The arid desert breeds tough men, horses, and camels alike. Unite the tribes of Northern Africa, prepare your naval vessels to escape the scorching heat of the Maghreb, and set sail to war-torn Iberia to conquer new riches. Are your powerful cavalry, camelry, and Camel Archers enough to defend your Kasbahs against the scrambled kingdoms of Iberia that are slowly uniting against you?
Berber (Imazighen) states have existed in North Africa since antiquity, existing alongside Romans, Vandals, and Egyptians in the region; the Berbers were also early converts to Islam, and quickly became one of the most prominent ethnicities in the Early Islamic world, alongside Arabs and Persians. In 711 AD, a Muslim force mainly composed of Muladis and Berbers (called Moors by the Christians) that was led by a small group of Arabs (called Saracens) invaded Spain and established a kingdom that would endure for centuries and make lasting contributions to art, science, and philosophy. They were dreaded in war because of their fast horses and skilled guerrilla warriors. These facts are reflected in the game in their unique units, both of which are powerful counter units, the Camel Archer and the Genitour, two cavalry units that historically used to be very effective against European armies.
Much of their strength was represented in the fact that once they built a base they realized systems of communication in order to connect the camps to each other and respond quickly to the attacks of the enemies. To reflect that, their first unique technology, Kasbah, makes their Castles and the allies' ones produce units and research technologies at a faster rate. Because of moving constantly in the desert, their soldiers were used to fight effectively in hostile conditions or as nomads. While Europeans' cavalry could not survive long there, their troops were deadly ambushers able to hit hard and quick. This is why their second unique technology, Maghrabi Camels, gives their camel units a regeneration ability; also, their Villagers move faster. After the Muslim conquest, the Berber tribes of coastal North Africa became almost fully Islamized. To reflect Islamic influence against Berber tribes, the Berbers is the only African civilization to use the Middle Eastern architecture instead of African. Finally, Berber sailors had a fearsome reputation as corsairs and slavers as their pirate galleys plundered the coasts and seas of Christian Europe for centuries, easily evading the slow European warships and even raiding as far as Iceland and the British Isles. As a result, their ships are faster.
The Berbers are primarily a cavalry civilization, and have very strong and cost-effective cavalry units and an almost full tech tree in the cavalry department, only lacking the Paladin. Their infantry is also good with only the Halberdier missing. Their archers are overall subpar as they lack Arbalesters and Parthian Tactics. Especially the latter is unfortunate as it hinders their unique unit. The siege weapons are average without Siege Rams and Siege Onagers. The navy is another selling point for the Berbers with faster ships and a full tech tree, apart from Shipwright. Their Monks are average, and their defenses rather weak. Their economy, however, is strong with all technologies apart from Two-Man Saw at their disposal, and a great civilization bonus which grants their Villagers +10% movement speed. Overall, the Berbers are mobility-oriented, as they focus on cavalry and accelerated units.
The Berbers have a campaign devoted to their civilization: Tariq ibn Ziyad. They also appear in:
Camel Archers have a +1 attack bonus against infantry.
Trade Cogs generate less gold per trip to offset the speed bonus and keep the gold generation in line with other civilizations.
Initially, Stable units are -20% cheaper starting from the Castle Age. With patch 4.8, Stable units are -15%/-20% cheaper in the Castle/Imperial Age.
Initially, they cannot research Ring Archer Armor. With patch 4.8, it was added to their technology tree.
Initially, Kasbah increases not only the team Castles' working speed by 25%, but also the Castles of the researching player by another +25% (resulting in a total +56.25% bonus). With patch 4.8, Kasbah only affects the researching player's Castles once.
Initially, Non-Elite Genitours have 4 attack and 3 range. With patch 4.8, they have 3 attack and 4 range.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Berber AI characters:
Abd al- Mu'min (ⵄⴰⴱⴷ ⵍⵎⵓⵎⵏ ⵍⴳⵓⵎⵉ): A prominent member of the Almohad movement. As a leader of the Almohad Movement (since 1130), he became the first Caliph of the Almohad Empire (reigned 1147–63).
Abdallah ibn Yasin (ⴰⴱⴷⴰⵍⵍⴰⵀ ⵉⴱⵏ ⵢⴰⵙⵉⵏ): A theologian and founder of the Almoravid movement and dynasty (died 7 July 1059 C.E. in "Krifla" near Rommani, Morocco).
Abu Bakr ibn Umar (ⴰⴱⵓ ⴱⴽⵔ ⴱⵏ ⵄⵎⵔ): A chieftain of the Lamtuna Berber Tribe and commander of the Almoravids from 1056 until his death.
Abu Yazid (ⴰⴱⵓ ⵢⵣⵉⴷ): An Ibadi Berber of the Banu Ifran tribe who led a rebellion against the Fatimid Caliphate in Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia and eastern Algeria) starting in 944.
Ibn Tumart (ⵜⵓⵎⵔⵜ ⴰⴱⵓ): A Muslim Berber religious scholar, teacher and political leader, came from southern Morocco. He founded and served as the spiritual leader of the Almohad movement.
Idris I (ⵉⴷⵔⵉⵙ I): The first Arab ruler and founder of the Idrisid dynasty, ruling from 788 to 791. He is credited with founding the dynasty that was instrumental in the early Islamization of Morocco.
Kusayla (ⴰⴽⵙⵉⵍ): His name means "leopard" in the Berber language, died in the year 690 AD fighting Muslim invaders, was a 7th-century Berber Christian king of the kingdom of Altava and leader of the Awraba tribe of the Imazighen.
Maysara (ⵎⵉⵙⵔⴰ): Berber rebel leader and original architect of the Great Berber Revolt that erupted in 739-743 against the Umayyad Muslim empire.
Musa ibn Nusayr (ⵎⵓⵙⴰ ⴱⵏ ⵏⵚⵉⵔ): Served as a governor and general under the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I. He ruled over the Muslim provinces of North Africa (Ifriqiya), and directed the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula and southeastern France. Despite appearing as a Berber AI, he was actually an Arab from Syria who landed in Spain with an Arab army - in part, to make sure Tariq ibn Ziyad's Berbers didn't go rogue.
Salih ibn Tarif (ⵚⴰⵍⵃ ⴱⵏ ⵟⵔⵉⴼ): The second king of the Berghouata Berber kingdom, and proclaimed himself a prophet of a new religion. He appeared during the caliphate of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in 744 AD.
Tariq ibn Ziyad (ⵟⴰⵔⵉⵇ ⴱⵏ ⵣⵉⵢⴰⴷ): A Muslim commander who led the Islamic Umayyad conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711–718 A.D. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from the North African coast, consolidating his troops at what is today known as the Rock of Gibraltar. The name "Gibraltar" is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Ṭāriq", which is named after him.
Yusuf ibn Tashfin (ⵢⵓⵙⴼ ⴱⵏ ⵜⴰⵛⴼⵉⵏ): was leader of the Berber Moroccan Almoravid empire. He co-founded the city of Marrakesh and led the Muslim forces in the Battle of Zallaqa/Sagrajas.
Archaeological evidence indicates the emergence of distinctively Berber tribes in North Africa around 2000 BC, while historical sources and inscriptions first mention them around the 8th century BC. Early Berbers were mostly pastoral nomads, though a minority practiced sedentary agriculture. These tribes had close contact with Carthage and the Greek colonies in North Africa. The word “Berber” itself derives from a Greek term used in this case to describe the local inhabitants of North Africa west of Egypt.
In the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, several Libyo-Berber groups formed the classical kingdoms of Numidia and Mauritania. These soon fell to the Romans, who left their own impressive legacy on North Africa. However, in the early 5th century AD, the Vandals invaded Roman North Africa and, allying with the Berbers, conquered it.
The Byzantines launched several campaigns into North Africa in the 6th century, establishing tenuous control over the region. However, their persecution of the Arian and Donatist Christian sects throughout the next century drove a wedge between the Berbers and their Byzantine rulers, allowing the Muslim Arabs a relatively easy conquest of North Africa in the mid 7th century. The Arabs consolidated their conquests in North Africa by founding new cities (most notably Qayrawan in Tunisia), gradually spreading Islam, and allying with local Berber tribes.
In 711, an army composed of Berbers and Arabs under Tariq ibn Ziyad and Musa ibn Nusayr crossed into Iberia, defeated the Visigoth king Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete, and quickly subdued the region. Medieval Berber armies were famed for their use of lightly armored but lightning-quick cavalry and camelry forces, particularly Genitours, cavalry wielding a spear overhead whose mobility and versatility made them lethal against a variety of troop types. The Berber horse is notorious for terrifying other horses with its aggressive personality, lending Berber horsemen a key advantage in combat.
Despite some brief interruptions, the medieval Muslim Berber empires of North Africa and Iberia flourished as centers of culture and trade for centuries. Their architectural legacy is particularly rich, as they erected such impressive structures as the Alhambra in Granada, La Mezquita in Cordoba, the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, and the Hassan Tower in Rabat. The Berbers profited greatly from the commodities, especially gold, obtained through the lucrative Trans-Saharan trade routes, and were key players in the medieval Mediterranean economy. The maritime strength of the Berbers was impressive, and their fleets would remain as powerful commercial and military entities for centuries.
In 909, a new power rose to dominate North Africa: the Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171). The Fatimid leader, Ubayd Allah, claimed to be the Imam, the Caliph, and the Mahdi (a messianic figure in Islam), beginning a precedent that would be followed by several subsequent political figures. However, overextension as the Fatimids pushed eastward cost them their possessions in the Maghrib, and a collapse in central authority in Muslim Spain led to its fragmentation into several Taifas, or city-states.
Significant Arabization of the Maghrib was achieved through the Hilalian invasion of the 11th century, which greatly affected the agriculture and commerce of the region as well. The Almoravids (1040-1147), representing an elevated level of military, political, economic, and religious organization, rose to dominate the Maghrib and invaded Iberia, conquering the Taifas and halting the military advance of the Christian Spanish kingdoms. The Almohads (1121-1269) succeeded the Almoravids and decisively crushed the Castilians at the Battle of Alarcos in 1195, greatly expanding their political influence. Under the Almoravids and Almohads, the western medieval Muslim world reached its political and cultural zenith.
The Spanish Christian kingdoms gradually conquered Muslim Iberia, a process that culminated with the fall of the Nasrid Emirate of Granada to a unified Castile-Aragon in 1492, and the Ottoman Turks conquered much of the Maghrib in the 16th century, leaving the Sa’adian (1549-1654) dynasty in the west as the predecessors of the modern Moroccan state.
The Berbers' civilization icon is based on an Adarga, a heart-shaped leather shield originally from Fes, Morocco and used by light cavalry in Muslim Spain before being adopted by the Christians (the same shield is used by the second Berber unique unit, the Genitour, and by the SpanishLancer and the Zenata Rider in Age of Empires III). The Adarga's unusual shape was designed to deflect arrows and javelins more than stop them.
The painted symbol on the shield is a Yaz (ⵣ), which symbolizes the "free man" (Amazigh in Berber), and is in turn the name Berbers give to themselves in their own language.
The user interface image displays the coat of arms of Nasrid dynasty, the last Muslim dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula, ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1492.
The Berbers are featured in El Cid campaign as one of the antagonistic factions in the late campaign, and are represented by Saracens and Turks. They also appear in the Tours scenario of the Battles of the Conquerors and are also represented by Turks.
Berbers or Moors had actually been considered to appear as one of the new civilizations in The Conquerors. However, the plan was dropped because there were already four civilizations with the Middle Eastern architecture set.
The Berbers' strengths closely resemble the ones of the Yamato of Age of Empires (both having bonuses affecting their navy, cheaper cavalry units and extra speed for Villagers).
Of all four shared-unit civilizations, they are the only one that does not have any bonus or technology for their own shared unit.
During the beta, they might have had access to Halberdiers.
The Berbers are considered one of the most jack–of-all-trade civilization, as they have many units suitable to use, but many of them are not the best contrast to other civilizations. Also, in contrast to the Teutons, they are one of the few civilizations that lacks all rarest units and buildings (namely Paladins, Siege Onagers, and Bombard Towers). Because of their jack-of-all-trades tactics, they can be suited for most maps.
On a related note, the Berbers may sometimes be recommended over Franks when it comes to learning the "Knight rush" strategy for newer players. This is because while the Franks' civilization bonuses are better for this strategy, the Berbers have more Castle Age options to mix in with their Knight rush strategy.