The Lords of the West DLC has brought two new civilizations to Age of Empires: the Burgundians, and Sicilians. Despite being two decades on from the original release! Read this strategy guide to learn all you need to know to make your civilization the economic and crusading Lords of the West. For long time fans looking for some strategies/context for the new civilizations and new fans trying to understand why the game is still so popular.
Burgundians: Economic Lords of the West
- Unique unit: Coustillier (Shock Cavalry). Flemish Militia (Infantry)
- Unique techs: Burgundian Vineyards (convert food to gold). Flemish Villager (convert villagers to Flemish Militia)
- Bonuses: Economic Upgrades 1 age early. +25% gunpowder attack. Cavalier upgrade in Castle Age. Stable techs 50% cheaper
An unusual aspect of the Burgundians is how relatively minor the historical civilization was. The Burgundii were one of many Germanic tribes that migrated into Western and Central Europe during what is loosely termed ‘The Migration Period’. (No points for guessing why.) These groups formed the backbone of the civilizations in the original game. When the Burgundii fought the Huns they were so thoroughly defeated many sources state the majority of Burgundians were killed. However, they eventually settled the region of Burgundy and gave it its name. This roughly corresponds with the Dark Age in-game. They have few benefits in this age besides early economic upgrades which only really pay off later.
During the later part of the dark age, Burgundy came under the control of the Franks and was functionally a Frankish kingdom at the elite level. You might end up getting rushed at this point too. Try to get 26-7 villagers out in dark age to get to castle age fast so you can play to your strengths. Only get enough military to prevent history from repeating itself.
Georges Duby wrote the most famous academic works on the emergence of Feudalism. He focused on Maconnais, Burgundy. Duby proposed that feudalism emerged first in Burgundy around the early 11th century. This was partly due to the prosperity of the region and the influence of the church. This lines up with Burgundy receiving the economic upgrades an age early. This bonus can really help your economy. Still, you want to fast-castle so don’t spend too long in Feudal Age.
In the mid-late medieval period, Burgundy gained a reputation as ‘The Splendid Duchy’, an economically prosperous region famed for its vineyards. In matches, this is a good point to start making use of your unique units. Coustillier use a charged attack and so are exceptionally well suited to quickly taking out low HP units. Every 40 seconds Coustillier deals 35 bonus damage with its attack; this effect is doubled against archers, cavalry archers, and gunpowder units.
Coustilliers are quite cheap (55 wood, 55 gold) and so it can be very cost-effective to hit the enemy’s economy with hit and run raids to take out many villagers before the opponent can respond. Though not really a unique military unit to Burgundy, the use of the Voulge is. French and Burgundian Coustilliers really were a lighter armored and probably cheaper knight alternative. Their effectiveness falls off in protracted engagements and they are slightly weaker after the first attack than knight-line units. Against large numbers of cheap units, the initial charge makes less of an impact so this can be a counter. The game will tell you they are weak against monks, but how weak can you really be against a unit you can one-shot.
In the Imperial Age, you can start using Flemish Revolution and gunpowder weapons, this roughly correlates with the 100 Years’ War. Bonus damage with gunpowder becomes useful in this age so use your university to further strengthen gunpowder attack. It might also be time to use Burgundian Vineyards to turn your food into gold at a 2:1 ratio. Use this tech when your gold mines are running dry and you have a surplus of food. This was the period in which the dukes of Burgundy really asserted their independence, partly by supporting the English during the 100 Years’ War. The Burgundian army were early adopters of gunpowder weapons in the conflict, which explains that 25% attack bonus.
Duke Phillip the Bold gained control of Flanders through marriage (1362), which almost explains the incorporation of the Flemish Revolution into the Burgundian civilization. It’s still a bit of a stretch as ‘Flemish Revolution’ is likely a reference to the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302). A fairly well-equipped Flemish Peasant army was able to defeat French knights over 50 years before it could be described as Burgundian. The tech represents the spirit of the battle quite well, turning your villagers into the unique Flemish Militia unit which are about as strong as two-handed swordsmen with bonuses against cavalry. Revolution is best used either as a “hail mary” to survive an attack or as part of a final push as it greatly sets back your economy in the medium term.
Sicilians: Crusader Lords of the West
- Unique Unit: Serjeant. (Heavy Infantry-can construct Donjons)
- Unique Building: Donjon. (Watchtower/Castle hybrid)
- Unique Techs: First Crusade: Each Town Centre spawns 10 Serjeants (up to 5 TCs). Scutage: Each Military unit you control provides 15 gold to every team member.
- Bonuses: Castles and TCs build 100% faster. Land military units take 50% less bonus damage. Farm techs provide double food.
Next up are the Sicilians, which should really be the Normans or maybe Italo-Normans with Britons changed to Anglo-Normans. The Sicilian kings came from Normandy as mercenaries, but conquered territory across the Mediterranean, building castles wherever they went. The in-game Sicilians are an infantry civilization; however, their unique building is their most interesting aspect. The Donjon, similar to the Krepost, and their unique tech, First Crusade, encourage aggressive building. Though buildings also work well defensively. Your opponent probably knows you are going to try a Donjon rush, as the civ is a little bit of a one-trick pony. This doesn’t mean they will be able to stop you!
The Sicilians are hard to place in the early medieval period. The military elites came from mixed Scandinavian/Frankish backgrounds whilst peasant villagers may be Arab/Greek/Roman or a melting pot of them all. None of your bonuses are going to be particularly helpful in this age, perhaps reflecting the fact your civilization wouldn’t really exist. It was the rapid spread across the Mediterranean and North Sea in the 11th century that made them undisputed lords of the west.
The Sicilian Donjon is somewhere between a watchtower and a castle, it will produce Serjeants and fire on enemies. Referring to only part of a real castle, it’s quite a bit cheaper than a full castle (75 wood, 200 stone). It can be tempting to use these defensively but it might be worth resisting. The serjeant is not much stronger than a man at arms (better armor but less attack). The real value comes from the donjon drop strategy. Use the building like a watchtower to deny your opponent resources. Tower rushes normally involves putting villagers at risk and losing short-term economic output.
“[The Normans] built castles far and wide throughout this country, and distressed the wretched folk, and always after that it grew much worse. May the end be good when God wills!” – The final lines of one version of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle (also your opponent getting Donjon rushed)
As the Sicilians, you can use your Serjeants to produce more Donjons. Donjons, in turn, produce more Serjeants whilst keeping villagers safe and working. It’s best to send a few villagers forward to build your first Donjon a little back from the enemy base. Start to snowball by producing more donjons with serjeants and more serjeants with donjons. Let the villagers get back to work!
The increased +100 food bonus from farm upgrades will be paying off now if you have been keeping up with the upgrades. In the late Middle Ages the Sicilians were large-scale exporters of grain to Florence so this checks out history-wise. Get working on more town centers if you can, they will come in handy in a bit and follow the real Norman strategy of settling far and wide.
Sicilian town centers and castles construct 100% faster, further promoting aggressive seizure of map control. The early Middle Ages saw a rapid expansion of the Normans overseas. England, Sicily, Syria, and many more regions were targets of Norman conquests in the latter 11th century. Everywhere Normans went, their construction of castles cemented their power. The buffs to transport ship armor and capacity will help you cement this same control on water maps.
First Crusade is now available. Still, unless you are in complete panic mode, hold the line and try to get a few more town centers built first. In reality, the First Crusade (1096-1099) probably occurred during this age. The Sicilians, under Bohemond of Taranto, were major players on the Christian side. Historically, Bohemond played a major part in encouraging a follow-up Crusade. As he needed support to defend his newly established Principality of Antioch. Use crusaders to support your own forward bases in enemy territory. Hopefully, this can take Sicilians from ‘Lords of the West‘ to ‘lords of the whole map’.
Hopefully, you have 4-5 town centers 300 food, and 600 gold; if so it’s time to research First Crusade. You can instantly spawn 10 Serjeants at each. 50 new units all at once are going to be a huge power swing in your favor. In a team game, or if you are near/over your pop limit, Scutage is a great combo with this as it gives your team 15 gold for each unit you control. The more the merrier!
50 units at once don’t feel very Age of Empires and perhaps a little broken. However, they also might seem easy to counter with anti-infantry. Luckily, Sicily’s 50% resistance to bonus damage makes Serjeants tricky to shut down. They are slow, however, so you will need a way to deal with cavalry archers, maybe retreat to your Donjon as archers are poor versus towers.
The Norman continent’s, (both Italo-Norman and the actual Duke of Normandy), greatest military contribution to the real First Crusade was a small elite cavalry corps of knights. Sicilian Norman knights were decisive at the siege of Antioch. Whilst a mass of heavy infantry isn’t exactly historical, it can be powerful. Bohemond was a real Crusader King and used new crusaders to reinforce his castles deep in enemy territory. The same strategy in-game can turn a stalemate into a total victory.