The Khmer people represent a civilization in Civilization VI. Their default colors are purple (#74009B) and orange (#FE8113), and they are led by Jayavarman VII. They are available with the Khmer and Indonesia Civilization & Scenario Pack, which was released on October 19, 2017.
The Khmers' civilization ability is Grand Barays, which allows their Aqueducts to provide extra Faith and Amenities to their cities and increase the Food production of adjacent Farms. Their unique unit is the Domrey, and their unique building is the Prasat (which replaces the Temple).
The Khmer, overall, is a very unique civilization, in the sense they are the only civilization where there is a huge rift between what their bonuses incentivize and what they need to do to achieve the easiest victory possible. At first glance, it may seem that the Khmer should build a tall empire; however, they may sprint towards an early Cultural Victory like no other if they manage to claim land and go wide.
Grand Barays Edit
Both the Khmers' civilization and leader abilities seem to favor a tall civilization, against the unwritten meta "the wider the better" of Civilization VI. However, these two bonuses together are not impactful enough to allow the Khmer to go against the current that favors a wide empire.
The Khmers' civilization ability incentivizes the construction of Aqueducts - a weak and largely underused district, even when it does not count towards Population limits, especially before the release of Gathering Storm. An Aqueduct, despite the misleading tooltip, gives you 4, 3, or 2 Housing if you settle away from water, on the coast without fresh water, or adjacent to fresh water, respectively. Because the total Housing from Aqueducts and water combined is unchanged, there is no reason to settle away from water to delay the Housing bonus just to spend Production later on an Aqueduct. Food to surrounding Farms is nice, but since the introduction of Housing in Civilization VI, Food is no longer as impactful. Khmer Aqueducts, unlike the Roman Baths, are not cheaper to build, do not provide more Housing than regular Aqueducts, and may cause the Khmer to run into Housing issues even faster than other civilizations.
Monasteries of the King Edit
The bonuses Holy Sites receive from Monasteries of the King are insignificant, not to mention inconsistent. River tiles are important since they are limited in number and do not always guarantee the highest adjacency bonus for the Holy Site, and the situational bonus of 1 Housing and 2 Food definitely does not justify a riverside construction either. The best use of this ability is the Culture Bomb. To maximize its effectiveness, place the Holy Site two tiles away from the City Center, since the Culture Bomb cannot claim tiles outside the third ring of tiles. The main purpose of Holy Sites for the Khmer after founding a religion is still to generate Faith to purchase Missionaries, so do prioritize spots with a high adjacency bonus.
Overall, these two bonuses are not good enough to warrant an against-the-current swim to go tall instead of wide. The amount of Science and Culture generated by Population is no longer big enough to win the game just based on high Population alone, unlike in Civilization V. These two bonuses should be treated as "back-up bonuses," meaning it is good to have them there, but do not try to go out of your way against your strategy to use them - they are, more often than not, not worth your time and effort.
The Domrey becomes available later than the Catapult and has nearly twice the Production cost, but it boasts 10 more Combat Strength and Bombard Strength. More importantly, it can move and attack on the same turn without the Expert Crew promotion (or a Great General), and the Domrey's Zone of Control means that three of them can place a city under siege if positioned properly. A few Domreys with melee or cavalry units to back them up can quickly punch through medieval city defenses, allowing the Khmers to expand their empire through conquest in the middle stages of the game.
The downside to Domreys is their reduced Bombard Strength compared to Bombards (45 vs. 55), to which they cannot upgrade. No other units can upgrade to Domreys either, meaning that you'll have to train as many of them as you need while they're available. Also, since Domreys are siege units, there are no Policy Cards to aid in building an army of them any faster. 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 practically. You should focus Production to build this unit en masse only if you go down the path of a warmonger (which is very unusual for the Khmer). 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 Domreys; since they are siege units, they are much worse at defending your territory than other, cheaper units.
The Prasat is a fine replacement for the Temple, sporting an extra Relic slot and conferring the Martyr promotion on every Missionary purchased in its city. This allows the Khmers to use their Missionaries as sacrificial lambs, sending them into dangerous territory to convert as many cities as possible. If they run afoul of enemy Apostles or Inquisitors, the Khmers have a new source of Faith and Tourism for the rest of the game. In this way, the Prasat can help them on their path toward a very quick Culture Victory (especially if they also build Cristo Redentor).
This building is the main vessel to victory for the Khmer, as all of their other abilities are rather weak. It makes the Khmer a paradoxical civilization to play effectively: the civilization looks like a religious one while in fact it is much more geared towards a Culture Victory, and while it has bonuses towards going tall, victory can be achieved faster if you go wide. The only two beliefs you need for your Religion are Reliquaries (triple Tourism and Faith output for Relics) and Holy Order (Missionaries and Apostles are 30% cheaper to purchase), after that there is no need to evangelize your Religion (If you cannot get either one of these two, the road to your Culture Victory is harder so consider falling back on a Religious Victory by choosing Monastic Isolation.) Your two Wonders to aim for are St. Basil's Cathedral and Cristo Redentor. Mont St. Michel is only useful because it has 2 Relic slots; other than that, it is irrelevant to your strategy since purchasing Missionaries to farm Relics is always more cost efficient. A relic with Reliquaries gives you 24 Tourism and 12 Faith (for comparison, a Great Work of Writing or Art gives you 3-4 Tourism each). In the city with St. Basil's Cathedral, a relic gives you 32 Tourism (and this city has at least 5 slots for Relics, 3 from the Wonder itself, 2 from the Prasat, and 1 more if this is the Capital). It is very important to get this Wonder, most ideally in your Capital. If you have a Tundra city, you are the one to make the call between more Tourism or the Tundra terrain bonus. Finally, If you're playing with Gathering Storm and see the Heritage Organization resolution in the World Congress, spend all of your Diplomatic Favor to get this passed for Relics.
If you have all of these conditions aligned (which is quite easy, except for the World Congress resolution, which is random), you will have 40 Tourism for each Relic in the city with St. Basil's Cathedral, which results in 200 Tourism or 240 Tourism if it is the Capital in this city alone, and 32 Tourism per Relic elsewhere. In the Renaissance Era, you can have 6-7 cities and around 500-600 Tourism running (compared to other cultural civs that depend on Great People to generate Tourism, they can reach 100 Tourism in the Industrial Era if they are lucky). Promote Reyna (or, in Gathering Storm, preferably Moksha) to hard buy Holy Sites in newly settled cities with low Production. Combined with the Faith purchase discount from Theocracy, you'll have yourself an unstoppable Tourism machine that works 5-6 times more efficiently than anyone else in the same era. And of course, you can still mass build Theater Squares on top of that to generate even more Tourism.
If you cannot win early, try not to be lagged behind in Science, as Cristo Redentor is the second important Wonder to get. It eliminates Religious Tourism reduction from The Enlightenment Civic, effectively returning your civilization to its Tourism glory in the Renaissance Era.
Here is the list of a few more Wonders and buildings that can hold Relics (besides St. Basil's Cathedral, the Palace and the Prasat) so you can look out for these to obtain even more Relic slots:
- Apadana (2 slots)
- Bank built by Giovanni de' Medici (2 slots)
- Mont St. Michel (2 slots)
- National History Museum (4 slots)
If you want to build these buildings, you should aim to build them in the same city with the St. Basil's Cathedral to receive the Tourism bonus for your relics. Since Apadana can only be built in the Capital due to its strict restriction, again, it is important if you can build the St. Basil's Cathedral in the Capital, even when it has no Tundra tiles, to enjoy the extra slots from Apadana and the Palace.
Cultural Victory with a Religious Victory backup is the most natural route for the Khmer. High Population may also allow Scientific Victory to a certain degree, but only if the Production of some core cities is not too bad.
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)
- 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.