Elephants Followup: Militia, Minuteman, and the Fake Melee Attack of Mahouts

After publishing my article on War Elephants, TripleAAA commented asking about Militia and Minuteman (Minutemen?) against War Elephants. I hadn’t tested that but it seemed like useful information to have, so I put it on the to-do list.

While running these new tests I also ended up with some questions of my own regarding the ranged attack of Mahouts. Was the damage of the melee and ranged attacks identical? Was the damage modifier different for the ranged and melee attacks (i.e. would one attack deal different damage to the other depending on what unit was being hit)?

I set out to answer both sets of questions, and ended up stumbling into a few surprising answers in the course of doing so.

This article is a followup to War Elephant: Most Powerful Unit in the Game? If you haven’t already done so,  you may find it helpful to read through that before continuing.

Note: All tests were conducted extensively in EE, followed by some less rigorous verification tests in T&P 2905 (done for roughly half of the EE tests) just to check whether there were any sneaky changes like those I found in the previous article. As far as I can tell based on my results, all information in today’s article applies equally to both game versions, and therefore presumably all versions of T&P / Gold / EE.

Militia hitting War Elephants and Mahouts

Let’s get straight to it with the tests for a single Militia hitting a single War Elephant. These tests used 20-hit samples to minimise margin of error.

This first test was when the War Elephant had +2 armor from a nearby General:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MilitiaWar Elephantfront1
MilitiaWar Elephantside1
MilitiaWar Elephantrear1

Looks like we’re reaching the minimum 1-damage-per-hit rule regardless of flanking bonus, although I suppose it’s more of a general guideline than a rule.

Here are the same tests but with no nearby General for the War Elephant (so no armor bonus):

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MilitiaWar Elephantfront2
MilitiaWar Elephantside3
MilitiaWar Elephantrear3

These damage numbers are.. interesting. Flanking damage bonuses are normally +50% damage for rear hits and +100% damage for side hits, heavily rewarding good flanking in combat. However, the interaction between Militia and Elephants implies that they don’t follow the expected rules for flanking damage bonuses.

I was curious if this was simply a limitation of Militia as a unit – maybe they just didn’t receive normal flanking bonuses? However in further testing they appeared to follow the normal +50% and +100% damage rules when attacking Age 2 Persian HI. That means it’s not just a Militia thing.

I did some brief followup testing because this was so intriguing. It looks like this is actually a cavalry-wide difference – instead of taking 50% and 100% extra damage for rear and side hits respectively, it looks like cavalry instead suffer a much smaller penalty – tested with Militia and Bowmen against age 2 light, heavy, and ranged cavalry. I might look into this further at a later date to see if I can figure out what exactly the formula is for each unit type.. but back on-topic for now.

Let’s look at the results for Militia against Mahouts, which are Medieval Age (III) units. I’d also like to note here for the sake of completeness that Militia are Classical Age (II) units. The first test gave the Mahout a General providing +2 armor, and each result used a sample of at least 10 hits:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit

That’s a marked improvement over what the Militia accomplished against War Elephants.

I repeated the same test but with no nearby General for the Mahout (and therefore no armor bonus). I only took 4-hit samples here because the numbers looked so straightforward:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit

Just +2 damage per hit when removing the +2 armor bonus, regardless of flanking bonus.

War Elephants and Mahouts hitting Militia and Citizens

For these tests the Militia / Citizen never had a nearby General or Patriot (so no armor bonus), since that’s the most likely scenario for such units. The four tests in this section have very small hit-samples (1-2 hits) because more than that would’ve killed the defender. Low hit-samples are pretty trivial for such high damage numbers though, so the margin of error is still quite low despite the reduced sample.

Starting off with War Elephants hitting Citizens:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
War ElephantCitizenfront23
War ElephantCitizenside/rear23

It appears Citizens do not receive any kind of damage penalty for being flanked, which seems reasonable in order to make damage taken more consistent when raiding.

What about if the Citizens are converted to Militia?

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
War ElephantMilitiafront19
War ElephantMilitiaside39
War ElephantMilitiarear29

That would be a yes – you can see that excluding the Militia’s one armor (reducing damage by the same amount), the War Elephant is dealing 100% more damage on side hits and 50% more damage on rear hits.

A necessary sacrifice.

Let’s switch over to Mahouts and do the same two tests:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit

Compared to their predecessor, looks like Mahouts get a small damage bump across the board when hitting Citizens and Militia.

Minutemen and War Elephants

In Enlightenment Age (V) you have the option to switch from the Militia (armed with pitchforks and axes)1 to the Minuteman (armed with a musket). I don’t often see Minutemen actually get used with much regularity, but let’s see how they fare against the Classical Age War Elephant. The first two tests were taken with a sample of 7-8 hits, depending on how many I could get off without outright killing the defender.

Improvised-musketmen hitting a War Elephant with a nearby General providing +2 armor:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MinutemanWar Elephantfront19
MinutemanWar Elephantside22
MinutemanWar Elephantrear20

Same test but no General (so no armor bonus):

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MinutemanWar Elephantfront21
MinutemanWar Elephantside24
MinutemanWar Elephantrear22

Following the expected pattern with armor so far, with each extra point of armor reducing damage taken by the same amount.

Now let’s flip the tables and get the War Elephant to do the shooting prodding. Small samples here (1-4) due to impending death of target unit. As before, no armor for the Minuteman:

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
War ElephantMinutemanfront16
War ElephantMinutemanside34
War ElephantMinutemanrear25

And one final test with a War Elephant just to see whether the Minutemen upgrade has any effect on Citizens other than increasing their max HP:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
War ElephantCitizen (MM upgrade)front23
War ElephantCitizen (MM upgrade)side/rear23

Negative on hidden effect – phew. Damage taken is stable at 23 just like it was with only the Militia upgrade.

Minutemen and Culverin Mahouts

War Elephants fighting Minutemen is an unusually large tech-mismatch, so let’s see what happens when we bump the War Elephant up to the age-appropriate Culverin Mahout (Age V)

Starting with Culverin Mahouts having a General providing +2 armor:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutfront28
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutside33
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutrear31

And now the same test but without the General (so no armor bonus):

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutfront30
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutside35
MinutemanCulverin Mahoutrear33

It looks like there’s no tricky stuff going on with armor on Elephants; each test just shows a damage reduction equal to the armor bonus provided. Given how weird elephants are in some circumstances it’s good to have that confirmed though.

Once again we’ll reverse the situation and get the Culverin Mahout to hit the Minuteman (1-3 hit sample; no extra armor bonus):

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
Culverin MahoutMinutemanfront19
Culverin MahoutMinutemanside39
Culverin MahoutMinutemanrear29

This result is interesting, because Minutemen actually have two armor. I wonder if guns (or perhaps explosives?) have some kind of innate armor penetration effect, since these results look like what you’d expect against a target with just one armor. Tests for another day perhaps.

One thing that has been consistent is that Militia-type units follow the normal rule with flanking damage – 50% extra for hits from the rear and 100% extra for hits taken from the side.

Let’s see how effective a Culverin Mahout is against a Citizen. 1-hit samples and no armor bonus. These have the Minuteman upgrade, not that it should matter:

Attacking unitDefenderDefender's orientationDamage per hit
Culverin MahoutCitizen (MM upgrade)front37
Culverin MahoutCitizen (MM upgrade)side/rear37

The answer is quite. Looks like it’d be quite a dangerous raider, especially given how difficult it would be to actually kill.

That wraps up the Militia / Minuteman / Citizen tests, but there are still a few more questions to answer.



Mahouts: Melee / Ranged attack?

So what about the melee / ranged attack of Mahouts? How did I factor that in when saying how much damage the Mahout / Culverin Mahout did in the tests above?

As it turns out, Mahouts — including Gun Mahouts and Culverin Mahouts — do not really have both a melee and ranged attack.

Confused? So was I, so I did a whole bunch of tests to figure this whole thing out. Turns out that the melee attack which these units have is not a functional attack – it doesn’t actually deal any damage. It will show an attack animation — and it will even have accompanying SFX — but the target (unit or building, military or civilian) will not die faster compared to just the Mahout exclusively attacking from range.

This is not an Extended Edition exclusive issue either since I tested this fully on T&P 2905 as well for all three Mahout variants and had the same results. I’m also not convinced it’s a bug (or at least, not one unknown to the original developers, who then balanced the unit with its deficiency in mind). I actually think this was done intentionally, or at least left in intentionally (if it was discovered that a simultaneous melee and ranged attack was not able to be implemented) so that players treated the Mahout and its upgrades as front-line units, rather than as glorified ranged cavalary (which they more closely resemble in a functional sense).

An alternative explanation with the same outcome is that in melee range the unit toggles damage off on its ranged attack, and toggles it on on its melee attack. This might be the case with the Age 3 Mahout, as in the first of the two tests above I can’t see any arrow coming out from the left Mahout. Either way the result is the same: when using both attacks, the damage does not increase compared to just using the ranged attack.

As a quirky bit of trivia, Mahouts set to the Hold Ground stance will evidently not use their fake melee attack automatically, even if there are targets adjacent to them. However, once you switch them to a different stance (e.g. Aggressive or Defensive), or tell them manually to attack something, they’ll charge at it and look all strong and mighty while not actually doing any extra damage. This is likely a side effect of whatever black magic is being used to create the false melee attack.

In a way this relevation of a fake melee attack shouldn’t be that surprising – after all, the Mahout units do not have the melee object mask (flag) in unitrules.xml, but do have the ranged object mask. At least one person elsewhere on the web has alluded to the supposed dual ranged-and-melee masks of these units, but in actuality these are what they have:

UnitMasksReferring to
MahoutOMRO = "Horse Archer"
M = "Mounted" (not melee)
R = "Archery"
Gun MahoutOMGO = "Horse Archer"
M = "Mounted"
G = "Gun"
Culverin MahoutOMGXO = "Horse Archer"
M = "Mounted"
G = "Gun"
X = "Explosive"

These object masks are the same between T&P 2905 and EE. Since elephants (as well as their respective nations in the Indians and Persians) were only introduced in the Thrones and Patriots expansion, it appears that Mahouts never had a true melee attack in any released version of the game.2

As an aside, the Culverin Mahout doesn’t appear to have any splash damage on its ranged attack despite the explosion effect that the attack produces. This is supported by its stats in unitrules.xml, where it has a splash damage percentage declared a declared splash range of zero.

Either there’s no splash damage at all, or the range on it is so inconsequential so as to not be registered on this test.

Closing Remarks

Those were quite a few Militia / Minuteman / Citizen tests, so hopefully that covers everything that TripleAAA was looking for.

With regard to the false melee attack of Mahouts, I would’ve expected that somebody somewhere before me would have noticed something fishy and made this discovery already, but I haven’t been able to find any mention of it anywhere else. It’s possible that there are those who did uncover it in past years, but then they either didn’t share it publicly, or they did but their posts have been lost or buried with time.

In any case, that wraps up the loose leads on elephants for now. I think the only question still in the air is when the huge buffs covered in the previous article were introduced. At the very least it would be helpful to test what the situation is on T&P 0800 (the patched version of the game), but I only have EE and 2905 on hand and I think I’m all elephanted-out after all the research and testing of both these articles. If anyone else would like to pick up that mantle then I would be happy to edit your findings in.

I’ll leave you with this very short clip of a Culverin Mahout getting a quick triple kill. RoN attack timings sometimes have a high level of variance, but I think this one takes the cake.

Testing custom scenarios

  • Militia testing was done on v13 and v13b. Note that I found v13 to be rather unstable (multiple game crashes during testing), which is why I eventually made 13b to finish the tests.
  • Minuteman testing was done on 13c and 13d. The name says Classical because that was the original scenario, but relevant players are appropriately aged (you’ll still need to research red’s Minuteman upgrade at the tower in the south), but that also gives you the chance to technically just use 13d to do all tests with.
  • T&P 2905 testing was done on v2 of the previous article’s 2905 map.

Update May 2020: All EE maps used here have now been uploaded to the Steam Workshop.




  1. And torches, apparently, but I never noticed anyone holding one while running these tests.
  2. The vanilla game’s unitrules.xml does actually include the “Elephant” object mask, but at a glance it doesn’t serve any purpose because I don’t think any units used it until the expansion.

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