|“||Stronger than Crosbowman. Quick and light.||”|
|—Age of Empires II description|
The Arbalester (called Arbalest before the Definitive Edition) is an archer unit in Age of Empires II that can be trained at the Archery Range once the Imperial Age is reached. It is the final tier in the Archer line.
The * indicates that the civilization can fully upgrade their Arbalesters, i.e. gets Bracer, Ring Archer Armor, and Thumb Ring. Faith and Heresy are not taken into account because they only contribute to their combat strength in a very situational manner.
Arbalesters work better in large groups as they can fire arrow volleys at the opponents' units. Arbalesters are very good at slowing down massed infantry, as well as inflicting severe damage. They are vulnerable to cavalry as they can close the distance with the fragile Arbalester before taking too much damage. As such, they should be deployed with an escort.
Pairing Arbalesters with Halberdiers works especially well since the Halberdier can cover the Arbalester's main weakness that is cavalry. Pairing the Arbalester with other melee units can also protect them from siege units.
If playing defensively, Arbalesters can become a good tool to protect a walled area as they can attack enemy units from behind the Wall at a relatively safe distance, even protecting themselves from melee cavalry. However, they do almost no damage to rams.
|Unit strengths and weaknesses|
|Strong vs.||Infantry, Villagers|
|Weak vs.||Skirmishers, Scorpions, Mangonels, cavalry, Huskarls, Eagle Warriors, Rattan Archers, Woad Raiders|
|Attack|| Fletching (+1)|
Bodkin Arrow (+1)
|Range|| Fletching (+1)|
Bodkin Arrow (+1)
Yeomen (+1, Britons only)
|Firing rate||Thumb Ring (+18%)|
|Accuracy|| Thumb Ring (increases accuracy to 100%)|
Ballistics (hit moving targets)
|Armor|| Padded Archer Armor (+1/+1)|
Leather Archer Armor (+1/+1)
Ring Archer Armor (+1/+2)
Pavise (+1/+1, Italians only since The African Kingdoms)
|Conversion defense|| Faith|
First Crusade (Sicilians only)
|Creation speed||Conscription (+33%)|
- Aztecs: Arbalesters are created 11% faster.
- Britons: Arbalesters have +2 range.
- Chinese: Technologies that benefit Arbalesters are 20% cheaper.
- Ethiopians: Arbalesters fire 18% faster.
- Italians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 33% cheaper.
- Koreans: Arbalesters cost -20% wood. Archer armor upgrades are free.
- Mayans: Arbalesters are 30% cheaper.
- Portuguese: Arbalesters cost less gold. Upgrades that benefit Arbalesters are researched 30% faster.
- Sicilians: Arbalesters take half bonus damage.
- Vietnamese: Arbalesters have +20% hit points. Conscription is free.
- A team containing Berbers: With Kasbah researched, researching Conscription, Yeomen, and Pavise is 25% faster.
- A team containing Britons: Arbalesters are created 20% faster. Researching Thumb Ring is 20% faster.
- A team containing Bulgarians: Researching archer armor and attack upgrades at the Blacksmith is faster.
- A team containing Lithuanians: Researching Faith and Heresy is 20% faster.
- A team containing Magyars: Arbalesters have +2 LOS.
- A team containing Malians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 80% faster.
- A team containing Saracens: Arbalesters have attack against standard buildings.
- A team containing Teutons: Arbalesters are more resistant to conversion.
- Arbalests receive an attack bonus of +3 against Spearmen.
- Heresy introduced.
- Thumb Ring introduced.
- Britons: Yeomen introduced.
- Indians: Can train Arbalests.
- Mayans: Obsidian Arrows introduced. It gives Arbalests +4 attack against standard buildings.
The African Kingdoms
- Italians: Pavise now affects Arbalests.
- Mayans: Obsidian Arrows now gives Arbalests +6 attack against buildings. With patch 4.8, Arbalests also gain +6 attack against stone defense.
Rise of the Rajas
- Indians: With patch 5.5, the Arbalest was removed from their technology tree.
- Khmer: Initially cannot train Arbalests. With patch 5.8, they were added to their technology tree.
- Arbalest renamed to Arbalester, which is technically correct.
- Bulgarians: Initially, the Team Bonus gave the Blacksmith a 50% work rate boost. With update 42848, this was changed to a 80% work rate boost.
- Koreans: Arbalesters cost less wood.
- Koreans: With update 42848, Archer Armor upgrades are free.
- Mayans: With update 42848, Obsidian Arrows no longer grants double the attack bonus versus Stone Walls, Stone Gates, Towers, and Harbors.
- Portuguese: With update 42848, technologies are researched 30% faster.
- Saracens: Arbalesters deal +3 bonus damage against buildings.
Lords of the West
- Mayans: Obsidian Arrows removed.
- Saracens: With update 44725, Arbalesters no longer deal bonus damage against building as civilization bonus. Their team bonus remains in effect.
- In terms of wood, the units from the Archer line are the cheapest archers in the game.
- The Archer line units are the only common archer units that don't have any base melee armor nor pierce armor.
- In pre-release versions of Age of Empires II, Archers and Crossbowmen were two separate lines. Archers were trash units that were cheap, fast firing, inaccurate, and weak, and consisted of the Archer itself, and the Composite Archer. Crossbowmen were expensive, cost wood and gold, slower firing, more accurate, and gave a high damage output. Arbalests were the upgrade of the Crossbowman and originally called "Advanced Heavy Crossbowmen".
- The Franks historically utilized the Arbalest, and the word itself was from Medieval French spelling of arcuballista in Latin. Franks lacking this upgrade was both for gameplay balance purposes and because in French, the word was used without clear distinction for both crossbows and arbalests. Many French "crossbowmen" actually wielded arbalests instead, as illustrated in Jean Froissart Chronicle depiction of the Battle of Crécy.
- None of the four civilizations introduced in the Definitive Edition have access to the Arbalester. Both civilizations in Dawn of the Dukes have access to the Arbalester.
- The Malian Arbalester is the only one that lacks Bracer.
|“||The arbalest was an advanced crossbow made of steel. The greater tensile strength of steel gave the weapon greater power.||”|
|—Age of Empires II manual|
Arbalests were a particularly heavy and powerful type of crossbow developed in the mid-to-late Middle Ages. The naming this class of soldier an "Arbalest" is incorrect since the word denotes the weapon instead of the wielder. It would be more correctly referred to with the name "Arbalist", which refers to a person that shoots the crossbow.