How do you counter Longbowmen?

How do you counter massed Longbowmen? This has to be the single most asked question on Age of Empires 2 forums amongst new players. So let’s try to answer this once and for all ūüėÄ


An army of longbowmen. Every player’s nightmare?

An army that’s made out of¬†nightmares: a vast pack of British¬†Longbowmen guarded by infantry to make sure noone comes close. A solid combo, but not impossible to counter at all.

Before we delve into their counters, let’s take a look at their stats:

Longbowman Longbowman

  • Hit Points: 40
  • Attack: 7+4
  • Armor: 0+3/1+4
  • Range: 6+6

The + means the extra value you can add by doing upgrades in the Blacksmith, University and Castle. As you see it’s very important to do them!


Huskarl¬†Huskarl:¬†Although only available to the Goths, it’s the single most effective unit against Longbowmen and their most common guards (Halberdiers). Huskarls have 8+2 pierce armor, which means they reduce the attack of a longbow’s arrow to 1! At 70 HP this means Huskarls stand 70 volleys before going down. By far the easiest way to decimate an army of Longbowmen. Make sure you do both armor upgrades though. With 8 base armor they still pack a punch, but the difference per armor¬†upgrade is withstanding 24, 35 or 70 arrows.

Siege Onager¬†Siege Onager:¬†Probably the best all-round counter to the Britons. Siege Onagers flatten a pack of archers with a single shot. They have a smaller range than Longbowmen so it’s important to have multiple Onagers on the field at once. Otherwise the British player can just pick off your onagers from a distance. If you protect them with some Halberdiers, it will also be impossible for the Britons to attack your siege with cavalry.

Elite Skirmisher¬†Elite Skirmisher: Elite Skirmishers are the standard counter against Longbowmen. They beat every archer but suck against about every other unit. However, they’re ideal in combination with high HP melee units.

Paladin Paladin: Paladins are another common counter. Although they can be stopped by Halberdiers, an army uniquely composed of Longbowmen is an easy prey. Just make sure to have all your blacksmith upgrades. Because a fully upgraded Paladin will then withstand 45 arrow shots. Not quite as good as the Huskarl, but keep in mind it also has a much higher attack and speed.

Elite Eagle Warrior¬†Elite Eagle Warrior: Available to only 3 civilizations but a good counter nevertheless. Just like Paladins they have a decently¬†high pierce armor, 4+4 to be precisely. Now, all civs have different Eagle Warriors, so how they counter Longbowmen also differs. Mayans have the best deal, absorbing 33 shots before dying. Aztecs and Incas have to do with 20 shots. However, Aztecs will kill their opponent faster: in only 3 strikes it’s over for our Engish fella. Mayans and Incas need 4 strikes each. More than any other unit, Eagle Warriors rely on their blacksmith upgrades though.

Plumed Archer¬†Plumed Archer: The Mayans have another card in the deck to beat Longbowmen. Although it’s a narrow win, they beat Longbowmen in even numbers, mainly because of their high pierce armor¬†(2+4) and HP (65). Additionally, they beat almost every other unit the Britons can field (except for Skirmishers & siege).

War Wagon¬†/¬†Elephant Archer¬†War Wagon / Elephant Archer: Unique to the Koreans and Indians respectively. While Koreans have a better options with Siege Onagers (+1 range!), they have another option up their sleeves. Both units have a rather low range, but win by sheer amount of HP. They can slowly roll into range and kill off those pesky Britons. They’ll take a lot of damage, but eventually come out victorious.

War Elephant¬†War Elephant: It goes without saying, but War Elephants beat about everything. They’re very expensive however and are easily countered by Halberdiers (which Britons have fully upgraded). But against a pure Longbowmen army, they’re golden.

Siege Ram¬†Siege Ram: Last but not least, Siege Rams have to be mentioned. Rams don’t actually counter any human unit, but they’re the ideal meatshield against archer fire. If you send them up front while charging towards the enemy, they’ll soak up all enemy archery fire (270 arrows!) for you while your units in the back stay safe. This way¬†you negate their strongest point: range. Because once you’re close enough, Longbowmen are killed quite fast. Using this tactic, even Champions stand a chance against them!


Siege Rams are ideal to soak up archer fire.

So all in all, Longbowmen are an almost Mythical unit in the series, but they’re by no means invincible. All civs have an answer to them!

  • nate

    I feel Mammaluke (sp) with their siege is a more deadly combination to deal with. Even halbs and skirms get crushed and Teutonic knights are too slow to deal with them effectively. I’ve tested the boyar since it has such high melee armor but even they don’t stand a chance if the mamalukes are massed. Obviously you would think archers are the answer but the saracen siege is too powerful and creams archers. Heavy camel and imperial camels and cav archers do okay as well. But there is no good answer I feel. The best combination I’ve tried is boyars or camels with supporting skirms or halbs and siege of your own.

    • We’ll probably write a few more articles in these series. I just saw the question for longbowmen pop up so much I decided to start there. Mamelukes, Mangudai and Elephants are probably coming as well =)

      • nate

        awesome. Cysion we played a game together awhile back against some AI you were testing and barely overcame! Good game. How did the new AI turn out? Negative5ace is my steam name. and Nothing can stop a giant herd of elephants but a giant herd of monks. 11

  • nate

    Also skirms don’t suck against everything. They have a bonus attack vs. halbs.

  • Why not send infantry into rams to get them near to the archers without losing HP?

    • Very good addition indeed. On top of that it makes their rams faster so they can reach the enemy earlier.

  • ak8978

    Isn’t the range 6+6 instead of 6+5 ?

    • You’re right, I corrected the article, thx!

  • I hate those guys, I lost a tough 2vs3 at the last moment because a big army of those. They killed my onagers with one shot each (groups of ~30 archers each). And only the IA shots at meatshields, not human opponents.
    Elite Skirmishers are to slow for move and shot, and they can dodge their spears moving around.
    And the civs I use don’t have those counter units (not even Paladins). The rams transporting the infantry is a good idea.

    • Discordantdreams

      they can’t dodge the spears when grouped if you research ballistics…
      also grouped archers are easy preys to heavy, light cavalry and siege engines
      they may be able to oneshot one onager, but 5 will do the job

  • Bradley Alban

    I think the two most powerful 2v2 comps are Britons and Franks or Britans and Turks, depending who you go up against. For someone going with seige onagers, Turks are the ideal counter, their longer range cannons can easily snipe them. For someone going huskarls or other pierce armor tactics, frankish throwing axemen are melee damage.