The second game in the Age of Empires series, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was released in 1999 and lauded as a very improved sequel. With 13 civilizations (Britons, Byzantines, Celts, Chinese, Franks, Goths, Japanese, Mongols, Persians, Saracens, Teutons, Turks and Vikings) it was set during The Middle Ages, from Dark Age Europe to The Renaissance, and has campaigns based on William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Saladin and Barbarossa.The expansion, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, has the arrival on America, and includes five new civilizations (Spanish, Huns, Koreans, Aztecs and Maya), three new campaigns (Attila the Hun, El Cid, and Montezuma) and a campaign made of various historic battles (including the Horny Vikings and Medieval Japan).A Fan Expansion named Forgotten Empires features another five new civilizations (Italians, Magyars, Slavs, Indians and Incas) as well as new AI, upgrades and balance fixes. With the release of the HD edition of the original game, it was announced that Forgotten Empires would be turned into an official expansion, titled The Forgotten.An Updated Re-release titled Age of Empires II: HD Edition was released exclusively on Steam on April 9, 2013. Developed by Hidden Path Entertainment, it includes The Conquerors and enhanced visuals. The Forgotten was released on November 7, 2013.
AI players will often send their armies to attack in the form of long columns of unit single-mindedly marching towards one spot, totally oblivious to any enemy armies they encounter along the way. Players can abuse this to decimate AI armies before they reach their target.
AI players will instantly demolish any building in progress if the villager building it is attacked. This was a hacky solution to the issue of AI players sending their entire population of villagers one by one to finish an incomplete building in territory that had been taken by the enemy. However, it caused at least as many problems as it solved.
The AI will never attack gates, so building your entire fortress out of gates will make it effectively AI-proof.
It will also never delete its own units, so it will do things such as wall off its own resources, causing them to be inaccessible to it for the entire rest of the game.
If you exploit the above two issues, you can trap an AI in its walled-off town forever by placing your gates in front of its.
More generally, the AI doesn't have any understanding of the concepts of "map control" or "micromanagement", making it very vulnerable to hit-and-run tactics by fast ranged units such as cavalry archers or Viking Longboats.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Genghis Khan, Henry V, William The Conquerer, Harold Hardraade, El Cid Campeador, Atilla, Erik the Red, and numerous others. Averted with the King in Regicide mode, who has absolutely no attack whatsoever.
Automatic Crossbows: The Chinese special unit is the Chu-Ko-Nu, a type of crossbowman that uses a crossbow of the same name that, in-game, fires three sequential bolts for each shot.
The Trebuchets, when used against units. While immensely powerful, they are tragically inaccurate, fire slowly, and have to be manually unpacked and repacked to fire and move, respectively. They are extremely effective against buildings, though, to the extent of being Awesome yet Practical when it comes to destroying an enemy's defences. The Japanese in The Conquerors have a technology which makes them even more impressive, by firing and (un)packing incredibly fast.
Petards in The Conquerors, at least most of the time. Available in the Castle Age, and capable of dealing out huge anti-building damage quickly and easily. However, if you're using them around towers or castles, you're gonna lose two or three before they get there, and it's easy to run out of gold before you breach fortifications.
The Spies research. Getting the enemy line of sight is a massive advantage, but at 200 gold per enemy villager, it tends to end up being several thousand gold per opposing player, more than enough to raise a sizable army. With the exception of some special scenarios and the Huns (who have a research that halves the cost), it's generally just better to fight conventionally.
Awesome yet Practical: Each civilization has its own unique unit (the Vikings, Spanish and Koreans each have two). Some of them are a bit specialized, while others are very useful.
The Spanish villagers become outright dangerous once you research their unique technology, Supremacy.
Any civilization with the "sappers" technology can do this as well, as sappers gives villagers +15 damage against buildings; AI players tend to ignore villagers attacking walls thus making a small group of villagers very effective at tearing down walls with this technology.
Baseless Mission: The first scenarios for Joan of Arc and Saladin are baseless all the way through, and several other scenarios start you off with only units and give you a base in the middle.
The Berserker: One of the unique units of the Vikings is the Berserker, a powerful infantry unit that can regenerate health over time.
BFS: Two-Handed Swordsmen and Champions come armed with these, as well as a number of Hero Units. William Wallace's sword is stated to be a "five and a half foot beast".
Bittersweet Ending: Most campaigns have one: Many of them (e.g. Joan, Barbarossa and El Cid) end with the title character dead, others make the player know that the final battle was only a Pyrrhic Victory.
Boring but Practical: Battering Rams and their upgrades. Until you get trebuchets, they're the best way to deal with fortifications, and still useful even afterwards.
Butt Monkey: The Taichi'uds in the Genghis Khan campaign. They aren't even your enemies, but you'll find every time that attacking them is the best way to accomplish your goals.
Cash Gate: Some scenarios or bonus objectives work like this. Sometimes collecting resources is enough, sometimes one will actually have to deliver them to gain the benefits. Units are also used as "currency" on similar occasions.
Chekhov's Gun: In the fourth Aztec mission, La Noche Triste, your soldiers talk about an island covered with gold on Lake Texcoco. Given as how the island you're currently on is absolutely lousy with gold, you'll probably leave the gold island alone. In Broken Spears, however, you find yourself defending Tenochtitlan from a three-way siege, and suddenly an island of gold in the middle of the lake becomes a very valuable asset.
Henry the Lion betrays the player twice in the Barbarossa campaign.
King Alfonso in The Conquerors: he has his brother Sancho assassinated, exiles El Cid out of jealousy, calls El Cid back to help with dealing with the Black Guards... and exiles him again.
There is the mission in the Aztec campaign where your objective is to defeat an enemy with the help of two allied civs — which will turn on you without warning (though not entirely without foreshadowing) once you have defeated your common enemy, forcing you to defeat them, too, in order to win the scenario.
Amusingly, The Conquerors introduced the new game variant "last man standing" where players that had been allies during the game instantly turn against each other after defeating their common foes and fight until there is only one player left. The installation screen claims that this was already a popular way to end internet games before the 'instant' part was introduced with the x-pack.
Citadel City: The games AI will eventually attempt to set something like this up in longer games. However, Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors means there are a number of tricks to break through.
Color-Coded Characters: Each player has a color that marks their units and buildings. An option introduced in The Conquerors allows the colors to be changed to reflect the player's diplomatic stances with each nation. The game allows multiple players to share the same color - this is used in the official campaigns to create "subfactions" that have the same color but behave differently.
Critical Existence Failure: Every unit. Defensive buildings lose their ability to hold troops shortly before being destroyed, but otherwise fit into this trope as well.
Death of a Thousand Cuts: Archers deal extremely little damage against buildings, but with enough arrows, even a castle will come down. Most likely to occur with British longbowmen, who are the only archers that can hit a castle outside its range.
Deus ex Machina: The penultimate mission in Barbarossa's campaign has Barbarossa's army marching across enemy territory to join the Crusade. After a long trek, their advancement appears to be blocked by an enemy wall. Then the earthquake kicks in.
An unintentional example: in the fourth mission in the Attila the Hun campaign, you have to fight off the Roman Army's counterattack after you destroy all three cities. However, if you can find a placeholder unit hidden on the map, you can kill him, which breaks the script and allows you to skip the fight with the army.
In the Noche Triste mission of the Aztec campaign you have to retake Tenochtitlan, which is now occupied by the Spanish army, and destroy the Spanish wonder being built inside it before the time runs out. The script expects you to fail in your first attempt, make it to the docks with what is left of your original, small army, hijack some ships, cross the lake, find an allied town and rebuild your forces in time to march against Tenochtitlan again. However, to reach the docks you have to pass near the wonder building site with only a simple wall separating you from it, so a player in easy mode can simply tear down the wall then and destroy the wonder before it is finished.
In the second Barbarossa mission, Henry the Lion, Henry the Lion's army is allied with everyone, including the Polish army...but the Polish army isn't allied with him. Sometimes, a small Polish force will push past your base and attack him. If you don't disturb them, this leads to a rather amusing scene where Henry declares supremacy over Barbarossa, when all he has to his name are a couple of wrecked houses and a handful of badly wounded soldiers.
A similar incident happens in the first Hun mission; if you ally with the Scythians, then they will probably attack the Persian fortress before you get the chance. Since the Persians are still marked as being allied with the Scythians, then the Persian AI apparently bugs out and just twitches spasmodically as the Scythian archers cut them to shreds.
Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available:
The campaigns in Age of Kings covered historical wars, such as William Wallace's war against England (as the tutorial), Joan of Arc fighting in the Hundred Years' War, Saladin fighting against the Crusaders, Barbarossa forging the Holy Roman Empire, and Genghis Khan's conquest of Asia.
The Conquerors contained campaigns about El Cid, Attila the Hun, and Montezuma, the last one ending before the Aztecs are actually defeated, plus a series of nonsequential missions covering various historical battles like Agincourt, Hastings, Saechon, the Viking colonization of the Americas, and Honnoji-Yamazaki.
El Cid Ploy: The final mission the in El Cid campaign has the player carrying out the famous ploy; El Cid's corpse is strapped to a horse, and the player must keep him alive until a Wonder is completed to ensure the ruse is successful.
Enemy Exchange Program: The priests can convert your enemies' units. And their priests can convert yours too! Averted with the Unique Technology Heresy, which causes your own units that are converted to die instead of switching sides.
Escort Mission: Quite a few. The escortees are typically under the player's control and possess adequate combat skills, though.
Fan Sequel: "Forgotten Empires" stands out against other mods because the authors cracked how to add 5 new civilizations to the 18 present in The Conquerors, rather than replacing the existing ones.
The penultimate scenario in El Cid campaign features El Cid defending a small friendly town of Denia from Count Berenguer's massive army. The player is intended to forfeit the town and retreat further towards Valencia.
In the third Aztec mission, Quetzalcoatl, you're tasked with defending the weakly defended allied town of Tabasco from the Spanish. However, this happens so early in the mission that there's effectively no way to defend them. Even if you manage to get troops up to Tabasco, it's still scripted to be destroyed.
Friendly Fireproof: Played straight for the most part, but averted with onagers. They essentially have to be micromanaged to avoid killing off melee units en masse.
Full Boar Action: Wild boar are entirely passive unless provoked, but they are sufficiently tough that hunting them for food requires multiple villagers (a lone villager hunting a boar will be killed). There's also the Iron Boar in Conquerors, which cannot be harvested by villagers.
Gameplay Automation: Farms need to be reseeded regularly to continue producing food, which is a bit of a chore on its own; to alleviate this, the player can queue up new farms at mills, but this also needs to be done manually.
Gender Is No Object: The only differences between the male villagers and the female villagers are the spriteset and the voicepack.
Get Back Here Boss: Kushluk in the Genghis Khan campaign. He is visiting a weakly defended village - but as soon as the player attacks the village, he will retreat towards his own fort.
Glass Cannon: Siege weapons are capable of dealing great damage to both sides, but they are practically helpless without support..
Gradual Regeneration: All Hero units and Viking berserkers. Also anyone garrisoned inside a building.
Herd Hitting Attack: Persian War Elephants can inflict trample damage on adjacent enemies, as can Byzantine Cataphracts (after researching Logistica) and Slavic infantry units (after researching Druzhina).
The Hero Dies: Most campaigns feature the death of their namesakes. Joan of Arc, Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, Montezuma and El Cid die during their respective campaigns while Attila the Hun's death is announced during the campaign's ending cutscene. William Wallace and Saladin survive their campaigns, though.
Hit-and-Run Tactics: Used correctly, the horse archers in Age of Kings could whittle down entire armies without taking a scratch, shooting any melee units to death before tackling the now outnumbered archers. Combined with siege weapons and monks or missionaries, this took a Fragile Speedster force and made it into a Lightning Bruiser army from hell. Interestingly, there was an upgrade called Parthian Tactics in that game, though all it did was improve the armour of your horse archers. Naturally, the Mongols excel at this, and have a horse archer special unit, and it was one of the reasons of why they were such efficient conquerors. Hit-and-run horse archers were just unfair back then. This strategy works even better with spanish Conquistadores.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Petards and Demolition Ships. The point of the units are to die, but do lots of damage in that death.
The Persians tend to suffer from this with regards to their War Elephants. They are one of the most devastatingly powerful unique units, but the Persians can't research Heresy, meaning it's cake for enemy Monks to convert the elephants and turn them against the Persians.
Horse Archer: The preferred tactic of a few Asian civilizations.
Hunting Accident: The first mission in the Attila campaign in The Conquerors is to use this to off his brother Bleda to achieve leadership over the Huns. If you don't, it will be Bleda who tries to finish Attila, albeit with the possibility of escape.
Practically all of the dialogue in the game is written and spoken in the installation language, and pronounced with exaggerated accents fit for each character. At least they are, for the most part, fairly accurate.
Averted by the human units when you click on them or order something to do, whose responses are in the grammatically correct language of their civilization, which is often the Medieval dialect of said language to boot. This is not the case for the Chinese, whose human units all speak unmarred Chinese... of the modern-day Mandarin variant, with a flat, bored newcaster-tone, no less.
Katanas Are Just Better: Samurai are stronger against buildings and other unique units. Averted when going up against archers, though.
The narrator of the William Wallace tutorial in Age of Kings:
"Build ten more... woooooaaaaad rrrraiderrrs!"
The Genghis Khan narrator:
"The great Khaaan. GENGHIS KHAN!."
La Hire from the Joan of Arc campaign speaks in third person and demands a fight constantly.
The Egyptians in the Saladin campaign really overreact:
"YOU WILL NOT ENTER CAIRO!"
Leave No Survivors: This is often necessary. Even if the player manages to destroy the entire enemy fortress, a lone villager working at a remote mining camp can use the resources stored in Hammer Space to restart the entire civilization. An annoying multiplayer tactic is for the people who've clearly lost the game to send villagers to all four corners of the map, thus delaying the inevitable. The technology "Spies" counteracts this by making them visible.
Level Editor: Perhaps famously, one of the most extensive, yet easy to use. They could literally be used to make a game within a game, thanks to the complex trigger system.
MacGuffin: The Relics. Everybody wants them, because they produce gold and can even win the game for the player who collects them all.
Mayincatec: The game features only Maya and Aztecs as separate civilizations. In the Montezuma campaigns, different states such as Tlacopan and Tlaxcala exist as enemies or allies, but each one of them obeys either the Aztec or Maya tech tree.
Mercy Rewarded: Happens in El Cid's campaign - the Black Guards, despite being enemies with El Cid, reward him with religious technologies if El Cid spares their mosque. Since the mosque is a practically useless decorative building, there is no reason not to spare it. Another example of rewarded mercy would be to spare an enemy player's docks or markets for trading.
War Elephants are effectively moving battering rams. Deadly at a close range against both units and buildings, their slowness renders them especially vulnerable to conversion by monks. This is in contrast to real elephants, who can easily outrun a human when going in a straight line. While intelligent, they are also not known to hold any particular religious belief.
Teutonic Knights are depicted in this game as heavily armoured infantry. They are slow moving, but hard to kill and will make mincemeat of other infantry units.
Siege Weapons are generally slow moving, but adept at destroying buildings (and, in some cases, military personnel). They are very vulnerable when attacked at a close range.
Misplaced Wildlife: Averted, in contrast to the previous game, by using wide ranged Eurasian animals such as hawks, deer, wolves, sheep and wild boars that would be familiar to all civilizations in the game. The Conquerors introduces Mesoamerican maps with parrots, jaguars, turkeys and javelinas as substitutes of hawks, wolves, sheep and wild boars.
Money for Nothing: Gold can be acquired indefinitely in two ways: using a monk to deposit a relic in a monastery or trading with friendly (or hostile) markets and docks.
In the first game, catapults and ballistas were the main siege weapons. In the sequel, they're renamed (Mangonel/Onager and Scorpion, respectively) and demoted to decent (but very situational) units, while Rams and Trebuchets replace them.
In Age of Kings, Teutons had a civilization bonus that significantly increased the range of their Town Centers. This allowed a Teuton player to immediately destroy their original Town Center, build another one just out of range of the enemy Town Center and use it to destroy the enemy base. This was perceived as a Game Breaker, and was later nerfed so the Teuton town center bonus only increases line-of-sight distance, not range.
Averted with Koreans, where the cannon towers still has ridiculously long range after research, making a line of Korean cannon towers nigh invulnerable too almost all attacks, even the often out of range British longbow.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: You'll occasionally hear an NPC in the Saladin campaign who sounds suspiciously like the narrator of the William Wallace campaign.
Protection Mission: Plentiful in campaigns - most campaigns feature at least one protection mission. Appears in multiplayer as well - constructing a Wonder or collecting all relics essentially makes the rest of the game a protection mission. This is the entire point of Defend the Wonder - multiplayer mode.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: From this game onwards, a town center told to produce a villager will randomly make either a male or a female. Males and females do exactly the same work. All regular military units are male, however.
Rain of Arrows: Chu Ko Nus, Dragon Ships and castles. Town centers, towers and castles again can also shoot more arrows than usual if there is a number of villagers or archers hidden inside; this is taken to insane levels when Chinese players combine both and put Chu Ko Nus in castles. Forgotten Empires adds the Siege Tower, though it is only available in the editor.
Reinventing the Wheel: Technologies are not saved between the scenarios - not even the ages. Society may easily devolve from "Imperial age" to "Feudal age" between scenarios.
Religion Is Magic: Monks can convert enemy warriors and heal their own forces very fast. Montezuma's campaign takes this a bit further - in one mission, a mysterious, unidentified voice grants the player's jaguar warriors tenfold hitpoints if a large enough group is delivered to a certain ruined temple.
Ridiculously Fast Construction: Par for the course for Real Time Strategy. For example, A villager can fill a gap in a town wall by starting construction on a new segment (read: hammering on the ground) for a few seconds, at which point the new wall will be strong enough to seriously impede regular enemy units. Even if it is only partially built, enemies will either have to spend a long time tearing the wall down (taking much more time than it took to construct) or rely on siege engines (only available from the Castle Age) to clear the way for them. A Feudal Age army can be effectively stopped by having villagers half-build a wall along its entire length before the enemies can get around it.
The fourth Aztec mission is based around gathering enough of the scattered Aztec army to force the Spanish and Tlaxcala out of Tenochtitlan. The mission immediately afterwards continues the rampage, focusing on destroying a Spanish and Tlaxcalan fortress to the north.
Crossbows in the game are a strict upgrade to normal bows, dealing more damage and having more range. In real life, crossbows would be much slower to fire but could penetrate knights' armor well.
In the second last scenario of the Montezuma campaign, the Aztecs can gain the ability to use cavalry and cannons by capturing Spanish horses and gunpowder respectively. The scenario notes flat out state that this would never have happened in Real Life and was included simply to provide a fun gameplay gimmick.
Savage Wolves: During the first mission of the Genghis Khan campaign, the player must buy one tribe's loyalty by dispatching a monstrous wolf named Ornlu, who has been killing sheep and people. Ornlu is a unique hero unit with stats far beyond those of regular wolves, and can be added to custom maps.
Scripted Event: Lots of them in campaign scenarios. Mission failures when heroes die, enemy ambushes in abandoned houses, an enemy offering to join the player in exchange of money, the tournament in El Cid campaign...
The Siege: Many scenarios will have you on one of the two sides of a siege, including the Siege of Paris, Samarkand, China and Milan and Cairo (as the assaulter) and Acre and the last scenarios of El Cid and Montezuma's campaigns (as the defender).
Siege Engines: Catapults, ballistas, battering rams, and trebuchets.
Silent Protagonist: William Wallace and Joan of Arc are not given any dialogue in Age of Kings, nor are Attila the Hun and El Cid Campeador in The Conquerors.
Slave Mooks: Mamelukes and Janissaries, according to History. The Black Guard in the El Cid campaign.
Smug Snake: In the third Attila the Hun mission, you fight against the ruler of Constantinople, whose voiceovers all have a sneering, condescending tone. Destroying the right buildings will push him into a Villainous Breakdown.
The Starscream: Henry the Lion tries to betray Barbarossa twice. He stops later, though, and is telling the player about Barbarossa's story.
Storming the Castle: It is unwise, but entirely possible for a large army without siege weapons to destroy a castle in game, especially if the opponent player has not researched Murder Holes yet which eliminates the minimum range of the castles' Rain of Arrows.
Straight for the Commander: * Killing the opponent's king unit in Regicide mode gives you instant victory, regardless of how many other units and resources the other player still has. Of course, losing your king will do the same to you. In several campaign scenarios the objective is killing one particular enemy commander or destroying one enemy building too.
Technology Levels: There are four technological ages: each civilization starts in the Dark Age at the beginning of a game, then progresses through the Feudal Age and Castle Age before reaching the Imperial Age. Each Age requires a significant resource investment to reach, and opens up powerful new technologies and upgrades that outclass what came before.
Its units will always dodge (regardless of difficulty) the attacks from your onagers, trebs and bombard cannons.
Also inverted: if you play on any difficulty below "Hard", the AI is handicapped. On "Standard" and "Easiest" difficulties, the AI won't attack villagers, making it practically impossible for the player to lose.
The Computer Shall Taunt You: In addition to the taunts available in multiplayer, some campaigns feature specific taunts used by the enemies.
"What do a people who sleep in tents know about the word 'culture'?"
The Teutonic Knights: Provide the special unit for (who else?) the Teutons. Unhistorically, they serve as foot-soldiers and are very slow, but extremely tough.
Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The attack animation for the Saracens' unique unit is them throwing a scimitar at their target. (Although saying it always works is an overstatement; they don't have high accuracy.)
Timed Mission: None of the campaign scenarios feature a hard time limit. However, there are many time-scripted events that force the player to act fast, such as the AI triggers for building Wonders. Some optional objectives, such as the assassination of the Persian Shah, are also time-limited.
Twenty Bear Asses: While not as annoying as some examples, one of the tribes in the Genghis Khan campaign will join you if you bring them 20 sheep. They're fairly easy to find, hence "not as annoying."
Tends to be a fairly common mindset for the CPU and occasionally the player with less expensive units. Overlaps with Zerg Rush, as seen below.
Gothic tactics heartily endorse this mindset since their infantry are both inexpensive and created with blazing speed once in the Imperial Age. Losing an army of Gothic infantry will still be costly but there will be another group ready to take their place in no time flat.
Also occurs when your onagers or bombard cannons blast enemy units even when your own melee units are attacking them. Though most of the time this is due to Artificial Stupidity.
"The Siege of Paris" in the Joan of Arc campaign, where Failure Is the Only Option and Joan is captured at the end and burned at the stake in the epilogue. Older players would know this already, but it can be devastating for an early teen who is not as familiar with medieval history.
With Us or Against Us: The "Neutral" diplomacy setting is basically the same as "Enemy" with a few adjustments to automatic targeting of civilian units.
The Huns in The Conquerors can research atheism. Everyone else needs to research faith.
You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Stone, Wood and Food are the resources of the game. Food, Wood and Gold are the most commonly used resources, with Stone mostly being reserved for heavy fortifications, such as walls and castles.
One of the most common tactics in multiplayer is to attack during the feudal age with large numbers of spearmen and skirmishers to prevent your opponent from being able to develop his economy. Most rounds are effectively decided within twenty minutes this way. Archers are an alternative, because of their greater attack and the fact they cost no food, so they don't compete for resources with creating villagers. Scouts are also good feudal age units, due to their speed allowing them to harass the enemy's economy effectively. However, they are vulnerable to defensive spearmen. It's even possible to win a match with Skirmishers as the only primary unit.
If you progress to the Imperial Age and are running out of gold, you can try spamming a large number of units that cost no gold, i.e. hussars, halberdiers and elite skirmishers (or whatever your civilisation is capable of producing).
A frequent online tactic is to play as the Huns, remain in the Dark Ages, and take advantage of the Huns' unique ability, to endlessly spam hordes of Militia before your opponent can get their defenses up.