The Portuguese are a naval civilization that focuses on solid late-game economy and bases their army strength in versatile gunpowder units and a powerful navy. Historically, Goths first and Arabic people after ruled the Iberic Peninsula before the Reconquista, which caused Portugal to become an independent kingdom from 1139 onwards and to have its territory fully consolidated by 1248. They have been a non-protagonist country in Europe for around two or three centuries. But from the 15th century, during the Age of Discovery, they were able to build a very powerful and large colonial empire, and for a brief period had the supremacy in the Atlantic Ocean before being outclassed by the Spanish, British, and Dutch Empires.
The Portuguese established tactical colonial bases in the New World and particularly on the African coasts thanks to their excellent navigation skills and organization. This implied great trade advantages opening them exclusive naval routes to India, Africa, and China, along with a wide control of the oceans. This would have been impossible without a powerful, highly advanced military and large fleet along with emperors who financed and oriented their political economics to create a strong colonial trade empire. All of these facts are reflected in the game by giving the Portuguese two unique units (the Organ Gun and the Caravel), and one of the most effective navies since they get +10% HP for all their ships and Carrack which gives their ships +1/+1 armor. They can also count on more accurate gunpowder units thanks to Arquebus which makes gunpowder units fire accurately at moving targets, and free Cartography from the Dark Age.
The Portuguese resolved the problem of being a small nation by basing their economy on foreign-opened exchange and production of their colonies. This meant that most of their income came from abroad, and had a critical impact on the employment in primary sectors and focus on military and exploring purposes. As a result, from the Imperial Age, they are the only civilization in the game able to collect resources without employing Villagers thanks to their unique building, the Feitoria.
The Portuguese were also among the first European countries, along with the Spanish, to successfully colonize South America. This operation boasted, as well as a prolonged serious inflation from the late 16th to early 17th centuries, their economy and made Portugal one of the wealthiest and richest European nations for several decades before their eventual military and commercial decline. The crown was able to finance exploring voyages and pay soldiers handsomely. The flourishing economy of the Portuguese was further stimulated as large trade companies started in risk trade investment, which too gave very high profits. The consequences of all this income is reflected in the reduced gold cost of all units, including military ones.
As a naval civilization, the Portuguese rely on a strong navy. Their ships are more durable due to their civilization bonus and Carrack and cheaper in terms of gold. Also, they get the Caravel, which can be an asset in large fights as it is capable of damaging multiple ships. On the land, the Portuguese are able to field a versatile army. Their Blacksmith is complete which results in their foot archers being fully upgradable, but their infantry direly misses Squires as it means they miss out on an important speed bonus. Their cavalry may seem underwhelming without the Paladin and Hussar upgrade, but their Cavalier gets all upgrades and is one of the most cost effective of all units thanks to the gold discount. The gunpowder units deserve a special mentioning for the Portuguese as they can all be fully upgraded and receive a comrade-in-arms with the Organ Gun and an important accuracy boost with Arquebus. Again, the gold discount comes in handy here as these units are all very gold-intensive. Outside of the Bombard Cannon, their siege weapons are way below average, however. Their Monks are very good. The defensive structures rank rather averagely, but their economy is strong.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Portuguese AI characters:
Afonso de Albuquerque (c. 1453 – 16 December 1515): A Portuguese general, a "great conqueror", a statesman, and an empire builder.
Afonso Henriques: The first King of Portugal. He achieved the independence of the southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia, the County of Portugal, from Galicia's overlord, the King of León, in 1139, establishing a new kingdom and doubling its area with the Reconquista, an objective that he pursued until his death in 1185, after forty-six years of wars against the Moors.
Afonso V (15 January 1432 – 28 August 1481): Called the African (Portuguese: o Africano), was King of Portugal and of the Algarves. His sobriquet refers to his conquests in Northern Africa.
Bartolomeu Dias: A nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer. He sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, reaching the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic, the first European known to have done so.
Duarte Pacheco Pereira: A Portuguese sea captain, soldier, explorer, and cartographer. He traveled particularly in the central Atlantic Ocean west of the Cape Verde islands, along the coast of West Africa and to India.
Henry the Navigator: A central figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and in the 15th-century European maritime discoveries and maritime expansion.
Joao I: King of Portugal and the Algarve in 1385–1433. He was referred to as "the Good" (sometimes "the Great") or "of Happy Memory" in Portugal. More rarely, and especially in Spain, he was sometimes referred to as "the Bastard". He is recognized chiefly for his role in Kingdom of Portugal's victory in war against the Kingdom of Castile.
Manuel I (31 May 1469 – 13 December 1521): The Fortunate, the king of Portugal and the Algarves. His name is associated with a period of Portuguese civilization that was distinguished by significant achievements both in political affairs and the arts.
Nuno Alvares Pereira: A Portuguese general of great success who had a decisive role in the 1383-1385 Crisis that assured Portugal's independence from Castile.
Pedro Alvares Cabral (c. 1467 or 1468 – c. 1520): A Portuguese nobleman, military commander, navigator, and explorer regarded as the European discoverer of Brazil.
Vasco da Gama: A Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient.
Vimara Peres (died 873): A ninth-century nobleman from the Kingdom of Asturias and the first ruler of the County of Portugal.
The Portuguese are the first civilization in Age of Empires II to have a unique building: Feitoria.
The Portuguese are the only civilization whose all Castle units cannot be healed by Monk.
If a player picks the Portuguese civilization, the bottom left and right of the navigation bar feature blue tiles known as Azulejo, a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework. The middle of the navigation bar will show the Portuguese shield.