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This article is about the civilization in Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms. For the civilization in Age of Empires IV, see Malians (Age of Empires IV).
Civilization Technology tree Strategy

Amass an elite force of female knife-throwing Gbeto Warriors, follow in the footsteps of the great Mansa Musa, and become the greatest king of Western Africa. Conquer surrounding kingdoms with tough infantry and Farimba cavalry to increase your wealth and hold a firm grip on the trade routes that zigzag through the the[sic] region. Will you be able to keep the formerly hostile provinces united under your crown?

The Malians are an African civilization introduced in Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms based on the Mali Empire. Due to the lack of alternative West African civilizations, the Malians also encompass various other West African kingdoms such as the Ghana, Sosso, and Songhai Empires. In the game, they focus on infantry.

The Malians also appear as a playable civilization in Age of Empires IV.


Unique unit[]

GbetoIcon-DE Gbeto: Fast light infantry with a powerful ranged attack.

Unique technologies[]

Civilization bonuses[]

Team bonus[]

Universities work +80% faster.


The Malians are an infantry civilization with a versatile tech tree until the Castle Age. Their infantry are great, despite lacking Gambesons, due to the pierce armor bonus for their Barracks units. Their unique unit, the Gbeto, is a highly mobile ranged infantry unit that can be utilized for hit-and-run tactics. Their cavalry is also excellent because of Farimba that gives them a massive attack boost for all of their melee cavalry, particularly their Heavy Camel Riders, offsetting the lack of Blast Furnace. The archers are also solid early on, thanks to their economy. They have a great economy throughout the game, with their buildings (except Farms) costing less wood, and their Villagers dropping off +10% gold. The siege weapons are average at best, as they lack Siege Rams and Siege Engineers, but have access to Bombard Cannons and Siege Onagers. The Monks are great, with only Illumination missing. Their defensive structures are good despite lacking Bombard Tower, as Tigui gives their Town Centers extra fire power.

While the Malians are versatile, they are not without weaknesses. Their infantry lack the Halberdier and Blast Furnace, which means it can fall behind when engaged in battle. The lack of Bracer is a massive blow for their late-game archers, navy, and defenses. Their navy is very underwhelming without Galleons and Elite Cannon Galleons.


AoE2-DLCicon-3 The African Kingdoms[]

  • With patch 4.8:
    • Their wood discount no longer affects Farms.
    • Halberdiers and Arrowslits are removed from their technology tree
    • Elite Gbetos's attack decreased (14 → 13)
    • The pierce armor bonus correctly applies to Condottieri (previously did not).

AoE2-DLCicon-4 Rise of the Rajas[]

AoEIIDE icon Definitive Edition[]

Dawn of the Dukes icon Dawn of the Dukes[]

AoE2Icon-DynastiesIndia Dynasties of India[]

  • With update 81058:
    • The 30% longer-lasting Gold Mines bonus is changed to Villagers dropping off +15% gold.
    • (Elite) Gbeto gain +5 hit points (35 (standard)/45 (Elite) → 40/50).
    • Tigui gives more additional arrows (5 → 8).
    • Their wood discount no longer applies for their starting Town Center.

AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of Rome[]

Campaign appearances[]

The Malians have a campaign devoted to their civilization: Sundjata. They also appear in:

CampaignIcon-SundjataDE Sundjata[]

This campaign is played as the Malians.

  • Hunted
    • Sosso Scouts - Enemy
    • Niani - Ally → Enemy
    • Kangaba - Ally
  • Djeriba Gold
    • Djenne - Enemy
    • Djenne Villiages - Enemy
    • Sosso Traders - Enemy
    • Captured Villagers - Ally

CampaignIcon-FranciscoDE Francisco de Almeida[]

VictorsAndVanquished Campaign Icon Victors and Vanquished[]

In-game dialogue language[]

In-game, Malian units speak Eastern Maninka that belongs to the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo language family. It was the administrative language of the Malian Empire.


AI player names[]

When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Malian AI characters:

  • Abu Bakr II (fl. 14th century): Also spelled Abubakri and known as Mansa Qu, may have been the ninth mansa ("king of kings") of the Mali Empire. He succeeded his nephew Mansa Mohammed ibn Gao and preceded Mansa Musa. Abu Bakr II abdicated his throne in order to explore "the limits of the ocean".
  • Mamadou: Mansa Mahmud II, also known as Mamadou, was mansa of the Mali Empire from 1481 to 1496.
  • Mansa Mahmud IV: The last great emperor of the Mali Empire according to the Tarikh al-Sudan, the West African chronicle written in Arabic in around 1655 by Abd al-Sadi.
  • Mansa Musa (c. 1280 – c. 1337): The tenth mansa of the Mali Empire. During his reign, Mali Empire reached its golden period. He is also considered as the richest man of all time.[2][3]
  • Mansa Sakura (died c. 1300): A former slave who became the sixth mansa of the Mali Empire.
  • Mari Djata I: The same as Sundjata according to Ibn Khaldun, a North African Arab historiographer and historian, in the late 14th century.
  • Ouali Keita: Mansa Uli, also known as Ali or Wali in Arab sources, was the second mansa of the Mali Empire.
  • Soumaba Cisse: A monarch of Ghanaian Empire, ally of Sundjata Keita: 1235–1240.
  • Souleyman Keita: Mansa of the Mali Empire during the 14th century. Brother of Mansa Musa and succeeding to his son Magha, he continued the diplomatic relations with the Marinid Sultanate that had been initiated by his brother. He is regarded as the last great ruler of the Mali Empire and his death ensue a civil war who marked the end of Mali's golden age.
  • Sumanguru Kante: Soumaoro Kanté, also known as Sumanguru, was a 13th-century king of the Sosso people. Seizing Koumbi Saleh, the capital of the recently defunct Ghana Empire, Soumaoro Kanté proceeded to conquer several neighboring states, including the Mandinka people in what is now Mali.
  • Sundjata: A puissant prince and founder of the Mali Empire. The famous Malian ruler Mansa Musa who made a pilgrimage to Mecca was his grandnephew.
  • Tiramakhan: A 13th century general in the Mali Empire who served under Sundjata Keita. Traore expanded the power of Mali westward and set up the Kabu Empire.


Throughout the Middle Ages, many city-states and kingdoms emerged in West Africa as a result of the lively trans-Saharan trade of salt and gold. The constant struggle to dominate commerce in this part of the world went hand in glove with the rise and fall of great empires that were able to conquer and unite the scattered kingdoms into one state.

Between the 4th and 11th centuries AD, the Soninke people were the first to monopolize the gold trade and expand their rule over a vast area. At its largest extent, the Empire of Ghana covered present-day western Mali and southeastern Mauritania. However, by the end of the 11th century, the Berber Almoravid Empire had assumed control of the gold trade. Whether or not this was achieved through an invasion led by Amir Abu-Bakr Ibn Umar is still unclear. In any case, the loss of a major resource, combined with overgrazing and periodic droughts, led to the disintegration of the Empire of Ghana. In AD 1203, the Sosso people, former vassals of Ghana, conquered the capital city, Kumbi.

In the following decades, the Sosso people continued their military campaign. According to oral tradition, king Sumanguru Kante conquered several small Mandinka chiefdoms. However, an exiled prince, Sundjata, united the different kingdoms, spurred a rebellion, and eventually defeated the Sosso army at the battle of Kirina in AD 1235. Five years later, Sundjata annexed Ghana and its important gold mines and trade routes, thus founding the Mali Empire.

Further expansions led by successive Mansas (kings) extended the boundaries of the empire to Gao in the east and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Especially under Mansa Sakura (AD 1285-1300), a freed slave, territorial conquest was significant. In order to defend and control this vast region, the Mali Empire maintained a full-time army, consisting of up to 100,000 soldiers of which the majority was infantry. Each tribe was expected to supply a certain number of freemen with their own weapons to serve. Only from the 14th century onwards, when the empire came increasingly under pressure, did the Mansa also rely on slaves to fight.

Under the reign of Mansa Musa (AD 1312-1337), the Mali Empire reached its zenith. Due to his remarkable pilgrimage to Mecca he was and is probably the best-known Mandinka ruler: with an entourage of 500 slaves and 100 camels carrying 30,000 pounds of gold, Musa attracted attention everywhere he went. After his return, the king ordered the construction of two madaris (universities) in Timbuktu, namely the famous Sankore and Djinguereber mosque. For two centuries, these remained international centers of learning, housing books and scholars from all over the world.

Although the different Mandinka tribes initially had their own animistic beliefs, Islam slowly spread throughout the empire due to Muslim involvement in the trans-Saharan trade. By the 14th century, the Mansas had converted to Islam, but never forced their subjects to do the same. Consequently, the Mali Empire was home to many religions, often mixed with local rituals and traditions.

Starting in the late 14th century, the power of the Mandinkas began to decline. Internally, the governing lineage was plagued by intrigue and weak rulers, while the state was threatened externally by invasions and rebellions. Most importantly, Berber invasions and the rise of the Songhai Empire (AD 1464-1591) resulted in the loss of the northern and eastern regions, including Timbuktu, and control over the Sub-Saharan trade. In response, the Mali Empire shifted its attention to the southwestern provinces, where Portuguese explorers had arrived in 1455. However, the tide could not be turned, and by 1600 the Mali Empire gradually disintegrated completely back into several chiefdoms.


  • The civilization icon is also the icon of the expansion the Malians were added in, The African Kingdoms, and resembles traditional west African bird-faced masks such as those from Ghana and Benin.
  • The user interface image in the Definitive Edition displays an image of Mansa Musa, a ruler of the Malian Empire, from the Catalan Atlas. The artwork before the Definitive Edition depicted a folio from the Timbuktu Manuscripts, depicting an astrological map.
  • The African architecture set shared by the Malians and Ethiopians is based on the Sudano-Sahelian architecture, with elements of Aksumite architecture in the Imperial Age.
  • The design for the Malian wonder is anachronistic by necessity. It is based on the current appearance of the Great Mosque of Djenne, but the mosque had been rebuilt in the early 20th century.
    • The original mosque would likely have looked different; as the architect for the original mosque was from Egypt, so it is possible that the mosque would have been similar to medieval Egyptian mosques in appearance. Indeed, 19th-century French explorer René Caillié described the then-abandoned mosque as "built of earth, surmounted by two massive but not high towers; [...] rudely constructed, though very large".
  • Sundjata is the only hero available in the Scenario Editor that is themed on the Malians. The Sosso Guard and the Sosso king Sumanguru are also represented by the Malians in the campaign, as they lack their own distinct civilization in the game.
  • The Malians are the only civilization that lacks the final attack upgrades for both melee and ranged units at the Blacksmith (namely Blast Furnace and Bracer).
  • Along with the Cumans and Dravidians, they are the only civilizations having access to Siege Onagers but not Siege Engineers.
  • Since the Definitive Edition, they are the only civilization that lacks access to the Galleon but has access to the Cannon Galleon.
  • They are also the only civilization that has access to Arbalesters, but lacks Bracer.
  • There is a rumor that Malians had access to the Paladin in one of the betas but the Farimba technology only granted +3 attack, because they had Blast Furnace.
  • Before update 81058, the Malians were the only civilization that had access to every single generic unit (along with Camel Riders) and technology available in the Castle Age. However, since then, the Malians lack access to Gambesons theoretically. They lack the technology specifically because of their civilization bonus, which more than compensates.
  • With a Viking ally (providing 15% cheaper Docks), the Malians get the cheapest Docks in the game, costing only 105 wood. They can further their savings with a Dravidian ally, which saves them a House, saving another 30-ish wood (considering the building time of the House as well).
  • Despite not being too related, some elements of the Malians civilization (like infantry and cavalry bonuses, and the University bonus, as well as being influenced by the the traditions of Songhai) are present in the Hausa civilization of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition - The African Royals.



  1. This bonus has three implications:
    • Gold miners work 10% faster.
    • Gold mines have +10% gold.
    • Gold miners have +10% carry capacity.


Civilizations in Age of Empires II
Categorised by architecture sets
AfricanEthiopians AoE2 Ethiopians · Malians AoE2 Malians
Central AsianCumans AoE2 Cumans · Tatars AoE2 Tatars
Central EuropeanGoths AoE2 Goths · Huns AoE2 Huns · Teutons AoE2 Teutons · Vikings AoE2 Vikings
East AsianChinese AoE2 Chinese · Japanese AoE2 Japanese · Koreans AoE2 Koreans · Mongols AoE2 Mongols · Vietnamese AoE2 Vietnamese
Eastern EuropeanBohemians AoE2 Bohemians · Bulgarians AoE2 Bulgarians · Lithuanians AoE2 Lithuanians · Magyars AoE2 Magyars · Poles AoE2 Poles · Slavs AoE2 Slavs
MediterraneanArmenians AoE2 Armenians · Byzantines AoE2 Byzantines · Georgians AoE2 Georgians · Italians AoE2 Italians · Portuguese AoE2 Portuguese · Romans AoE2 Romans · Sicilians AoE2 Sicilians · Spanish AoE2 Spanish
Middle EasternBerbers AoE2 Berbers · Persians AoE2 Persians · Saracens AoE2 Saracens · Turks AoE2 Turks
Native AmericanAztecs AoE2 Aztecs · Incas AoE2 Incas · Mayans AoE2 Mayans
South Asian/IndianBengalis AoE2 Bengalis · Dravidians AoE2 Dravidians · Gurjaras AoE2 Gurjaras · Hindustanis AoE2 Hindustanis · Indians AoE2 Indians (removed)
Southeast AsianBurmese AoE2 Burmese · Khmer AoE2 Khmer · Malay AoE2 Malay
Western EuropeanBritons AoE2 Britons · Burgundians AoE2 Burgundians · Celts AoE2 Celts · Franks AoE2 Franks
Categorised by expansions
AoE2-DLCicon-0 The Age of KingsBritons AoE2 Britons · Byzantines AoE2 Byzantines · Celts AoE2 Celts · Chinese AoE2 Chinese · Franks AoE2 Franks · Goths AoE2 Goths · Japanese AoE2 Japanese · Mongols AoE2 Mongols · Persians AoE2 Persians · Saracens AoE2 Saracens · Teutons AoE2 Teutons · Turks AoE2 Turks · Vikings AoE2 Vikings
AoE2-DLCicon-1 The ConquerorsAztecs AoE2 Aztecs · Huns AoE2 Huns · Koreans AoE2 Koreans · Mayans AoE2 Mayans · Spanish AoE2 Spanish
AoE2-DLCicon-2 The ForgottenIncas AoE2 Incas · Indians AoE2 Indians (removed) · Italians AoE2 Italians · Magyars AoE2 Magyars · Slavs AoE2 Slavs
AoE2-DLCicon-3 The African KingdomsBerbers AoE2 Berbers · Ethiopians AoE2 Ethiopians · Malians AoE2 Malians · Portuguese AoE2 Portuguese
AoE2-DLCicon-4 Rise of the RajasBurmese AoE2 Burmese · Khmer AoE2 Khmer · Malay AoE2 Malay · Vietnamese AoE2 Vietnamese
AoE2-DLCicon-5 The Last KhansBulgarians AoE2 Bulgarians · Cumans AoE2 Cumans · Lithuanians AoE2 Lithuanians · Tatars AoE2 Tatars
AoE2Icon-LordsWest Lords of the WestBurgundians AoE2 Burgundians · Sicilians AoE2 Sicilians
Dawn of the Dukes icon Dawn of the DukesBohemians AoE2 Bohemians · Poles AoE2 Poles
AoE2Icon-DynastiesIndia Dynasties of IndiaBengalis AoE2 Bengalis · Dravidians AoE2 Dravidians · Gurjaras AoE2 Gurjaras · Hindustanis AoE2 Hindustanis
AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of RomeRomans AoE2 Romans
AoE2Icon-MountainRoyals The Mountain RoyalsArmenians AoE2 Armenians · Georgians AoE2 Georgians