"Oliphaunt am I,
Biggest of all,
Huge, old, and tall."
— John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Oliphaunt
Super heavy cavalry unit with powerful splash-based attack, highly effective versus melee units, but near worthless against missile units, especially firearms.
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Probably the best mercenary unit in the game, the Gajnal Mahout is a terrifying sight to behold ... and a terrible foe to fight. Consisting of an Asian elephant and its crew, the Gajnal Mahout is a dangerous unit, capable of both melee and ranged attacks. Additionally, this unit is also fairly bulletproof — arquebus shot deals very little damage.
There are two problems associated with these units. The first is its cost — it costs even more than a normal War Elephant, and also takes far longer and requires knowledge for its creation, although this is but a small concern given when it appears. Additionally, several counters for these units do exist: weapons such as ballistae and cannon, will be able to take these units down — if they do hit. Also, they are still not immune to archery and crossbow shot, while fire lances will deal lots and lots of damage to them. Still, their height and their armament means that these units are highly capable of dishing out damage whenever they come in contact with the enemy, and as such will prove to be highly useful, especially if accompanied by cavalry, while the mahouts and attendants on board also have better field of vision given their elevated position. As the only place these fearsome beasts can be recruited is India, Gajnal Mahouts are thus commonplace mercenaries for the Chinese and Turks, once overseas trade routes with India are established — and as such, unlike other mercenaries Gajnal Mahouts must be researched first before they can be raised from any outpost.
- Very strong melee unit, trainable from the Angkor Wat wonder.
- Unique mercenary cavalry, capable of high-powered melee and ranged attacks, and probably the best mercenary unit in the game.
- Some Assembly Required — Unlike other mercenary units, you must first research Gajnal Mahouts before you may use them.
- Bulletproof — As children of the gunpowder age, Gajnal Mahouts are made to resist arquebus shot, and so arquebus-based units are all but useless.
- Bigger Is Not Better — Despite their strength, Gajnal Mahouts are still vulnerable to many missile weapons: archers, crossbows, ballistae, fire lances, ships and large-calibre guns are the bane of their existence.
By the early modern era, war elephants were increasingly being armed with gunpowder weapons in addition to the previous practice of mounting archers and spearmen, as well as enhancing the elephant's own capabilities with bulletproof armour, chains, flails and tusk swords. Chief of these new weapons to be used from the back of an elephant was the gajnal, or "elephant gun" which originally made its appearance as a fortress defence weapon but was extensively used in India by the 16th century. Elephants, however, were soon becoming obsolete: by the late 19th century, the tactical role of elephants was finally eliminated with the introduction of high-precision firearms and large-calibre guns, relegating them to support roles as pack animals and combat engineering.