The Italian civilisation in Knights and Barbarians represents the Most Serene Republic of Venice, arguably the most powerful and influential state in medieval Italy. It played a major part in many wars of the period, was definitely one of the more expansionist powers in Europe, and one of the nations that helped shape history for many centuries after the end of the Middle Ages. A seafaring nation at heart, the Republic of Venice was the dominant naval power in the Adriatic and Aegean seas, and quite possibly in the larger Mediterranean Sea as well. Its naval power could be an enormous asset to Venice's allies, and a thorough pain in the backside for Venice's enemies. This manifested itself most obviously at the Battle of Lepanto, where a combined fleet of many European countries dealt a crushing defeat to the naval ambitions of the Ottoman Empire. In that particular battle, Venice's navy on its own was responsible for more than half of all the vessels fighting on the Holy League side.
This naval superiority was always the obvious goal for the Republic, with the city of Venice, the Italian Home City in K&B, not located on the mainland, but on a group of islands in the Venetian Lagoon. The city, then, was a natural fortress, protected by a great deal of water on all sides. Being isolated from the Italian mainland to more or less of an extent, and eager to differ from their Italian rivals, notably the Republic of Genoa, Venice developed a culture of its own, recognisably Italian but also recognisably different. The Venetian language started to be more and more distant from the other Italian languages in this period, and with Venetian Gothic, an architectural style even developed that was specific to the city of Venice, to be found nowhere else in the world. Being a cultural centre was never an issue for Venice, with much of the city's trade income being spent on patronage of the arts, and trade income Venice always had aplenty, coming from its many colonies in the Balkans and Greece. Venice also welcomed the Crusades as an economic opportunity, and like many Italian states, made enormous amounts of money ferrying crusaders from and to the Holy Land. Venice however, was a bit more thorough in its admiration for the Crusades, as shown by the Italian AI personality in K&B, Doge Enrico Dandolo. He carefully managed to redirect the Fourth Crusade from the Holy Land to the Byzantine Empire, where Constantinople was sacked, and Byzantine power broken to such an extent that the empire never quite recovered. All this, of course, gave Venice even more opportunities to establish colonies in the Aegean, solidifying its position as a major power in the Mediterranean for several hundred more years...
The Republic of Venice continued to exist long after K&B's timeline ended, and it would take until the 18th century before Venetian power started collapsing, until in 1796, the Most Serene Republic was forever brought to an end by the hand of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Italians are part of the European civset, which means they get the Town Square and its Feudalism system, as well as the possibility to fire up a Revolution, and access to Royal Guard upgrades. The Italians start each game with 6 Peasants, 2 Crates of Food and 2 Crates of Wood.
The Italians have a choice of the following three religions:
- Catholicism (main religion): + Priests have more hitpoints, - Priests move more slowly.
- Waldensian Faith (reformed religion): + villager units have more hitpoints, villager units move more quickly, - Priests have less hitpoints, Priests move more slowly.
- Orthodoxism (outside religion): + villager units have more hitpoints, - villager units gather coin at a slightly slower rate.
The Italians can choose any of these three cities in the Feudalism system:
- Breschia, Lombard Stronghold: benefits the cost of training infantry and the strength of defensive buildings.
- Verona, City of Schemes: benefits the Lord and the recruitment of mercenaries.
- Ravenna, Jewel of Romagna: benefits coin gathering rates and the research cost of technologies
The Italians can revolt to either of these three late medieval powers:
- Florence: unlocks the recruitment of gunpowder units*
- Serbia: sends Serbian Hussar mercenaries
- Sicily: sends Gun Carracks
* = Training gunpowder units is unlocked by the Black Powder tech, which can only be done in Age V. Since it is impossible to advance to Age V after a revolution, revolting to Florence is the only way to attain these powerful units as a revciv.
The bonuses of the Italians serve to make them truly deserving of their status as The Naval Civilisation, and also make them a very straightforward economic booming civilisation, the idea here being that their economy is second to none, especially in early ages, but this is offset by a lack of military bonuses, which other civilisations do have.
- Italian Merchant Ships generate coin
This minor bonus gives the Italians an extra edge on naval maps, as befits The Naval Civilisation. The Merchant Ship is an Italian unique unit that replaces the Cog and has similar fighting capabilities, but unlike the Cog, it autogathers coin whenever idle. As mentioned, this is only of any use on naval maps.
Mercenaries and ships are both cheaper for the Italians
This bonus impacts the ability of the Italians to build an effective navy, and also represents the historical tendency of Italian states to recruit a great number of mercenaries into their armies. This bonus goes very well with the previous bonus, as the Italians can use their comparative strength in gathering coin in order to build either a strong army or a strong navy just a little bit more effectively than other civs can.
The Italians start the game with a free Market
This bonus gives the Italians an edge in their Age I economy, as they do not have to waste valuable wood and villager seconds on building a Market. It also serves as a platform for the next bonus, which is the main economic drive for the Italian player.
The Italians receive a free Peasant with every researched Market technology, and a free Fishing Boat with every researched Docks Technology
This bonus is a two-sided affair. The latter serves to further increase the Italians' strength on naval maps, while the former is an all around powerful bonus that gives the Italian economy a solid early boost, and allows the Italians to get ahead of their enemies before they are overtaken militarily.
- Man-at-Arms (Barracks, II), becomes the Legionario Veneziano with a Royal Guard upgrade
- Spearman (Barracks, II)
- Halberdier (Barracks, III)
- Archer (Archery Range, II)
- Pavise Crossbowman (Archery Range, III), unique to the Italians. More powerful than the Crossbowman it replaces, but without the defensive hitpoint bonus
- Skirmisher, disabled for the Italians
- Hand Gunner (Barracks, V), becomes available after researching Black Powder
- Stradiot (Stables, II), unique to the Italians. Slightly stronger than the Light Cavalry it replaces
- Knight (Stables, III), becomes the Lancia Spezzata with a Royal Guard upgrade
- Cavalry Archer (Stables, III)
Artillery and Siege Units
- Sapper (Siege Workshop, II)
- Ballista (Siege Workshop, III)
- Catapult (Siege Workshop, III)
- Ram (Siege Camp, II)
- Mantlet (Siege Camp, II)
- Siege Tower (Siege Camp, III)
- Bombard (Siege Workshop, V), becomes available after researching Black Powder
Other Land Units
- Militia (Town Center, I)
- Lord (I)
- Peasant (Town Center, I)
- Farmer (Manor, I)
- Priest (Church, II)
- Bishop (Church, III), first has to be unlocked through the HC
- Dog (Manor, I)
- Fishing Boat (Docks, I)
- Merchant Ship (Docks, II), unique to the Italians. Similar to the Cog it replaces, but autogathers coin when idle
- Galley (Docks, III)
- Carrack (Docks, IV), becomes replaced by the Gun Carrack after researching Black Powder