On Battle Elephants and Bengali

I have been making this case for quite a while now, but wanted to wait until the August patch definitively dropped before making my case to give the developers the benefit of the doubt. This might be a long one.

It’s no secret that battle elephants just aren’t there. Pretty much everyone knows this, but it causes more problems downstream of the fact than a lot of people expect.

For starters, Battle Elephants are responsible for the state of Bengali as an absolutely ridiculous meme civilization, with the worst winrate we may have ever seen. In a recent video, Hera said “I don’t even know where to start” when it comes to buffing them, and said they were even worse than old Khmer in this respect. Notice the other point of comparison is also a civ whose tech tree is labeled as an Elephant civ.

This is because Bengali are almost entirely designed around being a Battle Elephant civ, similar in focus to how Franks are designed as a Knight Civ and Britons are designed as an Archer civ. BE is one of Bengalis only fully upgraded units. Their bonuses include a damage reduction to elephants, faster attack for elephants, and conversion resistance for elephants. There’s only one problem, Battle Elephant is not a playable unit in 1v1. This would be like if they made a new civilization that had a singular focus on Scorpions or Petards. You need Goth levels of bonuses in order to make a unit like Battle Elephant viable (which Bengalis most certainly do not have). Of course the civilization sucks.

The developers it seems, for whatever reason, tend to penalize Civs with Access to battle elephant in their tech trees in multiple ways. As a result, battle elephant civs have a legacy of being among the most terrible civs in the game’s history. Look at the 1v1 winrates of these civs historically:

Dravidians: mid 40s
Burmese: high 40s, made a laughingstock by the community ever since being nerfed
Malay: consistently fighting with Portuguese for lowest WR 1v1 civ for the past couple years
Vietnamese: mid 40s, used to be bottom 5
Khmer: 50, but only after being overhauled as a hussar civilization and getting arbalester. When they were actually focused on elephants they had a through the floor winrate.
Bengali: high 30s to low 40s.

The developers seems to think that Battle Elephant is viable, otherwise why would you design a civilization around the unit? They seem so confident of this in fact, that Bengali don’t have a bonus to any anti-spear units in their tech tree. They have no hand cannons, they have generic skirmishers, and subpar champions. In spite of this SOTL noted in one of his videos that “historically, Battle Elephant hasn’t contributed at all to having a good stable”. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Your reward for having access to battle elephant is being guaranteed a low winrate and a gimped tech tree.

Now that that’s out of the way, what are my actionable suggestions for improving the situation? I am of the opinion that Bengali will not be a real, non-joke civilization until Battle Elephants are at least usable. They don’t have to be meta, or even common. But they need to have their situations.

  1. Return BE trample damage to previous levels. Even when Battle Elephants trampled 33% of their attack values, they still weren’t considered viable. I would like to see the value raised to 50%, although team game players may take issue with this.

  2. Or increase movement speed. For a unit to really fill a cavalry role, especially with pathing being where it is, it could stand to be faster. Again, we see elephants getting nerfed in the past for nonsensical reasons. A slight speed increase would help the unit actually function correctly.

2.5. Some have suggested adding a new technology, Mahouts. This would increase Elephant speed similar to Husbandry, and Khmer would lose their bonus and instead get free Mahouts. I think this may be MatCauthon’s idea. This to me feels more fun than just increasing the speed, and I like the idea of adding more texture to the tech tree for these civs. Presumably some like Dravidians or maybe Gurjaras would not have access to Mahouts.

  1. Create a new War Elephant armor class, so that non-war elephants like Battle Elephants can take what is a reasonably scaled bonus damage from pikes. The +60 bonus damage Halberdiers get vs Elephants was designed in AOC to help Halbs overcome the massive health pool of the Persian unique unit. Many people have started subscribing to the idea that this should be sectioned off into a separate War Elephant bonus damage, and have the damage done to Battle and Archer elephants scaled down to something more appropriate.

  2. Alter the cost of the EBE upgrade, or reduce the cost of BE at the stable somewhat. EBE is very very expensive, but extremely exploitable. Part of this is because despite being a drastically less useful unit than the Paladin or Hussar, Battle Elephants take double or more bonus damage from spears. This buff is, in my estimation, the least interesting but also most likely change to be made to the unit.

I don’t think every one of these changes in necessary, maybe 2 of them total. If it were up to me, I would go with 1. and 3.

Although I’ve been on this topic for quite a while, I’m compiling my thoughts and the community’s thoughts in this thread to hopefully get the attention of the developers, because they clearly seem to think that all Bengalis needed to be viable was free orthodoxy.

Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the matter?


I was thinking about it.
Abother idea comes to my mind:
Buff non-elite BE by giving more war Elephant armor and more base speed Let’s say 0,95. This way BE with husbandry can outrun pikes without squires and chase archers.
Nerf it by rising their TT to 35 secs, bonus vs building and defenses reduced and make it occupy 1.5 pop space (for balance them in 1v1).

Elite BE cost reduced. Let’s say 750F 500G (affordable in 1v1)
New imperial tech “mahouts” that reduce the eles pop space to 1 (to keep their cost effective in tg). 1000F 600G (expensive for 1v1, but affordable for TG)

Another possible chango could be buff the scorpions bonus attack vs Elephants too


Well, I wouldn’t really call Dravidians a Battle Elephant civ…

It’s like calling Turks a Spearman/Skirmisher civ. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think generally though, Battle Elephants have been a tough unit to balance. When they’re viable, they’re OP (see: Khmer at some point), and nerf them and they’re immediately unusable. It’s more or less what you get for designing a power unit with a high cost, that has to have strong counters (monks, halbs) so that the unit wouldn’t steamroll anything.

The problem really is just that they require you to be fully boomed in order to actually make them, and especially in 1v1s that just doesn’t happen. The problem with Bengalis especially is that they don’t have any other options. Any other civ does. Bengalis can do…Archers?

Since they’re designed to have no Knights, I wouldn’t add it to them. But they have Light Cavalry, so why not Hussar? If the devs are worried about them becoming another Khmer with Hussar spam civ, well… sucks, but I’d rather take that over just unplayable civ. 11

I’d also give them Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons, but I don’t know if that’s because of some historical reason. If so, at least give them Plate Mail Armor, so they can do FU Infantry at least.

1 Like

Bengali sultanates used gunpowder weapons at the time Portuguese arrived.

No to hand cannoneer because they already have good elite elephant archers, but they deserve bombard cannon to be honest.


Would that really be a problem though?

But then what’s the point of giving hand cannoneer? it won’t adress an area where bengalis struggle, while bombard cannon will do it.

1 Like

It’s another option, something bengalis sorely need. And it does pretty well vs halb, which Bengali can’t handle at the moment.

1 Like

Skirms with bracer are enough.

My problem with battle elephants is that in team ganes, especially with a close start like some of the maps in BOA3, they are borderline OP. So i would not like a 1v1 buff if that means teamgames become an khmer and bengali fest


Give them supplies so that they can atleast use swordsmen.


If one is interested we already discussed some ideas there aswell in other threads associated with that at that time.


Trash unit that synergizes with BE

1 Like

Everyone agrees BE need buffs, but the devs are having difficulty balancing them for both 1v1 and TG. I think currently they are okay for TG closed maps, but terrible outside of it. Here are my thoughts from a 1v1 perspective:

  1. Trample damage is very hard to balance for 1v1 and TG. Other units that have trample damage die to archers. In 1v1, you can never afford enough elephants for trample damage to be significant. In TG, trample damage gets out of control when you have 40+ BE. Also, percentage based trample damage disproportionately benefits Khmer, who already have the best BE due to their civ bonus.
  2. I agree BE need more speed. Archers can ignore the elephant and kill villagers with attack-move micro. Players usually make military to save eco by distracting the enemy units or raiding enemy eco. BE being as tanky as they are only serves to save themselves. Making BE in 1v1 castle age does not solve any problems currently and is still easy to counter. Speed also impacts what engagements BE can take favorably. At their current speed, BE can only engage siege. When engaging siege, BE will still take a lot of damage because to takes so long to reach them.
    2.5. is interesting, but I think elephants are already expensive enough without needing to pay an additional tech just to make them functional.
  3. is not as much of an issue as 2. and 4. Elephants are already tanky enough and don’t need to be more tanky against 1 of their counters. They only need this because they are slow and expensive. Even if you buff BE resistance to spears, they still don’t have a role to fulfill in 1v1.
  4. BE cost too much gold for a unit that is so slow and easily countered in 1v1. There is always a better way to spend gold in every stage of the game than making BE. Malay BE is the only 1 that is viable in 1v1 and even they have difficulty making them. Other units that cost a lot of gold are atleast good at killing some enemy military and villagers. On the other hand, villagers outrun BE. BE are not even that good at destroying buildings, unless you have a lot of them but that can be said for any melee unit.
    Also, EBE is too expensive. The devs priced it according to the paladin upgrade, but +2 attack and 50 HP is not as useful to elephants as it is to knights. BE will lose the extra HP on approach due to much lower speed compared to knights. EBE is priced like 10 elephants, but you need about 20 elephants for this to pay off (I think it is better to just make more BE when you have < 20). In 1v1, you can never afford 20 BE without winning the game first.

It sounds like speed is the answer. A melee unit that gets outrun by villagers is an inherently ridiculous concept, unless it has ram-levels of siege power which forces a fight in a location.


That seems like an odd way to characterize it, especially given the Khmer comparison. Yes, there are other civs that have BEs that are on the lower side as far as 1v1 win rates, but this seems far more to be a matter of Bengalis having a uniquely bad design than BE civs being inherently bad. Bengalis are weak (mainly) because they probably have the most awkward Castle Age of any civ, given their lack of knights, thumb ring, and both the massing constraints and lackluster performance of their UU.

You make some decent points, but IMO its quite a stretch to lay this all at the feet of the BE, given Bengalis’ access to both the Ratha and EA. Make no mistake, I’m not saying these units are amazing options as-is, so much as that they are viable candidates for buffs that could significantly improve Bengalis, and both are strong parts of the Bengalis’ identity (ie they’re not just a “Battle Ele Civ”).

I’m not going to get too deep into all of these, but again, I’m having some issues with the characterizations.
Dravidians: Unusable BEs in every context due to no bonuses, lack of crucial techs (including Elite). Possibly an “elephant civ” as up to the least significant 1/3rd of their identity (after infantry, archers, and navy), but clearly not a “battle elephant civ”.

Both Malay and Burmese are very strong on Arena, Malay are also great on hybrid maps, and Burmese are strong in TGs. Not that both couldn’t use a buff, but strong performance on a couple maps/game modes does make people wary of further buffs that are not very well vetted (like Spanish being good almost exclusively in Nomad and TGs, but nonsense almost everywhere else, yet a lot of people are afraid to buff them). Both were also OP at one point via their UUs, so tweaking them slightly is another avenue of improvement.

And Khmer, as you know, were the reason why BEs were nerfed in the first place. I agree with those who say the nerf should have been more civ-specific than global, but I don’t think we need Khmer eles to be near what they were at their high point.
I gotta say though, reviewing only the poor historical performance of these civs without also pointing out the times where they were very OP seems a tad disingenuous, as well as leaving out key information as to why Battle Eles generally, as well as many of these civs, specifically, were nerfed to where they are now. It would also be nice to couch all of these suggestions within the context of BE’s design being fundamentally at odds with the high accessibility and versatility that would be necessary for them to be anything but a rarity in open map 1v1s. The performance of highly pop efficient units in Death Match or TGs is a huge constraint on the buffs they can receive to make them viable in 1v1s, so I think more acknowledgement of that than:

is in order. Also,

Surely you realize that Dravidians are already the only civ that gets Eles but lacks Husbandry, and now you’re proposing another ele speed tech that they don’t get, despite them also being in desperate need of some love?

Anyway, I’ve started out heavily with the stuff I don’t agree on, or would have put differently. I hope I don’t come across as too negative, there are just a lot of characterizations that I think could have been presented in a much more nuanced and comprehensive way.

The broad points I do agree on are:
-Battle eles were overnerfed globally and could use some kind of small buff.
-Some civs that have BEs are indeed lower tier and could use some kind of buff(s) beyond a global BE buff. (Especially Malay after the archerline nerf).

Options for this I think are best are a small to moderate decrease in bonus damage taken from spearline (ie positive ele armor), or a very slight increase in speed. 5-10% perhaps. New techs to increase their speed or lower their food cost is an interesting idea, but I don’t know those will make them much more viable in 1v1s (and will make them much more powerful in TGs).

Also, heartily agree with @UnwariestRobin3’s analysis.


I was looking for your opinion about the vietnamese ones :smiling_face_with_tear:

A couple reasons I didn’t really focus on them:
-First is that I don’t really play Vietnamese ever, so I don’t really have any specialized qualified opinion. All the other civs I’ve had least had a good amount of experience with over the course of their existence.

-Second is that Viets have historically been weak (although they’re not terrible now, they were weaker in the past), so in this case I think the characterization of them as a weak BE civ across time was fairly accurate. Even so, I would chalk this up as much or more to them being an “archer civ” with one of the weakest archer civ bonuses - if instead of more HP they had the Briton range or Mayan discount, I think they would be a very strong civ without touching another single aspect of the civ. Their old eco bonus + UT was also weak and old Chatras was very underwhelming for an ele unit.

Fair enough. The point I was trying to make was not that “Battle Elephant Civs” are by definition bad (as you point out, Dravidians aren’t really a BE civ), but rather that the costs of having Battle Elephant on the rest of your tech tree are too severe. The civilizations that have the unit are often lacking in some other major ways which implies to me that the developers feel that the unit is enough of an asset to penalize civilizations that have it in other ways. Battle Elephant civs universally or near-universally don’t have Paladin or Heresy, for example. In the case of Bengalis, you’ve got a civ with Battle Elephants, Elephant Archers, Rathas… and basically nothing else- being the apotheosis of this point. It’s a good bit of feedback, and I wanted to clarify my intent here.


and it’s very very rare to see BE civilizations have hand cannon. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the developers greatly overestimated the value of having access to Battle Elephant when designing the tech trees.


Yeah, that’s reasonable. I think in terms of a hypothetical civ with both Paladin and EBE, there would be questions as far as both historical justification as well as the need for both types of units (although Persians may be as close as it gets to that). But as far as other techs, particularly lategame generic techs like Hand Cannon, Supplies, and Hussar, those are potential ways to buff Bengalis that wouldn’t raise their power too much in TGs. But of course it’s worth trying to buff them first via units that are more unique to their identity (Ratha and both Eles).

I also think in general, it would be good for the game if currently non-meta units could become somewhat more viable. This would include underloved Unique units, and regional units like Eles and Steppe lancers, and it would allow more opportunities for civs to be good even if they lacked some standard generic techs. So I kind of appreciate at least the radical designs of the DOI civs (2 top tier, 2 bottom tier) for experimentation purposes, but hopefully the kinks get worked out and all the new civs become more balanced.


When dynasties of India first rolled out i was excited for camels. I play mostly team games where they werent very meta. With hindus and gurjaras dominating safe to say ive gotten the camel love out of my system 11