistics. - 1000 food, 600 gold.
This technology adds trample damage for Cataphracts (this means that any enemy units in close proximity take damage FROM them when they attack). This makes the Cataphract the only unit in the game to benefit FROM this other than the Elite War Elephant, and considerably adds to their effectiveness in a battlefield situation.
However, this technology gives you no benefits to any other troops, and should only be purchased if you have extensive resources already banked, multiple castles up and plan to use Cataphracts heavily.
The Byzantines most benefit FROM British and Hunnish allies on land maps, as their increased production speed for Archery ranges and Stables respectively allows them even faster production of their cheap counter troops.
Persian and Aztec allies are more likely to gain benefit FROM the Byzantine team bonus. The Byzantines tend to be able to fill gaps in the troop lines of almost any other civ, so make good late game allies.
I long held the view like many players that although an occasionally worthwhile partner in team games, the Byzantines were a civ for rookies and BF players. However, with the release of the new patch and the state of the modern game, the Byzantines are looking increasingly attractive at the higher levels of play. Massed skirmisher fighting in Feudal, and most players heavily employing knights suit the Byzantine strengths very well.
Skirmisher wars are a Byzantine speciality, getting the same unit for 25% less than your opponent is a very direct route to success. Similarly, with cheap Camels and Pikemen, standing up to massed Knights in castle age is not a problem. Simply building units saves the Byzantine player resources compared to his opponent.
The problem for the Byzantines has always been that they lacked any kind of economic bonus, and this is still a handicap for them. However, with massed units being the ORDER of the day in AOC, the Byzantine savings can rapidly add up to equal and exceed the economic bonuses of many civilisations.
With their other useful bonuses such as free town watch and stronger buildings thrown INTO the mix, theyre certainly worth considering as an alternative to the more popular civs. There are still issues about the Byzantines being more predictable in the early game, but the addition of gold or stone mining allows them to still have a good range of feudal options. With their superior tech tree, the longer the game lasts, the more the balance swings towards the Byzantine player.