The vast forests and mountain fjords of Scandinavia were home to unpredictable, adventurous gods and even more daring folk. Rule the rivers and seas with lithe Longboats, initiate your most fearless warriors into the Berserkergang, and set forth to plunder, settle, and trade in new lands. The skálds will sing your glory in poetic verse from North America to Byzantium, and sagas shall tell of the exploits of legendary kings and warriors. Only the most daring will earn the right to enter Valhalla and feast at Odin’s table!
The Vikings were best known for being advent sailors and for establishing settlements and colonies in the Northern Atlantic in Greenland and Newfoundland, hundreds of years before the arrivals of other European explorers (first settlement in 985). They were also known for bringing fear among several European communities since they would raid small villages unexpectedly. As a result, their navy and infantry are among the finest in the game and have a unique unit in both branches.
Contrary to popular belief, spread through 19th and 20th centuries' popular culture, the Vikings did not actually wear spiked or horned helmets, but they refrained from trimming their head and facial hair to give the look of a big, scary, and hairy beast. This is reflected by their unique unit, the Berserk, and their unique technology that benefits them. Furthermore, their infantry, including the Berserk, have more health.
The Vikings also excelled at naval warfare and tactics, and mastered the art of various types of sailing. Therefore, their other unique unit is the Longboat which is a well-constructed slim boat that gracefully shoots through the water and fires volleys of arrows. To further emphasize their ability as fine shipbuilders, all Viking ships cost fewer resources, and their team bonus allows Docks to be built for less wood as well.
Some Vikings settled in France and would become known as Normans, which made an appearance in the Hastings scenario, represented as the Franks. Some Normans even went on to conquer and settle southern Italy and became known as Italo-Normans, which are represented by the Sicilians.
The Vikings are a naval and infantry civilization. Their ships are indeed excellent, coming with a discount which offsets the lack of Shipwright and an excellent unique unit to reinforce their navy. The absence of even Fire Galleys should be noted, though, as it can be a disadvantage early on when Longboats are not yet available. Despite lacking the Halberdier upgrade, their infantry is excellent as well with all upgrades, additional HP, and an excellent unique technology that improves their performance when engaging cavalry units. The latter are very weak for the Vikings themselves, though. Lacking upgrades across the board, most notably Plate Barding Armor, Husbandry, and Bloodlines as well as all final tier upgrades, it is hard to justify their use. Their Cavalry Archers are also not worth considering, but their foot archers definitely are as their Arbalesters get all upgrades. Their other unique unit, the Berserk, is an excellent all-purpose infantry warrior that heal itself, but also Age of Empires II's most expensive units to fully upgrade. Viking siege weapons are somewhat lacking, and their Monks are simply bad. Their defensive structures are not a particular highlight either, but their Castle at least gets all upgrades. Their economy excels at early Castle Age, but lacks before mid-Feudal Age unless it is a water map.
The Vikings have 2 scenarios devoted to their civilization. Vinlandsaga from the Battles of the Conquerors campaign depicts Erik the Red who is the must survive hero unit during the conquest of Britain, Greenland and founding the new world in North America. York from the Battles of the Forgotten is about Ragnar Lodbrok's sons who arrive on the British Isles to avenge the death of their father against Ælla of Northumbria. They also appear in:
In-game, Viking units speak Old Norse, the North Germanic/Scandinavian language spoken by the Vikings. Old Norse is the ancestor of all the North Germanic/Scandinavian languages; Icelandic, Faroese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Norn which was spoken in Orkney and Shetland. Icelandic is by far the closest language to Old Norse. It was formerly written with Younger Futhark and later written with the Latin alphabet.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Viking AI characters:
Canute IV (ᚴᚾᚢᛏ; c. 1042-1086): King of Denmark (1080-1086), ambitious ruler who aimed to increase the power of the Danish monarchy. He was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1101.
Chief Thorgest (ᛏᚼᚢᚱᚴᛁᛋᛏᚱ; died 845): Viking chief in Ireland. Launched conquests throughout Ireland as well as into Wales. He was defeated and vanquished by Irish King Niall.
Erik Bloodax (ᛁᛁᚱᛁᚴᚱ ᛒᛚᚢᚦᚬᚴᛋ; c. 885-954): Eric Haraldsson, ruled first over Norway, later over Northumbria as well. Grandson of Halfdan the Black.
Halfdan the Black (ᚼᛅᛚᚠᛏᛅᚾᚱ ᛋᚢᛅᚱᛏᛁ; c. 810-c. 860): King of Vestfold, known for subjugating many petty kingdoms in Norway throughout the ninth century. Father of Harald Fairhair (the first King of Norway). Grandfather of Erik Bloodax.
Harald Bluetooth (ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏ ᛒᛚᚬᛏᛅᚾᛏ; died c. 985): Danish king of Denmark and Norway, first introduced Christianity to Denmark. Father of Sweyn Forkbeard; mounted a revolt against him and drove him into exile.
Harald Hardraade (ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏᚱ ᚼᛅᚱᚦᚱᛅᚦᛁ; c. 1015-1066): Norwegian King, spent time in exile in Kievan Rus' and the Byzantine Empire before his ascent to the throne in 1046. Invaded England in 1066, but was defeated (and killed) in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Jarl Osbiorn (ᚬᛋᛒᛁᚬᚱᚾ): Danish Jarl (Earl). Brother of the Danish King Sweyn II, commanded Sweyn II's fleet.
Magnus Olafsson (ᛘᛅᚴᚾᚢᛋ ᚢᛚᛅᚠᛋᛋᚬᚾ; died 1265): King of Mann and the Isles (1254–1265). The last king of the Crovan dynasty. Though a monarch in his own right, he paid tribute to Norwegian King Haakon IV.
Magnus the Strong (ᛘᛅᚴᚾᚢᛋ ᛏᛁᚾ ᛋᛏᚬᚱᚴᛁ; c. 1106-1134): Magnus I, King of Sweden. A tall, strong man, described as well-endowed by nature. He was defeated and killed at the Battle of Fotevik.
Olaf Haraldson (ᚢᛚᛅᚠᚱ ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏᛋᛋᚬᚾ; 995-1030): King of Norway from 1015-1028. He was famous for temporarily freeing Norway of Danish domination; is now a symbol of Norwegian nationalism. He was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Olaf Tryggvasson (ᚢᛚᛅᚠᚢᚱ ᛏᚱᚢᚴᚴᚢᛅᛋᚬᚾ; died 1000): King of Norway from 995-1000. He was famous for spreading Christianity in Norway, and was killed at the battle of Svolder, which led to period of foreign domination over Norway.
Siegfried (ᛋᛁᚴᚠᚱᛁᛏ; died c. 804): Semi-legendary King of Denmark from about 770 until his death. Father of King Godfred.
Sigurd (ᛋᛁᚴᚢᚱᚦᚱ; c. 770-c. 804): Legendary Swedish King, supposedly defeated King Harald Wartooth of Denmark and conquered his land. Notably similar to Siegfried, the Danish King.
Sweyn Forkbeard (ᛋᚢᛁᛁᚾᚾ ᛏᚢᚢᚴᚢᛋᚴᛁᚴᚴ; 960-1014): King of Denmark from 986-1014. Son of Harald Bluetooth, came to power by deposing his father. He successfully invaded England, becoming its first Danish King in 1013.
The Vikings (meaning “northmen”) were the last of the barbarian tribes called Germans by the Romans to terrorize Europe. Spreading out from their homelands in Scandinavia, they struck suddenly across the seas from their dragon boats (called such because of the dragon heads carved on the bow and stern). They began by raiding, pillaging, and withdrawing before any serious armed resistance could be mounted, but they gradually grew more bold. Eventually they occupied and settled significant parts of Europe.
Being pagan, they did not hesitate to kill churchmen and loot church holdings, and they were feared for their ruthlessness and ferocity. At the same time, they were remarkable craftsmen, sailors, explorers, and traders.
The Viking homelands were Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They and their descendants controlled, at least temporarily, most of the Baltic Coast, much of inland Russia, Normandy in France, England, Sicily, southern Italy, and parts of Palestine and Ireland. They discovered Iceland in 825 (Irish monks were there already) and settled there in 875. They colonized Greenland in 985. Some people think that the Vikings reached Newfoundland and explored part of North America 500 years before the voyage of Columbus.
Vikings began raiding and then settling along the eastern Baltic Sea in the sixth and seventh centuries. At the end of the eighth century, they were making long raids down the rivers of modern Russia and setting up forts along the way for defense. In the ninth century, they were ruling Kiev and in 907 a force of 2000 ships and 80,000 men attacked Constantinople. They were bought off by the emperor of Byzantium with very favorable terms of trade.
Vikings struck first in the West in the late eighth century. Danes attacked and looted the famous island monastery at Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of England, beginning a trend. The size and frequency of raids against England, France, Ireland and Germany increased to the point of becoming invasions. Settlements were established as bases for further raids. Viking settlements in northwestern France came to be known as Normandy (“from the northmen”), and the residents were called Normans.
In 865 a large Danish army invaded England, and they went on to hold much of England for the next two centuries. One of the last kings of all England before 1066 was Canute, who ruled Denmark and Norway simultaneously. In 871 another large fleet sailed up the Seine River to attack Paris. They besieged the city for two years before being bought off with a large cash payment and permission to loot part of western France unimpeded.
In 911 the French king made the Viking chief of Normandy a duke in return for converting to Christianity and ceasing to raid. From the Duchy of Normandy came a remarkable series of warriors, including William I, who conquered England in 1066, Robert Guiscard and his family, who took Sicily from the Arabs between 1060 and 1091, and Baldwin I, king of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem.
Viking raids stopped at the end of the tenth century. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway had become kingdoms, and much of their king’s energy was devoted to running their lands. The spread of Christianity weakened the old pagan warrior values, which died out. The Norse were also absorbed by the cultures into which they had intruded. The occupiers and conquerors of England became English, the Normans became French, and the Rus became Russians.
The Vikings' civilization icon is based on the raven banner.
The user interface image in the Definitive Edition displays a vegvísir, an Icelandic magical stave intended to help the bearer find their way through rough weather.
For years, the Vikings have been one of the most banned civilizations in several tournaments due to their extremely effective economy in the early game, thanks to their free Wheelbarrow and Hand Cart technologies, which also translates into a solid and consistent Villager and military production in the Imperial Age, despite having very limited military options on land maps (mostly to archers and, particulary, their powerful infantry). In addition, the Vikings are tied with the Italians as the strongest and most effective civilization on water maps thanks to their discount on warships and Docks, as well having a strong unique warship.