Due entirely to an error on my part, I met Napoleon and Frederick in battle, not amidst the valleys and gulleys of the Appalachians as I’d intended, but instead on the broad, sandy beaches of the Carolinas.
I had no allies in this battle. Sometimes, I think I don’t need allies in Age of Empires III — invariably they’re either incompetant or useless.
The first fifteen minutes were unremarkable. I scouted the map, spent no time taking treasures, and whenever I had enough wood another Manor House was built.
I’d located Napoleon quickly — his colony was along the water’s edge. Further inland was Frederick’s colony, and in between was the native trade route. In general, I developed a good lay of the land — the center of the map was largely open, the coastline was broad and ran from northeast to southwest.
Unfortunately, the challenges this battle would provide would be few. I knew that, simply from the map. Oh, the appalachians! With their crannies! With their plateaus! With the wide open valleys and choke points along the mountains.
At twenty minutes the battle had come to me. I had made a treaty with the local Cherokee tribe. I had built a trading post, and nearby I’d built a barracks for my own troops. I’d called up musketeers, and a detachment of native riflemen as well. Based on past experience, either Napoleon or Frederick would attack me first.
What I did not expect was a generally coordinated attack by the two. It was a war of attrition, and I generally had the upper hand — my forces had less of a distance to go. And that spot — right near the trading post — became the focal point of their attacks.
By this point, my economy was booming. Rather than advance an age, I stayed firmly in the second age. My needs for this war were not technology. No, I needed raw numbers. Spending resources to advance an age would simply take away from musketeers and grenadiers that I could build.
And so I began to amass an army. The attacks by Frederick and Napoleon had been repulsed. They had sent no more forces into the fray. Now it was time for my own attack.
Frederick. I decided. It would be Frederick I would take down first.
The calculus was this — Frederick was inland. If I could take out Frederick’s colony — and I had no reason to believe that I could not — I could then sweep toward the shoreline and catch Napoleon between my advancing armies and the water.
My army — grenadiers, riflemen, and musketeers — went on the march. But I called up more forces, because there was no reason to believe that Napoleon or Frederick was not doing the same.
As my army reached Frederick’s colony, Napoleon’s army of cavalry and native riflemen attacked my own colony. It was a brutal, bloody battle — my defenders were not as many as I would have liked, and I lost two Manor Houses. But eventually Napoleon’s attack was blunted, and I stood victorious among my own colony.
In Frederick’s colony, resistance was virtually nil. He asked for a surrender. I didn’t accept it. I would rather have burned his colony to the ground. And I did.
As Frederick’s colony fell, I continued to build my forces in my own colony. More grenadiers were called up. More musketeers. With the economy booming and one enemy taken off the map, I finally advanced an age, and then called up Black Watch Highlanders. But I wasn’t ready to deploy them to the front… yet.
I wanted the trade route.
I held two of the four trading posts along the trade route. Frederick, actually, held the others. The trade route ran generally parallel to the coastline, and it ran through an open plain. The easiest way to take the trade route was to use my forces, victorious from the pillage of Frederick’s colony, and burn his trading posts to the ground. The first went easiest, and my own trading post went up in its place not long thereafter.
The second? Napoleon had hunting parties out there. Hunting parties with armed guards. Not only did I have a trading post to destroy, but I had cavalry and settlers to contend with as well. A firefight began along the trade route, and though I took losses I eventually ran off the settlers, broke Napoleon’s cavalry, and took the trading post for myself.
Napoleon, it turns out, had also built a fort, dead near the center of the map. Though it cost me many grenadiers, the fort fell. I called up more grenadiers, I called up mercenaries from my home city of Edinburgh, and I readied myself for an overwhelming strike on Napoleon’s colony.
The battle for the French colony is hardly worth speaking of. Resistence grew increasingly feeble, and eventually my forces, which continued to arrive in numbers from my home city, razed the colony to the ground.
Yet, Napoleon would not offer his surrender.
Then, my armies reached the beach. They advanced on Napoleon’s dock, razed it to the ground, and…
Napoleon’s navy bombarded my army on the beach.
I took heavy casualties on the beach.
I hadn’t focused on the seas; I knew this war would be won on land, and if need be I’d settled upon a late game naval build-up to wipe my enemies from the oceans.
I built a dock. I built frigates. They hunted down every last fishing boat.
At last, I had wiped my enemies off the map. I had ground Napoleon and Frederick beneath my boot.
My victory, total though it was, has left me unfulfilled.
I wanted a challenge. Instead, this was like merely any other game, only without Henry the Navigator bothering me because he wanted wood or because the enemy was in his colony and he had no way of dislodging them.
Perhaps next time I will start the game I had intended to play — a two-on-one brawl in the Appalachian valleys.