War is hell.
The Rocky Mountains seemed an inviting location to set up a colony and dominate. I had, as my ally, Henry the Navigator and his Portugese settlers. Opposing me on the peaks beyond the valley were the French of Napoleon and the Spaniards of Queen Isabella.
Resources on the snowy peaks were scarce. My colony grew and aged up. My explorer, Sir Henry Sinclair, found a number of treasures across the landscape. I made an alliance with the local Lakota tribe, and planted my flag on one of the native trading routes.
Then Napoleon raided my colony.
His raid was, at best, a minor annoyance. I’d had several musketeers shipped in from my Home City, and I called out the Minutemen, and Napoleon’s raid against my colony’s town center was stamped out.
Then Napoleon launched another raid on my colony, this time with cavalry instead of infantry. This time against my houses and my civilian population. My little army met them in battle, and with reinforcements from my barracks, Napoleon’s second raid was defeated.
More troops arrived from the mother country, and I pondered the calculus of war. Should I launch a reprisal attack against Napoleon for his attacks against my colony, or should I move against Queen Isabella’s colony instead, as the Spaniards are traditionally weaker than the French? But should I not consider that Napoleon had already weakened himself to some degree with his two raids against my colony? As I pondered these questions, I received an urgent message from Henry the Navigator.
The enemy was in his town.
My army marched for Henry’s town. The Spaniards had launched an attack, they’d burned houses, his market, a trading post he’d built in his town, and were now attacking his farms. My army arrived, engaged the Spanish forces, and then…
Napoleon attacked my town again.
As my army had approached Henry’s town, I had called upon my Lakota allies to provide me with cavalry. Their forces were ready, and instead of reinforcing my troops battling the Spaniards in Henry’s town as I’d intended I ordered them to confront the French marauders in my own town. In addition I ordered my barracks and artillery foundry to train new troops–musketeers and grenadiers–but they wouldn’t be ready for some moments. With the battle in Henry’s town concluded, I wheeled my army about and had them march for my own town.
The Lakota cavalry kept the French occupied, though not before the French had killed a number of my villagers, until the barracks turned out trained musketeers. As my new troops arrived and my battle-tested army entered the field of battle the tide turned, the French were overwhelmed, and once more my town center was free.
This third French raid changed the calculus of strategy. I had been attacked three times, kept on the defensive, and the French would pay for their attacks on my town. Queen Isabella could wait. Napoleon had to be wiped from the map. That was an imperative.
My army descended through the pass closest to my town into the lush valley below. There they waited while I trained more reinforcements. Meanwhile, I gathered my Lakota cavalry together–I wanted them to go on a quick reconaissance ride through the French town so I could plan out a course of attack.
I settled on a two-wave attack. The first wave would consist of my already-trained troops. They would attack the outposts the French had built along the trade route that snaked up the mountain pass into their town and clear that pass. The second wave–the troops I was training in my town center–would go on the march as soon as I put the first wave into motion, and they would attack the barracks and other buildings on the plain above the pass. As the first wave had less distance to travel they would reach the outposts first and clear them by the time the second wave reached the pass and began their ascent to the plain. Once the second wave reached the plain, I would regroup the first wave and have them enter the fray on the plain. Meanwhile, as resources allowed, I could continue to train more soldiers back in my town and march them as they were ready into the battle in the French town.
My first wave attacked the French outposts and, though they took heavy losses, the French outposts were razed. The second wave pushed through the pass, attacked the barracks, and I moved the first wave into the battle as I’d planned. The French villagers were hardy foes, and many of them picked up rifles and attacked my army. I knew this was a battle that could go either way; I could only hope that my own army would overwhelm the French before Napoleon could bring more troops into battle. I also had to hope that neither Napoleon nor Isabella would take this as an opportunity to launch a reprisal attack against my own town.
As I marched my reinforcements to the battle on the outskirts of the French town, they made a shocking discovery–Napoleon had built a fort along the trade route at the base of the mountain pass. And the cannons of his fort decimated my reinforcement army. At the same time, my army in the French town was continuing to take heavy losses, and I feared that the battle might have been lost.
Then, I received another urgent summons from Henry the Navigator. Just as I had built an overwhelming army to take the battle to the French, Queen Isabella had built an impressive army to take the Portugese out of the game. “If you can’t help me,” said Henry, “I may have to resign.”
Henry, unfortunately, was on his own. What were my options? I could take the pressure off the French in their town and march my army to relieve the pressure on Henry’s village, but that would have given Napoleon time to regroup and rebuild, making my losses in the battle pointless. I could redirect the reinforcements I was training to march against Isabella’s forces in Henry’s village instead of against the French fort dominating the mountain pass, but that would give Napoleon a base from which to build a new army to attack my own town.
Then I realized a third option. I could call upon my Lakota allies. They provided me with Dog Soldiers, and I used them to relieve the pressure on Henry’s village.
But even that was too late. Henry, though he wasn’t defeated, had nothing left beyond his town center and a few villagers. He could have resigned. He didn’t. But his town was free from Isabella’s forces.
In the French village matters reached a head–my forces grouped, attacked the town center. It fell. At the French fort, grenadiers and cannons attacked from a cliff overlooking the pass. The fort fell. Napoleon’s forces were routed, and he begged to surrender.
As I paused to take my breath and take stock of the strategic situation, Spanish forces attacked my army among the ruins of the French town. Her army wasn’t much, cavalry mainly, but she inflicted serious losses before I was able to defeat her.
My choices were clear. Regroup and rebuild my armies before pressing forward to attack Isabella’s colony, or throw my armies into the fray in the hope that Isabella’s attack on Henry’s colony had left her weakened and spent.
I decided on the latter course. I had three army groups–the army that had attacked the French town, the army that had destroyed the French fort (and the additional reinforcements I had trained), and my Lakota dog soldiers. I had the latter two armies rendezvous at the base of the mountain pass that led to the Spanish village, and as they moved into position I had my army in the French village press east across the plain and attack the Spanish village directly. My plan was for this to be a feint against the Spanish, drawing any forces Isabella might have had away from the mountain pass, and then once the Spanish were engaged in battle my other army would ascend the pass and attack the Spanish town from that direction.
After the lengthy struggle against the French, the battle for Isabella’s colony was pure anti-climax. She had no army to speak of, and once the forces she had were defeated my army contented itself with burning her village to the ground. Once her town center fell she tendered her surrender, and the war for the Rocky Mountain passes was over.
England had triumphed.
In a year of playing Age of Empires III I had never been on the defensive to quite this degree. One or two raids against my town center I’d experienced, but three? And then pressure put on my ally to such a degree that he was brought to the brink of resignation? Never before. With challenges like these I relished my victory. I had triumphed over adversity and become a better commander for it.
War is hell.