The Malians' civilization ability is Songs of the Jeli, which provides their City Centers with additional Faith and Food for each adjacent Desert and Desert Hills tile. It also allows them to purchase Commercial Hub buildings with Faith. Lastly, it increases the Gold output of their Mines at the cost of Production and gives them a 30% Production penalty to units and buildings. Their unique unit is the Mandekalu Cavalry (which replaces the Knight), and their unique District is the Suguba (which replaces the Commercial Hub).
- 1 Strategy
- 1.1 Songs of the Jeli
- 1.2 Sahel Merchants
- 1.3 Suguba
- 1.4 Mandekalu Cavalry
- 1.5 Victory Types
- 1.6 Counter Strategy
- 2 Civilopedia entry
- 3 Cities
- 4 Citizens
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Gallery
- 7 Videos
- 8 Related achievements
- 9 External links
Mali is able to establish a bustling commercial center of the world in the middle of a desert and grows their cities tall in the blink of an eye by their religious and purchasing power. Being one of a handful of civilizations with a unique asymmetrical design, Mali is not much of a builder but a buyer. Thanks to this distinct gameplay feature, Mali's reliance on Faith and Gold purchasing power allows them to quickly build up their new settlements once their economic machine starts going.
Songs of the Jeli
Mali's cities can grow very fast in the middle of a desert. If surrounded by 6 Desert tiles, Mali's Capital can grow with +6 starting Food and Faith, making them uncontested when trying to establish a pantheon. The best part of this bonus is that both Food and Faith are granted straight to the City Center, so you don't have to dedicate a Citizen to work a tile. Do not go out of your way and find a spot with 6 Desert tiles around the City Center, at least not for your Capital; otherwise, your Capital won't be able to produce anything. Considering that Indonesia is the other civilization that can generate 2 Faith from turn 1, 3 Desert tiles next to the City Center should be sufficient in most cases to get you the first pantheon (unless there is someone spawning right next to a natural wonder that supplies Faith).
Religious Settlements is always worth considering, of course, a free Settler in the early game is always amazing. However, choosing Desert Folklore is a wise decision which is more beneficial in the long run - you want to construct Holy Sites in every city to boost the yield of you Suguba, the backbone of your civilization. Having both high income and reduced buying costs will help you overcome your Production penalties by spending Gold. You can put your accumulated Faith to good use by purchasing Suguba buildings and religious (if you manage to found a religion), military (via the powerful Grand Master's Chapel), or Naturalist and Rock Band units.
Mines provide less Production and more Gold
This is the first sneak peek into Mali's asymmetrical design. Malian Mines won't provide any Production until Apprenticeship, instead, each of them will provide 4 Gold. The biggest downside of this ability is of course the early game, where every early settlement will be very unproductive and take forever to produce something. This will be further amplified if you make the rookie mistake of trying to maximize the amount of Food and Faith you can get by putting your cities in the middle of a vast desert, before you get access to the Suguba and have a decent economy.
In terms of value, 4 Gold and 1 Production are equivalent, as the purchasing cost of buildings and units is always 4 times the production cost, but there are key differences that make 4 Gold better than 1 Production in the long run, despite being a bad trade off before the Suguba:
- Gold is an empire-wide resource, while Production is a city-level yield. In the early game, since the number of cities is small, it is better to have cities with good Production output. However, after you have the Suguba, especially when taking into account the last penalty of this ability (30% Production penalty to units and buildings), Gold is a lot better to instantly build up new cities, but a few cities with strong Production cannot do much to help new cities.
- Gold can be accumulated indefinitely, and purchasing buildings, units, and districts with Gold allows you to immediately benefit from their effects.
- Gold has a lot of other uses that Production cannot fulfill:
- Many diplomatic actions (delegates, embassies, give gifts, trade and exchange, etc.)
- Great People patronage
- City-state diplomacy (levying, buying districts and units to complete a quest, etc.)
- Change policy cards and governments when needed
- Pay maintenance cost for your empire
With that being said, there are some buildings that have to be built with Production and cannot be bought, city projects, repairing districts, and other early development goal will require good Production output.
Production penalty towards buildings and units
If you play your cards right, you most likely only feel the impact of this penalty in the first two eras, especially during the time of expansion. It is especially crippling when you have to hard-produce your Slingers and Warriors to protect yourself, as well as Settlers and Builders. Save up your Gold to purchase a Trader after unlocking Foreign Trade, establishing this Trade Route can jumpstart your economy and trigger the Eureka for Currency. Try your best to clear Barbarians off the route of your Trader with your army. Your Trade Routes will earn extra Gold if sent from cities with many flat Desert tiles.
This penalty doesn't apply to districts, thankfully, so new settlements should start working on Holy Sites and Sugubas immediately. Later in the game, when you have Reyna with Contractor title, and Moksha with Divine Architect title, you can instantaneously put down Holy Sites and Sugubas in new cities. Thus, this penalty can be easily bypassed down the road, since almost all the key units and buildings can be purchased. A few notable buildings you cannot purchased are walls and Flood Barriers (unless you are the suzerain of Valletta), and Government Plaza buildings, so these will be prime candidates to be hard built. Playing Mali is similar to playing Babylon, it is about balancing which items you want to use your ability/spend your resources on to get immediately, and which one you would want to get in the traditional way.
Suguba buildings are purchasable with Faith
Buildings in the Suguba are important, especially the Market, and you would want to get the Market immediately after the Suguba is finished. Having a third, affordable option to build Markets is quite amazing. A Market costs only 190 Faith, after taking into account the 20% discount of the Suguba, almost as cheap as a Missionary. Afterward, you can use Gold to purchase a Trader in the same turn. By having this option of Faith purchasing Markets, you can divide the financial burden equally to both types of currencies, instead of having to wait turns for one of them to stock up while the other is underused. Later in the game, you can spend Faith on Banks and Stock Exchanges, although these two buildings are a lot more inconsequential than other tier 2 and 3 buildings in other districts, since they only grant a bit more Gold. However, Great Merchants are strong and impactful, and the fact that Mali prefers Commercial Hubs even in cities where Harbors can be built means they will dominate the Great Merchant race.
Trade Route capacity increases for every Golden or Heroic Age
Whenever Mali goes into a Golden or a Heroic Age, their Trade Route capacity increases by 1 permanently. Theoretically, that is equal to 8 extra Trade Routes, but considering the landscape of the game, that is pretty much an impossibility. An extremely powerful tactic to use as Mali is to achieve a Dark Classical Era, and then a Heroic Medieval Era. In a Dark Age, you can run Monasticism, which grants 75% extra Science in every city with a Holy Site, a district you would want to build everywhere to compliment your Suguba. With a Heroic Medieval Era, you get access to both Monumentality, which allows you to buy Settlers, Builders and Traders with Faith, leading to rapid expansion, and Free Inquiry, which grants Science based on the adjacency bonuses of your Suguba. If you get a Golden Classical Era, not only will you miss out on one of these two incredibly powerful dedications, you probably won't even have enough Faith or Suguba to make the most out of either of them. If you accidentally cross the Dark Age threshold to a Normal Age, try your very best to avoid it. Normal Ages are terrible, since you don't have any extra perks that Dark and Golden Ages have. Normal Ages are even extra painful for civilizations with bonuses for Golden Ages like Mali or Georgia. If you reach a Golden Classical, it is not the end of the world, pick Monumentality over Free Inquiry.
Of course, the most outstanding Golden Age dedication for any trade civilization is Reform the Coinage, which is available in Renaissance, Industrial and Modern Era. If you happen to reach a Golden Classical Era, you can try to aim for a Dark Medieval and a Heroic Renaissance, just to get access to this dedication. Also, by hitting a Golden Renaissance, you are likely to be in a Golden Age again in Modern Era, allowing you to use this dedication in two eras. Besides the vast amount of Gold, this dedication offers a global protection to all of your Trade Routes, incredibly helpful yet underrated.
From Industrial Era onward, there is powerful Dark Age policy for Mali, Robber Barons. Cities with Stock Exchanges generate 50% extra Gold and with Factories 25% extra Production, at a cost of 2 Amenities every city. Since Mali can quickly purchase Stock Exchanges with Faith, this card can tremendously bolster their economy.
Overall, this ability is more helpful in early eras when your number of Trade Routes is low, but gradually becomes less important as your Trade Route capacity expands. Try your best to earn Golden Ages, but don't worry too much if you miss out one here and there.
Extra Gold to Trade Routes for each Desert tile in the starting city
This aspect grants 1 Gold to international Trade Routes per flat Desert tile in the origin city. By having one city settled in the middle of a vast Desert (ideally your Petra city), your empire will have a central trading hub where every Trade Route sent out will receive a large sum of bonus Gold. In the early game, you can use Reyna or run Land Surveyors to expand the city borders quickly, since this ability alone can more than double the Gold of every Trade Route sent from a city with a lot of Desert. Also, by focusing all Trade Routes on one starting city, this city will be your main Gold output, thus will attract foreign Spies on Siphon Funds mission, so do pay attention to counterespionage.
As Mali, you may want to settle your cities close together. While this will give you less Production per city (a problem that is compounded by the Production penalties of Mali's Mines), this will allow you to place more Sugubas and Holy Sites, which will increase the number of Trade Routes and amount of Faith you will have. When founding a city, building a Suguba should be your first priority, followed by a Holy Site. By building such an empire, you can drown yourself in Gold and Faith, the two versatile currencies that allow you to buy the vast majority of in-game items.
Since Trade Routes are integral to Mali's strategy, your policy Card, Wonder, and city-state Suzerain choices should focus first and foremost on increasing their yields. Caravansaries may have too little impact to warrant a place in one of your government's Economic Policy slots early on, but Triangular Trade and Ecommerce absolutely do. Trade Confederation and Market Economy will allow your international Trade Routes to provide you with valuable Culture and Science, and Wisselbanken and Online Communities will give you a good incentive to stay on friendly terms with your neighbors and send a steady stream of Traders to their lands. Free Market and Simultaneum are also highly useful, as they will increase your cities' Gold and Faith output and give you more purchasing power. Similarly, Mali benefits most from Wonders that provide bonuses to their Trade Routes or other aspects of their economy: the Colossus, the University of Sankore, Great Zimbabwe, and Big Ben should always be high on your priority list, and the Casa de Contratación can be helpful if you have an intercontinental empire. Where city-states are concerned, Antioch, Bandar Brunei, Hunza, Singapore, and Kumasi all have Suzerain bonuses that will further enhance your Trade Routes, and you should make every effort to become the Suzerain of Valletta and Ngazargamu if they appear in your game. Being able to use your abundant Faith to purchase discounted City Center and Encampment buildings in any city with a Suguba will be a great boon to you, and the percentage discounts from multiple sources stack additively instead of multiplicatively, so further purchasing discounts from the Suguba and Democracy can give you a whopping 95% on all land units - an exceptionally powerful combo. Mali is rather weak militarily, but you can still benefit from this by buying units to defend your territory.
This unique district is similar to the Hansa and can be placed in the same way. If you found your cities only 4 tiles apart, you can easily place each Suguba between two Holy Sites and receive a +5 Gold bonus (+2 from each Holy Site and +1 from having two adjacent districts). Place them on riverbanks for even better results. The guaranteed high adjacency bonus of the Suguba makes Mali one of the few civilizations that can truly make use of Free Inquiry dedication in Classical or Medieval Era, granting a huge amount of Science. Of course, this dedication should only be chosen if you are in a Heroic Age, since in almost every circumstance, Monumentality is the better choice in the early eras. The Suguba is the backbone of the Mali empire, as it is evident that the weakest point of Mali during the game is before Currency is unlocked. Aim for this technology as soon as possible and get up multiple Suguba so your purchasing strategy can finally begin.
It is important that you promote either Reyna or Moksha (preferably both) so that you can straight up buy districts using Gold and Faith as soon as possible, even though the -30% Production does not affect building districts. In new settlements, the Suguba should always be the first district to be put down, so that it starts applying the 20% purchasing discount immediately toward other items.
The best thing about the Suguba is undoubtedly its purchasing discount, but you can make it even better by combining it with other discounts. Remember, these discounts stack additively, not multiplicatively, so stacking 2 discounts will retain the efficiency of both (except for the last discount on this list). Below is the list of other percentage purchasing discounts in game:
- Suzerainty of Ngazargamu offers a 20% discount per Encampment building present in the city, meaning it can scale up to 60%. Despite the tooltips, Ngazargamu actually does affect Faith purchasing of land military units, making it an incredibly overpowered city-state when combined with the Suguba and the Grand Master's Chapel.
- The Democracy government offers a 15% discount on all Gold purchases. If combined with the Suguba and Ngazargamu, you can purchase land military units at a whopping 95% discount with Gold.
- Monumentality Golden Age dedication allows you to purchase Settlers, Builders and Traders with Faith at a 30% discount, rising up to 50% when combined with the Suguba. This is the reason why Mali can expand absurdly fast in an early Golden Age, and no matter how much Science you can get out of Free Inquiry, Monumentality is always the top priority.
- Holy Order Enhancer belief grants a 30% discount for Missionaries and Apostles.
- The Theocracy government grants 15% to all Faith purchases. When combined with the Suguba, Grand Master's Chapel and Ngazargamu, you can purchase land units at a 95% discount with Faith.
- Winning first prize in the Nobel Prize in Literature (a scored competition available through the World Congress whenever Sweden is in the game) grants 20% discount when purchasing Rock Bands.
- The least important, the Meenakshi Temple grants a 30% discount when purchasing Gurus.
- Mercenary Companies (World Congress Resolution) can grant 50% discount to either Faith or Gold purchases. Note that this discount is an anomaly, as it applies before every other discounts, so you will not reach 100% discount when purchasing. In other words, this discount stacks multiplicatively with other discounts.
- For example, when you have this Resolution active to give you 50% discount on Faith purchases, the Suguba will raise the discount to 60% only (not 70%). If you have Theocracy and the Suguba, you can have a 67.5% discount.
- Having this Resolution active (in either Faith or Gold discounts), the maximum effect from Ngazargamu, the Suguba, and the appropriate government (either Theocracy or Democracy) will raise the maximum level of discount in the game to 97.5% when you purchase a land unit using the supported currency.
The Mandekalu Cavalry was a fearsome unit to face back in Civilization V - its bonus to assaulting cities, as well as its superior synergy with the Songhai's kit in general, made it dominant. Its glory days are long past, but this iteration is still quite usable in Mali's hands.
The only true advantage the Mandekalu Cavalry has over the Knight is 5 additional Combat Strength, making it the strongest unit of the Medieval Era. This is enough for a full-health Mandekalu Cavalry to kill a Crossbowman in two hits, provided it doesn't heal in the meantime. It will also usually take only 10 or so damage from Crossbowman fire. Considering that the Crossbowman is the premier defensive unit of the Medieval Era, this edge in a matchup is pretty significant. By itself, however, it doesn't contribute too much to Mali's offensive game. The really important factor to consider is Mali as a whole in the Medieval Era. By now, Mali will have their Sugubas up and running in most of their cities, probably making a couple hundred Gold each turn, and may have even built the Grand Master's Chapel. With this unparalleled purchasing power, Mali can pump out a ton of units during this era, and they will have enough Gold to maintain a large army. The problem here is if you don't beeline Stirrups, there is a chance your neighbor will have advanced Walls, which necessitates the use of Trebuchets (which, again, costs you even more Gold and Faith investments). If Mali is terrible at producing units and has to buy them, if this domination tactic doesn't gain you any territory, you will waste a lot of Gold and Faith that can be used for infrastructure. Therefore, if you are thinking of conquest, beeline Stirrups to maximize the window of opportunity for this unit. This is far from being Mali's most consistent strategy, but if you are looking for a change from the gameplay of Religious Victory it can be an enjoyable change of pace.
A significantly worse aspect of this unit is that it can earn Gold from kills, which is the theme of Mali as a civilization. The problem here is that it replaces the Knight, so it will not come into play until the late Medieval Era. By this time, Mali's economy must be already solidified such that a few Gold from kills most likely does not matter too much. Of course, you can still gain Gold from killing Barbarians, but in the Medieval Era, Barbarians are not as rampant, killing them to earn Gold is like adding an extra drop into the ocean. When you consider the fact that you most likely have to buy this unit, earning Gold on kills helps you recoup parts of its original cost. A Mandekalu Cavalry can be bought with 704 Gold with the Suguba, meaning one unit can kill 14 Knights and still cannot totally recoup the cost. If the Gold earned by the Mandekalu Cavalry actually contributes a significant percentage of your treasury, you are probably not playing this civilization to its fullest potential. The ability to protect Traders is clunky and impractical at best, because you will never be able to move your unit around to follow Trade Routes, especially with the number of Trade Routes that Mali has.
All in all, what you have on your hand is a slightly stronger Knight which can you field en masse in an instant thanks to your generous treasury. If you want to wage a war, make sure you purchase enough of them. Also, don't expect you will be able to farm Gold with it, there is no amount of killing can recoup the cost you invested in the first place. After the April 2021 Update, the Mandekalu Cavalry is a decent unit thanks to its outstanding Combat Strength compared to other units of the same era, but quite plain, since the abilities that set it apart from the basic Knight are meaningless.
Mali is pretty flexible, since gold can help in any victory, but they are skewed towards Religious and Diplomatic Victory more than anything else. Religious Victory is the most obvious path, since Mali has good Faith output from the very beginning of the game, and this victory largely does not rely on Production, as you can buy districts, buildings and religious units relatively freely. In terms of Diplomatic Victory, your large Gold income allows you to dominate Aid Request and Military Aid Request competitions, buy Diplomatic Favor, and buy districts and units to complete city-states' quests, and their peaceful nature will lead to easy Alliances. However, they may have a hard time competing for Wonders, as Diplomatic Victory is more Wonder-reliant than Religious Victory.
Mali is very weak before unlocking Currency, most specifically before they have their first Suguba up and running. They have low Production in all cities, regular to slightly higher Gold compared to a regular civilization and decent Faith output, but they cannot use their Faith to buy military units until they build the Grand Master's Chapel. If playing against Mali, should you spawn beside them, destroy them or cripple their early expansion efforts as soon as possible; any civilization can do this without any hurdle thrown their way, as it is extremely difficult for Mali to defend or retaliate.
The Kingdom, and later Empire of Mali was a remarkably long-lasting, pious, and rich empire, built on a foundation of trade between the Sahara, Sahel, and Subsaharan regions of Africa, unified by an Islamic faith, and administered capably by rulers for over 300 years. The Empire of Mali was at its height of power between the 13th and 16th Centuries, until it fractured under internal pressure and external threats.
West Africa is blessed with a wealth in three valuable treasures: Gold, salt, and copper. The demand for these commodities has meant long-standing trade routes across the region for most of recorded Western history, and the introduction of the camel as a beast of burden during the 2nd Century enabled an increasing volume of trans-Saharan trade.
Into this context, the kingdom of Mali arose in the 9th Century as a local power. Islam spread to the region in the 10th or 11th Century. Mali began a campaign of expansion and conquest under Sundiata (or Sunjata) Keita in the early 13th Century, who is the subject of some of the most famous praise-songs of the Malinese jelis, or griots. Sundiata defeated the Sosso at the Battle of Kirina in 1235, setting Mali on its ascent. According to the Epic of Sundiata, he gathered the nobles to charter a government for Mali, organizing the society, declaring property rights, protecting the environment, declaring rights for women, and listing personal responsibilities—a remarkable document that has been declared a UNESCO Intangible Heritage item. The charter even lists the person who can joke with the royal family.
The kingdom was organized more as a confederation of allied city-states and locally administered territories. There was a noble, warrior clan aristocracy, as practiced in other places throughout the world. These rulers were advised by the jeli, a person who combined the role of troubadour, oral historian, and bard. The role of jeli or griot is still an important one throughout West Africa today. Sundiata started a process of centralizing more of this rule under the Manden, but local rulers and ruling families maintained authority after swearing allegiance to the Mansas of Keita.
Mansa Musa Keita I, the grandnephew of Sundiata, ruled for 25 years at the start of the 14th Century. During his lifetime he undertook a famous hajj to Mecca, bringing (and spending) an immense fortune in gold. While he was abroad, he recruited Islamic jurists, scholars, artists, and scientists from around the Islamic world, and invited them to return to Mali with him. Also during his Hajj, Malinese generals conquered the Songhai kingdom and incorporated the cities of Timbuktu and Goa into the empire. Musa returned to his own throne through these newly-conquered lands.
Timbuktu was already a rich trading city, situated on the edge of the Sahara and an important waypoint in the gold and salt trades. Mansa Musa ordered mosques built and the madrassa at Sankore enlarged, where it would become Africa's largest library and a center for jurisprudence (much as Bologna was becoming such a center of learning in Europe at the time). Their distinctive earthen construction was new for the era, but is now considered an iconic part of Malinese architecture.
Ibn Battuta, the legendary traveler and chronicler, passed through Mali from 1349-1353, and remains one of the best sources for life in Mali during the apex of the Empire. During his visit, he remarked positively on the Malian regard for justice, the public safety and absence of banditry, and the public devotion to Islam. He was less enthusiastic about the free mingling of sexes (he thought it unseemly, to say nothing of the dress code), the tolerance of pre-Islamic cultural and religious traditions (he thought it an insult to the faith), and Mansa Souleyman Keita's gifts of traditional foods (he thought them insufficient to his station).
Records of the Malian Empire are sparse from the 14th - 16th Centuries, possibly as a result of weakening central authority and ineffective rulers. Shifting ecological conditions may have contributed to some of the problems of the late empire. The southward expansion of the Sahara impinged on the woodland regions, reducing supplies of wood for fuel, and the wetter conditions of the early 16th Century may have led to the spread of tsetse flies, which prevented the Mandekalu cavalry from pushing southward. Weaker rulers, and growing power of Morocco and a resurgent Songhai, and a succession crisis on the death of Mahmud Keita IV resulted in the Manden heartland splintering into a series of successor states.
Mali's unique combination of traditional West African and Islamic cultures, oral heritage (particularly the role of the jeli or griot), and its fabulous wealth make it a particularly attractive and rewarding subject of study. West Africans today still look back on the reign of the Mansa with pride, at an age when the European-made maps of Africa depicted the region with a crowned, black-skinned king, sitting on a golden throne, holding an immense gold coin, and spoke of Timbuktu in hushed and awed tones—a heritage of immense material and cultural wealth.
- Main article: Malian cities (Civ6)
|Males||Females||Modern males||Modern females|
- The Mali civilization's symbol is an adobe mosque (possibly the Great Mosque of Djenné).
- The Mali civilization ability references the West African keepers of oral tradition (and often royal advisors).
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