First things things first elephant units tend to be costly units and population efficient. And have very high HP so we don’t have to repeat ourselves over too much.
One idea from me.
Mounted skirmisher elephant. Basically two skirmishers on top of an elephant. Throws two javelins per shot with high bonus damage against archers, but lackluster damage against anything else. Unit has very high pierce armor and the same melee armor rating as a battle elephant. Elite version also available. Can switch to melee mode but is far inferior compared to that of a battle elephant, still better than an armored elephant in close combat.
Fire Ship Elephant
Elephant Arbalest (well that’s just the regular Elephant Archer now that I think about it)
Elephant Hussar (costs only food with a bit inferior stats to BE)
Elephant Steppe Lancer (like normal Elephant but with a bit lower attack and HP and 1 range)
a skirmisher that is able to take 200-300 arrows sounds a bit overkill the only way i could see it be used is as an arrow sponge ram subsitute along with archer or skirmishers or on maps like black forest where pop efficient really matters also it dies to halbs if not sufficiently massed id dies to knights, Camels monks scorpions, onagers.
Villagers probably not, but Monks… Didn’t we have Missionary? A monk on a donkey? We can create a monk on an elephant for South Asian civs, as well as Khmer and Burmese. I will skip on the Vietnamese with elephant monks per balance and because historically I can’t find any backbone for it.
The main idea was to use them only for resource gathering (except maybe in farms) and be unable to build or repair anything. However, they would need to have terrible attack or maybe negative piercing armor in order to not be turned into trash military units.
Yeah, as @Skadidesu mentioned they could have a “splash heal” hability but be unable to convert enemy units. I second that actually, if faith worked the same way for them as it does for regular monks, using them to convert units one at a time would not make them really interesting even with lots of HP. And obviously, giving them splash or chain conversion would be way too op.
Agree. Missionary was unable to carry relics but was able to convert and heal. We can do the same with an “elephant monk”. The only thing is, how would we call it? There should be a unified term for those “elephant monks” in India at least.