Trash units are military units that cost no gold or other rare resources. In all games of the Age of Empires series, there are several units that are considered "trash units". These units can be massed easily and often cost very little resources. For the most part, they are useful for defending a location early in the game or countering certain enemy units but can be taken out easily by counter units that cost gold. The term "trash" refers to the fact that most of these units only require the most common resources which are more easily disposed of than other resources (usually wood and food in all of the games). Units that cost stone are not considered trash units.
When a player is using trash units, they are usually trying to overwhelm their opponents with quantity instead of quality, or using them as cannon fodder to occupy the enemy troops to give the player time to create a more powerful army. Trash armies are also essential to long games without trade and on maps where gold is limited in quantity.
Age of Empires
Unlike the other games of the series, there are fewer varieties of trash units in Age of Empires, and two of them are even considered "elite" by the game (Scythe Chariot and Trireme). The complete list of trash units of Age of Empires:
- Clubman → Axeman (costs 50 food).
- Bowman (costs 40 food, 20 wood).
- Scout (costs food).
- Chariot → Scythe Chariot (costs 40 food, 60 wood).
- Chariot Archer (costs 40 food, 70 wood).
- Scout Ship → War Galley → Trireme (costs 135 wood).
- NOTE: The Slinger is not a trash unit because it costs stone.
Exceptional trash unit civilizations
- Assyrians: reload time for the Bowman and Chariot Archer.
- Egyptians: +33% Chariot, Chariot Archer, and Scythe Chariot hit points.
- Hittites: Bowmen and Chariot Archers deal +1 damage; Scout Ships and War Galleys have +2 range in the Tool Age and +3 range in the Bronze/Iron Age.
Age of Empires II
In Age of Empires II, there are only three main lines of trash units: Skirmishers, who have an attack bonus against Spearmen and archers; Spearmen, who have an attack bonus against cavalry; and Scout Cavalry, who are used as scouts early in the game, have an attack bonus against Monks, and are effective against archers.
In The Forgotten, the first unique trash unit was introduced, the Magyar Huszar, that can turn into a trash unit after the Corvinian Army technology is researched. It is an improved version of the light cavalry units and equipped with an attack bonus against siege units.
In The African Kingdoms, another unique trash unit was introduced, the Genitour. It is a shared unique unit, hence team bonus, of the Berbers. It is essentially a mounted Skirmisher and also has an attack bonus against archers.
In Rise of the Rajas, the third unique trash unit was added, the Imperial Skirmisher, which is an upgrade of the Elite Skirmisher exclusive to the Vietnamese and their allies. Also in the same expansion, the Malay unique technology Forced Levy removes the gold cost from the Militia line units, turning them into trash units for them.
In the Definitive Edition, Persians now have Kamandaran as their Castle Age unique technology, which changes the cost of the Archer line to only wood. Also in the Definitive Edition, Cuman Elite Kipchaks can partially be considered a "trash unit", as the Cuman Mercenaries technology enables them and their allies to train 10 Elite Kipchaks for free at the Castle.
In Dawn of the Dukes, the Bohemians have trash Monks when they have Hussite Reforms researched. The Lithuanians and Poles have access to the Winged Hussar, a stronger version of the Hussar that has an attack bonus against gunpowder units.
The complete list of trash units in Age of Empires II:
- Spearman → Pikeman → Halberdier
- Archer → Crossbowman (Persians only, after researching Kamandaran in the Definitive Edition)
- Skirmisher → Elite Skirmisher → Imperial Skirmisher (the latter for the Vietnamese and their allies only)
- Scout Cavalry → Light Cavalry → Hussar - Winged Hussar (the latter for the Lithuanians and Poles only)
- Magyar Huszar → Elite Magyar Huszar (Magyars only, after researching Corvinian Army)
- Genitour → Elite Genitour (Berbers and their allies only)
- Militia → Man-at-Arms → Long Swordsman → Two-Handed Swordsman (Malay only, after researching Forced Levy)
- The ten free-to-train Elite Kipchaks enabled for Cumans and their allies after the Cuman player researches Cuman Mercenaries.
- Monk (Bohemians only, after Hussite Reforms is researched)
Exceptional trash unit civilizations
- Berbers - They and their allies can access the Genitour and the Elite Genitour, as well as having cheaper and fully upgraded Hussar.
- Bohemians - The Spearman line deals +25% bonus damage. Monks and Monastery technologies cost food instead of gold after Hussite Reforms is researched.
- Byzantines - The Skirmisher and Spearman lines are 25% cheaper, saving a total of 15 resources per unit.
- Goths - The Spearman line is 25%/30%/35% cheaper in the Feudal/Castle/Imperial Age. When Perfusion is researched, they are created 100% faster.
- Lithuanians - Spearman-line and Skirmisher-line have +10% movement speed, and thanks to the Tower Shields technology, their Skirmishers have the largest amount of pierce armor in the game. They also have access to the Winged Hussar, a stronger version of the Hussar.
- Magyars - The Magyar Huszar with Corvinian Army researched is effectively a more powerful Hussar. Magyar Scout Cavalry line is 15% cheaper.
- Malay - The Militia line with Forced Levy is highly effective against most trash units, taking little damage from Skirmishers, crushing Pikemen and Halberdiers with similar resource costs, and trading evenly with Hussars. The Malay Fish Traps provide .
- Persians - Kamandaran turns Persian Crossbowmen into trash units, while remaining better than Elite Skirmishers at fighting anything but archers. This is in addition to fully upgraded Halberdiers and Hussars.
- Poles - They have access to Winged Hussars, a stronger version of Hussar (albeit without the last cavalry armor upgrade). With their unique technology Lechitic Legacy, their Winged Hussar will perform better in massed battle.
- Sicilians - Although they are missing the Hussar upgrade and Ring Archer Armor, their bonus for taking reduced bonus damage helps them greatly in fights between Trash units, since so much of the damage dealt by Halberdiers against cavalry is bonus damage, as well as much of the damage dealt by Elite Skirmishers against both Halberdiers and other Elite Skirmishers.
- Slavs - Their Hussars and Halberdiers are fully upgraded. With their unique technology Druzhina, Halberdiers perform better in massed battle.
- Spanish - They are the only civilization with fully upgraded Halberdiers, Elite Skirmishers, and Hussars. They also have access to all Blacksmith upgrades, which cost no Gold due to their civilization bonus. Supremacy effectively turns Villagers into trash units.
- Vietnamese - They and their allies can access the Imperial Skirmisher. Their Skirmishers are bulkier in HP as well.
- Almost no trash units have base melee armor. The only two exceptions are the Winged Hussar, which is only available to two civilizations, and the Malay Two-Handed Swordsman after researching Forced Levy.
- When allied with Berbers, Turks actually have a quite respectable line-up, with their Hussars having more pierce armor and their complete cavalry archer technology upgrade along with Sipahi affecting the Genitours, making it one of the best Genitours.
- All Eastern European civilizations have very prominent trash units. As a result, they are very powerful when the gold run out in the late game.
Age of Mythology
As it is possible to accumulate gold by trading with one's own Town Centers, gold is gathered much faster than Age of Empires II and spawns always near one's initial spawn-point.
Originally, trash Scout cavalry were intended to appear at one stage, costing 70 Food to train. However, the feature was removed, and the Kataskopos and left-over files are the only remnants of this.
Age of Empires III
As Coin can be infinitely generated through the Whales and the Plantation, the concept of "rarer resources" is rather foreign to this installment of the series. Compared to gold from other games, the infinite collection of this resource removes a major bottleneck to unit production. Indeed because of this, on occasion wood ends up a rarer resource than coin because it is the slow to gather and is spread out on the map and cannot be protected like the Plantation in one's own base.
The Iroquois Aenna is perhaps the best remaining example of a trash unit, as it exclusively costs food. The Russian Strelet, and Aztec Macehualtin are also in a similar category as they require a small amount of wood. The Colonial Militia is technically in the same position as the Aenna, but is a special unit that operates completely differently and requires a complete upheaval of the economy.
Some weaker units added to a force to supplement their numbers could be considered part of a unit mass strategy. While most generic European civilizations have access to two archaic units costing food and wood, the Crossbowman and the Pikeman, these are not usually massed. They can only be upgraded to veteran status, and usually serve as cheap cannon fodder and early game rush units. Likewise minor Native units are usually cheaper, but less powerful versions of normal units which don't contribute to the population limit, which can be used to increase numbers. Finally, certain Chinese units could be considered trash units due to the cost of their banner armies and because their soldiers are cheaper and weaker than those of other civilizations, and can only be trained en masse.