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A Maneuverability-Based Guide to the Races

By: Mlepinski
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 reach it.
  • 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 Part III.

  • 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 less-maneuverable troops.
  • 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 mountaineering).

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 tile.

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, or post in the Gameplay Strategies forum.

- Matt Lepinski

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