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- Strengths: Best rush civ in the game, great eco boost from killing enemies.
- Weaknesses: Too dependent on war, very predictable gameplay style.
The Aztecs are an aggressive nation that survives through military might. Because of this, good Aztec players will develop strong armies early in the game, sometimes sacrificing all of their economic growth in order to train a few extra units. As an Aztec player, your strategies should revolve around producing large early armies and aggressively engaging the enemy. Playing a standard game is viable, especially if facing another nation with somewhat weak economic bonuses. One such strategy is to tech up to Gunpowder Age before amassing a large army, since that maximizes the Resources per Kill bonus and the Free Barracks Troops bonus. When doing this strategy, sending a small Horse Archer raid (or a spam of Atlatls) is usually a good idea - both to slow the opponent's economy and gain extra resources yourself.
The most interesting bonus of the Aztecs is their ability to generate free Light Infantry with each Barracks built. It's a small bonus, but discerning players will use it to boost the size of their early army. Remember that it's difficult for Aztec players to keep up with other nations economically, so this bonus is key in helping Aztec players to gain a larger early army than their opponent. With careful balancing of your resources, you can amass an army early: once you reach Classical or Medieval Age, construct 3-4 Barracks and then make plenty of Heavy Infantry. Heavy Infantry and Atl-Atls complement each other nicely as a large early army that can take out cities. It's also convenient that Heavy Infantry won't cost Timber - that way your Timber can go into building a few extra Barracks. Since you'll be relying so much on military (and most likely be disadvantaged economically), the units you decide to make will be an important choice. Units that cost Food /Timber like Light Cavalry and Light Infantry are common choices, allowing the Aztec player to increase his army size using resources that would've been spent on Farms, Woodcutter's Camps, and Citizens. Horse Archers are another very good unit choice to invest at least a little into since they are often able to rack up at least a few Citizen kills.
Being able to collect resources from your land armies' kills has some serious implications in what choices you make between economy and military. The primary emphasis here is to ensure you have a solid offensive force capable of getting unit kills and then spend time using it properly (assigning cavalry to attack enemy light infantry and archers, for example), for without unit kills the Aztec nation falls. Instead of spending resources increasing their economy, they often spend these resources on military instead. When their army clashes with their opponent's army, they will receive plenty of resources to make up for this lost economy. These resources are in addition to the fact that you just killed off a significant amount of his units. With this bonus, winning a battle solidly will cement a huge advantage (not only will your opponent's army be defeated, but you'll have earned a large bounty of extra resources!). Additionally, the ability to receive DOUBLE the amount of loot from destroyed buildings means that there is greater incentive and advantage to be gained from siege warfare, already augmented by the +1 Military level bonus. Often, players who face Aztecs will make a few extra Forts and Towers since these can wear down an Aztec army without giving the Aztec free resources from unit kills. Even so, Destroying enemy Forts is particularly valuable, as you'll be rewarded with a huge sum of Metal. This bonus gives Aztec players extra incentive to start knocking down enemy buildings with Artillery Weapons. Don't concentrate on soft targets such as Farms and Woodcutters' Camps, since your military resources are better spent on hard targets with good rewards (namely capturing the City that contains those buildings). However, you may occasionally find yourself in a position where capturing the City isn't possible quite yet. In this case, it may be worthwhile to let your siege attack outlying buildings so long as it is within the safe covering fire of a nearby Tower or Fort, with an army nearby, and a Siege Factory close by to garrison in. On the other hand, losing a battle often means very few resources were gained and your army was just defeated, leaving you in a world of hurt. So keep on the offensive in an attempt to prevent your opponent from advancing ages above you or fielding a larger army with his nation powers.
One strategy you can utilize with the Aztecs starts with an aggressive early attack. You should concentrate on trying to kill his Citizens, but once he garrisons you can try to locate any outlying Farms or Woodcutter's Camps outside of the defensive fire of his City. These buildings have relatively low hitpoints, so you'll be able to destroy them reasonably fast. This costs your opponent time and resources to replace the building, and gives you a plunder bonus. Alternatively, raiding is a good way to generate extra income from citizen and merchant kills. Build some Horse Archers and try to find some unguarded areas. Don't let your opponent retreat units to heal: Human opponents will often pull wounded units back to heal against an Aztec player to attempt to prevent units from dying so Don't let this happen if you can help it: chase those units down with faster units like Cavalry and make sure you get those kills. Conversely, a defence with the Aztecs can involve saving timber to mass-build Barracks: some Aztec players prefer to advance to Medieval before getting their first Barracks. If the Aztec player is rushed in the meantime, he just has to place a couple Barracks down rapidly and he has an instant anti-rush army.
All told, however, there are several glaring weaknesses when it comes to the Aztecs. Should you use factions with a good cavalry compoment, or powerful defensive capabilities, then it will be very much a cakewalk fighting against them. The Russians, Maya, Iroquois, Lakota, as well as the Nubians, Mongols, Egyptians, and French all have robust capabilities and units ideal for cracking apart any Atl-Atl war party, but among these perhaps the Mongols and the Russians tend to be the most suited towards blunting or even counter-rushing an Aztec player. In spite of this glaring defect, the Aztecs are still prized by many RoN players, and are most proficient in maps that favour offense over defence or maritime development, such as Southwest Mesa or Australian Outback.