Free upgrades for the Militia-line
Town Centres cost 50 stone instead of 100
Can build the Krepost from the Castle Age
Blacksmiths research upgrades in half the time
Konnik – Cavalry unit that continues as Infantry after being ‘killed’
Stirrups – 33% faster attacking speed for Scout-line, Knight-line and Konniks
Bagains – +5 melee armour for Militia-line
Missing Champions upgrade
Missing Crossbowmen and Arbalester
Access to Siege Ram and Siege Onager
Missing Fast Fire Ships, Heavy Demo Ship, Elite Cannon Galleon, Dry Dock and Shipwright
Missing Atonement, Sanctitiy, Faith and Block Printing
Only missing Ring Archer Armour in the Blacksmith
Access to all economy upgrades except Two-Man Saw
No Hoardings or Fortified Walls
No Gunpowder units (except Cannon Galleon)
The Bulgarians have a conventional start with 3 Villagers and a Scout Cavalry. They do not have any economy bonuses in the Dark Age so should aim to focus on progressing towards their stronger options later in the game.
The Bulgarians’ free upgrades for the Militia-line means that they will regularly start the game with a ‘Drush’ build order with the added benefit of the power spike of Men-at-Arms immediately upon reaching the Feudal Age. The free upgrade for Militia means that the Bulgarians have saved a small amount of resources early on.
The Bulgarians’ lack of the Crossbow upgrades make them ill-suited to using the Archer-line. This should be avoided. Instead, the Bulgarians are well-suited to follow up their Men-at-Arms with Towers as they will look to utilise the stone later in the game. If a Tower Rush is chosen as the follow-up, this should be seen as a way for the Bulgarians player to delay the opponent and damage their economy whilst they are developing their own and preparing for their stronger compositions later in the game.
The Men-at-Arms could be followed up with an Archery Range to produce Skirmishers. These are ideal for pushing Archers away from your walls in order to repair or re-wall behind after the opponent has started trying to break in. Using one Archery Range for production will keep the investment into this defence down and allow Villagers to be allocated to other resources, such as to stone to allow the building of Kreposts in defensive positions in the Castle Age.
An alternative approach for the Bulgarians is to go for a Scout build. They are likely to have some Cavalry contingent to their army in the later parts of the game so having a Stables will allow easy access to the necessary upgrades.
The Bulgarians are weak on water, missing the final upgrade on most of the unit-lines as well as Dry Dock and Shipwright. They should be avoided as a selection on water maps but if they have been randomed, then they can compete in the Feudal and Castle Age in terms of unit composition but do not have any bonuses that assist this.
The Bulgarians’ civilization bonus of Town Centres costing less stone is their first real economic bonus. It means that from the start of the Castle Age, instead of the usual 2 Town Centres that can be built (without mining extra stone), the Bulgarians are able to build an extra 4 of them – bear in mind that this would require 30 villagers on food to sustain production! This is very situational and instead, 100 of the stone could be sold in Feudal Age in order to speed up reaching Castle Age with a 3 Town Centre boom still possible.
If following up on a Scouts build in the Feudal Age, the Bulgarians are able to go towards Knight production and can benefit from the faster Blacksmith upgrades allowing them to take engagements slightly sooner.
A real strength of the Bulgarians is their Krepost. These are mini-Castles that allow you to produce the unique unit – the Konnik – from more buildings. This is a big disadvantage for most civilizations in producing their unique unit as they can normally only be trained from Castles – significantly limiting their production capacity. Kreposts only cost 350 stone so it is possible to begin building these and therefore begin training Konniks quicker than if a Castle was used. Bear in mind that Kreposts cannot perform all of the features of the castle, they cannot research technologies or upgrades or produce any other unit. In order to upgrade the Konniks to Elite in the Imperial Age or produce Trebuchets to push back the enemy’s Castles, you will need to build a Castle.
If the Bulgarians’ player has committed to Konniks, they become very hard for the opponent to counter as they are initially a Cavalry unit that is reincarnated as a Dismounted Konnik – Infantry unit – after it has ‘died’. This means that the common counters for Cavalry lose their bonus damage after it has ‘died’. The downside is that Konniks therefore require both the Cavalry and Infantry armour upgrades.
The Bulgarians are lacking most of the vital Monk upgrades so should not consider a Siege-Monk rush. If they do need to put forward pressure on, Kreposts can be used to do this as they have a higher damage output than towers and being around half the price of a Castle means it is easier to double up and deny more resources. They would be susceptible to a defensive castle as Castles still have higher range.
If the game lasts into the Imperial Age, the Bulgarians should be focusing on Cavalry or Infantry. Their Knights can be upgraded to Cavaliers but not to Paladins. However, the Stirrups technology – researched from a Castle – gives them a faster attack speed making them a very viable unit, particularly in 1v1s where the Paladin upgrade is less frequently used due to its high cost.
If taking the Infantry approach, then the Bulgarians get free instant upgrades all the way to Two-Handed Swordsmen. The extra melee armour given by the Bagains upgrade largely makes up for the lack of Champion upgrade as they both benefit from the same amounts of bonus damage. They are equally weak to ranged units with 1 base pierce armour each. With no access to Gunpowder units and a particularly weak Archer-line, the Two-Handed Swordsmen can be a good answer to other strong Infantry civilizations.
Konniks are still a strong option for the Bulgarians’ player in the Imperial Age and the player should have multiple Kreposts (as well as a Castle in order to get the Elite upgrade, Conscription and Stirrups) in order to maintain high production. With the multiple counters required to fight them, the opponent may use a composition of Halberdiers and Arbalesters. If this is the case, the Bulgarians are able to add in Elite Skirmishers as well as Siege Rams. With the addition of their own fully upgraded Halberdiers, this becomes a very difficult composition for an opponent to deal with.
The Stirrups upgrade also affects the Scout-line making the Hussar an even more effective raiding unit than normal in the late game. It also gives the Bulgarians a slight edge in a late game trash war.