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Best Civilization in Age of Empires 2 – Tier List

Conquer your enemies!

Despite being quite an old game, the definitive version of Age of Empires 2 introduced some new content and graphical tweaks that have triggered a new wave of interest in the classic civ title. If you’re investigating it for the first time It can be quite intimidating, especially as each civilization has its own set of unique buildings, units, and bonuses. Tournament play has also helped raise its profile, with national and international competitions giving generous cash prizes.

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Best Age of Empires 2 Civilizations

There are more than 30 different civilizations in this edition of the Age of Empires series, so it can be hard to know when choosing if you’re picking one of the stronger ones. We’ve picked out the best ones below and ranked them into three groups, all of which have their strengths. Read on below to better understand which of these may best suit your individual play style.

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SSChinese, Lithuanians, Vikings, Mayans
SAztecs, Britons, Japenese, Franks, Huns
AKoreans, Malians, Mongols, Portuguese

SS-Tier Civilizations in Age of Empires 2


Great starting bonuses (towns support five extra population and spawn three more villagers at low cost) are supported by a strong military start. Whether offensively (Rockets, Siege Scorpions) or defensively (Great Wall bonus to your Walls and Towers), you can get off to a great start and keep it going.


You get a starting food bonus of 150, which is a great help in not only early but also mid-game encounters. If it’s a battle you’re after, you’ll have strong Cavalry units from the early game, which will be bolstered by Halberdiers and Skirmishers later.  


The Mayans are a brilliantly balanced civilization and get a resource duration bonus, so they’re suitable for any map. This makes them perfect for tournament play. The speed of your Plumed Archers makes up for the lack of cavalry, and a powerful array of infantry units backs them.


A whopping 15 percent discount on Warships during the Feudal and Castle Ages, going up to 20 percent in the Imperial Age, made the Vikings a great civilization. Throw in their Berserkers, who regen without needing monks, and you’ll be a formidable foe.

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S-Tier Civilizations in Age of Empires 2


You won’t get any cavalry units if you play as the Aztecs. But this is made up for with infantry units (especially their unique Jaguar Warriors) that deal strong bonus infantry damage and are created quickly. As you’d expect, they also get gold bonuses alongside more resilient Monk units.


If you want to concentrate on ranged warfare, the Britons are an excellent choice. Their Archers and Longbowmen are some of the best-regarded ranged units available, so if you’re adept at putting yourself in the right battle situations they can cause havoc. You also benefit from cheaper Towns.


The Franks have a nice spread of bonuses, with strong Cavalry units (plus 20 percent health) early on and a big discount on Stone Castles later. Their unique unit, Throwing Axemen, really packs a punch. Plus, your forage for food with a 15 percent speed bonus due to getting free Mill tech.


The lack of starting Wood can put people off choosing the Huns, but as they don’t need housing it is less of a burden than it first appears. Siege capabilities are bolstered thanks to accurate Trebuchets (+30 percent), but they really shine for their Cavalry Archers. And just the threat of the Huns creates a passive disadvantage for their neighbors.


Thanks to getting cheap Gathering Buildings, playing the Japanese can help you build a strong economy. This is helped by their being versatile, allowing you to deal with different map situations with relative ease. Samurai is an awesome infantry unit, and the Japanese also boast strong siege tech.

A-Tier Civilizations in Age of Empires 2


If you want to play slowly and defensively, the Koreans are a strong option. You get free Tower Upgrades, with many of your Tower and Keep options benefitting from extra range. In addition, Turtle Ships and War Wagons make for formidable opponents.


With a bit of experience, you can really make the Malians shine. They use 15 percent less wood when building, while their gold lasts 30 percent longer. Technology is also a strength, with Universities being built much more quickly. Plus, they’re strong defensively, getting a Barracks bonus, and with non-garrisoned towns still using Fire Arrows.


While only on the A-Tier list, some consider the Mongols to be the strongest civilization in Age of Empires 2. Their Mangudai Cavalry is a fantastic fast-firing unit, but their nomadic nature makes them a hard civilization to play well. They also get Scouting bonuses and can devastate siege engines.


The Portuguese is a fun civilization to play with, as they have several unique advantages, and all their technologies are researched with a speed bonus. Their Feitoria Building trading post generates resources on its own. In battle, they boast tough, powerful ships while their Organ Guns are lethal.

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Civilizations to avoid


While the Goths can be a great late-game civilization, it can be very difficult to get to late-game versus even relatively strong opponents. Their economy is very slow, and while bonuses let them get going OK early in the game, they really suffer mid-game as they fall behind the curve, both financially and militarily.


These are only useful in team play, as they’re all defense with no bite. The bonus unit of the Sicilians, the Serjeant, are strong defensively but don’t do enough damage to make them worthwhile. This benefit is also seen in their general ability to soak up extra damage (50 percent of bonus damage).


At first look, the Spanish seems like a strong civilization. Conquistadors are strong, being a mounted gunpowder unit. Generally, they rely on gunpowder bonuses to get an edge. Their Missionary Monks are also strong, but their benefits are generally too niche to convert to a game-winning army.

If you love the Age of Empires series, check out some of the Age of Empires IV guides we have at Pro Game Guides, including How to automatically assign tasks to new units in Age of Empires IV and All military units in Age of Empires IV.

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Chris Marling
Chris Marling is a writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience across newspapers, magazines, and websites. Based in the UK, he has written professionally on everything from tech to tearooms. But his real passion is gaming, going right back to the Atari 2600 - and especially RPGs and MMOs. He cut his teeth on games such as The Realm and Anarchy Online. But 20 years on still gets excited about exploring each new world. When not online, you'll find him gaming analog-style around the table. Chris has had five of his own board games published, including Pioneer Days and Armageddon.

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Best Civilization in Age of Empires 2 – Tier List

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