Chinese are one of my favourite civilizations. Cysion did an excellent article about them, so I will be very brief this time. Chinese are a good overall civ, but without a monster unit. They push slow and steady with their strong backup units and cheap techs.
- Start game with 3 extra villagers, but -200 food and -50 wood
- Technologies cost -10% in Feudal age, -15% in Castle age and -20% in Imperial age
- Town Centers support 10 population (instead of 5)
- Demolition ships have +50% HP
- Team Bonus: Farms provide +45 food
- Unique unit: Chu Ko Nu
- Unique tech: Rocketry (chu ko nu +2 pierce damage, scorpions +4)
Chinese have one of the most controversial bonuses in the game. Starting with 3 extra villagers and no food makes the start incredibly clumsy on standard random maps. It’s really down to chance if the player will see their berries or sheep right away. If fortunate enough, chinese will have a 1 villager lead over other civs. On the other hand this bonus is incredibly powerful on nomad type starts. The Town Center supports +5 population bonus eases the pain of the start a little bit. They still have to loom first.
As if to make up for the slow start on random maps, the cheaper techs help chinese to get a tech advantage faster against civilizations with stronger early game. Given chinese get a very open tech-tree, this bonus makes just a bit easier to switch between unit lines. Wasting this tech on upgrading demolition ships is probably still futile, even with the increased HP given to chinese.
The team bonus helps out a lot with fast castle type builds, where you would lay 5+ farms in dark age. Instead of 175 food you get 220, pushing back the time when they need to be reseeded. This could be really strong in team games, where usually at least 2 players will go drush+fc or simple fc.
Chu-Ko-Nu are hands down the most complicated unit in-game. They get a ton of hidden bonuses and everything is complicated further with the extra arrows. Instead of trying to explain it, I would rather link here a very good explanation video by ZeroEmpires:
The unique tech – Rocketry – is probably more useful than the Elite Chu-Ko-Nu upgrade. This makes chinese chu-ko-nu and scorpions strong even against huskarls. Unfortunately even this upgrade doesn’t make the Chu Ko Nu an all killing arrow-factory. The very short range really hurts them and makes them weak against onagers and bombard cannons. They are still the best back-up unit, though.
As I mentioned earlier, dark age is really not strongest side of chinese, except of course on nomad. Still, it’s not the worst idea to drush+fc with them, since those builds just give an extra bit of flexibility, which could counteract the funky start. This strategy is also supported by the farming bonus and cheaper techs.
Unfortunately not all maps are good for drush+fc. Chinese can still hold their own in feudal age. They might be easily out-massed by other civs, but a smart chinese player could take advantage of their earlier tech upgrades to gain an advantage still. Chinese are classified as an archer civilization, but they still get bloodline scouts and later knights. It might be an option to go scout as an opening, although not the most common one.
Castle age is probably where the chinese are the strongest. They get every fully upgraded unit topped off with cheaper techs.
Reaching imperial age they can upgrade all their units from castle age. The only notable missing military upgrades are the hussar, paladin and siege onager upgrades. Another funny thing is that they only get cannon galleons and bombard towers from the gunpowder units. How on earth weren’t they able to scale down a bit their big-a** guns so they could be pushed by tiny bold guys??? Chinese are not the best in imperial age, although they get cheaper tech, they miss units to push fast. They only know how to push steady and slow. In post imperial age with their fully upgraded trash (except hussar), bombard cannons backed up by chu-ko-nu ,they are really hard to stop. I remember a few games by NorthernPike, doing only chuks and bombard towers slowly taking ground.
On water the chinese are pretty decent, especially in imperial age. The discounts on all techs really helps them out to research techs faster and save some resources once the wood starts to run out. With the availability of cannon galleons they can even pressure from water once it’s won.
Economy and Technology
Apart from the bonuses there is not much to say about economy. They only miss crop rotation, which doesn’t hurt them that much considering they are not a food-heavy civilization. Guilds hurts a bit in long games.
The most notable missing technology is probably siege engineers. Another reason why they can’t push fast. Without hoardings they can’t even rely too much on their castles as backup. Thankfully they have bombard towers and fortified walls to use as defense.
Chinese could be also played as a monk civilization. They only miss heresy in castle age. In imperial age they fall off a bit due to missing block printing.
Overall the chinese get a very strong economy helped by cheaper upgrades. If they decide to boom, they can keep up with the best of them with longer lasting farms, cheap techs and TCs giving more population.
Chinese are the kings of nomad only challenged by the persians. On standard random maps apart from the start they perform above average. They can do pretty much anything, yet not excel at any of them. They lack a very strong go-to unit like eagles, woad raiders, frank paladins, etc. Cysion even called them the ultimate counter civ. There is some truth to that. Still, I think they are better off pushing with their earlier tech advantage, then stay back and react to the opponent.
I already had a go with chinese against barbie (link). Unfortunately the strategy I chose was not applicable against hardest barbie. I left a strategy against hardest for the franks. They are next!