The Portuguese or Portuguese Empire was a global empire originating from the European nation of Portugal that possessed multiple overseas colonies. In the New World, the Portuguese controlled a large amount of land in the eastern parts of South America until 1822 (most notably Brazil).
The Portuguese are one of the difficult civilizations to play in Age of Empires III due to its relatively slow start. They do begin with one Settler more than any other civilization, for a total of 7. However, they do not have any Settler cards in their decks because of the extra Covered Wagons they receive every time they advance in age. Since the Portuguese receive these Towns Centers for free every age, their economy typically becomes stronger as the maximum settler output increases dramatically.
The Portuguese also have a strong navy, light infantry, possess the best all around Dragoons in the game (Spanishunction dragoons hit harder but have fewer hit points) and the combat cards their units get in the Industrial Age can make them quite powerful and difficult to beat in longer games. The Portuguese generally try to get to the Fortress Age quickly due to the fact that they are very strong beyond the Colonial Age. The Portuguese can have three Explorers with a Home City Card. If the Explorers are properly upgraded at the Capitol, then they serve as very effective Infantry. Their Organ Guns give them a distinct combat advantage (against infantry, particularly).
In 1492 Portugal was a tiny nation of one million people perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Cut off from trade to the eastern Mediterranean by the Venetians and Ottomans, they had turned south seeking a source for the spices and gold that appeared in the markets of North Africa. By the mid-fourteenth century they had discovered several island groups in the Atlantic that they settled and planted with sugar. Under the sponsorship and support of Prince Henry, they built up their knowledge of seafaring and continued edging their way down the coast of Africa. By 1487 they had reached the southern tip of the continent, and in ten years they reached the long sought goal of India.
By accident they had discovered Brazil when blown off course and within a few decades they had a colony there collecting Brazil wood (for its dyes) and growing sugar. Portuguese navigators were very active in the further discovery of the Americas and one of their pilots, Ferdinand de Magellan, began a circumnavigation of the world in 1519 in the service of Spain. Leaving most of the New World to Spain by mutual agreement, they concentrated on their trading with the East Indies. They built trading stations at key points in Africa, India, and Malaysia, and enjoyed some very profitable years.
Their monopoly on Atlantic trade to the Indies was short-lived. They fell temporarily under Spanish rule in the late sixteenth century, which opened their shipping to attack by the Protestant Dutch and the English. Both of these enemies set up trading companies to compete in the East Indies, which came to dominate the market. Gradually the Portugese lost their lead in seafaring and fell behind other nations in technology and trade. Eventually their power and influence waned to the point that they needed a British military presence to stave off conquest by Napoleonic France.