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This article is about the unit in Age of Empires II. For the unit in Age of Empires, see Cataphract (Age of Empires).

Byzantine unique unit. Heavily armored cavalry.
Age of Empires II description

The Cataphract is the unique unit of the Byzantines in Age of Empires II. It is a heavy cavalry unit that excels at combat against infantry.

Cataphracts can be upgraded to Elite Cataphracts in the Imperial Age.


Due to its trample damage, overall good statistics, and attack bonus against infantry, the Cataphract is probably the unit with the fewest weaknesses. Particularly Elite Cataphracts are effective against almost all units which have an attack bonus against mounted units, such as Camel Riders or Mamelukes, since they have an innate resistance (+12/+16 (Elite) armor) to anti-cavalry attack bonuses. The attack bonus of Mamelukes (9, 12 for Elite) is nullified, as well as the one of Camel Riders (9), only Heavy and Imperial Camel Riders (18) are left with a small bonus. Halberdiers, however, are still a threat to them and much more cost effective, even though their immense attack bonus of 32 against cavalry is halved.

Even a fully upgraded Cataphract only has moderate attack (14), not even more than a Malian Light Cavalry, but their +18 attack bonus against infantry and resistance against bonus damage make it a very potent combatant. Since they also do trample damage and attack very fast, they can even compete with heavy cavalry in mass battles, although that should be avoided. Players should do their utmost to avoid unnecessary casualties with Cataphracts, as they are expensive to produce and their upgrades are extremely costly as well.



Though Halberdiers do not deal as much bonus damage to Cataphracts as they do to other cavalry, they are still a moderately good choice to counter Cataphracts. It is always advisable to send large groups of Halberdiers, since Cataphracts have a very high damage bonus against all kinds of infantry and will easily win in one on one combat. The groups of Halberdiers should be managed carefully since sending them into battle sporadically and sparsely will lead to little or no effect. While dueling, each hit of a Cataphract deals a damage of as much as 29 HP to a Halberdier if both units are fully upgraded, which is very fortunate for the Halberdiers, since it allows them to survive the second hit with 2 HP and strike a second time themselves.

Civilizations that lack Plate Mail Armor (like the Goths), however, struggle even more against Cataphracts, since they have one less armor and die with the second hit already. That means, in one-on-one combat, a fully upgraded Cataphract survives with 129/150 hit points left.

Kamayuks fare poorly against Cataphracts, dealing only 7 damage per hit and losing even more distinctly. In one-on-one combat, the Cataphract wins with 136 hit points left. Even in mass battles, despite being able to use their range, Kamayuks do not stand a chance.

Viking and Bohemian Pikemen do much better than regular Pikemen, but in no way substitute the Halberdier.

Heavy cavalry[]

This is probably one of the best tactics to engage Cataphracts, if enough food and gold is available. Since the Byzantines do not have Blast Furnace and Bloodlines for their Cataphracts, Paladins can tackle a Cataphract army and even go on the offensive without too much trouble. Even though Cataphracts deal trample damage, the Paladins are superior even in mass battles. Fully upgraded Paladins have 18 attack and 180 HP against 14 attack and 150 HP on the Cataphract's side. Even fully upgraded Cavaliers (such as the ones of the Berbers, Chinese, or Turks) defeat Cataphracts in one-on-one battle, but lose in mass battles due to the trample damage.

Naturally, the other unique heavy cavalry units, War Elephants, Leitis, Coustilliers, and Boyars, as well as Battle Elephants, do not have too much trouble facing Cataphracts, though Cataphracts can easily run away from any Elephant units.

Ranged units[]

The Cataphract is among the weakest non-ranged cavalry unit when it comes to pierce armor. As a logical consequence, they take high damage from archer units and defensive structures.

Groups of Arbalesters, Heavy Scorpions, Heavy Cavalry Archers, or other unique archer units usually kill Cataphracts without too many casualties when they are properly managed. 30 Arbalesters are needed to kill a fully upgraded Elite Cataphract in one arrow volley - half of the resistance of an ordinary Paladin, which is 60 shots. Even Elite Skirmishers deal 2 damage and can be used when gold is scarce.

Genoese Crossbowman, despite their bonus attack against cavalry being absorbed by the Cataphract, still do a good job against them, thanks to their high-enough pierce attack. The problems (compared to Italian Arbalesters) are slow production, since they require a Castle and a disadvantage of 1 range.

However, Cataphracts still possess the speed, health, and attack to threaten these units, so the ranged units should be massed (ideally in groups of at least 40) and/or protected with aforementioned heavy cavalry or Halberdiers before being sent to face the Cataphracts.


Due to the high cost and value on the battlefield of Cataphracts, they are likely to become a prime target for enemy Monks. Converting Cataphracts can be devastating if several are converted at once. It is also unlikely that a Byzantine player is able to afford Heresy or Faith easily due to the extremely high gold costs of Logistica, the Elite Cataphract upgrade, and the Cataphracts themselves. Cataphracts also require at least four strikes to kill a Monk with Sanctity, making it unlikely a lone Cataphract can take out a lone Monk before being converted.

Further statistics[]

As Cataphracts are unique to the Byzantines, only technologies that are available to them are shown in the following table:

Unit strengths and weaknesses
Strong vs. Skirmishers, infantry, siege weapons, Light Cavalry, Camel Riders, Mamelukes
Weak vs. War Elephants, Battle Elephants, Paladins, Boyars, massed archers, massed Scorpions, massed Halberdiers
Attack Forging aoe2de.png Forging (+1)
IronCastingDE.png Iron Casting (+1)
Unique-tech-imperial.jpg Logistica (adds trample damage and +6 attack against infantry)
Armor ScaleBardingArmorDE.png Scale Barding Armor (+1/+1)
ChainBardingDE.png Chain Barding Armor (+1/+1)
PlateBardingArmorDE.png Plate Barding Armor (+1/+2)
Speed HusbandryDE.png Husbandry (+10%)
Conversion defense FaithDE.png Faith
HeresyDE.png Heresy
Creation speed ConscriptionDE.png Conscription (+33%)
CastleAgeUnique.png Kasbah (+25%, with a Berber ally only)
Upgrades Elite-unique-research.jpg Elite Cataphract

Team bonuses[]


The Age of Kings[]

  • Cataphracts train in 23 seconds.
  • Cataphracts have a Rate of Fire of 2.0.
  • The Elite Cataphract upgrade costs 1,600 food and 800 gold.

The Conquerors[]

  • Cataphracts train in 20 seconds.
  • Cataphracts have a Rate of Fire of 1.8 (1.7 for Elite).
  • Cataphracts receive +12 (+16 for Elite) bonus defense against anti-cavalry attacks.
  • Heresy introduced.
  • Logistica introduced. It costs 1,000 food and 600 gold.

Definitive Edition[]


  • Having few weaknesses compared to other unique units, the Cataphract serves as a good introduction to the unique unit concept of the game to new players, similar to the civilization owning them.
  • The Cataphract's beta model was modified and used for the Boyar in the Forgotten Empires mod.
  • With 1.7 seconds reload time, Elite Cataphracts are the third fastest attacking cavalry in game, being only beaten by Bulgarian Hussars and Cavaliers with Stirrups with a reload time of 1.43 and 1.35 respectively.
  • The original Cataphract model, with mostly plate-armored rider and horse, was actually based on the late-Medieval Western European heavy cavalrymen (e.g. French gendarmes).
  • In real life, heavy cavalry like Cataphracts were not ideally suited in combat against light cavalry, for lightly armored, more mobile riders possessed superior mobility and could easily run from while shooting at better armored yet slower riders. This could explain why the Cataphract in-game have low base pierce armor
    • Nevertheless, victories by heavy cavalry over light cavalry were possible with shrewd tactics. For example, at Lechfeld, German king Otto I decisively defeated the more mobile Magyar cavalry by only engaging them in melee combat, wherein the heavier-armored German cavalrymen excelled over the lighter-armored Magyars, not breaking ranks to chase Magyars (whether retreat-feinting or truly fleeing), and cutting off the Magyars' escape routes.
  • Cataphracts, along with Burgundian Coustilliers, are the only two unique cavalry units without Bloodlines.


The Byzantine army carried on many of the military traditions of the old Roman Empire into the Middle Ages. This was a professional force that was well trained and well led. Officers studied tactics and command. The army was organized into formal units that maintained their own traditions for centuries. The best units in the Byzantine army were partially armored cavalrymen called cataphracts. They fought with several weapons, including the bow and sword. With plains to the east and north of their empire, the cataphract was ideally suited for combat against the unarmored cavalry of their enemies. The Byzantine army went into decline partially because it lost the plains of Asia Minor from which it had drawn both horses and cavalrymen for service as cataphracts.
Age of Empires II manual




ELITE CATAPHRACT vs EVERY UNIQUE UNIT (Lords of the West) - AoE II- Definitive Edition