Counter Guide

Skirmisher throwing javelin

Age of Empires 2 is a complex game where each military unit has a role to play in battle; each military unit is a counter for another unit and may be countered by another unit. See our counter guide below to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each unit and how each unit functions as another unit’s counter.

How to Counter the Standard Units in AOE2


The militia-line are infantry units. The militia-line includes militia, man at arms, long swordsmen, two-handed swordsman and champions.

Militia can be countered by the archer-line, knight-line, hand-cannoneers and massed scorpions.

Militia counter trash units (skirmishers, spearmen, scouts) and eagle warriors.


Archer Icon

The archer-line is a ranged, high attack, low HP unit in the archer class. The archer-line includes Archers, Crossbow and Arbalest

Archers can be countered by skirmishers, siege or eagle warriors.

One particularly effective method of dealing with archers or crossbows is by using a few rams patrolled in front to soak up damage, while other units attack. Archers that are on patrol naturally attack the closest unit until that unit is killed, and then attack the next closest unit, meaning that archers require lots of micro to win-out against this strategy.

The archer-line is effective against infantry and even cavalry when they reach a critical-mass.


Knight Icon

The knight-line is a cavalry unit. The knight-line includes knights, cavaliers, and paladins.

It can be countered by spearmen (although they beat spearmen one on one), monks and archers when those archers have a critical mass, and typically when they are crossbowmen. As knights are very expensive, it can be difficult or there can be a delay to massing them – this is why monks are the ideal counter.

Knights are a high hp, high armor and high attack unit, and are relatively easy to use. Knights are very effective against skirmishers, siege, infantry (other than spearmen) and hand cannoneers. Knights also are an effective unit to raid an opponents economy, as they usually can stand up to town-center fire where other cavalry units struggle, and have high mobility.


Spearman Icon

The spearman-line is an infantry trash unit. The spearman-line includes spearman, pikeman and halberdiers.

Spearman can be countered by archers, skirmishers, militia, scorpions or hand cannoneers. Generally speaking, anything that is not cavalry will counter the spearman, however mangonels may struggle if the spearman closes the distance and gets into the minimum range.

Spearman are an anti-cavalry unit. While scouts with bloodlines are the strongest units in feudal aggression, spearman on scouts will deal the highest damage that any unit can deal on another in the feudal age. Spearman are relatively cheap to produce and to upgrade and is essential in most games that go into the late game.

As with all the three trash units, spearman are countered by one trash unit (the skirmisher) and counters one trash unit (the scouts).


Skirmisher Icon

The skirmisher is an archer trash unit.

Skirmishers are countered effectively by the knight-line, scout-line, eagle warriors, siege and militia-line. This is as, although they have high pierce armor, they lack melee armor, are low hp and have a minimum range, rendering them unable to attack melee units.

Skirmishers are an anti-archer unit however, they have significant bonus damage to archers and have additional pierce armor which assists in defending from them.

Like all trash units, skirmishers excel against one trash unit (the spearmen-line) but are weak against another (the scout-line).


Scouts Icon

The scout-line are cavalry trash units. The scout-line includes scouts, light cavalry, and hussars.

Scouts can be countered by spearman or militia, knights, or massed archers.

Scouts are very effective against monks as they have a conversion-resistance and deal bonus damage to monks. Scouts are also effective against skirmishers and is an ideal cheap raiding unit to damage an opponents economy due to its mobility. Since it is a trash unit with high hp and pierce armor, scouts are often used as what is called a “meat-shield” to assist with ranged units dealing damage but not taking damage, ensuring the ranged units behind can have a net-positive production increasing the changes of an effective snowball.

As with all trash units, scouts are effective against one form of trash unit (skirmishers) but struggle against another (the spearman).


Monk Icon

Monks are an interesting unit. Monks require intense micro to use, as they cannot convert enemies unless tasked to do so. For this reason, skirmishers, the archer-line, and spearman-line are effective against monks, as they are a unit that has low HP (reducing the damage of a single conversion) and by their nature are generally massed to be effective. The Scout-Line is particularly effective against monks due to additional bonus damage that monks take from them, and also due to the fact that scouts benefit from conversion resistance.

Monks can change the tide of a battle. In particular, they are effective against the knights and especially effective against any form of elephants, due to the low mobility of the elephants, high HP and attack of each elephant increasing the worth of conversion, and the fact that they are so expensive that massing elephants are difficult.

Where a civilization also receives redemption, monks are also highly effective against mangonels, scorpions and bombard cannons, which can be converted from the distance. This is due to the fact that siege is very expensive to mass, and therefore the value of the conversion is increased.


Eagle Icon

The eagle-line is a fast-moving infantry unit only available to the Meso-American civilizations. The eagle-line includes eagle scouts, eagle warriors and elite eagle warriors.

In the early ages of the game, eagle scouts are similar to the scout cavalry, however it becomes a very strong unit with the eagle warrior upgrade. Eagle warriors excel in raiding and fighting archer units. Eagle warriors also have some conversion resistance.

Eagle warriors can be countered with the militia-line, Hand Cannoneers, siege, and slingers. Knights can take cost-effective trades against them.

Eagle warriors counter archers, monks and are excellent at raiding economies.


Camel Rider Icon DE

Camels, also known as camel riders since the release of Definitive Edition, are cavalry units used for anti-cavalry purposes.

Camels can be countered with the spearman-line, monks, or the archer-line. Camels also take more damage from defensive buildings than other cavalry units.

Camels excel against cavalries such as the knight-line and scout-line. Camels can also be used against skirmishers and for raiding, although other units may be more cost-effective for raiding.

Cavalry Archers

Icon for Cavalry Archer DE

The Cavalry Archer is a high mobility, high attack unit useful for raiding or when massed. Cavalry Archers are their own class of units, and benefit from the archer armor and attack upgrades in the blacksmith.

Cavalry archers can be countered by skirmishers, siege and eagle warriors. Monks can also counter cavalry archers if they are not yet massed, as monks have an additional 3 range to cavalry archers, and 6 after block printing is researched. Spearman also has bonus attack against them, however they are not the best unit to counter cavalry archers due to their low pierce armor, hit-and-run micro and due to the extra attack parthian tactics give cavalry archers against the spearman.

Cavalry archers excel against most infantry due to their pierce damage and hit-and-run capabilities. They can also counter cavalry when they reach a critical mass. Cavalry archers are one of the best units in the game for raiding an opponent, especially in the opponent’s tradeline.

Hand Cannoneers

Hand Cannoneer Icon

Hand Cannoneers are a gunpowder unit only available in the imperial age. They excel as an anti-infantry unit and should be used to counter infantry units such as the militia-line, Eagle Warriors, and spearman-line. They have very high attack, and can perform reasonably well against the scout-line, knight-line, or camels but their low accuracy results in them often underperforming in low numbers.

The best counter for hand cannoneers is skirmishers, as they are cheap, easy to mass, and have bonus damage against hand cannoneers. Siege such as onagers or scorpions is also very effective. Massed cavalry works well, provided that the cavalry is able to fully surround the hand cannoneers.

Battle Elephants

Battle Elephant Icon

Although the Battle Elephant is the strongest non-unique unit in the game, it struggles due to its slow speed to get an effective engagement with an enemy army. As a result, Battle Elephants work very well in closed maps when you have locked off options for the opponent to decide where you can force a fight in one location. Battle Elephants are classed as a cavalry unit, which has an elephant sub-class.

Battle Elephants are strong against any unit they can reach. In a one-on-one trade, they will beat their traditional counter, the spearman-line, although it is not cost-effective. They are stronger than the knight-line and have decent pierce armor and high HP to negate archers and get in close, where archers do not use hit-and-run technique.

Because of the low mobility of Battle Elephants, they are easily countered by the archer-line and Cavalry Archers that effectively kite Battle Elephants. The spearman-line is also very effective at countering Battle Elephants, especially considering how easy the spearman-line is to mass and how cost-effective the trade is.

The best unit to counter Battle Elephants is monks. As Battle Elephants are slow, Faith is a very expensive technology after making Battle Elephants, many civilizations with Battle Elephants do not have Heresy, and Battle Elephants are so expensive, gifting a couple of Battle Elephants to your opponent can easily change the outcome of a battle in their favor.


Ram Icon

The Ram is a siege unit. Rams deal the most amount of damage to enemy buildings and fortifications of all siege units. It may also not be obvious on the surface but Rams also counter archer units, on the provision that the rams are combined with another unit. This is as rams have a very high HP and especially high pierce armor. Where rams are placed in between an enemy army of archers and your own, what can happen unless the opponent is using micro the whole fight is that the enemy archers target your rams, which are able to soak up many arrows, whilst you are able to whittle away at their numbers.

To counter rams, use any infantry or cavalry unit, the Onager-Line, Bombard Cannons, or even villagers. Rams have -3 armor, so any form of melee damage will do very well in countering them.


Mangonel Icon

The Onager-Line are siege units. The Onager-Line deals high damage to units within its area-of-effect, the trade-off being that all units, including your own, or allied units, can also be damaged in the area-of-effect attack.

The Onager-Line deals bonus damage against buildings, and are particularly effective at sieging town centers, as they have outrange town centers. The Onager-Line counters archer units generally, provided that the player cannot dodge the shots with micro. The Onager-Line is also great at countering rams and scorpions, being capable of dealing with a mass of scorpions with one or two volleys. The Onager-Line also counters enemy Onagers and Mangonels.

Bombard Cannons, Cavalry units and redemption monks counter the Onager-Line. Where a player has these units available, either find a way of quickly dispose of those units or simply do not make onagers, as they are countered much too effectively. Mangonels and Onagers are often used to counter your own Mangonels or Onagers. Micro, or hill-bonus, can be used to ensure that you receive an optimal trade.

AOE2 Counter Chart (Standard Units)

Some may find the information in the below counter chart easier to digest when it comes to which Age of Empires 2 units counter which.

UnitGood AgainstWeak Against
Militia-LineSkirmishers, Spearman-Line, Eagle Warriors, ScoutsArchers, Knights, Cavalry Archers, Hand Cannoneers
Archer-LineMilitia-Line, Spearman-Line, Knights (when in mass), MonksEagle Warriors, Skirmishers, Siege
Knight-LineMilitia-Line, Archer-Line (in equal numbers), Scout-Line, Siege, Eagle WarriorsMonks, Archer-Line (when at number disadvantage), Spearman-Line, Cavalry Archers (when at number disadvantage), Camels
Spearman-LineScout-Line, Knight-Line, Camels, Siege, Battle ElephantsArcher-Line, Cavalry Archers, Hand Cannoneers, Skirmishers
SkirmishersSpearman-Line, Archer-Line, MonksKnight-Line, Militia-Line, Camels, Scout-Line, Siege, Eagle Warriors,
Scout-LineSkirmishers, Monks, Siege, Archer-Line (in the early game in equal numbers)Knight-Line, Camels, Cavalry Archers, Archer-Line (in the late game unless at a greater amount), Militia-Line, Eagle Warriors
MonksKnight-Line, Battle Elephant, Camels, Siege (when redemption is available)Scout-Line, Eagle Warriors, Archer-Line, Skirmishers, Spearman-Line
Eagle WarriorsArcher-Line, Skirmishers, Scout-Line (only when Eagle Warrior technology is researched), Monks, SiegeKnight-Line, Militia-Line, Hand Cannoneers
CamelsScout-Line, Knight-Line, Siege, SkirmishersMonks, Spearman-Line, Archer-Line
Cavalry ArchersSpearman-Line (with hit and run technique), Militia-Line, Knights (when in a greater mass), Camels (with hit-and-run technique) Skirmishers, Siege, Monks, Spearman-Line (without hit-and-run technique), Camels (without hit-and-run technique)
Hand CannoneersInfantry Units (Militia-Line, Eagle Warriors, Spearman-Line), Knights (when in mass), Scout-Line (in equal numbers), CamelsSiege, Skirmishers, Knight-Line, Scout-Line, Archer-Line
Battle ElephantsStrong against all units provided it can reach that unitSpearman-Line, Monks, Archers (with Hit-and-Run technique), Cavalry Archers (with hit-and-run technique)

Unique Unit Counters

Want to learn all about the unique units Age of Empires 2 has to offer, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to counter each unique unit?

See our Unique Unit Counter Guide.

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