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This article is about the unit in Age of Empires II. For the unit in Age of Empires IV, see Arbalétrier.

Stronger than Crossbowman. 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.

Unit availability
Available Unavailable

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.

The ^ indicates that the civilization has at least one civilization or team bonus or a unique technology that benefits the combat strength of the Arbalester.


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. Coustilliers are an extremely dangerous counter, as their charge attack can kill them with one shot of any non-Vietnamese Arbalesters. 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.

Further statistics[]

Unit strengths and weaknesses
Strong vs. Infantry, Villagers
Weak vs. Skirmishers, Scorpions, Mangonels, cavalry, Huskarls, Eagle Warriors, Rattan Archers, Woad Raiders
Attack FletchingDE.png Fletching (+1)
BodkinArrowDE.png Bodkin Arrow (+1)
BracerDE.png Bracer (+1)
ChemistryDE.png Chemistry (+1)
Range FletchingDE.png Fletching (+1)
BodkinArrowDE.png Bodkin Arrow (+1)
BracerDE.png Bracer (+1)
CastleAgeUnique.png Yeomen (+1, Britons only)
Firing rate ThumbRingDE.png Thumb Ring (+18%)
Accuracy ThumbRingDE.png Thumb Ring (increases accuracy to 100%)
BallisticsDE.png Ballistics (hit moving targets)
Armor PaddedArcherArmorDE.png Padded Archer Armor (+1/+1)
LeatherArcherArmorDE.png Leather Archer Armor (+1/+1)
RingArcherArmorDE.png Ring Archer Armor (+1/+2)
CastleAgeUnique.png Pavise (+1/+1, Italians only since The African Kingdoms)
Conversion defense FaithDE.png Faith
HeresyDE.png Heresy
UniqueTechCastle-DE.png First Crusade (Sicilians only)
Creation speed ConscriptionDE.png Conscription (+33%)

Civilization bonuses[]

  • 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 -20% gold. Upgrades that benefit Arbalesters are researched 30% faster.
  • Sicilians: Arbalesters absorb 50% of all incoming bonus damage.
  • Vietnamese: Arbalesters have +20% hit points. Conscription is free.

Team bonuses[]


The Age of Kings[]

The Conquerors[]

The Forgotten[]

The African Kingdoms[]

Rise of the Rajas[]

  • Hindustanis: 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.

Definitive Edition[]

  • 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 -20% 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 defenses.
  • Portuguese: With update 42848, technologies are researched 30% faster.
  • Saracens: Arbalesters deal +3 bonus damage against standard buildings.

Lords of the West[]


  • 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 do not 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.
  • None of the civilizations with the Central Asian architecture have access to the Arbalester upgrade. Conversely, all of the civilizations with the East Asian, Mesoamerican, and African architecture set have access to Arbalester.
  • The Malian Arbalester is the only one that lacks Bracer.
  • With patch 5.5 the Hindustanis are the only civilization that have lost access to the Arbalester, and in patch 5.8 the Khmer are the only civilization that gained access to the Arbalester.


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.




ARBALESTER vs EVERY UNIQUE UNIT (Total Resources) - AoE II- Definitive Edition


ARBALESTER (Britons) vs EVERY UNIQUE UNIT (Total Resources) - AoE II- DE