|“||Stronger than Skirmisher. Ranged unit equipped with armor vs. archer attacks.||”|
|—Age of Empires II description|
The Elite Skirmisher is an anti-archer ranged unit in Age of Empires II that can be trained at the Archery Range once the Castle Age is reached. They have an attack bonus against archers and, as opposed to its predecessor, an extra attack bonus against Cavalry Archers. They also have increased hit points, attack power, and pierce armor. This makes Elite Skirmishers more useful against other ranged units even beyond the Castle Age.
The Elite Skirmisher is available to all civilizations except for the Turks.
The following civilizations can fully upgrade their Elite Skirmishers (i.e. gets Bracer, Ring Archer Armor, and Thumb Ring), and have at least one civilization bonus, team bonus, or unique technology that benefits the combat strength of the Elite Skirmisher: Incas, Lithuanians, Mayans, Saracens, Tatars and Vietnamese. Koreans and Byzantines get generic fully upgraded Skirmishers that are cheaper to train.
Most of the time, Skirmishers are very weak to everything except Archers, Hand Cannoneers, and Pikemen (to a degree). With a weak and slow attack, as well as a minimum range, they deal almost no damage to infantry and cavalry. Nevertheless, their attack bonus against archers can make them valuable against any archer-using opponent, especially if the player's civilization bonuses benefit infantry or heavy cavalry. Unless created to retaliate against enemy archers, each individual unit does poor damage and in most games, training Elite Skirmishers is avoided unless opponents are going heavy on archer units. Elite Skirmishers also have a +3 attack bonus against Pikemen, allowing groups of them to quickly take out approaching Pikemen, but their minimum range still makes them vulnerable.
While Elite Skirmishers make poor ranged support in small numbers, they are extremely cheap. As they cost no gold, they are considered trash units and can be easily massed in significant numbers enough to kill units with a single volley. The size of the mob of units should also prevent enemy units from coming close enough to all of the units, allowing them to continue to fire. Therefore the Elite Skirmisher becomes especially important in the late game when gold becomes scarce and players have to rely on a wood and food economy. In the trash wars situation their bonus against the Spearman line also becomes more useful.
|Unit strengths and weaknesses|
|Weak vs.||Melee units, siege units|
|Attack|| Fletching (+1)|
Bodkin Arrow (+1)
Atlatl (+1, Aztecs only)
Hul'che Javelineers (Extra spear, Mayans only)
|Range|| Fletching (+1)|
Bodkin Arrow (+1)
Atlatl (+1, Aztecs only)
Yeomen (+1, Britons only)
Andean Sling (eliminates the minimum range, Incas only)
|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)
Tower Shields (+2 pierce armor, Lithuanians only)
|Conversion defense|| Faith|
|Creation speed||Conscription (+33%)|
|Upgrades||Imperial Skirmisher (Vietnamese and allies only)|
- Aztecs: Elite Skirmishers are created 11% faster.
- Burmese: Researching Faith is 50% cheaper.
- Bulgarians: Researching archer armor and attack upgrades at the Blacksmith costs 50% less food.
- Byzantines: Elite Skirmishers are 25% cheaper.
- Celts: Elite Skirmishers can convert herdables even if enemy units are next to them.
- Chinese: Technologies that benefit Elite Skirmishers are 15%/20% cheaper in the Castle/Imperial Age.
- Italians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 33% cheaper.
- Koreans: Elite Skirmishers cost less wood. Armor upgrades are free.
- Lithuanians: Elite Skirmishers move 10% faster.
- Portuguese: Elite Skirmishers are upgraded 30% faster. All relevant upgrades are researched 30% faster.
- Spanish: Blacksmith upgrades that benefit Elite Skirmishers don't cost gold.
- Tatars: Elite Skirmishers deal +25% bonus damage from cliffs and elevations. Thumb Ring is free.
- Vietnamese: Elite Skirmishers have hit points. Conscription is free.
- A team containing Berbers: With Kasbah researched, researching Conscription is 25% faster.
- A team containing Britons: Elite Skirmishers are created and upgraded 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 Malians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 80% faster.
- A team containing Saracens: Elite Skirmishers have attack against standard buildings.
- A team containing Teutons: Elite Skirmishers are more resistant to conversion.
- A team containing Vietnamese: Elite Skirmishers can be upgraded to Imperial Skirmishers.
- Elite Skirmishers receive an attack bonus of +2 against cavalry archers and +3 against Spearmen.
- Heresy introduced.
- Thumb Ring introduced.
- Britons: Yeomen introduced. It is only available in the Imperial Age.
- Britons: Yeomen moved to the Castle Age.
The African Kingdoms
- Ethiopians: Initially, Elite Skirmishers fire 15% faster. With patch 4.8, that bonus was taken away and Elite Skirmishers no longer have an increased Rate of Fire.
- Italians: Before patch 4.8, Pavise affects Elite Skirmishers. With patch 4.8, Pavise does not affect Elite Skirmishers anymore.
Rise of the Rajas
- Vietnamese: Initially, Elite Skirmishers have +15%/+20% HP in the Castle/Imperial Age. With patch 5.8, they now have +20% HP.
- Bulgarians: With update 42848, researching archer armor and attack upgrades at the Blacksmith costs 50% less food. As team bonus, Blacksmiths now work 80% faster (up from 50% faster).
- Koreans: Initially, Archers cost 15% less wood. With update 39284, they cost 20% less wood.
- Koreans: With update 42848, Archer Armor upgrades are free.
- Lithuanians: With update 36906, Tower Shields grants +2 pierce armor instead of +1.
- Portuguese: With update 42848, all technologies are researched 30% faster.
Lords of the West
- Mayans: With update 44725, Hul'che Javelineers is introduced to replace Obsidian Arrows; Hul'che Javelineers improves Skirmishers by making them throw a second projectile.
- Skirmishers are the second cheapest of all military units, tied with the Spearman line, costing only 60 resources and no gold, only behind the Karambit Warrior (which costs 40 resources but is not a trash unit).
- With update 44725, all Native American civilizations have a Castle Age unique technology that benefits the combat strength of Skirmishers.
|“||In many Middle Age armies skirmishers were the rabble that was thrown in at the start of a battle and then often overrun by the heavy cavalry of both sides. A few armies trained elite skirmishers who could disrupt enemy formations, fall back, and support the main friendly fighting force from the sides. An army that could put elite skirmishers in the field to support its main army had an advantage over an army that did not. The Swiss, for example, often employed up to a quarter of their force in a skirmish role. Elite Swiss skirmishers supported the dense phalanxes of Swiss pikemen by disrupting enemy troops before the pikes made their attack. In an emergency, the skirmishers could take cover under the rows of pointed pikes and then stand up once more to engage a withdrawing enemy.||”|