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Age of Empires IV Best Civilizations Broken Down

Age of Empires IV's eight civilizations each have unique properties. Here's what you need to know about each of them.
Age of Empires IV's eight civilizations each have unique properties. Here's what you need to know about each of them. / Photo courtesy of Relic Entertainment/Xbox Game Studios

Age of Empires IV dropped Thursday with eight unique civilizations from which players can choose. Each civilization has its own special units, bonuses, and preferred playstyle, and though there's plenty of room for improvisation, each is built to make use of intrinsic advantages. Here's a break down of every civilization in the game, including their special properties and a loose recommended strategy.

Age of Empires IV English Guide

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The English civilization is pitched as one of the simplest to play, which makes it a great place to learn the ropes. The English are a fundamentally defensive civilization, with a strong early game military and the fortifications to hold onto early gains.

The English playstyle is built around two essential concepts: powerful agriculture, and impenetrable defense. As the English, your farms cost 50% less wood than other civilizations, and produce food 15% more quickly when within range of mills. This extra food allows them to build and maintain a larger army than other civilizations.

With that army in place, you'll be able to expand your sphere of influence quickly, especially as the Vanguard Man-at-Arms provides an early advantage against other infantry. Once you've claimed territory, it'll be hard to dislodge you, as English Town Centers, Outposts, Towers and Keeps all give nearby friendly units 25% extra attack speed. English Town Centers also fire twice as many arrows as those from other civilizations, and English villagers use bows to attack, giving them a little more oomph than other villagers.

English ships benefit from extra range, making them strong naval competitors. Extra range also pops up for the civilization's unique unit, the Longbowman, which are cheap archers that can construct Palings to help negate archers' typical vulnerability to cavalry.

The English do well to push their early military and food advantages for aggressive pushes, claiming as much territory as they can, and then relying on their strong fortifications to hold onto it.

Age of Empires IV Chinese Guide

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The Chinese are one of the most difficult civilizations to play in Age of Empires IV, as they require frequent re-evaluations of strategy. The Chinese civilization is the only one in the game to have civilization bonuses change as it moves from age to age thanks to the Dynasty system.

In the Dark Age, the Chinese civilization lives under the Tang Dynasty, which excels at exploration. In this stage, Chinese civilization players would do well to find the most advantageous locations on the map to capture. This is made easier by the Chinese villager's ability to construct defenses 50% faster, and all other buildings 100% faster, than other villagers.

It's also vital to mind the home front. One unique Chinese unit is the Imperial Official, which automatically gathers taxes from buildings, and can improve a building's efficiency.

In the second age, under the Song Dynasty, the Chinese civilization gains the unique Village building, which works like a House on steroids. This allows for a huge population boom in the Feudal Age, which coincides with the availability of the Zhuge Nu, a repeater crossbowman that can shred lightly armored enemies. Villagers can also be produced more rapidly, but the Tang Dynasty bonuses of extra vision for Scouts evaporates.

Advancing to the Castle Age moves the Chinese civilization into the Yuan Dynasty. The Village is replaced by the Granary, which improves food gathering nearby and generates tax whenever resources are dropped there. That'll happen more often, as Villagers, Officials and military units all gain a 15% movement speed bonus under the Yuan Dynasty.

Finally, in the Imperial Age/Ming Dynasty, military units gain 10% extra health, the Chemistry technology instantly unlocks, giving gunpowder units 20% more damage, and the Pagoda unique building allows for perpetual resource gain. This is when the Chinese civilization's offensive capabilities really pop. The longer a match goes on, the more likely the Chinese civilization is to take home the win.

Age of Empires IV French Guide

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The French, like the English, are a fairly straightforward civilization. They focus on mounted combat, gunpowder siege weapons, and a strong economy to power their aggressive tactics.

The French start strong by being able to produce Villagers and Scouts 10% more quickly than other civilizations, and that bonus goes up when they move from Age to Age. That makes it easy to clear a path to nearby Trade Posts, which are a foundational to the French strategy. French Traders can return any resource to the market, and Trader Posts are revealed on the minimap at the start of the game, which encourages French civilization players to lean into the trade system. Trade Ships also return 20% more gold.

To keep those supply lines safe, the French can deploy their unique cavalry unit, the Royal Knight. These heavily armored cavalry get bonus damage after a charge, making them particularly devastating with repeat charges. They can be used to help establish strongholds, especially when a Keep is nearby — units produced by Archery Ranges or Stables near French Keeps are 20% cheaper.

Those Archery Ranges are also key, as they produce the Arbalétrier, a unique ranged unit with high damage and a deployable shield.

That's not to say the French are melee slouches — they can research melee tech for free, making their land military a force to be reckoned with. At sea, they benefit from the massive Galleass, a long-range gunpowder ship with impressive firepower.

To pilot the French, keep your supply lines fortified and your cavalry charging.

Age of Empires IV Holy Roman Empire Guide

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The Holy Roman Empire lives up to its name, focusing on religion as the main source of its power. Its unique unit, the Prelate, is available from the Dark Age, and boosts the productivity of Villagers by 40% for 30-second periods. It can also heal friendly units, convert enemy units, capture Sacred Sites starting in the Castle Age, and, most importantly collect relics.

Relics are core to the Holy Roman Empire strategy. They can be garrisoned inside Outposts, Keeps and Towers, granting those buildings improved sight range, weapon range, armor and damage. Emplacements on Outposts, Wall Towers and Keeps is reduced by 25% for the Holy Roman Empire, making them even more worthwhile investments — particularly when they're already being buffed by a relic.

Docks can also hold relics, increasing the attack speed of all ships by 5% per relic up to a maximum of 25%, which makes the Holy Roman Empire a potentially formidable force at sea.

To protect Prelates on their journeys, the Holy Roman Empire can employ Men-at-Arms in the Feudal Age — a whole age earlier than most other civilizations. But the civilization's true pride, from an infantry perspective, is the Landsknecht. These unarmored infantry can deal tons of damage in an area of effect, making them deadly in large scale conflict.

For the Holy Roman Empire, the key to success lies in the Prelate. Careful micromanagement of these units will boost your Villagers' productivity in the early game, and contribute to unassailable defenses later on thanks to relics.

Age of Empires IV Mongols Guide

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The Mongols are another civilization AoE IV describes as hard to play. This is in large part because they don't use a central base in the same way most other civilizations do. Instead, they're capable of packing up any of their buildings and moving them elsewhere. The Mongol strategy is built around quick raids and quick getaways en route to complete domination.

The first great Mongol advantage is that it doesn't require houses — the civilization starts at maximum population. This allows you to get an army going as quickly as possible. Early access to stables is also hugely helpful, as is the Khan, a unique unit that buffs units around it. Sending out raiding parties can help sustain your economy, as igniting enemy buildings provides a reward of food and gold. Traders can also supplement your economy, as the Mongols gain 10% more food, wood, gold and stone through trading.

The Mongol civilization is built around two major structures: the Ovoo and the Ger. The Ovoo is a sacred building that extracts stone from the ground automatically — which is good, because Mongol Villagers can't harvest stone themselves. The Ovoo also houses unique Mongol technologies that will be useful throughout the game. The Ger, on the other hand, combines a Mill, a Lumber Camp, and a Mining Camp all in one, holding a great deal of Mongol resource-gathering technology.

With early access to powerful raiding units, the Mongol strategy focuses on quick skirmishes, which it converts into material advantages, which, it turns into more devastating skirmishes, and so on until the enemy is wasted.

Age of Empires IV Rus Guide

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The Rus are all about rapid expansion. They're able to establish a powerful economy very quickly thanks to the extra gold and increased bounty the civilization enjoys when hunting wild animals, and higher bounties also lead to more food coming in from all sources.

They're also able to secure strong wood supplies as well, thanks to a combination of Lumber Camps built near Wooden Fortresses that adds up to 20% more wood harvested. Those Wooden Fortresses also act as improved Outposts, and can be further fortified by the Rus civilization's stronger than average Palisades.

But Rus players should be careful not to clear out all the nearby forests, as Hunting Cabins can generate passive gold based on the number of nearby trees, and serve as drop-off locations for food.

The Rus gain access to the Early Knight in the Feudal Age, making them relatively quick to armored cavalry, and the civilization's Lodya ships can be converted into any other kind of ship, creating impressive versatility as early as the Dark Ages.

In the Castle Age, the Rus gain access to another unique unit: the Warrior Monk. These units can heal and buff nearby units, pick up relics, convert enemy units and capture Sacred Sites, making them hugely useful in big armies.

Finally, in the Imperial Age, the Rus unlocks the Streltsy, an extremely powerful ranged gunpowder infantry unit whose rate of fire increases when stationary.

The Rus civilization aims to range for wildlife as much as possible in the early game, build up early fortifications, and then ride out that early advantage to a late-game win.

Age of Empires IV Delhi Sultanate Guide

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The Delhi Sultanate is the definition of a slow burn. This culture's central advantage is that it can perform any research in the game free of cost, but at a base that technology researches more slowly. With the resources saved on research, the Delhi Sultanate can build firmly fortified frontier settlements, amass a formidable fighting force, and ultimately flatten its foes.

Luckily for the Sultanate, it can speed up its research using the unique Scholar unit, which can be produced at the unique Mosque building. Scholars can be stationed inside Mosques to increase research speed in addition to serving standard monk functions such as healing allies and carrying relics.

While the Scholars research at home, Sultanate soldiers can build Palisades from the jump, allowing them to secure vital resources. This is particularly useful for the Sultanate, as it can turn Berry Bushes found in the wild into Orchards by building Mills near them. These Orchards yield twice as much food as Berry Bushes.

The crown jewel of the Sultanate military — archer-equipped Fishing Boats notwithstanding — is the War Elephant, a suitably tanky and destructive unit produced by the Stables starting in the Castle Age. When the War Elephant takes the field, enemy armies fold under its advance. For the Sultanate, it's only a question of lasting long enough to snowball.

Age of Empires IV Abbasid Dynasty Guide

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The Abbasid Dynasty may be figuratively built around the concept of Golden Ages, which improve research, production, and gathering speeds, but it's literally built around the House of Wisdom. This unique building contains plenty of vital and unique research, and buffs buildings in its area of influence, but it also controls the Abbasid movement through the Ages. Each new wing built in the House of Wisdom advances the civilization to a new Age.

Golden Ages allow the Abbasid Dynasty to gain temporary but essential buffs to resource gather rates, research times and production speed. They can turn these advantages into early siege units — Abbasid infantry can construct Rams and Siege Towers without the Siege Engineering technology — or into Camel Riders, cavalry units that specifically counter other cavalry by dealing more damage to them and taking less damage from them.

The Abbasid Dynasty aims for Golden Ages early and often, using those bursts of productivity as opportunities to leave opponents in the dust across the board, from military strength, to resource production, to technological advancement.