On Taking the Wonder Victory

Last night, after a particularly grueling day at the office, I decided to blow off some steam by grinding civilizations under my boot.

But instead of pulling out Age of Empires III, as is my wont when I feel the urge to pillage and conquer, I went older school — Age of Empires II.

I set up my game. I would play as the Vikings, and because of that I wanted a map with a lot of water. Islands it was, then.

Then I picked three foes at random. Turks! Byzantines! Chinese!

Age of Empires II has a quirk where, even if you set teams, the computer players will decide they want to play on different teams. The way around that is to use “Lock Teams,” and I decided a free-for-all would be best — four teams, every one of us locked so we couldn’t ally with one another. :)

I hadn’t played Age of Empires II in a while, so my skills were rusty. I was being easily outpaced by my opponents on the scoreboard, but I was never that far behind. My civilization was progressing, my population was increasing, my economy was booming…

Powell Doctrine time!

Yes, my Age of Empires strategy owes a great deal to Colin Powell — decisive and overwhelming force, in the time and place of my choosing, when all other options have been exhausted.

Not like there are any other options in an AoE game. ;)

Naturally, an Island map meant an amphibious assault, a medieval D-Day. I built transports, I built Siege Rams and Trebuchets. I trained Champions and Berserkers, Arbalests and Cavaliers. I built a balanced force, 120 units strong.

I went after the Turks.

The landing was not as simultaneous as I wanted, but other than that, I had 120 units in the field. My cavalry scouted out ahead, and once they found the Turks guard towers, the Siege Rams were on their way.

There is nothing scarier than a force of ten Siege Rams descending on your town, and that metallic WHAM sound they make with each devastating blow will instill terror.

Building after building fell. My army engaged with the Turks. My Trebuchets moved in and began taking down other buildings. I lost a little more than a quarter of my force, but I lost none of my siege engines and, within a few minutes, the gameworld was rid of the Turk.

My booming economy and my takedown of the Turks propelled me into first place on the scoreboard, with the Byzantines a solid, though slightly distant, second.

Could I take on the Byzantines? I was feeling confident…

Naturally, I needed to replace the units that I lost, and so I did.

I loaded up my transports, I took to the seas, I landed on the Byzantine island…

My army, 120 units strong, was utterly destroyed.

I cannot imagine that the Byzantines had any peasants, because I was swarmed, completely and utterly, by Byzantine Champions. I managed to do some damage. My Siege Rams took down several buildings, my Trebuchets took down several guard towers. But my Siege Rams were overwhelmed, I tried to evacuate my Trebuchets — and still lost four on the beach, and my overwhelming force had been utterly overwhelmed.

And thus I did something I never, ever did, because it never felt like an honest way to win.

I started to build a Wonder.

If you’ve played Civilization, you know what a Wonder is. It’s a peaceful way to win the game. The problem is, Wonders don’t really fit in Age of Empires, which is why they were eliminated in Age of Empires III.

But before I let the clock run out, I decided I would make one last grasp at military domination, and I built another army, this time to see if I could smash the Chinese. I had the time — building a Wonder takes a long time, and then it has to stand for a long time. I built my army, gathered my transports, and I landed my army on the north shore of the Chinese island.

What I discovered was that I had picked almost the perfect place to land; that part of the island was bare of forests and the Chinese civilization was quite far from where I’d landed. Thus, I had what was basically a fallback position; I wasn’t going to be caught dead on the beaches. And, I realized, I had the room that I could bring a peasant to build military structures like Castles and Barracks.

This proved to be decisive, because I was rather evenly matched with the Chinese. My Siege Rams were effective, and so too were my Trebuchets, but my army and the Chinese army basically annihilated one another. But with the military buildings I had on the Chinese island, I was able to replenish my army in situ, and this made all the difference,

It took until just before the timer ran down on the Wonder, but I managed to knock the Chinese out of the war and wipe them off the map.

If I hadn’t built the Wonder, I expect I would have made one more attempt at taking down the Byzantines.

Even so, I felt satisfied at the victory. I didn’t grind all my enemies beneath my boot, but I ground enough, which wasn’t bad for someone who hadn’t played Age of Empires II in a while.

Long enough that I’d forgotten what a damn chore farm management can be. :-/

The Viking Wonder, by the way, is the Borgund Stave Church of Norway, which is a really weird looking thing. I know what it is now, but I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be last night.

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