The Khmer people represent a civilization in Civilization VI. They are led by Jayavarman VII, under whom their default colors are dark magenta and orange. They are available with the Khmer and Indonesia Civilization & Scenario Pack, which was released on October 19, 2017.
The Khmer's civilization ability is Grand Barays, which allows their Aqueducts to provide 1 Amenity, and 1 Faith for every Population in their cities. Also, Farms receive extra Food if adjacent to an Aqueduct and Faith if adjacent to a Holy Site. Their unique unit is the Domrey (which replaces the Trebuchet), and their unique building is the Prasat (which replaces the Temple).
Conventional wisdom says that the way to play Civilization VI is to expand wide across the map with smaller cities, but one look at the enormous and bustling cities of the Khmer would make anyone think otherwise. Armed with explosive Population growth, efficient Faith economy, and even good Culture generation, the Khmer are well-prepared to define the tall civilization, and win a Religious or Cultural Victory in style.
Monasteries of the King
After the April 2021 Update, the Khmer no longer have any incentive to push for a religion, since none of the bonuses' efficacy depends on a religion anymore. However, thanks to the changes to Jayavarman's ability and the Prasat, the Holy Site has become an absolute integral part in the Khmer's strategy that pushing for an early religion no longer comes at a cost of early development.
There is no doubt that both the civilization ability and the leader ability encourage you to settle near a river, since riverside tiles are where you can put down your Aqueduct and also where you want your Holy Site. You want at least one tile that can host an Aqueduct (has to be a tile connecting the City Center to a Mountain, or a source of freshwater, like a river, oasis, lake, or a natural wonder that supplies freshwater), and at least one river tile for your Holy Site. Since the Aqueduct has a stricter placement rule, prioritize it before the Holy Site.
This ability boosts the overall capabilities of your Holy Sites, granting them not just more Faith but also a sizable quantity of Food and Housing. Therefore, it is much more important to put your Holy Site next to a river than to put it where it has the best adjacency bonus.
There is no doubt that this ability has phenomenal synergy with the River Goddess pantheon. With this pantheon, a Holy Site on a river will provide 4 Housing, 2 Amenities, with at least 2 Faith and 2 Food from its adjacency bonus. Just this one District alone can make your job of growing cities in the early game a piece of cake.
Also, Jayavarman's Holy Sites trigger a Culture Bomb when completed. Although this is one of those typical Culture Bombs which can claim tiles owned by other civilizations if those tiles do not host a completed District or wonder, it is very hard to strategically use it offensively against your neighbors considering it is already a hard job to find an ideal place to put your Holy Sites. This ability is best used when you build your Holy Sites in the second ring of your cities, allowing its completion to claim the tiles in the third ring for free, but again, although any Holy Site can trigger a Culture Bomb, even ones that are not next to a river, it is of utmost importance that you prioritize its riverside placement above all else.
When you found your religion:
- Pick Work Ethic as your Follower Belief. Since the Holy Site is a must in every single city of yours, and each Holy Site will guarantee at least a +2 adjacency bonus if you place it next to a river, Work Ethic will add an extra 2 Production for each of them, which is not a small amount of Production in the early game.
- Pick either Cross-Cultural Dialogue or World Church as the Founder Belief, as both of these beliefs reward Science and Culture based on the number of followers, so large cities will naturally benefit more. However, between the two, Cross-Cultural Dialogue is the slightly better choice, as the Prasat already grants Culture based on your Population. Also, you need to research the Flight technology quickly so that the Prasat can start generating Tourism, so it is better to pick a belief that speeds you towards that goal.
In Gathering Storm, Pingala, with his first two Governor titles, Researcher and Connoisseur, is very powerful as the opening Governor of the Khmer, since he will get more and more impactful with each Population in the city. You can spend all of the first 3 Governor titles on Pingala to unlock him, pick Researcher or Connoisseur, and then Grants (to earn your Great Prophet a little bit faster), and then come back for the other tier 1 title later.
Extra Faith for Farms next to a Holy Site
This is the weakest part of the ability and the only part that has nothing to do with the Aqueduct. Farms built next to a Holy Site gain 1 Faith (non-stackable when built next to multiple Holy Sites) in addition to the normal Food and Housing. This is a welcome bonus, since the Khmer would want to build Farms anyway to bolster their cities' growth, but it is not strong enough to strategize just around it. A Holy Site with its location optimized for its adjacency bonus already provides Food and Faith, so there is never really a case where you want to build a Holy Site in open land just to maximize the number of Farms that can be built around it.
Bonuses to Aqueducts
The Aqueduct is normally a decent district built, perhaps, to give a city some Housing, or provide a major adjacency bonus to an Industrial Zone. Under the Khmer, however, it becomes the centerpiece of your cities, providing all the ingredients you need to grow them to massive sizes. You will want to place it such that it ends in a river, if possible, since you already want to be settling by rivers and it provides the most free tiles to place Farms adjacent to the Aqueduct. Ideally, you'll be able to set it up such that two Farms are sandwiched in between the Aqueduct and a Holy Site, and more are situated on the four other tiles adjacent to the Aqueduct. This may not always be possible, and it is important when playing as the Khmer to judge with a critical eye how your riverside setup will look to maximize yields. If placing an Aqueduct adjacent to other sources of Fresh Water, it's fine to just encircle the Aqueduct with Farms and throw your Holy Site down wherever it'll get the best adjacency bonuses.
However, this ability does not only provide you with the means to grow gigantic cities, it also bears one of the two ways the Khmer reward you for doing so. The ability to produce a lot of Faith has only become more valuable over the years, with additions such as the Grand Master's Chapel and Rock Bands, and in cities with Aqueducts, your Faith generation will be nothing short of prodigious. A Khmer city with some turns to develop will usually be fairly quick to hit 10 Population, and 10 Faith per turn is nothing to sneeze at. Ethiopia, the civilization considered to have the best Faith generation, makes comparable Faith per turn from having 2 copies of the same resource improved 3 times, or 3 copies of the same resource improved, in one city, which is something of a rare occurrence. And Ethiopia may barely have to lift a finger to produce this much Faith, but the difference is that they will usually have shrimpy cities with low Population perched up in the infertile Hills they prefer, and have to use Faith to purchase everything. The Khmer's Faith generation is only supplementary to the bonuses provided naturally by their huge city sizes.
However, remember that as powerful as the Khmer's city growth is, it cannot solve everything. Unlike in Civilization V, getting ahead in Science and Culture just by having gigantic cities is no longer possible. You will still have to obey the meta to some extent, found a fair number of cities, and build some Campuses and Theater Squares.
The Domrey is the only unique siege unit in the game, and its ability to move and shoot in the same turn without a Promotion makes it much less clunky than a typical siege unit. It also exerts zone of control, which means that three of them can place a city under siege unless the City Center is next to a water tile, or there is a river involved to complicate the matter. Two to three Domrey, together with some melee or cavalry units to back them up, can quickly punch through medieval city defenses, allowing their user to expand their empire through conquest in the middle stages of the game. Moreover, Domrey are unlocked with Military Engineering, the Eureka for which is triggered by building an Aqueduct (which the Khmer have excellent incentives to do).
Unfortunately, this unit is not without its downsides. First and foremost, the fact that a unique siege unit belongs to a civilization without any bonuses towards war is perplexing. Despite its strength, the Khmer can't use the Domrey without shifting the focus of their empire from infrastructure to building an army, and the outcome of a war will depend heavily on who their neighbor is and how prepared they are. Additionally, since the Domrey is a siege unit, there are no policy cards to aid in building an army of them any faster, and if you don't capture any cities during a war, you will have wasted a lot of Production on units that are borderline useless. (Siege units, being slow and suffering penalties when attacking land units, cannot be used for land defense, though Domrey are decent at naval defense.) The Khmer are a civilization that already has trouble with Production since they require a lot of infrastructure pieces (Holy Sites, Aqueducts, etc.) to utilize their bonuses, so the Domrey is strong yet hard to use in a lot of situations. You should focus Production to build this unit en masse only if your neighbors are civilizations without significant defensive bonuses or have very small armies. Otherwise, if you just want a regular game aiming for a Cultural Victory with a Religious Victory backup, there isn't much justification for building a lot of Domrey.
The Domrey can be better in combination with the Grand Master's Chapel. The Khmer have strong bonuses to their Faith output, meaning that they can utilize this building to quickly purchase multiple Domrey and a supporting army with Faith. Pair this with Theocracy to make said purchases cheaper, as well as gaining extra Faith from cities with Governors to spend on more units. Again, whether or not you should use this unit depends heavily on the game's landscape, and random factors (such as how favorable your starting location is, who your neighbors are, how much territory you already own and whether you need any more) should be considered before you pour resources into this unit. If you have no intention of going to war, it should act only as a source of 4 Era Score.
The Prasat is an incredible replacement for the Temple, as it provides an extra layer of rewards whenever a Khmer city reaches a Population checkpoint while supplying an excellent output of Faith and Culture in the meantime.
First, the Prasat's base Faith yield is 6, compared to the standard 4 of the Temple. As a civilization with victory skews towards a religious or a cultural victory, this is useful right off the bat. This advantage over the regular Temple is amplified further when the Simultaneum policy card is run, and the Khmer is the one civilization who has no problem satisfying both the adjacency bonus condition and the Population condition set by the card.
Second, and more importantly, it grants 0.5 Culture for every Population in the city. Normally, each point of Population grants 0.3 Culture, the Prasat lifts this number up to 0.8, more than double what it used to be. A city with 10 Population generates 8 Culture per turn, just from this building alone, that is twice the amount of Culture granted by a Temple with Choral Music belief. The interesting aspect of this bonus is that the Prasat itself does not provide any means to boost growth, but only more incentives for you to grow populous cities. Although the Khmer can enjoy a health level of Housing from their Holy Sites combined with the River Goddess pantheon and Aqueducts, the amount of bonus Food from Farms next to Aqueducts may not be sufficient to reliably raise the Population of every city to 20. Here are some other Food sources that may be useful:
- Hanging Gardens wonder
- Wisselbanken policy card
- Democracy government
- Collectivization policy card (requires Communism)
- Migration Treaty World Congress resolution
- Gurdwara as the worship belief
With Flight, the Prasat also supplies 10 Tourism to any city with at least 10 Population or 20 Tourism to cities with at least 20. This huge burst of Tourism will help usher the Khmer toward a cultural victory a lot faster. Therefore, once a city reaches the milestone of 20 Population, consider focus your growth power somewhere else, like swapping Food tiles, moving Magnus with the Surplus Logistics title and Trade Routes to other cities. It is also worth noting that the Stadium also grants a bit of Tourism based on cities' Population, making it a useful complementary piece to the Prasat, even without taking into consideration that Stadiums and Entertainment Complexes help alleviate Amenity issues the Khmer is guaranteed to run into.
After the buffs, the Khmer is a really powerful civilization that can perform well for both a Religious Victory and a Cultural Victory. High Population may also allow Scientific Victory to a certain degree, but only if the Production of some core cities isn't too low. This shouldn't be a huge problem, though, because you'll most likely have strong Industrial Zones thanks to the prevalence of Aqueducts.
Strangely enough, the Khmer are quite good at a Domination Victory. The strategy for them is similar to that of Ethiopia, as they rely on the Grand Master's Chapel and a generous Faith output combined with Theocracy to be able to crank out military units fast. The Khmer are even better than Ethiopia, since the Domrey is a devastating unit if there's enough preparation for it to shine. Furthermore, the Khmer have extra Amenities to keep their new territories content with a new rule. To be fair, while other unit classes can be used offensively or defensively, siege units are just not the same - there are no other ways to meaningfully make use of a unique siege unit other than going on a full conquest mode.
The Khmer do not have the typical defense mechanic other Cultural civilizations have. Their unique unit is expensive and quite clunky to use effectively, and definitely is not a good unit for defensive purposes, so invading them successfully when they start to pose a threat is not difficult (though be careful invading them by sea if they have a lot of Domrey; siege units don't have penalties against naval units). Furthermore, the Khmer needs a lot of pieces of infrastructure to fully utilize their toolkit, including Holy Sites, Aqueducts, and sometimes Theater Squares and Campuses, without having direct Production bonuses for anything, so even if you are not in full conquest mode, just pay them a visit once in a while to pillage all of their Production related improvements and districts and it will greatly hamper their progress.
Between the Ninth and Fifteenth Centuries, the god-warrior-kings of the Khmer Empire dominated Southeast Asia. Theirs was a formidable agricultural-martial kingdom whose wealth impressed even the mighty Chinese to the North. Unfortunately, all of that gold and rice would prove too attractive for their regional rivals, ultimately making the conquerors of the Suvarnabhumi the conquered.
Archaeology and Chinese historical records tell us the Khmer Empire can be traced back to the Mekong region in Southeast Asia during the First Century CE. The Chinese called this region and its disparate collection of peoples the Funan Kingdom (offhandedly putting a diverse, often warring group of principalities under one umbrella).
According to Khmer legend, these people were the product of the union of Cambodia's first king, Indian prince Preah Thong (Huntian, in the Chinese record) and Neang Neak, a divine serpent [naga] princess from a magical seas kingdom. The region is said to have been a wedding gift from the princess' father, who drained the waters around Nokor Kauk Thlork Island, making it habitable for the happy couple and their descendants.
The legend speaks to the tremendous influence of Hindu culture in the region. The Mekong-based people of Funan was the perfect waypoint for Indian travelers and traders headed west. The Indians would end up bringing Hinduism, their laws, commerce, and Sanskrit with them, ultimately blending with local animist traditions.
The people of Funan's Indian-influenced mini-principalities battled amongst themselves for centuries, and although they would briefly sustain centralized governments, it would take the firm hand of Jayavarman II in the Ninth Century to usher in the Angkor era of centralized rule.
The first conqueror king of the Khmer Empire got his start in the Ninth Century. Until that point, Jayavarman II was either a guest of the Javanese or their prisoner. Whichever the case, once he returned to his homeland, he seemed eager to get about the messy process of crushing the competition in the Mekong.
That messy business out of the way, the only thing left to do was to declare himself 'Cakravartin' or 'universal ruler' during a ceremony atop Mount Mahendra in the Kulen Mountains. And in 802 CE, that's precisely what Jayavarman II did, granting himself the backing of the gods in establishing his empire.
There's something to be said for his approach: at the height of their six century empire, the Khmer would dominate what is now modern most of Thailand and half of Vietnam, with over a million people living in the capital. By the Tenth Century, the empire would stretch from the South China Sea, with the Mongolian and Tang empires penning it in to the North. Not a bad spread if you wanted to maintain control of trade in the Mekong.
Between 1296 and 1297, Chinese official Zhou Daguan would visit the Khmer Empire. In his chronicle of that visit, 'A Record of Cambodia: A Land and Its People,' he would say: 'It has long been a trading country.' Zhou would describe a land of gold and stone towers, with cloth flowing from Siam and Champa and silk for locals' parasols from China.
The vast wealth of the Khmer would come from the constant flow of raw materials in and out of the Empire. The empire would feed Southeast Asia's need for rice, with some 80% of the Khmer population participating in either the production or trade of this staple food.
This would be the golden age of the Khmer Empire, when Suryavarman II would start construction on the temple complex at Angkor Wat (it would be completed 27 years after his death). Angkor Wat would mirror the shape of the mythical Mount Meru which was said to be the convergence of the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual worlds. In this way, the Khmer kings would try to mirror heaven on Earth.
This wasn't simple piety; these Hindu (and latest Buddhist under Jayavarman VII) royals were eager keeping the gods on their side. A king would do his best to maintain a bearing which would best reflect the gods, and build temples which would emulate the shape of the heavens. Under the Khmer's rule, the more powerful and attractive the king, the more followers and land he would have.
Of course, that would mean a weak king whose bearing wasn't sufficiently divine would no longer be worthy of his kingdom.
Ironically, the wealth and majesty of the Khmer Empire would prove its undoing. Between the Twelfth and Fourteenth Centuries, the Tai people in the North (now modern Thai, Laotian, and Shan) were contending with the ever-expanding Mongol Empire. So they pulled up stakes from their rugged, mountain lives and moved south, creating the smaller kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna, and Ayutthaya, which gnawed at the periphery of the Khmer Empire.
The Khmer were unable to contend with the Northern invaders as well as longstanding rivalries with Champa in the East. So by 1431, the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya would take Angkor and the Khmer kings retreated to Phnom Penh, the current capital of Cambodia.
The empire may be gone, but their temples still stand. And to this day, the people of Cambodia still speak of coming from the sea, of their ancestors, a Brahmin and a Naga princess.
- Main article: Khmer cities (Civ6)
|Males||Females||Modern males||Modern females|
- The Khmer's colors went through numerous changes. At first, they were yellow and dark blue, then changed to olive and dark blue, then purple and orange. With the release of Gathering Storm, they were changed one last time to dark magenta and orange, which now applies to all rulesets.
- The Khmer civilization's symbol is the spire of a wat.
- The Khmer civilization ability references the water reservoirs built throughout the Khmer Empire.
- The Khmers are also playable in the Path to Nirvana scenario.
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