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

Ranged unit equipped with armor vs. archer attacks.
Age of Empires II description

The Skirmisher is an anti-archer ranged unit in Age of Empires II that can be trained at the Archery Range. Skirmishers are similar to the Slinger in Age of Empires.


Skirmisher sprite aoe2de.png

Skirmishers are very weak to everything except archers. With a weak and slow attack, as well as a minimum range, they deal almost no damage to infantry and cavalry. However, their attack bonus against archers can make them valuable against any archer-using opponent, especially if the player's civilization's bonuses benefit infantry or heavy cavalry. Their anti-archer role is helped greatly by their impressive base pierce armor, which can highly reduce enemy pierce attacks.

Unless created to retaliate against enemy archers, Skirmishers make poor ranged support. Thus, training Skirmishers should be avoided unless opponents are going heavy on archer units.

As Skirmishers cost no gold, they are considered trash units and as such they become especially important in the late game when gold becomes scarce and players have to rely on a wood and food economy. However, because of their cheap cost and quick build time it is possible (in some circumstances) to overwhelm the opposition with sheer quantity.

Although Skirmishers deal bonus damage against Spearmen, their minimum range can be exploited by them. In small numbers, Spearmen can defeat Skirmishers, but in large groups the Skirmishers will win.

Skirmishers are good counters against Mamelukes because they are very cost effective as they cost no gold. They are the trash unit of choice to field against Mamelukes because they take no bonus damage (as opposed to Light Cavalry) and cannot be hit-and-run (as opposed to Spearmen).

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 Imperialskirmisherresearch.png Elite Skirmisher

Civilization bonuses[]

  • Aztecs: 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: Skirmishers are 25% cheaper.
  • Celts: Skirmishers can convert herdables even if enemy units are next to them.
  • Chinese: Technologies that benefit Skirmishers are 10%/15%/20% cheaper in the Feudal/Castle/Imperial Age.
  • Italians: Researching Ballistics and Chemistry is 33% cheaper.
  • Koreans: Skirmishers cost -20% wood. Armor upgrades are free.
  • Lithuanians: Skirmishers move 10% faster.
  • Portuguese: Skirmishers are upgraded to Elite Skirmishers 30% faster. All relevant upgrades are researched 30% faster.
  • Sicilians: Skirmishers absorb 50% of all incoming bonus damage.
  • Spanish: Blacksmith upgrades that benefit Skirmishers do not cost gold.
  • Tatars: Skirmishers deal +25% bonus damage from cliffs and elevations. Thumb Ring is free.
  • Turks: Chemistry is free.
  • Vietnamese: Skirmishers have +20% hit points. Conscription is free.

Team bonuses[]


The Age of Kings[]

  • The Elite Skirmisher upgrade costs 250 wood, 160 gold.

The Conquerors[]

The Forgotten[]

  • Britons: Yeomen moved to the Castle Age.

The African Kingdoms[]

  • With patch 4.8, the Elite Skirmisher upgrade costs 200 wood, 100 gold.
  • Ethiopians: Initially, Skirmishers fire 15% faster. With patch 4.8, that bonus was taken away and Skirmishers no longer have an increased Rate of Fire.
  • Italians: Before patch 4.8, Pavise affects Skirmishers. With patch 4.8, Pavise does not affect Skirmishers anymore.

Rise of the Rajas[]

  • Vietnamese: Initially, Skirmishers have +10%/+15%/+20% HP in the Feudal/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 2, the Skirmisher has the weakest base attack of all land units, along with the Battering Ram.
  • With 30, the Skirmisher also has the fewest hit points of all military units, tied with the Archer and the Karambit Warrior.
  • Medieval skirmishers were generally armed with crossbows and longbows. To be historically accurate, the unit should be named Javelineer.
  • With update 44725, all Native American civilizations have a Castle Age unique technology that benefits the combat strength of Skirmishers.


Many armies of the Middle Ages used lightly armored skirmishers in support of the main fighting force of armored fighting men. They could be difficult to control and of little value on the battlefield, but some armies used them effectively. Skirmishers were deployed in front of the main battle line and engaged the enemy with bows, slings, and javelins. The intent was to disrupt the enemy force and cause casualties before the main battle lines clashed. The skirmishers would retire to the side of the main battle and harass the enemy as practical. They could also be useful in pursuit of a beaten enemy because they could move more quickly than men wearing armor. If caught in battle against men-at-arms, however, they could not stand and routed quickly.
Age of Empires II manual

Skirmishers were Infantry or even Cavalry soldiers who were used ahead or alongside a much larger body of friendly troops and were put in a skirmish line to harass the enemy or to protect their own troops from similar attacks by the enemy. They were usually lightly armored so they could move around the battlefield quickly and usually had longer ranged firearms. In earlier battles, skirmishers were often the rabble that was thrown into the battlefield at the start of a battle before being overrun by the cavalry of both sides. As warfare evolved, however, skirmishers became a valuable commodity, harassing fleeing armies and capturing loot.