How many soldiers does it take to defend Paris? Nobody knows, it has never been tried.

I could give you 100 more jokes about the bravery of the French army, but let’s see how our favourite horse riders are benchmarked.

Quick Card

  • Castles cost -25%
  • Knights +20% HPs
  • Farm upgrades free (require Mill)
  • Unique Unit: Throwing Axeman
  • Unique Technology: Bearded Axe
  • Team Bonus: Knights +2 LOS

Analysis of bonuses

Castles cost -25%

France is famous for its castles, even though it doesn’t have the most castles in the world, nor does it have the most dense castellation. But everyone should at least have heard of famous fortifications such as Carcassonne. So what does this bonus mean for the Frankish player?

It means you can build a castle faster than any other civilisation, even faster than the Koreans with their stone mining bonus. Which is both a great virtue in offensive and defensive play. And a definite bonus in trebuchet wars where a Frankish player can easily pull up an extra castle to engage in the stone hurling showdown. However, a castle is still a castle, it doesn’t make the difference on its own. It’s a structure to hold ground and secure an environment. You need units to support them too. We’ll look at the Frankish castle units later on.

But first a recorded game of course, how about one with an overdose of castles, let’s say, 1 castle for every 6 minutes of game time? Start to count from dark age of course!

Recorded Game


But then again, isn’t this game just amateurism compared to what these Germans have to offer? The last game might have been Castlemania, but HansGiebenrath is a downright Castlemaniac. 6 castles aren’t enough for him!

Recorded Game


Knights +20% HPs

A very straightforward bonus that comes with a twist. The bonus is often nicknamed “Franks free bloodlines”, but sadly this only goes for their knights. Making their other cavalry units (light cavalry and cavalry archers) less than average.

Compared to other civs with bloodlines, their knights are just the same strength, their cavaliers have 4 extra HP and their paladins 12 extra HP. In a paladin vs paladin fight that only means 1 extra slash. But their bloodlines are free, so as a Frank player should have one of the better knight rushes. Even though there is stiff competition from Huns, Teutons and even Vikings (just because of their strong economy, in the long run, the Viking cavalry won’t make the cut)

Farm upgrades free (require Mill)

The only real economical advantage the Franks have to offer. They don’t have to spend resources to upgrade their farms, which aids their boom quite a bit. Especially handy because a strong Frankish army relies a lot on food heavy units.

Team Bonus: Knights +2 LOS

A very handy bonus for people who like to raid with knights. It’s a the inverse of the Korean LOS bonus for villagers: the Koreans can see the enemy whereas the Frankish knights can see the villagers. A handy little feature because knights have a very small line of sight. (Even though you can also incorporate a scout cavalry in your army to boost your raiding abilities)

Funny enough, this bonus is probably not the best to enhance knights, even though Franks are the ultimate knight civilisation. But whether this bonus, or the Persian attack bonus against archers is the best, is very relative.

Throwing Axeman

  • Cost: 55 food, 25 gold
  • Attack: 7 (Elite: 8 )
  • Armor: 0/0 (Elite: 1/0)
  • HP: 50 (Elite: 60)
  • Range: 3 (Elite: 4)
  • Elite Upgrade: 1000 food, 850 gold

It can be seen as the archer unit amongst infantry units. Not only because it has a ranged attack but mainly because it needs to be in groups to be at full strength. And in big groups, it performs quite decent against almost every unit of flesh and blood. They can stand up “okay” against cavalry, they rape most infantry (except Teutonic knights, samurai and jaguar warriors) and don’t die too fast against skirmishers. In fact, they’re one of the best answers to Goth infantry floods.

Their major weakness are onagers and archers though. Both of which can be acquired easily and much cheaper than axemen. It’s clear by now that throwing axemen are actually support units. They perform excellent side by side with paladins to kill those pesky halberdiers.

Since games with Franks are very rare in 1v1 on  high levels, it’s even harder to find games where our favourite axe hurling units play the lead role. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and in fact, there is one in the archives of aocbox! Brace yourself for the aXe Files.

Bearded Axe

One of the cheaper unique technologies with only 400 food and 400 gold. It gives throwing axeman +1 range so if you’re betting high on these fellas, you can probably spare a dime or two for this upgrade. A very specific upgrade, but then again, so are axemen.

Dominance through the Ages

An oversight about dominance through the ages can be found in this article.

Dark Age

Franks are the bottom of the worse in the dark age. That is probably no grammatically correct sentence, but it illustrates how Franks perform in the dark age. They have no single bonus, so nothing to write about either.

Feudal Age

The first economical bonus kicks in with a free immediate farm upgrade. But sadly, that’s about it. Lacking bloodlines or a nice naval bonus makes Franks ache for survival. A wall might be an option too, and pray it won’t get busted before you arrive in the…

Castle Age

Time to shine, even though the Frankish castle age army is quite predictable and heavy on gold, it’s quite good. Their farm bonus carries on and even though knights are easily countered, they are still strong and fast. Expect to see some cheap castles pop up for defending key resources too.

Early Imperial Age

Franks are hard to rank in early imp. They’ll most likely arrive slower because of their expensive castle age army, especially if they didn’t manage to wreak enough havoc on the enemy. Otherwise they still fare well with an upgrade for their cavalry, which hopefully they already made in the castle age. In straight boom games, their early imp is kinda weak though.

Imperial Age

The last chance for Franks to really shine. Their paladins can now try to sow destruction in the enemy’s cities and with either axes or guns to back them up, they should be braced for any army. It’s a very micro intense and expensive army but lethal in the hands of a focussed player.

Post Imperial Age (no trade)

If your paladins couldn’t force victory, you won’t be able to count on their weaker brothers either. Frankish light cavalry is nothing more than “okay” and suffers badly from the lack of bloodlines. Their skirmishers lack all imperial blacksmith upgrades but luckily they still have good halberdiers. Franks are nevertheless one of the weaker brothers in trashwars.

Post Imperial age (with trade)

Franks can once more do what they’re good at: set up a good old fashioned raw force of paladins. It forces archer civs to use halberdiers too, which is not so population effective in long late games. Franks don’t have good manners to hold ground though. They might be able to use some castles early on, but that’s not so valuable compared to a bombard tower geared push.


Their army is expensive but their economy is not built to follow this. They have free farm upgrades but this effect kicks in rather late when the first farms run out and need reseeding. Late game they’re missing stone shaft mining and two man saw. Not crucial for their imperial armies, but it sure doesn’t help either.



Franks can be played as an infantry civ, they have no squires but have full fledged champions and halberdiers. A great way to surprise the enemy.


Historically, the French had bad experiences with archers (The Battle of Agincourt and the Battle of Crécy), and that shows off in the game too. They’re stuck with crossbowmen and it’s probably easier to say which upgrades they do have than the upgrades they don’t have. So in short: crossbowmen, heavy cavalry archers, elite skirmishers, hand cannoneers and the blacksmith upgrades up to castle.


A double edged sword here: the best paladins in game and one of the weakest light cavalry lines in the game. Obviously no camels either. Which makes them a bit tough to play because once gold runs out for a paladin pumping Spaniard or Hun, they can switch to hussars, while Franks are stuck with their less than average light cavalry.

So we have bad archers and equally bad light cavalry, time to think out of the box and win a game with a combo of these!

Recorded Game



Franks can get along with siege, they have nothing top notch but at least they have an upgrade for everything. They can play around with siege, but will fall short for a lengthy push.


In Frankwars, how rare they may be, monks actually play a key role. Gold is mined faster than knights and knights are an inevitable truth in a French clash. So with monks ready to convert some horses you may be able to tilt the scales to your advantage. Against other civs their monks are no more than average and for sure not suited for an all out monk rush.

This can be pulled up to extreme heights though: if a Frank would only make knights and monks, but monks technically beat knights, why not go all out on monks? Here’s a just-for-fun game between JorDan_23 and Multani, watch how Heresy plays a crucial role endgame!

Recorded Game



Since naval battles are nearly always decided by galleons, Franks can get along for a while. Once the imperial upgrades kick in, the lack of bracer hurts their fleet. They don’t have the last upgrade to elite cannon galleons either.


Despite lacking bombard towers, Franks have outstanding structures. Fully upgraded and cheap castles that can get up to 7000+ HP. Not a replacement for bombard towers but still a good ground keeper.

Time for a final record, we have had quite some arena records so far, this is because Franks are very hard to play with on arabia (no significant bonus and very limited and gold heavy army). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Here is a very good and straightforward rec between BuzZ_sletten and _Air_Breathe, showing how Franks are not always doomed on arabia.

Recorded Game



Franks are simply tricky to play with. They have a rather limited techtree and only excel in their heavy cavalry, which is not sustained by their economy. However, in teamgames they’re a force to reckon. A paladin pumping ally forces your enemy to make either camels, halberdiers or his own weaker paladins, which is not population effective late game.

Treat them carefully, they were my favourite civ the first time I played this game! :D

-Hercule Poirot

Written by Cysion

  • LukeMam

    I already made a post like this in the Teutons page comparing how they fare vs. different civs (what civs they’re good against, what civs they’re not so good against), and now I’m going to make a similar post like that here. The reason is that I see Franks as a civ that functions VERY similarly to the Teutons. Maybe slightly inferior, but that’s debatable.

    The first thing is that unlike Teutons, the Franks have SIGNIFICANT problems vs. Saracens. Whereas elite teutonic knights counter elite mamelukes beautifully, the Franks have no such unit that does the same. So that’s one civ that the Franks have trouble against – Saracens.

    Here are some other civs that I think Franks may have trouble against (I’m comparing this relative to the Teutons):

    Teutons – fast imperial + ETK flood. What can the Franks use to counter it? Only unupgraded scorpions come to mind.

    Mongols – Whereas Mongols can give Teutons a real hard time, here it’s probably more or less the same. Faster paladins is an advantage, but no ring archer armour and no siege onager, so they’re limited to using paladins. Honestly, I don’t know whether Mongols can defeat Franks more easily, or Teutons.

    Other camel civs (turks, byzantines, persians, chinese) – having camels mean that you’re denying the Franks from using paladins, which means that they could only use ETA + heavy scorpion combo, gunpowder, or infantry flood. Franks have less options than the Teutons (no siege onager and bombard tower)

    • barbarossa89

      Franks can actually counter mamelukes cost-effectively with throwing axemen, heavy scorpions, or hand cannons. Throwing axemen have two more range, are significantly cheaper, and are created faster. Contrast 25 gold each with 85 gold each.

      Teuton fast imperial + ETKs is pretty hard for any civilization to counter, so Franks are not unique in this regard. Perhaps they can go for a fast imperial + hand cannons to counter it.

      Frank paladins stand up better to mangudai than Teuton ones, it is true. And perhaps better than any paladins except the Persians’. Despite missing siege onager, Franks still get onager with siege engineers, allowing them to outrange the mangudai and kill them in two hits. Siege onagers are certainly more powerful with their area damage, but onagers aren’t that bad; especially with paladins in front.

      Against camel civilizations, Fanks can still use paladins with their ETAs, and just run behind them any time you encounter camels. Mixing in some halberdiers will make for a very scary time for camels.

      Franks do have a difficult time against Persians with war elephants, as no squires means the elephants can actually outrun halberdiers. They can still win in a gap because their heavy scorpions have siege engineers.

      • LukeMam

        I don’t think persian elephants outrun frankish halbs. Frankish halbs without squires have a speed of 1.0, and elite war elephants have a speed of 0.6, which is boosted to 0.84 when FU with mahouts and husbandry both researched.

        I got this from a unit chart.

        • barbarossa89

          I did some tests, and the halberdier is indeed marginally faster than an elephant. One halberdier, starting three spaces from a war elephant, took over thirty seconds to catch up in a chase. When there were two halberdiers, however, neither one ever caught up, as they kept colliding with each other. Neither one is a good track record for the halberdiers; especially considering that hand cannons, which are ranged and slay halberdiers, have a movement rate of .96; a speed that allows them to kill the halberdiers if there is any constant collision.

          Franks can do fine on open maps if they can do a good knight rush before the Persian gets bloodlines. They can win on closed maps by careful use of superior siege. But they are at a clear disadvantage to Persians early on, due to more starting resources and a faster TC for Persians, and later on, due to war elephants.

  • LukeMam

    There’s something kind of overlooked about the Frank’s 192 HP paladins, and I kind of discovered it today -> a FU halberdier can kill a 180 HP FU paladin with 5 hits, but require 6 hits to kill a Frankish 192 HP paladin. Yes that’s only one more hit, but it can make a huge difference. However, both die under the same amount of hits from a heavy camel.

  • Age2player

    - Hercule Poirot.

    Poirot was from Belgium, not France. I’ve read tons of the books about him, where he points it out.
    Altough by all means, I’m a huge fan of Poirot (and Miss Marple too for that matter), Agatha Christie was a brilliant crime author.

    • Cysion

      Being Belgian myself, I obviously know that ;)

      But he speaks French, so that’s why I use his quote.

  • LukeMam

    At first I thought “is the 25% cheaper castles really a big deal?”

    Turns out that it is. After thinking outside the box for a little bit, I realized that they’re quite possibly the ONLY civ that can do an initial castle drop without mining stone. Well, maybe the Saracens as well (mine stone and sell them for gold profit) but sooner or later they will start to mine gold. Franks don’t even need to touch a stone pile.

    Other civs need 650 stone for a castle. Franks need 488. This means that considering the starting 200 stone, and assuming that you haven’t built any towers or walls, Franks need 288 stone as opposed to 450 in order to build a castle.

    But wait, that’s not all. If you use the market to buy your stone, you’ll need 507 gold to buy 300 stone, whereas another civ would need 845 gold to buy 500 gold. 338 gold difference, that’s a lot!

    “But 507 gold is a lot, 200 more than mining 300 stone”. Well yea that’s true, but consider the fact that a) you’ll need another mine camp in order to mine stone, costing 100 wood, b) you won’t have the first stone upgrade researched (whereas you will for the first gold upgrade), and mining stone IS slower in general, which means that you could only mine 300 stone at the same speed for 400 gold, and c) you’ll waste villager time moving towards a stone mine, because 99% of the time you’ll be doing knight rushes when playing as the Franks, and it’ll be more efficient to use the gold for knights and for a castle.

    So basically, a Frank player might find it better to buy 300 stone to do a castle drop. And yes I know, a market costs 175 wood, but if you’re doing a straight fast castle, you’re going to be building a blacksmith and a market in feudal age.

    Another good thing about a fast castle (literally)? You’ve already got the prerequisite for imperial age! Franks are FAR from being fast at reaching imperial, but this could be a handy thing to have once you’re doing knight rushes. See a gold pile at your opponent’s base that you want to steal? You don’t need to move your villagers to a stone mine and do all those difficult micro – just sell 500 gold and build the castle :)

    Of course there are exceptions. You may have a stone mine and a gold mine very close together such that one mine camp will suffice.

    • Cysion

      Not sure if buying the castle is really “better” but it sure is an interesting train of thought :)

      • LukeMam

        Sorry I’m a bit biased because I don’t really build walls that often.

        You’re right, buying castles really depend on the situation. If you need to wall up, then you’ll definitely be mining stone, and the 25% cheaper castles means that you can afford more castles while you’re defending.

        However, assume that it’s an open map, or a map where you don’t want to wall (i.e. arabia, arena). And you don’t plan on mining stone that early because it’s a waste of villagers. You reach castle age as fast as you can, and you make sure you have enough resources to afford a knight rush. During the krush, there’s a big juicy gold pile at your opponent’s base that you want to deny the opponent from mining and/or you want to steal it. If you’re the Franks, you most likely have stockpiled ~500 gold, which means that you can quickly use that gold to drop a castle at at that site. If you’re playing another civ, however, you’d have to either mine stone, or buy 500 stone with 850 gold, which is 350 gold more (a LOT).

        It’s also a major advantage if you’re planning on doing castle drops on Arena.

  • GntlMn

    I would add this “free bloodlines” to their light cavalry also. This could revaluate their scout rush on an open map. :D A little compensation for their bad start and narrow tech tree… Without hussar tech, i don’t think it would be a big mess in balancing in imperial age. It would be a “free hussar” as “free bloodlines” now: double edged, with less attack and armour? Gold-heavy AND narrow tech tree, it is just unfair. I like this civ because of the old langue d’oil of the units (Sounds really authentic, i really love it!) and the paladins, but really, it is only played on higher levels by enthusiastic frenchmen, or am I wrong? I hate “this-civ-only-viable-in-TGs-with-trade”-like AOC-balancing. :/ Britons got major hit by the creators, but it is nothing compare to what franks got with the expansion pack, i think.

    • barbarossa89

      On the other hand, some civilizations, like Aztecs, really start to show their weaknesses on late imperial team games. The game is balanced, but not all civilizations are good on all maps in all game types. Aztecs are great for 1v1 Arabia, but not so good for michi. Franks are great in late imperial team games, and really are not shabby in 1v1 until the gold runs out. Turks are even worse off without gold.

      • GntlMn

        I know, my opinion is the same, balancing is a hard thing, or even impossible to all map types. But in this case, i don’t see, where is “that” shiny situation for franks. “In tgs with trade” is it very common? (I don’t know. But seems to be too narrow.) And really in this special situation they have only paladin. Is that +HP means so much? (I would bet, teutons can be better, they need fewer villies – more pop on palas. And they do have bombard towers, siege onagers too, in this situation, isn’t that crucial?)

        Comparing to other civs that have no paladins at all, nor bloodlines, ok, franks are good. But between civs with paladin, i would choose huns or teutons instead. Isn’t this embarassing, when franks have nearly all this, a powerful heavy cavalry?
        Of course these aren’t rhetorical questions, maybe i am wrong and i would like to know about it, if that is the case. This is my opinion, but i am not really experienced, so i am convincible.
        Somewhere on the forum i commented on the frank or teuton topic, where i wrote, frank can be as good as teuton. But now i think teutons can be used in much more situation with success.

        • barbarossa89

          Franks have several key advantages over Teuton. First of all, their castle are cheaper, allowing them to mass UUs and trebuchets more easily. Second, they get husbandry, allowing their paladins more raiding power, especially considering the LoS bonus for knights.

          Lastly, they get the “throwing axemen + paladin” combination, which is hard to counter. War elephants, Teutonic Knights, REALLY MASSED mangudai, and TONS of heavy scorpions in a gap can stop it, but it chews through most imperial age armies. Each counters the weakness of the other, and they cost the same two resources. Combine this with cannons to take out buildings and you have a destructive force that rolls over almost everything. The Mayans particularly can’t counter this triple combo on black forest. Goths also die to it. Add in heavy scorpions to kill Teutons, onagers to kill Mongols, and halberdiers to kill Persians. Obviously that will slow it down, but that’s a price worth paying for a powerful force.

          That’s the thing about throwing axemen: they have a normal attack at a range, and are far easier to mass than mamelukes.

          • GntlMn

            Ok, now i see, thank you. I forgot about uu, because i thought it isn’t “pop effective”.

        • Pikeman93


          Actually I was the one who made that thread. I think that Franks is way too specific of a civ overall. If you’re not doing castle drops or knight rushes, you’re better off using the Teutons.

          Franks may have husbandry and a better castle bonus, but the terrible feudal age is what REALLY kills the Franks. If you got rushed before clicking the “advance to castle” button, you are screwed. Out of all the civs that lack a feudal age bonus, Franks is the only one that misses Bloodlines. Even the Saracens have a better feudal age.

          Once castle age starts though, both civs are equal. After castle age, Franks are better on open maps (husbandry), and Teutons are better on closed maps (bombard towers and siege onagers).

          • http://N/A Thomas

            do u play online pikeman? seen you posting threads asking questions all the time

  • FrozzenFlame

    Probably but you had to make some onagers or skrims or CA for that.

  • CarlosFerdinand

    Lol that screen shot showing axemen raping champs seems to be from maximus raping me. Can u confirm?

    • MaximuS

      Well i thought same when i spotted that pic!! 11

      • Cysion

        I found it a funny manoeuvre of you ;)

        • MaximuS

          Well i found that playing some different ways of game is pretty funny. xD Hard to execute but sometimes it is rally funny. Anyway when i saw that pic i was like: wow i am famous!! 11

  • Andy01

    Ive seen franks played just for high hp paladins and mostly its just the players who want paladins. I use to find paladins hard to counter and usually pikemen get defeated by paladins unless 3times bigger but thats why i now use saracens for camels. If franks didn’t have throwing axemen they would be easily beat because really only paladins and axemen are the strong units a frank player has. Also nice article :)

  • raegan
    • Cysion

      Aaah, very nice find, can’t believe I forgot about it!

      You know if the players got other nicknames?

      • raegan

        Raider aka nC_johnny, Hans aka Rommel aka Peterkrause or something

  • Hugo

    One thing you forgot is their original power in AoK, where there were no bloodlines or hussars. Paladins with 32 more HP? Yes please!

    • BerJerk

      Franks should definitely have bloodlines, cause their power is pretty much concentrated on paladins.

      It would be really cool to have 212 HP palas with +2 LOS

  • Civiae

    I almost never see someone pick franks online, i only did it a few times in bf to spam throwing axemen as a surprise :P

    nice civ overview/guide!