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Video Game: Age of Empires II
Cue the opening theme...
Is the will of one man enough to forge an empire?

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 Mayans), three new campaigns (Attila the Hun, El Cid, and Montezuma) and a campaign made of various historic battles (including the Horny Vikings and Hollywood 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 a semi-official expansion, entitled 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.

Age of Empires II and its expansions give examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: The King of the Regicide mode. Surprisingly, the king runs extraordinarily fast, being able to outrun some mounted units.
  • All There in the Manual: Each building, technology and unit in the game gets a detailed historical description.
  • An Axe to Grind: Throwing Axemen (Franks), Berserkers (Vikings) and Woad Raiders (Celts). Only the first get a minor bonus attack against buildings, however.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • In the Spanish campaign in The Conquerors, El Cid, in the 11th century, enlists the help of Conquistadors... Who in the game take the form of a cavalry unit firing shotguns from horseback.
    • At one point in the Attila the Hun campaign taking place in the 5th century, you destroy a Roman city guarded by bombard [cannon] towers.
    • The Aztecs can find Korean Turtle Ships, or at least a weapon that is best represented by them, to ease the onslaught of the Spanish Navy.
    • The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas have sword infantry and crossbows. This anachronism is excusable in the fact that they aren't allowed to have Cavalry.
  • Annoying Arrows: The Goth Huskarl is a very effective anti-archer unit due to its high pierce armor.
  • Anti-Cavalry: Spearmen and Camels both get a damage bonus against enemy cavalry, making the former two highly effective counters to the latter.
  • Arch-Enemy: Count Berenguer and Yusuf for El Cid, CortÚs and Tlaxcala for Montezuma, Edward Longshanks for William Wallace.
  • Arrows on Fire: The Chemistry technology sets most of the conventional projectiles on fire, giving them a slight damage bonus.
  • Artificial Stupidity
    • 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.
    • Pathing Issues can render Trading Carts easy prey since they wander into enemy positions more often than not. Even if you clear a shortcut through thick forest, they'll insist on taking an inefficient route until you force them to save time by walling off the options that add time to their route.
    • What's the best visual indicator of an enemy empire at its height? Lots and LOTS of USELESS Mine Camps everywhere. Not just Mine Camps but pointless Mills as well.
    • The AI's units don't seem to discriminate and just attack whatever they see. For example, the AI will often send its knights to attack a large group of pikemen. With a little bit of micromanagement a player can easily wipe out the AI's entire army while taking minimal losses.
  • Artistic License: Yes, the Scottish lost the Battle of Falkirk, the Mongols were unsuccessful in Europe, and the Barbarossa campaign ends with a group of crusaders smuggling their dead emperor's body to Jerusalem - an attempt which failed miserably in real life as they didn't manage to preserve the body. But the campaigns wouldn't work with failures. It's clear that the developers know that many aspects are inaccurate.
  • 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Badass Normal:
    • 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.
    • The Unique Technology Druzhina allows Slavic Infantry to cause area-of-effect damage when attacking. This gives them a good fighting chance against enemy melee units even if they're outnumbered.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: The computer will react if you attack its villagers or buildings.
  • 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.
    • Massed groups of high end archers (especially horse archers) in close formation on the 'Stand Ground' setting. Because of the physics engine, melee troops can only attack the outermost units, which means they'll do very little damage while all your archers are free to attack back. About the only effective counter are high end Onagers, War Elephants, or opposing masses of archers.
  • Butt Monkey: The Tayichi'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.
  • Chess Motifs: Age of Kings's intro, specially the "long version".
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • 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.
  • Command And Conquer Economy: As in many other real-time strategy games.
  • Computers Are Fast: Particularly important with scout units. Expect the computer to have explored most of the map before the Castle Age.
  • The Computer Shall Taunt You: In Joan of Arc 3, you must destroy 3 of the 4 English Castles to achieve victory. Given the fact that you still can't advance to the Imperial Age, you have no practical way of completing the task, hard enough as it already is, other than by massing lots of Battering Rams and sacrificing them to breach the outer walls first and then to destroy the Castles. Sir John Falstoff, being the usual English jerk that he needs to be, will mock your ability to mount an effective siege.
    Sir John Falstoff: "An army of Rams? How quaint."
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: In the Genghis Khan campaign, killing the Persian Shah is the most advantageous way to get the war started.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Houses, except for the Huns.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Every unit has only one attack.
  • 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.
  • Digitized Sprites: Every unit and building sprite was rendered from CGI models.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Samurai unique unit has a death animation where he stabs himself with his katana.
  • Easy Communication: Par for the Real-Time Strategy genre, unit commands are carried out instantly, and the player can always see what the individual units can see.
  • Easy Level Trick:
    • 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 latter half of the fifth Joan of Arc mission, you need to escape to an allied town to win, but there are Burgundy ambush troops in front of the gates and you can't go around them because the rest of the way are blocked by forests...unless you managed to save your Trebuchets, which can force-fire on the trees to clear you a way, slip pass to the back of the Burgundy forces, who wouldn't attack you because the script expected you to enter from the road, then proceed to stone them to death for a safe distance.
    • 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 Civil War: Happens in some scenarios. On the other hand, many scenarios have the enemies allied with everyone but the player — even with the player's allies who are supposed to be fighting the enemy as well.
  • 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.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Texcoco and Tlacopan will turn on the player in the second Aztec level upon the defeat of Tlaxcala. Upon defeating them, CortÚs will show up...
  • 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. A second reason for it standing out is that it ended up becoming an official expansion for the HD version, known as "The Forgotten".
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Historical accuracy demands it in a few occasions:
    • 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.
    • The 5th scenario of the Joan of Arc campaign is even worse. You're invading Paris, but it's clear you're pretty much outnumbered from the start and will never survive on your own. So you have to wait for the King's reinforcements which...number only two men. The rest of the mission is pretty much an Escape Sequence, oh, and Joan is captured in the ending cutscene and burned at the stake.
    • 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.
    • The stand alone Japanese scenario begins as a mission to rescue Oda Nobunaga, but he is excecuted before your troops can arrive. (The rest of the mission is a Roaring Rampage of Revenge)
  • Final Death: Some unique units trigger your defeat when destroyed.
  • Firewood Resources: Wood and Stone.
  • French Jerk: Reynald in Saladin's campaign.
  • 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.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the El Cid campaign, King Sancho is bearded and King Alfonso clean-shaven. In the cutscenes, it's the opposite.
  • 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.
  • Grimy Water: The Sea of Worms in the Vindlandsaga is simply the ocean area south of Greenland covered in a huge tile trigger that will destroy your ships if they wander in for too long.
  • Gullible Lemmings: An effective strategy against Computer opponents is to provoke their units into pursuing your own units right into a large group or archers.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: Cairo in the Saladin campaign (from Face to Heel then back to Face), Henry the Lion in Barbarossa's campaign ( whether he's a Face or a Heel when he narrates the story is unknown, though he's most likely the latter) and King Alfonso in El Cid's campaign (due to Historical Villain Upgrade; when the campaign is complete, he's still a villain).
  • Heel-Face Turn: Some campaigns have enemies that the player can trigger an alliance with.
  • 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).
  • Here There Be Dragons: Why the aforementioned Sea of Worms has that name. Not knowing what exactly was killing their ships, Norsemen would be likely to attribute it to dragons. The Norse word for dragon is orm or worm.
  • 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.
  • <Hero> Must Survive: Featured in most campaigns.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Used correctly, the horse archers in Age of Kings can 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, a Fragile Speedster force can become a Lightning Bruiser army from hell. Age of Conquerors added an upgrade called Parthian Tactics which improves their armor. Naturally, the Mongols excel at this tactic, with their unique unit being a horse archer. As a matter of fact, 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: 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.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Every melee unit, when attacking, will miss on occasion and fail to do any damage. In one-on-one fights, this is a plausible way to simulate dodging but... how does one miss hitting an immobile building? Especially if you're a Battering Ram?
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Most ranged units have no difficulty hitting targets behind walls and buildings.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Almost all forests in the game are impassable until chopped down.
  • Interface Spoiler: The Diplomacy menu will list every civilization in the current match, even ones in the campaigns you aren't supposed to have met yet.
  • Ironic Echo: In the Joan of Arc campaign:
    Sir John Fastolf: We'll see how your knights fare against British longbows!
    Three scenarios later...
    French Soldier: We'll see how British longbows fare against French cannon!
  • Isometric Projection: As with every other game in the series, the player's view is roughly isometric — the map is diamond-shaped and the elevation of the camera is close to 35.3 degrees.
  • Just a Stupid Accent:
    • 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.
    • Harald Hardrada, the King of Norway, speaks with a Swedish accent.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Samurai are stronger against buildings and other unique units. Averted when going up against archers, though.
  • Keystone Army: Barbarossa's Crusader Army disintegrates upon his death.
  • Kick the Dog: YOU can do this to the Roman Empire in the third Attila the Hun mission. The requirement is to stock up 10,000 gold in tributes by destroying certain buildings or units (you can also get 500 gold by building a castle). The biggest Kick the Dog moment: destroying the wonder in the Roman fort, which nets 5,000 gold.
  • Knightly Lance: Several unique Heroes on horseback wield lances.
  • Large Ham:
    • 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.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • Knights, in general. Their high cost mitigates their possible Game Breaker potential.
    • A Mongol Siege Ram with Drill researched and loaded with 6 infantry units can move as fast as the fastest cavalry units, giving you a powerful anti-building unit that can be used for Hit-and-Run Tactics.
  • 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 Mayans 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 Mayan technology tree. "The Forgotten" expansion completes this with the addition of the Incas as a new playable civilization.
  • 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.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • 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. God help them if they run into archers as they simply cannot close the distance or get away from them.
    • 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 respectively.
  • 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.
  • More Dakka: Garrisoning towers and Castles will increase the number of arrows that they fire. The catch is that the Garrisoning Units can only be Villagers or Archers. The Teutons can fix this with Crenellations which allows garrisoned infantry to fire arrows.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • There's a taunt with a pun on the phrase "beat them back to the stone age". It's a reference to the first game:
    "I'll beat you back to Age of Empires."
    • Another taunt re-uses the sound effect used to represent a priest converting a unit.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: La Hire, French for "The Wrath".
    • The Tower of Agony in the final Mission of El Cid has 47 Attack and 16 Range which allows it to wreck any naval unit with frightening efficiency. It's almost the sole reason why you need to have Cannon Galleons in the first place.
  • Narrator All Along: The guy in the tavern narrating the Barbarossa campaign was Henry The Lion.
  • Nerf:
    • 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.
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: When all of the gold deposits are exhausted, the trading carts/cogs and markets/docks become even more important weak points that need constant protection. Because of this, the outcome of a long multiplayer game can boil down to whichever team loses their trade first.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile:
    • Bombard Cannons, Bombard Towers, and Cannon Galleons all fire a highly damaging cannonball that is laughably easy to dodge with micromanagement. However, the Spanish don't suffer from this as their cannonballs are fast to the point of being almost unavoidable.
    • Trebuchets sling a large stone that can kill almost every unit of the game in one hit. Granted that you can find a unit that is holding still long enough for the stone to reach it.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Villagers will repair buildings, ships, and siege weapons by hammering them.
  • 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Korean Turtle Ships in real life were actually much more powerful and faster than they're represented in this game. The unit designers intentionally gave them lower stats to give the other civs a competitive chance in naval battles as the Turtle Ships would've been the most broken unit in the whole game.
  • 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.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • The final French Mission has you taking the role of Joan's successor and making the English pay dearly for killing their messiah.
    • 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.
  • Rule of Fun:
    • 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. He reappears again as the King Wolf of Norway in the Vindlandsaga.
  • 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...
  • Shame If Something Happened: the very point of a scenario in Attila the Hun's campaign against Constantinople.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Priests and missionaries.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Happens to Barbarossa's Italian enemies in the Barbarossa campaign. Instead of shooting, he has all but one of them blinded - the last one only has his nose cut off so he can lead the rest of his party back.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There's a Saladin mission in which you get to kill the master of the Knights Templar. When you do, he says this:
  • 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 scenario, 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 Persian Shah in the first scenario will threaten you if you trespass into his territory and vow to have you destroyed when you attack him. It's pretty much all talk and no show if you already allied with the Scythians.
  • Speaking Simlish: This series gaves a nod to this by having two preset voice chat commands taken from the first game, one of which is the sound made when a priest tries to convert one of your units. Most units have soundbites of their native languages, though.
  • 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.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Petards and Bombard Cannons.
  • Suicide Attack: You CAN kill other units with the Petard, it's just not efficient enough to be practical. The same can be said for the Demolition Ship.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity:
    • Joan of Arc Scenario 5: "The Siege of Paris" starts you with a massive army of elite units. You'll probably lose them all before the first part of the scenario is over.
    • Barbarossa Scenario 5: You must get 10 units of your 70-strong army (14 cavalry, 38 infantry, 10 archers, 5 siege engines, 3 monks) across the Saracen-infested Sea of Marmara to the Hospitaller Camp in Turk-infested Anatolia. Easier said than done.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Saladin is the Muslim fighting the crusaders; Barbarossa at a certain point enters the Crusades and fights Saladin.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Infantry > Cavalry > Archers > Infantry.
  • 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.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • The AI will not play fair with resources on the hardest difficulty.
    • 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.) Despite their inaccuracy and short range, the swords are frighteningly good at killing villagers and destroying buildings. They're also incredibly good against cavalry and an army of them can turn the War Elephants into target practice.
  • 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."
  • Units Not to Scale:
    • When putting people inside Transport Ships. One of the most egregious examples is to be the Persians and load your War Elephants onto transport ships. They do not look at all like they should fit.
    • Also, units don't have separate sizes. This was lampshaded by an image of the Age of Empires king with the text "10 Elephants Fit in a Boat. 11 Archers Don't."
    • Lampshaded in this Awkward Zombie strip.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
    • Not enough forces to attack the enemy's army and fortifications? Ignore them! Raid its base and kill its unarmed villagers and traders, crippling its economy! Come back before it recovers and level up everything!
    • An enemy army coming? Go for the unarmed religious leaders first!
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • Sheep are very useful in multiplayer for scouting.
    • A Jaguar Warrior can defeat a Teutonic Knight. (A Wooden Club studded with Volcanic Glass can cut through Plate Armor and Chainmail)
    • Battering Rams are effective against Ships. And Catapults.
    • The Saracens (and in The Forgotten, the Mayans after researching "obsidian arrows") have archer attack bonus against buildings. The Aztecs and Incas in The Forgotten have technologies ("atlatl" and "Andean sling") that make skirmishers actually threatening to non-archers.
    • Experiments with enemy ships trapped on one tile of shallow water have shown that all melee units, including the lowly villager, can damage and destroy naval units. What's also surprising about this is that spearmen (anti-cavalry) get bonus damage against fishing ships, galleys, and fire ships.
  • We Have Reserves:
    • 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.
  • Wham Episode: Nearly every campaign has one.
    • La Noche Triste in the Aztec campaign. The Spanish have completley taken over Tenochtitlan, and are building a freaking Wonder, (which will cause you to lose if completed) while you're reduced to a scattered bunch of ragtag warriors. And even when you retake the city, Montezuma dies. Pretty much sets the town for the Downer Ending that follows, though the next mission is a Hope Spot.
    • "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.
    • "Barbarossa's March": You've made it to Anatolia after all the hell that the Saracens and Turks have given you and help yourself to the cool water of a river to slake your thirst and wash away the dirt and sweat. Oops. Barbarossa accidentally drowns himself and his Crusader Army evaporates to a tiny fraction of its original size.
  • 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.
  • You Have Researched Breathing:
    • Lead The Target: The "Ballistics" upgrade.
    • 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.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • 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.

    Creator/Hidden Path EntertainmentCounter-Strike
Age of EmpiresCreator/Ensemble StudiosAge of Empires III
Age Of Empires IVideoGame/Age of EmpiresAge of Mythology
The Age Of DecadenceUsefulNotes/SteamAge of Empires III
Age Of Empires IReal-Time StrategyAge of Mythology
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan WarPlay Station 2 Airforce Delta
Sprite/Polygon MixImageSource/Video GamesDamage Is Fire
Age Of Empires ITeen RatingAge of Empires III

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