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The Malians are a versatile civilization that possesses strong economic bonuses, a well-rounded technology tree, and cheaper buildings, allowing them to save wood to spend on important upgrades and units. Their infantry units (except Gbetos) have +1 pierce armor per age starting in the Feudal Age, making them resilient to archer fire, the typical counter to infantry units. Their Gold Mines last 30% longer as of Dawn of the Dukes, which provides a useful boost to their late-game gold units. Finally, the Malians' team bonus makes allied universities research technologies 80% faster, and they have access to almost all university and building upgrades. This allows the Malians and their allies to gain important technologies, such as Chemistry, Ballistics, and Murder Holes, sooner than their opponents.

Their unique unit, the Gbeto, is a fast-moving ranged infantry unit that can be produced cheaply and possesses high attack power. The unique technology Tigui allows Town Centers to fire arrows without garrisoning units, thus making their economy more defensible against raids. Farimba, their Imperial Age unique tech, boosts melee cavalry attack by +5 (though this equates to +3 since they miss out on Blast Furnace) and makes their Light Cavalry, Cavaliers and Heavy Camel Riders powerful attackers.


While the Malians are versatile, they are not without weaknesses. Bracer and Blast Furnace are missing from the Blacksmith, reducing their archers' and towers' power and range. Farimba partially makes up for the loss of Blast Furnace, however the attack bonus only applies to melee cavalry and leaves infantry slightly weaker offensively. Despite having a substantial infantry bonus, the Malians actually have one of the weakest (after the Turks') pikemen to fight cavalry. The Malians have a full archery range up until the Imperial Age, where they lose out on both Bracer and Parthian Tactics. The Paladin and Hussar upgrades are also unavailable, making their cavalry line weaker when compared to the Spanish and the Huns in post-Imperial Age.

The Malian navy has a slightly more difficult time out-massing other civilizations in the mid-to-late Imperial Age, as they miss out on the Shipwright technology, Galleons, and Elite Cannon Galleons.

Malians do not get Siege Engineers, and this sometimes affects Siege Onager battles where the extra range is critical.

Despite these weaknesses, the Malians can attack and defend equally well with not many significant offensive and defensive bonuses (much like the Chinese).


The Malians share a similar playstyle to the Goths, booming up until Imperial Age and then unleashing a horde of archer-resilient infantry. Unlike the Goths, Malians infantry bonus against archers is decentralized, meaning archers are less effective against them since there is no Malian barracks unit that is susceptible to archer fire. By mixing in Pikemen, the Malian horde is also unassailable by standard cavalry. This makes it difficult for some players to answer the Malian horde, limiting counter units to infantry, anti-infantry Hand Cannoneers (which also are less effective against Malian infantry), Bombard Towers, and clever use of siege. These threats can be dealt with in turn by the Malians, who have access to both Gbeto and Hand Cannoneer for dealing with melee threats. Bombard Towers and opposing siege can both be dealt with by using Bombard Cannons, though unfortunately these units lack the Siege Engineers technology.

In the early game, the wood discount on buildings enable the Malians to perform a strong Fast Castle strategy. The Malians only need 254 wood to create 4 Houses, a Lumber Camp, and a Mill, instead of the typical 300 wood. This means that an extra villager can be assigned to food from the Dark Age onwards.

The Malian boom is a little clumsy to set up, but is incredibly powerful once up and running. The Tigui technology allows Town Centers to fire multiple arrows without a garrison, turning each TC into a short-range tower without interrupting the player's economy. This technology is cheap but requires a Castle, meaning that if the player is booming he or she won't be able to afford it for some time. If the player has a Castle then this tech is worthwhile, however delaying a Castle until Imperial Age is common - by which point this technology is less valuable.

Alternatively, Castle drops followed by Gbeto raids can throw an opponent off-balance. A delayed boom can be set up during or afterwards, and the Tigui technology helps to defend against any counterattacks. A Malian player can do damage quickly with this strategy, but will encounter difficulty against defensive structures and archers, due to the Gbeto's low durability and lack of the Malian pierce armor bonus. The Malian infantry pierce armor bonus discourages other players from making archers, so this is a reliable means of taking map control while applying pressure and setting up a boom behind it.

A cavalry raiding strategy can also be adopted, as the Farimba technology gives Malian cavalry effective hit-and-run tactics. The Malians still have access to Heavy Camels, however, and Farimba makes them extremely useful against enemy cavalry. Light Cavalry and Cavaliers with Farimba may perform slightly better than normal Hussars or Paladins when raiding, despite being defensively weak due to the lack of the Hussar and Paladin upgrades.

On a water map the Malian player must establish early naval dominance, as their late-game navy is decidedly average due to a lack of the Shipwright, Fast Fire Ships, and Elite Cannon Galleon technologies. The Malian wood discount bonus on buildings helps greatly in building cheaper Docks and amassing naval vessels.

In general, the Malians are a versatile civilization with a range of strategic options. Even though the Malians lack Bracer, they have a decent archer tech tree, and training Arbalesters and Hand Cannoneers is still critical when dealing with civilizations that rely on infantry. Cavaliers and Light Cavalry are always an option for raiding and dealing with enemy siege weapons thanks to the Farimba technology. Pikemen and Heavy Camels are viable anti-cavalry options in the Malian army, and Gbetos make excellent units for hit-and-run tactics. The Malians have reasonable siege options in Bombard Cannons and Siege Onagers, despite lacking Siege Engineers. Their infantry line is great at punishing archer-dependant civilizations, such as the Ethiopians, Chinese, Mayans, and Britons.

Strategy changes in Rise of the Rajas[]

The Malians' military was nerfed; they no longer have Halberdiers (though, like the Vikings, their Pikemen still take ranged attacks well), and the Gbeto's attack was slightly reduced. When the gold runs out the Malians will lose out in many trash wars, especially against civilizations with strong trash unit lines such as the Magyars, Vietnamese, Malay, and Spanish. The 30% increase to the duration of their Gold Mines helps delay this stage of the game slightly longer than before Dawn of the Dukes, however. The Malians lack important unit upgrades and techs for their trash units, and do not get the Hussar, Halberdier, Bracer, and Blast Furnace upgrades.

Their economy also received a small nerf, as Farms are no longer affected by the 15% wood discount.

Free Gold Shaft Mining was removed as of Patch 5.7, slightly slowing down the Malian Castle Age and Imperial Age booms. Free Gold Mining was removed with Dawn of the Dukes and was replaced with 30% longer lasting Gold Mines, as an improved version of this bonus was given to the Bohemians.

Strategy changes in the Definitive Edition[]

As with most civilizations in the game, they now have access to the new Barracks technology Supplies, which reduces the cost of the Militia line by 15 food. Since Malians have infantry that resist arrow-fire better, this addition is helpful for making infantry rushes more viable in the early game and making Champions easier to mass in the late game. Regarding their navy, they now have access to Fast Fire Ships, but lose access to Galleons, giving them a more useful warship, since they lack Bracer.

Since update 42848, the Gbeto fire delay was reduced from 1,2 to 1,0, making them easier to micromanage.

Strategy changes in Dawn of the Dukes[]

The Malians lost the former bonus of free Gold Mining, but got a brand new bonus, which is Gold Mines lasting 30% longer. Other civilization get 12,000 gold from their bases, while Malians can get up to 15,000 gold. While their rushing strategies were directly weakened a bit, their late-game is better, as they can rely on their gold-intensive units much more (Gbetos, Cavaliers, Champions, and Heavy Camel Riders).


The Malians are strongest in the front-line position, as their infantry rushing capabilities and high mobility units can simultaneously protect pocket players and attack the enemy team. Their cheap buildings and free gold mining upgrades make them an excellent springboard civilization in springboard strategies.

The Malians' team bonus makes allied universities research technologies 80% faster, which is incredibly useful for quickly surpassing enemy teams in tech advantage and is amplified by any civilization that has a full University tech tree or at least the most important technologies there. This bonus may be combined with the Bulgarian team bonus (Blacksmith works faster), Bohemian team bonus (Markets work faster) and Lithuanian team bonus (Monasteries work faster), making teams like these outclass their opponents by rapidly research their technology trees. Also, a Berber ally may add the Kasbah technology to this formula (which will also make the Malian Castle drop more effective, considering the training speed of Gbetos).

Cumans can grant 5 free-to-train Elite Kipchaks per Castle, after researching Cuman Mercenaries, which can support the Malian cavalry contingent with Farimba and keep moving with them. Sadly, on the Cuman side of things, they have lackluster Universities, so the Malian team bonus does not have such impact, but they have the Stable units in the Imperial Age (Malians have Light Cavalry, Cavaliers, and Heavy Camel Riders, with Cumans having Hussars, Paladins, Camel Riders, and Elite Steppe Lancers).

Malians benefit from team bonuses that boost both infantry and cavalry. Goths provide the Malians with faster Barracks work rate, and the Italians give a Malian player access to the Condottiero. The Malian Condottieri is arguably the best Condottieri of any civilization, as it receives reduced damage from an opponent's gunpowder units thanks to the extra Malian pierce armor.

For cavalry, specifically for Heavy Camels, Malians greatly benefit from the Hunnic, Hindustani, Persian, Frank and Gurjara team bonuses. When allied with an Hindustani player, a fully-upgraded Malian Heavy Camel will deal a staggering 20 damage to buildings (1 more damage than their Hindustani Imperial camel counterpart). The Polish team bonus (+1 attack vs Archers) is also handy. Malians do not have the Hussar upgrade, but Light Cavalry with Farimba deal +1 more attack vs archers than the Polish Winged Hussar.

On naval maps, a Viking ally further decreases the wood cost of Docks, and allows a Malian player to spam Dock production or put wood towards shipbuilding. Alternatively, extra population capacity from Docks (5 for each Dock) from Dravidian allies also allows Malian players to save wood for further warships, plus receiving firepower support from Thirisadais.

A Slav ally allows the Malians to save even more wood, as their military buildings will provide population space.

Burmese allies share the starting locations of Relics with their teammates, which, if picked up quickly, can fund the Malians' gold-hungry late-game strategies.

Though not immediately evident, allying with the Vietnamese is a wise choice for Malian players. Resilient, high hit-point Vietnamese archers and high pierce armor Malian infantry make for a potent army composition. In the Imperial Age, the Vietnamese Imperial Skirmisher covers the Malian trash weakness nicely. The Malian University bonus, in return, assists the Vietnamese in quickly upgrading their fortifications.

Compared advantages and disadvantages[]

Advantages vs other civilizations[]

  • The Gbeto, being an infantry unit with range and fast attack and fast movement speed, can effectively raid enemy towns, so civilizations with poor defenses (such as Huns, Berbers, and Magyars) may have trouble against them. Gbetos are also able to hit-and-run slower units like other infantry, siege and elephants. Even civilizations with good infantry (like Aztecs, Burmese and Goths) or civilizations with elephant units (like Khmer, Persians, Malay, Indians, Burmese, and Vietnamese) may struggle against Gbetos.
  • As their Pikemen and Champions have more pierce armor, they can overturn archers (the usual non-specialized counter to infantry) with some exceptions (see in disadvantages). In the case of their Pikemen, this buff makes them a more effective counter against cavalry archers, so archer or cavalry archer civilizations (like Britons, Mayans and Vietnamese for the former and Mongols, Huns and Berbers for the latter) will have a harder time dealing with Malian infantry.
  • Farimba boosts the attack of cavalry, so despite the fact that they lack the Hussar and Paladin upgrades, they shine against archer-composed armies (with some exceptions; see in disadvantages), adding more power against civilizations such as Britons, Vietnamese or Chinese. Their Light Cavalry are effective against monks, even the monks of civilizations like Aztecs or Spanish. Their Heavy Camels are among the best in the game and can effectively counter cavalry-composed armies, even the ones from prominent cavalry civilizations like Burmese, Franks and Magyars. Their Light Cavalry, Cavaliers and Heavy Camel Riders can outmatch their Cuman cavalry (Hussars, Paladins, Camel Riders and Elite Steppe Lancers).
  • Since they have access to Gunpowder units, they can effectively counter the infantry of other prominent infantry civilizations (such as Aztecs, Burmese, Slavs and Japanese), while their Bombard Cannons can counter the siege of other civilizations (while also adding more power against buildings).
  • Being a civilization with cheaper buildings and a strong economy, they have good early- and mid-game, and are thus able to raid early with either archers, infantry or cavalry. They can defeat civilizations that have bad early-game and regular mid-game (like Turks, Spanish, Portuguese and Khmer) in open maps like Arabia, especially if starting in the Dark Age.
  • Defensively speaking, they have several advantages, especially in the mid-game, as their Town Centers can fire arrows without garrisoning Villagers or archers, thanks to Tigui. In addition, their universities research technologies much faster and only lack Bombard Tower, Arrowslits and Siege Engineers, and their buildings cost less wood. Civilizations with mediocre siege or without a proper anti-building unit may have difficulties when attacking a Malian settlement.
  • Regarding naval warfare, they can save wood from their buildings and use it for ships, so they may get an early advantage against civilizations with poor early-game navy.
  • Having a wide open tech tree and a wood discount bonus for buildings, they can effectively counter civilizations limited in their tactical options such as Goths, Magyars, Britons and other "specialist" civilizations.
  • Their Archery range units are above average, as they only lack Parthian Tactics and Bracer, so they have another way to deal against infantry armies.
  • Getting almost all upgrades in the Monastery, Malian Monks are also an effective counter to heavy cavalry and slow-moving units (especially elephants), so civilizations like Franks, Slavs, Khmer, Persians, and Indians should take precautions against Malian monks.

Disadvantages vs other civilizations[]

  • Though the Gbeto is a good raiding infantry unit, it has some drawbacks; they have low hit points, so they are very frail. Onager Volleys can be devastating against them if the player forgets to micro the Gbetos, so civilizations like Celts, Ethiopians, Mongols, and Koreans may overturn them. They also suffer from the same weaknesses other infantry have against Byzantine Cataphracts, Aztec Jaguar Warriors, Incan Slingers, Mayan Plumed archers and Hand Cannoneers, and masses of Japanese Samurai can be devastating for the Gbetos.
  • As their infantry advantages rely on resisting arrow-fire but not on furthering their melee attack (indeed they lack Blast Furnace), they can easily fall apart against other infantry armies, especially the armies of civilizations such as Aztecs, Burmese, Vikings, Malay, and Goths. Civilizations with heavy cavalry may also exploit this weakness if the Malian player neglects to use their Pikemen.
  • Despite having good mid-game defenses, late-game that isn't exactly the case as they lack Arrowslits, Bracer and Bombard Towers, making the Malian defenses average, so good sieging civilizations (like the Turks, Celts, Teutons, Ethiopians and Mongols) can overturn a Malian turtle.
  • Apart from the fact that they get Bombard Cannons, their Siege Workshop is mediocre, as well as lacking Siege Engineers, so civilizations with better siege (like Celts) or civilizations with good Light Cavalry (Like Berbers and Magyars), Eagle Warriors (like Incas, Mayans and Aztecs) or an specialized anti-siege unit (like the Mongols) can deal easily with them.
  • They can develop a Monk rush, but that tactic still requires heavy micromanagement, and can be easily countered by Eagle warriors and Light Cavalry.
  • Regarding naval warfare, aside from the wood discount bonus for buildings, they doesn't have any bonus that improves their navy, and they also lack Fast Fire Ship (only in HD expansions; in the Definitive Edition, however, they lack the Galleon upgrade instead), Shipwright and Elite Cannon Galleon, so civilizations like Vikings, Malay, Portuguese, Koreans, Berbers, Byzantines, Spanish and Saracens can easily defeat them in sea maps.
  • They have good cavalry, but still lack Paladin and Hussar, and are still frail against anti-cavalry units like the Incan Kamayuk, Halberdiers, Camels, Saracen Mamelukes, and Italian Genoese Crossbowmen. If the player does not pay attention to the Relics or the Monasteries holding them when playing against Lithuanians, Lithuanian cavalry may outclass the Malian cavalry with Farimba in terms of attack, as each Relic grants the Lithuanian cavalry +1 attack (+4 maximum). This may happen even before they can research Farimba. Bulgarian cavalry can also surpass Malian cavalry, thanks to Stirrups, which increases the attack rate by 33%, which means more damage is dealt by Bulgarian cavalry.

Situational advantages[]

  • As their buildings cost less wood, Malians can get a very significant advantage in Nomad maps, since this discount applies to their Town Center, letting them save wood for other key buildings like Docks and more houses. In Imperial and Post-imperial starts, as their Tigui technology will be already researched, this may give them a second advantage at nomad maps if they placed their Town Center near the Town center of an opponent, as soon as they complete it, it will fire arrows at their opponent.
  • If starting in the Castle Age onwards in other maps, their Tigui technology theoretically enables them to perform a Town center rush. In Budapest as each player have double startup, Tigui is a more crucial upgrade for defense, and in "Sudden Death" mode players are limited to 1 Town Center (as the objective in that mode is to destroy the opponent Town Center), so Tigui will enhance the defense.
  • Since the Gbeto creation speed is fast, this may give the Malian an advantage in "King of the Hill" game mode, as well as giving them an advantage in Regicide (as in the latter, players already start with a Castle).
  • In maps with huge deposits of gold (like Gold Pit or Gold Rush), their 30% increase to Gold Mines duration bonus is a good asset to take advantage of in these places.
  • As they have boosted light cavalry with Farimba, an almost complete Monastery tech tree and longer-lasting gold mining, they are a top pick in "Capture the Relic" Game mode.
  • Having a tech tree with most relevant technologies, good cavalry with Farimba, and gunpowder available they are well suited for Post-Imperial matches.