Following on from the announcement that Civilization VI will be getting a host of new content over the course of the next 12 months, the Mayans are one of the new civilizations being released on May 21st. Led by the feathery Lady Six Sky, the Mayans have a host of unique abilities which will change the way you build your empire.
Lady Six Sky of the Maya
Unique Unit: Hul’che (Replaces the Archer)
Unique District: Observatory (replaces the Campus)
Good at: Building a tall empire
Ix Mutal Ajaw
Lady Six Sky and her Mayan empire puts a very interesting spin on the normal empire building protocols of Civilization VI. In the previous iteration of the Civilization series, having 4 cities in your empire was sufficient to remain productive, happy, and powerful. This is where the description of a “tall” empire comes in – fewer cities, but with lots of population. In Civilization VI, however, there is very little in the way of penalties for going as “wide” as you can – that’s more cities, but with less population.
Typically, you’ll also seek to settle your cities on rivers to afford them the highest potential housing so that your cities can grow. Following the September 2019 update which buffed coastal cities, those are equally viable and can grow just as big. The Mayans, on the other hand, throw that out the window and get no bonus housing from river or coastal settles. They will still benefit from Mohenjo-Daro’s suzerain bonus which provides bonus housing, but the issue of housing is actually tackled unilaterally with the Mayan unique ability which I cover a little further down.
Lady Six Sky, due to her unique leader ability Ix Mutal Ajaw, gives her non-capital cities within 6 tiles of the capital a +10% bonus to all yields – that’s massive. The counter to that is that all cities beyond that borderline receive a -15% to all yields – equally massive, but negatively so.
Here’s an infographic showing the absolute optimal city placements available. The “C” in the middle refers to your capital, and the light green stars are the maximum workable tiles your City Center can work. The red “X” hexes around the peripheral are the seventh tiles around your capital which invoke the -15% penalty to your yields. The “S” hexes are referring to cities that you can settle, each one 3 tiles away from any other.
Originally I thought that there were 9 potential city placements but, upon running my maths past the mathematical brains of the household who holds a Masters in Engineering (my father), we deduced that there were in fact an absolute maximum of 13 cities that you could settle in your empire before you had to settle one outside of the +10% yield range, including your capital.
Now, 13 cities is far from being a tall civilization. In fact, I seldom settle 12 cities past my capital in just about any game that I play. However, this is just a theoretical maximum – mountains, ocean, and countless other things are very likely to stop you from settling your empire in this fashion – and that’s alright, just hit up as many as you can.
To help you in your quest to settle the perfect hexagonally-precise empire that you could hope for, the Mayans have an extra ability in the form of their unique civilization ability – Mayab – which means that farms you place give you +1 housing as opposed to the usual +0.5, as well as +1 gold. Any luxuries adjacent to the City Center will also grant you +1 amenity.
Housing from farms, as well as the additional amenities from luxuries adjacent to the capital, expresses Firaxis’ goal for the Mayans to go tall. Keeping your empire happy – as I wrote about when talking about the Scots and their strengths when it comes to a science victory – increases your yields up to a certain point. Ecstatic cities – the pinnacle of happiness in Civilization VI – have a +10% to their non-food related yields. Add that into the Mayan sphere of influence near to the capital, and you’re looking at +20% yields.
The Mayans get a unique district – the Observatory – which replaces the Campus. Much like Seondeok’s Seowon district, the Observatory is cheaper to build and looks as though it will stand independent of the usual adjacency bonuses, and will instead get a minor adjacency (+1 science) from every two adjacent farms and districts, and a major adjacency (+2 science) from plantations.
With a good start – and a continent full of cotton, silk, and other luxuries which allow for plantations – Lady Six Sky can construct some solid science districts. Even if all else fails, an Observatory surrounded by farms automatically becomes a +3 district, perfect for shooting for the stars.
If you’re particularly petty, I can see players delighting in the fact that players who capture your cities are going to be left empty-handed – those science bonuses won’t apply to another civilization who wrests control of your city and, when the districts revert to Campuses, they’ll be without any adjacent bonuses at all.
Lady Six Sky benefits from a very early-game unique unit in the form of the Hul’che, replacing the Archer at Archery. Beyond the fact that this is an easily obtainable +4 era score for the Ancient Era, the Hul’che also delivers a stronger-than-average ranged attack, and deals bonus damage to a wounded unit.
Comparing the Hul’che to another unit which replaces the Archer – Nubia’s Pitati Archer – it doesn’t hold up quite as well. Nubia’s unique unit has a higher base ranged attack strength, a higher combat strength, as well as +1 movement. Nonetheless, the additional damage to wounded units makes it a great supplement to Warriors when sniping barbarian encampments in the initial era, and can help you lock down your lands early on as you bust out settlers.
What’s the verdict?
I like it!
Lady Six Sky has a set of abilities which definitely push her towards a space race – additional yields, and a cheap science district with (potentially) easier adjacency bonuses. We discussed the benefits of production in a space race in my previous post, and there’s no doubt that the Mayans can have this covered in the same way the Scots do – a happy empire. The benefit for the Mayans, however, is that happiness is not essential, but rather contributory to the overall goal.
However, Ix Mutal Ajaw also offers players the versatility to pursue whichever victory condition seems appropriate given the setting. Production is valuable in every endeavor, but the Mayans reap a 10% bonus to every yield – science, culture, faith, you name it. This versatility – just like Hungary or Nubia having bonus production towards districts in certain circumstances, or Japan’s improved district adjacency – means you can pivot midgame, or pursue the victory type you feel like. I like that in a civilization.
I’m really excited to try the Mayans, and I’m really looking forward to the reveal of the Gran Columbia leader in the Frontier Pass as well. Stay tuned on the blog and see how these new civilizations fare!