|Cost|| 70 Food,|
|HP||110, 150 (Elite)|
|Attack||9, 12 (Elite)|
|Upgraded To||Elite Cataphract|
|Cost to Upgrade||1600 Food |
In Age of Empires II, the Cataphract is a unique unit to the Byzantines which has an attack bonus against Infantry. In the Conquerors expansion, the Byzantines can research Logistica, which gives trample damage to the Cataphract. Without the upgrade, Cataphracts are roughly equal in statistics to Paladins; however, with Logistica and their attack bonuses, Cataphracts become superior to Paladins overall. The unit can only be trained from the Castle.
Cataphracts can be improved by researching technologies from the Blacksmith from Castle Age and beyond. Once the Imperial Age is reached, Cataphracts can be upgraded to Elite Cataphracts.
The Elite Cataphract is an upgrade of the Byzantine unique unit. It is available in the Imperial Age. Like their predecessor, Elite Cataphracts have an attack bonus versus infantry which greatly reduces their weaknesses against infantry units such as Pikemen. Researching Logistica gives this unit the ability to cause trample damage to all units surrounding it. Although the Elite Cataphract has considerably better stats than its predecessor, the overall cost, speed and armor remains the same.
Due to its trample damage, good statistics, and bonus against foot-troops, the Elite Cataphract is probably the unit with the fewest weaknesses. Surprisingly, Elite Cataphracts are effective against almost all units which have bonus attack against mounted units such as Heavy Camels or Mamelukes since they have an innate resistance to the anti-cavalry bonus. However, Halberdiers are still a threat to them.
A fully upgraded Cataphract can deal as much as 14 attack damage. They have 12 bonus damage to infantry (18 after the Logistica upgrade) and area attack of 5 damage to units close to it after the Logistica upgrade. Elite Cataphracts also have an additional 16 bonus defense. This means that Elite Cataphracts can sustain 16 more bonus damage dealing with enemy's attempted counters. For instance a Halberdier deals 32 bonus damage against cavalry, this will be reduced to 16. The anti-cavalry bonus of Camels (10 bonus damage) and Mamelukes (9 bonus damage, 12 for elite) are nullified. Heavy Camels with a bonus of 18 only have a small effect.
Countering Elite CataphractsEdit
Though Halberdiers do not deal as much bonus damage to Cataphracts as they do to Paladins, Halberdiers are still a moderately good choice to counter Cataphracts. It is always advisable to send large groups of Halberdiers against Cataphracts, since Cataphracts have a very high damage bonus against all kinds of infantry and will win in one on one combat. The groups of Halberdiers should be managed carefully since sending them into battle sporadically and sparsely would lead to little or no effect against the Cataphracts. While dueling, each hit of a Cataphract deals a damage of as much as 30 HP to a Halberdier, but a Gothic player could produce an army of Halberdiers to outnumber the Cataphracts.
This is one of the best tactics to engage Cataphracts, if enough Food and Gold is available. Paladins can wipe out a Cataphract army and even go on the offensive with little effort. Even though Cataphracts have trample damage, it doesn't do much to Paladins. Fully upgraded Paladins have 18 Attack and 180 HP and Elite Cataphracts have 14 attack and 150 HP. That means Cataphracts lose to Paladins in one-on-one battles. The Franks have +20%HP on each Knight so Frankish Paladins win even more easily. Byzantines and Celtic Paladins, which lack some vital upgrades, barely manage to defeat Catapharacts in mass battles and while fully upgraded Cavaliers (eg Turks, Chinese etc) can defeat the Catapharact one-on-one, they are defeated in mass battles due to the Catapharact's trample damage.
Archers, Hand Cannoneers, and ScorpionsEdit
Cataphracts are weaker than other cavalry when engaging ranged units, or specifically units that cause Pierce Damage. Cataphracts have lower Pierce Armor compared to Paladins or Hussars, 1+4 once fully upgraded. That should show that they do not fare well against masses of archers. Large groups of Arbalests placed wisely can stop approaching Cataphracts pretty well. It is also good to make use of unique units if the player has Archer-type unique units. Groups of Longbowmen, backed up with some inexpensive units like Halberdiers can devastate Cataphracts from a distance. Other than the Longbowmen, units like Chu Ko Nu, Korean War Wagons, Mayan Plumed Archers with backup would be a good combination to take out Cataphracts. Mongol Mangudai, or Heavy Cavalry Archers formed properly would also make fresh meat out of Cataphracts. Hand Cannoneers and Scorpions, with their even greater pierce attack, can be used to greater effect against Catapharacts. Even massed Skirmishers can be used when in a pinch.
On the other hand, it is important to remember that Cataphracts move at the same speed as Knights and can close in the distance on ranged units rather quickly. Even if they have a moderate attack (12+2), most ranged units have low hitpoints and no melee armor. However, even with Husbandry upgrade they are still slower than cavalry archers. The Mongols have an advantage since their Cavalry Archer and Mangudai fire 20% faster than usual and in conjunction with the Thumb Ring they can devastate Cataphracts.
The Persian War Elephant, with its massive amount of attack and HP can easily defeat Cataphracts.
At maximum stats, the Hunnic Tarkan has one attack point more, but one armor point less compared to the Cataphract. One-on-one, the Tarkan loses by a narrow margin, despite having an advantage of 20 hitpoints, due to its slightly slower attack. In massed battles, the Tarkan simply lacks the sheer endurance of the Paladins to negate the trample damage of Elite Catapharacts. Also worth noting is that while the Japanese Samurai has a bonus attack against all unique units, the Catapharact's bonus attack against infantry far exceeds the bonus that the Samurai has against unique units.
The Byzantine army carried on many of the military traditions of the old Roman Empire into the Middle Ages. This was a professional force that was well trained and well led. Officers studied tactics and command. The army was organized into formal units that maintained their own traditions for centuries. The best units in the Byzantine army were partially armored cavalrymen called cataphracts. They fought with several weapons, including the bow and sword. With plains to the east and north of their empire, the cataphract was ideally suited for combat against the unarmored cavalry of their enemies. The Byzantine army went into decline partially because it lost the plains of Asia Minor from which it had drawn both horses and cavalrymen for service as cataphracts.