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Kingdom rankAztec
Primary culture
Aztec (Central American)

Capital province
Mexico (852)

Despotic MonarchyGovernment monarchy.png

State religion

Technology group
MesoamericanMesoamerican technology group
Aztec ideas
Traditions.png Traditions:
+10% Infantry combat ability
−10% Idea cost

Cost of reducing war exhaustion.png Flower Wars

−10% Cost of reducing war exhaustion

Legitimacy.png Sustaining the Gods

+1 Yearly legitimacy

Manpower recovery speed.png Telpochcalli

+10% Manpower recovery speed

Morale of armies.png Eagles and Jaguars

+10% Morale of armies

National tax modifier.png Imperial Tribute

+10% National tax modifier

Production efficiency.png Floating Gardens

+10% Production efficiency

Spy network construction.png Pochtecayotl

+20% Spy network construction

Idea bonus.png Ambition:

+25% National manpower modifier

The Aztec are a country located in Central Mexico. It is also the primary nation of the Aztec culture.


Main article: Aztec events

There is a group of events dealing with Altepetls revolts that fires cyclically and forces the player to deal with the danger of revolts. Other events concern some flavour aspects of Aztec nations, granting four permanent modifiers (first one is mandatory, others are optional):

  • Great Temple of Tenochtitlan:
    • +1 Prestige.png yearly prestige.
  • Sumptuary Laws:
    • +2.5% Discipline.png discipline,
    • -5% Cost of reducing war exhaustion.png cost of reducing war exhaustion .
  • Influence of Texcoco:
    • -5% Administrative technology cost administrative technology cost,
    • +0.02 Autonomy.png monthly autonomy change.
  • Laws of Nezahualcoyotl:
    • -0.03 Autonomy.png monthly autonomy change.


Essentially, an Aztec campaign is divided in three sections: the Road to Reform, waiting for Europe, and Aztec and the World.

The Road to Reform[edit]

The most important mechanical feature of Aztec is the Doom mechanic that comes from being of Nahuatl faith. It is a counter that starts at 0; once it reaches 100, the current ruler is sacrificed and replaced with a very weak one and all vassals are released. High Doom decreases aggressive expansion impact but increases idea and technology cost. The Doom counter increases linearly with the number of provinces in the nation, scaled by the reforms that have been enacted; it can be decreased by fighting wars and winning sieges or by sacrificing rulers of vassal nations (only once every three years). Random events also can increase or decrease Doom.

The only way to escape the constant cycle of Doom is to enact the five reforms, which can be done when at peace, with stability greater than 0, no rebels in any province, less than 50 doom, and controlling at least 5 vassals. Naturally, the most stringent requirement is the last one; furthermore, all vassals are released upon enacting a reform, which means that to go to the next reform one must vassalise five nations again. This is essentially Aztec's gameplay for the first 50 years or so: gain 5 vassals, reform, repeat. Once that is done, the player can wait for the arrival of Europeans. It is a relatively straightforward task, and here are some tips to make it through.

  • It is not necessary to take land from defeated enemies, but it helps. You might think that reducing all other nations to OPMs to make it easier to vassalise later is a good strategy, and you wouldn't be wrong. However, keep in mind that the more provinces you have, the faster Doom increases, so you might want to not take everything in one go. Using your warscore to vassalise and take money is more important. It is perfectly possible to reach the five reforms without taking a single province before that time, so do not feel obligated. That said...
  • Take Tlaxcala and Cutzamala. Tlaxcala, the northernmost province of Tlaxcala, and Cutzamala, the easternmost province of Tarascan, have forts, and hence require larger armies to siege. Tlaxcala in particular requires at least a 9K army, which, at least at the beginning, is most if not all of your force, and it takes a long time to besiege. Letting them in the hands of enemies means to have to besiege them over and over again. Take these provinces early on and demolish the forts if you can't take the expense.
  • War is a pretty uncomplicated affair. No one will have ideas, no one will have anything other than infantry, staying on par with military tech is easy, the special bonuses can come only from monarch traits, and there are only those two forts to block the way. Although terrain and leader might have an impact (Aztec starts with Moctezuma I as a two-star commander, giving them the edge), generally speaking battles are decided by raw numbers. Plan accordingly using the ledger, defeat the main enemy army, follow it to shatter it completely, and then carpet siege to avoid the enemy rebuilding an army. At least 3K is need for capital provinces, 1K is enough for all others.
  • Extract as much money as possible from defeated enemies and don't spend it. Keep a large reserve in case your army is defeated, in which case hire a mercenary force. Don't be afraid to take on debt to do hire then. Once again, raw numbers usually win the day.
  • Chain wars if possible. This can be more down to luck, but if you vassalise someone who was fighting in another war, you get dragged in their conflict as leader. You can vassalise the enemy and get dragged in more conflicts and so on. This is particularly useful to get around peace treaties and not get the breaking truce penalty.
  • It is recommended to ensure that no nations are annexed and instead left as weak 2-3 province minors(taking too much land will increase your doom counter gratly), and with the number of nations left alive with this strategy the Aztecs can effectively alternate force vassalisation between the northern Nahuatl tribes and the southern Mayan tribes, reducing the need for truce breaking.
  • Break truces if you have to. Right after enacting a reform, all vassals are released and everyone has a truce with everyone else. Furthermore, they'll probably be weakened and armyless, so breaking a truce might be a small price to pay to get started in getting the next five vassals. It is by no means required and you can easily just wait for the truces to expire, but it is a way to speed things up a bit. If you do break a truce, try doing it on a country that is allied with another nation you have a truce with, allowing you to vassalise them as well.
  • Pick a Mayan ally. The Mayans in the Yucatan peninsula to the east will be having their own Rumble in the Jungle for supremacy, and it is useful to choose the winner of that and ally them, not to help you in your offensive wars, but to dissuade scavengers from coming after you if one of your wars ends up going the wrong way. Don't get too attached to them though: you'll have to conquer them too at some point.
  • The first reform should probably be Warrior Ranks, which gives Discipline.png +5% discipline; due to the constant wars, Open up Sumptuary Restrictions is also useful for the Icon war exhaustion.png -0.05 war exhaustion reduction. Tribal Expansion (Colonists.png +1 colonist) should be the last as you want to start colonising once you have a solid grip on Mexico.

After enacting the five reforms, Doom will no longer tick up, although events can still affect it, and you can move on to the next phase.

There are several tips that are worth noting when doing this early phase:

  • As of patch 1.19, the player can annex a province from a minor(in this strategy Tlaxcala) and use manual development to have it embrace feudalism. If the nation is then released as a vassal, they will have automatically embraced feudalism which allows you to embrace Feudalism and catch up on technology prior to European colonizers, finish reforming your religion and interestingly prevent the triggered modifier 'Rapid Collapse of Society' and the disastrous European disease random events that follow.
  • Instead of vassalizing a nation, you can full annex it and release it as your vassal. The peace deal will be considered unjustified and will cost you diplo points, but the released nation will have a huge opinion boost towards you so they will almost always be loyal, and their agressive expansion will be reset which is very useful.
  • If it is not advised to overfeed yourself early on so that doom doesn't increase too fast, you can start eating more and more of your neighbours for each reform you pass, because doom will tick slower thanks to the passed reforms. At any point, you can feed one ally to make your vassals weaker. Reducing Zapotec and Totomac to OPM vassals by giving their land to Itza will make them extremely weak for next string of vassalization wars, and this will give you a lot of favors with Itza. Just be careful that you don't end up rivaled because there is no other target left.
  • You are at your strongest just before passing a reform, and at your weakest right after you passed one. Therefore, it might be better to delay a reform to prepare for next wars. Obviously, you cannot take more vassals, but you can fully annex one or two nations once you have the five vassals. Do not core them, pass the reform and instantly release the 1-2 nations as vassals so you start out in a better position for next reform.

Waiting for Europe[edit]

Depending on your speed, you should have enacted all reforms between 1480 and 1500. Once that is done, blob hard and take over all the other nations, including the Yucatan peninsula and the Mayans. Without any other countries in the area, all you have to do is wait for an European nation to become your neighbour so you can reform the Nahuatl faith. This can happen at any point between 1500 and 1600, so be patient. In the meantime, begin colonising along the coasts to reach places where the Europeans might arrive: as you won't have ships, and you can only colonise provinces adjacent to your cores, you just need to inch your way to Florida or Brazil.

Florida is a longer shot because it's farther away (although Coahuilteco, a centre of trade, is just two provinces away from Metztitlan, the northernmost developed province). Going south towards Brazil is a much easier bet, as the European powers will often be colonising Panama and moving north (Veraguas, Chorotega, Nicoya and so on). Start going from Chortli and Pipil and hope you meet Europeans soon. You can take the Exploration or Expansion group of ideas to help you get along, but mind that you'll do a lot of conquering so Administrative is a better choice than Expansion as a second idea group. There's no requirement to accumulate money at this point, so if you can afford it colonise even beyond the number of colonists you have. Mothball all forts you have (you should probably just keep the one in Mexico anyway) and reduce army maintenance if you need to reduce the deficit. Keep the advisors, however: keeping up with tech and ideas is important.

Once you do border Europeans, reform your religion, which will remove any penalty maluses from Europeans seeking to conquer your provinces. Depending on your development, reforming and getting the institutions is also likely to immediately make you a great power. Make sure you use your extra monarch points before reforming, as the cap will go from more than 2000 to 999. Not all is good when the Europeans arrive, however: several negative events may fire quickly, such as Collapse of Society, Smallpox Epidemic and Disloyal Altepetls, which bring increased unrest, loss of morale and income and actual revolts. Be prepared for them by keeping a suitable army around, as well as converting all provinces to Nahuatl religion and Aztec culture to minimise unrest and increase revenue. Try to reduce local autonomy too if you can.

If an European power declares war on you before you've reformed and you border them, you can try to fight them. It's rare, but it's possible to defeat them if they don't bring enough troops to Mexico. In that case, create the biggest army you can and hire mercenaries, and hope that superior numbers can make up for the gap in military tech. As said, however, this is unlikely to happen: Portugal or England might bring small armies but Castile (or Spain) and France will usually come in full force. You have essentially no chance against them if they commit fully, and lengthening the war will only mean that they will ask you many more provinces. If it's clear you can't compete, surrender quickly, before they bring enough troops to Mexico, and hand them over territory that they can core. Once they do, reform your religion and prepare to retake the lost land. You also have a good chance of getting your land back anyway: if they don't keep an army in Mexico, separatist revolts will fire quickly and rebels will often be able to rapidly enforce their demands and defect to you. This is another reason to culture convert: if the Mixtec provinces are of Mixtec culture, they will reform Mixtec upon successful revolt, except they will be at the tech level of their former overlord; if they are Aztec, they will defect to you.

Once the religion is reformed, Doom events will be gone forever, you can start the next phase.

Aztec and the World[edit]

At this point, you are probably a Great Power and the strongest nation in the New World. You have a few options now, most of which probably include colonising the western half of America: if you close off the coasts in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly go up California, you have basically no competition from Europeans. You can enforce a sort of Monroe Doctrine and keep Europeans off the continent quite easily: a suitable navy of heavy ships and galleys put on intercept mission can prevent any transport navy from unloading an invasion force in the Caribbean, and there are rarely forts in Colonial Nations to worry about. Supporting their independence is usually an easy way of weakening colonial powers, as waging a war across the Atlantic is pretty tough, and any war fought in the Americas should be easily winnable for you and your allies.

For the same reason, invading Europe (perhaps to get the Sunset Invasion achievement) is hard for Aztec: you can't reinforce your forces quickly enough, and a well placed naval battle can prevent you from landing an invasion force in the first place. It's better to get a staging ground first and plan from there: the Moroccan coast (if not already taken by Spain) and Ireland (if not already taken by England) both work; Iceland is also an option but is farther away. You can try to get help from non-colonial European powers such as Ottomans and Austria, but usually the distance, army and navy strength penalties can prevent them from accepting an alliance. If you can take a bit of land in Europe first, it definitely helps with allying them. Even then, fighting Europeans in Europe can be tough: they will replenish their forces faster than you can, and the many forts will often slow you down considerably. It is a difficult task indeed.

Another venue for conquest is Asia, which is considerably less tough: eastern Siberia is empty and waiting for colonists, which makes for an easily obtainable staging ground. If you can wait for the inevitable Ming implosion, then you should be able to dominate the small Chinese states; of course, you may face competition from Japan and Korea, which is useful to keep in check anyway as they tend to steal trade from the nodes in California and Mexico, weakening your own profits there.

However, you should decide for yourself what you want to do at this point, depending on which region seems more accessible and what your own goals are.

All in all, for Aztec the biggest challenge is reforming and surviving the first contact with Europeans. After that, you have an entire continent to yourself and several options.


Sunset Invasion icon
Own and have cores on Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, London, Amsterdam and Rome as the Aztecs.

On the Edge of Madness icon
As Aztecs, reach 95 Doom, then go 20 years without Doom hitting 100.
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