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- Common abilities:
- Ignores Terrain Cost
- Special abilities:
- Native tongue (May choose benefit when discovering Ancient Ruins)
- Special traits
Excellent at scouting and fearsome in combat, the Pathfinders are an incredibly versatile and useful early unit.
First of all, their ability to choose a benefit when entering Ancient Ruins gives you control over what bonuses to development you receive. In the hands of a skilled player, this alone may prove a crucial advantage in the early game! Of course, you have to first find Ancient Ruins in order to use this benefit. Also note that you may not always have the choice from a complete list of rewards - the same type of reward can't be chosen again for the next two or three ruins. Finally, you can choose a technological advance, but you can't choose which particular tech you will discover.
Second, the Pathfinder is also valuable as a military unit. They cost more to produce than a Scout, but also have a much higher combat strength, putting them on par with Warriors. The potential downside to this would be that, just like a regular Scout, you can't upgrade them normally, which would only make them useful early in the game while there are still unexplored ruins remaining. However, their ability to choose an Ancient Ruin benefit also allows them to upgrade to Composite Bowmen (while still retaining all of their abilities). This guarantees early access to a powerful ranged unit with a promotion to ignore terrain cost. The original Pathfinder will prove itself many times over by continually upgrading the unit along the Composite Bowman's path. But in order to use this, remember that you DO need to find an Ancient Ruin and use it to upgrade the unit! So, consider the limited availability of these before making an entire army of Pathfinders and then discovering that you've exhausted the available ruins! A good strategy here is to set a deadline (for example, turn 30 or 40) by which you will use every ruin you encounter to upgrade your Pathfinders, instead of getting other bonuses that gradually diminish in usefulness as the game progresses.
Among the Native American tribes of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, some members were trusted as superior scouts, relied upon to carry out critical duties for the nomads. Called by a variety of titles, these "pathfinders" tracked game and enemies, scouted routes for migration, spied on foes and interlopers, and protected the winter encampments. So skilled were they that the armies of the major powers hired them as scouts and advisors, beginning as early as the Pequot War (1637-1638 AD) when the English colonists of Massachusetts Bay were aided by scouts of the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes. However, with the end of the frontier and the confinement of Native American tribes to reservations, the role of the pathfinder faded.
The list of possible bonuses when uncovering an Ancient Ruin is worded very interestingly, reflecting the fantasy behind the Pathfinder unit. Presumably thanks to his superior tracking abilities, the Pathfinder is able to find a small tribe still living in the ruins, which is hiding from everyone else. Then, thanks to his 'Native tongue' abilities, he is able to interact with them. So, for example, the 'Reveal map' option reads, "You take a look at the tribe's maps," while the 'Receive Gold' option reads, "You trade with the tribe." So, thanks to the tribe's full cooperation, the Pathfinder is able to use the benefit of the Ruins in a much more intelligent manner!