Play-styles in Age of Empires 2 vary massively, some players like to go all-out-attack from the start while others prefer to bunker down. Fun is all that matters really but the defensive play-style is one of patience.
Certain civilizations exist to provide key benefits to protect your town. Maybe you want to spam walls without sacrificing a ton of resources, get your tower upgrades for free, turn your docks/town centers into defensive fortifications.
This list will detail the 10 best defensive civilizations to choose from. Each of them is powerful in their own right, rankings may depend on your personal play-style but in general, the higher up the civilization is, the more bonuses they provide.
Unique Unit: Leitis
With Hill Forts buffing Town Center ranges candidly, defending your base becomes much easier. Their unique unit ignores armor, allowing them to quickly melt heavy infantry that would otherwise be a huge problem to take down.
Starting with an extra 150 food is pretty huge, giving you options to either produce more villagers or advance through the ages faster.
Unique Unit: Throwing Axeman
Known throughout history for their formidable castles, Franks have their castle construction costs reduced by a whopping 25%. This means a lot more castles, or more stone for additional walls.
With a focus on heavy cavalry, this civilization is one of the best for new players. It’s really tough for an enemy to get through such cavalry, especially when they’re backed up by calls and throwing axemen.
Unique Unit: Karambit Warrior
Sporting the best deck buildings in the game, Malay are a huge force to be reckoned with on maps containing naval combat. Defensively, they gain barely any bonuses on land-only maps.
After reaching the castle age, Malay are able to research Thalassocracy to turn their docks into harbors. This building adds a ranged attack to docks.
Additionally, the karambit warrior is produced almost instantly, allowing for a quick production of huge forces if needed.
Unique Unit: Gbeto
Town centers have a ranged attack without garrisoned units, with Tigui researched.
A nice team bonus is the university building researching 80% faster. Such a building contains a ton of defensive upgrades, getting them faster is pretty awesome. Buildings also cost 15% less wood, such a small bonus works wonders for saving wood for defensive upgrades.
Unique Unit: Plumed Archer
Walls being 50% cheaper is the main defensive trait of the Mayans, as well as being one of the best archery civilizations in the game. It’s so easy to get a few layers of walls up, with tons of powerful ranged units behind.
Foot archers are much cheaper as you go through the ages too, allowing you to field large amounts of units.
Such a reliance on ranged and walls make them susceptible to siege units though. So back them up with plenty of Eagle Warriors, who have extra HP with the El Dorado technology!
Unique Unit: Samurai
The Japanese’s Yasama technology gives towers extra arrows. Only 2 extra arrows but it basically turns them into mini castles. Another unique technology is Kataparuto, which makes trebuchets work/fire faster.
Together, these 2 technologies give you a formidable defensive set-up at all but the shortest of ranges. Even then, the Samurai can work wonders against many other infantry types.
Unique Unit: Woad Raider
Infantry, siege units and castles/towers are all far more effective with the Celt civilization. So many bonuses amounting to higher HP for siege units, faster movement speed for infantry and higher attack rates for castles and towers.
As such, it makes them capable of dealing with a multitude of threats. No economy bonuses means you’ll need to manage your armies well to get the most out of them, though.
Unique Unit: Teutonic Knight
A huge infantry focused civilization, Teutons’ castles and towers are incredible. With the Crenellations technology unlocked, castles have higher range and garrisoned infantry shoot arrows. For each unit, the castle will fire an additional arrow.
Murder Holes is free for Teutons, meaning there’s no minimum range for castles/towers. Other unique bonuses are the ability to garrison more units in towers. And units can resist being converted by enemy monks!
Unique Unit: Cataphract
Perhaps the most well known defensive civilization, each age grants all Byzantine buildings a 10% bonus to to HP, up to 40% in the Imperial Age. This is pretty insane, razing a Byzantine city is no easy feat, even for siege-heavy enemies.
Castles are especially strong with these upgrades, getting to the Imperial Age is a lot easier too, as it’s 33% cheaper for this civilization.
Unique Unit: War Wagon & Turtle Ship
Tower upgrades are free (other than the Bombard Tower which requires Chemistry) and have extra range in the Castle/Imperial ages.
On maps containing a lot of water, few civilizations can match the might of Turtle Ships. On their own, they can be susceptible so supplement your navy with plenty of fire ships or galleons.
Walls/castles are built 33% faster too, allowing you to fortify a nearby location if needed. And military units cost less wood.
Overall, the Koreans are lacklustre when invading enemy cities, but experts at defending their own!