Thousands of miles from where the Egyptian Pyramids were built, other Pyramids had been built as well. A Civilization that in many ways matched that of the Western World existed and did not come into contact with the West until the 16th century. That contact brought to an end what was once a mighty empire that stretched thousands of miles, practiced brutal human sacrifices and yet charted the stars, a civilization that boasted the largest city on earth – the ‘Venice of the new World’. The mighty Aztecs are the subject of this civ review.
Everything about this Civ points you in the direction of war. Agricultural and Militaristic, the Aztecs starting traits are the perfect jump-start to aspiring world conqueror. Agricultural gives that added food bonus in every city square starting on a river, along with half-priced aqueducts and 2 foods from irrigated deserts. Militaristic allows for half-priced barracks and harbors, along with a greater chance of creating ‘elites’ in combat, which often leads to a greater number of Military Great Leaders. Together they add up to faster population growth and superior military prowess. The Aztec traits are given yet another boost from the starting techs, with instant access to granaries (pottery) to further accentuate the Agri trait, and the instant access to archers (warrior code). Add to this a civ that begins the game capable of making its UU (a scout/warrior combo) and one can easily see how this civ just begs you to start thrashing your neighbor from nearly the very first turn! A natural born tyrant – typical Aztec play is well suited for the Monarchy to Communism government route.
The warmongering Aztec is often bewildered from the large number of military strats open to him. He can choose to dedicate his opening game play to building a handful of cities and then set them to build a horde of veteran archers from those half priced barracks. As an ultra-early archer rush civ the Aztecs can compete with the best of them, including China. Conversely, he can expand normally with a zero-research gambit, attempting to save every last gold piece for his late Ancient rush of swordsman that were upgraded from his UUs and warriors. Yet another Aztec option is to unleash his 2 movement point Jaguars, to pillage his neighbors into economic and growth stagnation, while he expands around them. Often a player uses a combination of 2 or even all 3 of the above options, leaving a path of razed cities, captured workers/settlers and wholly absorbed rival empires. From nearly the very first turn of the game until the last, the Aztec excels at fighting a never-ending war, applying an unrelenting military pressure on his foes.
Unlike all of the other non-Expansionists civs, the Aztecs possess a unit that can more than stand in for a scout and make those early contacts (the Aztecs compete well as an early tech broker) while quickly mapping his territory – and more importantly, his neighbor’s territories. Aztec knowledge of the map is often as good as any expansionist civ and gives them yet another edge in early warmongering. The Jaguar is a 1-1-2 warrior class unit costing 15-shields (available from the start). The Jag is a multi-faceted unit – barbarian fighting scout, pillager, and future swordsman. However, let me start by telling you what the Jaguar is not – it is not a cheap ‘human wave’ attack unit. A player that uses the unit in this fashion (even if successful) will have wasted precious shields, units and most importantly ‘time’. The unit was never designed to build in mass as a primary attack force – this is simply not cost efficient. Its forte in combat is as an AI strangler, darting in and out of AI territory snatching workers, pillaging roads and terrain improvements while avoiding combat by using their speed advantage. Targeting any enemy horse resource is wise as it denies the majority of civs a unit capable of catching the Jag. The unit also works well in pairs – pillaging both the road and terrain improvement in the same turn – and then running away for a repeat performance in another square. The Jag also allows the Aztec to take the risk of fighting multiple AIs at the same time. Strangling 2 of your neighbors, while you continue your normal REX and use standard archers/horsemen to fend off the few AI units that are not chasing Jags. Beware however, a slight miscalculation with this strat may find you with 2 or more large AI armies knocking at your door in early ancient!
As a builder civ the Aztecs leave much to be desired. They posses no access to cheaper culture, no commerce bonus of any type for build rushing, and possess a militaristic trait that is nearly completely wasted if this course of game play is chosen. On average a small to mid-sized peaceful builder Aztec seeking a culture/space race victory will be at a great disadvantage to the majority of other civs. Naturally, the Aztec can be a formidable builder civ in the manner of all warmongers – create a massive empire whose sheer size will give you the numerical advantage to compete later on as a builder civ. That said, competitive Aztec building is strongly tied to warmongering – and the idea of a zero-war, peaceful builder/trader Aztec – is nearly a contradiction in terms. One bright note here is that as a water map civ the Aztecs should not be underestimated; half priced harbors, faster early growth, and the multi-purpose Jag make for a nice Arch map civ that can be quite the Naval powerhouse later.
Unquestionably a military juggernaut – flexible, fast, and made to order for the hardcore warmonger. Their only military downside being the early ancient age GA this civ often incurs. The Jag can be an excellent UU, but is a specialty UU requiring intelligent play along with lots of micromanagement and planning. As a peaceful builder civ they will fail, and as a compromise between the 2 styles you will be left wondering, “why did I compromise, they war so damn well”, – a solid 2nd teir civ overall.
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