Who are the Maya, and why the Maya?
The Maya are one of the dominant Mesoamerican civilizations. Although there are many, the other most noteworthy one is the Aztecs. For those who tend to mention the Inca, they are a thousand miles away in South America. The Maya were technologically advanced for their region, having developed writing, calendar, and extensive architectural monuments. Like the Aztecs, they were extremely religion-oriented, utilizing sacrifice to appease their gods. I’d argue that they were the most advanced of the major Native American civs. Their timeline was also expansive, with the Classic Period stretching from 250 AD to 950 AD. The postclassic period when they went into decline, became less religious and more trade-oriented while developing multiple different city-states, was from 950 to 1539. In otherwords, the AoE4 timeline covers their peak to the decline.
In contrast, the Aztecs, for all their fame, had a very short-lived empire, ranging from around 1440 to 1521. If you want to stretch it out to pre-imperial development, then the foundation of Tenochtitlan was in 1325. A very small time period to draw from. If anything the Aztecs are perfect for AoE3, but basically occupy the Imperial age of AoE4.
A lot of design in AoE 2 is purely fictional, and since AoE 4 is more steeped in history, I’m going to try the same here. I’m also gonna take a cue from AoE 3 and make this civ radically different than the others… in part because the Maya are so unique and that’s the only way to make it make sense.
Regarding military strength, yes the Maya, as with all native American civs, have a weaker military than their counterparts. My solution to overcoming this is focusing on the religious aspect of the culture and give units buffs that originate from their religious zeal to make up for their lack of steel armor and weaponry.
First two ages of landmarks are religious, reflecting the classical period, which is heavy in religious worship. Later landmarks are more economic to reflect the postclassic shift.
The Maya will lack three major structures due to historical reasons:
No blacksmith – They didn’t really have armor. Warrior “armor” was made of cotton, which obviously offers very little protection. Instead, attack damage and armor are increased through priest blessings. Priests are units that project a very large aura (to keep them safe and not easily picked off). The strength of their aura can also be augmented by the level of favor generated at the landmarks.
No stables or cavalry, since they did no have horses. Instead they have shock infantry that remover faster than normal infantry. There will be a castle age upgrade that increases everyone’s speed. At this point, these shock infantry are almost as fast as cavalry (but still slower). They can also use poison-tipped spears to slow down their units (AoE3 style). Like cavalry, they are also weak to spears, to complete the basic rock-paper-scissors units.
No siege workshop. The lack of siege is a big problem. AoE3’s way of dealing it seems a bit weird and unrealistic (having arrow units with high siege damage). Instead, my idea is a Black Market, where the Maya can essentially buy or import foreign weaponry. Because these need to be imported, the same units are significantly weighted more heavily in gold. Thematically, this is supposed to represent a fictional/hypothetical setting where the Maya first interact with outsiders without dying to disease and strife. I’d also suggest removing the ability to import springalds and instead using a unit based on the Aztec arrow knight from AoE3 that does extra damage to siege. Maybe half as strong as a springald, but also half as cheap and twice as squishy, being infantry.
BUILDINGS AND UNITS
Okay, now that we’ve discussed general major sweeping changes, I’ll go into the buildings and the corresponding units.
War Hut – Trains commoners of low birth and effectively functions as a barracks. Spearmen and basic ranged units can be trained here, giving more flexibility than other civs.
-Spearman – Standard.
-Atlatlist – Archer equivalent. Shorter range than archers but more damage. Available in the dark age but are very weak to make up for it. This should still encourage dark age aggression, which the Maya should excel in.
Elite Barracks (Age II) – This is where more elite soldiers are trained. Choices include shock troopers (cavalry replacement), men at arms, and the anti-siege archer discussed above. Siege engineering is also researched here.
-Runner – Fastmoving cavalry-like infantry unit. Snares enemies like AoE3. Mayans do not get heavy cavalry.
-Man at arms (Age III) – Decorated warrior wielding a macahuitl. 1 base armor. Additionally, men at arms do anti-armor damage since there is no crossbowman. This could also be named warrior if the name seems out of place.
-Plumed archer (Age III) – Borrowing this name from AoE2 for lack of a better name. These are anti-siege units. Historically, spears and atlatls were far more common than bows and arrows, so having this being used in a more focused context makes sense.
Ceremonial Hall (Age II) – While there is no archery range, this is basically necessary as another “military” production building to produce priests. Priests provide auras that make your otherwise inferior army stand up to their more advanced and armored Old World equivalents.
-Shaman – Defensive support unit that actively heals and passively grants a defense bonus aura. Auras don’t stack.
-Priest – Offensive support unit that actively gives a temporary speed boost to a small area of units and passively grants gives an attack boost aura. Auras don’t stack.
-Black Sorcerer (Age III) – Offensive support unit that unleashes poison in an AoE area that does a small amount of DoT as well as slows attack speed (despite being named a sorcerer, we’ll not use actual magic – but these people did exist).
Upgrades can increase the aura effects, healing, attack boosts, etc. The aura effect upgrades basically function as a blacksmith (unlike blacksmith upgrades, auras do both ranged and melee at the same time). Additionally, since these are available in Age II unlike other Age III religious buildings, the ability for shamans and priests to take relics and sacred sites are technologies unlocked in Age III. Additional aura upgrades available in the imperial age to make them more than just limited blacksmiths.
Docks – Unfortunately, will just have to borrow the ships straight from AoE3 natives. Very weak but maybe massable. Maritime trade was actually a big part of Maya society, so something akin to a French civ bonus on trade ships may help. Either way, I won’t get into details here since it’s not very important.
Black Market (Age III) – As above, foreign artillery is purchased mostly at an increased gold cost. No springald (replaced by plumed archer above). Typical siege technologies cannot be researched. However, different upgrades are available, such as an expensive upgrade to reduce black market costs, another to reduce delivery time (shipment), and other unique upgrades along this line.
Walls – Palisade and stone walls still available. Stone towers are not available.
Outposts – Similar to most civs but without springald and cannon emplacements (see below)
Stone Forts - No castles. But Mayans can build fortresses, which are smaller castles that are cheaper but weaker. No cannon upgrades, but outposts and fortresses can upgrade the ability to drop boulders (kinda like the equivalent of melting pots).
Town Centers – While Mongol TCs cost entirely wood, Mayan TCs cost entirely stone. Otherwise, this serves the same purpose.
-Villagers – Standard
-Scout – Kind of like runners, these are fast-moving infantry units (but not cavalry scout speed). Because they’re slower than scouts though, they start with TWO.
Market (Age II) – Same function. Traders can later get an upgrade (“limestone network”) that lets them also gain stone (like the Mongols).
Observatory (Age IV) – University equivalent.
Wealth of the Jungle – Gold veins and stone deposits are increased by 60% when in the range of a Mayan mining camp.
Population Growth - The Mayans had some of the largest population centers in the world at the time. To reflect that, they get faster (and presumably cheaper villagers). How much depends on balance.
Stone Buildings –TCs, ceremonial halls, elite barracks, and observatories are made of stone and therefore only cost stone.
Age II – Landmarks that depend on the sacrifice of sheep
Temple of Maize (Economic)– Sacrifice sheep to increase the gather rate of your villagers
Temple of the Jaguar (Military) – Sacrifice sheep to significantly reduce military unit costs for a certain duration. Optimal for rushing.
Age III – Landmarks that depend on the sacrifice of war victims (deaths automatically increase the counter to go up)
Temple of the Deer (Economic) - Generates deer at a rate depending on the number of enemies killed.
Temple of the Knife (Military) – Increases health of units based on number of enemies killed (gains required become exponentially more difficult)
Age IV – More traditional landmarks
Palace (Scientific) – Grants special technologies, including one grants your units a kind of stealth ability (working it out)
Great Ballcourt (Military) – Increases the unit production speed in adjacent buildings, kind of like Spirit Path.
Wonder: Pyramid of Chichen Itza, with typical AoE4-style name change.
-Traders do not use horses and Mayans did not have horses. Poor humans carry trade goods.
-Farms are maize fields.
-Units don’t use steel weapons, but rather classic Mayan weapons (which were made of obsidian and stone). Men-at-arms wield a macahuitl.