A Comprehensive Unique Unit Guide
By aelf at 2008-03-17 16:32
While the War Academy teaches specific strategies involving extensive use of the prominent UUs, there isn't a guide to explain the uses of the others. Strong ones like the Praetorian often need no introduction, but many players are not exposed to the possibilities that the more subtle ones present. What spurred me to start this guide are the fairly common disparaging comments about some UUs, comments that are often simply one-sided.
I hope this guide would help you leverage the different UUs effectively or at least inspire you to be more creative with them. Give all of them a chance! But please note that this guide is written mainly for single player games. Some tips may still be useful for multiplayer, but I can't promise that. This guide also assumes that you are playing as leaders under the normal civs, which might not be true if you are playing BTS.
Thanks to Robo Kai, kniteowl, Cabert, Wodan, johnny_rico, gusi, UncleJJ, Bjorn190, dime, s.c.dude, drkodos, kristopherb, Elandal, Thyrwyn, Phrederick, Polycrates, Thedrin, agc28, PraetorianSteve, svv, carl corey, Andrei_V, Mr. Civtastic, Thomas G., GeneralGab, Percy, r_rolo1, facistal, jason77024, GoliathFF8 and InvisibleStalke for ideas and contributions that helped make this guide possible.
And now I shall begin. The different UUs are listed under their civs, in alphabetical order.
America: Navy SEAL (Marine)
Once you've gotten over the fact that it comes very late in the game, you might realise that the Navy SEAL is actually good UU. A marine replacement, it might seem to be a niche unit. After all, how often do you conduct amphibious attacks (which include those across a river, by the way)? But take a closer look at its unique advantages and you'll realise the potential it has.
Its first strike and first strike chances are not to be taken lightly. First strikes can help you deal more damage to the enemy and comfortably win battles that you might otherwise take heavy damage in or even lose. The free March promotion, meanwhile, allows the Navy SEAL to heal on the go, reducing the time it takes to recover before heading off to another battle. Bringing a Medic III unit along with your SEALs means that as soon as they have attacked, they are eligible for the 30% healing the next turn (5% from enemy territory and 25% from Medic III). So as long as they are at or above 16.8/24 strength, they will be back to full health the next turn. They can also heal right after making an amphibious assault aboard a Medic transport. The SEALs in Civ4 are indeed an elite task force worthy of their name, capable of enduring and sustaining a long campaign.
The 50% attack bonuses against machine guns and artillery are a thick layer of icing on the cake. With SEALs, you don't have to fret when attacking cities defended by machine guns (which are immune to collateral damage) without tanks. Their first strikes also help by negating the machine gun's first strikes. And, also due to their first strikes, SEALs are probably the best stack protectors against enemy artillery attacks. Divide your stack(s) into smaller SEAL-protected groups and you don't have to worry too much about getting overwhelmed by mass artillery.
Whether you have some coastal cities to assault or a land campaign to conduct, Navy SEALs are an excellent unit to bring along with your invasion force. They do come late, but they come at the right time if you're planning on a late domination push that would win you the game.
Arabia: Camel Archer (Knight)
Camel Archers are knights that have a higher withdrawal chance (25%) and don't require horses or iron. You could simply use them like normal knights, but the thing about them is Flanking promotions make them very good at surviving failed attacks (+55% withdrawal chance with Flanking II). This means you don't have to balk so much at attacking a city or a stack that has a defending pike, making them more reliable as an attack unit. Of course, if you end up with no horses or iron, they give you the option of building knights in the first place.
If you're playing on Warlords, stables can give your Camel Archers enough experience points to start off with Flanking I and II, so you don't have to be running Vassalage or Theocracy. Also, you can improve their ability even further by attaching Great Generals to them as warlords. Give a Flanking II Camel Archer the Tactics promotion (+30% withdrawal chance) and it would have 85% chance of retreating from a failed attack. Of course, you might still get unlucky and lose it, especially if you attack at very low odds. It's not 100% withdrawal chance, you know.
Aztecs: Jaguar Warrior (Swordsman)
Traditional whipping boys, these guys get 2 free promotions in Warlords, Woodsman I and Combat I (the latter thanks to Montezuma's Aggressive trait). If you've built those cheap barracks, giving them Woodsman II immediately would allow you to rush a relatively cheap stack of them (Jaguars cost less than normal swordsmen) to enemy cities through forests and jungles, in which they have two moves. Of course, this comes at the price of not being able to give them the City Raider promotion first, but depending on how fortified the target cities are, this may not be such a problem. Jaguars do get the swordsman's inherent 10% bonus when attacking cities.
On a more conventional level, the benefit of the Jaguar is probably similar to that of the Gallic Warrior - better stack protection when standing on a particular terrain. Jaguars can even defend against axemen when positioned in forests and jungles, as they get 70% terrain defense bonus there (+50% from the terrain and +20% from Woodsman I), making them good all-round defenders in this situation. Give them Woodsman II or Shock (both available immediately with barracks) and they would have no need to be afraid of axemen as long as they have trees to cover them. Hence, if the enemy's lands sport plenty of foliage, you may want to bring a few of them along in any case. Note that this applies only to jungles in Civ4 vanilla, where Jaguars get 75% defense bonus (+50% from the terrain and +25% jungle defense bonus).
Jaguars don't require any resource so you can start building them even before hooking up copper or iron. You can also whip them out (probably with unhappy citizens) in newly conquered cities that are not connected to any metal resource, immediately creating some units for either garrison or further offensive purposes and thus helping you proceed with your campaign without having to wait for reinforcements. The value of this UU greatly increases when you find yourself without copper and iron in the first place.
More on the no resource requirement, Jaguars are a sure way to rush a neighbour early in the game. You can plant your second city on the best production site in the direction of your target without waiting for copper or iron to be revealed. Then you build barracks and granary, research IW and start whipping Jaguars out without even having to bother with any resources. Get a stack of them and attack Aztec-style.
For BTS players: With the addition of the Woodsman III promotion, Jaguars have become much more useful in an interesting way. Woodsman III grants 2 first strikes, +50% forest and jungle attack and the ability to heal units on the same tile at the rate of 15% per turn. Since Jaguars get Woodsman I for free and barracks can give them Woodsman II off the bat, they are effectively 2 XP away from becoming the ultimate forest/jungle warriors of their time and effective medics. If you need to take out some enemy units that are fortified in a forest/jungle, especially those that are there to choke your cities, unleash the Woodsman III Jaguars. If you need some quick healing, you have Woodsman III Jaguars. A very handy support unit to have around for early warfare. They are probably still not such effective combat units on their own, but the first strikes might help.
You can even maximise the Jaguar's healing ability by attaching a Great General to it and giving it all three Medic promotions as well. Woodsman III's healing stacks with the Medic promotions (provided they are on the same unit), giving you a whooping 50% healing rate. And this isn't difficult to achieve since Jaguars get free Combat I (required for Medic I) thanks to Aggressive, so you only need 26 XP to get there. Attaching a Great General to a unit gives you 20 XP, so that Jaguar effectively only needs 6 XP, the first 3 of which can be given by barracks.
Carthage: Numidian Cavalry (Horse Archer)
Warlords and BTS only. This is a UU that people are divided about. Some regard it as a good UU (though not great). Others think it is weak. The latter opinion can usually be attributed to the traditional aversion to horse archers, Horseback Riding (HBR) and Archery (techs required to build horse archer-type units). Horse archers have two moves and are good for busting archer-defended cities, but they die to spearmen, rendering them easy to counter. Archery is widely viewed as a useless dead end tech early on, while HBR is fairly expensive, making it tempting to research other more beneficial techs first. The latter's beaker cost also makes it difficult to ensure that your opponents don't have spears yet by the time it's researched. Add the fact that horse archers suffer from a 10% penalty when attacking cities in Warlords, and that the Numidian Cavalry is 1 strength weaker than normal horse archers, it's easy to turn your back on the Carthaginian UU.
However, if you consider it carefully, you may find that it's actually worth something depending on the situation. In Warlords, HBR allows you to build stables (+2 exp to mounted units), which would give your horses an edge in promotions before Vassalage/Theocracy, making the tech more attractive to research early. And the Numidian Cavalry starts with Flanking I, so, with stables, you can give them Flanking II and another promotion (eg. Mobility) right off the bat. This would give them a 50% (20% natural ability + 30% from Flanking I and II) chance to withdraw from losing battles and, if you choose Mobility, the ability to more very quickly even in enemy territory. With the Charismatic trait, it's easy to get your Numidian Cavalry to the next level for yet another promotion. Don't forget that the free Flanking I would not disappear when you upgrade them to knights.
Those are not all. The Numidian Cavalry also gets 50% bonus vs. melee, as well as the 50% bonus vs. siege that horse archers have, making it virtually an improved axeman. It has no need to be overly afraid of spearmen, thanks to the melee bonus. And you can rely on Flanking II to increase the survival rate of your Numidian Cavalry when up against spears, or you can even the odds with Combat I and Shock. If there's no heavy cultural defense, Numidian Cavalry can do a decent job busting cities on their own, although you'll need a good number of them. As active empire defenders or counter units, they are versatile enough, having bonuses against two categories of units. As pillagers, they are excellent since spears, the easiest counter, are not as effective against them - just be sure to build stables and give them Combat I and Shock (of course, you may want a few Sentries). It may seem like a waste of their free Flanking I, but this way the enemy cannot easily drive your pillaging Numidians out. The few Flanking-promoted ones can attack enemy units guarding key resources. Remember to pillage ivory and horses first, since elephants and horse archers are the most effective counters to your UU.
The cons of the Numidian Cavalry are their reduced strength, the 10% penalty against cities and the fact that they can't get City Raider promotions. Once there's significant cultural defense in an enemy city, expect to take huge losses if you don't bring siege weapons along. Even if there's no cultural defense and the city is not on a hill, Numidian Cavalry are actually not as strong as the city's unpromoted fortified archers, so you need to bring at least twice as many. You can beeline to HBR and rush a neighbour with a moderate stack of them to quickly capture a few cities, but don't expect them to carve out a large empire for you.
For BTS players: Horse archers no longer get the 10% city attack penalty, so the Numidian Archer is slightly stronger now. It also gains mounted units' flanking attack ability (not to be confused with Flanking promotion), whereby it does 'collateral damage' to siege units in the stack it is attacking, making it better at countering mass catapults than before. These changes certainly mean that Carthage players have something to cheer about.
Celtia: Gallic Warrior (Swordsman)
Warlords and BTS only. The Gallic Warrior is a much-maligned UU. Most people wonder why an offensive unit is given a promotion for hill defense. How on earth is that going to help him attack cities, which is what it does best?
Attacking a city is the culmination of an offensive movement, which begins with your entering enemy territory. If you're careful, you would want to move your stack along the safest route to the target city as far as possible, which often means favouring forests and hills over flatlands. This is where the Gallic Warrior's free Guerilla I can help. While spearmen protect your stack against mounted units and axemen/crossbows protect it from melee units, a Gallic Warrior on a hill is the best defender against counterattacking catapults and can even take over the role of the other stack-protection units. For example, if your spearman is badly injured, the Gallic Warrior can defend against chariots or horse archers as long as you're on a hill. Thus, while normal swordsmen may be badly injured before reaching the target city in these circumstances, chances are Gallic Warriors would be in better shape.
And note that Gallic Warriors can be promoted with Guerilla II and III. Such units can be a thorn in your enemy's side, running through the hills pillaging mines and maybe raiding a weakly defended city or two, thanks to Guerilla III's movement bonus on hills. The 25% bonus for attacks on hills and 30% withdrawal chance that this promotion gives also make it easier for you to deal with stubborn hill cities. And now that you can build Gallic Warriors with copper in the latest versions of Warlords, this UU can make an extra early appearance for city-busting.
Another neat thing about this UU is the fact that you can upgrade it to more advanced units in its line without losing the free Guerilla I. So, in effect, the benefit of this UU lasts for a long time. Remember that forests can be chopped but hills are permanent.
For BTS players: Somewhat like the Jaguar, this UU benefits from an improvement to its natural promotion branch: the change to Guerrilla III. It still gives +25% hills attack but now it gives a 50% withdrawal chance, making a Guerilla III Gallic Warrior a very effective crack troop. Need to attack that fortified hilltop city before Construction? Guerilla III Gallic Warriors can soften the defenses and have a good chance of surviving even after losing. The 50% withdrawal chance really is quite amazing, outclassing both the Flanking promotions combined. Moreover, since both Celt leaders are Charismatic, it's really easy to get to Guerrilla III. With barracks, your Gallic Warriors can start with Guerilla II and you are only 1XP away from Guerilla III. Sounds like fun.
China: Chukonu (Crossbowman)
The Chukonu has a fearsome reputation. Collateral damage is something well-loved by most Civ4 players, and a respectable non-siege ground unit that has the ability to inflict it would surely become the favourite of some. The biggest weakness of siege units is their inability to defend effectively. The Chukonu, however, can function as an improved crossbowman, thus having an important benefit of siege units without the drawback.
You may find it hard to pinpoint the exact role of this UU, though. Crossbows are primarily a counter unit, designed to help eliminate the threat of enemy melee units, and can in turn be countered by mounted units. If the enemy builds stacks of melee, your Chukonus will tear them apart with their bonus vs melee, first strikes and collateral damage. If the enemy mixes his stacks with mounted units, Chukonus are less effective. Thanks to collateral damage and the extra first strikes, however, they are much less helpless than normal crossbows and are still able to attack such mixed stacks, although you would probably sustain losses initially. The idea is to wear the enemy units down with your extra hits and collateral damage. Given enough Chukonus, there's almost nothing you can't defeat in the field (assuming you are facing units of the same era). But the question arises: Are they more cost effective for this purpose than catapults, since the latter are cheaper? If the enemy only has melee units then the answer is clearly yes. If the enemy has mounted units (which may be immune to first strikes) in his stack, sending in a few scuicide catapults first would probably be a better idea. The Chukonus can do semi-cleanup, dealing even more collateral damage to the enemy units and making them extremely weak and easy for more Chukonus or other units to take out.
You can apply the same concept when attacking a city. Siege units are still needed to remove the city's defenses, but who does the first few assaults would depend on what sort of units are defending the city. If they are macemen and pikemen/spearmen, use your Chukonus. If there are archery/mounted units in the city, use the siege units first, followed by the Chukonus and finally the cleanup crew (if you have any). Remember, Chukonus don't get City Raider promotions, so be prepared to lose some as they attack at lower odds than your CR units might have.
The Chukonu's first strikes are useful on the offense, but they become the primary advantage on the defense. When Chukonus are defending, they won't get to inflict any collateral damage on the enemy units, but their first strikes would be a great boost. First strikes grant chances of hitting the enemy unit before the combat proper even begins, thus improving your odds. The stronger your unit is compared to the enemy's the better first strikes are, since the hits you score would do more damage, thus increasing the possibility of your unit winning without taking much damage. This makes them even better a defense against enemy melee units than normal crossbows. Their first strikes also work well when defending against siege weapons, since they might be able to win before much collateral damage is suffered.
Whether you give your Chukonus Drill promotions for more first strikes is up to you. Note that this UU has higher chances of being promoted than normal crossbowmen, since they are more suitable for an offensive role, making it possible to accumulate quite a few Drill promotions and a lot first strikes. Moreover, if you're playing on Warlords, both Chinese leaders are Protective, so Chukonus start with Drill I, giving you a headstart in that line of promotions. Gunpowder units can't choose Drill, so upgraded Chukonus can be interesting. Incidentally, Protective also makes the Chukonu better at defending cities, thanks to the free City Garrison I promotion.
On a final note, here's a tip on how to get Chukonus early and really overrun your neighbours: Choose Qin Shi Huang as your leader and aim to build the Oracle to grab Metal Casting (requires Pottery and Bronze Working). The Industrious trait makes getting the Oracle viable, even without marble. Metal Casting leads to Machinery, but it also allows you to build your cheap Industrious forges. Build one asap and run an engineer specialist. When a Great Engineer is born, use him to lightbulb Machinery, giving you access to the Chinese UU very early. But do note that Machinery requires Iron Working and Chukonus need the iron resource to be built, so make sure you get this tech researched while waiting for the GE to be born. The worst scenario is finding no iron in your territory. To help prevent this situation, research Iron Working as quickly as possible to locate iron resources and claim them if necessary.
Egypt: War Chariot (Chariot)
At 5 strength, the Egyptian War Chariot is essentially an axeman on wheels with no City Raider promotions but has withdrawal chance. It is a very powerful and mobile unit that can win your game from as early as the Ancient Era.
An Egyptian player who does not have copper has less to worry about. In fact, horses are much more important for him/her, making Animal Husbandry (AH) a priority. And since Egypt starts with Agriculture, which leads to AH, things are pretty much set up for you. Egypt also starts with The Wheel, which is required to build chariots and roads (to hook up those horses). What serendipity! Feel free to delay Bronze Working till you wish to use Slavery, unless it turns out that there are no horses within reasonable distance. If you discover horses nearby, get a settler there as soon as possible and hook it up. You can then begin preparing for your offensive. Chariot rushing has never been so effective.
While the chariot rush tactic of pillaging the enemy's metal mines should still be applied, War Chariots aren't as afraid of spears as normal chariots because of their increased strength. Additionally, you can give them the Shock promotion to help deal with enemy spears that you might encounter. This would also help vanilla players who face enemy axemen, since the chariot bonus vs. axes applies only after Warlords (vanilla players are somewhat compensated by having 20% withdrawal chance instead of just 10%, though). That said, I have found Flanking promotions a generally better choice when up against spears. Even with Shock, War Chariots have lower odds of winning, so you might as well increase their survival rate.
A little later in the game, a combination of War Chariots and axes would be good to guard against counterattacking spears, since War Chariots don't get defensive bonuses and would almost certainly lose all the time. In most games, axes (and maybe swords) would gradually replace them as the premier city raiders anyway. As enemy cities accumulate more defensive ratings, those spears become more and more costly to dislodge with War Chariots alone. The loss in mobility that would result from this handing over is usually nothing to worry about, since it corresponds roughly to the time when you need to expand at a slower pace until you can get upkeep costs down.
Speaking of upkeep, be wary of over-expanding with War Chariots. It's easy to fall into this trap since they pack a good punch so early in the game. While judicious use of them might mean smooth sailing for the rest of the game, their careless use can ruin you as you fall hopelessly behind in terms of technology and development paying upkeep, especially on the higher levels. This and the lack of close neighbours are the greatest early adversaries of the Egyptian player.
England: Redcoat (Rifleman)
The terror of your enemies in Civ4 vanilla, this unit is dramatically different in Warlords. In the former, it has 16 strength compared to the normal rifleman's 14 and an additional 25% bonus vs. gunpowder units. Hence, they are uber powerful in their era, quite unmatched by any other unit until infantry. The use of the Redcoat on vanilla is, therefore, quite straightforward. Build lots of them and/or upgrade your CR units to them and go on the offensive. Combine them with cannons for even greater effect and watch the colours on the minimap change rapidly. Even grenadiers are unable to counter them effectively due to their additional bonus. The only way the enemy can really fight back is by throwing lots of cannons at them, but you can always spread your stacks out, and the AI isn't likely to do that anyway. Don't let the enemy get machine guns, though. These are a sure counter to Redcoats on the defense.
In Warlords, however, it's not so easy. Redcoats have the same base strength as normal riflemen. They only retain their bonus vs. gunpowder units. That said, they are still quite effective. Given no terrain or promotion-based bonuses, no unit of the same era can beat them when they attack. They are vulnerable to attacks by enemy grenadiers now, but still not as badly as in the case of normal riflemen. They own any other unit when defending. You can still use this UU the same way, but more careful planning is required. A proper defense against enemy grenadiers must now be provided for, and cannons play a greater role. Do note that Redcoats have no advantage over normal rifles when attacking cities defended by longbows.
In Warlords, you must consider the Churchill factor as well. The new English leader is Charismatic and Protective, making his gunpowder units especially effective. They start with City Garrison I and Drill I and require fewer xp points get promoted. As city defenders, Churchill's Redcoats are certainly a force to be reckoned with. They are also better on the offensive, since Drill helps in any combat situation and, thanks to the free City Garrison, you can better defend newly captured cities against enemy counterattacks. Some players even consider Churchill part of the reason why Redcoats had to be nerfed.
A final point on this UU: Drill IV Redcoats are formidable. They get a total of 5 first strikes and a chance at another (immunity from first strikes are rare enough post-Gunpowder), an extra 10% bonus vs. mounted units and an amazing 60% reduction of any collateral damage sustained. These units are likely to take less damage in every way and win more often. And, in Warlords, Drill counts as a prerequisite promotion towards Cover, Formation and other "vs unit type" promotions. Hence, units with Drill are not condemned by not choosing Combat, should the need for those promotions arise. Especially valuable is the availability of Pinch as a promotion, since it helps to neutralise the threat of attacking grenadiers. The trouble is gunpowder (and melee) units don't get Drill promotions, so it's only possible to create such units by upgrading your archery units to Redcoats, which requires you to set aside a tidy sum. To make matters worse, archery units are generally not used offensively and are thus difficult to promote. However, the good news is Churchill players can do this more easily. With the Protective trait giving free Drill I to your archery units and Charismatic making promotions easier to obtain, you can use crossbows (the most likely candidate, since it has greater offensive value compared to archers and longbows) extensively in the hopes of getting some of them up to Drill IV to be upgraded later.
For BTS players: The Redcoat has indirectly been improved from its Warlords version since all gunpowder units can now receive Drill promotions. That means elite Drill Redcoats are much closer to reality, especially for Churchill. Gone are the days when you have to upgrade archery units to get them.
Ethiopia: Oromo Warrior (Musketman)
BTS only. Musket UUs generally don't get a lot of love, although the ones that the game has to offer are actually quite useful. But even if you're really not a fan of musket UUs, give the Oromo Warrior a try before you knock it. It is immune to First Strikes and starts with Drill I and II promotions; that means 2-3 First Strikes and -20% to collateral damage received out of the box. And if you throw the experience from barracks in, you get Drill III Oromo Warriors straight off the assembly line. Just add in Theocracy/Vassalage or a military instructor and you can be training Drill IV Oromos. Naturally, this UU has a potentially high survival rate, even after being battered by siege weapons (thanks to the Drill promotions' protection against collateral damage of up to 60%). They will perform normal muskets' defensive role extra well, and you need not be so hesitant about using them to attack even when faced with knights. Longbows are also less of a worry since Oromos are immune to First Strikes. Moreover, they are draftable, and you can get Drill III draftees with just Theocracy/Vassalage/a military instructor.
If those aren't enough, you needn't worry so much about this musket UU getting obsolete quickly (BTS has delayed the advent of grenadiers to prolong the life of muskets anyway) because the promotions will remain on them when they are upgraded to riflemen. You might have read about the elusive elite Drill IV Redcoats. Well, with Ethiopia, Drill IV riflemen are a lot easier to come by. Suddenly those enemy cannons are not so scary anymore, are they?
France: Musketeer (Musketman)
Although they are 1 strength point weaker than knights, musketmen have no hard counter in their time, which is the whole point of this unit. Also, knights don't get defensive bonuses so they are not as good at defending. Musketmen fare well as an all-round stack protector. And when one of your cities is threatened, wouldn't it be ideal to have a versatile defender that can counterattack as well? Remember that musketmen can be drafted.
Now, think of the potential uses of Musketeers, which are musketmen with 2 moves. They can reinforce any threatened city quickly, which makes them potentially more effective as city defenders than longbowmen. And when you need stack protection during a campaign, Musketeers, besides being an insurance that covers you against everything except knights and Pinch elephants (both of which you can simply counter by bringing pikes), are also able to pillage along the way with the extra move (which can be useful for taking out strategic resources). Not just that, their speed means you can have reserves catching up with your stack to take over the role of their wounded comrades should your stack come under attack.
Offensively, they have their uses as well. Musketeers can do clean-up work when all your siege weapons and CR units have spent their move attacking, since they have 9 base strength and aren't countered by any particular unit. And, of course, they are great for a pillaging campaign. Mix them with pikemen in small stacks and they can move and pillage within a single turn and with near impunity. Versatility is the name of the Musketeer game.
A major gripe that people have about this UU is the fact that it obsoletes too quickly, since Chemistry is effectively only a few techs away. Moreover, nothing upgrades to muskets and you have to build them from scratch, further narrowing their window of opportunity. The Musketeers' speed actually helps to alleviate this problem, since you can get them to the frontline to be used a lot more quickly compared to normal musketmen. Also, researching Nationalism and switching to Nationhood to draft can help you get enough of them out in time to be used to full effect. You can stay in Nationhood and research towards Rifling next, so that you can soon start drafting riflemen to complete your offensive.
On this note, there's another interesting use for Musketeers. Try postponing Chemistry and beelining to Military Tradition for early cavalry. Research techs along the Education route, be the first to get Liberalism and grab Nationalism as the free tech. Then research Gunpowder (which is also needed for cavalry), start drafting/building Musketeers (you may use them first if you want), research Military Tradition (requires Music, which you should trade for) and start building cavalry. Escort your cavalry with Musketeers and either launch a lightning campaign or pillage with impunity. Only Musketeers can keep up with cavalry while protecting them against costly counterattacks by enemy pikes. Flanking cavalry often prevail against longbow-defended cities by themselves with relatively low casualty rates, so even if you plan on taking cities, there might not be a need to bring slow siege weapons along. If you do this right, you can finish off one or two neighbours just like that, before they can build riflemen to counter your cavalry.
Germany: Panzer (Tank)
Despite being the latest UU in the game, the Panzer really packs a punch. A tank with 50% bonus versus armour units, it will eat other tanks alive and beat even modern armour. This gives them the power to dominate the battlefield. Just watch out for those gunships, which are an effective counter to them.
If you get Panzers before the enemy gets Flight, you can solve this problem by beelining for enemy oil wells and pillaging them to prevent him/her from building a single gunship in the first place. This should be relatively easy to do, since the enemy can't stop you with his/her own tanks. Once that is done, you'd be facing mostly gunpowder units, against which the Pinch promotion would be effective in the field. With it, the Panzer can match even mech infantry, unless the latter is better promoted or is receiving defensive bonuses. And with the free Blitz promotion that tanks have, a stack of Panzers can annihilate up to double the number units in a turn.
When taking cities, the Panzer might only be as effective as a normal tank, since you are likely to face many gunpowder units, which receive defensive bonuses unlike armour units. But that is alright, since tanks are excellent at taking cities anyway, having access to both Barrage and City Raider promotions. After you've chewed through the toughest defenders, whatever armour is sitting in the city would be easy pickings. Apply the blitzkrieg strategy by using your bombers to soften city defenses before rapidly moving in with your City Raider Panzers. Be sure to have some Drill Panzers to clean up, since they are good at taking out the weaker units without suffering much damage.
The biggest problem with this UU is how late it appears. It is enabled by Industrialism but requires oil, which means you have to get Combustion and build oil wells in addition to it, placing it even later in the timeline than Navy SEALs. Many players would have won the game by then, or at least they would be in such dominant or winning positions that having Panzers would have little influence on the outcome. Once you get them, however, they can last till the end of the game. Their ability to stand up to modern armour means you can delay getting Composites and survive without aluminum. Even if modern armour is already available, you would probably want to leave some of your Panzers un-upgraded as a versatile counter to enemy armour. Of course, you must have oil to build Panzers in the first place. Being German and not having oil in the later eras in a tightly contested game would be a shame.
Greece: Phalanx (Spearman)
The Phalanx, derided by some, is in fact one of the stronger UUs in the game. With 5 strength and +25% hill defense (not to be confused with free Guerilla promotion), it has enough qualities to set it far above normal spearmen. Don't forget that it also gets free Combat I from Alexander's Aggressive trait.
The Phalanx is essentially a super spearman. However, if you build them early enough in single player, chances are the AI might not have anything except archers. Thus, it would do just as well as the axeman when used as a rush unit, except that it holds the ground better on hills and isn't afraid of Warlords' chariots (which get +100% attack vs. axemen). The fact that the Greeks start with Hunting (which is required to build the UU) certainly helps if you are thinking of rushing with it.
In its conventional role, the Phalanx also boasts a very long lifespan of more than two eras. Elephants give normal spearmen cause to worry, while knights are too strong be countered well by them. Phalangites, however, are able to counter elephants effectively and hold their own against knights. When they are defending on hills, no mounted unit before cavalry can beat them one-on-one without having at least the Shock promotion (perhaps with the exception of the melee-busting Conquistadors). They are also good at defending on hills, especially in hill cities, against most units in the Ancient and Classical eras. A truly solid package for a UU.
For BTS players: The Phalanx has, for better or worse, been changed in BTS. It is now an axeman that is not vulnerable to chariots. That means chariots do not get a 100% bonus when attacking them. This effectively transforms a defensive UU into an offensive one, as Greek players need not worry about having to protect their earliest city raiding units from chariots. If you are the kind of player who says the glass is half empty, this change at most saves you from having to build a few spearmen and to research Hunting before you begin an axe rush. But if you like to say the glass is half full, this makes a strong rush unit that is exactly like the axeman in vanilla, which can only be countered by another axeman. Indeed, saving you the effort of building spearmen can be crucial in the early game, when cities are few and hammers are scarce. It can mean a few extra Phalanxes, which might decide whether you can take and hold a (or an extra) city or not.
On the defense, the new Phalanx also performs decently in the early game. Now you don't have to build spearmen to deal with the occasional pillaging chariot, though of course spears would be more effective. Not having to build spearmen might also mean having extra Phalanxes to defend against an enemy axe rush. You might prefer the old version of this UU, but you can't say the new one isn't useful.
Inca: Quechua (Warrior)
Dubbed by some as one of the worst UUs when Civ4 was still new, the Quechua has gained notoriety through the Quechua rush, a strategy that might win you a Deity game even if it's far above your current skill level. How is that possible, you ask? Quechuas are cheap at 15 hammers each (cheaper than half an axeman) and they get a 100% bonus against archers, the AI's primary/only city garrison unit early in the game.
This rush is simple to do. You can probably start building Quechuas in the beginning and overwhelm the nearest AI capital with numbers (provided you've located it, of course). However, it's advisable that you build a worker, barracks and another worker first. The first worker would improve food resources (for whipping), build mines and chop trees, while the second would start building a road to the nearest AI capital (which, presumably, you would have found by then) and make logistics less of a nightmare. The barracks allows your capital to grow in between the worker builds, but, more importantly, it allows you to build Quechuas with Cover. In vanilla, Huayna Capac is Aggressive and hence Quechuas get Combat I free, allowing you to promote them with Cover immediately if you've built a barracks. Even though the Inca leader is no longer Aggressive in Warlords, Quechuas still get Combat I free, so this tactic still applies. Quechuas with Cover have a much higher chance of winning against fortified archers so you don't need as many of them. You would be able to capture one AI city after another much more quickly. This method also has the benefit of allowing the AIs to settle more cities before you attack, thus giving you early game expansion possibilities without having to build your own settlers.
Once you have the workers and barracks (and have researched Mining and Bronze Working), you can start building, chopping or whipping Quechuas out. If copper is discovered within your territory, you can supplement your rush with axemen, who can gradually take over as your main city raiders, ensuring that your offensive is longer-lasting.
This rush does have its limitations. It requires a close neighbour. Otherwise, it would take too long to get there and you would have to pay an unreasonable amount of distance upkeep if you succeed in capturing the city. Of course, you can resort to razing, but this strategy would then lose half its value. It also assumes that the AI builds archers to defend itself. On that note, you need to be playing at a high enough difficulty, where the AI can either build archers immediately or soon enough. Warriors might be too cost-effective for Quechuas to be facing, even though you can choose the Shock promotion instead of Cover. A higher difficulty level also means the AI is likely to start with a free settler or two and would thus have more cities up for grabs when you begin your rush. The AI may also conveniently choose to settle his cities towards you.
The downside to this rush is the relatively high amount of unit upkeep that you have to pay early in the game. Coupled with the distance maintenance you have to pay for captured cities, your early technological development might be for a while. You can, however, count on being able to catch up fairly quickly if you've nabbed an especially powerful neighbouring capital. Huayna's Financial trait can also help you recover more quickly.
Beyond this strategy, the Quechua's usefulness is quite limited. They are effective against barbarians, since those often take the form of archers, and would hence perform well under raging barbs setting. They are also better than normal warriors at worker stealing (since they survive better against archers), should you choose to be aggressive from the start even though you have no plans of capturing enemy cities yet. Besides these, it's hard to conceive of another way to exploit this UU without rushing, making it rather situational. It either shines or fades into relative oblivion.
India: Fast Worker (Worker)
The Fast Worker is a worker with 3 moves (which, interestingly enough, is unmatched till gunships in the modern age). This means, with all their moves unspent, they can enter forest/jungle/hill and immediately begin improving the tile without ending their turn. However, they do end their turn if they enter a forested/jungled hill.
Indirectly, this means the Fast Worker is faster at doing what workers do. It does not improve tiles faster, but being able to begin earlier in many situations would translate to a lot of saved worker turns by the end of the game. By the way, yes, it is the only UU that lasts throughout the game. Their extra movement also means they are able to cover distances more quickly, allowing you to move them around your empire efficiently. This enables a much tighter worker strategy, where you can have fewer workers improving tiles in different cities according to which city would grow and work the tiles next. To put it simply, playing as India, you do not need as many workers to develop your land.
To get the most out of this UU, adopt an early worker strategy (i.e. building a worker first). You'd develop much quicker than the other civs and could use this early game lead to your advantage for the rest of the game. Their 3 moves also make them excellent scouts, especially early on when revealing your surroundings quickly is crucial. Just make sure you keep them away from animals and barbs. With their speed, it shouldn't be that difficult.
Some players do not like the fact that it is not a military UU, but few would be able to argue against its merits. The only downside to the Fast Worker is the fact that slower game speeds diminish their advantage, since the turns saved by their extra movement would be less and less significant compared to the increased number turns needed to improve tiles. If you're playing on Quick or Normal speed, this UU is certainly amazing.
Japan: Samurai (Maceman)
The cool factor aside, there seems to be little that is interesting about this UU at first glance. It is a regular maceman that cannot be built with copper (requiring specifically iron) and has 2 first strikes. The second thing is what gives the Samurai its power, and which has sparked considerable debate on how useful it makes this UU.
After much testing and debate, it is generally agreed that the 2 first strikes are a great boon. They help the Samurai survive, even at lower odds, and give them an edge against archers and longbows, the primary city defenders of the day. First strikes essentially mean that the unit gets the chance to inflict damage on the enemy unit even before the combat proper begins. Both archers and longbows get 1 first strike, which help them deal with regular city attackers (i.e. units with access to City Raider promotions, such as macemen), but have this advantage cancelled out by one of the Samurai's first strikes. And the Samurai still has another first strike to use. This also applies to crossbowmen (who also get 1 first strike), making the Samurai less vulnerable to that effective anti-melee unit. And, just as importantly, this advantage also has the effect of giving Samurais a higher chance to win battles while suffering less damage. That means they are potentially able to recover faster for another attack, thereby shortening the length of the Japanese player's campaigns.
But do take note that this bonus is not the same as getting free Drill promotions (to which, by the way, macemen do not have access). It is better than merely a free Drill I, but it will not remain when you upgrade your Samurais. And beware of knights (especially Conquistadors or those with Shock promotion). They are a fast and effective counter to Samurai, since they have enough strength and ignore first strikes, so bring enough pikemen when facing a sufficiently advanced opponent who has researched Guilds.
The main drawback of the Samurai is the requirement of iron. While regular macemen can be built with copper as well, without iron, the Japanese player will be stuck without his/her UU or even regular macemen. Thankfully, this strategic resource is quite commonly available. But if you do find yourself not having one readily available, planting a city in the tundra or invading your neighbour to get it might be worth the effort before the age of the Samurai arrives.
Korea: Hwacha (Catapult)
Warlords and BTS only. If you like axemen, you'd love the Hwacha. It is a catapult with 50% bonus vs melee units, making it an axeman with collateral damage, bombard ability and withdrawal chance for a mere five hammers more (Normal speed). The only downside is the Hwacha doesn't receive defensive bonuses like an axeman, so you might want to use your Hwachas offensively and turn up the heat so the enemy is forced to defend in his nice cities.
The Hwacha has some interesting synergy with Wang Kon's Protective trait. Protective really shines when you have no metals and are forced to adopt a defensive position with archers in the early game. Construction represents the departure from such a stance, since you're now able to build catapults and attack. Hwachas, being super catapults, puts you in an even better position to go on the offensive, with Protective archers/longbows for support as defenders.
If you have iron, Protective crossbows and spears/pikes are perfect companions to Hwachas. They eliminate the threat of enemy melee and mounted units and help defend new possessions while your Hwachas take down enemy defenders. You don't need axemen. A few swords to help clean up can complete your arsenal.
When macemen and trebuchets come into the picture, Hwachas gradually take a back seat, but not before you can deal some serious damage to a neighbour or two. Nonetheless, a Korean player would benefit from picking up Construction as quickly as possible. Why not put this powerful weapon into use as early as you can? And Wang Kon's Financial trait can certainly help with that.
For BTS players: Unfortunately, as it stands, the Hwacha has been weakened by the inability of siege weapons to kill units and to gain more than 1 experience point per battle. Its bonus still applies, but you can no longer rely on a stack of Hwachas to actually capture cities for you. You also need enough units to kill off all the weakened defenders. While this job can be done by almost any non-siege unit, this means hammers probably need to be diverted to other units, resulting in fewer Hwachas built. Then there's the 1xp only rule, which is worse since it means your Hwachas can no longer gain valuable additional promotions through combat, making it less effective.
The impact of this UU has certainly been reduced. You can still make good use of it much in the same way as before, but remember to build more units for clean up duty and to take up the slack caused by fewer veteran Hwachas.
Mali: Skirmisher (Archer)
Skirmishers are archers with 4 strength and 1 extra first strike chance, effectively making Mali half a Protective civ until Feudalism comes around. With them, Malinese cities are certainly not ones to be taken easily in the early game.
The normal use of Skirmishers is pretty straight forward: Defend your cities or hill improvements with them. As such, they play a rather passive role as a UU. This puts into question the rationale of going straight for Archery, even when playing Mali. First, you don't start with Hunting (required for Archery). Second, the threat of barbarian or enemy axes make axemen a better unit for defense, since they are able to counterattack and prevent your improvements from being pillaged. Lastly, Bronze Working is needed for Slavery anyway, and if you happen to find copper nearby after researching it you can soon build axes. Skirmishers can help with defense if you don't find copper around, but in that case you might want to beeline to Iron Working, so Hunting and Archery are still not the priority. But of course, in the worst case scenario where you find no metal around, Skirmishers can become quite important.
Warlords improves Skirmishers a little by making chariots a counter to axes. Now you don't have to fear barbarian/enemy axemen if you don't have copper but have horses. Barb spearmen, if they do appear, can be countered somewhat by Skirmishers. You can thus concentrate on teching up with chariots and Skirmishers for defense, without having to beeline for the relatively expensive Iron Working. If you want to be aggressive, you can rush a neighbour with a stack of chariots and some Skirmishers. The latter can help secure newly conquered cities.
Now for the less conventional. If you are going for a really quick rush as Mali, you can beeline to Archery from the beginning. Skirmishers don't require resources, so you can technically rush a neighbour with them Jaguar-style. Get Archery as quickly as possible, build barracks - maybe settle a second city - and start building Skirmishers. After you several of them, rush the nearest neighbour's capital. Skirmishers are better than normal archers, so with a ratio of about 3:1 in your favour, you may be able to overwhelm the defending archers. The surviving Skirmishers would then help you hold on to the conquered city.
If you whip to rush build Skirmishers for this tactic, becareful of the hammer overflow. You might quickly begin to whip them out for one population point each and run into serious happiness issues. If you want to try this rush, you should have a food-plenty and hilly area (i.e. a good production city site) as the site of your capital. You'll need the hammers because you'll be building most of the Skirmishers the slow way.
Mongolia: Keshik (Horse Archer)
Keshiks are horse archers that ignore terrain movement cost and get 1 first strike, but aren't immune to first strikes. Hence, they are extremely adept at raiding and pillaging, but aren't as good at attacking archers/longbows with Drill promotions. This has a few implications on a Mongolian player.
Surprise is the best asset of the Keshiks. Ignoring terrain movement cost means they can traverse forests/jungles and hills as easily as flatlands. Thus, it is easy for a Mongolian player to strike across difficult terrain at the unlikeliest of places, grabbing unguarded workers and lightly-defended cities or pillaging improvements (especially on strategic resources). However, this advantage relies on the enemy's inability to counterattack immediately with spearmen or a superior force, so good intelligence would be needed to know where exactly the enemy places his spears and the bulk of his units. If you do not have this luxury, you could always send more Keshiks in case you meet spears, but be prepared to lose quite a few of them. In addition, you could pillage enemy roads to eventually cripple his ability to counterattack. However, at the end of the day, the strategic advantage you gain from your harassment must outweigh the lost hammers you spent on the dead Keshiks
The Keshiks' first strike, meanwhile, makes them better than normal horse archers at picking off non-spear units in your territory or in the enemy's. Combined with their terrain movement advantage, this makes them good empire defenders and hit-and-run units. Unfortunately, the enemy can easily counter them by having spearmen guard his units, so this might only work effectively against the AI. There's also a limitation on how good Keshiks are in fighting non-spear units compared to normal horse archers. The immunity to first strikes that normal horse archers get makes them better at fighting archery units with Drill promotions or units with Drill III/IV. The Keshiks' own first strike can only negate one of the enemy units' first strikes. To remedy this, you have to give your Keshiks Flanking II so that they get immunity to first strikes as well.
This, in turn, highlights the Keshik's relative weakness (compared to normal horse archers) in attacking cities defended by Drill-promoted archery units. In Warlords, this means Protective civs are better covered against attempts to take cities with Keshiks. The 10% city attack penalty that the horse archer unit-type gets in Warlords makes them even less desirable as city raiders. Thus, the only hope Mongolian player might have in using Keshiks to conquer in Warlords is to rely on speed, Flanking promotions and numbers (also applies to vanilla, but not to such a large extent).
With barracks and Ger in the city, a Keshik gets 7 xp upon being built. Unfortunately, that will still allow for only 2 initial promotions (unless you're running both Vassalage and Theocracy for a total of 11 xp), though of course your mounted units would be promoted to the next level sooner. But, at any rate, 2 initial promotions are good enough. Give most of the Keshiks Flanking I and II to give them 50% withdrawal chance each (including the natural 20%) and immunity to first strikes. Give Combat I and Medic I or Combat I and Shock (for defending against spearmen) to the rest. Have at least one Medic I Keshik and one Shock Keshik in each stack. If you get Compass early enough, you can use explorers (strength 4, ignores terrain movement cost and starts with free Guerilla I and Woodsman I) to help protect your stacks when they stop on hills or forests/jungles. 3 or 4 cities with Gers pumping out Keshiks would usually be good enough to amass a sizeable army in reasonable time.
As your Keshiks attack enemy cities, some will die, some will withdraw and some will win. The medics will ensure that the withdrawing and winning Keshiks heal up more quickly. If you manage to overwhelm a prepared enemy with numbers, your speed advantage (from ignoring terrain movement cost and faster healing) will ensure that the enemy cannot fight back or resist as effectively, hastening his destruction. If the enemy is unprepared in the first place, your speed advantage will ensure his quick defeat. Note that this strategy can only work if the enemy doesn't have longbows yet.
You should be prepared to build courthouses and marketplaces to help you keep your winnings. But even if you're not, you can just resort to razing and pillaging for some barbaric fun. Long live the Golden Horde!
Netherlands: East Indiaman (Galleon)
BTS only. Now here's an interesting UU. Although it does have some combat capability, it serves primarily as a support unit. But the East Indiaman is pretty good at it, offering an extra cargo space for a total of 4, which is quite a big leap from a normal galleon considering the fact that transports have the same capacity. If you're planning on waging war during the age of the rifle, especially against an overseas civ, or if you are planning a large-scale settling another landmass, you don't have to build quite as many ships to carry your units over. Three East Indiamen carry as much as four galleons, thereby saving you 80 hammers, which can almost make an extra frigate (90 hammers) to protect your fleet. Moreover, since they carry as many units as transports, you might not need to decommission or upgrade them till the end of the game.
The East Indiaman also has the nifty ability to travel within rival borders without needing an open borders treaty. Have you accumulated much EPs thanks to the Financial trait? You can send your spies anywhere in the world conveniently, even directly into an unfriendly overseas civ. And the extra cargo space is useful for espionage as well, helping you keep a constant flow of spies even if many get caught.
Lastly, the East Indiaman has 2 more strength than a normal galleon, making it tougher to sink. While it still can't beat a frigate, it can more than annihilate caravels and destroy other galleons, so you have naval superiority at Astronomy until your rivals get Chemistry and build frigates. And, should there be privateers prowling the seas, you needn't worry so much about being ambushed by them while moving units across water without escort during peacetime. This is probably a UU that you would appreciate on maps with lots of seas.
Ottomans: Janissary (Musketman)
Warlords and BTS only. The Janissary’s advantage is a 25% boost against melee, archery and mounted units, making it a great all-round unit for its time. It is pretty much effective against all previous era units (with the big exception of siege units), so you can potentially put some serious hurt in your enemies.
In order to get as much use out of Janissaries as possible, you need to look for ways to get to Gunpowder early. You might even want to make a beeline for it, either through the northern path (Maths -> Currency -> Priesthood? -> Civil Service -> Paper -> Education) or the southern path (Metal Casting -> Machinery & Monotheism -> Monarchy -> Feudalism -> Guilds) in the tech tree. Different lightbulbing strategies are available (with Great Merchants for the southern path and Great Scientists for the northern one), so you don't have to self-research everything. Strictly speaking, it may not be necessary to do a beeline, but it's probably the best way. The point is to get to Gunpowder before your enemies are even close to it, and rapidly exploiting this opportunity gap by building, whipping and possibly drafting as many Janissaries as you can to use against them. To be able to draft, you would need to pursue the northern path and probably research Liberalism first to grab Nationalism as the free tech, before actually researching Gunpowder. It is a slight diversion, but it may be worth the delay if your empire does not have the capability to build or whip enough Janissaries in time to give you a real edge, as often is the case.
Once you have them, Janissaries are quite a fearsome force in the medieval battlefield. They have no hard counter, so the best bet your enemies might have is to promote their units with Pinch, which requires Gunpowder in Warlords. Knights with Pinch, however, are a good counter to Jannissaries, as are regular musketmen (against whom Janissaries have no advantage whatsoever), so once your enemies have Gunpowder as well you may find your edge disappearing. If they manage to get to Chemistry, which isn't that far away, this UU is practically obsolete. Janissary stacks are actually relatively vulnerable to siege units (and the associated collateral damage) as well, since they don't get any bonuses against these. But unless you're playing MP, this shouldn't be a big problem. The AI does not generally build many catapults.
Also take note that Janissaries may not be the best city-taking troops you can get, since they do not have access to City Raider promotions. Needless to say, if you're relying on them as the backbone of your army, you still need to bring siege weapons along if you hope to grab some enemy territory. Given the fact that they are not actually very different from the conduct of normal campaigns of the time, Janissary campaigns might still be slow going, so don't be surprised if you don't manage to knock out more than one enemy with them, even with your best efforts (assuming you're playing on the higher levels). Hence, the emphasis is again on getting them as early as possible so as to enlarge the window of opportunity that you have.
Overall, without the mobility of the Musketeer, this UU is quite situational and, to an even higher degree than the former, requires some long term planning in the early game to be put to good use. It is probably better the lower the difficulty you play on, since you would be more likely to out-tech the AIs and get to Gunpowder much earlier than them.
Persia: Immortal (Chariot)
It seems odd that Immortals are chariot-replacements, and you may miss the ownage days of playing as Persia with their Civ3 incarnation. Fortunately, they are still very effective in Civ4.
When you have horses and a neighbouring civ nearby, you know you're in for some fun. Immortals get 50% bonus vs. archery units, as well as an innate 30% withdrawal chance. No AI I've seen can resist them very early in the game. Hook up those horses quickly, build/whip out some of these creatures and head straight for the neighbour. If you managed to build barracks, you can give them Flanking I for an extra 10% withdrawal chance. If you have time to kill some barbs as well, before heading for your neighbour's cities, you can promote some with Flanking II for immunity against first strikes and a total of 60% withdrawal chance. This would give them a high survival rate against archers. Don't they sound like excellent AI city busters? What's more, they do get defensive bonuses, making them less vulnerable to counterattack and decent garrison units.
If or when your enemy gets spearmen, however, Immortals lose much of their power. Even one spearman in a city you're attacking can give you a lot of trouble. You really have to count on the withdrawal chances if you want the first few Immortals to survive a direct attack on the city. In Civ4 vanilla, enemy axemen would be a problem too, since chariots don't get the 50% bonus when attacking axemen like in Warlords. To help prevent difficulties from arising, you should pillage any AI mine that you see sitting on a metal resource. If a city is on top of one, pillage the roads around it to limit spear production to that city. You would thus prolong the effectiveness of your Immortals. Until your enemy gets Feudalism, that is. If he can. Although the 50% bonus also applies when fighting longbows, the latter are too strong when defending in cities to be dislodged by Immortals alone. The same may be said of enemy crossbows. But with the help of siege weapons, Immortals can still take them down quite easily.
The biggest problem is when there is no neighbour near you. In that case, you can't use Immortals to their full potential. However, they are still quite handy against barbs, since the latter usually take the form of archers. In Warlords, they are also great for dispatching barb axemen. Clearly, the expansion has given this solid UU even more oomph.
Rome: Praetorian (Swordsman)
Praetorians are a blunt instrument with which you can rule the early battlefield. Taking cities is the name of the game, and Praetorians easily destroy enemy archers defending cities (even those with some cultural defense), with odds so favorable that they'll likely not suffer losses. You may lose a few if the enemy city is on a hill and the defender has City Garrison promotions, but the odds will still favor you most of the time. You probably want to give your Praetorians City Raider (CR) promotions to help bust those cities.
Because of their high strength, Praetorians can hold their own against axeman, their natural counter. Nevertheless, it may be best to build your own axemen or promote a few Praetorians with Combat I and Shock for stack defense. Praetorians will also prevail against mounted units of the same era, though a spearman or two will only do you good, leaving your Praetorians to focus on taking those cities. After the enemy gets longbowmen, the Praetorian is still useful, but you need to support them with catapults to remove city defenses and soften up the defenders to avoid catastrophic losses. Watch out for crossbows, though; they are very effective against Praetorians. The best way to guard against them is to pillage the enemy's iron mines before he/she can build them. The same goes for enemy Shock war elephants, in which case you should pillage his/her ivory camps.
Praetorians require Iron Working and iron. A Roman player would probably want to take advantage of the Praetorian as early as possible, so beelining to Iron Working is a good call. You may want to have a settler and some workers ready to exploit any iron deposit you see as soon as the tech is researched, although there's some chance that you'd find iron within your existing borders. You should also build barracks first, so that you can give your Praetorians a promotion from the get go, whether it is CR 1 for city busting or Combat 1 for Shock later.
The problem with Praetorians is the Roman player may become a victim of his own success. Because it is so easy to expand quickly with this UU, the temptation to expand beyond your limit is great. You may end up too many cities, causing your economy to crash from the upkeep. One solution is to raze cities rather than keep them, unless they are close to yours or have high value (eg. capitals, holy cities or those with wonders). This also has the effect of severely weakening or even eliminating your enemies so it is easier to actually expand when your economy is able to support it later. And, while you're doing this, do pillage the improvements around razed cities to set your enemies back even further and for extra funds. You can also help yourself by building up your infrastructure at home to support your campaigns, such as laying down lots of cottages.
This UU is the main reason why it's good to play as Rome when you're new on a difficulty level. Try not to get too used to having them, though, as you might become too dependent on their strength to play with any other civ.
Russia: Cossack (Cavalry)
Besides the Redcoat, the Cossack is one UU that has been changed in Warlords. In Civ IV vanilla, the Cossack has a fearsome reputation. A cavalry with 18 strength and +50% against mounted units on top of the ordinary cavalry capabilities (+50% against cannon and 30% withdrawal chance), it can beat almost every unit in its era. Even riflemen, its counter, have less strength if you don't consider promotions or defensive bonuses. Pinch-promoted Cossacks can eat them alive. Riflemen need to be one level higher (4) and get the Formation promotion to even out the playing field, though you should note that Aggressive riflemen can get Formation at level 3. Redcoats do counter Cossacks very well, but Cossacks are faster, can withdraw and aren't destroyed by machine guns and massed cannons the way Redcoats are.
If you are using them in the vanilla game, consider getting them as early as possible by beelining to Education, getting Liberalism and choosing Nationalism as the free tech. Nationalism leads to Military Tradition (requires Music, so make sure you trade for it) and Education leads to Gunpowder, techs needed to build Cossacks (and you must have horses, of course). If you pull this off early enough, the rest of the game should be easy - Cossacks versus longbowmen is no contest. You can shoot for a domination victory right away. All you need to do is keep pumping out Cossacks, with the whip whenever possible, while ideally running the military civics (Vassalage and Theocracy) to give your Cossacks an even bigger edge. It's no wonder that some people consider them overpowered in vanilla.
Warlords, however, is a vastly different game for Cossack fans. On one hand, there's the introduction of the stable, which improves mounted units by giving them 2 more experience points. On the other hand, the Cossack has the same strength as normal cavalry now, only retaining their bonus against mounted units. They are basically cavalry that excel in killing other cavalry. This is a lot more useful in MP, where cavalry versus cavalry is pretty much a fair game and you need to get riflemen to gain an advantage. Having Cossacks means you already have an advantage against enemy cavalry, forcing your enemies to tech to riflemen to stand a chance on the battlefield or risk being holed up in their cities and becoming sitting targets for your cannons.
In SP, however, much of the action would ideally take place at enemy cities to begin with, and in this respect the Cossack is mostly as good as normal cavalry in Warlords. It can get the 2 extra experience points from stables, but so can normal cavalry. The only time you have a real advantage against the AI is when it masses cavalry. In that case, your Cossacks would cut through the AI's army like knife through butter. Unfortunately, you would probably have to capture cities to end the war anyway. That said, Cossacks are pretty good for pillaging if you promote them with Pinch, since they would then be more difficult to counter (neither riflemen nor cavalry would work effectively against them). But, still, as you can see, what was an amazing UU has become a pretty situational one.
Spain: Conquistador (Knight)
With this UU, the road to El Dorado can be wide and clear. It has the potential to be exploited in a game-breaking way. The reason is this: Conquistadors get 50% bonus vs. melee, which gives it an advantage against the most common counter to knights - pikemen. They also get defensive bonuses, which means they can exploit the terrain to make counterattack difficult. To top all of this off, Conquistadors benefit from 2 first strikes (which normal knights don't get), making them even harder to defeat.
You need horse and iron to produce this UU. Playing as Spain, I'd make sure I get those by the time Conquistadors can be built. The Spanish player would also do well to research Guilds early, extending the life and usefulness of the UU. Conquistadors can fill the role of your main city attackers, following your siege weapons to capture city after city. They don't get CR upgrades, but they can perform decently against city defenders even when they haven't accumulated promotions. Their first strikes and immunity to first strikes certainly help, especially against longbows. And, thanks to their bonus against melee, defending pikes don't scare them that much. With defensive bonuses to help, they can also act as stack-protectors during your campaigns. Furthermore, since they have 2 moves, they can attack enemy units and come back to the stack in the same turn. If you're playing on Warlords, they make the perfect companions to Citadel-improved siege weapons. Woe to the enemy cities!
Once those shiny cities have been taken, Conquistadors can help defend them until you get suitable defenders (such as longbowmen) there. This works especially well if a city is on a hill. As you can see, the versatility of the Conquistador almost matches that of the Musketeer.
However, here are a few words of caution. Siege weapons are not to be excluded from your Conquistador campaigns. Unless your target is still fielding archers, bringing siege units for bombardment and some collateral damage should still be part and parcel of your plans. Conquistadors are strong but not invincible. Without the proper support, they would still die to entrenched units, especially pikes and longbows. The other thing is, beware of elephants! These are the ultimate counter to Conquistadors. Under normal circumstances, there is no way a Conquistador can beat an elephant, and the latter is much cheaper to train. Just make sure you target opponents who have no ivory and you should have great time conquering with this UU.
Vikings: Berserk (Maceman)
Warlords and BTS only. Hate them or love them, Berserks are a popular UU. Although, not as powerful as their Civ3 incarnation, these guys can really be useful. Their 10% bonus vs. cities is certainly nice. However, for many people the problem is finding a good use for their free Amphibious promotion.
The Vikings have a higher potential to rule on water maps than any other civ. Ragnar is Financial, which means coastal tiles produce 3 commerce instead of 2, and his UB allows his ships to move further earlier in the game by giving free Navigation promotion. Combined with the Berserk's ability to attack amphibiously with no penalty and its city attack bonus, a Viking player on a water map can fast tech to Civil Service and Machinery and have fun raiding enemy coastal cities with Berserks on fast galleys. One method to do this early is building the Oracle and grabbing Metal Casting as the free tech (which, by the way, gives access to Colossus for a further boost to those coastal tiles). Then build/whip a forge and run an engineer in a city without the Oracle. Research your way to Code of Laws and Civil Service a.s.a.p. (in the pre-patch version you can use a prophet generated by the Oracle to lightbulb CoL/CS by not researching Masonry). In the meantime, build several galleys to prepare for your sea adventures. You'll get a Great Engineer as your 1st or 2nd Great Person from the forge city. Use him to lightbulb Machinery and start building Berserks. You could also put your research slider at 0% for a few turns and upgrade some axes to Berserks (being Financial helps with accumulating money for that). If you catch your opponents without longbows yet, you've done really well.
There are limitations to your Berserks' ability to raid cities from the sea, though. If a city is defended by longbows, on a hill, has high cultural defense and/or walls, it could be difficult to take and might render an attempt not worth the cost. To attack such a city, you probably need to bring siege units along as galleys/triremes are not able to even bombard the city's defenses. Having to land siege units to bombard/deal collateral damage nullifies the Berserks' amphibious advantage. As such, you would need to look for softer targets to strike at. You don't have to keep the city. Find a weak spot (a lightly defended coastal city), raid, raze and pop back into the galleys before the enemy can counterattack. Landing a spear with the Berserker that has to land on that turn would help the latter survive a counterattack by mounted units (the most likely reaction you'll get from an AI). But becareful not to attack too close to an AI capital. AIs tend to stack more units in their capitals and can easily counterattack with a stronger force from there. Humans in MP will be wary of a sea attack, so watch out for axes/xbows in or within reach of coastal cities.
Even if you're not playing on a water map, Berserks present some interesting options. With them, you have the advantage when laying siege to a city across a river if the enemy doesn't have Engineering. His non-mounted units cannot counter attack from the city without suffering a 20% penalty for attacking across the river. With their free Amphibious promotion, Berserks get no such penalty attacking the city. The only downside is your siege units do suffer from the penalty if you want to cause some collateral damage first. Conversely, this idea works in defense as well. When enemy units are across a river beside one of your cities, you can attack them with your Berserks with no penalty while they would suffer it when they attack. At the very least, Berserks always get their 10% bonus when attacking cities.
Perhaps the most valuable thing about the Berserk is the fact that he keeps the Amphibious promotion when upgraded. This allows a Viking player to build Berserks (especially City Raider ones) and upgrade them later on to grenadiers or riflemen with free Amphibious. Frigates are able to bombard city defenses, so you can get yourself an elite amphibious attack force long before marines make their appearance. The free Amphibious also works the opposite way, allowing your older units to benefit from it when upgraded to Berserks. Hence, it makes sense to do so with all of your more experienced axemen or swordsmen. It would almost certainly be worth the money.
Zulus: Impi (Spearman)
Warlords and BTS only. On the surface, the Impi may not appear to be a stellar UU, since it does not come with extra strength or with obviously strong bonuses. However, the tactical value of this unit is considerable.
The Impi comes with the Mobility promotion (-1 movement cost to enter tiles that would normally cost 2 moves or more) and 2 moves. Thus, they have the ability to rapidly cross territory and catch another nation with a weakly defended city in the early game, when borders are not really expanded and cultural defenses are not high. They can be two tiles from a city and attack it on the same turn that war is declared. Thanks to Aggressive, they also start with Combat I, making them a little stronger. Furthermore, they are eligible for City Raider promotions, which would help crack the defenses of those early cities. Their relatively low cost, meanwhile, helps you amass a number of them as quickly as possible and simply bum rush a close neighbour.
They also make excellent pillagers. With the 100% bonus against mounted that spears get, the only units that can really catch them are not able to kill them effectively. Naturally, they can be put in your stacks or cities to defend and make counterattacks against mounted units. In your own territory, no enemy horse can hope to outrun them, so it's death to the common enemy pillagers!
An interesting gambit you can try is attaching a Great General to an Impi and giving him the Morale promotion, thus creating a 3-move unit with reduced terrain movement cost. If you manage to get it beyond Combat IV, you can add Commando to the collection. It's not going to be a particularly strong unit, but it might have some interesting tactical uses (such as running into a weakly defended part of an enemy empire to killl a worker and then getting out).
In addition, Impis have good synergy with the Zulu UB, the Ikhanda, which is a barrack that also acts as a mini courthouse (-20% maintenance cost for the city). Grab some cities from an unsuspecting opponent as outlined above and rush build Ikhandas in them to help pay for the early extra maintenance. Moreover, being Aggressive, Shaka builds his UB at double production speed, so it's more power to you.
The Zulus start conveniently with Hunting, which is required to build their UU, but Impis need copper or iron to be built. If you want to use them as an early attack unit, you must beeline to BW and find copper. If there's no copper around, well, then there's no hope for an Impi rush. The other downside to them is the fact that Mobility becomes useless when you upgrade them, unless you continue doing so all the way till they become mech infantry. No matter what, unroaded terrain would cost at least 1 movement point to enter and, except for mech infantry much later, the Impi's line of units only has 1 move each.
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