The Aztec people represent a civilization in Civilization VI. They are led by Montezuma, under whom their default colors are cyan and dark red. They were added to Civilization VI in a free, separate pack that was released 90 days after the game's launch (as was the case with the Mongol civilization pack in Civilization V); during those 90 days, the Aztec civilization was available exclusively to players who had pre-ordered the game.
The Aztecs' civilization ability is Legend of the Five Suns, which allows them to use Builders to speed the construction of Districts. Their unique unit is the Eagle Warrior (which replaces the Warrior), and their unique building is the Tlachtli (which replaces the Arena).
Starting bias: None
The Aztecs are a strong Ancient Era civilization, with strong units that can establish a firm foundation for their empire for eras to come. While they are terrifying conquerors, they can later also transition into efficient empire builders. The Aztecs' ability to keep their subjects happy and erect many Districts quickly rewards them with a distinct level of versatility that not many domination civilizations have.
Gifts for the Tlatoani
The Aztecs should be on the offensive as soon as the game starts. Do not worry about building your empire in the early game; any deficiencies in infrastructure or districts can be made up for by your Eagle Warriors (see below). Moreover, the Aztecs rarely have to worry about war weariness thanks to the fact that luxury resources spread Amenities to more of their cities. While the +1 Combat Strength from each luxury resource applies to all military units, only Eagle Warriors can convert enemy units into Builders. Therefore, aim for early aggression with your Eagle Warriors to fuel your economy, while also being on the lookout for luxury resources which you don't already own to snowball into an unstoppable military force in the mid-game. Notably, the bonus from luxury resources also applies to the Religious Strength of Missionaries, Apostles, and Inquisitors, thus allowing the Aztecs to spread their religion more efficiently throughout the game. Note that this Combat Strength bonus applies only on attacks and not on defense.
Since other civilizations are more likely to have luxury resources in their territory that you don't, conquering their cities will have other rewards, too. Captured luxuries make your armies stronger, which then let you get more luxuries. This becomes a tremendous snowballing effect that makes the Aztecs terrifying.
Legend of the Five Suns
As stated above, early Eagle Warrior conquest is encouraged, as it will help your cities grow, rather than hinder it. If you are lucky and start next to multiple types of Luxury Resources, improve them as soon as possible and let the conquest begin.
In the later game, try to use the Serfdom or Public Works policy card, which grants newly created Builders two extra charges (5 in total). With this perk, a Builder (that could be produced in another city) can build a whole district in only 5 turns. Since Builders usually require less Production to produce than districts, this will be a big boost in city deployment, particularly since the city can use these 5 turns to work on other buildings. (To accomplish this, when the Builder is taking its turn, you have to temporarily switch the city's production to the district, then use the Builder's action and switch the city project back to whatever else it should do.) In Rise and Fall, this ability gets a massive buff in the form of the Ancestral Hall. Combining this with Serfdom or Public Works basically enables you to insta-build a district in a new city incredibly quickly. Ancestral Hall should be built, even if you want a Domination Victory.
While playing as the Aztecs, the Pyramids Wonder is incredibly useful. Do whatever it takes to get this wonder, even if it means conquering another city that has them.
The Entertainment Complex, together with the Arena, is a very much forgotten piece of infrastructure, as the only situation in which anyone would want to build it early is when they want to construct the almighty Colosseum. (In vanilla Civilization VI, the Arena is not required for the Colosseum.) For the Aztecs, the conquerors of the world, there is definitely no reason for them to have to build this Wonder when they can take it forcefully instead. The Tlachtli is obviously an upgrade from the Arena, but its bonus is nowhere near enough to warrant an early focus. 2 extra Faith is too small, especially since the spoils of war will always be much greater than this, Amenities are supplied in much more generous amounts by Luxury resources and the Aztecs always build at least 1 or 2 Encampments for some Great General points.
Overall, this building is one of, if not flat out the worst piece of unique infrastructure in the game, as it gives some bonuses that the civilization either does not need or can obtain in abundance easily from another source. In the vanilla version, you can pretty much ignore this building entirely, or at least delay its construction until much later in the game when Amenities are required to support larger cities. From Rise and Fall onward, if you capture the Colosseum from a neighbor, the standard Arena required to build it will be converted into a Tlachtli afterwards, giving you both the Wonder and the +4 Era Score, as truly under almost no circumstances would you ever want to waste Production on this building. The Golf Course, as bad as it is, is at least somewhat synergistic with Scotland, can be cheaply built with Builders, and does not require the prerequisite construction and a District slot for a District rarely anyone wants in the early game.
The Eagle Warrior is one of the most terrifying units in the early game! Its high strength, combined with the fact it's available from the very start of the game, allows the Aztecs to mount incredibly effective early rushes, comparable only to these of the Sumerians. What's more, its unique ability can singlehandedly turn the Aztecs into the fastest developing civilization in the early game! With Builders aplenty, they can quickly upgrade the tiles around their cities; what's more, thanks to the Aztecs' civilization ability, they can use Builders to speed up District creation.
The only catch is that the Eagle Warrior's ability works only against units of civilizations and city-states (as well as Free Cities in the expansions), not against Barbarians. This practically forces the Aztec player to make war early on if they want to take advantage of these units, but you might want to leave one or two cities alive to succumb to Loyalty pressure to get more use out of your Eagle Warriors even in peacetime. Go get that pesky neighbor!
Domination is key for the Aztecs. Every single Aztec ability boosts Domination, and this should be your first choice. On the other hand, using Builders to finish building, say, Spaceports quicker than anyone else means that a Science Victory is completely within your grasp.
When Hernando Cortes and his band of ne’er-do-wells arrived, the Aztec Empire was still in its childhood, having come into existence (more-or-less) around 1428 AD. Although the Excan Tlahtoloyan (Aztec Empire) lasted only one hundred years, it was an eventful one hundred years.
In the beginning... there were a number of small altepetl (city-states) scattered about the Valley of Mexico along the banks of the conjoined lakes Zumpango, Xaltocan, Texcoco, Xochimilco, and Chalco. The region had abundant rainfall and a temperate climate, and the land was fertile. So the Nahua (also known as the Mexihcati) peoples sought to settle there, having migrated south from Aztlan (the “White Land” – hence, “Aztecs”) sometime around 1250.
Unfortunately, several other tribes were already there, notably the Azcapotzalco and the Culhuacan. The mighty Azcapotzalco in 1325 gave the wandering Aztecs permission to settle on a small island in Lake Texcoco, where they founded their city Tenochtitlan; according to legend, the site was chosen because a priest man saw an eagle nesting in a nopal cactus - a sign that this was the chosen location. Yet Tenochtitlan was perfectly situated to grow – easily defended (being on an island), with plentiful water and fishing, and nearby sources of building materials. It seems the Aztecs were content to pay tribute to the Azcapotzalcos to be left alone … for the time being.
The Aztecs remained subject to the Azcapotzalcos for a century. Meanwhile, another nearby altepetl was getting restless. The Alcohua city-state of Texcoco, situated at the southern end of the lake basin grew rich on trade, to the point where it challenged the Azcapotzalcos for dominance. In the ensuing war, Tenochtitlan remained true to the Azcapotzalcos and played a vital role in the conquest of Texcoco. As a result, the Aztecs were rewarded for their loyalty by receiving the defeated city as a tributary province.
Things were pleasant enough until the Azcapotzalco king Tezozomoc died suddenly in 1426. In the ensuing brief civil war, the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan supported the old king’s preferred heir, one Tayahuah – not the best choice as it turned out. His brother Maxtla won, and promptly set about punishing those who had backed Tayahuah. In the midst of this the Aztec king died under suspicious circumstances, likely assassinated on Maxtla’s orders. But the new king Itzcoatl remained defiant, and so Maxtla surrounded the city, blockaded the island, and demanded total surrender.
Simultaneously, Maztla turned on the Alcohua in Texcoco, for whom he had no great love either. The Texcoco ruler Nezahualcoyotl fled into exile and made his way to join Itzcoatl. And the dissident Azcapotzalco city Tlacopan threw its support to Itzcoatl. Thus was formed the famed Triple Alliance: three city-states with a common goal, the overthrow of Maxtla, which was accomplished by the end of 1427. Having smashed the Azcapotzalco completely, the three kings agreed to live “in accord.” Their first act was to divvy up the lands of the defeated; somehow Tenochtitlan got the lion’s share. So pleased were they all by this success that the three cities formalized their alliance. Under its provisions, all tribute was to be divided, and all three would participate in future wars of conquest with all sharing the spoils. The kings each took the title huetlatoani (“elder speaker”) in rotation, in effect serving as emperor of the allied realm.
Over the next century, under a series of able elder speakers, the Aztec Alliance would thrive, mainly by stomping on its neighbors until it reached from the Atlantic to the Pacific across Mesoamerica. In fact, this “empire” existed in a near-constant state of war, either for social or perhaps religious necessity. In the Aztec Weltanschaung (to mix tongues), death was instrumental to the perpetuation of life, and in the natural order of things both gods and humans had to sacrifice to keep creation in balance. And blood – human, as animal blood didn’t seem to work – kept the sun from falling. Since the citizens weren’t keen on being the ones to bleed, it was natural to use the lesser folk – prisoners (hence the need for lots of combat), slaves, servants, and the poor. The scale of the sacrifices was staggering; at the dedication of the Templo Mayor (Great Pyramid) in Tenochtitlan in 1487 for instance, historians have estimated between 10 and 80 thousand were killed, usually by beheading.
When the Aztecs weren’t celebrating with bloody rituals, they developed a culture and science unmatched in the Americas. For instance, the sophisticated Aztec calendar was the equal to any evolved in Europe or Asia. The tonalpohualli (“day count”) consisted of a 260-day cycle, each day signified by a number one through thirteen and one of 20 day signs; the xiuhpohualli or “year count” divided the year in 18 periods of 20 days each. Thus, a year consisted of 360 named days and five unnamed ones; these unnamed days were thought unlucky (certainly for those who got sacrificed on them to counter the bad karma). It is thought that this calendar arose from their intense study of the heavens, for they developed astronomy to an art form. And the Aztecs wrote it all down on amate, a bark paper, in their distinctive ideographic system.
When Itzcoatl passed away in 1440, he was replaced by his nephew Montezuma (the first, not to be confused with the less-able second). Montezuma’s older half-brother, Tlacaelel, was made Cihuacoatl, roughly the equivalent of a European prime minister. The two then proceeded to make Tenochtitlan the dominant partner in the alliance, in effect formalizing an Aztec Empire. Montezuma handled the conquering part – overrunning the Huastecs, the Totonacs, the Mixtecs, the Cosamaloapans, the Orizabas and the Cotaxtlas. Tlacaelel handled reshaping the Aztec civilization to his own vision.
While Montezuma was busy waging war, Tlacaelel literally rewrote the Aztec past and future, according to some sources ordering the burning of hundreds of texts because of “historical inaccuracies.” Under Tlacaelel, the revamped Aztec religion held that the Aztecs were a chosen people, destined to be above all others. Tlacaelel also emphasized the importance of militarism and ritual sacrifice in the “new” Aztec theology. And he oversaw the construction of a host of temples and religious buildings, including the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan, consecrated (with a lot of sacrifices) to the newly paramount deity Huitzilopochtli.
The Aztecs thrived under the brothers for three decades. With Montezuma, the empire spanned a hundred thousand square miles, and about five million subjects were subject to its rule. With Tlacaelel, the subject tribes were largely left to their own devices, so long as the requisite tribute (which included sacrificial donations of course) and military forces were supplied on demand. Tenochtitlan became the center of a great trading network, and Aztec merchants happily did business with allies and enemies alike. Lacking any currency, trade was based upon barter. Possessing no draft animals or wheeled conveyances, Tlacaelel oversaw the construction of an extensive road system designed for foot traffic, since everything had to be carried from one place to another by humans. The roads were in constant use, guarded by the Aztec military, making them safe enough for even women to travel alone. He also had government-funded telpochcalli (schools) built in every neighborhood where boys received religious instruction and military training.
Montezuma I passed away in 1468 AD and was succeeded by his son Axayacatl, who spent his 13 years consolidating his father’s conquests, putting down various rebellions and fending off the uppity Tarascan Empire. (Tlacaelel died in 1487, much to the relief of many, no doubt.) When Axayacatl died, he was replaced by his brother, the monumentally incompetent Tizoc, who was assassinated by his nobles after just five years. He was followed by another brother – Ahuitzotl – in 1486, who proved better; he conquered the city-state of Otzoma, whose population disappeared (either killed or sacrificed en masse), and began building a line of fortresses along several contested borderlands. Ahuitzotl died in the Year 10 Rabbit (to make use of the convoluted Aztec calendar). His nephew, Montezuma II, was elevated to the throne.
The new Montezuma’s reign started out inauspiciously … and then went downhill. He removed the more competent of Ahuitzotl’s advisors, having most of them executed. He then abolished the quauhpilli class – a sort of semi-noble stage – in Aztec society, destroying any chance for commoners to advance their family. The unwashed masses thus had no incentive to serve the empire militarily or in any other manner. Having angered the most powerful noble families and alienated the commoners, Montezuma was, needless-to-say, ill-prepared to meet the challenge of greedy Spaniards, who showed up on the Aztec doorstep in February 1519.
Earlier that year, an expedition under the command of Hernando Cortes – consisting of some 11 ships, 630 men, 13 horses and a few small cannon – landed in the Yucatan, part of the Mayan Empire. In point of fact, the charter for Cortes’ expedition had been revoked by the Spanish governor of Cuba before his departure from port, but Cortes ignored his orders in an act of open mutiny and sailed anyway (guess fortune really does “favor the fool-hearty”). After a few adventures, the conquistadors ended up sailing to and seizing the small native settlement at Veracruz, where they met a couple of Aztec governors of tributary states. These two agreed to set up a meet between Cortes and Montezuma II.
Montezuma stubbornly refused to accept the Spanish “envoy” however, so Cortes set out for Tenochtitlan uninvited. Like most unwelcome guests, the Spanish left chaos in their wake. Marching towards the capital with a host of native warriors – looking for adventure, loot or revenge – joining his troupe, Cortes arrived in the large city of Cholula. There his merry band massacred thousands of unarmed members of the local Aztec nobility gathered in the square before the Great Pyramid there (the largest pyramid by volume in the world). Then for good measure, the Spaniards burned the city. So impressed by all the bloodshed were the downtrodden Aztec vassals that more joined the expedition. By the time Cortes reached Tenochtitlan, he had quite a following.
Bowing to the inevitable, Montezuma II welcomed the Spaniards into the city peacefully to meet and talk. Whereupon Cortes made him prisoner. To make a long story short, eventually the Aztecs stoned Montezuma to death and drove the Spanish out of their capital. But Cortes returned with reinforcements, laying siege to Tenochtitlan. What with all the firearms and cannon and horses (which the Aztecs were most impressed by), the city soon fell and was razed … and in August 1521 Cuauhtémoc, the last ruler of the Aztecs, was captured and later executed.
The bloody Aztec overlords were gone, and the empire shattered into separate city-states again, now under Spanish suzerainty.
- Main article: Aztec cities (Civ6)
|Males||Females||Modern males||Modern females|
- The Aztec civilization's symbol is a representation of the Double-headed serpent, a sculpture kept at the British Museum and believed to be associated with either rebirth, or the earth and the underworld.
- The Aztec civilization ability references the Aztec creation myth.
As Aztecs on a standard-sized map, attack an opponent while receiving a +16 Combat Strength bonus for having all of the luxuries.
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