While Civilization has featured a rotating cast of famous leaders for nations like America and China over its history, one constant for the franchise has been Montezuma at the head of the Aztec empire.
Reigning for nearly 30 years at the beginning of the 15th century, Montezuma consolidated and expanded the Aztec dominion to its greatest point in history before his grandson, Montezuma II, lost it all to Cortes. Unlike previous games, however, the Aztecs will initially only be available at launch to players that pre-ordered the game; they will unlock for everyone else free of charge after 90 days.
The Aztecs’ unique ability is that their builders can rush the construction of districts. That’s certainly nice, though not especially exciting in and of itself. However, it makes much more sense once you factor in their unique unit, the Eagle Warriors. While previous Civ games featured the other elite Aztec class, the vicious Jaguar Warriors, Eagle Warriors (who also replace the basic warrior unit) distinguished themselves by being exceptionally good at capturing slaves. Eagles then turn defeated enemies into builders for your empire. Note that this does not work on barbarians, however.
Montezuma’s leadership ability, Gifts for the Tlatoani, helps keep up your empire’s happiness during all of that aggressive expansion by boosting luxury resources. Empire-wide happiness has been eliminated in favor of local city happiness. This is driven by a new resource, amenities, which can be generated by buildings and luxury resources. Aztec luxuries generate additional amenities for nearby cities, not just the one where they reside. Each different, improved luxury resource within the Aztec empire also boosts the fighting power of the military.
Finally, the Aztec unique building is the Tlachtli, a sports arena in the entertainment district. It generates amenities, faith, and great general points for the Aztecs. Included in the pre-order bonus is also a new wonder, which will be available to all civs. Huey Teocalli is a step pyramid which served as the center of human sacrifice for the Aztecs. It’s not yet clear what effect the wonder will have, but, presumably, it will generate at least faith, perhaps related to killing enemy units.
The Aztecs are clearly designed for early game warmongering. Eagle Warriors give them a fighting advantage right out of the gate, and the extra builders acquired as slaves, in concert with their ability to boost the building of districts, creates a feedback loop between conquering enemies and accelerating your own city construction. Montezuma’s ability to get more out of luxury resources helps keep happiness up to support all that aggressive expansion.
Civilization VI comes out on October 21 for PC.