Skirmishers, Mali's UU. They replace archers, and are identical in every respect (25 hammers, +25% hill defense, +50% city defense) except for two: they have 4 instead of 3, and they get an extra 50% chance for a second first strike. (Like having Drill I.) There's general agreement that Skirmishers are an inferior UU. It's easy to see why. Compare them to, say, the War Chariot, Egypt's UU. They cost the same (25 hammers), but the War Chariot has 5, a double move, and a 30% withdrawal chance. And the War Chariot is available immediately, while Mali must research two technologies. (Cheap ones, to be sure, but still.) But ISTM the biggest grumble against the Skirmisher is that they're crappy offensive units. They can't take cities even as well as the lowly Quechua. Axemen cost more but give you far more killing power. A stack of Skirmishers is just not all that. A second complaint is that they require you to research Archery, a tech that many players prefer to bypass. Okay. So what's to like about Skirmishers? 1) Believe it or not, Skirmishers take the prize for "biggest upgrade over the base unit". Skirmishers get a whopping 33% increase over Archers. Praetorians get the same over Swordsmen (8 vs. 6), but the Skirmisher also gets another 50% chance at a first strike. Think of it this way: a Skirmisher is like an Archer with Combat I, II, and III, plus Drill I. 2) They are superb defensive units. A city full of Skirmishers can laugh at any attacking stack up to the appearance of catapults and macemen. With no promotions and no defenses, a Skirmisher starts with 6 city defense. A fortified Skirmisher with City Defender I in a 20% culture city gets a whopping 8.6 defense. Nothing can touch that but a well-promoted City Raider Swordsman or a War Elephant... and the elephant costs 60 hammers while the Skirmisher is just 25. Most players spend more time on aggression than on defense, so this tends to get neglected. Still: Skirmishers are great on defense. 3) Skirmishers are cheap -- you can buy three for the cost of two Axemen. It's relatively easy to crank out a swarm of these little guys. 4) Skirmishers require no resources... no horses, copper, iron, nothing. If you're stuck in one of those awful starting positions with no metal, you'll be desperately grateful to have them. 5) Skirmishers are superb barbarian killers. They eat the early animals, warriors and Archers for lunch. Then barb Axemen can almost always be persuaded to attack Skirmishers in hills or forest, over rivers, etc. (Barbs are strangely dim about terrain modifiers.) Basically, a couple of well-positioned Skirmisher fogbusters mean that barbs cease to be anything but an amusing source of promotions. All that said, I would still agree that Skirmishers are not one of the great UUs. And they shouldn't be! Mali has Spiritual and Financial, which most agree are the two best traits. If Mansa Musa had a killer UU as well, nobody would ever play any other leader. Still, ISTM Skirmishers are better than they're usually given credit for. Thoughts? Doug M.