The Saracens are an aggressive civilization with a particularly devastating early game that is highlighted by their unique archer flush and Market bonus.
Strengths[edit | edit source]
The Saracens are known for a dangerous archer flush that can quickly snowball a game if not properly defended. This is due to their building attack bonus, which allows them to quickly break through walls and expose enemy economies. Against most other civilizations, walls are a very effective way to buy time so that the player can mass up an army, wait for certain upgrades, or reach the next age. However, against Saracen archers it can be dangerous due to how quickly they can break them down.
This can often be further strengthened by a significant early economy advantage against many other civilizations. Though they do not appear to have a strong early economy bonus, their Market bonus actually serves this purpose well when utilized correctly, as it allows them to buy their way ahead of most civilizations for a short period of time.
Their unique technology, Zealotry, grants Camel Riders and Mamelukes extra hit points, allowing them to heavily counter most cavalry units in the game. Saracen Heavy Camel Riders with Zealotry are not quite as powerful as the Indians' Imperial Camel Rider, but the lower cost of the upgrade helps make up for this, making it easier to incorporate into a composition of units. The Mameluke is one of the most effective cavalry counters in the game, and capable of taking on many types of infantry as well, due to their ranged attack. However, their extremely high gold cost makes them limited for most non-team games.
The Saracens also notably have one of the bigger tech trees in the game, allowing them to have a lot of options for rushes and a strong late-game, though if not properly managed may eventually lose steam in non-team games. This is due to having a heavy reliance on gold with many of their best units and missing the Halberdier upgrade, though selling at the Market and careful management of the player's unit composition can easily mitigate this. Their deep tech tree includes a very strong siege lineup and they are one of the few civilizations that have access to the Siege Onager.
The Saracens also have an above-average navy, with their Galleons having a faster attack rate, and their Transport Ships having more hit points. However, due to the dominance of Fire Galleys in the early stages of most water maps, the Saracen navy is often considered a tier below the best naval civilizations such as the Vikings, Italians, Japanese, and Portuguese.
Weaknesses[edit | edit source]
Their main two weakness is in their lack of Imperial Age upgrades for their Knights and Pikemen. Thus, the Saracens lack both a mobile, high pierce armor unit that can dive under Castle and Town Center fire to snowball a game as well as a cheap, anti-cavalry alternative to Camel Riders and Mamelukes. Fortunately, the Saracens can help make up for these weaknesses to a degree through their broad tech tree and various unit combinations. They also lack Crop Rotation and Stone Shaft Mining, which combined with some very expensive upgrades and very gold-intensive units really hurts their late-game economy, though their Market bonus helps mitigate this. Defensively, they lack many important upgrades, such as Heated Shot, Architecture and Bombard Tower, which helps further their reputation as an aggressive, offensively-oriented civilization.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Saracen strategies revolve heavily around their use of the Market, but this can be fairly confusing for new players. To understand why the Market can lead to an early economic advantage, it's important to first understand the differences in gathering rates. Each resource in the game gathers at a different rate, with food being gathered notably far slower than other resources after the switch to farming becomes necessary. Food is also the player's most valuable resource throughout most of the game, as it is needed for advancing and upgrades. While most civilizations are forced to begin farming once herdables, hunt, and/or fish have been exhausted (or sooner), the Saracens can delay farming by simply buying their food at the Market with their very cheap Market rates. As previously explained, gathering gold, stone, and wood is vastly faster than farming, so with the cheap Market rates it becomes cost efficient for Saracen players to simply put Villagers that would normally be farming on one of those other resources and then use those resources to purchase their food. Since the price of food rises with each purchase, this can only be done temporarily until it eventually becomes inefficient to do so. In the short term, however, the Saracens can propel themselves ahead of many civilizations and use this window of opportunity to gain a lead or even snowball the game. Any gold spent on the 5% Market fee can be easily made back up by being able to sell resources sooner and at far better prices in the late-game (the value of food drops immensely in the late-game once all desired upgrades have been researched). In addition to this, by delaying farming, the player saves resources by not building farms that haven't been upgraded with Horse Collar and/or Heavy Plow. This adds up to a considerable amount of wood saved.
Dark Age: Generally, the Saracens have a very generic Dark Age, having no particular bonus that affects them. Thus, it's not uncommon to try to escape Dark Age as quickly as possible, so they can utilize their Market. Drush + fast Castle is also fairly common.
Feudal Age: Once they reach Feudal Age, Saracen players almost immediately build a Market, and most players will sell their starting 200 stone right away to buy food or upgrades. This does come with some risk, however, as the player gives up the ability to counter-tower if the opposing player trushes the player. On the other hand, trushing against Saracens is less likely, given that the Market and building attack bonuses on their archers can make trushes less successful.
The Saracens can do just about any Feudal Age strategy well once their Market bonus starts to kick in, though they are probably best known for their archer rushes, thanks to their building attack bonus. However, having so many options is itself a bonus, as it creates a conundrum for opposing players in that they must be wary of the choice the player makes.
Castle Age: The Saracens have a lot of options in the Castle Age. Though they lack the ability to upgrade them in the Imperial Age, Saracen Knights are fully upgradable in the Castle Age. Archers are always a good option for any age with the Saracens, and that includes their Cavalry Archers, which are fully upgradable in all stages of the game. Both Mangonels and Monks are also quite common for clearing up Skirmishers, attacking enemy Town Centers, and to protect against cavalry and gather Relics. However, in the Castle Age, the player should start to transition to Mamelukes and Camels, which are the mainstays of the Saracen Army.
Saracens can also perform a Monk Rush very effectively. To perform this, Saracens must first perform fast Castle technique, but with many differences; the most important of these is that they should take their Stone Mines in the Dark Age (with at least four Villagers), and then age up at 20 population, before placing a Blacksmith and a Market to sell their initial stone. Once this is done, the Saracen player may trade at the Market for enough resources to advance to the Castle Age. This relies on the faster rate of stone mining compared to gold and, most importantly, the Saracen trading bonus to use the Market efficiently. The player must then task some Villagers to gold and leave the others mining stone. Then, the player must create at least two Monasteries and four or five Monks. It is also helpful to research some of the Monastery technologies. The player must then get the Monks to their opponent's base and start converting enemy units, but prioritizing enemy Villagers. It is important for the player to micromanage the Monks well and use only one Monk per converted unit. The Monks also must avoid Town Center fire. Once the player has converted several enemy Villagers, they should task them to create some forward towers and steal the enemies' resources.
Imperial Age: The transition to the Imperial Age can be tricky for the Saracens. The Saracens arguably lack a go-to unit or bonus that can take advantage of a fast Imperial Age, such as the Turks' free Chemistry which allows them to go straight to Bombard Cannons or the Byzantines' cheaper age-up. On top of that, they may also have to transition away from Knights if they have not already done so. However, all is not lost and there are definitely some good options.
Despite lacking the Cavalier upgrade, Saracen Knights are actually on par with some civilization's Cavaliers if said civilization lacks Bloodlines or a Blacksmith upgrade. Even so, Saracen cavalry line strengths lie in their Mamelukes and Camel Riders, which share the same upgrade path. The Elite Mameluke is one of the cheapest unique unit elite upgrades in the game, and offers one of the highest values as well. If going for Mamelukes, however, the player should hold off on Zealotry for a little while, as it doesn't benefit the Mameluke nearly as much as it benefits Camel Riders, due to Mamelukes being ranged units. Not to mention it's quite expensive in gold, especially when the Mameluke is already a very expensive unit to begin with. The player can help mitigate the Mameluke's high gold drain to a degree by pairing them with trash units such as Hussars and Elite Skirmishers, and making sure to micro them away from danger when possible.
If the player is going Camel Riders instead, which may be necessary against certain units that Mamelukes don't fare well against, such as other Camel Riders, then Zealotry can be really effective. With Zealotry, they become much tankier, being able to fight one on one with Paladins, and have slightly more ability to dive under Town Center fire and Castle fire, especially when aided by Siege Rams or some other unit to soak up fire. Camel Riders don't pack the offensive power of cavalry units, due to having lower attack and much lower pierce armor, but they are essential in defending other offensive units, such as siege and archers, as well as being able to protect the player's base.
Fast Arbalester into Heavy Cavalry Archers is another great option, especially if the player has already invested heavily in the Archer-line and capitalized on their building attack bonus. Although their bonus against buildings is not quite as impactful in the Imperial Age as it was in the Feudal and Castle Age, due to the abundance of defensive structures like Castles and the higher HP and defenses of buildings, Saracen archery units are still quite potent and can still take out towers and structures used as walls relatively quickly. They outrange Town Centers and, due to their high pierce armor, Heavy Cavalry Archers become much tankier overall.
Lastly, while the Saracens are known for their Castle Age "smush", which utilizes their Market to get to Castle Age quickly and make Monks, they also have the ability to go Monks in the early Imperial Age due to their unique technology Madrasah, which makes their Monks return 33% of their gold when killed. This, along with a full Monk tech tree, can make for a pretty decent Monk rush to start the Imperial Age, not to mention be great for healing and protection from cavalry.
The end-game ideal unit composition for the Saracens usually includes some combination of Mamelukes/Heavy Camel Riders and some form of siege (Siege Ram, Siege Onager, Bombard Cannon, or Trebuchet), or an archer unit (Skirmisher, Arbalest, or Heavy Cavalry Archer) that it's protecting. In some cases, however, Champions make a better pairing then Mamelukes or Camel Riders if the player's opponent is a Native American civilization or Goths, due to the types of units those civilizations create (Eagle Warriors and Huskarls, respectively).
On water maps, Saracens are one of the best civilizations, as they have two bonuses that allow them to take the seas earlier than other civilizations. Galleys attack faster and Saracens require fewer Transport Ships than other civilizations, as Transport Ships have more capacity.
Strategy changes in The Forgotten[edit | edit source]
Their new unique technology, Madrasah, returns 33% of the cost of Monks to the player when they die. This makes Saracen Monks a more efficient investment when built to support other units. Saracens also received a -75 wood discount building Markets. This improves their access to the Saracen civilization bonus at the Market as well as providing a small boost to trade.
Strategy Changes in The African Kingdoms[edit | edit source]
As of The African Kingdoms, camels are no longer considered ships. This change affects the Saracen unique unit, the Mameluke, and makes them better protected against enemy towers, which were previously more effective against Mamelukes when raiding.
Strategy Changes in the Definitive Edition[edit | edit source]
Their Cavalry Archer attack bonus now applies to the Archer line and the Hand Cannoneer, but is reduced to +3 (for a total +4 in the case of the Archer line, considering their team bonus). This makes an archer rush in the Feudal Age much more appealing for Saracens, while also making masses of Arbalests and Hand Cannoneers a viable alternative to siege units in the later stages of the game. The cost of the Market is lowered now to only 75 wood, making their fast Castle technique described previously much better.
Alliances[edit | edit source]
In team games, Saracens should preferably play in the pocket position, but they can also stand in the front line position.
Saracens profit greatly from the following team bonuses:
As a teammate, Saracens make a synergy with archer based civilizations, such as the Britons, the Chinese, the Mayans, and others. Their team bonus gives allied foot archers +1 attack versus buildings. This adds to the Mayan technology Obsidian Arrows which increases archer attack versus buildings by +3, making massed archers a viable replacement for siege and swordsmen. Fully upgraded British Longbowmen can outrange towers and castles, so this bonus speeds up the destruction of enemy fortifications. Vietnamese allies also grant Saracen players gold subsidy (via Paper Money) for extra Mamelukes, camels, warships or horse archers, together with anti-building-enhanced Imperial Skirmishers and first-hand revelation of the enemy bases at the beginning, in exchange for more "siegeable" Rattan Archers against hostile fortifications.
Compared advantages and disadvantages[edit | edit source]
Advantages vs other civilizations[edit | edit source]
Disadvantages vs other civilizations[edit | edit source]
Situational advantages[edit | edit source]