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Civ Leaders #2: Alexander of Macedon

May 12, 2019

Alexander of Macedon is available in a base game DLC pack alongside Darius of Persia. He also has his own scenario “The Conquests of Alexander”, which is both fun to play and instructive in how to use the formidable benefits of his bonuses and unique units.

Civ ability

Hellenistic Fusion When capturing a city, receive civic boosts for each holy site and theatre square, and tech boosts for each campus and encampment. This means you can grab up to four boosts when capturing cities.

Leader bonus

  • Macedonian cities experience no war weariness.
  • All military units recover full health when capturing a city with a wonder.
  • Grievances against Alexander decay at twice the usual rate (Gathering Storm expansion).

Unique building

The Basilikoi Paides replaces the barracks in the Encampment. Alongside the usual barracks bonus of +1 housing, you get a free promotion for all melee and ranged units built in the city. This bonus also applies to hetairoi. You also get a burst of science when you complete any unit, equal to a quarter of the unit’s cost. This second bonus is really useful in the early game, especially if you’ve built an encampment instead of a campus. Later on, it’s a way of keeping up even after the memory of Alexander’s golden ages of expansion begin to fade.

Unique units

Alexander has two unique units, both of which appear early on in the tech tree. Both are stronger than the units they replace, which places an emphasis on early military expansion.

The hetaroi is a horseman replacement that receives extra combat strength next to great generals and belongs to the heavy cavalry class, meaning that it upgrades to a knight (horsemen normally upgrade to coursers, or cavalry prior to Gathering Storm). Heavy cavalry also have a stronger promotion tree than light cavalry, which works well if you’ve built a basilikoi paides because each new unit comes with a free promotion. This means you can add +10 combat strength against fortified defenders for free, which is perfect for cleaning up barbarian camps and far better than any other heavy cavalry (mostly heavy chariots) that might be floating around other civs’ early game.

The hypaspist is a swordsman replacement. It has an additional 50% support bonus that helps it work in tandem with other units (like your hetaroi) and also gains an additional 5 combat strength when fighting in districts. This means that hypaspists are great for attacking and taking cities. Even better they get +10 strength against anti-cavalry units so they can deal with the spearmen that always seem to hang out in barbarian camps and any that the AI builds to try and halt the tide of your hetaroi.

Victory types and play style

I think this one should be pretty obvious! The abilities of Alexander and his unique units make it essential to focus on early expansion. The easiest way to build cities is to conquer them from other people. The best way to generate science and culture is to capture large enemy cities. The next best way to generate science is to build units in cities with encampments and basilikoi paides. You don’t need more troops because they all got healed when you took that capital with the wonder you wanted to build. No war weariness. In short, everything is gearing you toward an early expansion war.

Note also that having three uniques that you can build in the classical era means you are almost certain to get into at least one golden age. The golden age bonuses can be very powerful (especially early on) and can be used to pivot away from a militaristic approach. But in all honesty, rampaging across the map with hypasists, hetairoi, and a stack of great generals is so much fun that it’s hard to see why you would deny yourself the opportunity.

There’s not much point bothering with religion but the God of the Forge pantheon, which lets you build ancient and classical era units 25% faster, is something that will make you feared. Given that basilikoi paides convert production into science, the work ethic religious belief and meeting houses would be a decent basis for your main religion if you are able to nab a great prophet.

Possible problems

Be aware of who your neighbours are and choose carefully who to pick a fight with. Against some civs your bonuses will merely equalise your troops to those that others have: America on their home continent, Rome’s legions, Gorgo’s hoplites, Gilgamesh’s war carts, Scythia’s cavalry, to name just a few.

Also, don’t miss your moment. The unique units and the additional strengths they confer on your army are time limited. Other neighbouring civs may have better units later and you’ll be playing as a vanilla civ with outdated bonuses. Failure to expand at the right time will mean you’re playing catch up for the rest of the game. (It’s not all bad though, late on in the game you’re more likely to capture cities with the districts you need in order to receive multiple tech and civic boosts.)

All three of the unique units need more production compared to counterparts belonging to other civs. If your capital ends up being low on production, this could hinder you. However, if you have a basilikoi paides some of that production gets converted into science when you build more units.

If you are playing alone, be aware that the AI sometimes settles cities in poor positions. This can leave you with a stack of cities in places that you may not have chosen for yourself. In theory if you can get to a classical era monumentality golden age (see earlier notes on likelihood of golden ages), you could purchase cheap settlers with faith and take them along while razing the AI’s cities (you get the Hellenistic Fusion boosts when you capture the city irrespective of what you then choose to do with it). However, you’d need a way of generating lots of faith (maybe you spawned next to a wonder?) and you’d lose many turns getting your new cities up and running.

New gathering storm ability

Faster grievance decay. This will help the world to forget your warmongering as you try to cope with becoming a vanilla civ with no bonus units to get you out of a hole when you’re facing down a dark age.

What to expect if you're playing against an AI Alexander

He’s going to declare war on you sooner or later. He doesn’t like you if you’re not at war with your neighbours. He might be a pretty boy but stay safe: build pikemen.

Conclusion

If you're rolling a new game and randomly get Alexander as your leader, you should aim to get two or three cities with basilikoi paides in them and a large army built as quickly as possible. After that you can have fun steamrollering as many neighbouring civs as you can in order to build a big empire. When your warmongering days are over the double rate of grievance decay will help you get along with your new neighbours.

Also play the Conquests of Alexander scenario, it's brilliant.