On Building Walls

Far to the north, in the snowy wastes of the Yukon, I met the Russians and the Sioux in battle.

Sod it, that’s about all of the “After Action” report I’m going to write in the faux military memoirs style I like to affect for such posts.

There’s a reason for that. There really wasn’t any battle to speak of.

Not long after this battle of two months ago, I fought a similar battle with a similar set-up. Caribbean map. I and my ally on one island. My enemies together on another island. And the battle for the enemies’ island was brutal.

Essentially, once I’d landed on an undefended shoreline and scouted out the island, I settled on a strategy of containment. I held the seas. I held the western half of the enemies’ island. I built a wall, pretty much right down the middle of the island.

The advantage to the wall, I discovered, was that it focused the enemies’ attacks. Oh, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I’d emerge victorious in the game — I held the seas and two-thirds of the map easily, and I had resources coming in the wazoo — but I could at least force a battle.

Which worked. We had a big battle, pretty much in the center of the island. And it was glorious. Maybe not as bloody as the war of attrition I fought where I lost fourteen hundred units over the course of the game, but it was still a big battle. And, as I recall, the battle flat-out wiped Napoleon off the map. And then it was simply mopping up and taking down Henry the Navigator (who was being ornery).

Basically, I was happy. The wall had focused things. The battlefield was chosen, we positioned our forces, and we met in battle.

I bought Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs recently. (I’d have bought this, mind you, a year ago, but there’s a story that goes along with that. Which is neither here nor there.)

I pulled it out yesterday, ready to take on some new challenges. (I haven’t really explored the new additions to the game. I know there are new buildings, and new technologies to research, but I haven’t played War Chiefs enough to know the point.)

And I decided on a walling strategy. Build a wall near the enemies’ towns to encourage battles in a certain area by creating an artificial chokepoint.

And did it work? Sort of.

The wall ran from one edge of the map to the trading route. And then on the other side of the trading route, the wall ran parallel to the trading route to another map edge.

The Russians and the Sioux didn’t know how to handle this.

I held the chokepoint, and the Sioux or the Russians would run a small force out, and there would be a small firefight.

And then Ivan the Terrible offered his surrender. “My armies crushed. My town, a burning ruin. It is hopeless. I must offer my surrender.”

What made it so amusing — and so pathetic — was that his town was definitively not a burning ruin. Nor was his town even burning. I hadn’t attacked his town. Neither had my ally, the Aztecs. (Yes, it’s completely weird for the Aztecs to be in the Yukon.) His armies had been crushed; he’d tried to force the artificial chokepoint between the walls and failed, but his situation was hardly hopeless. Yet here was Ivan, throwing in the towel.

The Sioux weren’t particularly excited, either. If Ivan wanted to throw in the towel, I’d at least give him a reason, but that meant having to march an army through the Sioux town. And the Sioux didn’t seem to care.

I made short work of Ivan, and then turned my attentions to crushing the Sioux, but my heart just wasn’t in it. It was like kicking a puppy — I’d cut off the two villages, to foster battles (which is the point of the game), but it was as though the computer intelligences took a look at the situation and said, “We’re well and truly fucked.”

I suppose this was a strategic situation that the programmers hadn’t anticipated, which meant that the computer intelligences had no idea what to do. The obvious problem with the walling strategy is that it forces an artificial limit to the resources that can be harvested. Limit the resources, and the ability to build units is dampened.

I wasn’t expecting the computer to essentially cave, though.

Note to self. For future reference, don’t wall in the enemy.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

3 thoughts on “On Building Walls

  1. Farms? Surely you jest…

    I don’t turn to farms until pretty late in the game. I even ignore berry bushes near my town center. Hunting parties, that range further and further away are how I usually play. Then once there’s absolutely nothing else to hunt anywhere close to a given hunting party, then I’ll put down a farm wherever that hunting party happens to be.

  2. I jest in that my [/WarCraft II] pseudomarkup on my post disappeared because I’m a dummy who didn’t escape the entities! 🙂

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