Age of Empires II: The Conquerors/Spanish
When you look up great imperialist empires in the dictionary, there should be a picture of 16th century Spain pasted there. Five hundred years previous to this, however, the territory of Spain itself was part of a larger Islamic world. Late in the 11th century, minor Christian states in the north of Spain began a campaign to retake the Iberian peninsula known as the Reconquista. Over the next several hundred years, Arabs were driven out. The last Islamic state, Granada, fell in 1492. Ironically, the year 1492 would figure prominently in the next great chapter in Spanish history, for it was in this year that Christopher Columbus made the first of several voyages of discovery to the new world. With their colonial aspirations in the known world held in check by England and France, Spanish nobles, known as conquistadors, were quick to carve out an empire in the Americas. Aided by advanced technology and the spreading of disease to local populations, the Spanish destroyed once great empires in a relatively short time using relatively small armies. Taking a cue from their experience fighting the Arabs centuries before, after conquering the territory, the Spanish sought to conquer the people as well by the aggressive introduction of Christianity.
 Unique Features
- Builders work 33 percent faster (except on wonders).
- Blacksmith upgrades do not cost gold.
- Cannon galleons benefit from ballistics technology.
- Unique Technology
Supremacy: Villager combat skills are increased.
- Unique Units
- Conquistador (elite conquistador)
- Team Bonus
Trade cart and trade cog carry 33 percent more gold
One of the biggest advantages the Spanish possess is that it can research every blacksmith technology in the game, and it can do this research without spending gold. If you add up the savings, it amounts to 1,695 in gold - a very significant sum. But aside from the obvious benefit of low-cost armor upgrades, what this advantage really does is let the Spanish player quickly fund research on monastery technologies; and of these two benefits, the latter is perhaps the more important one.
The Spanish conquerors are very strong when it comes to the power of their religion. Every monastery technology in the game is open to them. Because of this, your monks will be at least as strong and fast as everyone else's and have a conversion range that's at least as long. Since few other civilizations have access to all the technologies, you know right away that your monks are guaranteed to be better in some respect. The primary benefit of having strong monks is, of course, the ability to convert enemy buildings and other monks. Oh - and don't forget about your missionaries either. Except that they can't carry relics, these shorter-range monks are every bit as good, plus they can keep up with your conquistadors.
The Spanish feature a standard mix of infantry and cavalry. Most can be upgraded several times throughout the course of the game. For example, the lowly Spanish militia unit can be upgraded four times until it reaches champion status. Because infantry units are less expensive than mounted units (at least in terms of gold), it is easy to find yourself treating them as nothing more than cannon fodder. This is a mistake, and if you fall victim to this mentality, you should immediately stop what you're doing and concentrate on producing mounted units instead.
Besides, if you're looking for real cannon fodder, consider using villagers instead of infantry. Spanish villagers begin the game with 25 hit points, no armor, and an attack strength of 3. By the time you reach the imperial age, researching supremacy increases their hit points by +40, gives them modest armor bonuses (+2/+2), and increases their attack strength by 6! Considering the cost (400 food/250 gold), researching supremacy is a minor investment with a big payoff.
Given these stats, you're almost justified in creating villagers for the sole purpose of entering combat. Couple supremacy with sappers, and you wind up with villagers on steroids. Not only can they perform combat duties, they retain their ability to repair structures and siege equipment. It's like producing your own little contingent of combat engineers or seabees. Don't pass up the opportunity to employ villagers in these non-standard roles.
Mounted units, such as the heavy cavalry archer, paladin, hussar, and conquistador, are some of the strongest units in the Spanish inventory. Because they are expensive, you can never produce as many as you need. Still, cavalry units such as these should compose roughly 35 percent of your total military force. They represent the attack wing of your army and, without them, you concede the initiative to your neighbors.
Although the Spanish do not receive any bonuses when it comes to naval construction, they do have access to every naval technology and upgrade available in the game. By the time the Spanish reach the imperial age, their docks can produce fast fire ships, heavy demolition ships, and elite cannon galleons. (Spanish cannon galleons benefit from ballistics, remember.) No other navy can boast this kind of strength and versatility at sea. Of course, this is really only a benefit on maps containing open bodies of water. Nonetheless, the Spanish navy will rule the waves in most games.
Considering how strong the Spanish ultimately become, they are surprisingly weak during the early stages of the game. As is the case with many civilizations, their only real chance at winning the game lies in getting to the castle age in a hurry, preferably with lots of resources already stockpiled. The trouble is, however, the Spanish are not particularly well equipped to gather resources. They possess no economic or resource-gathering bonuses unless you factor in the trade bonus they receive when playing as a member of a team.
Considering that the two things the Spanish need most, especially late in the game, are food and gold, it's a shame that they're preventing from researching gold shaft and crop rotation. In practical terms, what this means is that you'll be forced to maintain a large number of villagers mining gold and tending fields right until the end. This is particularly troublesome, since every villager behind the lines counts toward your maximum population limit and more importantly, is one villager fewer you can use as a combat unit after researching supremacy.
The Spanish are prevented from producing crossbowmen or arbalests but instead of considering this a weakness, think of it as a blessing in disguise. You're going to get much more mileage out of other types of ranged units. This just keeps you from wasting resources. You're also prevented from producing camel units. Again, you're response should be: So what! The main benefit of camel units is the bonus they receive when fighting cavalry. As the Spanish, you're really not in need of any anticavalry bonuses. After researching bloodlines and husbandry, your equestrians are among the finest in the game.
 General Dark Age Strategies
Although the Spanish have a 33 percent increase in speed when it comes to constructing buildings, they have nothing in the way of resource-gathering bonuses. For this reason, the Spanish should stick to a standard opening. Have one of your three villagers look for food, have the second one start chopping wood, and the third build a house. Once the house is built, raising your population limit to ten, your town center can start cranking out additional villagers. Instead of racing to the feudal age like other civilizations, the Spanish must use their food points to raise villagers instead. The optimum size for a Dark Age workforce seems to be twelve. Don't worry about advancing to the next age until after you reach this number.
 General Feudal Age Strategies
Since the majority of new construction occurs in the feudal age, the fact that your villagers work 33 percent faster works to offset the resource-gathering bonuses possessed by other civilizations. By itself, this benefit won't win the game for you, but it'll help in keeping others from getting too far ahead. The Spanish must assign the vast majority of their villagers to harvesting food. Obviously, fast food sources are preferred, but in the absence of wild game, build at least a half dozen farms near your town center. Second only to acquiring food is mining gold. Fortunately, your first real advantage comes once you build a market and begin trading with other players. Spanish trade bonuses produce a lot of extra gold - and you're going to need it. This makes pursuing trade alliances well worth the effort.
 General Castle Age Strategies
Until now, the Spanish have been just hanging on, barely in the game, trying to stay out of everybody's way. All this changes with the coming of the castle age and the availability of chemistry. Gunpowder is the Spanish player's best weapon. Although your main attack effort will likely be based upon conquistadors later on, at this stage of the game, you should concentrate on infantry units. Why? Infantry units are less expensive and can be produced in greater numbers. More importantly, however, you should expect to have to defend against a castle age rush. For this, you're going to need units already in play, not sitting in some production pipeline.
 General Imperial Age Strategies
Once you reach the imperial age, foot soldiers are going to take a back seat to conquistadors, paladins, and even cavalry archers. Continue taking advantage of inexpensive blacksmith upgrades, while spending gold to research monastery technologies. Concentrate on upgrading your mounted forces. There aren't too many civilizations that can stand up to a concerted imperial age attack from Spanish horsemen, especially when backed up by missionaries, hand cannoneers, and bombard cannons. It's a variation on the bumper sticker: "God, Guns, and Guts: Let's keep all three!" Surprisingly, your best imperial age foot soldier may be your villagers. Researching supremacy is not mandatory, but it's a low-cost way to add a little extra muscle to your army.
Researching and producing conventional siege units may be inefficient. Once you learn chemistry, you can use the bombard cannons as your main siege unit.