Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization V

139 ratings
Zigzagzigal's Guide to the Mayans (BNW)
By Zigzagzigal
The Mayans use religion and science together to achieve their aims. This guide goes into plenty of detail about Mayan strategies, uniques and how to play against them.
Note: This guide assumes you have all game-altering DLC and expansion packs (all Civ packs, Wonders of the Ancient World, Gods & Kings and Brave New World)

A brave new world needs a brave new leader. One that can lead the Mayan people forward to prosperity - you. With their roots in the centre of the Americas, the people you now lead likely first rose nearly four thousand years ago, achieving a written language one and a half thousand years later and possessing skill in mathematics and astronomy. From the third to the eighth centuries, the Mayans had achieved an advanced civilization of city-states. And while as a whole the Mayan civilization began to decline, cities in the north continued to develop - the most advanced cities of the known world.

But then came the Europeans, and the world changed. For these people were conquerers from a far-off land, with little interest except to plunder, kill and capture the people and treasures of the Americas. The Mayans held out, taking until the very end of the 17th century before finally being completely conquered. And yet their culture survived, in the languages spoken to this very day, and the traditions preserved. If the Mayans can achieve a victory of sorts amongst the peoples of the Americas, could they do the same in a fairer world? Can you build their civilization to stand the test of time?

Before I go into depth with this guide, here's an explanation of some terminology I'll be using throughout for the sake of newer players.

Beelining - Focusing on obtaining a technology early by only researching technologies needed to research it and no others. For example, to beeline Bronze Working, you'd research Mining and Bronze Working and nothing else until Bronze Working was finished.
Finisher - The bonus for completing a Social Policy tree (e.g. Free Great Person for Liberty.)
Opener - The bonus for unlocking a Social Policy tree (e.g. +1 culture for every city for Liberty's opener)
UA - Unique Ability - the unique thing a Civilization has which doesn't need to be built.
UB - Unique Building - A replacement for a normal building that can only be built by one Civilization.
UU - Unique Unit - A replacement for a normal unit that can only be built by one Civilization or provided by Militaristic City-States when allied.
Uniques - Collective name for Unique Abilities, Units, Buildings, Tile Improvements and Great People
Wide Empire - A high number of cities with a low population each. Because the Mayans have a unique building which produces Science regardless of population, this is a good choice for them.
XP - Experience Points - Get enough and you'll level up your unit, giving you the ability to heal your unit or get a promotion.
At a glance (Part 1/2)
Start Bias

The Mayans have no start bias. It's not a bad idea to expand to jungle areas to take advantage of the science Universities add to them.


Aside from the mandatory Unique Ability, the Mayans have a unique unit and a unique building both in the ancient era.

Unique Ability: The Long Count

  • Ability unlocks upon researching the Theology technology (Medieval era, 1st column, 6th column overall)
  • The calendar at the top of the screen changes to a Mayan Long Count calendar (you can see the Gregorian date by scrolling over it.)
  • At the start of every b'ak'tun (when the leftmost number on the calendar increases on a 394-year cycle) you recieve a free Great Person of your choice
  • Each Great Person can only be selected once. If you exhaust all options, you start again allowing you to select each one a second time.
  • These Great People have different rules on how they affect future Great Peron generation. Current progress towards the next Great Person will be preserved, but requirements for the next one may be increased.
    • A Great Writer, Artist or Musician, if selected, will raise the Great Person point cost of the next one of its respective type.
    • A Great Prophet, if selected, increases the faith cost of the next one.
    • A Great Merchant, Scientist or Engineer, if selected, will raise the Great Person points needed for the next one of all three.
    • A Great General or Admiral, if selected, does not raise the cost of the next one.

Unique Unit: Atlatlist (Replaces the Archer)

A standard ranged unit

Upgrades from
Upgrades to
Production cost
Purchase cost
Resource needed

Unlocked at start
(1st column overall)

Classical era
1st column
(4th column overall)

(Ancient Ruins upgrade only)

Composite Bowman
*Assumes a normal speed game.

Ranged Strength
Negative Attributes
Positive Attributes
7Ranged Strength
2Movement Points
  • May not melee attack

Negative changes

  • Upgrade cost of 85 rather than 80 in normal speed games (+6%)

Positive one-off changes

  • Requires the Agriculture technology rather than Archery (Ancient era, 1st column, 2nd column overall)
  • Costs 36 production in normal speed games, down from 40 (-10%)
  • Costs 180 gold in normal speed games, down from 200 (-10%)

Unique Building: Pyramid (Replaces the Shrine)

Building of the Faith line

Building required
Required to build
Production cost
Purchase cost
City restriction

Ancient era
1st column
(2nd column overall)

*Assumes a normal speed game.

Base output
Output Multiplier
Great Work slots
Other effects

Positive changes

  • 2 faith generated per turn, up from 1
  • 2 extra science produced
At a glance (Part 2/2)
Victory Routes

Note that these scores are a matter of personal opinion based on experiences with the Civilization. You may discover a way of utilising the Civ more effectively in unconventional ways.

Cultural: 7/10
Diplomatic: 6/10
Domination: 6/10
Scientific: 9/10

The Mayans are one of the better Civs around for chasing scientific victories. While not as good as Babylon or Korea for science, your UA gives you flexibility to persue a backup option. Diplomacy is alright if you have a lot of Trading Posts around your wide empire. Early in the game, you can rush Atlatlists to take out a rival, or in the late-game you can use your scientific advantages for world conquest.

Similar Civs and uniques


Although it has major differences in gameplay, the closest Civ to the Mayans is probably Rome. Rome's UA gives you a 25% production bonus if constructing a building that already exists in your capital. The more cities you have, the more you can get out of this UA. Notably, the fast development it enables you helps you quickly build up a science infrastructure to overcome the increasing technology costs based on the number of cities you own, making Rome one of the few Civs that is particularly good at science victories while building wide.

Same start bias

The Mayan lack of a start bias is shared with America, China, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Persia, Rome and the Shoshone.

Similar to the UA

Babylon receives a free Great Scientist with Writing, while Venice receives a free Merchant of Venice (their unique Great Merchant replacement) with Optics. These are the only other cases of Civs getting free Great People after certain technologies, but unlike the Mayan bonus, there's no choice in the matter and it only happens once.

For other Civs with general Great Person bonuses, not tied to a single type, look to Austria, (their Coffee House UB replaces the Windmill and offers a 25% Great Person Points bonus,) Indonesia (their Candi UB replaces the Garden and is unrestricted, allowing you to take its 25% Great Person Points bonus to any city) and Sweden (every declaration of friendship they make gives them a stacking 10% Great Person bonus in all their cities.)

Similar to Atlatlists

The other Archer UUs are Babylon's Bowman (which is stronger than the generic unit) and the Incan Slinger (which has a chance to retreat from combat instead of taking damage if attacked by melee.) Atlatlists are closer to Bowmen in the sense they allow you to hold off getting certain technologies while still having an adequate defence (Atlatlists let you postpone Archery while Bowmen let you hold off Construction.)

The only other UU to be available earlier in the game than the generic unit is Denmark's Berserker, available at Metal Casting rather than Steel. In that case, it's more to enable you to launch an attack sooner rather than to provide an earlier defence.

Similar to Pyramids

Extra faith on Pyramids works similarly to the faith on Ethiopia's Steles in that it helps you gain both a Pantheon and religion sooner, and works more effectively the more cities you have. Your faith bonus isn't as good as Ethiopia's, and the building comes slightly later, but that +2 science is certainly good enough to make up for that.

No other UB has a direct science bonus, and only three other Civs have science bonuses that can be used so early in the game - Assyria, Babylon and Korea. Babylon gets the biggest early bonus, but that subsides somewhat later in the game. Korea gets only a minor edge early on (building a Library in their capital will give them a research agreement-esque science boost) but will get much more science later on.
Unique Ability: The Long Count

The Long Count is one of the stranger unique abilities in the game. It doesn't take effect immediately, and it rewards you in one-off events rather than an ever-present bonus. If played right, however, it can net you a large number of Great People in the early to mid game while other Civs are struggling to gain them.

Getting to Theology

The Long Count activates once you unlock the Theology technology. Seeing as this is all the way in the Medieval era, and Great People are awarded in 394 year cycles, you need to act fast.

Here are all the technologies you need:

  • Pottery
  • Calendar
  • Writing
  • Philosophy
  • Drama and Poetry
  • Theology

Costs raise by 5% for every city you own (on Standard sized maps or smaller, it's less otherwise) and reduce if other Civs have researched the technology.

Of course, you may pick up more than this to accomodate worker technologies, but it depends on your starting location. If you get unforested plantation luxuries and lots of wheat or open land for farms, you'll be fine to follow this route.

Besides from unlocking the UA, this route immediately gets you access to the Pyramid UB and will quickly get you Libraries - both being science buildings. Because the Atlatlist UU is available without Archery, it allows you to ignore the technology while focusing on early Theology.

From Theology to Education

Before going into the advantages of the UA itself, it's worth mentioning that Theology is one of the two requirements for Education, a vital science techology. Here's all the further technologies you'll need:

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Archery
  • Trapping
  • The Wheel
  • Horseback Riding
  • Mathematics
  • Currency
  • Civil Service
  • Education

You'll probably need Mining, Masonry and Construction sooner rather than later, so don't blindly follow this path.

The Cycle

When you research Theology, your calendar changes to a Mayan Long Count calendar (though you can continue to see the old one by scrolling over it.) It works in a system of base 20 - that is to say that whenever a number in the calendar reaches 20, it resets to 0 and the number to the left increases by 1.

The left-most digit shows the current b'ak'tun, which goes up by 1 every 394 years and that's when you get your free Great Person. As such, looking at the second digit gives you a clue whether or not a new Great Person is coming. If it's in the high teens, get ready.

Now for the most important part of the calendar's mechanics. The 394 year cycle isn't based off when you discovered Theology. Instead, it's based around fixed years. Here's all of them that fall within the standard 6050 years of play. Dates are approximate. Thanks to the CivFanatics forums[] and others for finding those turns.

  • 1: 2720 BC (Turn 33 in normal speed games)
  • 2: 2325 BC (42)
  • 3: 1931 BC (52)
  • 4: 1537 BC (62)
  • 5: 1143 BC (72)
  • 6: 748 BC (86)
  • 7: 354 BC (101)
  • 8: 41 AD (117)
  • 9: 435 AD (133)
  • 10: 830 AD (152)
  • 11: 1224 AD (183)
  • 12: 1618 AD (234)
  • 13: 2012 AD (432)

Dates before b'ak'tun 1 aren't shown because you're not going to get Theology that early in any serious game, nor does the UA actually have any effect then. Getting Theology before b'ak'tun 4 is highly unlikely. The count continues after 2012 if you play beyond the normal finishing date of 2050.

Finally, and importantly, with the exception of Great Generals and Admirals, these free Great People raise the cost of the next one of its type (and, as always, Great Merchants, Engineers and Scientists will raise each other's costs.)

The first Great Person

Hopefully, you should have got Theology nice and early, still in the four-digit BCs. Now, here's the hard choice. The first Great Person you pick will have a considerable impact on the rest of the game, as is the power of the early-game. You should pick either a Great Scientist, Prophet or Engineer.

Great Scientist

Going down the Science route, getting an Academy up and running early is a great idea. 8 extra Science is an incredible boost earlier in the game.

Great Prophet

If you haven't enhanced your religion yet, a Great Prophet will get that done. Otherwise, use it to spread your religion before most rival faiths have got going, or put down a Holy Site to help get you faith for purchasing religious buildings or science buildings from the Jesuit Education Reformation belief.

Great Engineer

Rushing a wonder is useful but the best wide-empire wonders tend to come in the mid and late-game. Alternatively, build a Manufactory to help production all through the game.

Beyond the first Great People

Above: Great People you've already picked will tell you when you picked them. This guy was born in the equivalent of 748 BC.

Later Great People will come further and further apart and probably be less useful (hence this ability is strongest in the mid-game.) You shouldn't base your entire strategy around when Great People arrive, but when the new Bak'tun comes, it's good to know the best Great Person for the times.

Earlier Great People after first three

  • Merchant - A cash boost is great for buying scientific buildings (if you have Jesuit Education, use gold to purchase Libraries and Observatories and faith to purchase the rest) or to get research agreements going.
  • Writer - This pushes you through Social Policies faster.

Later Great People

  • Artist - Golden Ages will net you a lot of cash by this point.
  • Admiral - Good choice defensively against rival Privateers, or against naval empires which tend to strike at this point. An unconventional move on some maps could be to get an Admiral early as they can cross ocean tiles even before Astronomy.
  • General - At this stage, war moves forward very quickly (Riflemen to Great War Infantry to Infantry) and it's important not to let your guard down. Great Generals before this point may be a bad idea as it comes at the cost of more useful GPs.
  • Musician - Musicians aren't particularly useful to the Mayans, hence you may as well hold them off until late in the game if at all.


  • Get Theology as soon as you can, your UU will keep you safe in the meantime and your UB will get you to Theology sooner
  • The times you get Great People are fixed, but get further apart in terms of turns as the game goes on
  • Get Prophets, Scientists and Engineers sooner
  • Hold off Musicians and Generals until later eras
Special Bonus Strategy: The Holy Rush
This strategy isn't essential to Mayan gameplay, but could be worth trying out.

The Holy Rush strategy relies on fast development of your religion to stunt the growth of other ones. Excellent faith generation from your UB means it's quite possible you'll enhance your religion before finishing the Piety tree (and if you don't, hold off finishing the tree until you've enhanced the religion, seeing as free Great Prophets raise the cost of the next one.)

Why is this important? Because it complements the fact you'll most likely be the first Civ to research Theology and thus have a head-start on all those Wonders. By using a Long Count Great Engineer to rush one of the Wonders, the free Great Prophet from the Piety finisher and a Long Count Great Prophet, you can spread your religion long before most other Civs have their religion be a presence in the world.

Method One: Earliest Spread

This approach sacrifices some early science, but allows you to convert a good chunk of the world to your religion before others have a chance.

In this approach, your first Long Count Great Person should be an Engineer in order to rush the Hagia Sophia for the free Great Prophet. Send that Great Prophet with an escort immediately into foreign lands (preferably nations without Pantheons, as they'll like you more if you convert them to your religion and are less likely to found ones of their own to ruin that.)

The Piety finisher should be aimed to be finished early, so focusing on culture generation isn't a bad idea, and the second Long Count Great Person should be the Great Prophet. That way, you've got three Great Prophets in relatively quick succession.

Method Two: Super Borobudur

Again, the idea is to use a Great Engineer to rush a Wonder. Instead of the Hagia Sophia, you should rush the Great Mosque of Djenne. Then, dedicate the same city to building Borobudur. Because you'll probably have Theology before anyone else, it's pretty likely you'll be first to build the latter Wonder, giving you 9 spread religion uses rather than the usual 6 from it!

This method works particularly well if you have Interfaith Dialogue and a rival religion already has a presence in the game.
Unique Unit: Atlatlist

Unique units generally offer better attacking, better defence or extra utility. The Atlatlist, however, is somewhat different. The unit itself is no stronger or weaker than a normal Archer, and is merely 10% cheaper to build or buy. The key difference is the technology requirement - this is one of only two UUs to have an earlier technology requirement than the generic unit. Instead of needing the Archery technology, you can build Atlatlists immediately.

While you only need one technology to unlock Archery anyway, consider the fact most worker technologies do not require it, and you don't need it on the way to Theology. Hence, you save precious turns thanks to this unit, which could be the difference between getting another 394 year cycle in or not.

Aside from how the unit fits in the main strategy, it's useful to note how an earlier, cheaper Archer can aid you otherwise. Being now cheaper than Warriors, there's little reason not to make it your key defensive (or even offensive) force. Using them early and heavily helps you to get the very powerful high-tier promotions like Logistics and Range.)

One hidden disadvantage lies in a slightly higher upgrade cost - 85 rather than 80 in normal-speed games. The difference is small but problematic if you have a very large Atlatlist force.

Special Bonus Strategy: Ridiculously early warfare

This strategy isn't essential to Mayan gameplay, but could be worth trying out.

Archer-rushing is a reasonable strategy involving amassing Archers in the early game and attacking opponents with them before they have any kind of decent defence. The Mayans can do this more efficently, and launch such an attack earlier.

It's useful to note that Atlatlists are the cheapest unit in the game besides Scouts. Amassing an army of them in the early game isn't too hard, and you can focus on worker technologies instead of having to research Archery (as would be the case for other Archer-rushers.)

Rushing an opponent's capital is a good idea as they include two luxuries - enough to sustain the city for a fair amount of time (unless one or both of the luxuries is the same as ones you own.) In addition, these tend to be in very good locations. Most importantly of all, you wipe out a rival early, giving you more land to expand into.

Of course, you could just take the cash and run. That's worthwhile if their defences are better than you expected. Also keep in mind that wars and conquests will anger a lot of people later.

Above: I messed up a war, where I took control of Mecca but failed to wipe out the Arabians. Denouncements all round and my army's still in Mecca as Babylon comes to conquer. Be sure to start a rush early if you want to avoid such a messy fate.

Special promotions kept on upgrade

Unique Building: Pyramid
Not to be confused with the Pyramids wonder or Songhai's Mud Pyramid Mosque UB.

Pyramids make Shrines over twice as good as normal. Instead of 1 faith for 1 maintenance, you recieve 2 faith and 2 science for the same cost. The science bonus is as much as you'd recieve for 2 population points before a Library is built, or 1 point after a Public School is built. As unlike other science buildings, it doesn't depend on population or earlier buildings that do, it's great for a wider empire with not very large cities.

It should also be considered that Pyramids are very cheap to build, at 40 Production in normal speed games - the same as a Warrior! Even cities with appalling production can get this up, particularly with the Piety opener which makes them half-price to build.

Be sure not to build cities excessively, however. While very wide empires generate faith like no tomorrow, every city you own pushes up the costs of new technologies. Until you can afford to buy your way through other science buildings (you should build rather than buy Pyramids seeing as the Piety opener doesn't affect the purchase price) building lots of new cities will probably cost you more than it gains.

As a Shrine replacement, religious beliefs that apply to Shrines also apply to Pyramids. Feed the World lets cities grow faster with +1 food to Pyramids and Temples, while Asceticism offers +1 happiness per Pyramid for a token size requirement. Extra happiness will help sustain your large number of cities without costing you anything extra.
Social Policies: Liberty and Piety
Start with either Liberty or Piety (or mix the two - taking Collective Rule from Liberty followed by Reformation from Piety is reasonably effective.) Once that's done, policies from Commerce may be useful to help support making Research Agreements or just supporting city/building maintenance until Rationalism is available.



All your cities will get some culture, allowing them to expand their borders right away (without needing Monuments, meaning they can instead dedicate their time to building Pyramids) and also helping to offset the increased Social Policy cost of having more cities.


The point of production offered is great for getting Pyramids built in new cities.

Collective Rule

If you want to take the best city spots, you'll need to start expanding early. A free Settler and faster Settler production in your capital will really aid you there.


Faster Worker speed, like the extra production from Republic, is good for getting new cities up and running.


Happiness is always an issue when building wide. Meritocracy helps to relieve that problem a little.


New cities won't slow down Social Policy gain as much, and you'll get a Golden Age to help you through the point in the game where happiness really starts to cause trouble.


Because your UA wasn't enough. A Great Scientist from here, coupled with one from your UA and your UB together offer a really strong base for mid-game science generation.



If your UB wasn't good enough already, it now comes half-price meaning even your worst cities can get building them right away. If you get this opener soon enough, you may be able to make even the first Pyramid you build take half as much time, leaving your capital more turns for building other stuff.

Above: For a city with just over 1 production, 19 turns ain't bad.

Organised Religion

Your UB now awards triple the faith of non-Piety Shrines. Hopefully, you should be able to enhance your religion before you finish this tree, and this Social Policy gets you there sooner.

Religious Tolerance

Eventually, a rival religion will come to your lands. Religious Tolerance lets you use their Pantheon without it having to be the majority religion. If it's a happiness-based one or faith-generating, you're in luck. Otherwise, if other Civs spam your cities with Missionaries, you'll still be able to use your Pantheon (which should be Messenger of the Gods for all that science.)


Jesuit Education is the choice to pick here. A good idea when you're founding new cities is to take a Missionary with you to spread your religion there immediately, then purchase a Library with gold, an Observatory with gold (if applicable) and the rest with faith. Getting all those science buildings up quickly helps the city pay for the 5% increased technology cost faster.

Mandate of Heaven

Your faith should stretch much further with this policy, particularly handy for purchasing buildings like Pagodas.

Above: It appears to work with faith-purchasing science buildings from Jesuit Education too. 160 faith for a University in the Medieval era (assuming a normal speed game) is extremely cheap and means you can use your gold and production on other things.


Theocracy doesn't make a huge impact early on, as Pyramids pretty much provide all the faith you need, reducing the need for temples. But eventually, plenty of trading posts up around your cities will bring in a good deal of gold, which this policy works to amplify.


If you haven't already enhanced your religion, now's the time. Otherwise, you could send your Great Prophet out to quickly spread your religion, or put down a Holy Site for all the faith, culture and gold it makes.
Social Policies: Commerce and Rationalism


The point of going into Commerce is that it helps you afford Research Agreements, vital to keeping your tech rate up. As soon as you hit the Renaissance era, don't go further with Commerce until Rationalism's done and you have a level 3 ideological tenet. 25% extra capital gold won't be amazing, but it's a useful step in the right direction.

Trade Unions

If you're in the business of keeping a wide empire, you need a lot of routes to hold it all together which may cost quite a lot of money. By halving it, you free up more cash for more useful persuits.


If you take the Jesuit Education Reformation belief, you can buy Universities, Public Schools and Research Labs with faith. This policy won't reduce that cost, but it will reduce the cost of buying Libraries with gold, which you need for those three. It's a good idea to buy a Library with gold and the rest with faith when you set up a new city.

Not only is cheaper purchasing useful, but this policy also makes gold buildings give a little science, handy in those jungle cities.

Wagon Trains

Still got Social Policies to spend and it's not yet the Renaissance? Or past Ideological tenets and have some policies to spare? Wagon Trains will give you a little extra cash for land trade routes, meaning more gold for late-game Research Agreements.


Unfortunately pretty useless seeing as you'll get more out of Great Scientists or Engineers. But, it leads to a powerful happiness-giving policy.


This massive boost to happiness means if you want to build new cities late in the game, you can afford to do so. Alternatively, it lets you build tall with what you have.


Your jungle cities will be excellent, particularly with Rationalism's Free Thought. Jungle tiles with 3 science, 2 food and 3 gold. Not bad, eh?



It's compulsory to go into the Rationalism tree as the Mayans, and in nearly every situation the opener should be the first policy you pick after reaching the Renaissance. A 10% science boost helps make sure you can get all those spaceship technologies before diplomatic players or cultural players get to the end of the tech tree and use all those bonuses to win.


It's not a bad idea to grow a city large to dedicate it to Great Person generation. Great Scientists should be used for academies until roughly the Modern era, where expending them for research points is typically more effective. In the end-game, shifting focus to Great Engineers will be useful for spaceship building.

Free Thought

Trading Posts on jungles now make a total tile yield of 3 science (provided the city working it has a University.) Such a city will be excellent for generating a tonne of science. Gold-purchasing Libraries in new cities shouldn't be hard at this point, and if you got Jesuit Education, getting Universities in every city is no problem at all, letting you really utilise that 17% bonus to science.


While not many of your cities are likely to have specialists, chances are there'll be a few to generate the odd few points of extra science.


"Science buildings" does not include Pyramids, despite the fact they generate science. (Unlike Siamese Wats, which count as culture buildings for the purpose of Tradition's Legalism.) Nonetheless, cutting maintenance is a great cash-saver for Research Agreements and suchlike.

Scientific Revolution

If you did an early Atlatlist rush, many will have difficulty trusting you (though hopefully by this time some relations will have recovered.) Otherwise, this really lets your cash go further in signing those Research Agreements. The Mayans are fairly likely to have more cash than Babylon or Korea due to building wide, (or via a money-focused religion,) which might just help you get a scientific edge.


A good use of the free technology is an expensive one you'll need eventually but aren't working on at the moment. A good example is Electricity - you'll probably have beelined Scientific Theory and are filling out earlier technologies on the way to Plastics, which will require Electricity on the way (and you don't need any other techs besides Scientific Theory to research Electricity.)
Ultimately, you'll probably be best off with Order. Freedom's level three science tenet is a little more useful to you than Order's, but the rest of the tenets favour a tall empire.

This guide shows the best choices for the first "inverted pyramid" of tenets (3 from level 1, 2 from level 2, 1 from level 3) and assumes you're going for a scientific victory.

Level One Policies - Order

Double Agents

The last thing you want is someone stealing your technologies to assist with their own victories. So, let's make it harder for them!


When Research Agreements are less useful, you can use that cash for getting production buildings up in plenty of cities. You'll want as many cities as possible to be up to the standards of spaceship-building, so you can get lots of them building similtaniously.

Hero of the People

The scientific level three tenet in Order - Spaceflight Pioneers - relies on having Great Engineers. To make full use of that, you'll need to start producing them as soon as Great Scientists begin to fade in usefulness. So, boosting GP generation is a good idea to squeeze more in (and hence more free spaceship parts)

Level Two Policies - Order

Workers' Faculties

You can't afford to buy all your production buildings, and this tenet encourages you to build Factories the old-fashioned way. Plus, it gives you a considerable science boost which should help you get through those last few technologies.

If your gold generation is somehow so spectacular you can just buy everything (or your culture generation is slow so you don't get this until very late on) it may better to get Party Leadership for the little bit of production amongst other stuff.

Five-Year Plan

You need all the production you can get late on to get those spaceship parts.

Level Three Policy - Order

Spaceflight Pioneers

You probably won't use this tenet to as full a potential as a tall-building Civ would, but then again, they'd get less out of the earlier tenets. Still, it's the only scientific choice out of the three level three Order tenets, so it's this or nothing. And the free Great Engineer means you're guarenteed to see some use of this tenet towards victory.
With all the faith Pyramids are pumping out, having a strong religion is a must-have. While there's relatively few science-based beliefs, even one of them could net you a significant amount of science over the course of the game.

This section lists a selection of the best religious choices for the Mayans, arranged in a rough priority order for each belief type. Highly terrain-dependent choices aren't listed for being too situational, though a faith Pantheon can be good for getting a religion (and hence a better pick of religious beliefs) sooner.


Messenger of the Gods

Pyramids add 2 science to a city. This adds a further 2 to each city with a city connection - 4 bonus science for each city that won't take long to get adds an awful lot early in the game. This is by far your best choice.

Ancestor Worship

If you can't manage Messenger of the Gods, adding a culture point to every Pyramid is a decent move. These will make sure you still get a fair number of Social Policies while also helping cities to expand borders more effectively.


An excellent choice for a really early Pantheon, this makes your early turns easier, and gives your capital a slight edge for the rest of the game - handy if you intend to build the National College there.

Sacred Waters

Not the strongest of choices, but one of only two Pantheons offering happiness (and the other one requires size 6+ cities.) More happiness means more cities and more science!

Goddess of Protection

If you're near some pretty aggressive nations and can't manage Messenger of the Gods, boosting city ranged combat strength is an alright move to take. Certainly, it should help you out while you're postponing Composite Bowmen to get to Theology fast.


Tithe or Church Property

If you're following the strategy of expanding your religion rapidly before others have the chance to (see the Holy Rush section) then a bonus based on the volume of your followers can go a long way. Even if you're not, Tithe and Church Property will really rake in cash for research agreements or buying things if you spread it fast enough.

Interfaith Dialogue

The only founder belief offering science, this requires you to be actively sending Missionaries or Prophets out to get it. You should generally only use Missionaries for converting cities if you're going down this road as the cities you convert will convert back to another religion faster, hence giving you more opportunity for science.

The science earned isn't flat - larger cities tend to give you more science. Be aware of this.

Unlike many other Founder beliefs, it doesn't matter if you don't bring many foreign cities to your religion. Just make sure your own are your religion, foreign cities matter less.



It doesn't take much to get 3 followers of your religion in a city at this stage in the game, and pretty much every city you own will have a Pyramid. More happiness for everyone!

Pagodas or Mosques or Cathedrals

Pagodas are the best choice here seeing as they offer 2 happiness. Mosques are second-best seeing as you can use their full bonuses immediately. These buildings provide a helpful bit of culture, which will help defend against tourism later, as well as faith so you can make even more of them.

Feed the World

A bit of a backup. You don't want your cities to grow excessively tall as your science will be based more on the number of cities rather than the size of them. Nonetheless, this can make smaller Pyramid cities struggling for any growth at all over a hurdle.


Itinerant Preachers or Religious Texts

Faith-purchasing may take the attention of your faith spending rather than Missionaries and Prophets. Hence, strengthening faith-free spread is useful to stop your cities falling under the sway of other religions. Itinerant Preachers is very powerful if you're using a Holy Rush strategy, seeing as you can really spread your faith's influence far and wide. Together with Tithe, you could make an enormous amount of money with it.

Holy Order

If you've got Interfaith Dialogue, you'll probably be spreading religion through Missionaries rather than Prophets. Holy Order makes the former cheaper (but not the latter) playing nicely into that goal. More Missionaries means more science! Even if you didn't manage to get Interfaith Dialogue, you can still spread the religion more effectively this way.

Defender of the Faith

With cities spread far and wide, your army may be stretched thin. A 20% bonus is more than a Great General's bonus, so it nicely balances out the battlefield.


Jesuit Education

Above: The cost of faith-purchasing scientific buildings is reduced by the Mandate of Heaven Social Policy, (which you have to get anyway on the way to Reformation,) but goes up every era. In the Medieval era, Universities cost me 160 faith to buy.

Jesuit Education makes a science infrastructure incredibly cheap to build up, especially considering the Mayans' high faith generation. Keep some gold spare as you can't faith-purchase Libraries and Observatories.

To the Glory of God

If someone's gone and stolen your Jesuit Education belief before you can get it yourself, To the Glory of God is an adequate alternative. It'll let you purchase Great Engineers with faith in the Industrial era and beyond, which combined with Spaceflight Pioneers lets you use faith to win you the game.
World Congress
You may very well be the first to Printing Press. If you were successful in rapidly spreading your religion earlier, you can push for it to become the World Religion, making it much easier to get your way in the World Congress.

Note "priority" refers to how high you should prioritise your votes if it comes up, not how much you should prioritise putting them forward. If someone wants to implement Arts Funding, you should prioritise to vote no, for example. If you could put forward a vote, then it'd be a bad idea to put Arts Funding on the table. Note also that voting choices can vary depending on your game.

Arts Funding

High priority
Vote no

Great Scientists will help you get ahead in the game; Great Engineers will win it for you. You certainly don't want their generation getting slowed down.

Cultural Heritage Sites

Medium-High priority
Vote no

This'll help cultural players more than it helps you.

Embargo City-States

Low priority

Unless you angered everyone with an Atlatlist rush, you're probably not going to need to rely on City-States for trading. Best to leave this vote alone.

Historical Landmarks

Medium priority
Vote no

International Games

Medium priority
Vote no

International Space Station

High priority
Vote yes

While you may not win the grand prize, the free Great Scientist or research boost will help out.

Natural Heritage Sites

Low priority
Vote no unless you have a Natural Wonder of your own

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

High priority
Vote yes

Nukes cut back your cities' population points, which are needed to generate science and production. Unless you feel like warmongering with a tech advantage, get those nukes banned.

Scholars in Residence

High priority
Vote no

Sciences Funding

High priority
Vote yes

This'll help you squeeze in an extra Great Engineer in the late-game to push you towards victory. Hopefully.

Standing Army Tax

Low-Medium priority
Vote yes

World's Fair

Low priority
Vote no
Any world wonder that's good for a wide civ is good for the Mayans, but be careful using valuable time that could be used building Settlers, Workers or science buildings.

Ancient Era

Great Library

The Great Library offers a considerable early-game science advantage, though it may be difficult to obtain in the earliest years. If your capital has good production, give it a shot.

Classical Era

Great Wall

This suffers from being on a tech route that other players have time to exploit before you. If you manage to gain it, however, you'll be much harder to attack until you have time to build up a significant tech lead. Rushing it with a Great Engineer is probably the best option, trying to build it manually will probably take too long.

Medieval Era


If you build this in the same city you built the Great Mosque of Djenne (which can be done by rushing one of the wonders with a Long Count Great Engineer) you get 9 spread religion uses, meaning you can make your faith dominant in the world.

Great Mosque of Djenne (Piety Only)

Because you'll almost certainly be the first to Theology, you have a head start with this strong faith wonder. While rushing it with a Great Engineer (mentioned before in the Holy Rush strategy section) is a possibility, your huge head start to the tech means you could safely build it even with relatively low production. The wonder itself is brilliant for spreading your religion more effectively, particularly in conjunction with the Interfaith Dialogue belief. Remember the Mosque it adds provides 3 faith, 2 culture and 1 happiness on top of the wonder's yields.

Hagia Sophia

Like the Great Mosque of Djenne, the Hagia Sophia is easy to build with your head start. Together with a Long Count Prophet, you can spread your religion like mad. For more information, head back to the Holy Rush strategy section.

Machu Picchu

The wider the empire, the more money trade routes bring in. Add 25%, and you've got yourself lots of money. Because of the fact Observatories require cities to be adjacent to mountains, you'll probably have a variety of cities that can build this.

Notre Dame

More happiness means more cities.

Renaissance Era

Himeji Castle

Defensive wonders are important in the mid-game, where many aggressive opponents have powerful unique units, and any technology gap isn't quite significant enough to guarentee you the upper hand. The Himeji Castle unlike the Red Fort doesn't require you to build anything to use the wonder to its full potential, meaning you don't have to spend much effort on defensive buildings.

Porcelain Tower

As a science wonder, this is a must-have in most situations. In multiplayer, however, everyone will know that signing Research Agreements will favour you (though being a scientific player, they probably wouldn't sign agreements with you anyway.) Still, the free Great Scientist is nice to have.

Atomic Era

Great Firewall

It's important to hold on to your technological advantage, particularly where vital Spaceship techs are concerned. As you're building too wide to build the National Intelligence Agency, The Great Firewall makes an effective substitute. You should probably build it in either your capital or whichever city has the highest science production.

Helpfully, it also slows down cultural players with the Internet technology (though if your culture generation is really poor, they may just become influential anyway.)

Information Era

CN Tower

In the late-game, building new cities is no longer a priority as you have all the science you need. Instead, the aim is to bring the best cities forward for building spaceship parts. With an extra point of population in every city, the CN Tower can do just that, and the extra population won't eat into your happiness, either. Broadcast Towers in every city help defend a little against cultural players.

Hubble Telescope

At the end of the game, it's not unlikely that most of your cities will have quite poor production while your capital storms ahead. The Hubble Telescope is a good building to help lift the lesser cities forward meaning you can get that spaceship built sooner before rivals.
Pitfalls to Avoid
The Mayans may be excellent at gaining science but it doesn't mean they're omnipotent. Here's a few easy mistakes to avoid.

Using the Honour tree for Atlatlist rushes

If you're using Atlatlists for early attacks, you don't have time to waste. You will barely touch the surface of the Honour tree in the time it takes you to launch an attack, and it will offer you little in the long-run. Liberty's a far better choice.

Researching Archery before Theology

You have Atlatlists for a reason - to concentrate on getting Theology early. The exception to this is if you're probably going to be invaded soon and need Composite Bowmen sooner rather than later.

Straying off the path to Theology

Scraping a few turns of Theology could mean the difference between an early Great Person or not. Hence, don't get technologies off its path unless either..
  • You're being attacked and need better defenders
  • You need a certain worker technology like Mining, etc
  • You've researched Theology (obviously.)

Anything else will likely cost you more than it gains you.

Relying on completing the Great Library

Getting the Great Library is unlikely in higher difficulty games as pretty much everyone's after it, though if you think you can make it, go for it.

Trying to get all the wonders listed

Your production isn't spectacular, chances are. Hence, you can't afford to keep trying to build wonders which other Civs will beat you at. The only wonders you've really got an advantage building are those unlocked by the Theology technology.


In Brave New World, having more cities increases technology costs by 5% each (though it's less on Large or Huge maps.) This isn't too bad if you can get lots of science buildings in the respective cities quickly, but too many cities will slow down your tech rate.
Pillage Pacal: The Counter-Strategies
The Mayans are the premier wide-building science civ, but have a below-average UA and a UU which sees limited use.

Playing against the Long Count

This Unique Ability offers many seeds of its own destruction. First and foremost, it encourages the Mayans to take a technology path which seriously neglects defence. Chances are, in the late Ancient to early Classical eras, your attackers will be stronger than their defenders. A few Spearmen or Swordsmen their way early will be something they'll struggle to handle. If you can't beat them, you'll likely throw them off their technology path making them lose out on one or more early Great People.

In the mid-game, attacking the Mayans just before a new b'ak'tun may panic them and make them pick a military Great Person rather than a Prophet, Scientist or Engineer. This will set back their overall strategy somewhat.

Playing against Atlatlists

They may come slightly earlier and be slightly cheaper, but statistically, Atlatlists are identical to Archers. Warriors or Spearmen will deal with them fairly effectively. Because archery units don't have as defensive promotions as melee units, there's little trouble with picking off those doing more damage and causing more havoc.

Playing against Pyramids

It's hard to stop Pyramids being built due to their low cost and high reward. However, you can exploit the playstyle they encourage. The Mayans in decent hands should have lots of cities, but such size is hard to defend. Picking off some smaller cities will set back their science a little and isn't too hard to do. If you're a wider-building Civ, forcing the Mayans to settle in food-poor regions makes it take longer for them to recover the 5% increased technology cost new cities cause.

A point about Assyria

Few Civs are quite so clearly countered by another. The Mayans are a wide-building scientific Civ and Assyria steals technologies per city. Hence, Assyria will gain more from invading the Mayans than invading any other Civ. Especially seeing as the Mayans beeline techs on the opposite side of the tech tree to Assyria.

It doesn't stop there. Assyria is strongest when the Mayans are most vulnerable - the Classical Era. The Mayans may build few Warriors seeing as Atlatlists are usually all-round better. The huge exception to this is when they're facing a strength 12 behemoth with 33% defence against ranged attacks.

Strategy by Style

Early-game Aggressors - Around the Bronze Working/Iron Working time, you'll have an edge over them. If you're off fighting the Mayans really early, you may find it difficult seeing as you'll almost certainly be facing Atlatlists.

Mid-game Aggressors - Don't launch an attack just before a new b'ak'tun. This will likely result in the Mayans picking a Great General, which would be useful for later-game orientated players but less so for you. Instead, try going just after to avoid any unexpected bonus Great People (and force them to protect a Great Person they haven't used yet.)

Late-game Aggressors - The pre-b'ak'tun intimidation tactic may work better for you. When you're ready for a real war, send two or more forces at different ends of their wide empire. Either it'll spread out their army or drive them to send everything one way, leaving the other parts vulnerable. Their technology advantage will make things hard, but a small defensive force - even if advanced - shouldn't be the hardest thing in the world to beat.

Tall Builders - Make sure you know which city-spots you want before the Mayans go city-mad. Founding those cities quickly is a decent idea.

Wide Builders - Cut off dispersed cities with your own and you might just deprive them of some science and gold from city connection bonuses. Unless you have a religion of your own, let theirs spread to your cities - if they have Interfaith Dialogue and Messenger of the Gods, this'll help you more than it helps them.
Other Guides

These guides cover every Civ in the game and can be used as quick reference guides.

Civ-specific guides, in alphabetical order

All 43 Civs are covered in in-depth guides linked below. In brackets are the favoured victory routes of each Civ.
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Zigzagzigal  [author] Dec 5, 2016 @ 7:38am 
Must have slipped through. In later guides I used a template for the wonders section so I wouldn't make mistakes like that. Thanks for pointing it out.
BZab Dec 5, 2016 @ 7:24am 
PS Himeji is Renaisance wonder ;)
Zigzagzigal  [author] Dec 3, 2016 @ 5:21pm 
It's possible if you feel as though you can spare the production. Be warned that it's nearly as competitive as the Great Library, but if you can manage it it'll be a pretty good boost to early religious aims.
BZab Dec 2, 2016 @ 3:38pm 
Zig how 'bout rushing Stonhenge? Due to competitive nature of Great Lib, it seems a nice alternative for religion rush + great engi for late medieval.
On My Wings Sep 17, 2016 @ 6:53am 
@ZigZagZigal You probably understand the game much better than I do but I always preferred the cultural victory with the mayans, I prefer to think of their early science boost from pyramids as a compliment to their cultural abilities:

I agreed with the scientific pantheon, because you want to try and get out lots of early cities to get those pyramids up and running, and it will give you a second science boom upon researching the wheel. However For the rest of the beliefs I like taking the obvious choice for the founder belief if I can (Tithe, or one of the other good ones if I can get my hands on them) then for the follower beliefs I try to stack 2 religious buildings (Priority goes to pagodas and Mosques, however they are fairly competitive so if I can't get both I can go for the alternative buildings instead) and for reformation going into sacred sites.
Zigzagzigal  [author] Aug 17, 2016 @ 5:55pm 
I like how as the Mayans you have to work for your powerful bonuses. Beelining Theology for the UA is quite risky, and you need a lot of early cities to make full use of the UB.
ShinigamiKenji Aug 17, 2016 @ 7:36am 
Early Great People + Science boost + Strong religion + Early defences = Win

Mayans, if I'm not mistaken, are one of the most powerful civilizations, alongside Poland and their free policy tree, though the Mayans are more difficult to learn.
Bear Jul 26, 2016 @ 1:10pm 
@ Zigzagziagl I'm kind of surprised that you put cultural as a medicore path for the mayans, much to the contrary the early game culture wonders, namely, Parthenon, are available from techs that are within the beeline towards theology. I found that a 4 city tradition build with reformation(specifically, Jesuit Education) from piety helps give you a head start in tech against other civs(UB also helps in this too) obviously aesthetics is a must and I more so than usually settle adjacent to mountains to get observatories. This coupled with rationalism and freedom as later trees to explore alongside the great person improvements from the "long count" bonus and a few holy sites with piety buffs, won me the culture game by turn 240(at standard speed) I guess you could say I was lucky since all civs started close to each other so there's distance to take into account, not sure how but how does this strategy fare in your eye's?
Zigzagzigal  [author] Jun 5, 2016 @ 1:27pm 
The Great Pyramids are one of the least competitive wonders in the game. That means you can put off getting them for quite some time in most games without the risk of someone else taking them. You should focus on getting a religion going/Theology first, then build the Pyramids if possible.
joseg89 Jun 1, 2016 @ 6:03am 
Zigzagzigal, do you think it would be pertinent to beeline the Great Pyramids as the Mayans? The upside of having two free workers and the faster tile improvements for the multitude of cities you'll have eventually are huge. However the competitiveness of the Wonder means putting ~18-25 turns into it and having to do it immediately (i.e. before a Mayan pyramid) so that loss of production toward Atlatlists and Mayan pyramids is tangible. I haven't found a great way to get both the Great Pyramids and a religion as fast as possible with the Mayans, but I have trouble giving up all of the good that comes with the Wonder. Thoughts and advice? Thanks.