Civilization Concept: The Vijayanagara Empire

Hi everyone, I present to everyone my second civ concept: The Vijayanagara Empire. It doesn’t seem to get talked about a lot, but given their natural rivalry with the Northern Sultanates (represented by current Delhi Sultanate) as a native Hindu civ, and their late-medieval presence (which the devs seem to prefer), I actually think they have a strong chance of getting in. Full disclosure: I am not Indian or Hindu, but I spent countless hours researching to try and give every little aspect of this civ both proper historical inspiration and uniqueness. Once again, no actual numbers are included - just concepts - because it’s impossible to know what would be balanced without playtesting.

The Vijayanagara Empire

Monuments, Elephants, Infantry
973 - 1565
Difficulty: 1/3

Background and Inspiration:

A New Power: Under constant attacks from the Islamic Sultanates to the north, the Deccan Plateau in South India was transformed when the Vijayanagara Empire rose up from the turmoil to become the new dominant power in the subcontinent. Founded by the two brothers Harihara and ##### Raya in 1336, the empire reached its peak in the early 16th century before finally being utterly defeated and destroyed in the Battle of Talikota in 1565. Due to its late foundation, it is represented in AOE4’s earlier ages by its influential precursor empire in Karnataka: the Hoysala Empire (and to a lesser extent the Western Chalukya empire to which the Hoysalas were subordinates for a time).

The City of Victory: The Empire was named after its capital, Vijayanagara - the city of victory. “The city is such that ‘eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth’”. Renowned for its grandeur and beauty by visitors from Europe and the Middle East, by 1500 it was the second most populous city in the world after Beijing, ‘large as Rome’, and it was said to have over 100k houses, 4000 temples, waterworks and irrigation, gardens, and bazaars, all built with the abundantly available local granite. It, along with the Hoysala Empire before it, left a lasting legacy of Hindu architecture and ushered in a golden age of fine arts and literature, especially in the Kannada and Telugu languages.

A Militarized Empire: Whereas the Bahmani sultan was known as the ‘Lord of Horses’, the King of Vijayanagara was known as the ‘Lord of Men’. The military of the Vijayanagara Empire was primarily driven by its countless infantry armies, with some estimates reaching as high as 700 thousand, but more realistically between 150 - 250k. In South Indian fashion, infantry fought almost completely unarmored with only shields, sometimes as big as the whole body, for defense. Daggers, including the uniquely Indian, horizontally held ‘punch-dagger’, were an important, traditional weapon. Like other Indian empires, Vijayanagara also made extensive use of elephants, and although native cavalry was generally considered of poor quality, it did also import higher quality Arab and Persian horses and employ Turkic and Portuguese mercenaries. Although its uptake of gunpowder was not as fast as the Islamic Sultanates in the north, by the Battle of Talikota, Vijayanagara had its own extensive artillery.

Civilization Design and Concept:

Musical Score: The Carnatic music genre that Vijayanagara was very influential in developing would provide a perfect ambient theme for this civilization.

Language: The primary language should be Kannada, but it would be really interesting if in later ages, you could hear Telugu spoken as well in increasing amounts, if only by villagers and poets to reduce the amount of recording needed. Religious units could speak Sanskrit.

Architecture: Early architecture would be based on Dravidian-style Western Chalukya and Hoysala style, with detailed architecture finished with intricate carvings and designs. Later buildings could display the Vijayanagara architecture with larger Chola-inspired gopura and Islamic features influenced by their northern neighbors.

Concept: Throughout all my research the common theme I ran into was the grandeur and beauty of the city and its focus on architecture. So I wanted to turn the civ into a true city-building civ, with many unique buildings and a focus on building and expansion. I felt that this focus on city-building would be well suited to new, more casual players and should be complemented by mostly passive bonuses, similar to French and English. Due to their lack of armor, infantry have additional mechanics to improve survivability. I deliberately avoided having many Tamil influences in this civ because of the possibility for a separate Chola civ.


  • Build monuments to age up. Each monument costs ¼ the cost of a normal age up, builds in ¼ the time, and costs stone instead of gold. Three monuments are required to unlock the normal landmark, which costs the same as a monument but has the normal age up bonuses and size. Destroying a monument does not reset age-up progress.

  • Temples generate passive gold for each villager within a certain radius. Similar to Hunting cabins, the radii cannot overlap.

  • Food gathering upgrades are free.

  • Spearmen and Archers are cheaper and carry daggers for improved combat vs other melee infantry.

  • Blacksmith is missing all armor upgrades and Siege Engineering.

  • Cannot Kill Mali Cows

Influence: Temples and monuments extend influence. Dropoff buildings within influence zones return a small amount of extra resources per dropoff.

Unique Features


  • Stable (II, 150W): Not unique per se, but unique looking. The stable design should incorporate elephants, not the standard horse corral style.

  • Mercenary Camp (IV, 150W, 150G): Remember this? I brought it back from my Hungarian civ design.

    • Portuguese Arquebusier Company - shipment of Portuguese Mercenaries
    • Turkic Heavy Cavalry Company - shipment of fully upgraded Elite Lancers
  • Temple (III, 150S): The Vijayanagar version of a monastery/mosque.

  • Monument (All ages, various costs): Unique, cosmetic buildings built as part of Vijayanagara age up. There can be more monuments than are needed for age up, and the monument will be chosen randomly each time. These monuments will be smaller to differentiate them easily from landmarks.

    • Dark Age: 2x2 small shrines, statues and Hero Stones (Traditional memorials found in large concentrations in Karnataka)
    • Feudal Age: 2x2 gardens, baths, Nandi Shrines, Step Wells
    • Castle Age: 3x3 Vijayanagara/Hampi monuments, such as Ganesha statue, Narsimha statue, Garuda stone chariot shrine, Lotus Mahal

Unit Roster

Missing from ‘Standard’ Roster: Man-at-arms, Crossbow, Lancer/Knight, Mangonel, Culverin, Ribauldequin, Battering Ram, Siege Tower

Ships: Dhow, Explosive Dhow, Kotiya (Springald Ship), Patamar (Cannon Ship)

Unique Units

  • Royal Elephant (II, Stable): Chain-mail armored elephant with high melee armor and 2x javelin-thrower riders and AOE tusk attack. Bonus vs armored units. Weak vs Spears and anti-armor units. Has Veteran and Elite upgrades. Can carry (but not pick up) relics. While carrying a relic, it provides an armor buff to surrounding infantry.

  • Yantra Elephant (III, Stable): Elephant mounted with stone throwing sling/siege equipment (yes this was actually a thing!) Acts as a weaker, faster firing, more mobile mangonel. Bonus vs ranged units, weak vs cavalry and spearmen (if they get close). Has food cost, but less wood/gold cost.

  • Kshatriya(III, Barracks): Fast, all-purpose light infantry with sword and very large shield that covers the entire body and gives high pierce armor. Can use a special ability to block all damage for a short period of time, but cannot attack during this period. Strong vs archers and spearmen, weak vs cavalry and MAA.

  • Haridasa (III, Temple): Vijayanagara religious unit. Can also be called ‘Brahmin’ as a more general Hindu term, but Haridasas were quite specific to the Vijayanagara empire.

  • Musketeer (IV, Archery Range): Vijayanagara hand cannoneer.

  • Portuguese Mercenary (IV, Mercenary Camp): Arquebusier (gunpowder infantry) with a ‘Crack Shot’ cooldown ability that gives a one time attack with an anti-siege bonus.


  • Bhakti (IV, Temple): Replaces ‘Piety’ with the same effect.

  • Puja Rituals (IV, Temple): Replaces ‘Tithe Barns’ with the same effect.

  • Elephant Husbandry (IV, University): Replaces Biology. Increases Elephant HP and speed.

  • Supply Lines (IV, Stable): Replaces adjustable crossbars. Same effect but for Yantras.

  • Tusk Knives (IV, Blacksmith): Increases Royal Elephant tusk attack and gives attack bonus vs light infantry.

  • Elephant Caparisons (III, Blacksmith): Increases elephant pierce armor.

  • Improved Howdah (IV, Stable): Adds extra javelineers to Royal Elephant.

  • Brahmin Commanders (IV, Temple): Royal elephants carrying relics can take sacred sites and use convert ability.

  • Katar Punch-Dagger (III, Barracks): Increases spearman and archer dagger attack damage

  • Irrigation Systems (III, Mill): Farmers do not need to drop off food at a mill. Temple and monument influence increases gather rate rather than drop off amount.

  • Hatha Yoga (Age II, Temple of Shiva Landmark): Meditation effect of landmark is improved

  • Portuguese Alliance (IV, Vittala Bazaar Landmark): Portuguese Mercenaries increase damage of nearby bombards.

  • Imported Horses (IV, Vittala Bazaar Landmark): Horseman and Lancer hp and armor increased.

  • Spice and Perfume Trade (IV, Vittala Bazaar Landmark): Wood-to-gold exchange rate cannot drop below 1:1

  • Heavy Keels (II, Dock): Transport ships have increased capacity


Feudal: Feudal combat boost vs Fast-Castle boost

  • Temple to Shiva: Acts as a temple. When built, infantry that are not in combat and in the radius of a temple or monument heal and have increased HP for a period of time after leaving the radius.
    • Inspired by the Hoysala Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu
  • Temple to Vishnu: Acts as a temple. Grants line of sight on all relics and sacred sites. Reduces cost of Feudal Age and Castle Age Monuments and Temples
    • Inspired by the Hoysala Chennakesava Temple in Belur

Castle: Immediate power spike vs defensive, resource safety

  • Royal Elephant Stables: Spawns a number of Royal Elephants on completion and upgrades elephants to Veteran status. Acts as a stable with increased production speed.
    • Inspired by the Vijayanagara elephant stables, still standing in Hampi today.
  • Moon Hill Fort: Acts as a keep with trees around it that can be harvested for wood and respawn over time. (Similar to Twin-Minaret Madrasa)
    • Inspired by Chandragiri Fort

Imperial: Two landmarks which offer different ways to improve your Imperial age army composition.

  • Mahanavami Dibba: Grants Mahanavami Festival ability which costs food to activate. When active, it temporarily increases temple gold generation rate from civ bonus and temporarily increases population space.
    • Inspired by the large ceremonial platform of the same name in Vijayanagara where grand events such as the Mahanavami festival, the most famous, were celebrated by the king.
  • Vittala Bazaar: Acts as a market with improved trading rates. Decreases cost of mercenary units. Contains unique technologies.
    • Inspired by the large bazaar at Vittala temple, in Vijayanagara


  • Virupaksha Temple in Vijayanagara

A note: the name of one of the brothers is censored by the forum filter I guess.

Virupaksha Temple

Royal Elephant Stables

Hoysaleswara Temple

Examples of Possible Monuments

By Shivajidesai29 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:IMG 2362 Lotus Mahal.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


Example of Southern Indian Infantry and Hoysala Cavalry


You might want to put the Musketeer off the list of unique units because it didn’t become widespread until the late 16th century (barely within the Medieval timeframe). Also, armor upgrades and Siege Engineering both, shouldn’t be missing.

The word ‘musketeer’ appears very prominently in historical accounts about the Vijayanagara from the early-to-mid 16th century, and since the trend seems to be going in the direction of more advanced gunpowder units (janissary, musofadi) it makes more sense to add them than Hand Cannoneers which are never mentioned at all in relation to the Vijayanagara.

My intent with taking away siege engineers was to play into the uniqueness of having Age 2 elephants to replace the ram. Not needing to research siege engineers would be balanced by the elephant’s higher cost (although probably would not be feasible in this case to have them cost 1000 res each)

Having armor upgrades just felt weird on a culture which, from everything I read, did not value infantry armor (even helmets) in any way. I tried to balance it with the cheaper units and other bonuses, again for uniqueness, but maybe they would still eventually need them for balance.

Ok, I understand now

Always great to see more people jumping in the Civ-concept train!
And even better when they add the flags.

I don’t know why, I think flags spice things up quite a lot.

Very interesting read through as this is one of the empires I have close to 0 knowledge off! Nice pictures also.

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I’m new to the form and still trying to figure out the purpose of these. For fun, a guessing game, for modders… I really don’t know. I guess it’s for fun.

Any source to read about this?

is this real??? we can barely get Japan and I have come to know about the existence of this place whose name I can barely pronounce. Great research there! Shame the devs sleep on these talented and skilled ppl… :frowning:

Well, fun is one way of putting it haha. For me it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes frustration, searching for research material, scraping what I can from publicly available sources, and going through various iterations of the civ until I settle on something that I’m somewhat happy with and pays sufficient respect to the historical inspiration. But the end result is that I learn a lot about something I previously knew very little about and have fun imagining what it would be like to play, which makes it worth it for me. It’s kind of like imaging what you would do if you win the lottery. And if some of it ends up inspiring a dev who may read it, then all the better! For example, Mali’s pit mine mechanic is basically exactly the same as a mechanism I had in my Hungary civ design. Is it a coincidence? Maybe, probably, but its cool to think of a mechanic and then see it in the game nevertheless.

Don’t be too hard on them. It’s a lot easier to just design a civ gameplay concept than to make an actual civ . I didn’t have to research language evolution and record hundreds of voice lines. I didn’t have to research and compose a musical score. I didn’t have to design the building and unit models for this civ, which would have to be very intricate to bring this civ justice. I also didn’t have to balance test this civ. As much work as went into this, its still the easiest part!

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Responding to this separately, since for some reason I can’t quote this post.

There is no comprehensive description that I found of this unit. I found at least two sources mentioning this:

  1. Medieval Indian Armies (1): Hindu, Buddhist and Jain
    by David Nicolle
    Osprey MAA series

“… Early written sources mention varma metallic armour, perhaps including mail, as well as large quivers to hold arrows and even small yantra, a word normally taken to mean siege machinery.”

  1. Elephants In Ancient Indian Warfare - World History Encyclopedia

“According to the Mahabharata, the elephants were provided with armour, girths, blankets, neck ropes and bells, hooks and quivers, banners and standards, yantras (possibly stone-or-arrow-hurling contrivances) and lances.”

So from what I read, we don’t know for sure how much these were actually used in battle, whether by Vijayanagara or others. In a vacuum, I would have initially made it a springald replacement, but Ballista elephants are historically more commonly associated with the Khmer so I settled on a Mangonel replacement. In the end, I liken it to the Abbasid camels as an example of taking something for which there is historical basis to some degree, and using it to give a civ more uniqueness even if the use wasn’t widespread.


This yanthra could be reference to the khmer type balista elephants,sea regions were heavily influenced by indian culture.

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You are really doing good job, I am really appreciate it. It’s very interesting to read.


There’s another infantry unit that the Vijayanagara Empire could also go for and it’s this: The Maru

The unit using this weapon can be called the Maru Warrior.

You can still keep the Haridasa and of course keep it named as that rather than referring to it as Brahmin. However, there’s no need to replace the Monastery because it would be a good idea for the Vijayanagara Empire to keep the Monastery since monasticism is rather so common within Hinduism.

While I appreciate your enthusiasm for discussing new civ potential, I think if you’re going to resurrect these posts you need to have more substance and backing in your ideas besides saying random things ‘would be a good idea’ with no real research. Even just a cursory search will reveal, for example, that almost every major Hindu religious site is called a Temple (at least in English, which is the language in which I designed the civ) and nobody refers to them as monasteries. Even though churches, temples, mosques, monasteries, etc are basically the same thing when it boils down to it, perception is important, and ‘Monasteries’ and ‘Monks’ have primarily a Christian and Buddhist connotation, not Hindu. And in AOE4, we already have 6 different names for religious units so people are used to it. It wouldn’t be an issue to add more.

The ‘Monasteries’ and ‘Monks’ can still have a Hindu connotation because like I said, monasticism is relatively so common in Hinduism. Hindu monasteries and as well as Hindu monks do exist. By the way, if you’re looking for the exact name of a Hindu temple, it’s called ‘Mandir’ and if that was to become a building in AoE4, this building would not only be given to South Asian civs but also Southeast Asian civs because some of the Southeast civs would not only be Buddhist civs but also Hindu civs like the Majapahit Empire and some of the South Asian civs would probably not be only Hindu civs but also Buddhist civs like the Pala Empire.

After the Malians came out, I am hoping for another civ that’s a little outside the box and really hoping for something from India. If nothing else, just for the architecture. Having said that I don’t really love your unique unit lineup. I made a poll back in May asking people what unique units they would like and here is a screenshot of the top ones:

I like your elephant ideas a lot, but having two gun units (Musketeer and Portuguese Mercenary) when only 20% of the respondents wanted more hand cannons (before we got the Janissary and Musofadi Gunner) I think misses the mark. The three top results in my poll were infantry. Cavalry was high as well. I’m a huge fan of the AOE 2 Dynasties of India expansion where the unique units are the Ratha (chariot), Chakram (disk) thrower, Shrivamsha Rider (light cavalry), Camel Scout, Urumi Swordsman (whip-like sword), and Ghulam (heavy spear-man).

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I like the game and tend to defend the devs on almost anything, but the one thing I can’t get behind is why they passed up all that architecture to go with the Delhi Sultanate. I guess they think we have never seen courtyards and minarets before. That Lotus Mahal though :fire::fire:. And tell me you don’t want to build elephants out of those Royal Elephant Stables.

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Thanks for the input! Fair enough on having two different gunpowder units, even tho the musketeer was just intended to be a reskin of the Hand Cannoneer (as I stated previously, it’s mostly that I personally don’t like this straddling of two different eras of gunpowder with both hand cannoneers and arquebus style gunpowder units and I’d rather AoE4 just fully embrace the latter and replace HC for other civs as well). Perhaps it would be simpler and better with just the Portuguese mercenary (inspired by their important role in the Battle of Raichur picking off enemy artillerymen on the walls among other battles)

As for the rest I think they mostly cover the spectrum of that poll pretty well along with being historically appropriate. The Kshatriya is basically a Huskarl and the elephants are a completely new and unique ranged+melee heavy cavalry unit and mobile siege. I made a big effort to maintain historical accuracy with the unique units so it wouldn’t really make sense to them a cavalry unique unit given that the quality of their cavalry was well-recorded to be pretty questionable (as also evidenced by the Dravidians complete lack of a stable in AoE2). Even then, I considered the double-headed spear Hoysala horseman shown in the artwork but ultimately decided against it when I couldn’t find a single other piece of corroborating evidence about the use of that weapon. Otherwise there’s not really a lot of other special, realistic non-sword or spear weapons to choose from (unless you count the punch-dagger which I gave to archers and spearmen, making them both pseudo-unique). A lot of the AoE2 Dynasties of India UU are, to be blunt, basically complete fiction as medieval army units, so I didn’t use them at all for inspiration.

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