The Spanish are primarily an offensive civilization featuring a strong Imperial Age army and navy. Most of their military bonuses can only be used in late games and are most powerful after reaching the Imperial Age. Despite their emphasis of gunpowder units like the Turks, the Spanish have access to a wide range of technologies and are able to field a varied army.
The Spanish can research all naval technologies, which makes them formidable on the water. Their greatest naval advantage is that their Cannon Galleons benefit from Ballistics. This allows them to fire much faster and more accurately. In addition to performing their regular duties more efficiently, this allows Spanish Cannon Galleons to effectively engage enemy warships, reducing their need to be escorted by Galleons or Fast Fire Ships.
The Spanish unique unit is the Conquistador, a mounted Hand Cannoneer. Like the regular Hand Cannoneer, they have a large attack, but are inaccurate. They have the advantage of being mounted which gives them an edge in speed, allowing them to use guerilla tactics. They are somewhat fragile so are best used as support units in formations with Knights or Paladins, whose higher hit points can absorb damage that would easily kill a Conquistador. The Spanish Conquistador is arguably the most powerful unit in the Castle Age.
The Spanish also have the Missionary, which is a mounted monk with greater speed, but lower range and without the ability to pick up relics. Since Missionaries move much faster than normal monks and a Spanish army will be mostly composed of cavalry, this is a big advantage. The Spanish unique technology, Supremacy, gives Villagers a large increase in attack, hit points, and armor. This allows them to go in the front lines and build military buildings to reinforce and support a Spanish army without getting killed as easily. While their Villagers are capable of defending themselves against certain units, they should not be strictly used for combat.
Despite their large number of advantages in the Imperial Age, the Spanish have some drawbacks in the early stages of the game. They have poor foot archers, being the only civilization in the game unable to improve their Archers to the Crossbowman upgrade. Their siege weapons are average, lacking Siege Engineers and the upgrades Siege Onager and Heavy Scorpion.
The Spanish can be used in several ways. They can be used for turtling and rushing strategies, but they are mainly considered a Boom civilization due to the fact that most of their bonuses are Castle and Imperial Age bonuses. Normally a Spanish player should try to go for a Fast Castle, but alternatively they can try a Feudal Age rush by taking advantage of their bonus that allows villagers to build 30% faster and scout rush or a tower rush. The building bonus can also be used in order to wall off and turtle early in the game.
Typically, Spanish should go for a Fast Castle and boom their economy. Once in the Castle Age, a Spanish player must create some Monasteries and one or two Castles. Conquistadors as a gunpowder unit are formidable against infantry and Missionaries excel in supporting mounted units so a combined force of heavy cavalry, Conquistadors and a few Missionaries must be the main offensive force. The player must not forget the Spanish Blacksmith bonus, which removes the gold cost from all Blacksmith technologies, allowing the player can research all of these technologies at a bargain price of only food.
The Imperial Age is when The Spanish really start to show their strengths. The Spanish are one of the few civilizations that have full gunpowder improvements, so at this point the formidable Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons can be trained. Conquistadors must remain the main mounted unit along with the Paladin during the Imperial Age; the player must upgrade these as soon as possible.
Researching Supremacy in the Imperial Age allows the Spanish to improve their town defense by boosting all the Villager attack and defensive stats, but also in many cases the player can abuse their villagers for frontline support and create forward Castles, towers and other military buildings just for their defensive stats and building speed. Spanish Villagers can help heavily in a siege by attacking buildings and enemy villagers since a Spanish Villager is almost as strong as a standard infantry unit.
On maps with water, Spanish must try to take naval superiority early on in order to make room for their formidable Cannon Galleons in later ages. Because Ballistics benefit Spanish Cannon Galleons, a siege from the sea can become devastating in the Imperial Age.
Long story short, as long as the player can survive until the Imperial Age, the Spanish arguably become a "master-of-all" civilization.
Spanish Monks are greatly improved, as they already have many advantages that increase further because of their Castle Age unique tech, Inquisition, which makes the conversion rate of Monk and Missionaries more efficient. Missionaries are also now affected by Bloodlines, making them more resistant to attacks and enabling them to make a better frontline support.
Missionaries no longer require a Castle to be created. The Inquisition technology cost is reduced from 400 food and 400 gold to 100 food and 300 gold, so in the African Kingdoms expansion, performing a "Missionary Rush" is technically possible.
When playing in team battles is preferred that the Spanish take the pocket position in order to boom. They also are excellent Springs when performing a Springboard tactic.
As an ally, the Spanish boost gold production from trade for the team, which make them an excellent ally for all civilizations, but the Italians, Saracens, and Indians in particular, since these three have distinctive bonuses for trading units and the market. This team bonus is considered to be one of the best team bonuses in the game.
Having a Turk ally for the Spanish boosts production for gunpowder units, including Conquistadors, so the team must defend well in order to reach the Imperial Age quickly, boom, and make use of their gunpowder units.
The Byzantine team bonus is also especially useful, as the Missionary is counted as a monk, enabling them to heal faster and better support the army. Being a civilization with complete improvements for heavy cavalry, the Frankish team bonus, Hun team bonus and Persian team bonus are also very useful.
Being a gold hungry faction (as their core units all cost gold), having an Aztec ally aids Spanish to generate more gold per relic (this alliance also fares well in Springboard tactics, as Aztecs can take the role of the Springboard and the Spanish the Spring), and a Burmese ally will aid to snatch those relics faster. The Portuguese team bonus does not aid much, but they have a late-game advantage regarding gold production: the Feitoria, which enables them to have a steady gold production that can be sent to their Spanish ally through tribute or by lowering the cost of gold artificially using the market, especially when gold mines run out.
As their Villagers build 30% faster, the Inca Team Bonus also gives them a nice early boost to their farms, furthering slightly even more the construction of them.
Having a Vietnamese ally is also interesting, as they can find the location of the opponents, send gold via Paper Money to their allies (which for Spanish is very helpful) and granting the Imperial Skirmisher upgrade (which will partially cover the Spanish lack of Crossbowmen and Arbalests, by enabling them to have a good ranged unit that doesn't cost gold and can support their troops at distance).
Having probably the best Cannon Galleons in the game gives them an edge in naval warfare. Spanish also benefit from naval team bonuses, such as the Viking team bonus (cheaper docks), Malay team bonus (far-sighted docks), and Japanese team bonus (more line of sight for Galleons).
The Conquistador, being a gunpowder/cavalry hybrid with high damage output, can counter slow-moving non-ranged units such as infantry, Rams, Battle elephants, the Boyar and War Elephants, by hit-and-running them. Even the infantry from prominent infantry civilizations such as Teutons, Burmese, Malay, Vikings, Japanese, Aztecs, Incas, Slavs and Celts have troubles against contingents of Conquistadors. Also, elephant civilizations such as Burmese, Khmer, Persians, and Vietnamese may have problems against contingents of Conquistadors. Their fast-firing Hand Cannoneers are also a great asset against infantry-based civilizations. Since they have a high damage output and a bonus against buildings, they can also help besiege buildings, so civilizations with mediocre defenses such as Goths, Huns and Magyars will struggle against Spanish Conquistadors.
The Missionary, being a Monk/Cavalry hybrid that moves much faster than their regular counterpart, is a great counter to slow non-ranged units (like infantry) and units with low conversion resistance (such as Elephants and Knights), so civilizations specialized in Knights (like the Franks) and elephant civilizations (like Persians, Vietnamese, Indians, Khmer, Burmese and Malay) will have a hard time against Spanish Missionaries; the same goes for civilizations heavily reliant on infantry (such as Goths, Malians, Burmese, and Aztecs). At the same time, the Spanish get access to all monastery technologies plus Inquisition, so the same logic and basic strategies can apply to their regular Monks with the mobility difference.
They have Bombard Cannons that fire faster. This is a huge advantage at late-game against building,s so civilizations with mediocre defense (such as Goths, Magyars, and Huns) will struggle against them. Even civilizations with good defenses such as Byzantines, Incas, and Chinese will have a hard time dealing with Spanish Bombard Cannons. This advantage also helps in siege vs siege encounters, as Bombard Cannons counter most siege units, including Onagers and Trebuchets. Even civilizations with good Onagers (like Celts and Koreans) or civilizations with good Trebuchets (such as Japanese, Britons, and Huns) may struggle against contingents of Spanish Bombard Cannons.
Defensively, they have an advantage against civilizations with mediocre Siege Workshop or proper anti-building units, thanks to their Villager construction speed (without considering the Trebuchets, which every civilization has access to). These include Britons, Japanese and Magyars (of course, once they get to Imperial, this advantage is no longer a problem for them). Due to the Supremacy technology, their defense capabilities can be retained in the Imperial Age by abusing their villagers, ordering them to repair and create new defensive structures (particularly Bombard Towers). Even civilizations with good siege units (such as Celts, Turks, Ethiopians, Khmer, and Koreans) will have a harder time against a turtling Spanish settlement, especially at the late game.
As they have all Blacksmith upgrades (which only cost food for them) and can improve their light cavalry and heavy cavalry up to the later stages of these units, they are able to effectively raid at the mid-game, so civilizations with regular mid-game and bad early-game such as (Turks and Portuguese) may have trouble against a Spanish Knight raid or Light Cavalry raid.
Regarding naval warfare, they have a complete naval tech tree, and an advantage against civilizations that rely on coastal defenses (like the Koreans, Byzantines and Malay), as their Cannon Galleons fire faster with better accuracy, and also their Cannon Galleons have a easier way to take down some ships due to their bonus, meaning that civilizations with poor navy (like the Aztecs and Huns) have serious problem when face a navy of them, especially in large numbers.
Despite the fact the Conquistador has great damage output and good movement speed, they can be countered by Siege units, especially Siege Onagers, masses of Scorpions and Bombard Cannons if the player ignores microing them, so civilizations with overall good siege engines (such as Ethiopians, Celts, Mongols, Teutons, and Khmer) have an advantage over Spanish Conquistadors. Despite being dominant in the Castle Age, Conquistadors loses this status in the Imperial Age, due to the improvements for their counters and the appearance of new ones, as Kamayuks, Halberdiers, Samurai, Berserkers, Genoese Crossbowmen, Condottiero, Skirmishers, Camels, Mamelukes, and Huskarls do bonus damage to them, so civilizations with good Skirmishers and/or good Halberdiers such as Aztecs, Vietnamese, Britons, Vikings and Byzantines, or civilizations with specific anti-gunpowder or anti-cavalry-archer units such as Italians, Berbers and Saracens can overturn a Spanish Conquistador army.
The Missionary has better movement speed and better HP than their regular counterpart, but they have less range, so for converting they must approach closer to their target, making them vulnerable against archers and enemy Monks. Also, they are counted as cavalry, so the regular cavalry counter units work against Missionaries. Light Cavalry and Eagle Warriors are still a threat to them, so civilizations with good Light Cavalry (such as Magyars, Huns and Mongols), civilizations with Eagle Warriors (Mayans, Incas and Aztecs), other civilizations with good Monks (such as Aztecs, Burmese and Saracens), and civilizations with good Halberdiers or anti cavalry units (such as Incas, Vikings, Italians, Berbers and Saracens) can counter missionaries effectively.
Massed Japanese Samurais are a threat to both Spanish unique units, despite the advantages those units may have against samurais.
The Italian Condottiero is a huge threat to Spanish, especially if the player decided to rely on their gunpowder contingents. Indeed, Italians can perfectly counter Spanish in almost every aspect, as their Genoese Crossbowmen can also counter their cavalry and missionaries, and they have cheaper dock upgrades that may out-tech the Spanish early in the game, preventing them from using their Cannon Galleons.
Berbers also possess several tricks against Spanish. Both of their unique units can counter Spanish Conquistadors, while Genitours also are a threat to Hand Cannoneers, while also having cheaper camels and Hussars that can counter cavalry, Bombard Cannons and Missionaries. Their navy moves faster, so they can hit-and-run Spanish Cannon Galleons.
Despite the fact they have good Bombard Cannons, Spanish still lack Siege Engineers, the Heavy scorpion, and Siege Onager upgrades. Civilizations with good anti-siege units or good Light Cavalry (like Mongols, Huns and Magyars) can counter their Bombard towers effectively. The same logic applies to the Eagle Warriors, as they can dodge Bombard Cannons bullets.
Despite having good defense bonuses, if the player ignores to wall up early they are at risk against early aggression civilizations such as Aztecs, Huns, Magyars and Goths.
Regarding naval warfare, they are at a disadvantage against civilizations that can perform Galley or Fire Galley rushes (including Vikings, Berbers, Saracens, Byzantines and Portuguese), as their Cannon Galleons only come in the Imperial Age. Also, they lack Heated Shot, so their shoreline are vulnerable against enemy naval assaults.
As their villagers build 30% faster, this can make a huge difference in Nomad maps, as their first Town center will be finished earlier than other civilizations. This advantage can also aid in this maps if they luckily enough place their Town center near the Town Center of an opponent, as they finish them first, so they can kill enemy Villagers with Town center arrow-fire. Also, if playing Nomad in Post-imperial, all technologies are already researched, so their villagers will be also boosted with Supremacy, enabling the Spanish to chase and kill enemy villagers of other civilizations.
In "Wonder Race" game mode, their villager building bonus is a nice asset for winning the game.
Their building bonus can give Spanish an edge in "Defend the Wonder", "Wonder Race", and "King of the Hill" game modes, or if the player decides to win by relic or wonder Victory in a standard game match.
In closed maps like Black Forest, the Spanish may get an advantage if they manage to wall up and boom until Imperial Age. The same logic can apply in maps like Arena and Fortress in which they can defend for a while.
In Death Matches, as the scarcity of gold is not an issue, they may take an advantage if they survive until Imperial Age, and then deliver masses of gunpowder units, Missionaries, and Paladins.
Arguably they are one of the best equipped civilization in Post-Imperial matches, as they have several bonuses for Gunpowder.
They have an advantage in Capture the relic Game Mode, as they have complete Monastery upgrades plus inquisition while having also good light cavalry. They can defend the relic from enemy monks and then retrieve them more safely.