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- Strengths: Good defensive infantry, strong early game navy.
- Weaknesses: Weak late game, very vulnerable to early game light infantry rushing, and cannot perform well on maps with too much open land or too much water and no defensive ground.
The Spanish are a civilisation that is concentrated mainly on several things: exploration and littoral warfare of a defensive nature.
Being capable of viewing the map and gathering resources from ruins can be a powerful means to start the game. Not only are Ruins plentiful at the early start, but they are also within full view of the Spanish player who can make use of this edge in information warfare for better planning of demographic expansion (and possibly acquisition, later on) to encompass key strategic areas. It is true that the Lakota have an advantage in expansion, and the Nubians also have a strong intelligence gathering bias (owing to their ability to see rare resources) but the Spanish are able to fully use that ability to properly coordinate their construction projects within their available national borders to encompass areas of crucial importance such as defensible positions, rare resources and/or Timber and Metal-gathering areas owing to their having the entire map revealed to them.
Thereafter comes the issue of Ruins. On paper, Ruins don't give much but they are very helpful, especially in the early start of the game when you are still scraping the barrel to construct a new building. However, this is where one of the Spanish civilisation's quirks comes into play: for the Spanish this amount increases EXPONENTIALLY with each level of Science research, from a humble +36 all the way to a whopping +192 at Level 7. Being capable of finding these Ruins and acquiring more resources out of them can mean the difference between a successful boom/rush strategy and being overwhelmed by an enemy's numerical or economic superiority. Thus, this bonus shouldn't be overlooked where possible especially since Science (a very heavily overlooked area by most players of RoN) can be quite powerful since it increases the amount of resources that you'd normally harvest per Ruin patch. In conclusion, pushing for the Science track can be very profitable for Spain, by increasing the amount of resources possible for research whilst lowering the resource costs for ALL other areas of research, particularly Military. In the Ancient Era when Metal cannot be gathered, this can be a very powerful national bonus indeed.
That said, there are very big glaring weaknesses for the Spanish player. For a game that tends to penalise booming and turtling, the Spanish are at a massive disadvantage against factions with more mobile unit components (ie Bantu, French, Aztec) or a rush/border push bonus (ie Romans, Chinese) with little in the way of defensive capabilities unlike the Maya, Koreans or British who have immense synergies that can be created using a combination of static defences and defensive units (ie archers/slingers + towers/forts). While the Tercio line is doubtlessly powerful and can swing Gunpowder/mid-game progress like the Persian Arquebus Immortal, the Spanish faction may suffer early on given that the Tercios' predecessors, the Scutari line can be easily countered using a plethora of missile units, and doesn't have the speed bonus that the Ashigaru Spearmen or Legions get early on in the game, making them somewhat less useful as a rush unit.
Thus, this leaves the Spanish with only one way to fend off any possible chance of a mass rush assault: the sea, but there is only so much that can be hoped for. The ability to spawn Triremes and other heavy "tall ship" units all the way to the Industrial Age would normally grant the Spanish player some form of defensive capability using bodies of ocean with heavy ships as a form of a moat with moveable towers, yet this also can restrict the Spanish player's ability to gather resources from Ruins, because then the Spanish player is forced to jump hoops through the Commerce track just to be capable of being waterborne - other factions such as the Chinese, Nubians, Americans and Dutch can easily outrace the Spanish civilisation with this regard. Moreover, large bodies of water also reduce the probability of the map spawning Ruins, so as a faction Spain is a rather weak choice unless one plays on a map with bodies of water such as Great Lakes, Mediterranean or New World (this latter map is the best for a Spanish start) or maps with chokepoints like Amazon Rainforest or Himalayas — but on maps such as Warring States (all water) or Sahara with extremes that the Spanish cannot hope to cover, expect the Spanish to suffer.
Taking these in account, the Spanish player's first instinct must always be to border rush as quickly as possible and to tech up with Religion from the Temple, and to get access to the open sea as soon as possible. As with all other factions, always seek to research Level 1 Science as quickly as possible and don't leave your Explorers idle — keep them running, dodging enemies whilst zeroing in on Ruins all the time. Science is vital as the first Temple you build will also create a nice bonus of Wealth, which can then be invested in a University — besides increasing your Explorers' LOS field. Following that, your next task is to seize and fortify areas of the map which favour defence or resource acquisition as soon as possible. On water maps, your heavy ships should be kept close to the shore, where they can keep an eye out for enemy warships and be supported by friendly Docks and Castles to keep fireships at bay, until you have a well-rounded navy to then seize vital beachheads for invasion/acquisition. Allies are also essential. As an ally Spain's abilities are very much prized and can synergise well with expansive factions (ie Bantu, Lakota, Romans), or factions who can complement the Spanish heavy ship bonus (British, Germans, Japanese and Dutch).