|“||Khmer unique unit. Heavy cavalry equipped with a Scorpion. Can fell trees.||”|
|—Age of Empires II description|
The Ballista Elephant is the unique unit of the Khmer in Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas. It is a mounted siege unit that fires bolts like a Scorpion. Ballista Elephants are one of only three siege types that can cut down trees, along with the Trebuchet and the Onagers.
Ballista Elephants can be upgraded to Elite Ballista Elephants in the Imperial Age.
The Ballista Elephant combines abilities of a siege weapon and a cavalry unit, combining as a result the advantages and disadvantages of both. Monks can heal them and convert them without the need of the Redemption technology, and are vulnerable to common cavalry counters like spearmen and camels. This can be a huge drawback, especially considering the mediocre attack and negative armor the Ballista Elephants have against them. As Ballista Elephants struggle against units with high pierce armor, Eagle Warriors are also surprisingly effective against them.
Unlike the Scorpion, the Ballista Elephant can cut down trees. This can be incredibly useful on maps with dense forests such as Black Forest or Arena, especially considering that they are the only unit available in the Castle Age that is able to do so. However this is time-consuming, as only a single tree is cut with each shot.
Ballista Elephants are valuable in many situations as a support unit, its high amount of hit points enables them to act as meatshields and soak heavy damage allowing them to harass Castles and Towers. Unlike other non gunpowder siege weapons, Ballista Elephants have an attack bonus against ships that allows them to support the defense of a shoreline. In any case, Ballista Elephants should be deployed with an escort in order to take down potentially dangerous counter units. Mixing Scorpions and Battle Elephants with the Ballista Elephant along Light Cavalry is the best way to pair them.
Despite the quirks that can make them shine in certain situations, Ballista Elephants are far from the ultimate units to go for a Khmer player in both single player matchup games and team games. As a result, players should not rely entirely on them. Firstly, they are created at Castles and are expensive. Secondly, Khmer Battle Elephants perform much better as meat shields and raiders, since they move faster, have a much higher melee attack with trample damage, and resist enemy attacks better, but mixing some Ballista Elephants in the back may aid Battle Elephants in the front. Thirdly, Ballista Elephants are subpar in terms of damage output compared to other ranged units. In their fully upgraded form they only have 10 attack (still poor with pass-through damage and the Double Crossbow technology) coming from a slow Rate of Fire of 2.5, and a range of only 6 because they do not benefit from archery upgrades. Ballistics do not affect Ballista Elephants either, which enables other ranged units to utilize hit-and-run tactics. In addition, Khmer Scorpions perform better than Ballista Elephants in terms of damage output, with 17 attack, 9 range and Double Crossbow. In comparison with the Scorpion, Ballista Elephants have no minimum range, are bulkier and move slightly faster so in many cases they have a better chance to survive a pitched battle.
As Ballista Elephants are unique to the Khmer, only technologies that are available to them are shown in the following table:
|Unit strengths and weaknesses|
|Strong vs.||Archers, massed units, especially infantry, buildings, short-ranged naval vessels|
|Weak vs.||Kamayuks, Huskarls, Mamelukes, Camel Riders, Eagle Warriors, Halberdiers, Samurai, Mangonels, Bombard Cannons, Scorpions, Rams, Magyar Huszars, Mangudai|
|Hit points||Bloodlines (+20)|
|Attack|| Siege Engineers (+20% attack against buildings, only Elite)|
Double Crossbow (gives a second projectile)
|Range||Siege Engineers (+1)|
|Armor|| Scale Barding Armor (+1/+1)|
Chain Barding Armor (+1/+1)
Plate Barding Armor (+1/+2)
|Creation speed||Conscription (+33%)|
|Upgrades||Elite Ballista Elephant|
- A team containing Berbers: With Kasbah researched, Ballista Elephants are created and upgraded 25% faster, and Conscription and Double Crossbow are researched 25% faster.
- A team containing Bulgarians: Researching armor upgrades at the Blacksmith is faster.
- A team containing Huns: Researching Bloodlines and Husbandry is 20% faster.
- A team containing Lithuanians: Researching Faith is 20% faster.
- A team containing Teutons: Ballista Elephants are more resistant to conversion.
Rise of the Rajas
- Chemistry now properly affects Ballista Elephants' secondary bolts.
- Fixed the issue with Ballista Elephant attack being inconsistent.
- Upon release, Ballista Elephant armor upgrades were bugged: the non-Elite version only got pierce armor from cavalry Blacksmith upgrades, while the Elite version received only melee armor. If the game was started in Post-Imperial (e. g. Death Match), Ballista Elephants would only have their melee armor upgraded. This bug got fixed later but was not addressed by patch notes.
- The Ballista Elephant is the only non-suicide siege weapon that can be healed by a Monk instead of having to be repaired by a Villager.
- The Ballista Elephant is the only military unit in the Castle Age capable of cutting down trees.
- The non-Elite Ballista Elephant is supposed to have a +2 attack bonus against buildings but does not due to a bug.
- If a Ballista Elephant attacks its target at melee range, the missiles will not fly straight and cause pass-through damage as usual. Instead, the missiles will just drop onto the first target (similar to arrows from a tower with Murder Holes researched).
- Non-Elite Ballista Elephants do not get additional attack against buildings with Siege Engineers.
The elephant is one of the most important military animals in the Khmer era. The Chinese writer Ma Duanlin claimed that Suryavarman II (1113-1150) had a force of no fewer than 200,000 elephants. Several surviving reliefs from 12th and early 13th centuries also show that the Khmer mounted ballistas or crossbows on elephants, at least experimentally.
- Schliesinger, Joachim. 2011. "Ethnic Groups of Cambodia Vol 1: Introduction and Overview" (p. 168-169). White Lotus, Bangkok.