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This article is considered accurate for the current version (1.12) of the game.

Kingdom rankAztec
Primary culture
Aztec (Central American)

Capital province
Mexico (852)

Despotic MonarchyGovernment monarchy.png

State religion

Technology group
Ideas and traditions
Traditions.png Traditions:
+10% Infantry combat ability
-10% Idea cost

War exhaustion cost.png Flower Wars

-10% Reduce war exhaustion cost

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 offense.png Pochtecayotl

+20% Spy offense

Idea bonus.png Ambitions:

+25% National manpower modifier

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

Note: If converted from a CK2 game where Sunset Invasion DLC is active, they will have special national ideas and the High American technology group High American technology group, which is equivalent to Western tech.


Main article: Aztec events



Version 1.8 drastically changed Mesoamerica. There are now many warring nations in the region, and the Aztecs have a lot less power than they used to. Starting out, the strategy is the same standard one; form alliances and use conquest to create an American powerhouse. Generally the player should try to keep tech low and conserve monarch points for westernization, but there are a few key technologies that are highly advisable to have. First and foremost, diplomatic tech 3 is absolutely required. It unlocks heavy ships, which are the Aztecs' best line of defense against the European imperialists. By the time that Europe arrives, the colonizers' armies will be leagues ahead of the player's, and any land battle that the Aztecs fight will be almost a guaranteed loss. Ships however will be more evenly matched, and thanks to the Aztecs having two coastlines, valuable trade goods and high basetax, the player can field a very large number of heavy ships. With these, the player should be able to prevent the Europeans from making landfall. Slightly less important is administrative tech 4, and the national idea slot that it provides. While it's tempting to go straight for a colonist to expand the realm right away, this also expands the coastline, making it harder to defend with the fleet. Instead, the player should go for either humanist ideas to help with westernization and the eventual conquest of European lands (if going for Sunset Invasion achievement) or naval ideas to give the obsidian navy a bit of extra oomph for that first frantic defense. As for military tech, just keep it at or above whoever you're trying to conquer and you should be fine. Culture conversion may be useful, both to keep diplomatic power around the 2,000 mark and to keep the unrest low when westernizing. Now, all that the player has to do is unify Mesoamerica and wait for a European colony to pop up nearby so that the Aztecs can westernize off of it. If given the option via event to convert to Catholicism (or another denomination) while westernizing, it's really up to the player. On one hand, conversion will make it easier for the Aztecs to make powerful western allies and get rid of that pesky anti-pagan/colonial conquest CB, but on the other hand, it will drive unrest up to dangerous levels, practically ensuring at least one rebellion while westernizing. Anyways, once western, the player can do whatever he/she wants. Colonize Australia, kick the Europeans out of America, or even take the fight to them and shoot for the Sunset Invasion achievement; the possibilities are just about endless.

1.10+ (El Dorado)[edit]

The release of the 1.10 update and the El Dorado DLC has dramatically altered the gameplay of the Aztecs again. Previously, the optimal strategy would have been to conquer all neighboring nations and tech up to build a fleet that can hold off the Europeans. This is no longer possible, for two reasons: One, the doom mechanic that applies to the pre-reformed Nahuatl (Aztec) religion will increase more rapidly based on the number of provinces the player holds. The more land, the more doom gain. Reaching maximum doom, should the player somehow get there, will be...quite unpleasant. Two, the five religious reforms that can be passed to slow the accumulation of doom and prepare for westernization require the player to have five vassals. As a result, the Aztec game becomes one of a decentralized empire, rapidly expanding and contracting, and repeating the cycle over and over again.

Doom increases based on the number of provinces directly owned, and decreases due to battles, sieges won and vassalizations. If desperate, the leaders of subject nations can be sacrificed on the subject tab to provide a quick doom reduction at the expense of vassal loyalty (liberty desire).

In the beginning, the player needs to repeatedly attack his/her neighbors, while (at least initially) allying some, as the army will not be strong enough to fight off 2-3 at once. The player can always initially ally the Mayan states of Colima and Itza, as they do not border the Aztecs and should be friendly, and since they are Mayan the player does not need any of their provinces. They both also have strong armies and are able to help the player significantly. Mostly, neighbors will form alliances with 1-2 other states; try to fight two-state alliances initially. Build the army up to your force limit + 1 first. Then, initial targets should be Totonac (for Cuetlaxtlan trade hub), Zapotec (for the three provinces leading to the probably uncolonized south) and Tlapanec (for the two provinces to cut them off from Colima). It is important to take the Tlapanec provinces in the first or second doom cycle. This takes away Colima's flower war CB, and gives the player five small states. Slowly reduce those states in size during the coming wars. Take money during (separate) peace offers, to keep them weak - that also means the player needs not be afraid to take a few loans during war. Starting with the second (or third) doom cycle, start attacking Cocomes and Xiu through fabricated claims (consider taking one Xiu province that does not border Itza to fabricate on Cocomes) and demand force-conversion as part of the peace offer. Note that if the player vassalizes a Mayan state, Itza may turn hostile; same for Colima if the player vassalizes their remaining neighbor (after isolating Tlapanec); avoid the hostility by taking those vassals last and immediately passing a reform.

If the player wants to be safe (and is not aiming for the edge of doom achievement), do not take more than 8-9 ticking doom per year in the first 2 cycles. That means max 4-5 provinces before the first reform. The first reform should be the +5% discipline increase; seeing as the player will be fighting a lot this will help preserve manpower. Each reform passed will reduce doom gain by 20%, so do the math as to how many provinces the player can hold onto safely - seeing as the player needs less than 50 doom to pass reforms. (The fifth reform reduces doom growth by 100%, but does not disable the doom mechanic.) Never let the doom counter fill! At maximum doom, the entire ruling family will be sacrificed and replaced with a young 0/0/0 ruler with 20 legitimacy. All stored monarch points will evaporate, all vassals will break free, and stability will be reduced to -3. Avoid at all costs, unless the player is absolutely sure and wants the "Die Please Die" Achievement without waiting for a fitting ruler.

If the player intends to expand to the south, do so as soon as possible - that means taking three Zapotec provinces before passing the second reform, as well as the Iximché provinces (and forced conversion during the peace offer to Kiche) to open up southern colonization. If wanting to expand quickly, second reform should be colonization (the player cannot afford a colony before the second reform). Otherwise, the stab increase cost reduction may be useful.

By the fifth reform, the neighbors isolated from Colima as well as Kiche should be down to one province, making them easy to annex afterwards. This is also the time to start turning on Colima and Itza, if the player has not yet.

There are two basic strategies to pass the reforms quickly:

  • Truce Cycling: The player can choose to respect the truces, preserving your admin and diplo points. During the post-reform truces, in order to reduce doom, the player should then (1) respect call to arms of allies and (2) attack other states for forced vassalization, provinces and/or force-conversion. Whenever an event allows a choice to decrease or increase doom, and doom is already above 10, choose to reduce. This strategy allows the player to pass all five reforms by around 1500, by which time the player should have reached the right admin tech to enable the first idea group and unlock a few ideas in the exploration group - prioritize these ideas absolutely over the diplo tech, in that case.
  • Truce Breaking: The player does not necessarily have to respect the truces, and can feel free to break them if necessary. That means that allies will not join; it also means everyone will hate the player even more, but that is really not important, as they will not be around for long anyways. This will take the player down to -3 stability and increase war exhaustion every time. The player does not need to go back to 0 stab immediately - one can easily surf along at -1 or even -2 stability for a while, to avoid spending too many admin points at once (need some to core). This strategy can see the player attack your former vassals before they find allies, allowing one to fight them alone easily. This strategy should allow one to pass all reforms by 1480 or even earlier.

After passing all reforms, the next concern is to reform the religion (bringing the player up to 80% of western tech) and westernize as soon as possible. One needs to keep in mind that the Europeans will attack by 1550 at the latest, at which point they will be military tech 12 or so, and the player will still be tech 4 or 5. Here again, there are two strategies:

  • Colony Seizing: As soon as the player has at least one conquistador through the second exploration idea, look for European colonizers (likely Spain or Portugal) in South America. If one took the truce cycling approach, that should be around 1500, and they would still be far away on the southeastern tip. Wait for a colony to almost finish (less than 975 + whatever the monthly growth is), then declare a no-CB war on them and use the "seize colony" button. If lucky, the enemies are busy in another war in Europe at that time. Immediately offer truce, giving them whatever it takes - usually war reparations and money; if they will not accept it, one allies' trade power should work (at 60% war score). The colony will auto-core upon completion (it is too far away to send a colonist anyways). Once the colony is completed, immediately reform religion and start westernization as soon as the player has enough monarch points to do so. Do not be afraid to run out of monarch point necessarily. If lucky, the European powers will not attack during that time. To reduce the risk, sell back the colony to the colonial nation immediately after westernization is complete, to keep them from having a CB on the Aztecs for quite some time.
  • Invasion: The other option to reform and westernize is when the European colonizers (usually Spain, Portugal and/or England) attack by 1550. In that case, do not expand too far south, as that territory will take long to reach in the case of an invasion. The player does not need to expand too far along the Eestern coast of North America yet either - there is plenty of time for that later, as the Europeans are a bit slower in colonizing North America. The player cannot build ships, so when the enemy lands its troops in Aztec territory (ideally a jungle province), the full army should be enough to defeat their troops, due to the terrain and amphibious landing/attacker maluses. Let them take one province (or sell it to them afterwards perhaps, if possible) - after they core it, the player will be able to reform religion and westernize. This should make Aztec troops strong enough to repel another attack, due to increased military tech. Be prepared for another attack as soon as the truce timers are up, and while one is still westernizing! Note that whoever took the province can easily fabricate a claim later on, so build up the navy as soon as possible.

The strategy for the next 100 year is pretty straightforward: Finish exploration ideas, take expansion and quantity, and get up-to-date on military technology. Expand as quickly as possibly - be sure to take the two policies that allow so: Colonial Expansion (+20 colonial growth at the cost of 1 diplo point) and The Colonial Settlement Act (+1 colonist and +10 colonial growth at the cost of 1 military point). Colonize provinces such as to block off as many empty provinces as possible. This must be done in North America, which has plenty of provinces. The player can choose to also expand in South America - this will likely use all four colonists (later five if using the Colonial Settlement Act) in the Americas. Instead of South America, the player may also choose to expand in Asia (Siberia) and Australia/Oceania - note though that unlike the Americas, there is 75% minimum autonomy in the new provinces. Expand into the Caribbean as well for its high base tax provinces if they haven't been taken by the Europeans yet, to allow moving the main trade port there later if feasible. The player can also attack close-by or neighboring primitives once exploration ideas are completed. Feel free to do so and take their provinces (if one can core them) or take money (the North American primitive states can be quite rich sometimes) and demand force-conversion - all religions here are Pagan and therefore in the same religious group as the Aztecs.

Ally any powerful European(s) as soon as possible - note that the colonizers will likely be hostile to the player most of the time, and in any case not very reliable allies, as they tend to want the Aztecs' provinces. More likely and valuable allies will be Austria or Sweden (if they are strong) or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Take allies that are likely to join wars against Spain, Portugal, Great Britain or France. Keep those allies by following their Call to Arms, unless the war is very difficult to win or counters Aztec interests too much. A foothold in Europe will reduce the border distance malus and allow one to ally them more easily, as will attacking their rivals. If colonial nations declare independence, they may also make good allies or targets - the player should be far stronger than them by now, and they can help deter Europeans from invading again.

If the player wants to go for the Sunset Invasion achievement, get a foothold in Europe as soon as opportunity presents itself (for example, an Irish minor with no friends), and start attacking in earnest as soon as one reaches diplo tech 22 with the Imperialism CB. Watch AE, as one wants to avoid a coalition forming against the Aztecs. Rome may take only one war to get (if you are lucky), Lisbon and Holland will likely take at least two; London, Ile-de-France (Paris) and Madrid will likely take three wars to obtain. Prior to 1.12 the player needs to isolate the capital first before being able to demand it in a war (i.e., no bordering province owned by the country). After 1.12 this is no longer necessary, but capitals cost more warscore. Note that one can avoid truce-breaking by declaring on a nation's allies that one does not have a truce with (asking them to annul treaties will help with this, as they will seek new allies); this will, however, double the province war score cost for the actual target, meaning one can likely only take 2-3 provinces. The biggest challenge will likely be getting Paris, as France usually has a very strong military by the time you can attack them in the late 1600s. After 1.12, France has been significantly weakened, making the conquest of Paris slightly easier.

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