Malians in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

Amass an elite force of female knife-throwing Gbeto Warriors, follow in the footsteps of the great Mansa Musa, and become the greatest king of Western Africa. Conquer surrounding kingdoms with tough infantry and Farimba cavalry to increase your wealth and hold a firm grip on the trade routes that zigzag through the the region. Will you be able to keep the formerly hostile provinces united under your crown?

Quick Card

Infantry civilization

  • Buildings cost -15% wood
  • Barracks units +1P armor per age (starting from Feudal Age)
  • Gold Mining free

Unique Unit

Gbeto Icon in Age of Empires IIGbeto (infantry)

Malian unique infantry unit with ranged melee attack. Fast-moving. Strong vs. infantry. Weak vs. archers and siege weapons.

Unique Techs

Unique Technology Castle Age Icon in Age of Empires IITigui (Town Centers fire arrows when ungarrisoned)
Unique Technology Imperial Age Icon in Age of Empires IIFarimba (Cavalry +5 attack)

Team Bonus

  • Universities work 80% faster


Throughout the Middle Ages, many city-states and kingdoms emerged in West Africa as a result of the lively trans-Saharan trade of salt and gold. The constant struggle to dominate commerce in this part of the world went hand in glove with the rise and fall of great empires that were able to conquer and unite the scattered kingdoms into one state.

Between the 4th and 11th centuries AD, the Soninke people were the first to monopolize the gold trade and expand their rule over a vast area. At its largest extent, the Empire of Ghana covered present-day western Mali and southeastern Mauritania. However, by the end of the 11th century, the Berber Almoravid Empire had assumed control of the gold trade. Whether or not this was achieved through an invasion led by Amir Abu-Bakr Ibn Umar is still unclear. In any case, the loss of a major resource, combined with overgrazing and periodic droughts, led to the disintegration of the Empire of Ghana. In AD 1203, the Sosso people, former vassals of Ghana, conquered the capital city, Kumbi.

In the following decades, the Sosso people continued their military campaign. According to oral tradition, king Sumanguru Kante conquered several small Mandinka chiefdoms. However, an exiled prince, Sundjata, united the different kingdoms, spurred a rebellion, and eventually defeated the Sosso army at the battle of Kirina in AD 1235. Five years later, Sundjata annexed Ghana and its important gold mines and trade routes, thus founding the Mali Empire.

Further expansions led by successive Mansas (kings) extended the boundaries of the empire to Gao in the east and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Especially under Mansa Sakura (AD 1285-1300), a freed slave, territorial conquest was significant. In order to defend and control this vast region, the Mali Empire maintained a full-time army, consisting of up to 100,000 soldiers of which the majority was infantry. Each tribe was expected to supply a certain number of freemen with their own weapons to serve. Only from the 14th century onwards, when the empire came increasingly under pressure, did the Mansa also rely on slaves to fight.

Under the reign of Mansa Musa (AD 1312-1337), the Mali Empire reached its zenith. Due to his remarkable pilgrimage to Mecca he was and is probably the best-known Mandinka ruler: with an entourage of 500 slaves and 100 camels carrying 30,000 pounds of gold, Musa attracted attention everywhere he went. After his return, the king ordered the construction of two madaris (universities) in Timbuktu, namely the famous Sankore and Djinguereber mosque. For two centuries, these remained international centers of learning, housing books and scholars from all over the world.

Although the different Mandinka tribes initially had their own animistic beliefs, Islam slowly spread throughout the empire due to Muslim involvement in the trans-Saharan trade. By the 14th century, the Mansas had converted to Islam, but never forced their subjects to do the same. Consequently, the Mali Empire was home to many religions, often mixed with local rituals and traditions.

Starting in the late 14th century, the power of the Mandinkas began to decline. Internally, the governing lineage was plagued by intrigue and weak rulers, while the state was threatened externally by invasions and rebellions. Most importantly, Berber invasions and the rise of the Songhai Empire (AD 1464-1591) resulted in the loss of the northern and eastern regions, including Timbuktu, and control over the Sub-Saharan trade. In response, the Mali Empire shifted its attention to the southwestern provinces, where Portuguese explorers had arrived in 1455. However, the tide could not be turned, and by 1600 the Mali Empire gradually disintegrated completely back into several chiefdoms.