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Age Of Empires III is the fourth installment (counting the Spin-Off series Age of Mythology as another series) in the Age of Empires franchise. It was released in October of 2005, and is set during the colonization of the New World, with seven European civilizations (Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian and German) and the Ottoman Empire as playable civilizations. There's also a version for the N-Gage phone made by Giu Mobile in 2009.

While the gameplay remains similar to previous entries in the series, several new features were introduced here. For instance, the Home City feature allows shipments of troops, technology or resources to be delivered during normal gameplay. In order to be able to send shipments, the player must gain experience points which are obtained during normal gameplay. The ability to ally with native tribes was also added, with the opportunity to train units from said tribes to add to your military forces. Also, unlike in previous games, the civilizations are far more varied, with more unique units, technologies and bonuses, along with several completely unique Home City shipments. And, akin to Mythology's Age advancement system, the player must choose a Politician, who provides special bonuses, in order to advance to another Age.

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The game features a single-player campaign made of three acts (Blood, Ice and Steel), which follows the story of the Black family over 3 centuries as they battle against the Circle of Ossus and take part in several historical events, with the Fountain of Youth as a key plot point across the three acts. The acts are narrated by Amelia Black, the protagonist of Steel.

The first expansion pack, Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs, was released in 2006 and featured three of the native civilizations of the first game as playable: the Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois. It also had several other additions, such as new buildings (the Saloon and the Native Embassy), units (gunpowder cavalry, petards and spies), and the chance to advance to an alternative fifth era for the European civilizations through a Revolution against the mother country. The three new civilizations also had unique twists, such as the firepit (where villagers can dance in order to obtain a bonus, like creating healing priests, gaining more experience and raising the population limit) and unique big buttons for many buildings.

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The single-player campaign, this time composed of two acts, (Fire and Shadow) extended the Black family's lore by focusing on Amelia's father and son respectively, with Amelia starring again as the narrator and providing a cameo appearance in Shadow.

Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, the second Expansion Pack, was developed this time by Big Huge Games and Ensemble Studios, and was released in 2007. This Expansion Pack added another three new civilizations to the game, this time from the Far East (Imperial China, Japan and India). It introduced new unique bonuses for these civilizations, like the Export resource and the Consulate, a building where Asian players can buy European armies and technologies.

This time, the single-player campaign is set in three different historical events: the unification of Japan, the Chinese Treasure Voyages and the Sepoy Mutiny in India.

After the demise of Ensemble Studios, Robot Entertainment (a development house made of former Ensemble employees) is developing the updates and maintaining the ESO service.

The game has a character sheet in need of some wiki magic love.

Age of Empires III, The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties give examples of:

  • A Commander Is You:
    • Europeans: The vanilla factions of the game.
      • Spanish: They have the easiest to learn skills (Generalist) since they have the most military units available in the game. They get Home City shipments earlier (Economist) and their units themselves can be used any time, anywhere (Balanced). One of their best units is their Lancer cavalry which specializes in taking down infantry.
      • British: They get an extra settler whenever a Manor note  is constructed (Industrial) for that quick economic bonus early in the game. Their military units themselves are Balanced that they're not good at everything, but not bad at it either with the exception of having one of the best musketeer units in the game. They also have the Ranger element in long-ranged attacks with their Longbowmen and Congreve Rockets.
      • French: Their Cuirassier cavalry have high hitpoints, high damage, and gives Splash Damage (Brute Force), and their Coureur des Bois can gather 25% more resources than their settler counterparts (Economist). Finally, their bonuses with allying the natives gives a Spammer advantage with a horde of native units.
      • Portuguese: They begin as a slow from a beginning but powerful late in the game (Technical), they lack settler card bonuses, thus leading a slow economic build up but if players can memorize the map using the Portuguese explorer's ability to use the spyglass, and get a Covered Wagon with every advanced age. That means, players with experience in micromanaging, in the late game can spread their base around for resources while having great naval bonuses, excellent dragoons (Ranged anti-cavalry) and light infantry, and their musketeers that rival the British. They also have Ranger elements for having the Organ Gun, an early ancestor of the machine gun, and have good ranged units like their musketeers, dragoons, and their cassadors (Which sacrifices what little hitpoints they have for increased damage).
      • Dutch: They are also slow to start (Technical) since their settlers costs Coins instead of Food, but they're able to construct Banks that generate Coins to compensate this. Later on they get the best halberdiers the game has to offer, and one of the best naval city card bonuses including the powerful Fluytnote  ship. Their Coin generation gives them an Economic edge later in the game when they can afford the powerful mercenaries and their Ruyter ranged cavalry (which costs 1 population instead of the standard 2) makes them Spammer as well.
      • Russians: The Spammer faction in the game since most of their units are weak but are created quicker than their counterparts and they arrive in large groups. The downsides besides their weaker stats (Cossack is cheaper but weaker version of Hussar, and strelets is the cheapest and weakest unit for example) is their requirements for more resources at once. They also have elements of Guerrilla with their Oprichnik cavalry having bonus against villagers and buildings and Brute Force since they are capable of overwhelming their enemies in numbers.
      • Germans: Another Spammer faction since they get a free Uhlan cavalry with every Home City shipment. The Uhlan has the highest damage but also the lowest hitpoints of non-mercenary melee cavalry. Another factor is their discount towards mercenary shipments, which means they can get mercenaries earlier in the game. The Germans have Brute Force capabilities with their Doppelsoldners carrying BFSes that can take out other hand infantry and cavalry, and their War Wagons are ranged cavalry with extra hitpoints, able to survive longer in battle. They also qualify as Ranger since they get Royal Guard upgrades to their Skirmisher which gives them more hitpoints and damage.
      • Ottomans: They are the Unit Specialist towards artillery and Ottoman players can create artillery units (Bomb throwing Grenadiers) earlier than the rest of the other factions. Their only infantry, however are the Janissaries and their answer to the Skirmisher (The Abus Gunners) can only be created in the Artillery Foundry. However, they do get decent cavalry as well since they get Royal Guard upgrades to the Hussar, and they can ship the powerful Spahi heavy cavalry which are capable of Area of Effect damagenote . The Ottomans are also Unconventional since they get free settlers at the catch of them being automatically generated.
    • Native Americans: All the three civilizations have aspects of the Guerrilla considering some of their units have the ability to use stealth and ambush the enemy. They are: The Aztec Jaguar Prowl Knightsnote , the Iroquois Forest Prowlersnote , and the Sioux Tashunke Prowlersnote .
      • Aztecs: Brute Force since their Skull Knights are heavy infantry that specializes in Area of Effect damage, and the Noble Hut units are slower, expensive, but deal tons of damage. Plus, they easily get a large amount of units (Spammer) as War Hut units are cheap, fleet of their feet, and can be massed in a short period of time and their technologies instantly grant the player a large army of units with a push of the button. The Noble Hut units cost more but they include the javelin throwing Eagle Runner Knights that counters cavalry, the hard hitting Jaguar Prowler Knights that are capable of stealth, and the Arrow Knights with their long range bonuses towards buildings and artillery and their answer to siege units. But they are definitely Unit Specialists in that their entire ground troops consists of infantry (cavalry was unknown in ancient Mexico) and only three of their units are ranged. They do make it up for having the best navy of the three Native civilizations but the canoes are still weaker to the European and Asian counterparts.
      • Iroquois: They are the only Native civilization with artillery and siege units turning The Iroquois's gameplay to be very similar to the vanilla European factions, qualifying them as Balanced. Their infantry are balanced and above average including Forest Prowlers, Skirmishers that can use stealth, but they have poor cavalry and a mediocre navy. Their siege units are unique (a battering ram, a portable wall for shielding, and one of the fastest cannon unit). They're also qualified for Ranger since the Kanya horseman and the ram are their only melee unit. They can also spawn travois (think man-pulled carts, only without wheels, and dragged on the ground) infinitely from fire pit and receive them as the age up, so they are Industrialist without question.
      • Sioux: They are Unit Specialists in cavalry , with some mediocre infantry units as support. Their strongest unit, the Dog Soldier is the third strongest (second with all the upgrades) melee cavalry. They also have a rich history of rifle usage so half of their available units are long ranged (Ranger). Finally, the Sioux don't need houses and start the game with a full population of 200, and they can send Admiralty (which raises naval unit limit) twice, more than enough to qualify them as Spammer in land and water. Their greatest weakness though is their lack of artillery and their weak but numerous navy, though their "Fire Dance" specialty gives them bonus points towards buildings and ships to make it up.
    • Asians: Added in the Asian Dynasties expansion:
      • Chinese: Spammer/Brute Force. The Chinese have a higher population cap than any other faction, 220 instead of 200. Much like the Russians, the Chinese train their units in groups, called Banner Armies, but the unique thing about Banner Armies is they are made up of preset combinations of more than one unit and this means the Chinese can quickly train a combat-ready formation of men when the need for them arises. One Chinese wonder spawns free Banner Armies while another spawns free artillery. They have the smallest and cheapest artillery (hand mortar) which are only effective against building or ship but can be easily massed for Zerg Rush. However, many Chinese infantry and cavalry units are inferior in combat to their western counterparts or equal but more expensive, but it's made up by the fact that some of their artillery and special units can be quite strong. The Chinese also field a fairly powerful navy, though many ships are quite pricey.
      • Indians: Technical/Unit Specialist (heavy cavalry). The Indians have a well-balanced military force but exceptional cavalry units, fielding camel troops and war elephants, with the strongest melee and ranged heavy cavalry (mahout lancer and howdah). But they truly are Technical, since they have 2 wonders with unique abilities while other Asian nations have 1, workers cost wood rather than food and are received for free with each shipment, cows and other herdables (especially llama) generate XP instead of being slaughtered for food, and their home city shipment are more unique and game changing (make cavalry produce food/wood and transform villagers into an army of musketmen for examples).
      • Japanese: Elitist/Brute Force. The polar opposite of the Chinese, the Japanese field small armies of exceptionally strong but expensive units, such as Samurai being superior swordsmen with good stats and a splash-damage attack. A central unit of the Japanese army is the Daimyo, who grants bonuses to surrounding troops and can even train certain units in the middle of the field. The weakness of the Japanese is that their economy relies on Shrines which attract nearby animals and give a trickle of resources based on how many animals are nearby. Japanese players in the early game need to be careful about casualties and placing of Shrines for maximum effect. The Japanese can also send many Home City cards twice.
  • A.I. Breaker: The AI has no problems with basic tasks, such as gathering resources or training humongous numbers of troops, especially on higher difficulties, but struggles a lot when they require either some creativity or... well, basic thinking. Utilising livestock, protecting villagers, building walls and effectively breaking through enemy walls, as well as successful naval assaults — are all far beyond usual computer personalities' capabilities. Not to mention that they are extremely vulnerable to certain tricks, which even beginners don't hesitate to abuse: whenever an AI settler placing down a building is harassed, its constructions are immediately „cancelled”, as in self-destroyed, by the non-human player, who also seem to pay plenty of attention to demolishing every single wall pillar of their opponent, regardless of its (non-) importance. Remember the creativity part from above? Don't expect the AI to innovate any new attacking strategies, patterns or usually even paths on the spot, which in turn makes for extremely-straightforward fighting off land. Averted by numerous fan modifications — only to a certain extent, however, due to original game limitations.
  • All There in the Manual: Original game boxes featured extended guides showcasing comprehensive history background behind the game settings and civilizations (partly present in the game), three unique strategies for each of the eight European nations, units' costs and statistics comparison, and more. Product developers also published an art book called "Art of Empires" with plenty of magnificent paintings and other graphical depictions down-scaled in the game, with a lot of extra content, including high-resolution portraits, drawing concepts, and cut-out material. Pretty much absent for the expansions, which came with simple manuals only and were released after the premiere of the art book.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • The Knights of St. John actually did set up shop in the Caribbean!
    • Egyptian Mamluk mercenaries in America? Not as far-fetched as it sounds.
    • How about mercenary ronin/samurai? (still doesn't explain the ninja, besides the obvious)
    • At different points, different German states had colonies or attempted to settle colonies in South America and the Caribbean. And there is also the fact that the kings of Great Britain during the 18th century were also princes of Hannover, which explains the Hessian mercenaries in the American Revolution and the earliest wave of German immigrants to North America.
    • Pacasmayo is a real city in Peru, although unlike the one in the game, it is a coastal one and was founded by the Spanish in 1775. The game's Pacasmayo is probably inspired by Vilcabamba, Machu Picchu and Paititi.
    • Alright, the Ottomans only made one Great Bombard right after the end of the Middle Ages, and bombards fell out of fashion in Europe by 1600... but the Ottomans still used them as a desperate measure when the British attacked Constantinople in 1807. And they won.
  • Anyone Can Die: Armies aside, a fair amount of main and supporting characters bite the dust across the campaigns. The countdown includes Francisco Delgado and Alain Magnan in Blood; Stuart Black, John Black, and Warwick in Ice; Major Cooper and Pierre Beaumont in Steel; Sven Kuechler in Fire; William Holme and George Armstrong Custer in Shadow; Daimyoes Mototada and Ishida (among many others) in Japan; Admiral Jinhai in China; and Colonel Edwardson in India, and one can assume that the Leaders of the Resistance also die, because historically, that war of independence failed. That's not counting the characters who died of old age in the decades that pass between acts. Inverted in the game itself, where the vast majority of the heroes doesn't die upon losing all of their hit-points, but is critically wounded, temporarily disabled, and can be recovered after some time.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Given how Ages work, this is inevitable.
    • The languages used, especially in the campaigns. It can be jarring, for instance, to hear the campaign Anglo-American heroes speak (more or less) Modern English while standard British/American units still talk as though stuck in the 16th Century.
    • Some of the factions give off this vibe. The Chinese, for instance, are a mix of both the Ming and Manchu/Qing Dynasties. While the British can have longbowmen fighting alongside musketeers as late as the Imperial Age.
      • The Spanish most powerful units are based on 16th century models, despite being unlockable in the Fortress age (roughly equivalent to the 17th) or later.
      • The Portuguese most powerful units are their Dragoons and Caçadores (unique skirmishers), both referencing their army in the Napoleonic Wars, but also the Rabauld, a primitive multi-barreled cannon that went out of fashion in the late 15th century.
    • The first campaign, Blood, begins with "the Ottoman attack on Malta", presumably the great Ottoman siege of 1565 (although the game never gives a year or references any people or locations involved in the 1565 siege, besides Malta as a whole). Right after, Morgan travels to the New World where he helps an Aztec village fend off a Spanish assault. And it isn't a Hidden Elf Village situation, because the local chief tells the player to hold until a relief army arrives from Tenochtitlan — which fell to the Spanish in 1521. Furthermore, the Knights of St. John received Malta as a fief from Charles I of Spain in 1530, nine years after the conquest of the Aztecs. Then after a brief stop in Havana, Morgan and Lizzie land in Florida, which is heavily fortified by the Spanish (first Spanish settlement was in 1565 and first fort in 1566), and capture the Spanish Treasure Fleet (also established in 1566).
      • This campaign-only Hospitaller faction doesn't use the Hospitaller cross by the way, but a fictional one over an indigo background, and the units wear blue. This is presumably based on the black uniforms worn by the Hospitallers during the Crusades because the game doesn't have black as a faction color. However, the Hospitallers switched to red banners and uniforms in the late 13th century.
    • The next campaign, Ice, disregards all plausibility by having Morgan's fourth son Stuart and grandson John living in North America during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). They don't even look old. The only possible explanation is that Morgan drank from the Fountain of Youth, but then, why would its effects be a mystery to his great-great-granddaughter, Amelia? While still in the Seven Years War, John enlists the help of miners handling dynamite sticks (patented 1867), and uses barrels very clearly labeled "TNT" (1863) and a Plunger Detonator (1878) to cause an avalanche.
    • The beginning of "Steel", set five years after Nathaniel's death, is firmly backdated to 1817 by "Fire" stating that he died in 1812. However, Amelia is in charge of a railroad company that is building railways for the US government in what appears to be Texas, with plans to expand all over the West Coast, and at one point they have to defend a fort from the Mexican Army (which is played by Spanish fielding swordsmen and armored lancers and still waving the colonial Cross of Burgundy flag, unlike how Amelia's company flies the American flag despite being based on the British faction). Mexico became independent in 1821, the first locomotive in the US arrived in 1830, Texas joined the Union in 1846, the US took the West Coast in 1849, and no railroads were built west of the Mississippi before 1850. Amelia's railroad builders also throw dynamite.
    • It gets even worse in The War Chiefs, where in addition to the Aztecs being incomprensibly elevated to playable faction, the second act campaign ("Shadow") goes about twenty years after the vanilla's game timeframe, to the Sioux-American wars, yet still throws in pikemen, musketeers and hussars at the Battle of Little Bighorn. In another scenario, the main characters must defend the Black Hills from a Spanish mining company made of horse lancers and swordsmen in 16th century armor, and still waving the Cross of Burgundy flag.
    • The AI leaders rarely coincided in time with each other or their units and flags. See Artistic License – History and Symbology Research Failure.
    • All the cutscenes in the campaigns use the same 18th century musketeer model to play random soldiers, regardless if the campaign takes place in the 16th or 19th centuries.
  • Anti-Grinding: The introduction of RPG Elements, in the form of the Home City customised outside of the actual game and its cards that directly translate to the in-game shipments, also brought the expected problems, solved in the following ways:
    • Single- and multiplayer matches have a cap of 30,000 XP per match.
    • Single- and multiplayer Home Cities are separate, meaning that the amount of experience in one doesn't affect the other.
    • Any newly-created Home City has a starting level of 1 (10 in The Asian Dynasties). However, whenever a player reaches the 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 threshold, they are able to make another one starting from that point. Say, you open the game for the first time and establish the Spanish city of Seville at level 10. You grind it up to 75, until you get bored and want to experience a different nation — you then make yourself a nice Home City for the French, starting at the level of 60. It's not that straightforward, though, as due to unspecified reasons the vanilla civilizations along with native ones form a separate set than the Asian nations, meaning that an advanced Home City of Japan doesn't provide any boost for the headquarters of the Sioux or, for that matter, the British.
    • After the AI resigned from the game, killing any remaining units no longer gives any experience from them.
    • Some campaign maps have a cap on the amount of experience you can gather, such as "Respect" (the sixth mission in Ice, where Kanyenke and John try to gain the favor of the Lakota Tribe Chiefs). Other campaign missions, by way of being timed missions, don't let the player level up a lot, such as the first and sixth mission of Blood ("Breakout" and "A Pirate's Help") and the first and seventh mission of Ice ("Defend the Colony" and "Warwick's Stronghold").
    • The requirement of grinding and the measures taken to prevent possible abuse of that are one of the most criticised features of Age of Empires III and the main target of complaints from the people not entirely familiarised with the product. Oftentimes it has been argued that in order to compete on an equal footing even with more-experienced players — something you'd expect from a classic RTS — beginners have to dedicate a lot of effort to get the essential cards unlocked, which in turn makes some serious grinding necessary. While the newly-implemented and highly-controversial Home City system has been praised by veteran players for adding the strategical depth that other franchises may lack, the general consensus is that it's indeed discouraging and unnecessary for newbies to struggle with getting all the XP needed, and should either not take place or be drastically shortened. Thus, there are a couple of simple workarounds available, discovered or invented by the populus:
      • Single-player Home Cities' game files can easily be edited — changing a few lines provides you with unlimited number of XP, unlocking all the cards in the process.
      • Cheat codes: amongst which one specific — "Nova & Orion", giving 10,000 XP to the player. The XP cap per match is still in play, and in multiplayer settings allowing the cheats to be used in game prevents any eventual XP profit from affecting your Home City, which validates the trope.
      • Specific settings in multiplayer games: Post-Imperial starting age, fast game speed, and a willing partner. Participants of such an undertaking would usually build high-XP buildings — mainly plantations (160 XP — "Build", 320 XP — "Kill") — to later destroy them, providing a profit to each other in a blink of an eye.
      • The fan-made XP mod, implemented into the most popular community patch, requiring a willing partner and a 2-minute multiplayer game, after which a player is provided with enough XP to unlock most of his cards.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The "George Crushington" cheat unit. It's a giant, hopping bust of Washington that headbutts enemies to death with a BIFF! or a ZOINK! and shoots fireballs from its eyes.
    Introduced later: "CHECK IN YOUR POCKET. THE QUARTER IS ME, TOO."
  • Arrows on Fire: Archers pull these out when attacking buildings, as well as those native dudes in Canoes during naval combat.
  • The Artifact:
    • The Aztecs, Iroquois and Lakota (Sioux) still appear as minor tribes in the original game's campaign after being upgraded to playable factions.
    • Originally, the Dog Soldier was a special unit available at a Lakota trading post, besides the Lakota Axe Rider. When the Lakota became the playable Sioux, the Dog Soldier became a special unit of the Sioux and their minor tribe place was taken by the Cheyenne. Historically, Dog Soldiers were Cheyenne warriors who sometimes allied with the Sioux, but the game Cheyenne can't make them.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI just loves building armies entirely composed of Mercenaries in the Asian Dynasties expansion, ignoring the fact that Mercenaries are incredibly expensive and easily outperformed one-on-one by plain, ordinary units in the later ages.
    • Also, the AI players rarely upgrade their regular military units or research economic technologies, have trouble landing putting their units on ships, and never, ever build walls.
    • AI players never fix damaged buildings.
  • Artistic License – History: Comes with the territory as an RTS, but the portrayal of Napoleon is an interesting example. Napoleon speaks with a stereotypical French accent but he grew up speaking Corsu and Italian and spoke French with a heavy Italian accent, something mentioned in the history section of the game. And that's ignoring that he is commanding Quebecois coureurs-de-bois to set up an American colony under the Bourbon Fleur-de-Lis flag.
  • Ascended Extra: The Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois were just native tribes in the original game. They were made playable in The WarChiefs and both acts of its campaign focus on the Iroquois (Fire) and Sioux (Shadow).
  • Ascended Meme: One of the pre-recorded taunts players can send each other is a hilariously British-accented "I'm in your base, killing your d00dz".
  • Author Appeal/Creator Thumbprint: One of the chief developers is an Aztec fanboy. This is basically why the Aztecs were upgraded to playable faction in the first expansion rather than the Inca, as most fans had expected.
    • In the first campaign, the Aztecs are the only ones who know the location of the Fountain of Youth, despite it being in Florida as per the myth and not Mexico, and you join them against the Spanish. Both Morgan and Alain show their dislike for the Spanish conquistadors and their actions, in spite of the fact that the two are members of a crusading order (that at the time of the game, was a vassal of the Spanish King).
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The mercenaries are more powerful than the average units they are based on note  but they either cost too many coin or too many population to rely on them completely. Unless you're the Dutch in the later ages, where you have more than enough coin to field an entire mercenary army. In the end, you'll use more of your regular units throughout.
    • Going for a Revolution while playing as a European faction instead of advancing through the Imperial Age is cheaper with a 1000 each of food, coin, and wood compared to the 4000 food and 4000 coin. At first, you will unlock many unique units such as Gatling Guns, Ironclad Warships, and Colonial Militia units. However, doing so will permanently turn all your settlers into Colonial Militia, leaving players out with no way to gather resources unless they have a factory and trading posts ready prior to revolting. Unlike the Ragnarok god power in Age of Mythology (where this gameplay mechanic is inspired from), you are also barred from creating new settlers to replace your transformed ones. Furthermore, players will lose their Home City Cards in replace of new ones.
    • Advancing to the Imperial Age will grant players the most upgrades, but not only is it costly as mentioned above, but it's more effective just to use the resources at the Industrial Age.
    • On the unit level, the Heavy Cannon is a ludicrously powerful artillery piece, with only a few capable of wiping out entire opposing armies of infantry, and even doing reasonably well against cavalry. The downside is that it can only be created at Factories, which produce a trickle of resource - that is of your choice - automatically... unless you choose to make that Factory produce Heavy Cannons. Also, due to a prohibitively long production time for even a single unit, you pretty much have to have the bonus Factory shipment to create them at any reasonable rate, at which point you are much better off just letting the Factories help supplement the resources necessary to build a regular army.
  • Badass Longcoat: The shotgun-carrying Renegados, and in the campaign, Nathaniel, Chayton and Holme. The technology "Great Coat" increases your Settlers's hit points, regardless of climate and the fact that their clothing doesn't change.
  • Bandito: Some are available as mercenaries, while others are present as treasure guardians.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Black, Grizzly and Polar bears are the strongest wild animals in the original game, and will kick the ass of your explorer, once he has used his One-Hit Kill on one of them, if they are in groups. In Asian Dynasties, even the pandas cannot be trusted.
  • Beast of Battle / Right-Hand Attack Dog:
    • The Spanish explorer can train War Dogs. Other European factions get only one powerful "explorer dog" with a card improving their explorer, instead, but like the explorer, this dog will be knocked out if his HPs drop to zero instead of killed.
    • The Native American factions can ship packs of attack animals from their home cities (Jaguars for the Aztecs, Wolves and Coyotes for the Sioux, and Black Bears for the Iroquois). Further cards can allow Aztec and Sioux War Chiefs to train jaguars and coyotes directly.
    • All factions can train cougars (the four-legged kind) if they research "Jungle Animal Lore" at a Tupi trading post.
    • In addition, War Chiefs can turn any treasure guardian to their side, be it human or animal.
    • Indian monks can train White Tigers after being upgraded, which are more powerful than normal tigers and the land animals with the most powerful attack overall (bears and rhinos beat them in HPs, however).
    • The Indians have a war elephant type for almost every task.
    • In the Campaign, the Circle has a thing for guardian white wolves and jaguars and Beaumont kills Cooper by siccing a pair of wolves on him.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Anything dealing with the very existence of the Circle of Ossus in III:
      • The main reason for the Great Siege of Malta, as seen in Blood, was so the Ottoman Turks could get info on the Circle of Ossus, the Fountain of Youth, and the New World.
      • The Seven Years' War in Ice was an attempt by the Circle of Ossus to obtain the Fountain of Youth by using the Russian Czar to conquer the Americas for them while the Western colonial powers were distracted and weakened from killing each other.
    • The Ming Chinese in the China campaign landed in the Americas and fought a secret war amongst themselves before erasing almost all traces of their presence.
    • And then, there are more "mundane" things like Turkish outposts in South America, the knocking off of an entire Spanish Treasure Fleet, the course of the Seven Years' War and Custer's Last Stand, and how many historical characters or organizations get involved in the plot.
  • BFG: The Monitor, the Ottoman Great Bombard, the mercenary Lil' Bombard and the Royal Cannon. Guaranteed to ruin someone's day when they start firing. Ottoman Abus guns are portable cannons and the only infantry to deal siege-type damage.
  • BFS:
    • The Chinese Changdao (literally "long sword"). If you're not paying attention, you might think these guys are actually carrying a spear.
    • Honorable mentions go to the Doppelsoldner, Landsknecht and Boneguard's two-handed-swords, the several Japanese units using katanas, and the pirate and corsair's Sinister Scimitar.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In "Breakout", from Blood, Alain Magnan comes with his cavalry to drive the Ottoman forces from Malta.
    • In "Temple of the Aztecs", also from Blood, the Aztec forces come to kick the Spanish out from their lands.
    • In "Defend the Colony", from Ice, John's Mercenaries come to defend the colony after the time is out.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A peculiar subversion. Native speakers of French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, Hindi (Indians), Mandarin (Chinese) and Japanese will have little trouble understanding the phrases used by these civilisations, as they use the modern variant of their respective languages, complete with regional dialectsnote . Native English speakers, on the other hand, are stuck with the British speaking in 16th century Early Modern English, though the American and British hero units in the campaigns and the Outlaw Riflemen mercenaries do speak Modern English.
  • Bling of War: Your units will wear increasingly colorful armor/uniforms as you upgrade them. Also a case where Informed Equipment is averted.
    • Indian have unique unit called mansabdar which increase the damage of nearby respective unit (mansabdar urumi for urumi swordsman for example). Since they need to be close while still separable, they usually have more shiny (gold shiny) uniform.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Downplayed. Units do have to reload, but they never run out of ammunition to reload with. They also have an unlimited supply of torches to throw at buildings.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Characters often explicitly refer to the fact that they are part of a computer game.
    • One specific example from the campaigns: in the Saratoga mission of Fire, Nathaniel Black mentions advancing to the Fortress Age.
  • Call That a Formation?: Generally averted, as the different formations available all have their uses in certain situations.
  • Captain Obvious: At the very beginning of the first campaign, "Blood", a crossbowman tells the protagonist, Morgan Black that the Ottomans have landed... as Morgan was looking over a cliff watching hundreds of them, including Sahin, laying siege to the fort!
  • Chickification: In "Ice", Nonahkee is an archer with healing abilities who accompanies John to the Great Lakes despite his opposition because "she does what she wants to". She also appears to be the leader of her tribe, at least while Kanyenke is away. In "Fire", she's a Neutral Female that Nathaniel and Kanyenke must rescue from the Hessians holding her prisoner.
  • Classic Cheat Code: tuck tuck tuck.
  • Composite Character: Sven Kuechler takes the place of several Hessian commanders in the American Revolutionary War, appearing in a commanding position in Trenton, Saratoga and Morristown.
  • The Constant: The Moon shape of the lake remains when Amelia visits it 250 years later, but now it's been drained and become a muddy swamp. The giant fixed gun is still in the same spot and can be made operative again.
  • Creator Provincialism: Abandons the Earth Is a Battlefield aspect of II and focuses in colonial and revolutionary era America, at least before The Asian Dynasties came along.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Present due to rock-paper-scissors nature of unit balance, but mostly downplayed.
    • However, there are some unit types with low base attack damage but high multipliers against certain troops, meaning that the former are pretty rubbish against anything but the latter. Most notable examples include:
      • Spies: well, they kill single explorers, war chiefs and heroes. And that's pretty much it... They do get a small bonus against natives, though!
      • Culverins: nearly useless against anything other than ships or other artillery.
      • Ranged ("light") infantry — skirmishers, crossbowmen, archers and alike: with excellent ranged damage against infantry and light cavalry, but weak to anything else and with terrible melee combat.
      • Light cavalry — dragoons, cavalry archers and the like: trained to deal with heavy cavalry and artillery; downplayed, as their mobility, not-that-terrible melee attack and sometimes ranged resistance come in handy in many circumstances.
    • Subverted with certain units that are deemed overpowered by the players. Those are supposed to counter or be countered by others, but are not due to their sheer strength or other deciding factors. They serve as the counter system breakers — game changers.
      • Cuirassiers: loved by many, hated by just as much. Judgement depends on whether you play as France or not. With all their upgrades stacked, they simply crush anything they touch, even heavy infantry or light cavalry.
      • Ashigaru: right, they still die to skirmishers and cannons, as long as they're "outranged"... The thing is, after some improvements are done, they don't take too long, to say the least, to catch up due to their movement speed, which is enormous for an infantry unit. Has it already been mentioned they can deal with walls with ease, too?
      • Genitours — the Portuguese royal guard dragoons: having sent the eponymous home-city shipment, the player gets a light cavalry unit with 20 range — which is as much as most skirmishers have. It gives them a crucial edge in combat with the only unit type that stands a chance of effectively winning against them. Oh, and the former are almost twice as fast as the latter, which means they can swiftly retreat from any engagement they might have otherwise lost or catch their opponents off guard with flexible positioning, flanking, trapping and raiding. Plus, they're one of the best tools to use against Cuirassiers and Ashigaru. Talk about an all-round horseman!
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Although the AI is overall quite dumb in this game and doesn't fulfil its efficiency or even cheating potential, it has some unprecedented ways of getting help in the campaign. In many scenarios, such as "The Fountain of Youth?" from Blood, "Warwick's Stronghold" from Ice, or "The Lost Spanish Gold" from Steel, when the player is about to destroy an opponent's base, which is not his task (like in the first mission from the aforementioned, where one's supposed to destroy the eponymous object, not defeat the Circle of Ossus entirely), large and powerful armies tend to spawn there, which is caused by a scenario trigger. Although perhaps not played straight entirely, human players are not able to do so!
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • The first two games have one and two-button interfaces. This series, only one.
    • The priests in the vanilla games do not automatically go to units and heal them, they have a skill button for it instead, which confuses players who shifted between the vanilla AOE3 to other AOE games-not to mention being very impractical due to the small area of effect and long recharge time. Fixed in the expansions.
    • In contrast to previous games: Camels don't have an anticavalry bonus, mounted archers and gunners are better against other cavalry than against infantry, and all melee infantry (and musketeers) get a bonus against cavalry, not just the one with spears.
  • Damage Is Fire: Justified. Historically, professional armies (before the invention of electricity or reliable lighting) carried various unlit wooden torches with them into battle tucked into various places that they could light up and use in night fighting or when they had to burn something. The number a given soldier will use in short succession is still ludicrous, through.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several characters and AI personalities, especially Queen Elizabeth (British) and Frederick the Great (Germans).
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The British army John and Kanyenke defeat in the fourth level of Ice. But there's also another British army which subverts this: the one led by Warwick, a member of the Circle, who is also a renegade from the British army.
    • The Chinese explorer is a Shaolin master who can convert defeated enemy units into disciples.
  • Desperation Attack: If you've unlocked it in the XP ladder, you can unleash either one or (after you unlocked another) two waves of "minutemen", which have middling HP and decent ranged attack, their main advantage being the massive and sudden (you can train dozens in seconds) onrush of soldiers. The two waves can each only be used once, and their current health uniquely starts lowering immediately after they are trained, meaning that these units are only supposed to be used as an emergency last line of defense.
    • You can, however, train both waves close together and with no warning, and since their main strength is massive numbers, you can defeat a decent sized enemy force even with low HP.
    • If you are playing against AI and have a small army ready, you can boost your attack with Minutemen. The AI does not discriminate units according to their health points, so they can deal a lot of damage while the computer is busy shooting other units.
    • Unlike in previous games, Settlers/Villagers are now armed with guns (javelins for the Native Americans) and can fire them on the enemy. While this attack is pitiful on its own, a large mass of Settlers can help a depleted army fend off an attack. Amusingly, their melee damage (shown as the Settler hitting with the butt of the weapon) is more powerful than their ranged damage, and though it cannot be selected by the player, you can trigger it by walking your settlers towards the enemy.
    • Settlers can also attack buildings, unlike healers and attack animals.
  • Easy Communication: The formation buttons.
  • Easy Logistics: Home City shipments can't get lost at sea or delayed due to bad weather, and paying for a blockade is a one-time investment.
  • Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available, with the multiplayer interface having a sidebar displaying various historical facts. Other examples include:
    • The first few missions of Blood happen during the Siege of Malta.
    • The fourth mission of Ice has the player fighting in the Seven Years' War for the French.
    • Fire takes place during The American Revolution.
    • The Japan campaign takes place during the unification of Japan at the end of the Warring States Period and ends with the battle of Sekigahara.
    • The India campaign takes place during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.
    • Shadow takes place amidst the backdrop of Custer's Last Stand.
  • Enemy Exchange Program:
    • In The Warchiefs, the namesake Native American Warchiefs have the ability to convert treasure guardians.
    • There is a chance that any unit killed by the Shaolin Master will become a Disciple, which all look the same. Even if this unit is not Chinese. Even if this unit is not human.
    • The Asian civilizations in The Asian Dynasties can get support from other civilizations via the consulate, even if that civilization is an enemy. This can lead to, for example, Redcoats fighting Redcoats if the chosen consulate ally is the British.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Texas is one of the potential skirmish maps you can fight on. True to form, it's a wide open prairie with plenty of cows to capture.
  • Faction Calculus:
    • The European nations are Balanced, the Asian nations are Powerhouses and the Native nations are Subversive. This is all very broadly speaking mind, as things get much more complicated once the quirks of each of the nations themselves and Home City cards come into play.
    • Among the Europeans, there's Spainnote  and Britainnote  as the Balanced. Hollandnote , Russianote  and Portugalnote  are the Subversives. The Frenchnote , Ottomansnote  and Germansnote  are the Powerhouses.
    • Among the three Asian civs, there's Japan (Powerhouse), China (Subversive) and India (Balanced).
  • Fade to White: In the final cutscene of "Ice" after the explosives are detonated and the mountain falls on the Russians, there's a brief moment of such, symbolizing death in snow.
  • Final Death: As per RTS standards, averted, thanks to the Gameplay Ally Immortality: this means that the campaign heroes, explorers, Warchiefs, and monks getting KOed does not mean Game Over. Other mission-critical units such as Bahadur Shah... not so much.
  • Firewood Resources: Averted. Unlike the previous Age of Empires installments villagers don't need to carry the wood/food/gold to the nearest Town Center or specialized building. All resources go straight to the player's stockpile.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: A literal example. There is a secret unit that is called Fluffy. It can do a One-Hit Kill to many units. And Fluffy is "the world's ugliest dog".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After being attacked by Warwick in "Ice", Nonahkee's Iroquois ally with the French, who are fighting the British in the Seven Years' War. John tells her that she "should not trust the French". The French are never a problem in "Ice"... but one of the missions in "Steel" is named "Never trust a French prospector", and the Big Bad of the campaign is of French extraction.
    • "Ice" ends with the birth of John's son and Amelia's father, Nathaniel Black, a Posthumous Character who was "a patriot, not a businessman", and who wasted the fortune given to the Blacks by the British government for John's actions. In the expansion's campaign "Fire", you discover that Nathaniel wasted that family fortune helping build the Continental Army and fighting against the British in the American Revolution.
    • Holme keeps making crude remarks about the Sioux and his love for gold since the beginning of "Shadows" which telegraphs the betrayal of the truce and his upgrade to Big Bad.
  • French Jerk: Magnan, Beaumont, Napoleon.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Firing muskets and cannons into a melee will only kill enemies.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Billy Holme is an American Civil War veteran who fought at Antietam and Gettysburg.
  • Game Mod: Quite a few have come out for the game. Some of the notable ones are:
    • Wars of Liberty (formerly The War of the Triple Alliance), which, among other things, changes the game's focus to the 19th century and dives straight into the Age of Imperialism, introduces independent New World nations (like Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the USA), new playable South American native and African factions with their own quirks, and even an additional (if expensive) end-game Age extending into World War I.
    • Napoleonic Era, which changes the focus of the game to Europe (although it also has a well-developed American civilization, led by Washington) and the eras so there is more focus on French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
    • Hundred Days, a Total Conversion Mod that creates a more realistic Napoleonic War game, but loses the time dept and non-European civilizations.
    • Knights and Barbarians, another Total Conversion Mod that uses the game's engine to fight wars set in the Middle Ages, with special attention to the Crusades.
    • The King's Return, which works as an unofficial expansion in that it doesn't change the original game's maps and factions, but adds new African maps, natives, and new playable factions like the Safavid, Korean, Kongo and Oyo empires.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The in-game units' info shows the developers do know that the game representations aren't accurate, but nonetheless, there are many breaks from reality - for example, muskets can fire around every three seconds in-game, while they took significantly longer to reload in real life (the Musketeer's in-game unit info states that a competent musketeer could fire 4 shots per minute).
    • The Japan campaign allows the player to advance to the Industrial Age, which gives you access to your main anti-building artillery... and allows you to upgrade your Trade Routes to railroads. In 1600.
    • The manual says that Napoleon grew up speaking Italian and that he spoke French with a heavy Corsican accent. His in-game persona speaks with a French accent.
    • The cutscenes show the Circle flying German flags and Stuart's colony flying the Pirate jolly roger. In-game, the Circle and the Blacks mercenary company fly their own flags.
    • Coyotes, Wolves and White Wolves look all like Gray Wolves despite their name.
  • Gender Is No Object: Female villagers and some campaign heroes.
  • Generational Saga: The campaigns of III and The Warchiefs tell the tale of the Black family.
  • Generation Xerox: Nathaniel and his grandson Chayton, each protagonist of an act in the The War Chiefs campaign. Both are half Native, half Anglo-American (though with the halves reversed, and Chayton also has partial Iroquois ancestry in his mother's side), who desert their mother's side to join their father's side in a war they consider just, altering their appearance until they get a hybrid look and ruining the Black family's Falcon Company's finances in the process. Both also seem to be the Celibate Hero type, with no children until after they finish their wars in their 40s, but this is the case of all Blacks except John.
  • Genre Shift: To a degree; the introduction of storylines revolving around the Fountain of Youth and the Ancient Conspiracy pursuing it is a pretty noteworthy one for a series whose campaigns had previously been focused upon the relatively accurate retelling of actual historical events, though those show up as well.
    • It happens again but in the opposite direction in the expansions, as while they follow fictional characters still, they are now more grounded on reality. This was probably a result of fan backlash.
  • Gentleman Adventurer/Great White Hunter: The explorer.
  • Geo Effects: Some missions in the campaigns (such as a mission in Los Andes in Steel after helping Bolivar, or Valley Forge in Fire after Saratoga) have the cold depleting your units' health.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • There's an unlockable visual customization for your Home City's harbor called 'A nice lady', further described as 'a soiled dove'. Guess what it means. The randomized dialogue customization only amplifies it as her dialogue includes...
      "Hey, sailor."
      "Is it evening yet?"
      "Hey, it pays the rent."
      "You new in town?"
      "And now the money just rolls in." (referring to the recent sunset)
    • Digging about the files for the where the dialogue is stored (Age of Empires III/AI2/homecitychatsets) shows it to drop the charade, where the dialogue of the "nice lady" is under a section headed by <Tag type="HCChat" name="'''Prostitute'''" priority="Background">
    • In the same vein, the Saloon can be upgraded to "Dance Hall" through a homecity card... whose icon is, well, two nice ladies. This reduces the cost of mercenaries and allows you to hire Japanese ronin.
  • Giant Squid: Appears in The Asian Dynasties, but in a completely different manner to most media portrayals. Rather than as grossly over-sized monsters from the deep, the squids are harmless creatures portrayed about the same size as in Real Life. Additionally, they never attack you and only are only there as a food source like salmon or cod. Also, they only appear in the Honshu map, where real Giant Squid also live.
  • Going Native: A recurring motif for the Black family, with Morgan's Scottish lineage being infused with Iroquois, American and finally Sioux blood. Tellingly, Chayton Black in Shadow is nigh indistinguishable from the Sioux tribesmen he ultimately sides with.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the first mission of Blood, the Knights of St. John are near defeat when the bombards show, so they send some settlers to light a signal fire to call for reinforcements from Alain.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • In general, Artillery, Skirmishers, Archers and Riflemen. They are powerful, but when an enemy unit approaches them, they are often in serious danger.
    • Russian Opriknichiks are fragile and have relatively low base damage, but have a very strong anti-building attack and a huge damage multiplier against settlers. A dozen of them can cripple an enemy's economy within a minute.
    • The Portuguese' unique version of the Skirmisher, the Cassador, amplifies this with even more ranged damage and even less HP and melee damage compared to the basic version.
  • Gratuitous English: The British speak some sort of mangled Middle English.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: And everyone else? The Chinese speak modern Mandarin despite being modelled after the Qing dynasty. The Settlers and Villagers, when ordered to work, state their soon-to-be occupation. Ensemble play this trope like we play Age of Empires.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Ninja are available as mercenaries in the first expansion. The Japanese can also train them normally by choosing "Japanese Isolationist" in the Consulate.
  • Guide Dang It!: Fun fact - most ranged attacks from infantry attack at half the speed of melee attacks. Notably, that means musketeers will generally do more damage if attacking in melee rather than ranged. Unfortunately, this isn't written anywhere in the game, even with the advanced stats option on, forcing players to rely on fan-made databases and wikis for such information.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: John and Kanyenke in "Ice". It continues long after John's death with Kanyenke helping raise his son and granddaughter, although in fairness, those are also his nephew and grandniece.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Pacasmayo, the last city of the Inca in "Steel".
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: All ranged cavalry can fire on the move. Averted by the other ranged units, who must stop to fire.
  • Hold the Line: Several missions in the singleplayer campaigns: the ones which end after the line is held are "Breakout" in Blood, "Defend The Colony" in Ice and "Breed's Hill" in Fire; the ones where it doesn't, and you have to defeat the enemy to win, are "Temples of the Aztec" in Blood and "Hold the fort" in Steel.
  • Hollywood History: "Sahin understood that the Ottomans, like the Knights, were a relic of the past." At the time the campaign is set in, whether in the 16th or 17th century, the Ottomans were at the peak of their power.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Amelia accepts a job offer from Beaumont, who has been a complete creep since they met, and also to go alone in a dark mine in Colorado with him.
  • Horse Archer: The Ottomans, Russians, Sioux, Chinese and Japanese each have their own versions.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Unlike in previous games, camels don't have a bonus against horses, rendering Indian sowars as just light cavalry that looks funny.note  In fact, the sowar is more likely to lose against other cavalry because of its low health points.
  • Hostile Weather:
    • In one stage of the vanilla campaign, after Amelia and Kanyenke help Bolívar against the Spanish, Bolívar tells them to be careful in the mountains while sending them some guides to Pacamayo. The stage consists in arriving to Pacamayo before the Circle does, but there is too much cold, so Amelia, Kanyenke and company must take refuge in fireplaces.
    • In the first act of The Warchiefs campaign, there is Valley Forge, where it is needed to revisit the fireplaces when needed and building houses to resist the winter. That is temporary, though,
  • Immortality Seeker: The Circle of Ossus is devoted to finding the Fountain of Youth in Blood, whose water is said to give eternal life to those who drink it. This plot was revisited in Steel. Morgan has found that the "Immortality" granted by the Fountain of Youth is no myth, as we find out in the closing cutscene of III.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: The British Explorer can be given a special melee attack from a Home City shipment that allows him to spin around, causing damage around him. Tends to One-Hit Kill skirmishers. Several characters in the main campaigns also have a similar ability.
  • I Will Show You X: The lines policemen can say in your Home City after getting the customization for it includes much of these.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Ronin mercenaries and Japanese Samurai have some of the strongest infantry attacks in the game.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: If you successfully manage to cripple the AI's economy and military, they will offer to resign from the game.
  • Large Ham:
    • The AI personalities engage in this to varying extents, but Cuauhtemoc of the Aztecs stands out. A Third-Person Person with a raspy voice and a lot of ego, he has such gems as:
    (When losing a Trading Post): "Cuauhtemoc did not need that trading post!"
    (Entering a large battle): "Blood! Ha ha ha ha! MORE BLOOD!"
    (Resigning): "No! Cuauhtemoc will NEVER surrender! ...Unless ... you let him?"
    • The Elmeti mercenary cavalry, who speaks Italian in a very over the top manner:
    "SI?!"
    "ALLA BATAGLIA!!"
  • Lightning Bruiser: French Cuirassiers, Spanish Lancers, Sioux Dog Soldiers, and mercenary Elmeti and Hackapells are all fast cavalry capable of both absorbing and dishing out absurd amounts of damage.
    • In the Infantry side we have Spanish rodeleros. Downplayed in Indians Urumi Swordsman (somewhat quick Mighty Glacier).
  • Magical Native American: Native American factions have rituals as alternatives to technologies and can improve their units, buildings and economy greatly by just having a lot of villagers staging a particular dance.
  • Mayincatec: Aztec, Maya, Inca (and in The Warchiefs, Zapotec) villages all have the same type of buildings. As the Aztecs get upgraded to playable faction in the expansion, however, they get unique and more accurate architecture.
    • Mayans, Incas and Zapotecs (and in the original, Aztecs) will occasionally appear in Orinoco (Venezuela) and Amazonia maps together.
    • Mayans appear in Sonora (i.e. Northern Mexico), along with the Aztec/Zapotec, Navajo and Apache.
    • In "Temples of the Aztec", the Aztec relief army contains Inca bolas warriors. Most likely standing in for Aztec slingers, which weren't introduced until The War Chiefs.
    • Conversely, Aztecs appear as an alliable tribe in Venezuela in "Bolívar's Revolt", and Aztec Jaguar and Eagle Warriors are part of the Inca army in "Last City of the Inca."
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • Indian Elephants. Slower and take more population than most horse. The strongest melee and cavalry (mahout lancer and howdah respectively) are elephants.
    • The Fort is one of the most powerful defensive buildings in the game, boasting high attack power from its cannons and high hitpoints. It also has the ability to train infantry and cavalry units. Its weaknesses are its slow rate of fire, making it vulnerable to large armies attacking it all at once, and units that outrange its cannons (e.g. Mortars, Monitors). It should also be noted that the Fort Wagon, contrary to the Fort it builds, is incredibly flimsy and can't defend itself. Even a small group of light infantry can take it down quickly.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A few slip-ups appear regarding treasure guardians. Black panthers, tigers and giant pandas in Japan, snow monkeys outside Japan and Komodo Dragons in any Asian map (none of the maps are located near Komodo).
    • There are no caimans or crocodiles in this game, only alligators. Doesn't stop them from showing up in all maps between Carolina and Amazonia.
    • Caribbean island maps are booming with capybara, tapirs and turkeys. Real colonists would have struggled to find something larger than a rat to hunt. The first campaign has all these animals in Cuba, and also cougars.
    • Ironically, the original game's effort to feature many (but only) American animals, down to the use of American bird songs only, results in this trope for the first two scenarios of the campaign, set in Malta. The designers using wolves and elk seem an attempt to reduce this by using animals passable for Old World ones (American elk are close relatives of European red deer despite their name), but wolves and deer never lived in Malta either.
    • Deliberate with the presence of polar bears in Borneo, which is a Shout-Out to Lost.
      • And yet this is an exception, because the Asian Dynasties maps are extremely reluctant to use animals from the vanilla version, likely because they were made by other studio. Thus we have Siberian and Mongolian maps with misplaced saigas, lions and monkeys, even though elk, moose, bears and wolves would make more sense.
    • Black bears appear in the Andes and wolves in Pampas and Patagonia, presumably as stand-ins for Andean bears and South American gray foxes.
    • Though jaguars used to range further north in the past, they got nowhere near Dakota during the lead up to Little Bighorn.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Warwick defects from the British army and attacks a colony guarded by the Black family company and kidnaps Stuart Black. When John investigates, he finds that the Circle has enlisted the help of the Russian Empire to conquer North America for them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Queen Isabella, the Spanish AI personality, purrs in a sultry Spanish accent. She says to "quit playing so rough" when she is losing a battle, and that she "can't handle all these men" when requesting help. When attacked by multiple opponents, she asks, "Why is it that I always seem to get double-teamed?". She calls the player "pet" as an ally. In addition, her picture in the game's encyclopedia looks quite lovely compared to the historical paintings. (At least, to a modern audience.)
  • The Musketeer: The unit is meant primarily for ranged attack with a musket, but actually deals higher damage-per-second (and receives a hefty bonus against cavalry) with bayonet melee attacks. Ranged cavalry, similarly, have an attack bonus against artillery just as melee cavalry does, but will likely do more damage against artillery in melee mode due to the higher attack rating and artillery's damage-reduction from ranged attacks.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The "Eye of Ornlu", a treasure that gives 200 EXP, is named after a certain wolf in Age of Empires II.
    • The Armor of Arkantos increases hero and explorer hitpoints when claimed.
    • The Germans have a shipment card, "Teutonic Town Center", which improves the defensive capability of town centers. Age of Empires II players may recall a certain Game-Breaker when they see the name.
    • The Jesuit mission in The Asian Dynasties allows you to recruit Conquistadors identical to the ones in the previous game (mounted arquebusiers with Morrión and breastplate).
    • The lost daughter of the Sioux chief in "Ice" is implausibly named Greta, like the lost daughter of the Norse chief in Age of Mythology, Greta Forkbeard. She has the same icon except with brown hair instead of blonde.
  • National Animal Stereotypes:
    • Though the Aztecs can train a complete menagerie of warriors in animal suits (Jaguars, Eagle, Coyote and Puma), they can only train pet jaguars.
    • Sioux can summon pet wolves and coyotes (with the latter also being trainable by them), and also bison herds.
    • Iroquois can summon pet black bears.
    • Indians have access to a great variety of war elephants and their monks can train white tigers.
  • Naval Blockade: This is one of the high-level abilities where you can block off a player's regular shipments from their home city. Of course by the time you have that ability it isn't really needed, but still.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: By going after the Black Family, Warwick ensures the failure of his master plan and his own death.
  • Ninja: Available as mercenaries in The Warchiefs. They serve mostly as assassins, dealing massive damage to Hero Units and other mercenaries.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Nathaniel Black is one to historical American Revolutionary officer Nathanael Greene (wink), from Warwick, Rhode Island (wink, wink). He leaves his family and community due to their pro-neutrality stance, forms a militia, joins the revolutionaries in Boston, becomes Washington's right hand man, fights in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia campaigns, and becomes a celebrated revolutionary hero, but dies young not long after the war.
    • "Due to a twist of fate", Captain Jian Huang shares his background and due to Jinhai's mutiny, position with his Historical-Domain Character superior, Admiral Zheng He.
    • Nanib Sahir to the historical Nana Sahib.
    • Like George Custer, Ryan Cooper is a blonde, mustached American cavalry commander in the Old West and the scene of his death is titled "Cooper's Stand."
  • Old Soldier:
    • Some unit icons depict men with white beards, like the Hussar, Halberdier, Janissary, and Chinese and Indian monks.
    • Kanyenke accompanies Amelia in her own adventure even though he must be over 85. His bow shooting and axe hitting remain unaffected.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • Besides the examples in Desperation Attack, there is one in the campaign mission "Crossing the Delaware". The game expects you to play a hit and run game, dodging Hessian patrols and British towers while taking out the tents one by one. However, the patrols are made entirely of Grenadiers, who have a pitiful melee attack. If you have advanced formations activated, you can set your Colonial Militia to melee, bayonet the Grenadiers, and then take out all the tents at once while being (mostly) undisturbed.
    • The War Chief's taming ability can be used to turn human guardians, not just animals. If you avoid killing any outlaws, you may end with a decent-sized force of scimitar-wielding pirates and gun-toting bandits. This can be a little game changer if you are playing Sioux (very poor infantry) or Aztecs (no gunpowder and cavalry units, at all).
  • Old Friend: Holme pretended Amelia before she was paired with an unnamed Sioux.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: About all that we know about the Circle of Ossus for sure is that they are the enemy, their elite units are called 'Boneguards' and they want to obtain the Fountain of Youth. Absolutely everything else is up for grabs.
  • One-Hit Kill: The European explorers have the Sharpshooter and, later on, the Crack Shot abilities: the first one allows you to kill a Treasure Guardian instantly; the second is a single high-damage shot that can kill almost any land military unit (with the exception of a few mercenaries and powerful special units) in one hit (but cannot be used against villagers, artillery and ships).
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: Averted. Pandas serve as treasure guardians here and they're some of the toughest ones around.
  • Panthera Awesome: Played straight. The whole package of big cats appears with The Asian Dynasties, jaguars, cougars, lions, tigers, white tigers, snow leopards and leopards, in the form of black panthers. They are all quite nasty to face, especially the ones available as trainable units.
  • Pirate: Elizabet Ramsey from Blood leads a band of pirates in the Caribbean, who end up joining the player's side. Wokou (Japanese pirates) also show up in The Asian Dynasties. The Warchiefs introduces a specialised building that can train mercenaries, amongst which the player can find pirates and corsairs.
  • Private Military Contractors: John Black leads a company of them. The player can recruit powerful mercenaries from the Home City at the cost of gold and a shipment card. The Warchiefs allows them to be trained at a saloon at a higher cost per unit, with their availability dependent on the current map.
  • President Evil: The campaign character's superiors and employers - Magnan, Warwick, Beaumont, Holme - tend to be revealed as evil in disguise and willing to betray the main characters. The exceptions are Stuart, Cooper and the only example to actually become President, George Washington.
  • Protection Mission:
    • In "Temples of the Aztec", from Blood, the player must not let the enemy destroy the Aztec temples.
    • In "The Rescue", from Ice, the player must not let the enemy destroy the outpost and trade post in the Iroquois village.
    • In "Respect", from Ice, the player must win the scenario before the Lakota chiefs are killed.
    • In "The Battle of Morristown", from Fire, the player must not let the Hessian mercenaries destroy the capitol.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Tokugawa and Cuauhtemoc.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Regular villagers can be either male or female, but do exactly the same jobs with the same amount of effectiveness.
  • Race Loyalty: Chayton defects from the Americans and sides with the Sioux, the people of his father, despite his death when he was young and Chayton being raised by his American mother. In the process, he adopts Sioux war painting and clothing, retaining only his Badass Longcoat.
  • Retool: Each expansion addresses two common criticisms of the previous installment.
    • The War Chiefs made a few Native American civilizations playable and therefore capable of going to war with European powers on their own, not just as allies of other Europeans (and by doing so introduced gameplays heavily based around Infantry - Aztecs - and Cavalry - Sioux - which had been a staple of previous games, but could not be featured on the more balanced European colonialists); brought the American Revolution centerfold instead of hinting at but walking around it, and took out the fantasy element from the campaigns in favor of historical settings (the American Revolution, again, and the Sioux Wars).
    • The Asian Dynasties deviated from the American theme in favor of a new East Asian setting, and introduced three historical campaigns (or "historical", in the case of the Chinese one) that were neither related to each other, nor revolved around the Black family.
  • Rhino Rampage: Rhinos might possibly be the only complete herbivore in the game to be a treasure guardian. But they also do this with style; being the most powerful animal in the game.
  • RPG Elements: Earning experience points during a match allows the player to send shipments from the Home City. They also go towards leveling up the Home City, which unlocks a wider variety of shipment cards and various cosmetic upgrades for the city.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A recurring theme in the campaigns.
  • Ronin: Introduced in The War Chiefs as a powerful mercenary.
  • Savage Wolves: The wolves are enemies, appearing in most maps, second only to the cougar as animals go, but are actually among the weakest of the animals in the games, and the explorer can dispatch a group of them with ease.
  • Scenery Porn: The game's graphics are a significant step up from both Age of Kings and Age of Mythology.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: With more animals than all previous games, including Guanaco, Giant Salamanders, Saiga, Ibex, Nilgai, Serow, Tapir, Capybara, Musk deer, and Rhea as huntable animals in some Maps.
  • Separate, but Identical: Once again, averted: every civilization has its unique quirks, especially the ones introduced in the expansions. For example, the Indians use wood instead of food to train villagers, British houses spawn a bonus villager when built and cost more, and the Dutch use gold instead of food.
    • This also applies to the Home Cities shipment cards. While some are identical across civilizations, (extra villagers, resources...) others are unique to that civilization.
    • All European civilizations have more powerful but also more expensive unique upgrades for their "Guard" units that replace the generic third-tier upgrade. For example, the British have Redcoat Musketeers instead of Guard Musketeers and Lifeguard Hussars instead of Guard Hussars. Aesthetically they still look exactly the same however.
  • Series Mascot: The Musketeers are promoted everywhere, and they are the most common unit in the vanilla game. Justified as they're focused on the colonial times in North America.
  • Settling the Frontier: Every skirmish/multiplayer game has your chosen civilizations establishing settlements in America/Asia (with some supplies shipped from their home cities). Of the campaigns, the first few missions of Steel and Shadow are the only ones that focus on this.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: "Ambushed!" in Shadow. This is a long, rough, labyrinthine map crammed full of War Huts stationed around the cliffsides. The player needs to get powder wagons to clear paths through trees, which can halt your progress until you get them to the area. And after all of your work in getting up, the player is taken to a cutscene where Holme screws up the entire plan, thus making the whole trip pointless.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Averted. Priests, missionaries and surgeons heal units automatically (at least if you're using the expansions), but the healing is done slowly and cannot be done while combat is going on. Heroes with the ability to heal can do so to anyone regardless of their movements, but the healing hero must wait two minutes to be able to heal again when he uses the skill.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The cheat code "sooo good" causes a little Teen Girl Squad-style message to appear whenever a unit is killed, such as "musketeer'd!" or "imperial howitzer'd!" All with a badass bugle sound included.
      • When "killed", some explorers will yell (roughly) "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" in their native language.
    • There is a basic red and gold customization for British harbors in their Home City titled "Edward Teach's Academy of Naval Competence". Edward Teach is a man better known as Blackbeard, a pirate.
    • Two Home City cards that benefit Chinese Monks are Snatch The Pebble, which allows Monks to power up nearby disciples, and Walk The Rice Paper, which allows the Chinese to have a second Monk. These are references to a show called Kung Fu.
    • The Yojimbo mercenary is identical to Sanjuro from Yojimbo.
    • The Borneo map, despite being an expectedly lushy and tropical island, has the odd polar bear.
  • Shown Their Work: Similarly to Age of Mythology, the developers had done their research, but nonetheless discarded the results wherever necessary for gameplay.
  • Siege Engines: Artillery units.
  • Sim Sim Salabim: Some aspects of the Indian civilization exaggerate its Indian-ness, such as their common cavalry riding camels instead of horses, its monks riding elephants and training white tigers, and they having an elephant version of basically every type of military unit.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: As mentioned above, the "killin' your doods" taunt, and this gem from the same voice actress as the Queen Elizabeth AI;
    "Really... such a noob."
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Inverted. The first three Big Bads are technically equal in threat, since they all run the same organization, but there's still a big disconnect in their day jobs, which regress from the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John to a lowly fur trapper. As for The Warchiefs expansion, the first Big Bad is some two-bit mercenary captain, and the second is the Fort Laramie quartermaster. Makes you wonder where they get these huge armies to throw your way...
  • Speaking Simlish: Averted. Units speak in the language of their nation. An exception is made for certain Native units, such as scouts, generic warriors, and those belonging to tribes whose language is now forgotten. Played straight by the British units, who speak in a nonsensical pseudo-Elizabethan patois.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game owes quite a good deal to Age of Mythology.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • Mortars, Monitors and Heavy Artillery.
    • No matter what graphics level you have the game at, destroying weapons caches in the Campaign will cause them to blow up.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In the original game, you can build trade posts in Lakota, Iroquois and Aztec villages and get from them, respectively, native cavalry (Axe Rider, Dog Soldier), ranged infantry (Tomahawk) and siege (Mantlet), and infantry (Jaguar Warrior) and ranged infantry (Eagle Warrior) units. In the Warchiefs sequel, the Lakota (now renamed Sioux), Iroquois and Aztecs become playable factions, and their former place in the map is filled with the Cheyenne, Huron and Zapotec, who provide you with cavalry (Cheyenne Rider), siege (Huron Mantlet) and infantry (Lightning Warrior) units.
    • In-universe, Simón Bolívar is the leader of a national army that teams opportunistically with the Falcon Company, and he is a powerful infantry unit with a pistol for ranged attacks and a sabre for hand to hand combat. He appears in the scenario following the last appearance of Cooper, who is basically the same in a different skin.
  • Symbology Research Failure:
    • The Chinese "Confucian Academy" Wonder can automatically produce heavy siege weapons.
    • The Aztec barracks are sacrifice pyramids.
    • The faction flags and leaders in the vanilla version rarely match up, since the leaders of the original game were mostly chosen for being the ones to first establish overseas colonies, while the flags were chosen as the most commonly used design during the colonial period. This results in Henry the Navigator flying the Portuguese CoA on a white background (introduced 30 years after his death), Isabella flying the Habsburg Cross of Burgundy, Elizabeth flying the hybrid English-Scottish jack, Napoleon flying the Bourbon three Fleures-de-Lis, and Ivan the Terrible flying Peter the Great's imperial standard (why they didn't just use Peter the Great as a Russian leader remains a Riddle for the Ages). Suleiman actually gets the modern Republic of Turkey flag. The only leader that can be content is Maurice of Nassau, who gets to fly a Dutch navy flag.
    • The German flag, however, merits its own entry. It has a bizarre crowned, black, two-headed eagle over a white background, seemingly a combination of the Prussian (crowned, black, one-headed eagle on a white background) and Holy Roman Empire flags (non-crowned, black, two-headed eagle on a yellow background).
    • The three Native American factions should not use flags, since they didn't have any in the timeframe of the game. Their ingame flags are fictional.
    • The Asian factions mostly follow their European colleagues. Kangxi flies the Qing dragon flag adopted in the late 19th century (although the colors and dragon had been popular before) and Tokugawa flies the Tokugawa seal on a black background (the actual Tokugawa flag was much less badass).
    • Similarly to the German case, the Indians have a fictional flag (golden sun and lion over yellow field) that appears to be a combination of Mughal (sun and lion over green field, among others) and Maratha designs (plain pale orange field). Akbar's AI personality also names "the gods" several times, and the Indian civilization is very clearly Hindu, but the real Akbar was Muslim.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: While it's less clear-cut than in the other games in the series, generally, Infantry > Cavalry > Artillery > Infantry applies. It generally gets a bit complex, but the intent remains clear.
    • Infantry is divided into Heavy Infantry (Musketeers and Pikemen/Spearmen) which are effective against both kinds of Cavalry, and Light Infantry (Skirmishers, some types of Melee Infantry, Riflemen, and Archers) which are effective against Heavy Infantry and Ranged Cavalry.
    • Cavalry is divided into Melee Cavalry which are effective against Artillery and Light Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry which are effective against Melee Cavalry.
    • For Artillery, the Falconet is better against infantry than they are against buildings, the Culverin is good against other artillery and ships, the Mortar can only target buildings and ships and annihilates those with ease.
    • Civilization specific units can also be effective against units that their unit archetype is not effective against.
  • Technology Levels: The Discovery Age, Colonial Age, Fortress Age, Industrial Age and Imperial Age/Revolution.
  • The Beastmaster: Explorers can get a canine companion to fight at their side. The Spanish Explorer can train more War Dogs. The Warchiefs can train animals and convert treasure guardians, so they often end up with a menagerie of wolves, jaguars and bears that follow them around and try to eat enemy soldiers.
  • Theme Park Version: Of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. At the same time, no less. But they even it out by providing tons of detailed background information for every type of soldier, animal, and plant in the game's world!
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Holme attempts to shoot Chayton, who shoots him first, then falls to his death along with a few barrels of TNT.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The city screen for the Netherlands shows Amsterdam... with mountains in the background.
  • They Killed Kenny: Your explorer. Technically "captured"/"fallen" rather than "killed" when his hit points drop to zero, and can be brought back either by being ransomed by the player or by having units sent to recover him. You can expect this to happen at least once per game.
  • Threatening Shark: Great White Sharks serve as naval treasure guardians in The Asian Dynasties. They can sink warships if you're not careful.
  • Timed Mission: The next-to-last mission of Ice requires you to destroy Warwick's Town Center in 15 minutes while stealing resource carts and having some settlers to collect these resources.
  • Units Not to Scale: When putting people inside ships and canoes. The in-game database entry about the canoes lampshades this.
  • Viewers Are Morons / Viewers Are Goldfish: The campaign heroes tend to order or point incredibly obvious things, often several times.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Aztec "Arrow Knights" (longbowmen) have multiplied attack against buildings and artillery.
  • War Elephants: The Indians live by this trope.
  • We All Live in America: Despite supposedly beginning in 1492, featuring maps from both continents, and civilizations that never set colonies in North America like the Portuguese, Germans and Ottomans, the game obviously draws most of its inspiration from colonial New England and the 18th century Anglo-French wars in North America. North American maps and natives are overrepresented in comparison to South American ones, and they often represent post-Contact, and sometimes even Wild West-era natives.
    • It gets worse when you realize that the original game only had three South American maps (Amazonia, Pampas and Patagonia) and two native tribes, the Inca and the Tupi, with the Carib as a questionable third. Patagonia didn't have natives at all (and for that matter, still doesn't). After much criticism, The War Chiefs added three more South American maps (Orinoco, Andes and Araucania) and the glaringly absent Mapuche as natives. Criticism was still garnered from the fact that the Inca remained a minor tribe in spite of building a far more powerful polity than the three additions and also being longer-lived and arguably more relevant to the game's time period than two of them (Sioux and Aztecs).
    • Despite the original game ending somewhen after the Napoleonic Wars, the white bandits that aren't pirates (Pistolero, Renegado, Comanchero) speak Spanish and wear Wild West-attire, resembling Mexican-American outlaws in the West after the Mexican-American War.
    • The three trade units are the travois (used by the North American plains natives), a Wild West-era stagecoach, and a classic Union Pacific locomotive called "the Iron Horse".
    • The Saloon where you hire mercenaries is a typical Wild West saloon.
    • The French use the Fleur-de-Lis and have Canadian coureurs-de-bois instead of settlers. However, their leader is Napoleon, who lost most existing French American colonies in his lifetime instead of setting them. He's most likely the French leader because he is familiar to Americans as the man who sold the Louisiana Purchase.
    • The town center's emergency militia units are called Minutemen, the name of the rebel militia in the American Revolutionary War, and look the part in their overcoats, leggings and tricornes.
    • The expansion's new mechanic Revolution turns your settlers into American Revolutionary-era "Colonial Militia" and allows you to ship Civil War-era Gatling Guns and USS Monitor-style ironclads, even if you don't choose Washington as a revolutionary leader. The result is the same even when choosing José Bonifácio, who fathered the much later and much less traumatic Brazilian independence.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The British speak in a baffling pseudo-Elizabethan patois that a player is lucky to understand half of. Especially odd considering all the other civ speak totally modern forms of their languages.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word:
    • The Ottoman character "Sahin, the Falcon". Şahin is a Turkish name meaning falcon.
    • The Japanese units Ashigaru (an Arquebusier) and Morutaru (a Mortar).
  • Young Future Famous People: George Washington appears briefly as a British colonel in the Seven Years War. He returns in the expansion as the American general everyone knows.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Wood, Food, and XP, along with Firepit dancers or Export depending on the civilization.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Russians produce batch armies, which are cheaper per soldier.
    • The Chinese in The Asian Dynasties take this even further, producing mixed batches of cheap but pitifully weak troops.
    • The Spanish can rush enemies by spamming army shipment cards at the start. In the late game, it is possible via a combination of improvements and shipment cards to reduce the training time of their Barracks units to zero, allowing you to create instant armies with a few clicks. Just hope your opponent didn't build a lot of artillery.
    • There are also the Minutemen: cheap and quick to train but they lose health as they live.
    • The Germans receive a unique cavalry unit, the fast but fragile Uhlan, for free with each shipment.
    • The civilizations introduced in The Warchiefs focus in this aspect (the Sioux, Iroquois, and Aztecs). However, the Aztecs pretty much thoroughly goes in rushing, as all their "big button" upgrades involve spawning a set amount of warriors, and their War Priests can dance in the Fire Pit with an improved dance unlike a typical Villager, so the production rate bonus is higher.

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