Ancestors Legacy: Core Concepts & Faction Guide

By Charles Ellis 13 Jun 2019 0

Ancestors: Legacy is a squad-based RTS inspired by medieval history. Released in May 2018, at first glance this game is something one could think is more akin to Age of Empires II with its focus upon the medieval period. That impression could not be further from the truth, and it probably contributed to the difficulties many new players, myself included, encountered playing the game.

The aim of this guide is o lay out the various factions and the concepts that sets this peculiar beast apart from other RTS games. Stick around, Ancestors: Legacy is shaking up to be something quite special.


Key Concepts

Perhaps the easiest way to describe Ancestors: Legacy is that it is a medieval version of Company of Heroes. That may cheapen the appeal to be sure, but it’s useful for framing what sort of game we’re dealing with here. This is less about building a civilization and rationalising production than skilful use of limited units and capturing territory.

Capturing territory is done through attacking the main building of the various villages scattered about the map. These act similarly to Company of Heroes’ victory points where the side with more points gradually ticks the opponent’s side down until they run out and are defeated. At the same time these villages provide the player with two of the game’s three resource types; food, wood and iron. These resources vary in importance depending upon the faction you are playing (more on that later), suffice to say that some villages will be of greater importance to you than others. It is also worth noting as well that resources in team games are shared amongst all players (something I’ve seen more than one player get wrong and lead them to obsess over taking and retaking particular villages!).


Tactical combat in Ancestors: Legacy contains several new concepts. Whilst veterans of Total War will recognise the game’s emphasis upon flanking and morale, other concepts seem quite original. Most obvious are the two unit stances which take a little explaining. The default offensive stance make the unit move faster and charge when ordered at the enemy. Defensive stance by contrast is a bit more fiddly. Many units receive bonuses for charging an enemy, but a unit drawn up in defensive stance cancels the effects of the charge, giving the unit a significant advantage in combat. It also allows the units to see traps (a significant danger at present) although it will move slower. Mastering when to use these stances is key to victory. Units come with a variety of bonus abilities, some which are unlocked, others they receive immediately.

As units kill enemy soldiers they gain veterancy, eventually unlocking powerful upgrades that make them a real force upon the battlefield. Unit preservation, in a similar manner to Company of Heroes, becomes the name of the game in Legacy. If the battle is going badly, do not hesitate to retreat. Units will retreat a short way and then stop. As a pro-tip: double clicking the retreat button will send them all the way back to base, keeping them safe until you have time for them again.

The similarities with Company of Heroes do not end here however. All factions have three tiers to tech up to, with a variety of differing upgrades that play to their strengths. Some factions rely on tiers more than others, but teching up is of course better done sooner rather than later (it is fascinating the number of people who never tier up in a game). An early counter to your unit can have a devastating effect upon the course of the game. It is worth noting that although all factions can effectively counter all the units of all other factions, the timings for these units differ, allowing for certain units to be strong early on but fall behind as the game progresses and new counters arrive.


Ancestors works on a variation of the Rock-Paper-Scissors method of balance, with some exceptions and a few caveats (such as the aforementioned defensive formation). Generally speaking the system works as thus: Axemen (such as Cleaver infantry and Huscarls) beat Swordsmen (such as Slavic Infantry and Shieldmen), which in turn beat spearmen (such as Slavic Spears). Cavalry generally suffers heavily fighting spearmen, but makes up for that by being devastating on the charge against all units. Archers and other kinds of missile infantry break the mold slightly by being generally effective against most unit types, but are hopelessly outmatched if caught out in close combat. Talking of archers, be very careful when using those guys, whilst extremely effective, poor positioning will lead to them doing more damage to you than the enemy.

The Factions

The Germans

The Germans (sometimes also referred to as the Holy Roman Empire in Ancestors: Legacy) are the classic medieval faction, with solid armoured infantry and crossbowmen backed by the most powerful cavalry in the game. Thanks to their cheap armour upgrades (after an expensive faction wide upgrade to be sure), they have very good staying power, with their strength increasing the longer the game progresses. They begin with arguably one of the strongest early game infantry units (Cleavers) who are able to frighten away enemy units at will, although these units are hard-countered by Viking infantry. Special mention should be made of their crossbowmen, who have the strongest alpha strike of any archer unit in the game. Recommended for beginning and intermediate players.

The Vikings

The classic faction. No Early Middle Ages game can leave home without these guys. A solid infantry focussed faction, with effective archers to boot, the Vikings place a premium upon choosing their battles with the certainty of victory. This is all down to their mid-tier Berserker unit, which is deadly in battle but cannot retreat. Once committed to action there is no escape for them and losing of these units, particularly if they are veteran, can be a serious blow. Whilst everyone loves to pick Vikings (because, you know, Vikings!), the unit make up is tricky: their effective early game spear infantry becomes increasingly sidelined as the game progresses and the enemy’s archers become ever more numerous. That said, Vikings at all stages of the game are not to be sniffed at. Recommended for intermediate and advanced players.

The Anglo-Saxons

At first glance the Anglo-Saxons seem hopelessly outmatched by just about everything their enemies can throw at them. Whilst other armies have fancy infantry units from the beginning of the game, the Anglo-Saxons have to make do with slingers, a quite inferior unit at first glance. Not only that, but they must advance a tier before they can even build their (admittedly extremely good) infantry units. To top that all off, the Anglo-Saxons are the only faction currently in the game to have no cavalry units. The budding Anglo-Saxon player must play smart and concentrate their forces to achieve victory. The early research of the “Guerrilla Tactics” skill for your slingers is one way to bring the pain upon an unsuspecting enemy when they least expect it. Nonetheless it is their stolid infantry and (rather anachronistic) longbowmen where the Anglo-Saxons really shine. Their huscarls in particular are some of the most dangerous infantry in the game, soaking up arrows like no other unit can. Nor are some of the Anglo-Saxons other bonuses to be sniffed at. Their traps are cheaper than all other factions, allowing them to bring the pain upon unsuspecting enemy units. Cavalry in particular are especially vulnerable to a well laid trap. Recommended for intermediate to advanced players.

The Slavs

The Slavs combine some of the most effective archery units in the game with the most mobile. They are the only army currently able to field horse archers and with a solid teammate to take the enemy’s main attacks Slavic horse archers are almost untouchable (but beware of traps!). They are able to move to any area of the map in mere seconds and many a game has been saved by Slavic horse archers taking out an enemy village at a crucial moment. These horse archers are buttressed by effective medium cavalry that arrives a whole tier before German knights and which have a fearsome charge into the bargain. Slavic infantry meanwhile is adequate, with their swordsmen good in a fight (particularly when charging) but with poor health, meaning that taking villages can be a challenge. The problem for the Slavs in this writer’s experience is not so much that their infantry is bad, but that their opponent’s infantry is simply better. The same cannot be said for Slavic foot archers, whose abilities allow a ridiculous rate of fire that can result in units simply evaporating without even making contact with them. Recommended for intermediate players.


The game's first (and so far, only) DLC, Saladin's Conquestadded new factions but since at the time of writing the multiplayer scene is quite dead, we haven't gone into a full breakdown as to what the new entities do and what their themes are - perhaps in a future update. The single player content is very good, however, and we highly suggest you read our full review to find out more.

Ancestors: Legacy is a very different beast to other RTS offerings. We really enjoyed the changes to tired old formulas it offers. By the same token however these changes take getting used to. I hope this guide will be of use to the neophyte player.



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