The Saracens - A Guide by Darth Malice

Article written by Darth Malice with additions from Doug Thompson, Gills and The_Sherrif
Originally published on 12-25-2001 ; updated on 08-17-2014
Tags: Civilizations Archives


The Saracens are generally the most generic civilization in the game. Paying deeply for every single unique attribute and bonus they receive. This in turn makes them a lesser-played civilization. Likewise, it makes an opponent think harder of how to counter a potential attack. On the downside it makes a new comer Saracen player more puzzled as to which units to use.

The Saracen Tech Tree

The Saracens are greatly versatile, coming third in the game (next to the modest Byzantines and the underplayed Chinese) on receiving the most technologies.

Weaknesses

Cavalier
Perhaps the most striking feature to the Saracens is not a bonus or a unit, but rather it is that they are the only civilization (except my friends and yours the Aztecs and Mayans) to lack the cavalier upgrade. This puts the Saracens at a severe disadvantage. It also makes the Saracens less appealing to new comers. The role of heavy cavalry is unmatched by any unit in the game, no matter what someone may say. (The roles of cavalry being as a reaction weapon, easily taking down town centers, general monk and siege destroyer etc.)

Crop Rotation
In age of kings, this was a great big deal. In being that a person must be a micro wizard to remember to replant his farms. (Something which took me a good modest month to master). However, in the conquerors this is greatly shortened due to the best feature in the game… instant farm replanting.

Sappers
One can’t help but wonder why you would use villagers to destroy buildings in Imperial Age where gold is easily gotten and you can afford better units such as rams and trebs... (But hey whatever floats your boat J )

Halberdier
Frankly, I can’t for the life in me figure out why Ensemble Studios chose to make the Saracens not have the halberdier. This in my opinion is the Saracens greatest weakness. When it comes to post imperial and players have 7+ barracks building halbs, the Saracens just can’t compete. Sure, the camel is a substitute but gold doesn’t grow on trees. (The halberd being critical for it’s gold less cavalry countering capabilities)

Bombard Towers
Everyone must pay amage to the bombard tower! (lol) seriously, the bombard tower is an excellent tower being the best tower in the game. Being cheaper than a castle it’s not such a loss when one is destroyed. Bombard towers are definitely an excellent choice to keep map control while your army is gone somewhere else.

Important Technologies

Blacksmith Technologies
This provides the small, and yet critical upgrades to your units. A must have. A Saracen player should make it his aim to get the archery techs first (since they are an archer civilization) and then the infantry and cavalry upgrades. (but then again this is just what I like to do.)

Archery Upgrades (Especially Thumb Ring)
Being an archer reliant civilization, one would be wise in getting these technologies quickly.

Heavy Camel
Naturally, relying on camels, the Saracens need to get this upgrade quickly. On a side note when using the camel remember no matter how hard you try a camel is under no circumstances become transformed into a paladin. This brings up my next point. Although the Saracens do not feat other civilizations cavalry, they really do not have a "super and so called unbeatable" cavalry unit.

Galleon and Heavy Demolition Ship
The Saracens get a bonus in which they receive galleons, which fire 20% faster. This is the only bonus that the Saracens receive that turns battles on their side. Making the Saracens a real nautical power. Unfortunately, Ensemble Studios, wanted to promote the usage of fire ships (one of which is the Saracens few weaknesses). Therefore a sizeable amount of Demo ships screened for your galleons proves to be quite effective against those fast fire ship hungry foes J.

Champion
Again, I have to question if ensemble Hated the Saracens. The Saracens lack a gold free infantry unit, and so they rely on the "semi cheap" champion. I’m not discouraged, for generally combat I’d take the champion over the halberdier any day.

Zealotry
This gives your camels 30 hp! With bloodlines your cavalry becomes above average… able to take on more practical roles that the heavy cavalry would have performed.

Saracen Units

Barracks
The Saracens have a fairly weak barracks because they are missing the halberdier. Champions are a staple unit for a lot of players though. The missing gold less counter for cavalry hits them hard. They have an average barracks because they get all the blacksmith upgrades.

Archery Range
The Saracens get everything here. The heavy cavalry archer is used for raiding, backing up the army, and crushing the pesky halberdiers that threaten the camels with their Parthian tactics bonus. The elite skirmishers for defeating archers and the arbalest for all archer proposes. They also have two seemly worthless bonuses here discussed later.

Stable
They have the best camels and light cavalry but are missing the cavalier. This hits them hard because they must rely on light cavalry and camels for the proposes that the heavy cavalry perform; this is don't less effectively because they aren't designed for it. They have the best camels in the game with the zealotry, almost covering the missing heavy cavalry. Plus they have fully upgraded Hussars.

Dock
An above average navy and two naval bonuses make the Saracens have a good chance at the seas. They get Galleon, Elite Cannon Galleon, and Heavy Demolition Ship; the only missing technology needed is Fast Fire Ship. This loss hurts the Saracens chance at the seas. They have the best transports ships with one of their bonuses and above average Galleons with another. The loss of shipwright is a small loss because of the expense.

Monastery
With fully upgraded monks they have very good monks, even if they are underused.

Siege Workshop
Missing only the Heavy Scorpion the Saracens have excellent siege. The Siege Onager is perfect for taking out the advancing infantry and cutting down the forests. With the patch the Siege Ram is easier to get but with the dependence on cavalry this tech won't see the daylight in most matches. The Bombard Cannon is a welcome but unneeded addition to the Saracen collection. The missing Heavy Scorpion is a loss but not a huge one.

Important Units

Hussar
The hussar is needed to counter siege and do raid for the Saracen player.

Heavy Camel
This unit is used as a substitute and counter for heavy cavalry.

Heavy Cavalry Archer
The Saracens are one of the only civs to get this unit fully upgraded. This is an excellent raider and farm, house, and drop off point killer with the bonus.

Elite Mamluke
This unit is very good. It's uses are explained in the "Unique Unit Guide".

Siege Onager
A nice infantry killer, perfect for depleting the enemy's trees in an attack.

Siege Ram
This is an excellent building destroyer. With the patch it is one of the cheapest siege upgrades to get. Only problem is most Saracens won't use infantry because of the powerful cavalry.

Monk
Not the most important thing on the wish list but an underused one. The Saracens get fully upgraded monks, not the most common thing. Perfect for the relics, healing the Mamlukes, and converting the Heavy Cavalry that they need.

Unique Units Guide

The Mameluke is a queer fellow. it is hardly cheap, by far the most expensive offensive unit! Minus siege... (And even that it is still more expensive than the heavy scorpion in terms of gold). The critics say that the mameluke is a "super unit" that it is "even better than the paladin" or it is "uncounterable" often times i find that theses people are rooks... and it would seem so. Rookies and "Noobs" by their nature of self-hatred because their skill isn't better, will try to imitate such things as experts... And so it is only practical that they choose the hardest civilizations to play for example the Saracens or the Turks... They hardly have *any* understanding about counters or if they did they do not have a deep understanding on them... And so i conclude all posts on the Mameluke being a strong and enduring unit is false and posted by rooks or noobs!

The purpose of this thread is to state the exact opposite. The mameluke is hardly a "super unit" it is the most easily countered unit in the game... even when you think your not countering it… You probably are! The mamelukes build time is phenomenal! Almost as if ensemble hated the Mameluke so much they never wanted it to see the sun in AOK games!

The purpose of the Mameluke is that of a support unit. Ensemble studios made the Mameluke so a person could mix them in with heavy camels to get...

1. A greater effect

2. A change from the seeing the same old heavy camels in battle

The mameluke was *not* I repeat *not* meant to be made all the way up to the numbers of 50 or so (we're talking rm here)... it was *not* meant to take on archery units.. it was *not* meant to elevate castles or anything like the such...

Mameluke Counters

Archery Range Counters
  • Skirmishers

    "Be sure to mention that skirmishers still have a bonus against mamelukes. The Saracen may lack the cavalier upgrade, but the Castle-Age knight is very good, and the knight gets all the armor and cavalry upgrades in Imperial. A Saracen knight is comparable to a cavalier without bloodlines, in my opnion. Saracens have a very complete archer line, including fully upgraded skirmishers." - Doug Thompson

  • Hand Cannoneers
  • Arbalests
Barracks Counters
  • Pikes/ halbs
Stable Counters
  • Camels
Seige Workshop Counters
  • Scorpions/ Heavy Scorpions
  • Siege onagers (luckily for the mamelukes their max range is also the min range of an onager
Castle Counters
  • Cataphract
  • Massed Janissary's
All these counters and people still think of them as a super unit! wow I must say wow! However people did mass mamelukes.. and this is why in my opinion the Saracen UT was zealotry and the introduction of bloodlines occurred in the x-pack.

Mameluke Uses

1. Cavalry counter
2. Ram counter
3. Building destroyer (minus Town center and Castle)
4. Raiding unit
5. Support unit

The mameluke was meant for all of the above reasons, and only the above reasons.. Sure you can use it for other things.. but when you do just remember that the mameluke has a counter in *every* single military building!

Darth_Malice's recommendations on using the Mameluke

The Mameluke is not a super unit. Its greatest strength is perhaps that it is hard to counter (this being that most people on the zone do not think of all the counters I listed above!). It can be used as a substitute for heavy cavalry, but it is best used for base defense. The Saracens have the second worst defense in the entire game next to of course the Goths! Why? The Saracens bonuses, their units (including their defensive ones) are all offensive units! Their camels are used as a substitute for heavy cavalry; their cav archers have bonuses against buildings. Their navy is not a demo-fire ship defensive navy! Their bonuses are all offensive... and if a player can get into the Saracen players base in descent condition he can let all hell lose amongst the ranks of the Saracen’s military and villagers... sadly there is nothing to stop the opponent and 9 times out of ten the opponent will successfully siege a Saracen opponents base! I know sad isn't it?

The Mameluke can be used simultaneously with camels. I recommend trying to have a 3:2 camels to Mameluke ratio but then again this is what I prefer...

Mameluke Conclusion

I hope this guide proves to all of you that among many things the mameluke is not a substitute for the paladin. And despite many people saying so it won't ever be... The Saracens lack an enduring unit. The Mameluke is *not* i repeat it *not* it's worth in gold! one would be better to choose the heavy camel (which although lacks 3 more attack then the mameluke has a more hp! 40 more to be exact!). What can I say Byzantine slaves (the mameluke) cannot compete with Frankish nobles (the paladins)

Saracen Bonuses

Market Trade only 5%
At first look this bonus seems in a way useless. But this bonus is more powerful than any other attribute the Saracens have. The market gives the Saracens the speed required to flush. But I won’t dwell on this part too much (I’ll save that for Doug) One side note however, is that this bonus allows the Saracens to basically buy a champion when prices are rock bottom at the market (being 19 gold per resource when a champion is 20)

Transport Ships 2x hp and 2x carry capacity
This bonus, while most appreciated in the feudal age, where players send villagers over island maps to the opponents land, it has another use...

In imperial if one needs to send his army overseas… a fully upgraded transport carry’s 45 units (instead of the (45/2…. Ummmm22.5 so 23) units that a ordinary transport can get… and so the Saracens can simply send his entire army overseas with 2-3 transports!

Cav. Archers +3 attack vs. buildings
Although Saracens are known as a camel civ, their heavy emphasis on gold mining for the market and their famous fast castling abilities make them a formidable cavalry archer civ in Castle Age. The best use of the Saracen bonus for cavalry archers was invented by tripod_cat: The Famine Attack

Farms are buildings, too, and very vulnerable to a few volleys from Saracen horse archers. A small raiding party of Saracens can drive the villagers indoors, then destroy farms from outside town center range.

A variation of this technique is to have a "famine attack" in the Feudal Age with foot archers. Even skirmishers can destroy farms quickly with this bonus. The loss of 60 wood for little or no gain in food is a disaster to a feudal economy.

Man per man, fully upgraded Saracen heavy cavalry archers beat Mongol and Hun heavy cavalry archers. The Mongols and Huns lack the last armor upgrade. That upgrade makes Saracen cavalry archers less vulnerable to skirmishers, too.

Galley's, War Galley's and Galleons fire 20% faster
This is probably the saracens most famous bonus... and at the same time most best! This little bonus makes the saracens a "real" naval power! In post imperial when everyone starts to use galleons the saracens simply get more galleon per buck.. not to mention their galleons beat another civ's in an equal odds battle.

Team Bonus: Foot Archer +1 attack vs. buildings
This, frankly, is one of the least favorite team bonuses in the game. However, it should be noted that only four men-at-arms can attack a section of palisade at the same time. A practically unlimited number of archers and skirmishers can attack the same section.

Four Saracen men-at-arms backed by 10 skirmishers can hack through a palisade in 19 seconds, at least as fast as a similar force of Japanese or Goths.

The best use of this team bonus, though, is probably the Famine Attack, which is dealt with at length in the section on Cavalry Archers.

The Market

Playing the Market
The Saracen Market bonus is one of the most powerful of all Feudal Age economic bonuses, especially on land maps where early farming is unavoidable.

The market bonus was neglected before the patch, when flushing with Chinese was dominant. Life before the patch was too "nasty, brutish and short" to allow much market use. However, the patch changes prolonged games, making the market very effective.

At least one player in the $100,000 MSN post-patch tournament did very well by using the Saracens and their market bonus while everybody else used Huns, which came as a big surprise to many of his defeated opponents.

Detailed analysis of the labor cost of farm food shows that a gold miner can dig up at least $152 in gold with the same amount of labor that a farmer can gather 100 food. (This figure includes a portion of the farm's wood cost.) Yes, farming becomes much more efficient with upgrades and with certain bonuses, such as the Chinese team bonus. Still, a Teuton with the Chinese bonus still puts more than $139 worth of labor into 100 farm food. Also, farming upgrades cost a lot of food, too.

The starting price of food at a Saracen market is $105. Obviously, using villagers to mine gold while buying food at the market is extremely efficient for the Saracens. Also, Saracens have the option of selling stone at the market at a very favorable rate. Even 100 or 200 wood can cost-effectively be sold at the market in the Feudal Age for gold. A Saracen can buy 2,400 food at the market before driving the price up past $152. When farming food supplies are ample, he can sell the same amount of food back to the market and recover all but $240 of the gold he spent. So, the market bonus works like a loan: You get 2,400 food in early Feudal, when it is really needed, for $240 in interest. Those figures will vary, depending on who else is using the market. However, other players will be quickly driven out of the market by Saracens.

Finally, the market bonus is better than Guilds, is free, and is available before the Imperial Age.

Saracen Strategies: SNUFF

Saracen No-Berry Uncharacteristically Fast Feudal (SNUFF)

WARNING: Trying this in a real game without lots and lots of practice will get you killed. Guaranteed. It could get you killed even after lots of practice, too. It is only for land maps. It requires excellent scouting (or luck, or both) and good boar luring. The Mongol scouting bonus is invaluable in attempting this.

THE SET-UP

While working on the market-based Feudal gameplan for Saracens and Turks, I realized that the biggest delay was getting the market built.

The Spanish building bonus sure helps get a market built, and makes the same approach work for that civ, too, even though the Spanish have no particular advantages over other civs in using the market.

If the Spanish bonus applies, then the Celt (more wood) and Viking (more everything) Feudal bonuses should help, also. Sure enough, the Celts worked out very nicely. Haven't tried the Vikings yet, though.

This game plan, the SNUFF 3.0 (Saracen No-berry Uncharacteristically Fast Feudal) is based on fanatical concentration on hunting, wood and gold early, then buying some food at the market to get you through the transition into farming.

Celts, Spanish and Vikings do not have the long-term market buying power of the Saracens and Turks. However, this game plan does seem likely to make up for their lack of a big Dark Age bonus for land maps.

Why? Because a civ with no market or gold mining bonuses can still save a lot of villager labor by buying about 800 or 900 food at the market before prices become too high IF that civ buys the food before anybody else. It takes a lot less time to mine gold than to gather farm food, and also there is the "wood cost" of farms to consider.

There's plenty of math involved, but here's the short version: Building a market and buying food in very early feudal costs a little less wood than three farms, a little more labor than building four farms, and provides the food of 4.5 to 5 farms even if the civ has no particular market bonus.

Any civ can follow this game plan, but fast civs will probably go on and build a military building rather than a market. They have no "catching up" to do.

Anybody who's playing the Teutons or has a Chinese ally should skip this, simply because their farming is so efficient. Celts, also, have efficient farming because of their cheap wood costs, so they don't get as much advantage as some of the others mentioned.

THE BUILD ORDER

The goal is a 21-villager, 10:20 Feudal with loom.
  1. Build two houses. (Three if you’re Spanish). Boar hunt early, with your first 10 villagers. Vils 1-6 on sheep. V 7&8 on straggler wood. V9 lures first boar Loom. V10 on boar. Leave two villagers to finish the last sheep you killed, then boar.
  2. V-11 walks toward the deer herd and starts a house (unless you are Spanish, and go directly to building a mill). V-12 helps him finish the house (or mill.) Then have them start a mill right in the middle of a deer herd.
    If the deer are near berries or fish, obviously place the mill where it can be used for both, but the ideal is to have next to no walking time for your deer hunters.
  3. By this time, food is needed for another villager. Have two of the boar hunters force drop food. One goes to lure the second boar. The other joins the mill builders/deer hunters. So does V-13. This makes four deer hunters and nine boar hunters. V-14 goes to boar for 10 boar hunters.
  4. V-15 to 21 all go too wood, with V-16 or 17 building a house. At the very moment 100 wood is obtained, all the lumberjacks (except one each on straggler tree, to prevent overcrowding) build a timber mill, preferably at a place where wood and gold are close together.
  5. When the boar hunters get through, have two go to wood and the rest go to sheep, 4 villagers each on two sheep. Also, be alert about your deer hunters: Don't let them stand idle. When the last villager is 90 percent complete, have the deer hunters force-drop if needed to make 500 food for feudal.
  6. Click Feudal. As soon as your shepards have stripped the two sheep, send any remaining sheep out to the hunting mill if you can do so without risking their capture.
  7. Assign four ex-shepards to wood, and have the other four start mining gold (unless you are a Celt. Send three to wood and five to gold.) Build a mining camp as soon as 100 wood is available, which should be before your miners start walking to the town center.

    At this point, you have:
    1. Four deer hunters
    2. Four gold miners (Five for Celts)
    3. 13 woodcutters. (12 for Celts.)

  8. As soon as you have 175 wood, take as many gold miners as you need to get a barracks built before feudal research is complete. After the rax is finished, build a house. Obviously, when the deer hunters have finished off the last deer, they go to sheep. Set your town center's gather point at a the gold deposit.
  9. FEUDAL AGE: Que up villagers at the town center. Take three builders/miners and build a market ASAP (two will do if you are Spanish.) At some time during market construction, you'll pass 175 wood. Peel off a builder and start the first military building after the original barracks.
  10. As soon as the market is finished, dump ALL the starting stone.
  11. You have 50 starting gold left over from loom, gold from selling your stone, and whatever your miners dug up in the Dark Age.
Take the gold and buy 100 food and 100 wood, start a second new military building. There is an option to buy 200 wood and started two more archery ranges. With this, you can acheive 10 archers (not skirmishers) in 15 minutes.

By now, the deer and sheep are gone. Have the hunter/shepards build a house and then start picking berries until there is enough wood for a mill near berries, or have four woodcutters do that and the ex-hunters take their place.

By now, your military buildings should be done and your builders (except for a house builder) can go back to gold, giving you about 10 gold miners. You may want to take five straggler woodcutters and have them build a second mining camp, either at gold or stone, depending on your strategy.

When hitting the feudal button Darth_Malice recommends having 11 wood cutters and 6 gold miners.. This will allow you to make a much more practical usage of the market since online you are not using the market on a 1 on 1 ratio.. So in order to account for this, make 2 more wood cutters to to gold.. This allows you to get resources through gold faster… and if you want forget about gold, and go in for the big money with STONE!!! (Also make sure you have tons of practice!!! Took me 3 weeks to get flawlessly. But then again once I got it down it meant sudden death for my enemies. Yes I am talking about you guys the one who thought you wouldn’t be out flushed by a Saracen!!!

Saracen Strategies: SMUSH

The Saracen Monk Rush (SMUSH)

You can get the entire article at www.ageofkings.cc and just search the expert strategy archives... but the generally run down goes as follows.

Sheriff’s step-by-step plan is very simple and can be executed by almost anyone. Your performance may vary based on the map, number of resources, your opponent, and other evils that befall you. Note that this is not against a computer; this is a real game with real opponents with real lag. You will notice many mistakes and areas where he could have improved.

Villager / Time Action Notes:
  • 1 Build house, then mill then gather berries Scout moves around in concentric circles identifying sheep, berries, and 2 boars. Then scout out wood, gold and stone
  • 2 & 3 Build house, slaughter sheep
  • 4 - 6 Slaughter sheep As many villagers on one sheep as possible
  • 7 gather berries
  • 8 & 9 Slaughter sheep Move your next sheep closer to the villagers so they can start on the next one immediately
  • 10 Gather berries
  • 11 Build house, gather berries
  • 12 - 14 Chop wood (stragglers)
  • 15 Lure boar #1 We don’t have loom - be very careful
  • 16 Gather berries
  • 10 villagers slaughter boar As many villagers on one boar as possible
  • 17 Gather berries
  • 18 Lure boar #2 We don’t have loom - be very careful
  • 2 choppers go build lumber camp
  • 19 Chop wood (forest) Scout enemy locations with scout
  • 10-11 villagers slaughter boar
  • 7:36 Click Feudal Upgrade
  • 3 boar eaters move to wood - rest go to finish sheep
  • 9:46 Reach Feudal
  • Immediately begin market Use one villager (berries) if possible, unless you have enough food
  • Sheep villagers move to wood
  • Trade 200 stone for gold, then buy 100 food and 100 wood
  • Build blacksmith
  • 11:12 Click Castle Upgrade Note - we have not gotten any upgrades
  • 2 forward villagers move out Sheriff doesn’t use scout to escort villagers - I’d recommend this based on no loom
  • 12:27 9 villagers move and begin mining stone
  • Now we have 2 forward, 2 on berries, 9 on stone and 6 on wood
  • Build a couple houses
  • Sell stone at market and buy just enough woof to build to monasteries (350 wood)
  • 13:52 Reach Castle
  • Immediately build 2 monasteries Watch how he hides and guards his two forward villagers
  • Train 2 monks
  • Train extra villagers as food allows
  • Begins converting enemy villagers
  • Train 2 monks
  • As berries run out, use some wood to make two farms
  • When the sell price of stone drops below 100, move all miners to gold pile
  • Research fervor and sanctity Speed and hitpoints
  • Research redemption as swiftly as possible
  • Use new peons to mine stone in enemy town
  • Build siege workshop to finish off TC
  • General Tactics
  • I’m a medium to high inter (nothing of the ordinary)…. And so here is a combination that I have had a lot of success with while playing my favorite civilization, the Saracens…
  • Seige onagers/ Bombard cannons (whichever you prefer)
  • Champions
  • Camels

Conclusion

In conclusion the Saracens are an underplayed civilization. Many have regarded them as gold dependent due to their unique units hefty price, and so one sees someone playing the Saracens not often. I myself think the Saracens are the best civ in the game, and I am sure there are many arguments I could pose to all of you to make you think the same.. However I am not writing this guide to make more people like the Saracens, it’s purpose is to help those whom need it with the Saracens… if you still need help with the Saracens check out my good friend Doug Thompson’s Jihad page here.