A Maneuverability-Based Guide to the Races
Last Updated: August 18, 2002
Part I - Motivation
For the purposes of this guide, I will define maneuverability to be the ability of a
unit to quickly reach locations on the strategic map. Clearly, one important aspect of
maneuverability is the speed of a unit. However, other abilities like forestry, swimming
and mountaineering play a part in getting a unit to reach key locations quickly.
So why talk about maneuverability? Well, I've played just enough multiplayer to realize
that maneuverability wins games. In my mind there are three ways that having highly
maneuverable units can be very advantageous:
- Early Resource Acquisition: Having fast units can allow you to reach
that Production Resource a turn or two earlier, which can lead you to having an extra
level 3 unit in some key battle later in the game. Additionally, on some maps having
swimming or flying units can result in you grabbing a water node before your opponent can
- Rapid Threat Response: When attacked by surprise, getting
reinforcements to a poorly defended city or tower is crucial. Archers with 20 movement
points (hereinafter, "MP") can move 6 hexes per turn along a road, while archers
with 24 MP can move 8 hexes per turn. In some situations, those extra two spaces are the
difference between holding a city and having it razed.
- Out Maneuvering a Superior Force: In some situations, having more
maneuverable units can even compensate for having an inferior army. What follows is a
slightly contrived example, it illustrates the potential power of maneuverable
units.Imagine a situation where you have 6 druids and I have 8 warlords (I assume that
everyone will agree that 8 warlords will beat 6 druids in a fair fight). Also imagine that
I own two cities along a river which are 15 hexes apart, and you would like to take one of
the two cities. Now, if you position your druids (9 hexes per turn) in the river between
the two cities you can move to either city in one turn. However, there is no where that I
can position my warlords that I can reach either city in a turn. Furthermore, I can't
attack your druids because they are on water. Therefore, either I need to split my force
(which allows you to fight 4 warlords with 6 druids) or else I choose to defend only one
of the cities and you can raze the other.
Part II - General Principles
What follows are some general principles that I used when ranking the races below in
- A stack of maneuverable units is many times more valuable than a single maneuverable
unit. Therefore, I think a simple metric like average speed is inadequate when ranking the
races. (I would much prefer two units with 40 MP over two units with 50 and 30 MP.
- Abilities which allow movement over impassable terrain (like floating, swimming and
mountaineering) are move useful than abilities which allow rapid movement over some
terrain (like forestry and cave crawling).
- A solid early game advantage is difficult to overcome. Therefore--all else being
equal--having low level maneuverable troops is more useful than having high level
- I have arbitrarily decided that 20 MP is "Slow," 24-28 MP are
"Normal," 30-36 MP are "Fast" and 38-50 MP are "Very Fast."
For simplicity, I use this abbreviation: S-0 N-5 F-2 V-1, which means a race has no Slow
units, 5 Normal units, 2 Fast units and one Very Fast unit.
Part III - The Races (From Best to Worst)
You can check out the full stats of all the races listed here in the Units section of AoW2 Heaven. Click on the race names below to
see a complete statistical list of that race's units.
1. Elves (S-0 N-3 F-2 V-3)
Wow! A fast level 0 unit, a flier, a level 2 swimmer, a fast swimmer, two very fast
cavalry units and seven units with forestry; what more could you want? It would be nice if
the flier was level 3 instead of level 4, but I guess that would be too much to ask for.
It depends somewhat on the map, but in general I can't overstate the importance of having
both a fast level 0 and a level 2 swimmer for early game resource acquisition.
2. Archons (S-0 N-4 F-1 V-3)
With three units having 40 MP and all level 2 and higher units having 28+ MP, the Archons
rate a solid second place. As I'm sure everyone knows, the level 3 flier is very nice, but
they have no other units with speical movement advantages (like swimming or
3. Humans (S-0 N-5 F-0 V-3)
As mentioned with the Elves, a level 2 swimmer is great in the early game on many maps.
Also, since the Swashbuckler is a more potent offensive force than the Elven Nymph, the
Swashbuckler is also useful in mid-game amphibious assaults. In addition to the
Swashbuckler, the Humans have two very fast cavalry units and the amazing Air Ship (which,
in my opinion, is the most useful level 4 unit in the game; the ability to transport an
entire army via a very fast flier is priceless).
4. Tigrans (S-0 N-4 F-3 V-1)
The the Tigran Hunter is slightly more expensive and a tad slower than the Elven Glade
Runner, but the Hunter is still a very valuable asset in the early game. The Tigrans have
a nice assortment of fast units, a powerful level 3 flier, the Manticore, and the Sphinx's
mountaineering can even be useful on occasion. The level 2 Firecat can also acquire fire
immunity at silver medal, which will allow it to walk across lava. But since so few maps
have lava, I don't count this as much of an advantage.
5. Undead (S-1 N-5 F-1 V-1)
Sadly, the Zombie is slow (it's nice that it has cave crawling, but it's still slow) and
neither or the undead level 3 units are very fast. However, the Undead have two creatures
with the floating ability (as good as flying from a maneuverability point of view) and all
of their level 2 and higher units have at least 28 MP. All in all, the undead are a fairly
maneuverable race, but they fall short of being among the game's elite.
6. Dark Elves (S-0 N-5 F-2 V-1)
Another solid race that falls just short of being spectacular. The Dark Elves have a very
fast cavalry unit, a floating unit and several units with cave crawling, which earns them
a place in the top half of the rankings.
7. Orcs (S-0 N-6 F-2 V-0)
It was tempting to rank the Orcs higher because I really like level 2 swimming units (and
once you get the Glutton, he swims too). Unfortunately, some maps don't have much water
and the Orcs don't really have much else going for them (their cavalry has only 36 MP and
their second fastest unit doesn't come until level 4).
8. Dwarves (S-4 N-2 F-2 V-0)
The problem with the Dwarves is that they have four slow units (and one of them is the
crossbowman; I have very little tolerance for slow ranged units). One of the slowest units
is the siege tank, which doesn't come until level 4 and the Dwarven Berserker is only
slightly faster than most infantry. More importantly, however, is the Dwarves have seven
units with both cave crawling and mountaineering, giving them a useful advantage
both above and below ground, and allowing hit-and-run tactics by retreating to a mountain
9. Frostlings (S-3 N-2 F-1 V-2)
When talking about the Dwarves, I mentioned that I have little tolerance for slow ranged
units. Well, if there's one thing worse than a slow archer, it's not having fast
cavalry--and the Frostlings have both!. Having no fast units until level 3 means that on
maps that start without a Champions Guild, they can be without a fast scout for quite some
time (a serious disadvantage). However, the Frostlings partially make up for these
shortcomings by having the best level 2 swimmer in the game. Not only does the Frost Witch
swim, but with Path of Frost, she can take an entire army across a body of water.
Additionally, the Frostlings have a useful level 3 flier and their level 4 unit, the Doom
Wolf, is the fastest unit in the game with 50 MP.
10. Draconians (S-0 N-6 F-0 V-2)
Like the Frostlings, the Draconians don't have a fast unit until level 3. Worse than the
Frostlings though, once they get to level 3, they still only have one fast unit. It's nice
that none of their units are slow, but the fact that none of their level 1 or 2 units have
useful maneuverability dooms them to a low maneuverability rank. However, the Draconians
do have the most cost effective level 3 flier in the game, as well as a powerful level 4
flier, the Red Dragon, which gives them good maneuverability late game. The Draconians
also have three units that can get Fire Immunity upon silver medal, which is rarely a
movement advantage but is still worth mentioning.
11. Goblins (S-4 N-2 F-1 V-2)
The Goblins suffer greatly from the lack of fast cavalry and the presence of four slow
units. It's nice that they have three units with at least 36 MP, and on some maps it's
very nice that all of their units cave crawling. These advantages put them above the
Halflings, but don't make up for the rest of the race's maneuverability shortcomings.
12. Halflings (S-4 N-3 F-0 V-1)
Well, the Halflings rank dead last. They have only a single unit with more than 30 MP, and
it doesn't come until level 3. Additionally, they have four slow units; their low-level
scout relies more on not being seen than the ability to cover a large area. The presence
of lots of forestry and the game's cheapest level 3 flier aren't enough to make up for
their maneuverability shortcomings.
Part IV - Disclaimer
I hope that the ideas in this guide are useful to you. However, I realize that
maneuverability rankings are inherently highly subjective, and I make no claim that my
ranking is the best way to evaluate the maneuverability of the races. Additionally,
maneuverability depends a lot on the map that is being played. I tried to base these
rankings on the frequency of different terrains and conditions in the maps that I've
played, but the rankings aren't valid on all maps (e.g., the Draconians would be a very
maneuverable race on the Fire: Special Phase map).
Finally, although I feel that maneuverability is very powerful, it is still only one of
many factors that decides the outcome of a game. I think the variety of strategies
available in AoW2 is truly wonderful and I have been known to enjoy playing the Goblins or
the Draconians on occasion. Thanks for reading; please email me with any feedback or
comments you may have at email@example.com, or post
in the Gameplay
- Matt Lepinski
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