Usac’s Civ Crafting Brainstorms Part 11 - Zimbabweans

Ah the Shona. I know its an easier word to use, but for the same reason we got Ethiopians over Axumites, Zimbabwe is just more known to most people, even if it’s only known today as being Alphabetically the very last country when going from A to Z.

Fun fact, only 2 civs have a Z in them (Aztecs and Byzantines) in the English phonetic version.

So the Shona/Zimbabweans are known for their defensive prowess, their ability to rally great cities and enclosures. Hundreds of years of oral traditions and a variety of known fighting and hunting weapons.

Interactions with Portuguese lead to a gun trade, and unlike America, the prescence of Europe wasn’t as detrimental as they did not fall to diseases… horses on the other hand would die to Tsetse flies.

If we want to get technical, Great Zimbabwe is said to have fallen off before Europeans arrived, but I find that hard to believe because I’m almost certain that Shona did great trade including guns for Zimbabwean goods.

There’s also stories of the Mwenye/Lemba, who are thought to have been migrated Jewish or Muslims, or least brought those faiths a few thousand miles south but I’m not touching that.

Zimbabweans (900s-1500s)

A Tower civ

  • Walls benefit from Masonry and Architecture

When you have a great city, you need great walls. If this pushes walls over the edge, and the added armor might do that more than the extra HP, then maybe at half effect?

  • Elite Assegai (slightly altered halb replacement for Southern Africans) upgrade cost and research time reduced by 70%.

As stated in Swahili/Kongo threads, Assegai is an alternative upgrade to the Pikeman with slightly different stats. The Elite upgrade is the Halberd replacement. Free is too good especially since the tech does cost more than Halberdier, but 70% is nice savings. This is your Cowhorn formation bonus.

  • Gains 2 food every 15 wood gathered

There are plenty of jungles in Zimbabwe. And delicious jungle fruit and exotic jungle animals getting killed as you fell forests. Look its a bit filler and might seem weak, but free food as you cut trees? Can’t find the right number truthfully.

  • Buildings attack 5% faster, 15% starting Feudal and their projectiles travel 20% faster to their destination

This is the bonus that defines the civ as tower. With great walled cities come great walled towers! You need the towers. But it effects all buildings. One could argue this would encourage a TC drop. 5% faster is meager enough that dropping a TC in Feudal or catching an enemy scout out of position isn’t an instant win.

Team Bonus: Stone Mines within 25 range of Town Centers are revealed.

Finding stone was key to city building. While it seems meager, on maps like Nomad for instance, as you extend your TC access. You will start seeing new Stone Mines as you build more TCs further away.

Missing Techs:

  • Barracks: Elite Savannah Runner (Remember the Savannah Scout and Savannah Warrior are reskinned Eagle Warriors. So no Elite means no Elite Eagle)
  • Archery Range: Parthian Tactics, Elephant Archer, Cavalry Archer
  • Stable: Building
  • Siege Workshop: Siege Onager, Armored Elephant
  • Dock: Fast Fire Ship, Heavy Demo
  • Blacksmith: Cavalry Armor, Blast Furnace
  • Economy: 2 Man Saw
  • University: /
  • Monastery: Redemption
  • Castle: Hoardings

UU: Humbwa - Axeman who can swap between being a fast and hard hitter to a slow moving, slow attacking, tanky unit that can protect units behind him, halving projectile damage when they pass near it.

Humbwa Stats Elite
Health 65 75
Attack (both) 11 (+3 vs Eagles and buildings) 14 (+4 vs Eagles and buildings)
Range melee melee
Accuracy 100 (both)
RoF (defensive) 2.7 2.4
RoF (Aggressive) 1.85 1.85
LoS 6 6
Movespeed (defensive) .75 .75
Movespeed (aggressive) 1.05 1.05
Armor, defensive (Infantry/UU) 4/3 4/3
Armor, aggressive (Infantry/UU) 0/0 0/0
Cost 50f/50g
Train Time 16 16
To Elite 700w/600g 60s

To quote The Material Culture of Zimbabwe by H. Ellert, 1984, page 37: humbwa or gano … was much used for defence and hunting.

So let it be both! Stance dancing between guard up and being mobile is going to be an interesting game. Throwing a few defensive mode units into a pack of archers can help defeat other archer civs by sheer damage reduction.

UU2: Mhondro - Healer with an ax trained at the monastery. Can heal at monk speed and at . Can become elite. Needs atonement to be converted. Can carry relics but cannot fight or heal while doing so. Benefits from most monk and infantry techs. Has healing range of 4 (5 when elite).

Mohondro Stats Elite
Health 50 60
Attack 8 (+2 vs Eagles and buildings) 10 (+2 vs Eagles and buildings)
Range melee melee
Accuracy 100 (both)
RoF 2 2
LoS 6 6
Movespeed (defensive) .85 .85
Armor (Infantry/monk/UU) 1/1 1/2
Cost 30f/60g
Train Time 26 26
To Elite 900f/700g 60s

To quote that same book, on page 135: the identifying mark of the Shona spirit medium, mhondoro, whose duty is to protect the chief and his family. Ritual specialists, nganga, also carry this axe

So yeah this is a monk with an axe. He defends himself. Not very well mind you, but having armor helps. The fact it benefits from Squires, Infantry armor AND Fervor makes them excellent Relic gatherers! The axe looks kinda like this:


Not a great combat weapon, but for swatting some enemies in a pinch? Sure, works fine.

Castle UT: Jerusarema - Savannah Runners cost no gold transferring half that cost to food.

This is a Shona war dance that has roots that go ancient and is still practiced today. It turns your “Eagles” who lack Blast Furnace and Elite upgrade into 45f trash. If too good then maybe they become 70f trash but Chinese Light Cav are technically more dangerous.

Cost: 600f/450g 35sec

Imperial UT: Great Enclosure - Castles 2x HP.

Cost: 700w/900s 45sec

The Great Enclosures are just well known. Big fortresses hyper defensive. If 2x is too much, I could go lower. No Hoardings is an obvious balance choice.

Strategy: Early wood gathering will line your pockets with extra snack food. This means decent drushing potential and your TC should have an easier time vs most aggressive enemies.

As the game goes on, Archers and Infantry without bonuses seem to fall off the map. Sure the full University (vital to keep their siege and towers relevant) will go big. Even Heated Shot has value when your Towers go machine gun and castles have 11616 HP if you can spare the 900s. Bombard Towers become very good. Not Artillery Turks good, but viable as an offensive force. Humbwas in defensive stance up front will reduce the ranged damage they take, unless the mechanic doesn’t work that way.

The problem probably comes down to a lack of a fast raiding unit. Sure a force of Humbwas with Archers, Siege and a few Mhondro healers sounds fantastic, but even costing no gold, Eagles who max at 9 base damage aren’t going to be the game closer that say, Light Cav or Hussars locked at 9 max damage can pull off.

I’m honestly not sure where their window of winning is. Tower aggression will be key and Mhondro going after relics and providing mobile healing support will also be important. So it sounds like this civ is good on fortress maps. Just remember Mhondro are slaughtered by anti-monk and anti-infantry so a civ that highly utilizes units that have either such property, such as Incas, will be a pain to handle but you should be able to work around this.

In Imp, remember if your enemy has horses, discourage them asap with lightning fast and cheaper Elite Assegai research. Otherwise, archers are probably the play.


Mutapa Empire is the Great Zimbabwe successor which ended in 1760.

True, in truth the UU axes might actually be from an era after Great Zimbabwe, but the name is more for recognizable to the western masses than Shona.

I would give this unit some kind of stat alteration besides just being an eagle reskin. While it gives people a good reference point, it’s worth distinguishing from the eagle somehow, and could be easily done on paper.

Situational but decent

This is weak. Techs like Paper Money have such a low gold: wood ratio to balance a scarce and limited resource, which is not a consideration for food. You could easily 3-4, maybe even 5x this or more, and it wouldn’t even be the strongest early game food bonus. I like the mechanic/idea though, just think the numbers are too weak.


Interesting idea, but not useful in most games given the importance of scouting (and how often the game is played with map explored).

The hussite wagon mechanic was an interesting idea, but I think the devs greatly overestimated how good it would be/how much people would use it. You might argue that its more viable with a melee/frontline unit, but the decision to make a melee unit perform worse and be slower/more vulnerable just to potentially protect some units behind it from ranged units seems not worth it 95% of the time. These units will just be microed (or autotargeted) by archers who will have an easier time dealing with them when they’re slower/less DPS, and they’re very gold intensive for a frontline unit intended as a meat/arrow shield.

I like extreme bonuses, but this is probably too strong. Byzantines are already remarkable for having Castles with over 8K HP (but no added armor). This gives 42% more HP than Byzantine Imp castles + extra armor, which is too much even considering the high price. I personally would cap it between 1.5X and 1.75X.

Not bad, I definitely like the idea of warrior monks, and this has been mechanically possible since SWGB. Just having this unit doesn’t seem too strong of a reason to pick this as a monk civ though, I would give it the ability to convert as well, but perhaps at lower range than a regular monk. Perhaps 4-6 range, but with a faster conversion rate than a monk.

The civ’s eco clearly bonus needs a boost, as suggested, but overall it seems interesting.

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I had tried different versions. In the past 3 for 10 wood was seen as broken so I went 1 for 30. I suppose 1 every 5 would be fair?

3 for 10 is indeed too strong. I also think 6/30 (1 every 5) is a bit too strong since that’s basically a stronger version of the Celt bonus, both in terms of food > wood early game, but also because it kind of works like a “trees last longer” bonus, but with the longer lasting aspect being food. They also don’t miss any lumber upgrades, so this will also be much stronger than the Celt wood bonus by Imp. I think 4/30 is a safe compromise, and I probably wouldn’t go higher than 5/30 (1 in 6), since that’s still a little better than the Celt bonus, and scales better due to them getting all the upgrades. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with a civ having a stronger eco bonus than the Celt wood bonus, but it’s at least a decent reference point.

A campaign idea for Shona/Zimbabwe.

Nyanhewe Matope (greatest Mutapa king, 5 scenarios)

Nyanhewe Matope’s father Nyatsimba Mutota founded the Mutapa Kingdom. Great Zimbabwe was in chaos. A major famine occured that killed a big percentage of population and the kingdom ran out of gold and salt. Nyatsimba Mutota scouted Northern territories where he found salt. A civil war broke out between Prince Mukwati and Nyatsimba Mutota. Nyatsima Mutota was victorious and his nation migrated to the North where he conquered most of the Tavara Kingdom.

Nyatsimba Mutota stabilized the kingdom which enabled his son Nyanhewe Matope to conquer the neighbouring states. There were many Shona states that time. Nyatsimba Mutota wanted to reach the Swahili Cities to trade. Kiteve, Madanda, Manyika, Quiteve, Barwe, Chikova fallen to the Mutapa.

The Mutapa Army marched Southeast to finally reach Sofala and Chibuene. They finally conquered the remaining Shona states: Chikanga, Sedanda and Biri.

The Shonas also increased their territory in the Southwest: Tonga, Tavara, Butua, Mapela and minor Shona settlements were conquered.

Mutota died: His son Nyahuma Mukombero became the king. A war broke out between him and Changamire Togwa a Changamire (Rozvi) King. The Butua Kingdom also claimed independence. Changamire Togwa would become king of both Mutapa and Rozvi.

Part of my concern is if the campaign is just Zimbabwe and a bunch of other southern Africans playing filler roles to enemies that Aren’t quite large enough

Tbh the only major incursion in period with other possible civ is the Portuguese expedition, and the Portuguese just were defeated by the harsh terrain I think

I prefer a campaign about the founder of Mutapa since he seems more like an underdog, but theres not many great choicrs

I dont think not having a hugely divers set of enemies is a problem.most scenarios out side of europe is pretty much fight different factions of the same civilization.

Their campaign could be about Gatsi Rusere who faced an invasion by the Maravi peoples to the north, caused a civil war that lasted for years (coming out victorious in the end with the help of the Portuguese) and then fought the Portuguese.
The campaign goes past the 1600s (his reign began in 1589), but it’s still medieval enough for the game. The material is on this site from the subtitle “the reign of Gatsi Rusere”; there are names of places, the parties involved in the war, dates etc.

I gotta say this civ looks fun.
Personally I’d just tone down the imperial UT, 2x is too much. And maybe set the speed attack bonus to a flat 20%, with no faster projectiles, starting in feudal age.