The Mongol Invasion: A Guide For Every Faction

An Introduction

The Mongol Invasion is one of my favorite events in Medieval II. Their timing in the campaign occurs usually just around when all the factions have established themselves and consolidated power and land, and the player faction has likely expanded to a considerable degree. When they appear, they bring a very rewarding level of challenge, with experienced armies, dangerous generals, and the ability to expand incredibly rapidly if left unchecked.

For experienced players, the Mongol invasion is likely easy by this point, and many already know the most effective ways to combat the Mongol armies. However, for less experienced intermediate players, and especially beginners, the Mongols can prove to be extremely challenging, and even quite frustrating. The intent of this guide is to provide mostly these players with a multitude of strategies and tactical advice that can be used as any faction, as well as specific tips and tricks for each individual faction. Experienced players may learn some new information as well.

However, the first key to success in any war is to know and understand your enemy and learning how they work. So let us take some time to actually learn the mechanics of the Mongol invasion and what we are dealing with.

Mechanics Of The Mongol Invasion

First and foremost, the Mongols are an emergent faction that will appear after the start of the game. Thus, it is impossible to have any diplomatic relations with them prior to their appearance. As a faction themselves, they are an Islamic faction with an excellent roster of cavalry units (both melee & missile cavalry). Their infantry, while not the focus of their army, are typically multi-purpose, competent both as missile units and melee infantry. It can be a common mistake for newer players to misidentify the Mongol units as simply archers only to find that the experienced multi-purpose units can match expensive units like dismounted feudal knights quite well, and can even win against them handily in the right conditions.

The Mongols are not without weaknesses however. After establishing themselves, the Mongol army becomes quite reliant on levied fodder units and will have trouble replenishing their armies with the elite units they initially appear with. In addition, being a primarily cavalry-focused faction, the Mongols struggle significantly in spaces where their cavalry cannot be used effectively, such as during sieges (both offensively and defensively) as well as river crossings. With the right garrison and planning, these weaknesses can be exploited.

What makes the Mongols invasion difficult is that not only do they appear with multiple large armies, these armies include elite units that are well experienced, and more importantly they are lead by dangerous generals that have great command and dread.

Arrival of the MongolsThe actual invasion itself occurs between the dates of 1214 to 1240 for most campaigns. The Mongols do not typically arrive before this date and will almost always have made an appearance by 1240 at the latest. Five turns before their arrival, you will get an event message warning of the Mongol Invasion. The Mongols will arrive in various waves, each wave bringing powerful armies lead by equally powerful generals.

Another Steam user, Wrath of Santa, has made an excellent detailed breakdown of the Mongol invasion waves, as well as a breakdown of their generals and units, linked here. It is definitely recommended reading.

To not negate the author's hard work for his own guide, I will only simply summarize some of the key details below:

The mongols appear in four waves, which includes a smaller scout force as its fist wave and then three additional waves of three to four armies.

These armies consist of many elite and experienced troops. Especially notable are Mongol heavy archers, Mongol infantry, Mongol heavy lancers, and Mongol horse archers, which are all quite strong units.

The generals who lead these armies are nothing to scoff at, having high command, meaning that the already experienced troops will be even harder to rout, and also having high dread, meaning the general's presence will incite your units to rout even faster.

Many of the Mongol units have naturally high morale. This coupled with the high command generals means the mongols might virtually be considered unbreakable until the general is removed from the equation.

Some of the Mongol armies include a Trebuchet or, rarely, a rocket launcher, which can be dangerous if left unchecked during a battle.

Where do the Mongols Actually Arrive?The Mongol invasion effectively has two different spawn points which is randomly determined that will be either North or South of the Caspien Sea. The cinematic event that plays when the Mongols officially arrive will notify you if they have arrived North or South.

The northern invasion starts in the Sarkel region. When spawning in this location, the Mongols will usually slowly progress Westward across the large and empty regions, typically stopping to take or sack Ryazan and Kiev before ultimately settling in and around the Black Sea. From there, assuming they have met no resistance, they almost always push further west into Poland and eventually Northern and Eastern Europe.

The southern invasion starts in the borders of Yerevan and Baghdad. As the regions in this area are much closer together, the Mongol army will go on the offensive against most of the world much quicker. The invasion typically strikes at Yerevan and Baghdad, as well as Mosul and Edessa as they make their way towards the Holy Land and the Mediterranean Sea. In my and many others experience, the Mongols seem to prioritize Antioch, and typically will not settle until they claim Antioch, though they may opt for Damascus, Acre or Jerusalem instead.

While the chances for both are technically equal random, my personal anecdotal experience has seem the Southern Invasion happen more frequently than the Northern Invasion (perhaps as much as a ~70% - 30% split). However, there have been some times where I've over fortified the Holy Land only to find out that the Mongols decided to spawn in Russia, so take that as you will.

A Passive Invasion?Believe it or not, Medieval II's AI can make some questionable decisions. Even the mighty Mongols are not immune to this phenomenon. It has occurred for me more than once that the Mongols will spawn and simply not really do much of anything for several turns, sometimes even the whole game, wandering about between rebel settlements. In the North, they may however perpetually around Sarkel, occasionally wandering to Ryazan or Volga-Bulgar. In the South, they seem to nonchalantly parade from Baghdad southwards towards Jedda and Egypt and simply hang out there for an indiscriminate amount of time.

The root cause of this is unknown to me, though if I had to speculate, many of the Mongol units have low or even no upkeep costs, and the Mongols themselves start with a large wealth of money. Essentially, the AI has no true financial pressure to expand as their coffers are barely drained.

While this situation is exceedingly rare, my advice is that if the Mongols want to be passive this time around, let them: so long as they are not openly threatening you. If you are not at war with the Mongols, they are not causing devastation in your lands, are not blocking trade between regions, then let them do as they please, but keep a close eye on them and be prepared to react at a moment's notice. In the meantime, use the situation to reallocate resources and attention to other areas of your campaign.

AI vs. AI: A 10-0 Match-Up in the Mongol's FavorThe Mongol armies will trounce the AI factions without difficulty. The autoresolve function of the game heavily favors Mongol units. This, combined with their strong generals and sheer numbers essentially means that the Mongols will steamroll any AI faction they go to war against. While your first instinct might be to let the Mongols take out factions like the Turks, Egypt, Russia, Poland or the Byzantines, as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," this can and will lead to the Mongols expanding rapidly and effectively snowballing across the map.

Once the Mongols settle in an area, they can be difficult to cull, as their large coffers and low upkeep units allow them to keep up their rapid expansion. In some respects, it is against your best interests to use the Mongols as a third party army of your own against your enemies. It is far better to already defeat these enemies and take their land before the Mongols arrive, or to position yourself in high priority areas for the Mongols such as Antioch or Kiev so that the Mongol armies focus on you instead of going after the other AI factions.

A Note on DiplomacyMedieval II's diplomacy system is notoriously wonky. Making alliances is difficult, and keeping alliances is even harder. The AI can and will betray you if you make yourself an easy target by leaving settlements on your borders lightly defended. Allying with AI factions against the Mongols is likely to backfire against you.

Pre-Invasion Preparation

The best defense is usually a good offense, as the saying goes. In this instance, the best offense to the Mongols is expanding before they arrive and securing key areas early to fortify against them.

General Preparation GuidelinesWhen the Mongols actually arrive, you usually want to be on the defensive against them, but in order to do so, you need to secure the areas in which they will threaten. This can simply be the borders of your own empire, though some factions start dangerously close to the Mongol spawn point and will have no choice but confront them head on.

Regardless, capturing rebel and enemy settlements is the first step. Most European Christian nations as well as most Islamic factions must hold the Holy Lands as a victory condition, and by the 1200s, many player's will have expanded there early on. Likewise, while the vacant and unprofitable steppes are not inviting, both Kiev and Caffa are great locations because of their ports on the Black Sea. These areas are all priority targets for the Mongols.

As you have no way of knowing where the Mongols will actually appear until they arrive, you should assume they will appear near the spawnpoint you have the closest regions to and prepare accordingly.

Here are some very general points to keep in mind against the Mongols and choosing what regions to spend money on when preparing for the mongol army.

Mongols struggle with using their cavalry inside of settlements. Cities and especially castles are excellent defensive tools against the mongols.

If your cities or castles are large enough, ballista towers can be a worthwhile upgrade, though keep in mind that this only applies to certain towers along the walls, usually near the gate and at corner pieces of the walls.

As a cavalry focused army, Mongols struggle against spears, especially in prolonged melee. Upgrading regions to produce quality spearmen units will be helpful.

Archers and crossbowmen are both useful against the Mongols in different ways. Archers are more preferable fighting on walls or firing over ranks of allies into Mongol blobs. Crossbows, with their armor piercing missiles can make short work of the heavier Mongol units when firing into them with the proper angle. Having some of these units in your garrison is a must.

An entire mongol army is mostly missile-based. Units with shields will always fare better against the Mongols than unshielded units. While it may seem counter-intuitive, avoid making heavy use of pikemen and other two-handed units except in strong choke points, as Mongol missiles will rip these units to shreds.

When defending a town square or a river crossing, a single artillery piece such as a catapult, ballista, or mortar can be a game changer - able to get hundreds of kills on the blobbed up enemy. Consider including one of these units in your garrison or defense force.

Preparing for a Northern InvasionExpanding directly towards the steppes of Ryazan or Volga-Bulgar simply to counter-check the Mongol army is not worth it. Even when playing as Russia, it is far more profitable and worth while to expand to Kiev and into Poland, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. However, taking Kiev and Caffa early and fortifying them can significantly help against the Mongols. If you control Moscow or Novgorod, making sure these areas are well defended is also a priority.

Caffa itself starts as a village and can be quite slow to upgrade as a town. Converting Caffa into a castle can speed up the process significantly, though it is expensive. As the castle-line of settlements requires far less population to expand than a city, it is possible to turn Caffa from a village into a proper castle in less than 10 turns after capturing it.

Kiev, which is where the Mongols are likely to prioritize already has a sizeable population. Taking it sooner rather than latter from the rebels only gives you more time to better fortify it.

Preparing for a Southern InvasionFortifying the Holy Land, particularly Antioch and Jerusalem which are both a high priority target for the Mongols, is of the utmost importance. For factions native to the region such as the Turks, Egypt, or the Byzantines, this can be done quickly and easily at the beginning of the game. For Catholic factions, the Crusades Mechanic can be a useful tool to get yourself to these regions early, as it gives crusading armies free upkeep and doubles their movement points. Factions around the Mediterranean or Black Sea such as the Italians or Hungary can get there quickly. Others, especially those in Northern Europe such as Denmark, England or Scotland, may have a difficult time committing a force early into the campaign to seize the Holy Land.

Antioch and Jersualem are both cities and start with stone walls though you will need to pour money into them to get unit production going. If you are not an Islamic faction, there will also be a lot of public order penalties because of the religious differences, so converting the populace will help considerable. The true benefit to why the Holy Land is preferable to defend from the Mongols is the abundance of river crossings as well as castles in the area. Acre is a strong defensive location, as is Aleppo and even Mosul. Capturing these areas and fortifying them with troop production buildings is a key to success.

Cheese: The Mongol's Lactose Intolerance

Many players do not like using strategies and tactics that can be considered "cheesy" or "exploitative", myself included. However, I would be remissed if this guide did not include any information on some of the more popular "cheese" tactics against the Mongols.

The Empty Fort StrategemOne very prominent trick involves the use of forts. At its most basic level, you can use forts built by generals and garrisoned with as little as one unit to effectively grind the movement of Mongol armies to a very slow halt.

Every unit and garrisoned settlement, including a fort, has a zone of control of eight tiles around it for their enemies, seen as dark red spaces around it on the campaign map. If you've played Medieval II for any length of time, you'll have noticed that you can only move through this area one tile each turn unless something changes (usually forcing the enemy army to move or taking the settlement).

The general concept is that you use forts with only one unit garrisoning them that are spaced in such a way that any enemy army passing through the area is forced to move only one tile each turn, no matter which direction they go. Generally, using this strategy against most AI factions is simply overkill and provides no real benefit, however against the Mongols and Timurids, this strategy can greatly slow their advancement into your territories.

It is also possible to goad Mongol armies into attacking your empty or nearly empty forts. The longer the Mongol armies spend within the zone of control of the fort, the more likely they are to siege the fort. From there, you want to sally out with your lone unit and deliberately lose so that the Mongol army captures the fort. Once they do so, on the following turn with your own army nearby, preferably armed with plenty of missile units and/or artillery, you can now attack the giant Mongol army that has been reduced to sitting ducks within a tiny fort, as their units are clumped up together making easy targets and neutralizing the effectiveness of their cavalry.

Assassin Save-ScummingThis requires the use of an assassin, preferably multiple trained and experienced ones. The basic premise is that we use our assassins to effectively erase the Mongol royal family line within a couple of turns, destroying their faction without ever even fighting them. While this, on its own, is not necessarily cheating, your assassins will have a very, very low chance of succeeding and can only make one attempt each turn. Each failed attempt has a chance of lowering their agent skill, making subsequent attempts even less likely.

This can be circumvented with the art of quick-saving and quick-loading. To begin, get your assassin in position so that he has enough movement points to reach the enemy. Then, make a quick-save (default hotkey Ctrl+S). Next, attempt your assassination. If it fails, quick-load (Ctrl+L), make a NEW quick-save (important for this to work), then attempt it again. Repeat until you succeed.

Unlike more recent Total War games, the chances of success for agent actions are not fixed for each turn, it is generated randomly when attempted. By quick-saving and quick-loading and quick-saving again, making a new quick-save before each attempt, we can assure that the game is generating a new random result each time we attempt an assassination. Even if the result is a failure, it is technically a "different" failure result than the previous one. With enough patience and save-scumming, and with enough Assassins, you can wipe out the Mongols, turning all of their armies into general-less rebel armies in a single turn.

These rebel armies will be of limited to no threat to you. They will not attack your settlements, though they may occupy your watchtowers and block trade routes. Without their generals, the Mongol armies will also be far easier to defeat if you do wish to engage with them.

Defending Against The Mongols: Overview

Now that the Mongols have arrived, hopefully we have taken some preparations before hand, including:

We fortified prime targets for the Mongols that we control, including key targets (Kiev, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc.), our capitol and large cities if close by, our nearby castles, and other key locations along a potential border

These locations have a healthy garrison of shielded, quality spearmen, quality missile units such as archers or crossbows, and possibly an artillery piece and/or some cavalry to chase down fleeing units.

All our armies in the threatened regions are safe, supported by another army (within one-tile of each other), so they can support each other or dissuade the Mongols from attacking.

Ideally, these armies are positioned at river crossings/bridges or other natural choke points such as mountain passes to minimize how many Mongol armies can attack them at one time, and gives us a tactical advantage on the battlemap. Remember that the Army has to be on the bridge/crossing, not in front of it, for the battle to be a bridge battle when that army is attacked.

We have budgeted accordingly and our anti-mongol preparation has not drained our coffers. We will need money to replenish loses as well as spend across our empire.

With these preparations in mind, let's take a quick look at the three major scenarios you'll likely battle the Mongols before diving in depth to each one.

Defending a CastleUnfortunately, none of the high priority targets for Mongols are castles, but you will likely run into this situation if the Mongols attack Acre, Ryazan, a converted Caffa, Iasi or a number of other locations. Defending a castle is probably the easiest way to take on the Mongol army. With limited gateways, usually only a single avenue of approach to the town square, and many chokepoints, your biggest threat will be the rain of mongol missiles. Using your units to funnel Mongol units into chokepoints for your own archers or artillery to whittle down will be effective. For Fortresses and Citadels, it is usually better to station all of your army within the inner most defensive area, letting the Mongols tire themselves by taking your walls and using a unit of cavalry to activate towers as needed to fire upon them before retreating to join your army.

Defending a CityDefending a city is harder than defending a castle. There are less chokepoints and more avenues to the town square, meaning you must commit more of your forces to more areas, leaving you less reserves. Defending a village, town or even a large town is likely to end in disaster, especially against more than one Mongol army. However, with minor cities and larger stocked with a quality garrison, your chance of victory improves immensely.

Your best bet is to abandon the walls, using a unit of cavalry if you have any to activate nearby towers, favoring ballista towers if possible. Defend the town square, keeping your units inside at all times. You have infinite morale inside of the square. Using spearmen to hold the streets leading to the square, have archers and artillery fire into the Mongol blobs.

Defending a CrossingThis is easy if the Mongol army is only on one side of the bridge/crossing. NEVER place your units directly in front of the bridge, as the enemy army will just overwhelm your units with numbers. Instead, place your spears and infantry in a ring-like formation around the bridge, creating a small "killing field" where the Mongols can blob at the bridge's opening. Meanwhile, use your missiles and artillery to fire upon the blob of Mongols on the bridge and in the opening you've created.

Defending A Settlement: DOs And DON'Ts

Let's go over some major dos and don'ts when it comes to defending a settlement.

DO Prioritize defending the town square. Not only do you lose if it gets captured, but you have infinite morale while inside and you can defend many chokepoints at once from it.

Have your units, especially archers and crossbows, on guard mode and turn off skirmish mode. The last thing you want is your units running around trying to chase and reacquire targets or running away because an enemy unit got a little too close.

Only try to hold the walls if the enemy does not have trebuchets. There is little point to holding a wall section if the enemy is going to siege it down and possibly take your units with it.

Place quality melee infantry on the walls, such as dismounted knights or two-handed units. If you are going to hold the walls, make sure its the cream of the crop who's doing it. Save your spearmen and pikemen to defend breaches and gates from cavalry.

Place your archers on the wall. Even if you don't intend to hold the wall, placing your archers on the wall while the enemy approaches will allow your archers to shoot and activate any towers. Be prepared to pull off the wall as soon as a siege-tower or siege-ladder appears. An archer spending its time in melee is an archer not shooting, and they can do far more damage to the army with their primary weapon.

Keep artillery in the town square and fire over the heads of your units. Catapults are better at this than ballista. Ideally, fire at close targets. On a catapult, normal shot is better when targeting units spread over a long stretch of street, as the bouncing projectile will roll them down. Use flaming shot on clumps of unit and always target things a safe distance away. If your artillery won't fire, it is because there is too high a likelihood of hitting your own troops. Reposition one or the other.

Pay attention to how your missile units are firing. If too many of them are "raining" shots down on the enemy instead of firing over the heads of your units, reposition them to the best of your ability to get straighter shots. The "rain" of arrows and bolts might look cool, but they are very ineffective.

DON'T Place your units DIRECTLY in front of a gate or breach. In Medieval II, when the AI rushes a gate or breach, they push their units in a big blob directly through it. This blob will overwhelm any single unit that happens to stand right behind a gate or breach. Always arrange your forces to leave space between a gate/breach and themselves. Use this open space as a "killing field" letting the enemy flood in and be ripped to shreds by missiles and artillery while your units hold the line.

Place your crossbows on walls. Crossbows have a difficult time with the trajectory of their shots while on walls. Many times, the crossbows will fire straight up, letting their bolts "rain" down. This is not ideal. It is not accurate, does little damage, and is a waste of ammunition. Put your crossbows in the town square or in city streets, with a good amount of space between them and the units in front of them so they can fire over their heads.

Try to charge enemies with your cavalry in a settlement. There is simply not enough space to do it reliably. Cavalry in a settlement is best used to quickly activate towers by placing them near the tower on the wall before fleeing when the enemy arrives and for chasing routing units. Only try to flank with your cavalry by riding around the enemy AFTER the enemy general has been killed (hopefully by missiles, artillery or your spears).

Try to order pikemen and other bracing units to attack. This will mess up their formation and cause them to switch to their secondary weapons. Set them up initially and have them firmly hold a chokepoint. These units are notoriously wonky in Medieval II. If you are using them, use a "set it and forget it" policy.

Waste ammo on siege engines. Rely on your towers to set battering rams and siege towers alight. Pick your targets carefully with your missile units. Utilize armor piercing units such as crossbows and guns against armored targets. Firing at a heavily armored and shielded unit with only peasant archers is a waste of their ammunition.

Defending A Crossing: DOs And DON'Ts

We've gotten the Mongol army to attack us at a bridge or river crossing. Hopefully we aren't outnumbered, and if we are outnumbered, then all of the enemy will be appearing on the other end of the bridge and not flanking us from behind. Let's go over some major DOs and DONTs

DO Bring lots of shielded units as your front lines. Mongol cavalry archers will be firing at you at all times, even while moving and even sometimes while in melee with your frontline. Likewise, Mongol infantry and foot archers that get trapped on the bridge will fire at you from that position.

Form a ring formation around the base of the bridge or the opening of the crossing. Never place units just directly in front of the bridge. The enemy army will swarm and snowball passed the unit, pushing through it and almost assuring it gets wiped out. Why risk losing a unit when you can deploy it a little differently and avoid such a thing?

Place your missile units behind your infantry, preferably in the same "ring" formation. Make sure to leave plenty of space between them. This is so missile infantry can fire safely over the heads of your units and can have a good arc for firing. High ground is your friend here. If there are any hills close to the river crossing, place your missile units on there so they have the high ground advantage. Make sure their firing arc is as straight as possible for maximum accuracy.

Focus your fire on where the enemy is most compact and blobbed up. In many instances, this will be the bridge itself, but if the enemy is more concentrated towards the front, fire at targets towards the front. This may sound like a no-brainer, but maximizing the use of your ranged units can make a world of difference, turning a close victory into a heroic victory, or a heroic victory into a clear one.

Have artillery placed appropriately. Catapults and mortars are best when positioned facing straight towards the bridge or crossing and not at an angle. This ensures that the catapult will be firing over the heads of your units, and its lobbed shots will bounce down the length of the bridge instead of firing over the enemy. Ballista and other accurate artillery like light cannons are better at the flanks, as they have less risk of their shots being obstructed by friendly units. These units tend to have a more difficult time firing over the heads of others directly in front of them.

Prioritize killing the enemy general, if you can. Unlike a settlement battle, you do not have infinite morale and the high dread Mongol generals can instill a lot of fear into your units. This battle is essentially a ticking clock as well as a war of attrition. Killing the enemy general will help stop your army from breaking and will help break the enemy army. Thankfully, the AI tends to help you with this, as they often put their generals towards the front when crossing rivers and bridges. Use your missiles, especially crossbowmen or artillery to focus on him until he engages with your front-line in melee. You should have plenty of anti-cavalry units in your front-line (preferably shield spearmen) to help combat him.

Keep your general close to your front-line, but do not commit him to the battle. Your general's presence, no matter how low his command score, will help units in his immediate vicinity to keep their morale together longer. Avoid getting your general involved in the melee. Doing so will do you no favors and will likely result in his death.

DON'T Place any units directly in front of a bridge or river crossing. I cannot stress enough that the AI tends to force its way past lone units you might intend to use as a blocker. Instead, leave space for the enemy to pool in front of the bridge and so more of your units can fight less enemy units at a time for tactical advantage.

Put missile units in the front line. Even if it's a unit that is capable of both ranged and melee combat to a decent degree like Norse Archers, these units are best used at ranged first and committed to melee only when necessary and when their ammunition runs out.

Send cavalry to chase down fleeing units BEFORE the enemy general is killed or the enemy army routs. An exception to this is if a unit routs behind your line and tries to escape behind you. In this case, running down the unit is preferred to ensure it does not rally and flank you from behind it. Don't try to chase enemies fleeing back across the bridge unless you can be absolutely sure your cavalry can make it across without issue. Cavalry stuck on a bridge is a cavalry unit rendered inert. Our goal is to do this to the Mongols, not ourselves.

Bring trebuchets with you. Trebuchets are so inaccurate against blocks of units, even in tiny chokepoints like river crossings that their presence is more of a hindrance than a help. Bring a catapult, ballista, or a cannon instead. If you have a trebuchet, the best use of it will be much like a catapult, positioned facing straight down the path of the bridge so that any shots they do manage to lob will bounce down the length of the bridge.

Fighting The Mongols In The Field Pt. 1

So, you think you have what it takes to bring the fight to the Mongols on open ground. I'm warning you, it ain't gonna be easy. Jokes aside, there a few situations where you might have the misfortune of going against the Mongol army where it is strongest: on an open battle map. No walls to funnel them, no rivers to bog them down, just open plains and rolling hills, the type of terrain where the Mongols dominated historically, and this game is no different.

Understanding the Battle AILet's take a moment to understand the battle AI of Medieval II. The AI will deploy where it deems it has the most advantage defensively if defending (you are the one who attacked them). They will favor high ground as much as possible.

If on the offense (they attacked you), the AI will almost always deploy as aggressively as possible, towards the front of the deployment zone. The AI will always advance on you if they are the aggressor. If they are the defender and have numerical superiority, they will tend to advance upon you as well, though they may choose to still defend and stonewall.

Since we're dealing with Mongols specifically, a typical AI Mongol formation will have any foot archers as the front line of the their army, followed by (if any) melee only units (note the Mongols have very few of these in their rosters). Melee cavalry will form the line behind these units. Cavalry archers will always deploy on the flanks, usually split as evenly as possible. These units will all advance together.

Note that the AI always makes use of skirmish mode in the field. Thus, chasing Mongol cavalry archers is a surefire way to make slower cavalry of yours tired and shot to death and eventually route.

In Medieval II, the enemy prioritizes infantry and foot archer formations, and will advance upon the location where the majority of your visible foot soldiers are positioned. They will often ignore cavalry unless that cavalry engages with their units.

As they close the distance, they will usually commit to a charge with their melee cavalry unless they don't have many or you and the AI begin skirmishing large amounts of missile units. Be warned, a charge from a dreadful Mongol general and experienced lancers that impacts properly can shatter entire armies, especially those made of militia units or even elite units at higher difficulties.

Ambushing and Killing the Enemy GeneralThe number one threat to you in a field battle is not the Mongol army itself but the general leading it. Not only is the bodyguard unit quite powerful, but his presence on the field almost ensures that his army will not rout until he is eliminated. Killing a general like Subotai or Jebe is easier said than done, however there are some techniques you can attempt.

Keep in mind that cavalry march faster than infantry, so that while the entire Mongol army is mobilizing together, the pace of the bodyguard will eventually outpace the foot soldiers. In theory, the longer the distance the army must march, the longer the distance between the bodyguard and the rest of the army can grow. In practice, you cannot rely solely on this, but you can use this fact to try and separate the general by goading him into chasing another unit of yours as they close on your distant units.

You preferably want to do this with a very sturdy and high morale unit like feudal knights or mameluks, or a cavalry archer of your own. Your goal is to aggravate the general just enough so that he gives chase to your unit. You want a unit, or multiple units, that have good morale to do this and the objective is hit and then RUN. I cannot stress RUN enough. Give the general a gentle tap and try to lure him away from the bulk of his army.

If you can get him to give chase, leading him into an ambush with your own quality cavalry, or directly to your line of spears is the next step. I prefer to use cavalry for this method, but some factions like Scotland or Milan that lack good cavalry may struggle and opt for an infantry or missile ambush.

Once you have lured the general into the trap, you want to surround him as much as possible. Ideally, you have not also drawn the ire of other Mongol cavalry and are dealing solely with the bodyguard unit. Keep in mind that your own bodyguard units are also quite powerful, though risking your general's life is always an issue to consider. If you use him for this tactic, keep a close eye on him and withdraw him from the melee if he begins to get too bloody.

If this lure-away and ambush tactic works and you slay the enemy general, your next goal is routing the enemy army. Most mongol units have good morale, though foot archers and infantry have worse morale than their cavalry. If you can break those units close to other units, the mass rout has a snowballing effect. Push with your entire army at a single focal point and make sure to commit everything to causing a mass rout with everything you've got. Your units will have better morale if they are in close proximity to other friendly units due to the knowledge that their flanks are secure.

Also note that fatigue has a direct relation to morale. The longer the Mongol army marches to meet you, in theory they will be more fatigued. However, Mongol units have good stamina and regenerate stamina quickly, so this will not always be an option.

Next, we'll look at some other tactical options when confronting mongols in a field battle.

Fighting The Mongols In The Field Pt. 2

Using Terrain to Your AdvantageAs we've established, the Mongols are a cavalry focused faction and their armies have lots of cavalry. To gain a good upper hand on Mongols in a field battle, we should always prioritize terrain that is favorable to us and not favorable to enemy cavalry and enemy archers.


If you have been afforded the luxury of fighting a defensive battle against the Mongols among some hills or in a mountain pass, then securing and holding high ground is an obvious tactical decision. Your goals are to deny their archers a range bonus while granting your own missile troops one and force their cavalry to charge uphill. Positioning your infantry further down the slope while leaving the even higher ground for your missile units is a great way to maximize your army's effectiveness. Your missile units, especially crossbows, will have a great line of fire, which they should always prioritize the enemy general and enemy horse archers. Likewise, your infantry wall will ensure any uphill charge is met with strong resistance. A downhill charge from your own cavalry can be very effective here, especially against massed Mongol foot archers after the enemy general has been slain.


Somehow, someway, you've gotten into a battle with Mongols in a mountain pass. Hopefully you are the defender and can deploy in such a way that you can make excellent use of the terrain. Many mountain battle maps will have cliffs and ridges that are impassable by units, creating chokepoints. In instances such as this, treating a mountain battle like a city battle is not a poor way to understand these. You want to hold the various chokepoints of your deployment as much as possible while using missile units to fire over your own units heads. Unlike a city battle, you will likely have terrain elevations to make sure your missile units have a clear shot and that will make your life just a bit easier. You want to prioritize the enemy general and cavalry archers, as chasing cavalry archers over a mountain battlefield can be very headache inducing.


You likely already know that cavalry have a disadvantage in a forest and the Mongol army is no exception. Not as well known, but still substantial, is that forest terrain does interfere with the ability for archers to fire effectively. As Mongol armies are both primarily cavalry and primarily archers, the Forest is a natural enemy of the Mongol, like a mongoose is to a cobra. If you can get Mongol cavalry to engage in prolonged melee with your own infantry, especially infantry with a combat bonus against cavalry or a bonus in the forest (or both!), that battle will likely go in your favor so long as your army is supported by your own general and the enemy general does't manage to get a decent charge on your forces. While your own missile units may be obstructed in the forest, you can always attempt to flank around the enemy and shoot with your missiles.

Archers Counter Cavalry?It's time to learn something that flies in the face of every rock-paper-scissors strategy game that you have ever played. In the proper situations, when deployed correctly, archers and crossbowmen are the perfect counter to cavalry. In this collision-detection-based combat simulation, cavalry are a larger target and are taller than other units. Cavalry also have a propensity for getting stuck on other units and can be easily be bogged down, turned into sitting ducks for your own missiles to shoot.

Having archers or crossbows that are protected by other infantry fire at cavalry is a great way to eliminate cavalry threats from the battlefield. This is especially true if they are firing at the flank of cavalry or the non-shielded side of cavalry.

Missile units of your own are a better counter to horse archers than cavalry or your own horse archers. They will outrange the majority of horse archers by a significant amount, and horse archers are large targets. Even when performing their Cantabrian Circle special formation, horse archers are a prime target for your archers and crossbowmen, assuming they have a straight arc of a fire.

It is incredibly important to protect your own missiles for this reason. Avoid using flaming shots with your archers and focus on accurately cutting down Mongol horse archers before they can cause a problem or Mongol cavalry before they cause too much mayhem.

Faction By Faction Breakdown

The next part of this guide will be looking at the various playable factions in the grand campaign and discussing specialized tips and tricks on dealing with the Mongols, including which units to focus on, which units to avoid, and grand campaign strategy where applicable.

As a general rule of thumb:

I am going to assume you'll only have access to units from Minor Cities and Castles and possibly a Fortress or two. It's unlikely for many factions to have Large Cities, Huge Cities, Fortresses and Citadels by the time the Mongols actually arrive, though some factions may have access to some of these tiers early in a campaign, such as the Byzantines for example.

I am going to assume you know at least the very basics of your faction's roster. For example, I'm going to assume you know that as England you have access to many superb archers but not quality crossbowmen, or that a unit of peasants is not nearly equal to a unit of dismounted feudal knights, or even nearly as good as spear militia.

I am going to highlight units that perform well against Mongol units or trade well with them. I am not going to go through each and every unit in the faction's roster. I will explain why certain units are quality choices, and in what situations they would be best for.

I am going to assume you do not have access to mercenary/crusade/jihad units of any kind. I will include some notes on mercenaries towards the end.

As a general rule, castle units are better than city units of the same tier. I will point instances in which this is not true, or there are city-unique or castle-unique units that would be useful.

Due to the limited space available for each section of a guide, and that many factions of a similar culture share units, I have decided to order the guide in the following sections:

Islamic Factions: Egypt, Moors, and Turks

Orthodox Factions: Byzantines and Russia

Eastern Catholics: Hungary and Poland

Western Catholics: England, France and Scotland

Northern Catholics: Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire

Italians: Milan, Papal States (yes, they are technically playable), Sicily and Venice

Iberians: Portugal and Spain

Islamic Factions: Egypt, Moors, & Turks

Campaign OverviewBoth Egypt and the Turks have the short end of the stick here if the Mongols spawn to the south, as they are both in the way and probably control prioritized Mongol targets like Antioch and Jerusalem. However, this can be a strength, since you are likely to seize these locations early and able to invest in them heavily before other factions would be able to. It's recommended that you focus on seizing the Holy Land (Antioch, Acre, Jerusalem, Damascus, etc.) early on. Not only are these regions fairly wealthy, but you will not have the major public order penalties that Christian factions face due to religious difference with the population. You can also prioritize developing these lands early. By sitting a Chivalrous general in Acre, you can quickly turn that castle into a fortress. You can also do the same with Adana, Aleppo, and other nearby smaller settlements that need a population boost.

The Moors on the other hand have it tough when it comes to actually dealing with the Mongols proactively since they are far away. But this does also make them very safe from the Mongol invasion. The Mongols will cross North Africa by foot, which takes a long time to reach Moorish lands, and by the time they arrive, the mighty Mongol horde should be significantly thinned out. With the aid of a Jihad, or just by colonization, you can get to and secure the Holy Land fairly early. Of course, this means neglecting the rich lands of Iberia, France and Italy which are normally primary targets for you. Should you embark to the Holy Land, you'll likely enjoy some of the benefits Egypt and the Turks enjoy, but it will come with the difficulty of a great distance to your capital along with lots of corruption resulting in a loss of income.

EGYPTAt the point in the game that the Mongols arrive, Egypt struggles with quality infantry, though they have access to some quality cavalry and archers. Turning those strengths against the Mongols can be challenging.

Naffatun: Avoid using Naffatun. The morale shock of their weapons is not very effective against the high morale Mongols, and their actual killing power is not that impressive compared to other ranged units you can wield instead.

Desert Archers: These archers are actually quite good and can be recruited from a Castle with only a Practice range. They have very good stamina and do not tire easily. Always prefer these over archer militia in cities.

Saracen Militia: As you're unlikely to have Dismounted Arab Cavalry, these are a quality militia spearmen. They have decent armor and shield defense and are good against cavalry. You can recruit them from Minor Cities, though they require a City Watch.

Mamluks/Mamluk Archers: If you can get access to these from a Fortress, they are great cavalry units who can stand up to Mongol cavalry as long as they are supported by a general.

MOORSThe Moors and Egypt share some units such as desert archers and dismounted arab cavalry. The Moorish army in the 1200s has great skirmishing units but struggles with quality infantry.

Granadine Jinetes: Produced from a Fortress, these javelin cavalry are fairly good at goading Mongol generals. If you can hit them in the flank or side, you might even score some lucky kills.

Tuareg Camel Spearmen: You need a caravan stop at your Castle for this unit. Mongol cavalry suffer a penalty to their attacks against camels. Having a few in your general ambush force can be very effective.

Crossbow Militia: Produced from a City Watch. Crossbowmen are great at shooting down cavalry assuming they can get a clean shot.

TURKSThe Turks have fantastic horse archers, though they do not get their excellent Janissaries as early as they'd probably like. However, troops like Turkomans, Sipahis, and Ottoman infantry are nothing to scoff at. Avoid Naffatun, there are more effective unites to field.

Ottoman Infantry: If you have a Fortress, these are the best bang-for-your-buck archer unit you can get. They can go toe-to-toe with Mongol infantry on walls, at least for a short while and their shields protect them from counter fire.

Sipahi Units: The standard Sipahi horse archer is available from a Wooden Castle and is great at harassing Mongol generals on the field, though they are not so great in a straight fight. The Sipahi Lancer and its dismounted version both require a Fortress, but are excellent cavalry and spearmen with great morale.

Orthodox Factions: Byzantines & Russia

Campaign OverviewThe Byzantines are well poised to deal with either a Northern or Southern Mongol invasion. They can use the superior wealth of their lands to support armies made of quality troops. Using Constantinople, you can use the Black Sea to transport an army and seize Kiev quite early. Like wise, Nicosia grants a great springboard to claiming the Holy Land very early on. You will take public order penalties until you get the religion of the region under control. Your lack of a Crusade or Jihad mechanic hinders your ability to mobilize there quickly however, so you will have to carefully plan logistics of reinforcing against the Mongols.

Russia on the other hand has it very tough. Not only do they have to deal with the brunt of a Mongol invasion if it comes Northward, but the Steppe regions are not very profitable. Stretched thin financially, without heavy aggression into Europe, you'll be hurting for income which you'll want to spend furthering your expansion first and foremost. Seizing Kiev early is a must, as its financial value easily eclipses that of Ryazan or Sarkel.

BYZANTINESThe Byzantines have the luxury of rich territories that grow in population quickly in their homeland, and thus can get high-tiered city and fortress units quickly by the time the Mongols arrive. Unfortunately, this also means handling the logistics of getting these units northwards or eastwards to where they are needed.

Vardariotai: Produced from a Castle. Expensive to maintain, but these horse archers are strong and have great morale, on par with the elite mongol units. They are decent in a melee once their arrows run out, but preserving more of them for the next battle should be a priority. A must have in any field battle against Mongol armies.

Byzantine Cavalry: Cheaper alternative to the Vardariotai, but much less effective. If you need sheer numbers against a mongol army, they can be massed quickly, but don't expect a standout performance.

Guard Archers: If you can field these from the Archery Range in the Fortress, do so. They are a standout, shielded archer unit that has very good morale and is on par with most mongol foot soldiers.

Trebizond Archers: You'll have access to these units from more areas than you will Guard Archers. They are not as good, but they still have decent missile attack and are shielded.

Byzantine Lancers: Both require a Fortress with the dismounted version also needing a Barracks. The mounted version make for decent heavy cavalry with decent morale. Meanwhile the Dismounted version is a very good professional swordsmen unit for this period of the game.

Your spearmen options are limited: both Byzantine spearmen and spear militia are not very good, but unless you recruit a lot of mercenaries, you'll have little else you can rely on.

RUSSIAThe Russian army by this period struggles against the Mongols a fair bit. It'll still be a while until you can field many of your quality units aside from cavalry, which does you no favors sitting in garrisons. Having a fully outfitted Fortress by the time the Mongols arrive will be highly beneficial, but also highly unlikely.

Spearmen: Trained from a Castle with a Drill Square, these units will need to make up your front-line. They are much better than spear militia with better morale and worth the investment if you can spare it. Their large shields make them well suited for battling Mongol armies on the defense.

Druzhinha: The cavalry version you can get quite early. They have very good morale, are fairly fast, and pack a decent punch. If you intend to fight the Mongol armies with cavalry armies of your own, they are a solid choice. The infantry version requires a Fortress and is a solid axemen unit, though punching through armor is not always needed against the Mongol troops that will engage in melee with them anyway.

Boyar Sons: An excellent javelin cavalry unit that is great at hit and run attacks against Mongol bodyguards and can hold their own in melee. The cavalry version does not have as good morale as druzhina. Dismounted Boyar Sons require a fortress and are statistically identical to dismounted druzhina.

Dismounted Dvor: You're unlikely to have Dvor Cavalry, but you may be able to field these units from a Fortress with an Archery Range. I greatly recommend trying to get some. They outclass your other archers by a large margin, are armored and shielded, perform well in melee, and have very good morale.

Crossbow Militia: You'll be better served by Mercenary Crossbows whenever you can get them, but Crossbow Militia are your only trainable crossbow unit. Crossbows, no matter the tier, will always be somewhat effective against armored units, so fielding some of these to target Mongol bodyguards is not an unwise thing to do. They do require a City Watch and a Minor City, which can be hard to financially afford if you aren't playing very aggressively.

Eastern Catholics: Hungary & Poland

Campaign OverviewHistorically, both Hungary and Poland gave the Mongols a fair degree of difficulty when they tried to push into Eastern Europe. As it turns out, in this game both are well positioned and outfitted to stand a fighting chance against the Mongols.

Both can reach Kiev and its surrounding lands very quickly, and can fortify these lands against the Mongols well. Both factions may struggle early on with money to support this, though sacking Constantinople is only a stone's throw away, especially for Hungary. Likewise, with access to the Black Sea which can be gained relatively quickly, both factions can Crusade and get to the Holy Land in a timely manner. The hard decision is deciding which part of the map to fortify against the Mongols, as it's financially difficult to fortify both.

HUNGARYA personal favorite faction of mine, Hungary's army is in an interesting transition period, going from a very eastern styled army of subpar infantry with quality horse archers to a more Western European styled army of knights and armored soldiers. The end result is something of a best of both worlds. Bran can usually reach a Fortress by the time the Mongols arrive, giving you access to knights.

Hungarian Nobles: While not a perfect match for the elite Mongol horse archers, they do come close. They are shielded, mobile, and have great morale. Even better, they can be produced from Wooden Castles.

Feudal Knights: One of many shared units between the Catholic powers, Feudal Knights can be produced from a Fortress, which is attainable with the Hungarians at Bran. The cavalry version are sort of the iconic unit of the game, and for good reason: they are durable with good morale and armor, have a menacing charge and are quite good in melee. The dismounted version is a solid defensive infantry unit, able to hold castle walls and breaches, though they are expensive and should not be thrown away lightly.

Chivalric Knights: You will not be fielding these at this time, but I feel the need to point out that Hungarian chivalric knights have the special feature of having a much larger shield, making them very well suited to resisting sustained archery fire. Definitely considering getting some whenever you can.

Pavise Crossbow Militia: They require a City Watch from a Minor City, which you can easily get by taking Constantinople or growing Budapest a bit. They are better than the regular Crossbowmen at the Castle when battling the mongols, as they are better protected against missiles, and will trade with Mongol archers very well.

Pavise Spearmen: Trained from a Fortress with a Barracks, its almost like these spearmen were born to counter Mongols. They are well armored and shielded with much better morale than Spear Militia. If you can mass them, you should mass them.

Croat Axemen: A very misleading unit. Due to Medieval II's notorious two-handed bug, these axemen will under perform against infantry and their lack of shields renders them weak to missile fire. However, their armor piercing axes and good morale make them surprisingly effective against heavy cavalry in a prolonged melee, assuming they survive long enough to see it.

POLANDThe Polish army has a lot of uniqueness to offer. Much like Hungary, during this time they find themselves in a transition between eastern Russian-styled units to more Western European knights, though it is less pronounced. Getting a Fortress with Poland is usually slower than with Hungary, but it can be achieved with a Chivalrous governor doing some baby sitting.

Strzelcy: This unit's English names should probably just be "General Snipers." This is a mounted crossbow unit that is trained from castles of any level. They are fast light cavalry with an armor piercing missile attack, meaning they can perform hit and run maneuvers against Mongol generals better than pretty much any other missile cavalry.

Polish Nobles: This javelin cavalry has very good morale and is decent in a melee. Their charge impact is lacking, but their ability to kite a chasing general unit, bombarding it with javelins and then circle around and engage while supported by other cavalry should not be underestimated. The dismounted version is a very good quality spearmen unit and can be massed alongside regular Spearmen with only a little investment.

Lithuanian Archers: Produced from the Practice Range at a castle, these units are unarmored but do have shields. Their defining feature is their ability lay down stakes pre-battle which can spell doom for Mongol cavalry that run through them. Deploying stakes at a gate in a city or the entrance to a town square is a surefire way to devastate a Mongol army that breaks through. Heh, you might even WANT to let them in.

Spearmen: Like their Russian counterparts, they are a league better than Spear Militia with more morale and a larger shield. They only require a Drill Square in a Castle, meaning with a little investment, they can be massed quickly and make a great infantry line against the Mongols in a settlement and in the field.

Polish Retainers: Effectively the polish version of Feudal Knights trained from a Fortress. They are not as high quality as Feudal Knights, but still deliver an impactful charge and pair well with the Polish's other fantastic cavalry.

Avoid Woodsmen, their lack of shields and the two-handed bug makes them very unreliable. If you can get Lithuanian Cavalry, you may find them of use in the field, though Strzelcy are available much earlier and are, in my opinion, the far more deadly option to units that pose the most threat.

Western Catholics: England, France & Scotland

Campaign OverviewAll three of these factions begin in Western Europe. Both England and France can excel very easily early on, with plenty of rebel settlements to expand to and can afford to eventually crusade to the Holy Land. They might also consider a crusade to Vilnius and colonize along the Baltic Sea instead. However, if they do not hustle, they may only make it to these locations only shortly before the Mongol arrival, giving them limited time to build up the area.

Scotland is a different story. They struggle financially for much of their early game, and are extremely far from the Holy Land. Scotland will likely want to focus on itself first and deal with the Mongols after they've already expanded to half of the map in a mighty empire.

Feudal Knights: All three factions get the iconic Feudal Knight from the Fortress. These cavalry hit hard, are well armored, and are great at ambushing Mongol generals that stray too far from their armies. The dismounted knights are high quality defensive units that can hold walls and chokepoints for long periods.

ENGLANDEveryone knows the English army's primary gimmick is longbows, and rightfully so. They are an excellent counter to Mongol armies with their long range and ability to deploy stakes. England can supplement their armies with some additional units.

Longbows: Whether its standard longbowmen, retinue longbowmen, or yeomen, they have great range and can deploy stakes. Deploying stakes while defending from the Mongols in front of a gate or town square, or at the opening of a bridge can deliver high casualties to the Mongol cavalry that runs through them. A must have unit.

Levy Spearmen & Billmen: These units are not that great, though they are the best anti-cavalry infantry you have access to, though you can argue that anti-cavalry is actually the job of the longbows. They suffer from a low morale, lack of armor, and for the billmen a lack of shields. Don't avoid, but don't rely on them too much.

Armored Swordsmen: Available with a Barracks in a Fortress, they are slightly less quality than Dismounted Feudal Knights, but they allow you to mass an armored and shielded heavy infantry block quite quickly.

FRANCEWhile France's late game strength is in their awesome cavalry, by the time of the Mongol's they don't really benefit from it yet. Nevertheless, the French roster offers some great crossbows and spearmen.

Crossbowmen/Peasant Crossbowmen: While a pavise crossbow unit is always preferred, the French can get Peasant Crossbows with a Practice Range in the Castle and Crossbowmen from a Fortress with an Archery Range. Both are great at laying down opposing fire from town squares and in the open field.

Sergeant Spearmen/Armored Sergeants: Both units are good spear units for this stage of the game. The Armored version will fair very well as a defensive line when supported by other units and a nearby general.

Mounted Sergeants: Significantly stronger than most Western European light cavalry, these units can be relied upon to chase and help corner fleeing horse archers on open fields with other cavalry support.

Voulgiers: A trap of a unit. Like many of Medieval II's "bracing units", they can be difficult to position and use effectively. If positioned properly in a chokepoint against cavalry, they can prove very effective, though their lack of shields leaves them vulnerable to Mongol missiles.

SCOTLANDPoor Scotland. A favorite of mine from an aesthetic view (Braveheart is a very fun, albeit inaccurate movie), but their reliance on wonky pikes and a lack of good cavalry makes them poor choices against the Mongols. Nevertheless, if the Scots must face the Mongol horde, a few units standout.

Noble Highland Archers: If you can afford these from an Archery Range in a Fortress, get them. They have very good morale and are decent in a melee. Their melee weapon is an axe, making them effective against armored attackers.

Spear Militia: Due to the unreliability of pikes in Medieval II's engine, Spear Militia are forced into the role of Scotland's go-to spearmen aside from Mercenaries. Don't depend on them, but in a town square with infinite morale, they are a necessary component to success.

Scotland has a lot of units to avoid. While the Highland Nobles seem cool with their Mel Gibson William Wallace cosplay, the two-handed bug of Medieval II makes them routinely under perform. Likewise, Scotland's many pikes not only lack shields to defend from Mongol archers, but they also are notoriously hard to use. You'll often find your pikemen are simply just worse swordsmen as they abandon their polearms for their sidearms all the time. Highlanders, while hardy with decent morale, are simply too lightly armored to survive for long periods. Highland Archers are more of a necessity than a desirable unit, lacking the great morale of their noble counterparts.

You're unlikely able to field Noble Swordsmen in time for a Mongol invasion, though as the game progresses, they are a very good quality swordsmen unit, on par with the Dismounted Chivalric Knights of other Europeans.

Northern Catholics: Denmark & Holy Roman Empire

Campaign OverviewDenmark is in a difficult position. While they can actually expand very quickly and form a sizeable empire along the Baltic, starting with only one settlement hurts them significantly. The Danes will have to go through either Poland or Russia to get to Kiev, and the Holy Land is even farther away, with no easy Sea Route from their homeland, meaning they have to trek across Europe to the Mediterranean or Black Sea at the very least, if not walking the whole way while on Crusade.

The Holy Roman Empire is a different matter. They start with a lot of territory and can expand very easily. They usually have no trouble financially at the start and maintaining their finances is often not an issue. Even then, the risk of excommunication for the very wealthy Italian cities is always on the table. Again, they will have to get through Poland to get to Kiev. Bologna can provide a launch point to Crusade to the Holy Land, but it probably will require taking Northern Italy to be secure first.

Feudal Knights: Both factions have access to the iconic Feudal Knights as cavalry and as dismounted infantry from a Fortress. The HRE should have no problem getting a Fortress in a timely manner, while Denmark may need to rely in taking Hamburg very early and building it up quickly. Nevertheless, as a cavalry unit, they have great morale and are great at ambushing a Mongol general led too far away from his army. As infantry, they can hold walls, chokepoints and breaches for extended periods, providing a challenge for Mongol foot soldiers who enter melee with them.

DENMARKVikings vs. Mongols sounds like a great locker room argument. The Danes should very handily mop the floor with the Mongols when defending during a siege. Likewise, the Mongols should take the Danes out pretty easily in a field battle. This isn't necessarily so. To fight the Mongols efficiently as the Danes requires playing to their strengths and embracing some of their stranger units.

Norse Archers: The surprise unit of the Danish army, these archers are available from a Castle with a practice range. As a shield archer unit, they are actually quite good in melee, being almost statistically identical to Mongol Infantry. They are exceptional at holding walls while firing at encroaching enemies and battling them atop, and are better than you would expect returning fire in a field.

Huscarls: The dismounted Huscarl is trained from a Castle, requiring no additional buildings. The mounted Huscarl requires a Knight's stable. Both wield axes and are great against armored units. The infantry version is not as defensively sturdy as a feudal knight, but still has great morale, and can plug gaps in a battle line. Mounted Huscarls should be thought of as counter-cavalry units against heavy cavalry. They should be part of your ambush against a Mongol bodyguard in the field.

Norse Swordsmen: This unit should be thought of as a cheaper alternative to a dismounted Feudal Knight. As a plus, it is available earlier with some investment, requiring a Drill Square in a Castle. They do not have as good morale as a knight or a huscarl but in a town square where every body counts, its okay to save some money and pick up a few of these.

Norse Axemen: Requiring a Barracks within a Fortress, these two handed axemen suffer from the two-handed bug. However, their good armor, great morale, armor piercing attack and a very good charge stat as far as infantry goes results in a unit that will decimate Mongol cavalry in a prolonged melee.

Norse War Clerics: An odd cavalry unit that is produced from an Abbey, which requires a Minor City. Norse War Clerics are not anti-infantry cavalry, but are actual quite good counter-cavalry units with their armor piercing maces and quality armor. Consider some of these if they are available when ambushing Mongol generals in the field.

It should be noted that Denmark lacks quality spears. Without mercenaries, the Danes must rely on Spear Militia. However, many of Denmark's other units excel against cavalry in a prolonged fight, and they fight very well in forests. If you can steer Mongol field battles into a forest melee, you'll find the Dane's do quite well.

HOLY ROMAN EMPIREBy the time of the Mongol invasion, the HRE has a well rounded army with many great tools in its roster, from crossbows to spears to decent cavalry options. The end result is an army well equipped to face the Mongols, but not as well equipped as some of its neighbors.

Mounted Sergeants: Significantly stronger than most Western European light cavalry, these units can be relied upon to chase and help corner fleeing horse archers on open fields with other cavalry support.

Pavise Crossbowmen: A crossbow unit with a pavise is always a standout unit. The HRE requires a Fortress with an Archery Range for this unit. It can lay down counter fire against Mongol armies in the field and down city streets very well while the pavise shields provide protection from missiles.

Peasant Crossbowmen: Not nearly as good as Pavise Crossbowmen, but easier to obtain, peasant crossbowmen can provide armor piercing firepower in large numbers if needed to be massed quickly, though their pavise cousins are preferred.

Sergeant Spearmen/Armored Sergeants: Both units are good spear units for this stage of the game. The Armored version will fair very well as a defensive line when supported by other units and a nearby general.

Teutonic Knights: These crusader knights are unique to the HRE. Unlike Templars or Hospitalers that most other factions get, the Teutonic Knights wield maces in melee resulting in armor piercing attacks. They have excellent morale and will not break easily. They require a Teutonic Chapter House, which you should be able to obtain in the Holy Land or even in some of the Pagan lands around the Baltic.

Italians: Milan, Papal States, Sicily & Venice

Campaign OverviewI'm first going to shock you with the fact that all four factions begin in Italy. But it should be noted where they begin and how they're likely to expand and some of the challenges they might face.

Milan is in Northwest Italy. If they don't want to incur the wrath of the Pope, they might target North Africa. Alternatively they can risk war with other European powers, including trying to claim Italy all for themselves. Assuming you don't march through Venetian or HRE land to your fleet, Crusading to the Holy Land means sailing around the Peninsula, adding some time required to get there.

Venice has great control of the Adriatic in Eastern Italy. They are in a prime position to fight Byzantines without incurring the Papal Wrath. Their territory of Iraklion allows them to push into the Holy Land very quickly with a militia army if they so choose. Ragusa is well on its way to becoming a Fortress without much aid, and the rich gold mines of Zagreb can be seized early and even rushed by converting it into a castle, though it is an expensive process.

Sicily, unlike its fellow Italians, struggles financially in the early game. It is very easy for Sicily to expand all over the Mediterranean and stretch itself too thin. A personal favorite of mine to play, I've found that if you commit to only one direction, such as towards Byzantium or towards Iberia for instance, you'll have a greater degree of success. Palermo is well on its way to becoming a Fortress and will get there quickly without much help.

Lastly, you can play as the Papal States by modding your game. They were never intended to be playable and struggle to a degree financially. The Papal Mechanics also apply to the Papal States if not using any additional mods, making for a confusing experience where the Pope can hate and possibly even excommunicate himself. Nevertheless, they do have some very good units.

Many of the Italian States share a few key units which will likely make up the bulk of their armies:

Italian Spear Militia: Available from large towns, these spearmen are actually better than most other militia spearmen of other factions. They have better morale and even have better armor than Sergeant Spearmen making them preferred over them. With one armor upgrade, requiring a Blacksmith, they are of equal quality with Armored Sergeants. They are the go-to unit for an Italian front-line, are cheap, easily massed, and perform well in most situations.

Sergeant Spearmen: If you do have a castle and bother to build a drill square, there is no real harm to incorporating Sergeant Spearmen into your army alongside Italian Spear Militia. The two are practically interchangeable.

Pavise Crossbowmen: Milan has a specialty version that will be discussed below, but all Italian factions have access to Pavise Crossbowmen from both their minor cities AND their fortresses with a City Watch and Archery Range respectively (with the exception of Venice which only gets the Militia version). The professional versions are slightly better statistically, though the militia version is quite good. Both are excellent at returning fire against Mongol archers and shooting down enemy generals.

Mounted Sergeants: As a light cavalry unit, it is superior to what other factions like England or Denmark can field. It has a substantial shield and can be relied upon to chase and help corner fleeing horse archers while supported with other cavalry.

Feudal Knights: All the Italians with the exception of Sicily have the iconic Feudal Knight in cavalry and infantry form. Both have very good morale. As cavalry they deliver great charges and should be used to ambush Mongol generals. As infantry, they can hold a very firm line at chokepoints and breaches when paired with Italian spears, and also fight very well on the walls.

MILANGenoese Crossbowmen: The unique Milanese crossbow unit is the Genoese crossbowmen. These units are available both as militia from minor cities and professional soldiers from Fortresses in place of the normal Pavise Crossbows the other Italians get. As a crossbow unit, they rank among some of the best. The Fortress version in particular has quite good morale and both are well armored and shielded.

PAPAL STATESPapal Guard: Papal Guard are available in a Minor City to the Papal States and they are some of the best spearmen in the game. They have very high morale, as much as elite Mongol units. They also have very good armor and decent attack stats as well. While not easy to mass, if a a Papal army can form a front line of these elite spears, they might even be able to to absorb a Mongol charge lead by Subotai himself and hold the line.

SICILYNorman Knights:Sicily does not get Feudal Knights. Instead, they get these monsters, both as cavalry and dismounted. A unit of Norman Knights can be thought of as super powered Feudal Knights. They have better morale, on par with elite Mongol units, a stronger attack, and better defense. A few Norman Knights with some experience chevrons should be able to go toe-to-toe with a Mongol general separated from his army and make very short work of him.

Muslim Archers: In addition to the Pavise Crossbowmen, Sicily also has a decently good archer unit from the Practice Range in the Castle. While they lack shields, they provide decent range and can be massed with less development than Pavise Crossbowmen.

VENICEVenetian Archers: Available from a Fortress with an Archery Range, they are well armored but lack shields. In my opinion, a subpar trade for professional pavise crossbowmen, but it does offer the Venetians better missile fire from the walls during a defensive battle.

Venetian Heavy Infantry: Venice's flagship unit and a very divisive unit. Some people swear by them while others find them underwhelming. Their warhammers make them good against armor and they have a very good shield, but they are lacking in morale compared to Feudal Knights. They require a Fortress and a Barracks. Try them for yourself and be the judge, I guess.

Iberians: Spain & Portugal

Campaign OverviewSpain and Portugal start very far from the Mongol invasion spawn points. Much like the Moors or even Scotland, they might never even involve themselves with the Mongols as they eventually conquer half of the map. Spain and Portugal are in competition for a very crowded peninsula, and even after conquering the Moors, they'll have no choice but to conquer the other.

Nevertheless, if either wanted to Crusade to the Holy Land, it is a long ways away across the Mediterranean. It will take any Mongol army a long time to reach them, as the Mongols will have to March all the way across Europe or across North Africa.

Spain and Portugal share a number of units that standout when fielded against the Mongol army:

Feudal Knights: Both factions get the iconic Feudal Knight as cavalry and dismounted as infantry. They both have great morale. The mounted version is great at killing Mongol generals lured away from their army, while the infantry version can hold a line and hold the walls with the best of them.

Pavise Crossbowmen: Both factions can recruit Pavise Crossbowmen from Fortresses, which should be easily accessible from Pamplona or Toledo by the time the Mongols arrive in Iberia. Recruiting them closer to the Mongol spawn points will require some additional finesse. They require an an Archery Range. As with other Pavise Crossbowmen, they are great at returning archer fire while suffering minimal losses.

Crossbow Militia: Available from Minor Cities with a City Watch, they do not have armor nor shields like the Pavise Crossbowmen, but they can provide armor piercing crossbow fire, which is always a benefit against heavier Mongol troops.

Jinetes: These javelin cavalry are available from any Castle. They have decent morale and are quite mobile. They can be used to goad and lure away Mongol generals in the field, peppering them with Javelins, or even harass said general while he gives chase to another unit.

Almughavars: Javelin infantry produced from a Castle with a Drill Square. They have very high morale, equal to the most elite Mongol units. They hurl javelins and wield spears in melee making them dual purpose units. Their weakness lies in their lack of armor and shields which is not ideal against the hail of Mongol missiles.

Knights of Santiago: Spain and Portugal get these instead of Templars or Hospitalers. They are elite units with very high morale and are very effective cavalry units. Both Spain and Portugal should be able to get their Chapter House very easily and early being neighbors to the Moors.

Spear Militia: While the Almughavars are superior in terms of morale and attack, spear militia are shielded and will fair somewhat better against the rain of Mongol projectiles. As with all spear militia, do not rely on them too greatly, and they are best in a town square where their lower morale no long becomes an issue.

PORTUGALWhere Portugal's roster really differs from Spain's at the point in the game that the Mongol's arrive is really with one unit. The Portuguese have the Lusitanian Javelinmen. These only require a Garrison Quarters in a Castle. They have lower morale than Almughavars and wield a sword in melee, but they have a shield. In a pinch, where you need extra units, a few of these couldn't hurt, providing Javelin fire over the head of the front line before joining them.

SPAINOn the other hand, Spain only gains Javelinmen: They have fairly low morale and are not as impressive in a fight as the Portuguese option. They are recruited from the Castle with a Garrison Quarters as well. I think if you can afford better units, you should get those instead.

A Note on Later Iberian UnitsI'm sure many are saying: But what about Tercios? What about Conquistadors? These late game units would not be available to a Portuguese or Spanish player by the time of the Mongol invasion. However, it is possible that a player might not run into the Mongols until much later based upon the Iberian start position and the Mongol spawn point. These units could possibly be an option by then.

Tercios (Spain) and Aventuros (Portugal) are both elite pikemen units. As with all pikemen in Medieval II, there comes the risk that they will not work effectively and abandon their pikes for their swords at the slightest twist of being out of formation. If used and they work correctly then they will block Mongol cavalry very well, especially in city streets.

Conquistadors are available to both factions, but they must be recruited in the Americas. The event for the Americas does not become available until the 1400s. That being said both the cavalry and dismounted Conquistadors are some of the strongest units in the game with excellent morale and stats across the board. If you somehow find yourself battling Mongols inside Tenochtitlan, they are the perfect army for such a thing.

Portugal gets a unique Arquebusier which operates much like the standard one available to most Europeans except that it has very good morale, on par with a dismounted feudal knight. Should you find a way to wield it in battle against the mongols with a fallen general, the morale shock of their gunfire will probably route most mongol troops apart from their very elite cavalry.

Portugal also gets the Portuguese Knights instead of the Chivalric Knights most Europeans get. The cavalry version is much like the Chivalric Knight, but the dismounted version is a two handed unit with a poleax. They suffer from the two-handed bug like other two-handed units, but they can still pack a dangerous punch and survive for quite a while in a prolonged melee against Mongol cavalry.

Additional Notes And Addendums

MercenariesThere are far too many mercenaries to cover in this guide, and as their availability varies by region and then by the recruitment pools of said regions, it is hard to recommend to rely on them. However, a few mercenary units you should keep an eye out for, should you so happen to battle Mongol armies in areas that they become available are:

Mercenary Crossbowmen: They are expensive to recruit, but almost worth their weight in gold with their ability to focus fire down enemy generals and elite armored units. Keep them protected and watch them sometimes work miracles. They are available across most of continental Europe. Keep your eye open for the pavise version later in the campaign.

Mercenary Spearmen: Available across most of continental Europe, these spearmen are decent substitues for factions that lack quality spearmen from their castles or cities. They are somewhat expensive, but they are also fairly expendable as you cannot always retrain them as you can with your own spearmen.

Crusader Sergeants: Available to crusading armies, these are effectively cheap mercenary armored sergeants and are similar to mercenary spearmen above.

Unhorsed Knights: Essentially mercenary dismounted feudal knights that are available to European crusaders. They are not easy to retrain, though they can be effective in a defensive scenario.

Crusader Knights: Mercenary Feudal knights available to Crusaders. Useful in a pinch.

Khwarizmian Cavalry: Notable for being heavily armored cavalry available in the Middle East. They are expensive but can be useful for armies short on cavalry. See also Armenian cavalry.

Armenian Cavalry: Another heavily armored cavalry available in the Middle East. Expensive, but can provide a powerful punch to armies lacking on cavalry.

Free Company Longbowmen: Available primarily in Western Europe. They can place down stakes like the English longbowmen do, giving the many factions that lack stakes that tactical option if you can bare the logistics to bring them to the Mongols. They start to appear in mercenary pools not too long after the Mongols arrive.

Concerning the TimuridsThe Timurids are different enough from the Mongols that they warrant their own guide. That being said, many of the strategies discussed in this guide will work against the Timurids to a degree. The most threatening aspect of the Tirmurids is their elephants, especially their Elephant artillery which are deadly to masses of units.

Killing the Tirmurid general is a necessity, just as is the Mongol general. To deal with Timurid elephants, targeting them with artillery that out ranges is a probably the best option. Accurate anti-personnel cannons like a serpentine are very good at this if your faction has access to them.

Javelins are also quite effective against elephants. Your goal with Elephants should be to either try to kill them with a lot of fire power or to use things like flaming artillery and archer fire to make them run-amok.

Also, by the time the Timurids arrive in the 1400s, most factions should have access to very elite units by then, and this would warrant a different unit guide discussing the strengths of late game units. The Timurid army can be though of as the New and Improved Mongol Army. Much of the same applies. You want a lot of shielded units and anti-cavalry units. They have some different units and overall have a slightly more balanced approach to their armies with more heavy infantry, heavy cavalry, archer-infantry hybrids, and artillery than the Mongols do.


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