The Aztecs, the horseless civilization of Age of Empires II that compensate its lack of cavalry with fearsome Infantry.
While the other native American civilization, the Mayans, went for a more defensive approach, the Aztecs' units and technologies clearly make it an all-out offensive civilization, that can completely overwhelm other infantry as well.
Infantry and Monk Civilization
Villagers carry +5
A bonus that reduces villager trips when dropping off resources. This does add up and will be key to advance to Feudal Age quicker.
Military Units created 15% faster
Not that significative in the early game, as it simply means you can burn resources faster. In the late game, however, it can prove useful to keep those units popping out.
+5 Monk hit points for each Monastery research
Probably the Aztec army greatest strength. By the time you research everything in the Monastery, their monks will have more hit points then champions! A monk with so much HP can survive more hits, thus giving it time to successfully convert enemy units.
A little gift for the Aztecs. It will not win you the game, though...
"Another rank of Aztec fighter was the Jaguar Warrior, who was more heavily armed and armored than the Eagle Warrior. Their role was probably to be the heavy infantry of the army and to engage the enemy main body. They likely had the advantage in combat against lighter troops that were caught off-guard or foolish enough to engage the heavier Jaguar Warrior.
These warriors wore jaguar headpieces and clothing that represented jaguar fur. The jaguar was chosen as the totem for warriors because it was the fiercest predator in the Central American jungles. In combat, they used an obsidian-bladed sword known as a macana. Although it lacked the penetration power of steel weapons, the macana was able to keep a razor-sharp edge."
The mighty Jaguar Warrior, the unique unit of the Aztecs, a warrior that deals strong blows and has advantage over other infantry. The Jaguar Warrior makes the life very hard for civs that rely heavily on other infantry like the Goths, the Vikings, the Celts or the Mayans.
"When the normal competition between cities and states did not produce enough sacrificial victims for rituals, the Aztecs and their neighbours organized garland or flower wars for the purpose of increasing supply. The warriors of these societies went off to these wars with enthusiasm, knowing this was their opportunity to win glory and status."
The Aztec infantry receive +4 attack with this technology, making them real medieval terminators! The Jaguar Warrior becomes even more powerful and the center of the Aztec army with Garland Wars, making it the terror of enemy infantry units!
The Eagle Warrior is the fast-striking unit that kinda fills in the role of the missing cavalry, has high piercing armor, and is ideal to fight archers and support jaguar warriors. With this bonus, it becomes even more of a threat to enemy archers, as well as being the unit of choice to destroy enemy siege.
There is also the Champion unit, that fully upgraded is already a great addition to any army, so with another upgrade as huge as all the blacksmith upgrades together, these titans become as powerful as Teutonic knights and a nightmare to enemy buildings.
Although the Aztecs still lack the Halberdier upgrade and a real answer to heavy cavalry, the Aztec Pikeman with Garland Wars researched, becomes more damaging to mounted units than the normal Halberdier, albeit a little more fragile with its -5 hit points.
Relics generate +33% gold
Relic gold is not significative enough to justify this team bonus. Nevertheless, it does add up, especially if you manage to grab a few relics for yourself. When in a team play, team-up with the Spanish to provide the team with not only 33% extra gold from relics, but also an extra 33% gold from trade carts! This would make for one incredible economic powerhouse! Not to mention these two civilizations complement each other quite nicely.
It's all about infantry, monks, and some siege
With the complete tech tree for the Monastery and the additional bonus of giving Aztec monks +5 hit points for each upgrade researched, this makes the Aztecs the most advanced monk civilization in the game. With a total of 80 hit points, these monks can even endure siege hits and can convert almost anything on sight. Do use them, if you don't, you're not really using this civ's greatest weapons.
Perfect Pikemen and Champions
Why Ensemble Studios didn't give the Aztecs the perfect Barracks is beyond me. If there is one civ that should have it, it should have been them! In any case, they only lack the Halberdier upgrade, which is compensated by Garland Wars Pikeman. If not under heavy fire, the Aztec Champion can take down towns like Legolas takes down Mumakills.
Perfect Siege Onagers and Siege Rams
The Aztecs are provided with decent siege. Siege onagers become essential in the late game to fight off large numbers of archers, cavalry archers and hand cannoneers, while siege rams can be used combined with trebuchets to break through enemy fortifications to let your eagle warriors breach through and go wild, provoking chaos in your enemy's town, murdering villagers, and taking freshly produced units down before they have time to join the resistance.
The Aztecs probably rank as the most "advanced" infantry civilization in Age of Empires II, with only the Teutons having a more powerful infantry unit than the fully upgraded Jaguar Warrior, the Teutonic Knight.
The greatest weakness of the native American civilizations lie in the fact that they don't have mounted units, nor a real answer to powerful horse civilizations. The Aztecs' defenses are also sub-par and their water options minimal. The Byzantines will decimate the Aztecs if given the time to send in the Cataphracts.
The Persians, the Saracens, the Franks and the Huns are all civilizations that could be used to counter the mighty Aztec infantry. When facing these, your best bet is to rush the enemy before he has time to come up with the elite mounted forces.
If you like using infantry, or powerful units for that matter, this is a great civilization you could go with. There is much fun to be taken with by playing around with these super monks as well. Overall, the Aztecs are not a bad civilization by any means, they can actually be pretty powerful. However, playing with them means taking the most out of their weapons and not giving time for the enemy to strike you with what you can't counter!
I hope you liked reading about this underlooked civ. You could always check out my 10 of the Best Civilizations from Age of Empires II: The Conquerors for an article on more popular civs!