They brought thither a swift twenty-benched long-ship well manned, which they had before used in sea-roving.
— Egil's saga
The terror of many Christians in littoral Europe for centuries, the Longship exemplifies the fierce enterprising spirit of the Scandinavian peoples. Painted in lurid colours like a bloody serpent, and with a garishly ornamented sail, this unit exemplifies the sheer excess and technological prowess of the Norse peoples and their hosts or subjects, including England, Scotland and Russia. The longship performs as well as it looks too as a warship - in the Dark Ages, it has nothing to fear save fire, and can be used in a variety of roles.
There is one problem with the longship, however, and that is its inability to bombard enemy fortifications. Although it can hold its own well against ships and archers on land, it is near-incapable of destroying enemy forts as easily as roundships do, so a good defence for many factions facing potential assault with longships is to build forts and castles by the shore to defend their ports ... and to keep fire ships at hand at all times. Also, although the Longship can, apart from the Tower Ship, be the best Dark Age naval unit, it is supplanted by the Roundship in the Castle Age. If you are playing as England, do all you can to upgrade longships to roundships without delay. For the more disunited Norse, Scots and Russians, however, the longship is the only unit you will have well until the War Cog becomes available. Fortunately for you, it is nonetheless rather faster and cheaper to build and use, so you should be able to survive a defensive game, by using your more expendable longships along with fire ships to overwhelm the opposition. Just be careful of the Venetian heavy galleys, as those units will destroy anything that comes too close to them.
Longships were a common sight in Northern European waters, and were not merely confined to the Viking raiders, but were adopted by other peoples as well, such as the Saxon invaders who eventually founded England. As it can be expected, there was no one "perfect" longship, but there existed a variety of longships built in the Scandinavian style for all manner of use and environments: for instance, Norwegian "esneccas" had a deeper draught suited for use in Scandinavian fjords as opposed to Danish galleys meant for shallow harbours. Muslim sources in Spain attest to this difrerentiation with an account of a Viking invasion in 844 CE which involved large markib and smaller qarib (these were names the Moors gave to the Norse ships). Longships were so popular duing the early Mediaeval era that they were used well into the 12th century, culminating in even larger vessels, such as the legendary Ormen Lange, built by the Norwegian ruler Olaf Trygvasson in the 10th century. The Normans who assaulted England, Palestine and Southern Italy also used longships to transport troops, mounts and supplies to the field. Longships were eventually eclipsed by cogs, which could support more weight and freeboard, which led to easier boarding and eventually easier mounting of firearms, although variants of these ships were used by the Russians well into the Early Modern Era.
- Medium ship with powerful attack and range, strong against warships and warriors alike, but worthless against buildings.
- Fire Hazard — Fire ships are most powerful against any form of heavy ship, so keep these as far away from your longships at all costs. On the other hand, save a few of your own for attacks against China and Japan, which have the Tower Ship which is far stronger than your own Longships.
- Keeping Up With The Joneses — Although weaker than a common Roundship, or even the Oriental War Junk, Longships are cheaper and faster, allowing you to create more of them to surround and flank enemy fleets. Their only flaw is that they are incapable of bombarding fortresses.
- Technological Race — It would be better to upgrade this unit to a roundship once it is available, although the Scots, Norse and Russians must wait for the Cog to be available instead.
Longships are also used by the Spanish, and are the very ships that spawn from Dockyards, although they are soon upgraded to Roundships. This is actually somewhat historically accurate, as there is evidence that some Vikings did raid and settle in Spain (after being defeated by Muslim forces, and converting to Islam). Some may have introduced shipbuilding techniques to the locals (in the form of the Portuguese poveiro). The only way for Spain to obtain Longships, however, is through its heavy ship bonus which spawns units at the dock.