Known as the "Land of the Morning Calm," the Korean peninsula has, for most of its history, been anything but calm. Cursed by geography, Koreans have been forced to maintain their unique cultural identity surrounded by larger, stronger, and more aggressive civilizations, namely the Mongols, Chinese, and Japanese. From its earliest beginnings, Korea has been the scene of intense dynastic struggles. Though unified in the late seventh century, it was the Koryo who would rule Korea as a distinct nation-state beginning in the tenth century. But Koryo rule was itself only a transitional period. Three centuries later, a Mongol invasion conquered the Koryo, leaving Korea a dependent state for almost 100 years. In 1392, King Taejo founded the Chosun dynasty (the peoples portrayed in Age of Empires) and began a reign that is often referred to as Korea's golden age. Politically, the Chosun grew close to the Ming rulers of China, so when the Japanese landed in Korea during the late 1500s, the Chinese came to its aid. The Chosun armies forced the Japanese to withdraw after a protracted conflict lasting seven years, proving themselves to be fierce warriors on land and innovative tacticians at sea. Although the peninsula would remain a place where foreign ideologies could meet and do combat, the Chosun maintained its rule until the 20th century.
- Villagers have a +2 LOS (line of sight radius).
- Stone miners work 20 percent faster.
- Tower upgrades are free (bombard tower requires chemistry).
- Tower range increased by +1 in the castle age, +2 in the imperial age (for a cumulative total of +2).
- Unique Technology
Shinikichon: +2 increase to the range of mangonels and onagers.
- Unique Units
- War wagon (elite war wagon)
- Turtle ship (elite turtle ship)
- Team Bonus
Mangonels and onagers have a +1 range.
Koreans are often called the "Byzantines of the Far East" because of the impressive and tremendously strong fortifications they can build. Their civilization is blessed with several unique advantages that aid them in constructing elaborate protective barriers and backing them with lavish numbers of deadly towers. First and foremost is the increased speed (20 percent faster) at which Korean villagers mine stone. Forget the percentage for a moment and think of this in terms of getting an extra miner for every five villagers you put to work mining stone.
Since stone is the primary ingredient for building walls, towers, and castles, mining stone 20 percent faster means that, on average, Koreans are usually among the first civilizations that can wall in their villages - and protect them adequately with watch towers. Once the Koreans reach the castle age, their watch towers are automatically upgraded at no cost to guard towers. In addition to this free upgrade, castle age towers have their range increased by +1. (In the imperial age, these towers are upgraded to keeps and have their normal range increased by +1 again for a cumulative total of +2.) The upshot of these range increases is that Korean towers can fire farther than all but a select few opposing units.
Korean melee units, both foot and mounted, are neither fish nor fowl, as the saying goes. They're neither good nor bad, they're simply functional. The true strength of the Korean military is based upon its ranged support units (that is, units that hurl stones, spears, arrows, and so on). The tech tree makes a variety of these units available in the castle age, including hand cannoneers, once chemistry is researched. Among the best of these ranged units is the unique Korean war wagon. The unique technology shinikichon further strengthens your ranged support capability by increasing the range of your mangonels and onagers by +2.
The Korean navy can often play a decisive role in any game involving a map that features large bodies of water. With the exception of the demolition ships and elite cannon galleon, all manner of naval shipping is available, including a unique Korean unit known as a turtle ship. The turtle ship is an armored warship with a powerful, albeit short-range, cannon. Though it is expensive, the turtle ship has a tremendous capacity to absorb damage. As long as you have villagers nearby to keep them well maintained, these vessels will be unbeatable.
Of all the Asiatic civilizations represented in the game, Koreans are the least equipped to advance into the feudal age. They start out slow, gain momentum gradually, and never really peak until the imperial age - if they last that long! The Koreans suffer from what can rightly be termed "an embarrassment of riches." Their army contains a wealth of ranged support units, and while it might seem strange to think of this as a weakness, having too much of a good thing in this case is likely to lead to confusion and decision. Players wind up asking themselves the question: What type of army am I trying to create? More importantly, they ask: What are the units I must produce to best support this army I'm building? The answers aren't as obvious when playing the Koreans. Many times, the Korean army will simply end up being a mish-mash of unit types with no real tactical purpose or effort at coordination.
If the Koreans are going to lose the game, they will lose it early on. There are a couple ways this can happen. First, all the stone mining advantages in the world won't mean a thing if there's no stone to be had. Watch out for other civilizations attempting to keep you away from stone piles. Secondly, Koreans are vulnerable to feudal age cavalry rushes because of their lack of camel units and because it's likely that your miners will be concentrating on mining stone rather than gold. Less gold means fewer cavalry units; leaving you with only footmen to oppose a mounted attack.
Although the Koreans have access to a wide range of technology, most of what they are prevented from researching happens to be concentrated in the monastery. The missing technologies include heresy, atonement, redemption, and illumination and represent 40 percent of the total number of monastery technologies. Of these, the lack of atonement and redemption is the most serious deficiency. It means Korean monks cannot convert enemy buildings or other monks.
Finally, the Korean navy is among the strongest in the game, especially when turtle ships are added to the mix. Because the cost of building these vessels (200 wood and 200 gold) is high by comparison, it's easy to go overboard (so to speak) when building them. A few of these vessels go a long way. So before you wind up with a massive fleet of turtle ships, consider that for the cost of building five turtle ships, you could produce dozens of champion swordsmen units.
General Dark Age Strategies
Unlike the other Asiatic civilizations, once you discount the +2 village LOS radius, the Koreans have nothing in the way of unique abilities that would aid them in the Dark Age. Feel free to conduct a standard opening. Put your three villagers to work acquiring food and wood, while your scout cavalry unit scours the countryside looking for resources and key terrain features. Since your objective is to get into the next age as quickly as possible, forego assembling a huge civilian workforce just yet. Chop enough wood to build one or two houses, then sink your food resources into advancing to the feudal age.
General Feudal Age Strategies
Now that you've made it to the feudal age, you can begin to erect wall sections made of stone instead of wood. You also can begin building watch towers, another important advantage. Look upon towers not only as a means of defending yourself, but also as a means of attacking your enemy. Towers are great area denial weapons. Find out where your opponent's villagers are working, then build a tower there. You may not kill many of them, but you'll certainly keep them from coming back. (This is especially true with regard to villagers tending farms.) Disrupting your opponents this way will have lasting - and crippling - effects.
General Castle Age Strategies
Korean players must be content to keep a low profile and hope that everyone else in the game forgets how powerful they suddenly become once they reach the castle age. But, now that you've made it to the castle age, you have the means to be a little more aggressive. As far as strategies are concerned, the Koreans have access to a wide range of units, technologies, and military options. As stated earlier, most problems will stem from indecisiveness over the type of army to build not from any lack of resources.
General Imperial Age Strategies
Having reached the imperial age, the Koreans are one of a few civilizations that can actually win the game consistently by remaining on the defensive. With their stone gathering bonus and ability to research chemistry, masonry, and architecture, Koreans can simply build a wonder, seal themselves behind their walls, and wait for the clock to run out. The free tower upgrade advantage ensures that every tower will be either a keep or a bombard tower. The enhanced range of these deadly towers is guaranteed to take a dreadful toll of any enemy force trying to bash its way in.