Emissary's Guide to the Mayans

Article written by Emissary
Originally published on 12-20-2000 ; updated on 08-17-2014
Tags: Civilizations Archives

Before you start, note that this is very in-depth (in other words, long ;) )! Make sure you've got some spare time on your hands!

From the jungles of Mexico come one of The Conqueror’s new civilizations- the Mayans. Unlike their Mesoamerican counterparts, the Aztecs, who revolve around infantry, the Mayans have a strong archer base. In the style of the Goth cheap infantry bonus, and like the Hun Cavalry Archer discounts, the Mayans can cash in on both the long and the short run with their cheap archers. The Mayan archery theory revolves more on critical mass rather than raw strength. In the Feudal Age, the Mayans will train Archers. In the Castle Age, the Mayans will create Crossbowmen. And finally in the Imperial Age, the Mayans will create Arbalests. And at the core of a large mass of generic Mayan archers is a nice little complement- the Plumed Archer.

The Plumed Archer is the new king of archers. 30 Mayan Post Imperial Age Elite Plumed Archers lined up against 30 Post Imperial Age Elite Longbowmen yields a victory for the Mayans. Any player who has played the Britons, or used any civilization with a strong archer presence, knows that there is a need for support units revolving around the core of archers. The Mayans are no exception, and they have several clear-cut and effective support methods for their archers.

But the Mayans are not without their faults. An entire lack of cavalry, a lack of gunpowder units and a limitation in the swordsmen area plague the Mayans. But as there are weaknesses to any civilization, there are also ways to cover these weaknesses. To effectively play the Mayans, must be an expert in exploiting their strengths ruthlessly and covering their weaknesses so that they do not provide the enemy with an Achilles’ heel at which to strike.

This article will be divided into several sections-
Mayan Bonuses
Missing Techs
Strong Tech areas
Castle and Imperial Age War-Making
Important Technologies

Mayan Bonuses

Team Bonus: Walls cost -50%
Start with +1 villager, Eagle Warrior (not Scout Cavalry), -50 food
Resources last 20% longer
Archer Range Units cost -10% Feudal Age, -20% Castle Age, -30% Imperial Age
Walls cost -50%

This bonus plays a minor role in the Mayan game plan. Its use is purely situational - I have yet to use this bonus. It can be applied to hold a strongly advancing opponent in check for a few minutes while troop resistance is organized in the rear. But don’t be tempted to excessively turtle- even though the option is there to cost effectively do it.

Start with +1 villager, Eagle Warrior, -50 food
This bonus saves 30 seconds or so of time because one villager doesn’t have to be created. The extra villager is very much so, in effect, a toned-down version of the Chinese +3 villager bonus. Though it does not have the dynamic effect on game play that the Chinese bonus does, it runs on the same concept. This bonus throws in the option for the Mayans to thrive on Flushing. The extra villager can equate into raw speed. But if a Mayan player doesn’t want to flush for one reason or another, this villager means that matching your opponents in villager count for the age advancements means that the extra 30 resource-gathering seconds can make a fairly substantial difference. And with 4 villagers initially instead of 3, the Mayans have less difficulty maintaining constant villager construction. Keep in mind that this will change the Mayans early game plan- rather than the normal "H-CCCC" start, the Mayans should immediately research Loom because they start with no housing headroom. This also gets the research done right away so you don’t have to worry about stopping villager production to facilitate for this upgrade later. For very early villager task allotment, I usually have two villagers build a house, the third villager build a second house and the fourth help the Eagle Warrior in scouting for sheep (then go to help the third villager build his house if necessary and finally go to sheep/turkeys)

Resources last 20% longer
Many people might be misinformed about the actual effects of this bonus. Basically, if a villager has 10 resources to drop off at a TC or lumber or mining camp or whatever, only eight are actually taken from the source. This bonus benefits a flusher because sheep and boar last longer, conserving more berries for the Feudal Age when a low-maintenance food source is needed. And late in the game, this bonus really shines as ever-important gold and stone piles last 20% longer- so the result is 20% more resources than your opponent might have had. This bonus only, however, affects natural resources (sheep, boar, deer, gold, stone, wood, and I believe fish). Farms do not benefit from this bonus.

Archers cost -10% Feudal Age, -20% Castle Age, -30% Imperial Age
This bonus fuels both the Mayan Flush and their late game plan. The archers created in a Flush will throw an economy off track less than any others. But this bonus makes more of a difference later in the game. While your archers are of no better quality than any other (non-Briton) civilization’s fully upgraded archers (such as Chinese Arbalests), you will hold the advantage in being able to replace casualties much easier and more cost-effectively. And infantry civilizations will be hard-pressed to combat the Mayans with the units they are geared for (with they exception of Goth Huskarls versus Mayans). Champions, unless very heavily massed and holding the numerical advantage, will cross the field in front of Mayan archer masses in massive casualties. These infantry civilizations may be forced to adopt units not typical of their civilization to create units capable of crossing a battlefield fast enough to neutralize massed archers without taking too many casualties.

Strong Tech Areas

We’ve looked at what the Mayan bonuses do to affect game plan. But there are certain extensions in the Mayan tech tree that also affect game plan- and can define a clear-cut way to choose your forces and unit combinations.

The basis of the Mayan civilization’s military presence is archers. Each and every Mayan army you create should be based around the archer line (Archer -> Crossbowman -> Arbalest). The Mayans receive full upgrades in the area of Archers. In addition to having fully upgradeable archers, the Mayans have discounts in their archer area. The Mayans hold a huge advantage when fighting prolonged battles against civilizations who have no cost detraction from their main lines of units. Exact costs for Mayan archers, for the archer line (Archer -> Crossbowman -> Arbalest) and for Plumed Archers are:

Archer line (normally 25 wood, 45 gold):
Feudal Age: 22 wood, 40 gold
Castle Age: 20 wood, 36 gold
Imperial Age: 17 wood, 31 gold
Plumed Archer (46 wood, 46 gold):
Castle Age: 37 wood, 37 gold
Imperial Age: 32 wood, 32 gold

It may seem insignificant, but it adds up. Take this for example. In the Imperial Age, you being Mayans make a total of 100 Arbalests. Your opponent, the Chinese, decides to match your Arbalests with Arbalests of his own. His costs are:

Wood cost: 2,500
Gold cost: 4,500

On the other hand, you have spent:

Wood Cost: 1,700
Gold Cost: 3,100

So in actuality, though you both created the same number of Arbalests and they were of the same quality, you hold the advantage. Since you spent 800 less wood, and 1,400 gold. You can then spend these funds to create more archers. You can create another 45 archers (spending 756 wood and 1395 gold). So you made 145 archers for the price that it would have taken another civilization to make 100 with. A difference this great can be devastating- you will hardly nick your economy but still be able to keep a good-sized host of archers. And it will be especially easier for you to replace casualties as they occur.

Siege Equipment
The Mayans have fair siege capabilities. While they lack Siege Engineers, they do have most upgrades for their individual engines. The effects of Siege Engineers is as follows: +1 siege range (except rams); +20% siege unit attack vs. buildings. Mayan Trebuchets will suffer by the lack of the range, as will Scorpions and Onagers, so these should be less of an option. Mayan players should adjust accordingly, by using Siege Rams as a replacement for wide usage of Trebuchets. Siege Rams are definitely more dynamic siege engines- getting into an enemy town with them is a quick way of town destruction. Without having to wait for Trebuchets to pack and unpack, important relocation time of the enemy can be denied.

Blacksmith Technologies
As important to the Mayan game plan as any other technology area is their Blacksmith tree. The Mayans receive all Blacksmith techs (besides the Barding Armor technologies for cavalry). In this way, the Mayans have top-notch units. Most important are the Archer attack technologies (Fletching -> Bodkin Arrow -> Bracer) for maximizing killing efficiency of their archers and the Infantry armor technologies (Scale Mail Armor -> Chain Mail Armor -> Plate Mail Armor) for making their Eagle Warriors more durable so that they are better at braving archer fire and melee troops to disable siege equipment. The Archer attack blacksmith upgrades and Infantry armor should be priority

Missing Technologies

All civilizations lack techs. It hurts many a game plan, but most civilizations contain extensions in other tech areas that more than cover for these lacks. Ways to cover for the Mayan technology vacancies will be discussed in other points in the article.

All Cavalry Units
This one stings. Cavalry fills many rolls- no matter what civilization you are. Mainly, cavalry is used for destruction of siege equipment. And Paladins, the epitome of Age of Kings melee power, are used to charge into squads of men-at-arms (swordsman line units seem to be at a serious disadvantage against heavy cavalry) and, more importantly, at archers. So, this one really hurts, since often it is most advantageous and quick to counter heavy cavalry with heavy cavalry of your own. To fill the role of siege destruction, and for spearheading anti-archer attacks, the Mayans have Eagle Warriors. Though in a toe-to-toe battle the Eagle Warrior will lose to the power of most cavalry, keep in mind that Eagle Warriors aren’t well suited to be thrown into blind assaults on cavalry.

Gunpowder Units
This lack can hurt in certain, specific situations. Hand Cannoneers are an excellent substitute for civilizations who lack good archer-line units for use against infantry, such as the Persians and Turks. It would have been neat to see super-cheap Mayan Hand Cannoneer armies, but that wouldn’t be historically accurate.

A lack of Bombard Cannons and Cannon Galleons has left the Mayans with less options on heavy siege methods and none for sea-based shore bombardments. But this can be worked around also. After all… the Celts and the Mongols are some of the best siege layers- and neither of them get Bombard Cannons.

Two-Handed Swordsmen are inferior to Champions. They have a base attack of 11 compared to the 13 of Champions. And a discrepancy of 10 Hit Points and one base armor means that no matter how much you upgrade your 2H Swordsmen, they will always be at a severe disadvantage fighting Champions upgraded equally. And in most cases, the best way to most effectively upgrade your units is to bring them up to the next level (i.e. Militia -> Men-at-Arms -> Longswordsmen -> 2H Swordsmen -> Champions). But the Mayans really have no need for making a lot of Swordsmen, since after all they are Archer based. While it is a good idea to create swordsmen to deal with Skirmishers (capitalize on their shorter range to help protect Archers) in the Castle Age, keep in mind that the more of these you make, the more partially-inferior units you will be charged with in the Imperial Age.

Castle and Imperial Age War-Making

In the Dark and Feudal Ages, there are few strategy variations from civilization to civilization. All civilizations get every Dark and Feudal Age technology and unit, with few exceptions. The only exception to my knowledge occurs in the Feudal Age for the Mesoamerican civilizations, of course being both the Mayans’ and Aztecs’ cavalry lacking. Strategy really starts to become civilization-specific once the Castle Age is attained. As more and more bonuses begin to be downplayed, civilizations must utilize their strongest units. So, individual strategies begin to arise in the Castle Age more so than in the Feudal Age. In this section, the best ways to utilize the Mayan tech tree and bonuses for individual strategies specific to them will be outlined. Strategy changes from civilization to civilization really come into play in the Imperial Age as the effects of Technology Tree descrepancies become more apparent.

Whether you are fighting in the Castle Age or the Imperial Age, the majority of Mayan soldiers will always be, for the most part, not durable or sufficiently suited for close-quarters combat. The majority of your soldiers- the archers- are butchered in hand-to-hand combat. So you must create some kind of human shield to act as buffers in between enemy melee soldiers and your archers to prevent their unnecessary death. An unfortunate aspect of the Mayans is that they can also be quite weak on melee soldiers also. They do have full Blacksmith upgrades, but a lack of Champions is a blow to the Mayans’ "Operation Human Shield." While the Mayans’ main melee soldier, the Eagle Warrior, does take on some very promising combat stats with its upgrade to Elite status, full blacksmith upgrades, and the Mayan UT El Dorado (+40 Eagle Warrior Hit Points) they should still be considered a light infantry soldier. They are powerful when in certain melee situations, but for the most part are at a disadvantage- mostly when battling swordsmen or heavy cavalry. The Mayans should incorporate mostly archers in their force, but use a human shield of melee soldiers to protect the archers from one of their greater vulnerabilities.

While Mayan archers can handle themselves in most situations, they do need support when facing other situations. Archers typically are weak versus cavalry and onagers for instance. So, while archers can handle two basic situations- killing of infantry and returning fire to other archers, they do need support- often times for covering their Achilles heels. Your attack force must pack some Halberds for use against cavalry, and the force must contain some Eagle Warrior for the neutralization of siege equipment.

The Importance of Combined Arms (see also my Mayan Triad)
The Mayans have some very gaping holes in their tech tree. Striking at these weaknesses should be a high priority of enemy tactics. To prevent unnecessary and/or damaging casualties, you must cover their weaknesses at all costs. The best way to do this is by even more extensively accentuating their strengths.

Archers are the core of the Mayan game plan. They are cheap and in the end fully upgradeable. You should be able to mass them with ease- and in turn deny the option for the enemy to defeat you with masses of infantry. Infantry, for the most part, cannot close space between themselves and enemy archers fast enough to successfully and efficiently neutralize archers. So, you should do all they can to deny the enemy the luxury of being able to charge across the field of battle to engage your lightly armored archers in melee combat they are not prepared for. There are three infantry units in the game who can quickly move up to archers without losing too many soldiers to archer fire- Woad Raiders (Celts only), Eagle Warriors (Aztecs and Mayans only) and Huskarls (Goths only). When facing these civilizations, there is a greater risk that your archers may get into melee combat, so in response more of a Human Shield will be necessary to deal with the enemy infantry.

Eagle Warriors
Eagle Warriors are another integral part of the Mayan’s basic unit combination. They will engage enemy melee soldiers in melee combat should they reach the mass of units and are for destruction of siege. They also do have substantial bonuses versus Monks, so if you enemy is drawing power from their ability to heal soldiers during combat, stopping this can be accomplished by charging your Eagle Warriors into them.

Halberdiers serve two purposes in the Mayan army. Their first and foremost purpose is for stopping cavalry charges. Secondarily, they are cheap as "Ram Fodder" when garrisoning rams for speed and attack boosts.

As important as the units used in Mayan unit combinations are the technological status of these units. Don’t get caught fighting with Spearmen late in the Imperial Age. The best ways to increase the fighting ability of your soldiers is to upgrade them to the next level (for instance Eagle Warriors to Elite Eagle Warriors).

The Castle Age

Events that transpire during the Castle Age set the tone for the rest of the game. A players performance in the Imperial Age may be severely hindered if their economy is severely spent or destroyed in the Castle Age. As Mayans, you should not go all out attacking in the Castle Age. Your units are simply not yet strong enough to engage in a pitched battle against enemy soldiers. Instead, you should invest in an initial military expansion, then keep pressure on the enemy who threatens you most (hopefully you will have only one enemy in your immediate proximity) while you expand your economy.

During the transition from the Feudal to Castle Age, you should ensure that 2+ barracks and 2+ archery ranges are built in preparation for a rapid military expansion. Also, as soon as the Castle Age advancement begins, more villagers should focus on the collection of wood so that additional Town Centers can be created for an easier boom. When booming, try to put up a TC next to a large forest and either stone or gold, so that walking distance between those resources and the TC is not very far. Every time you get 300 wood and sufficient stone, you should peel 4 woodcutters off of their posts to go construct a new booming TC. Once the TC is created, two of the villagers should build farms, and two should go on wood. Then, a gather point should be set on the other resource, either stone or gold, and villagers queued up. Every time you see you have sufficient food, and if you don’t need soldiers or upgrades, villagers should be queued up and allotted on needed resources. Before you know it, you will have resources enough to upgrade to the Imperial Age. But also keep in mind booming has a good deal of experience involved. It is much harder to micromanage a multiple-TC economy than Dark and Feudal Age economies.

So, now you’ve gotten to the Castle Age. The most widely used units in the Castle Age (for non-Mesoamerican civilizations) are Knights and Crossbowmen, and in turn their natural counters, respectively, Pikemen and Skirmishers. Monks are also a nice compliment to a Castle Age. First, they keep your troops intact better than if you don’t have them. And they can also be used for conversions. In effect, you are turning your enemy’s own resources against them. At first, make mostly Crossbowmen (this will turn out to be the cliché of the Mayan ways of war) with Pikes for handling knights and a few Eagle Warriors. A few Monks will be good also- if you can’t make cavalry yourself, steal it from your enemies :). When facing enemy Crossbowmen, engage them with your own Crossbowmen. There isn’t a definite need for Skirmishers yet. Remember your cheap archers are always an advantage. Replacing them will be easy for you, compared to your enemy. Only begin creating Skirmishers if you start seeing a lot on the enemy side. Don’t get suckered into fighting an uphill battle of Archers against cheap Skirmishers. It will drain your economy, and your enemy will be better off later on. If your enemy brings large amounts of Longswordsmen, don’t think you’re going to successfully engage them with your Eagle Warriors. Even the tide using archers, or counter their Longswordsmen with a combination of Longswordsmen of your own and Crossbowmen.

The basic idea of Mayan Castle Age game plan is to keep up pressure. Do this by any means possible without endangering your soldiers excessively. You should be able to hinder the enemy’s economy some, but the basic idea is to keep enemy soldiers out of your town so that you can work your economy most effectively and efficiently. Do whatever possible to frustrate your enemy, defeat their military or pick off villagers. Raiding isolated resource spots can yield a huge frustration for your enemy and lots of dead villagers. Just think- 5 dead villagers is a wasted 250 resources- plus the resources they were carrying. The price of 20 villagers can pay for the advancement to the Imperial Age (food-wise), and if you kill that many villagers and your opponent accounts for every one of the lost villagers, you have doubled the time it will take them to get to the Imperial Age.

If possible, prevent your enemy’s booming operations. Pick off villagers as they construct additional TCs if possible. Forward build a Siege Workshop near an isolated booming TC and build a Mangonel. In The Conquerors, Mangonels outrange TCs, so even if garrisoned they can be helpless to Mangonel attacks. Just be sure to protect your mangonels.

Technology research priority- the call here will depend on the player. Keep your units upgraded if you can and by all means if you need to. But villager production to fuel your boom and economic upgrades take priority in the Castle Age. After all- you are trying to keep up pressure so you can boom more efficiently and more or less "jump" to the Imperial Age, where your units are strongest.

Defensive Castle Age play varies from situation to situation. If your enemy crushes you and you are not prepared, your boom will be hindered and an Imperial jump is less of an option. If your enemy comes at you with everything you have, you have to devote all your resources to stave off the attack and then keep up pressure on his home front. If you see forward structures going up, particularly Castles, attack the builders to stop it quickly. Kill all enemies in your town, ram down his forward structures, take the battle to his town, and then think about advancing to the Imperial Age. Though the Mayans really need the Imperial Age to win, they can live without it, at first. And keep in mind that if you are trying to put down a Crush, your enemy is likely spending as much as you are, if not more, to take the offensive.

So, in conclusion- the Castle Age priority is to get on your enemy’s back as soon as possible. Being a pain in the butt is a good enough objective. Try to avoid Crush-ing your opponent- unless you feel defeat will be inevitable if you leave them alone for them to get to the Imperial Age. In the case of the Turks, Goths and Byzantines, a Castle Rush or attack may be a good option to prevent these civilizations from getting to the Imperial Age where they will easily pound you to a bloody pulp. Also keep in mind that a Castle up for defense is good and will be good once you hit Imperial Age for getting techs researched to improve your army.

The Imperial Age

While the Mayans can be powerful Flushers, and can destroy an enemy in the Castle Age with a KLEW, they have units that are not very strong in comparison to what other civilizations have. The lack of Knights hurts most in the Castle Age when the combat abilities of their replacements, Eagle Warriors, are still not well developed.

So with that in mind, you should get to the Imperial Age as soon as possible, but not at the expense of an economy too weak to do anything. Once you hit the Advance to Imperial Age button, you need to increase the number of military structures. Take about 7-10 forward builders off resources (any resource except farms) but remember to replace these villagers. Start pumping out soldiers as resources allow- about one melee soldier for every two or three archers you create is an effective ratio. Make amounts of melee soldiers needed for the task- Eagle Warriors for enemy Siege Equipment and Halberdiers for Cavalry. Keep researching technologies, but now keep in mind that your priorities have changed. Place greater priority on military technologies now than on economic technologies. Attack as soon as you have a sizable force. You should start doing the same things that you were doing in the Castle Age- kill villagers, knock out resource spots, but most of all you want to have your enemy send his soldiers at you so that you can butcher them. Have your forward builders start slapping down structures in this order- Siege Workshops for making rams, then Barracks for Halberdiers as ram garrisons and for Eagle Warriors and Halberdiers for the Human Shield, then Archery Ranges. Pump out some Rams, garrison them with Halberdiers and send them in to start knocking out buildings.

Keep an eye out at home. Keep the economy running smoothly by making sure you have no idle villagers, refilling farm queues, building additional houses and if necessary expanding the economy by making more villagers. Research techs if you have the money and are in no need of any more soldiers for the time. Keep pumping out some rams at your forward structures. Replace casualties and keep picking off villagers. Be ruthless, keep your enemy low on soldiers, and victory will soon be in your hands. As the Mayans, Siege Rams are a better option. Since the Mayans lack Siege Engineers, their Trebuchets are a little less of an option. In replacement, the sheer power of fully-garrisoned Siege Rams, even without the 20% attack bonus, are very powerful. And they are a more dynamic and swift siege engine than Trebuchets, so the enemy will have less time to organize resistance in the right places.

Imperial Age combat as the Mayans does require some aspects of practice. I suggest trying your skills against a good, solid AI on an Arabia map. I prefer to play against "The Dragon"(note that this AI does make use of walls) and "Tiger RM" of the Age of Kings Heaven AI Wars tournament (this AI is very tough, at least for me. No walls, just lots of troops.), but more recently I have begun using "Slakbot".

The key for the Imperial Age is to get in your enemy’s town with as many Fully Upgraded soldiers as possible, as soon as possible. Your economy, with your +1 villager bonus and +20% resource longevity, should be stronger than your enemy’s. But even so, attack and defend gold and stone stocks aggressively to keep more options for late game resources. If need be, organize a "Jihad" and go for relics, or start up trade routes for late game gold.

Important Technologies

The Mayans, perhaps more than any other civilization, are heavily dependant on their units being as technologically advanced as possible. The combination of cheaply massed and fully upgradeable Arbalests can bring the most numerous and effective infantry soldiers to their knees. And the effectiveness of one of their other important units, the Eagle Warrior, rides on whether or not it is fully upgraded or not.

Thumb Ring, Ballistics
These two techs are very important and possibly some of the best ways of improving your archers. They both improve accuracy, so your archers will bring your enemies down under hails of well-placed arrows.

Blacksmith Technologies
Another important group. Research all of these, as resources allow, as soon as possible. They do many things- increase the durability and attack (as well as range) of your archers and enhance your melee soldiers.

Unit Upgrades
Upgrading your units to the next level is the best way to enhance them. Get your units up to Elite Status as soon as possible, and keep your main unit lines up to date (Spearmen -> Pikemen -> Halberdiers, etc).

El Dorado
+40 Hit Points for your Eagle Warriors enhances them in a way better than any other of their applicable techs. They stand up to archer fire much better (especially with their relatively high pierce armor with blacksmith techs researched), and your Human Shield (there that term is again!) is enhanced.

Capped Ram, Siege Ram
These technologies are needed to increase the ability of your main siege engines. The Capped Ram adds no garrison capacity to the Rams, but do give them area of effect damage and increase their overall attack. The Siege Ram also has area of effect damage and has additional attack, but two more garrison spaces are added. Rams then advance with a frightening speed and hit with a massive force.

Well there it is! My renditions and opinions of how the Mayans should be played. Their strengths, their weaknesses, their style of destruction and the way they cover their weaknesses. I hope that with this guide you have found the way to play the Mayans. I have committed my best knowledge of playing as the Mayans to words. But now that you have read this guide there is still a need for practice. Play the Mayans, take this information to heart, adopt it to your style, and you may soon find a favorite in the Mayans. I hope this guide is sufficient for you to find the fine line of playing as the Mayans! Thank you for reading!