Minor civilizations (also referred to as minor tribes, Natives, or Native allies) feature throughout the campaign scenarios and random maps of Age of Empires III. All playable civilizations can ally with a minor civilization by constructing Trading Posts at settlement sites. Each minor civilization typically offers three technologies to research and access to at least one unique military unit; trained in limited amounts with two unit upgrades.
Players retain access to the minor civilization's technologies and units for as long as the Trading Post is not destroyed. With both The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties expansions, a total of 22 minor civilizations exist.
Native units always cost a certain amount of wood, food, and/or coin, but never population. Instead, native units have a build limit which players can increase by allying with further settlements of the same minor civilization.
From The WarChiefs, players can build Native Embassies to train allied minor civilization units at locations beyond the Trading Post site.
All native units' hit points and damage can be upgraded first in Fortress Age by +25% for 200 wood and 150 coin and a second time by +40% in Industrial Age for 400 wood and 300 coin. The native unit upgrades from Age of Empires III and The WarChiefs are called Elite and Champion while in The Asian Dynasties they are called Disciplined and Honored. In the Imperial Age, players can improve hit points and damage again by researching Legendary Native Warriors in the Capitol for 1,500 food and 1,500 wood.
A wide array of Home City cards can boost native units.
Most civilizations can send native allies from their Home City, which are technically mercenary shipments as they cost Coin. Furthermore, native units sent from Home City have their own build limit, an additional mercenary tag and they are treated by the game as different units. Because of that the visually identical native mercenaries and native units will not simultaneously select when double-clicking one of them. Military unit upgrades in the native settlement still affect both, native mercenaries and native units.
- Allying with Native Americans grant the ability to train 20 Canoes;
- Allying with Bhakti, Udasi or Sufi grants the possibilty to train 20 Marathan Catamarans;
- Allying with Zen and Jesuits in Asian maps, grant the possibility to train 3 Wokou Junks;
- Allying with Berbers, Akan or Yoruba grants the possibility to train 3 Privateers;
- In East African water maps, 20 Bandit Catamarans can be trained from the start.
While Age of Empires III and The WarChiefs feature Native American settlements, the paradigma changes in The Asian Dynasties to religious communities or Holy Sites (as developer Big Huge Games labels them in the game manual).
Age of Empires III
The Asian Dynasties
The Asian minor civilizations in Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties are, unlike the minor civilizations of Age of Empires III and The WarChiefs, based on religious movements instead of native tribes. With the exception of the Jesuits and Sufi, all native settlements are styled as temples.
The minor civilizations are:
The African Royals
The African minor civilizations have differently shaped and bigger settlements than other minor civilizations. In certain African maps, Sufi and Jesuits can also be found. African native civilizations have more technologies than other minor civilizations.
Akan Gold Economy
Akan Cocoa Beans
Akan Palm Oil Exports
|Berbers||Berber Camel Rider
Berber Salt Camel
Berber Kings of the Desert
Berber Salt Caravans
|Somalis||Somali Issa Warrior
Somali Darood Militia
Somali Jile Daggers
Somali Ajuran Engineers
Somali Local Forces
Somali Berbera Seaport
Somali Oryx Shields
|Sudanese Hakura System
Sudanese Red Sea Trade
Sudanese Quilted Armor
Sudanese Local Forces
|Yoruba||Yoruba Oyo Legionary
Yoruba Eso Rider
|Yoruba Ida Swords
Yoruba Eredo Legacy
- Near native villages, chattering can be heard. Small dialogues are hidden in the chatter, such as: Man: "The bounty is plentiful" and Little Girl: "Can I go?" Woman: "Let's go darling" Little Girl: "I don't think I can make it mommy" can be heard.
- Some random maps lack minor civilizations completely, like Patagonia and Siberia.
- Besides the above, the maps with the least native diversity are Andes, Caribbean, Hispaniola, and Plymouth, each with only one kind of native settlement (Inca, Carib, or Huron).
- The most diverse random map is Silk Road with five potential minor civilizations. If excluded as a variant of three other maps (Himalayas, Mongolia, and Yellow River) due to its changing environment, the title falls to Amazonia, with four potential minor civilizations (Carib, Inca, Tupi, and Zapotec).
- The most exclusive minor civilization is the Inca, who were left in Upper Andes for treaty games, altough were made a major civilization. The most common is the Sufi Mosque, which may be found in eleven maps.