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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.

The upgrade to the Imperial Skirmisher is unique to the Vietnamese and their allies.


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.

The Elite Skirmisher and its predecessor, the Skirmisher, were the only ranged trash units until the release of The African Kingdoms, where the Berber Genitour was introduced.

Further statistics[]

Unit strengths and weaknesses
Strong vs. Archers
Weak vs. Melee units, siege units
Attack FletchingDE.png Fletching (+1)
BodkinArrowDE.png Bodkin Arrow (+1)
BracerDE.png Bracer (+1)
ChemistryDE.png Chemistry (+1)
CastleAgeUnique.png Atlatl (+1, Aztecs only)
CastleAgeUnique.png Hul'che Javelineers (Extra spear, Mayans only)
Range FletchingDE.png Fletching (+1)
BodkinArrowDE.png Bodkin Arrow (+1)
BracerDE.png Bracer (+1)
CastleAgeUnique.png Atlatl (+1, Aztecs only)
CastleAgeUnique.png Yeomen (+1, Britons only)
CastleAgeUnique.png Andean Sling (eliminates the minimum range, Incas only)
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)
Unique-tech-imperial.jpg Tower Shields (+2 pierce armor, Lithuanians only)
Conversion defense FaithDE.png Faith
HeresyDE.png Heresy
UniqueTechCastle-DE.png First Crusade (Sicilians only)
Creation speed ConscriptionDE.png Conscription (+33%)
Upgrades ImperialSkirmisherUpgDE.png Imperial Skirmisher (Vietnamese and allies only)

Civilization bonuses[]

  • Aztecs: Elite Skirmishers are created 11% faster.
  • Bulgarians: Researching archer armor and attack upgrades at the Blacksmith costs -50% food.
  • Burmese: Researching Faith is 50% cheaper.
  • 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.
  • Dravidians: Skirmishers attack 25% faster.
  • Italians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 33% cheaper.
  • Koreans: Elite Skirmishers cost -20% 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.
  • Sicilians: Elite Skirmishers absorb 50% of all incoming bonus damage.
  • Spanish: Blacksmith upgrades that benefit Elite Skirmishers do not cost gold.
  • Tatars: Elite Skirmishers deal +25% bonus damage from cliffs and elevations. Thumb Ring is free.
  • Vietnamese: Elite Skirmishers have +20% hit points. Conscription is free.

Team bonuses[]


The Conquerors[]

The Forgotten[]

  • 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 have +20% HP.

Definitive Edition[]

Lords of the West[]


  • 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.