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As early as the second century BCE, a recognizable Mayan culture was flourishing in the Yucatán rain forest. Built on the foundations of the first great society to inhabit this region, the Olmecs, the Mayans quickly adopted social institutions that organized their world along the lines of classical Greek city-states. Individual kingdoms within the Mayan empire might rise and fall, but collectively, the Mayans prospered, their temples reaching up to the heavens from under a sea of green. At first, Mayan warfare consisted of ritualized combat, where the taking of captives, not the taking of lives, was the highest expression of martial prowess. Not until the fourth century AD, when Great Jaguar Paw defeated a neighboring kingdom, did the idea of killing one's enemies, like the hunting of wild game, revolutionize Mayan warfare. It would be left up to later Mayan warlords to perfect this new "blood" warfare, sanctifying their victories with human sacrifice. The empire reached the peak of its power in the tenth century, but from this point on, until the coming of the Spaniards, Mayan culture slowly declined. It did not end in some sudden cataclysm as is sometimes suggested, but rather, as a result of a weakened central authority and an apathetic populace. In time, the rain forest would reclaim the empire that had grown up within its midst.

Unique Features[edit]

  • Start with an eagle warrior instead of scout cavalry unit.
  • Start with one extra villager but -50 food (150).
  • Resources last 20 percent longer.
  • Archery range units cost 10 percent less in the feudal age, 20 percent less in the castle age, and 30 percent less in the imperial age.
Unique Technology

El Dorado: Eagle warriors possess 40 additional hit points

Unique Units

Plumed archer (elite plumed archer)

Team Bonus

Cost of wall and palisade sections is halved (3 stone/wall, 1 wood/palisade).


As you might imagine, the two pre-Columbian civilizations in the game (Mayan and Aztec) are very similar in make-up, and yet there are some subtle differences that drastically change the way each civilization should be played. The Aztecs, with their unique jaguar warrior, favor a melee-intense ground game, while the Mayans are more inclined to use ranged weaponry in the form of their plumed archers.

The Mayans begin each game with an extra villager (four instead of three). However, because they also start with -50 less food, at first glance, you might conclude that the two even each other out. The fact is that most non-Mayan players begin the game by having one of their villagers chop wood, another build a house, and the third look for food. The Mayans, with the extra villager, can assign a second villager to start harvesting food right from the start. Within the first minute or two, the -50 deficit is more than made up by the second villager with no slow down in villager production due to lack of food.

Mayan civilizations have the potential to become economic powerhouses due to the 20 percent bonus increase in (in-ground) resources. What this means is that Mayan miners can extract 960 gold from a standard 800-resource tile of gold or 168 resources from a normal 140-resource sheep. Armed with this benefit, Mayans usually rocket through the first couple of ages. This also means that expansion and exploration become somewhat less important, since you can make your existing resources last longer.

The Mayans produce reduced-cost archery range units beginning in the feudal age. While the feudal age 10 percent reduction doesn't amount to a significant savings, by the time you reach the imperial age, the cost has been reduced by 30 percent. The dilemma you face is whether to build archery range units and take advantage of the savings and firepower or build plumed archers and take advantage of their speed and extra hit points. It's a tough call. The difference in cost only amounts to 14 wood. Both units cost equal amounts of gold (32).

Another important advantage lies in the fact that all the blacksmith technologies, except those dealing with cavalry, are open to you. This means you can enhance your combat unit's defensive strength to the maximum allowed in the game. Likewise, you have all ram and siege engine upgrades available except the siege onager. The effect of not having siege onagers is negligible - they won't be missed. Since speed is one of your greatest assets, both in the form of eagle warriors and plumed archers, you are better off relying on trebuchets.


In the final analysis, the Mayans are very powerful. They have many advantages and very few negatives. Like the Aztecs, Mayans are prevented from building stables and, thus, cannot field cavalry units. (They can use converted cavalry units, however.) Mayan eagle warriors more than make up for the lack of cavalry. They are stronger (after researching El Dorado) than those produced by the Aztecs.

Although the Mayans can research chemistry, they cannot produce gunpowder units such as the hand cannoneer or bombard cannon. Other siege engines, like the onager and scorpion, can be used as substitutes, but they lack the same long range. Absence of gunpowder means your ranged support units will be closer to the fighting and suffer higher casualties as a result. But Eagle Warriors can remedy this, if used properly. Due to their speed to close the distance quickly and slight attack bonus against bombard cannons and other siege engines(refer to game manual), Eagle Warriors can be formidable opponents for any siege weapons not backed up by other military units, except archers, because Eagle Warriors also have substantial pirce armor (and health with the El Dorado tech). For long-range duels, the Mayans are limited to using trebuchets.

The Mayan plumed archer is a fine unit, but it does have certain weaknesses that a crafty opponent can exploit. Although it can sustain a moderate amount of damage (50 hit points) and has a small inherent pierce armor modifier (+1), the plumed archer has a relatively weak attack strength and a very limited range. Even when upgraded to elite status, these units possess an attack strength of only five hit points and a range of only five tiles. By contrast, the Briton's imperial age elite longbowman has an attack strength of seven hit points and a range of twelve tiles.

Although this may appear to be a large obstacle, the Plumed Archer and Longbowman are more equal that one might think. Due to the thumb ring technology researched at the Archery Range, Plumed Archers fire faster and more accurately than the Britons since that research item is not available to them; the Plumed Archer also has more health to last as well as far greater speed. And, in a duel between a Plumed Archer and Longbowman, started at the Longbowman's greatest extent of his attacking range, the victory could go to either side because (all upgrades available to each civilization affecting the specified unique unit in play) the Plumed Archer could sustain 13 hits from the Longbowman while the latter could only sustain 10 hits from the former. This would then allow the Plumed Archer to take two hits while closing the distance between to get in attacking range. After all that it really would just depend on how accurate the shots will fire. Since the thumb ring tech is active for the Plumed Archer, it might be more likely that the Plumed Archer will be victorious.

Another problem associated with the lack of long-range support units is the high percentage of Mayan units that are lost due to religious conversion. Losing a unit to conversion is a double-whammy, not only do you lose the unit, but now it's working against you. Mayans, in particular, must be on guard against having too many of their units, especially their plumed archers and Eagle Warriors (don't let the "resistant to conversion" bonus lure you into a false sense of security!), fall prey to enemy monks. Though expensive, researching heresy is a must!

General Dark Age Strategies[edit]

The Mayans are one of only a couple civilizations that can open the game using non-standard moves. In their case, the extra villager gives them the option of assigning another villager to harvest food, chop wood, or simply double the workforce building their first house. Be particularly aware that since certain types of food take longer to stockpile than others, you want to concentrate on getting to the fast food sources (and we're not talking McDonald's here): turkeys, sheep, and boars. Use your eagle warrior just as you would a scout cavalry unit (that is, to scout out the local countryside looking for resources and key terrain features).

General Feudal Age Strategies[edit]

All things being equal, though they rarely are, the Mayans should be among the first civilizations to reach the feudal age. If you've used your eagle warrior properly, you should have an adequate picture of your surroundings. Now, you can better tailor your workforce. When playing as a member of a team, your reduced cost wall sections make it easier to cordon off resource deposits. Even if you aren't part of a team, get into the habit of walling off your resources during the feudal age. The Mayan resource bonus means your villagers will be remaining at a resource spot 20 percent longer. Build some towers and make 'em feel safe.

General Castle Age Strategies[edit]

By the time the Mayans reach the castle age, you should already have a solid economic infrastructure. Now, it's time to start using your economy to build a powerful military strike force. The Mayans are blessed with two key military units: the eagle warrior and the plumed archer. Produce both units in great numbers. Unless you are really short of resources, which you shouldn't be if you're playing the Mayans, produce plumed archers rather than crossbowmen or skirmishers. Even though the cost of archery range units is reduced by 20 percent in the castle age, the plumed archer is the better bargain in the long run. Finally, consider researching the thumb ring and El Dorado mandatory.

General Imperial Age Strategies[edit]

Having reached the imperial age, the Mayans should have both a powerful economy and a strong military. Because of the strength and range of your plumed archers, plus the fact that arbalest units cost 30 percent less than normal, the Mayans can be successful following a defensive strategy. However, the speed and strength of your El Dorado-enhanced eagle warriors makes a successful offensive strategy just as likely. Don't forget about your monks either. Although you are denied redemption and illumination, your monks will play an important role no matter which strategy you decide to employ.