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Video Game / American Conquest

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American Conquest is a real-time strategy video game developed by GSC Game World. It is set between the 15th and the early 19th centuries in both Americas, essentially covering their historical conquest by European powers and their wars for independence. There is also an expansion pack called American Conquest: Fight Back. The latest, stand-alone installment in the series is American Conquest: Divided Nation, focusing on The American Civil War.

Essentially being Cossacks IN THE AMERICAS!, it offers ability to field thousands of troops to fight each other, while upgrading the graphics and gameplay engine, adding things like Morale Mechanic, ability to garrison each and every building, extensive rework on recruitment and more.


Tropes present in the game:

  • A-Team Firing: Justified, since almost all guns present in the game are smooth-bore muzzle loaders. The more primitive the gun, the more likely the unit is to simply miss their target, making volley fire a necessity. It's perfectly possible to end up with two musketeers standing against each other and missing their shots repeatedly. It also applies to bows - unupgraded archers can go as far as miss smaller buildings at their maximum range.
  • Anachronism Stew: Averted. Part of the reason why the European campaigns are so incredibly difficult is that you never get anything better than early 16th century troops, which don't offer that much of an edge over the natives... and the natives have reserves.
  • Anti-Cavalry: Just about any unit that maintains formation can qualify. Ironically, out of all infantry units, the pikemen and helberdiers have the highest levels of natural fear against cavalry, making them subpar options initially - just like in real life, they need first training and formation to be effective.
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  • Annoying Arrows: Nuked from the orbit and stomped upon. Arrows are incredibly lethal, don't use up any resources, bows don't take time to reload like the muzzle-loaded guns and there is only a handful of units with any sort of protection against arrows. The higher you go up the tech tree, the more your units are liable to get massacred by archers, since steel armour is gradually removed with each tech tier.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Fortifications and garrisoned buildings only use coal and iron for their artillery fire. The small arms fire comes for free, so you're not spending unreasonable amounts of resources while defending.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Played With. While the population is limited by the number of population-supporting structures, a small, basic base can easily house a thousand or so units. There is no actual cap on the population limit, either, as long as you build new homes for them.
  • Arrows on Fire: Another reason why archers should be feared is how easily they can set buildings ablaze. Sure, natives don't have any artillery, but they don't really need it - they can just set your fortress on fire. A fire that is incredibly hard to put down quickly during peace, not to mention in the middle of an assault.
  • Artificial Stupidity: AI has its moments in general, but special mention should be made about fortifications that have build-in artillery. The crew inside those will keep automatically firing in the direction of anything that's flagged as enemy. This includes random wildlife. That's bad by itself, but the real problem is that they aren't taking into account anything between their position and the target. Got some building there? Tough luck, AI will keep firing into it, trying to hit whatever is behind the buildings. And you can't make your fortifications stop using cannons.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Artillery is widely regarded as this by the players community. True, even a single cannon can stop a small army of infantry trying to get to it, by gruesomely killing many soldiers or by inciting panic in the ranks, and it can take pot-shots at fortified buildings from afar with complete impunity. But cannons cost a lot, require an entire line of high-end buildings to be set, take ages to reload and, worst of all, they are pushed by their crew by hand, so they move like a snail with heavy bags. Unless you set up a fortress (with a costly foundry upgrade) very close to enemy settlement, you can forget about hauling cannons there.
    • Not Completely Useless: Even without range upgrades, field artillery outranges any other defensive structure in the game, while dealing crapload of damage. This allows to easily level down any given building and make short work of conquering enemy base that otherwise would turn into a bloodbath when trying to storm buildings with infantry.
  • Baseless Mission: Almost all campaigns are build of strings of those, especially when you play as Europeans.
  • Bayonet Ya: Fusiliers are the only gunpowder unit armed with bayonets - everyone else just picks rapiers or tomahawks in close quarters. Which they need to draw first.
  • Blade on a Stick: Helberdiers armament, obviously.
  • Bling of War:
    • Spanish Conquistadors wear shiny armour and colourful plumes on their helmets.
    • Chiefs of plains Indians wear feathered headdresses; Mayan equivalent has a bonnet made from macaw feathers.
    • The native units armed with firearms had their guns decorated in various ways, depending on which nation they come from.
  • Boring, but Practical: Musketeers. They are fast and cheap to train (even basic fort suffices for that), their upgrades are relatively cheap, they have relatively accurate guns, they reload relatively fast, they can perform relatively well in melee, their natural armour is relatively strong and they benefit from relatively large number of secondary upgrades... Noticed the number of those "relatively"? There are troops out there that are going to out-perform musketeers in a specific niche, but musketeers aren't about niches. They're about versatility. They also don't need upkeep beyond food (unlike fusiliers), making them perfect for garrison duty, so they remain a viable unit for the entire match.
  • Call That a Formation?: Invoked as part of gameplay mechanics. Troops that aren't in formation easily scatter or blob together into tightly packed circles and get additional debuffs to morale. When they are subjected to any sort of damage, they quickly panic and rout, which triggers other units to also retreat. Set the same soldiers in a formation and they will perform gallantly in combat, while also gaining massive bonuses to resistance, even if they aren't wearing armour.
  • Cannon Fodder: Certain special units are designed for either swarm tactics or desperate defense. These always die by a dozen in combat, with the main idea being to just bring enough of them to win or use them as distraction.
    • European pikemen take it to the logical conclusion. While they are a primitive, crappy melee unit, they also come with powerful natural armour, tonnes of upgrades for it and qualify for the special upgrades for armoured troops. This means they can shrug off as Scratch Damage attacks that would normally kill any other unit, while steadily advancing toward enemy fortifications or troops and taking all the heat.
  • Chain Lethality Enabler: Units gain experience with each kill, which translate into a permament bonus to their melee damage. Usually it's insignificant +2 or +1 (or even a trig function, requiring more and more kills for each +1). Cue certain units gaining a monstrual +20 per kill, which means from their 3rd kill onward, they just One-Hit Kill any infantry on their way.
  • Combat Medic: Priests and shamans. They take forever to be trained (especially the European priests), but can heal units fast enough it's entirely possible to pull You Shall Not Pass! with handful of heavy-armour units supported by a priest or two in a choke-point.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Forts, fortresses, barracks and dwellings all increase your population cap. Since you need dwellings to produce peasants to send them to military buildings and re-train as various soldiers and warrior units, it's a self-perpetuating cycle. Native factions also have options to increase capacity of their dwellings, rather than keep building new ones.
  • Cool, but Inefficient:
    • Arquebusiers are armoured, gun-armed troops that are cheap and quite fast to train, and accessible almost from the start. They also use huge quantities of coal for each shot, have notoriously bad aim (even when volley-firing) and don't benefit from any upgrades that speed up reload. And in any case they have the longest reload time out of all standard firearm infantry units. They also have very low storm rating, so taking over enemy structures just isn't their game. However, they make good protection of storming troops, as they can potentially survive in the open to shoot toward the captured building, decimating defenders.
    • European hunter units when deployed in combat. While their hunting rifles deal just silly amounts of damage, they also take forever to reload, because they're muzzle-loaded rifles. Hunters also get no upgrades and are utter crap in a melee. Their rifles are a huge problem should they somehow fail to kill the animal they were trying to hunt, especially a hostile predator, because they will get mauled or trampled by an angry animal long before they get half-way through reloading.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Averted with vengeance in case of natives. Great Lake tribes have different roster of units than Plains Indians, the Pueblos have their own unique mix and anything from Central and South America comes with completely unique sets. And even tribes from the same region still can have different units. Meanwhile, European factions are for the most part uniform in their basic units, but tend to have unique specials that might heavily change the playstyle (like Spanish Conquistadors, English Trappers or Russian Cossacks). Oh, and the different architecture of each faction, normally a cosmetic thing? It also plays role in the actual gameplay, affecting things like farm efficiency or coverage of artillery from fortifications.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: All the Sioux units are mounted. They are lighting fast, quite powerful, have extra HP and obviously install fear in all units afraid of horses and/or cavalry. But this means they are incapable of storming any buildings and instead have to set them on fire with arrows. Depending on who you are facing, this might be a near-impossible task.
  • Damage Reduction: Defense rating is subtracted from the damage value of the unit attacking to calculate the damage sustained. Which in certain situations means taking none or barely Scratch Damage.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Entire morale mechanics run on this. After units start dying in combat, the troops around will suffer a debuff to their morale, which eventually leads to routing. This means they are no longer under any control and will head toward nearest fort or fortress in disorganised manner, not fighting back. Other units in vicinity, upon noticing this, can panic themselves. And even if they won't, it's very easy to slaughter troops while they're routing (since they don't defend themselves), which will further increase the death toll and might cause panic in remaining troops. In other words - when a rout starts, things go to hell in no time.
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: Each following building of the same type costs progressively more. This means a complete turtling with forts and blockhouses is just impossible.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Thanks to the inherent inaccuracy of ranged attacks, it's perfectly possible to avoid being hit by keeping on the move. Mind you, this is an RTS game about hundreds of soldiers fighting each other in formation.
    • And done right, a handful of cavalrymen can force an entire formation into firing a volley, missing them and then charge right into the troops while they're busy reloading or have their shooter close in and pick the enemy off like sitting ducks.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. Just like in Cossacks, American Conquest requires from player to feed all units (or they starve), iron and coal are needed to shoot guns, and since various guns use different amounts of resources, it matters which you use during the campaign.
    • Made even worse if you play as any of the Northern American tribes, since they can't build mines. The only way to get ammo for your gun-toting units is via trading posts, while all you can sell there is food and wood. Same with gold (needed for few important upgrades).
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Limited to capturing buildings and workers of other factions - you can't construct, train or upgrade anything. Still, capturing someone else's dwellings provides a nice bonus to your population limit.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Enemy troops aside, there are also wild animals around. Some are predators, some are just big enough to be dangerous when pissed off. So a bunch of your soldiers may well end up trampled by a bison, or a hunter killed by a wounded, but not quite dead moose.
  • Fog of War: Only buildings can keep a zone unfogged permanently, otherwise it blackens again when the player's units move away. Drummers and standard bearers have greater visibility range than other units. Unless specifically set in the game options before a match, there is no way to reveal the whole map without cheating.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The conclusion of historical campaigns is exactly as it happend in real life, regardless of your performance and side you've picked. So the French will still lose to British expansion, Alaskian tribes are going to get subdued by Russians and Pontiac uprising will lead to a stalemate. However, the mission within each campaign is usually focused on successful achievements of each side, rather than changing the course of history. The only exception is Aztecs repelling Cortes and his forces in their campaign while defeating the ongoing rebellion of other tribes, but the closing narration explicitly calls it as alternative history and something that never happend, while still suggesting inevitable Spanish conquest few years or decades later anyway.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Painfully averted, especially in case of firearms. By default, the option to shoot at a mob of units is disabled if the mob has friendlies. Should it be enabled, you can end up with a situation where your back-row shooters open fire at the enemies fighting with the front-row of the formation and kill troops from both sides. An excellent way to lose your soldiers is placing them between a target and garrisoned building, since stray bullets can easily kill them. Somewhat downplayed by bows and arrows, as they thankfully have an arc, but anything near their target can be hit by accident and due to poor aiming.
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • The native light infantry units can run at a pace of heavy cavalry, easily overcoming any obstacles on their way... asuming they will survive, as they lack any sort of serious protection.
    • Russian Cossacks are one of the fastest units in the game... and the only European cavalry unit not armed with guns. Their HP is meager and their defenses are in general poor. Unless the enemy forces rout from the initial shock of their charge, cossacks get slaughtered within seconds.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Each and every building can be used as a garrison for a limited number of troops, ranging from 5 tightly crammed people inside a small hut to 200 men strong garrison of a fortress. And regardless of what the building is, troops inside can fire toward attackers at very high rate, themselves being virtually impossible to reach. Expect a lot of Storming the Castle.
  • Guide Dang It!: There are few crucial game mechanics that aren't explained at all or very poorly. Some of them can be eventually figured by extensive trial and error, but other are nigh-impossible without a guide.
    • The whole "storm rating" is explained nowhere, while being one of the most crucial factor of capturing buildings. Not only you absolutely need to have units with higher storm rating than defenders (or they die without achieving anything), the calculation of loses on both sides is done by percentage between capacity of the building and current number of defenders.
    • Not counting handful of exceptions (fortifications), buildings can only fire through logical firing ports - if there is no window or entrance in the model, it means a dead angle for shooting. This makes teepees some of the worst defense structures, as they can only shoot through the entrance.
    • The rate of fire and firepower of a garrison depends on its size, not type of units - which in turn makes melee units the best defenders, as they come with armour ratings.
    • Cannons can be put into forts, fortresses and upgraded log houses, acting both like an unit garrisoned inside and additional gun.
  • Hired Guns: If the option is enabled in random maps, it is possible to recruit a group of AI-controlled native troops after sending an officer to negotiate a treaty with this particular tribe. For a handful of gold and/or other resources, a small squad of various units can be recruited and it will then perform a raid on a nearby enemy settlement. Unlike Cossacks, those mercenaries are normal, full quality units and don't require any upkeep aside from the hiring fee, but on the other hand are controlled by AI and can only perform raids.
    • Despite their name, French buccaneers are a subversion - they work as a hunter unit.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: European cavalry lives and breathes this trope. Each rider has two pistols in saddle holsters and after firing both can either charge into melee or simply ride away to reload these guns and come back to fire at enemy infantry units who can't possibly keep up. With a little micro-management, a small group of dragoons can wipe out few hundreds of infantry.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Nope. Formations are an absolute must. Charging blindly toward enemy positions will rid you of your troops before they even have a chance to fight. Placing a fort in the middle of forest is the best way to make it indefensible thanks to the foliage blocking all the shots. Putting your troops between enemy and fort will decimate your own soldiers. And so on and forth.
  • Joke Character: American unique unit, Militia, is a complete pushover in combat, has range on par of pistol-carrying troops, doesn't get any upgrades and worst of it all, comes with a ridiculously high gold upkeep - just having few dozens of those will drain your coffers faster than fielding few hundreds of gold-paid units. There are few missions where they are all you have.
  • Made of Explodium: All the buildings explode when destroyed, raining debris around them and killing anything nearby. Makes sense when it's a fortress or a log blockhouse, but not so much for a Sioux tipi.
  • Magikarp Power: Fusiliers. They start out with very long recruitment time (and can't be recruited at all until a fortress is build), you have to unlock their officers separately in Town Centernote , they are quite expensive to recruit, need additional gold upkeep and in their initial form, they are no better than any other gunpowder units Europeans can field. Maybe even worse, since they have no natural armour. On top of it all, their upgrades are quite slow to research and prohibitively expensive. Their only saving grace is the +10 to melee damage they gain after each kill, but lack of defenses makes them drop like flies in combat. However, once the entire lenghty string of research is completed, they are point-by-point the best ranged unit in the game, with fastest reloading speed, highest morale, greatly increased accuracy and lighting-fast training.
  • Medieval Stasis: The native factions have a fixed tech level. Some can eventually get firearms (flat-out stated as bought from Europeans), but Central and South American ones are stuck with their historical tech level during Spanish conquista.
  • Million Mook March: Comes from the game engine itself. It's entirely possible to field thousands of troops on each side. Not to mention how trying to take over enemy settlement or a strongpoint usually requires you to burn through a few hundred units just to reach buildings and then another few hundreds for taking over said buildings. The game also plays sound cues when a truly formidable force is coming - be it native screams, cavalry trotting or officers shouting orders.
  • Morale Mechanic:
    • Probably the biggest change from Cossacks is introduction of morale. All units have their natural capacity for withstanding stress, but after crossing the threshold they rout and panic, screaming around. Not only you lose control over routing unit, it can trigger panic of other units. Or your routing unit will be easily picked by enemy and that will cause other units to rout too. It takes an entire string of defensive upgrades to increase your units' resistance to fear. Setting up formations also helps, just as using units that have already fought and survived. Formations further benefit from having both drummer and standard bearer.
    • Exploiting morale mechanics is also how defense of settlements work in most cases. If the raiding party or incoming army starts dropping dead, the attacking units are very likely to conclude the assault is hopeless and will rout... being easily gunned down and further demoralising other units. It's not uncommon to stop a raid of few hundreds units thanks to forcing them into a disorganised retreat, despite the defendants inferior numbers that would have them completely overwhelmed in a pitched battle.
    • Certain factions are very quick to panic when facing horses, while others are scared of firearms. Some have issues when facing both. Cue handful of dragoons recreating the Massacre of Cholula.
  • Mundane Utility: Hunting bison as Siuox? The most efficient way to do so is to send your military-grade cavalry. Especially if you have a chieftain or two to spare. Most importantly, this allows you to herd the bisons, as horseback units are much faster than they are and can send them in the desired direction.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: Various wild animals depending on the climate being depicted; some, like elk or buffalo, won't attack people unless they were attacked first or people walk directly next to them, while others such as alligators and pumas will attack any people who get anywhere near them. Most of these creatures can supply food in the form of meat if a hunter is used on them.
  • No-Sell: Pikemen and helberdiers, once fully upgraded and in stationary formation, laugh at all sorts of attacks that aren't concentrated, volleyed gunfire. Not only they have pretty substantial direct upgrades to their defenses, being armoured troops they can also gain upgrades for armoured units and stationary formation grants some more. Cavalry charge against them, the best tactics against any other infantry? Are you out of your mind?
  • Oh, Crap!: When you suddenly hear chanting and then whooping sound effects early in the game, when playing against the natives. Bonus points if your enemies are Sioux horsemen, because that's going to be one hell of a raid on your settlement.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • The worst firearm in the game deals 300 damage. Average infantry unit has 80 HP. This is however intentional, as firearms have serious accuracy and reload issues, meaning it's in no way guaranteed the shot will hit the target for variety of other reasons (armour, terrain, distance and so on).
    • Veterancy offers permament bonus to damage dealt in melee, with no ceiling or cap, meaning any unit living long enough will eventually deal melee damage in hundreds. The trick is to get there first.
  • Panthera Awesome: Wild pumas prowl the maps. Unless you luck out with your aim, expect to lose some soldiers to a single predator. They are especially dangerous in campaigns, where you can't replenish your troops and Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: What the European vs. Natives combat boils into eventually. Europeans require lengthy research, their units are pretty lame on their own, there are upkeep issues and an entire infrastructure has to be set to even try doing something more than just barely holding up defenses. Meanwhile, all the native factions can spam units like there is no tomorrow and usually have access to most of them from the very start, but there is very little room for upgrades, the technologies are obviously very limited and as the game goes, trying to throw few thousands of men against few dozens of European troops is still their best bet.
  • Rock Beats Laser: It's perfectly possible to give Europeans hell playing the native faction of your choice. Some of them are in literal Stone Age, yet can reliably gain an edge over the 18th century European military machine.
  • Scratch Damage: In the right circumstances and with sufficient upgrades, units only take 1 point of damage from their attackers. If at all, since RNG might decide they simply weren't hit.
  • Shown Their Work: While there are minor issues here and there, the campaigns portraying European side of titular American conquest have well-researched details and each starts with a historically accurate prologue. Special mention should go to the German campaign, regarding the rarely mentioned venture of Welser banker family into Klein-Venedig, or as we call it today, Venezuela.
  • Storming the Castle: Since every single building can be used for defense purposes, they also all have to be captured first to disable enemy and/or breach the defenses. Easier said than done, since a well-organised defense line of overlapping buildings can mop the floor with hundreds, sometimes even thousands of units attempting to storm them. Europeans at least can use artillery to compensate, but native troops are stuck with Arrows On Fire.
  • Technology Levels: Played with. To unlock new, better and more "modern" units, you need to construct an entire string of required buildings, their expansions and sometimes even research additional techs for the time period. For example, Europeans can only initially hire pikemen and can't even get musketeers until the first fortress is build (and arquebusiers take a fort upgrade first). Certain tech is only available to units from a specific century, too. There is, however, no direct "next era" tech.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Firearms, even the most primitive - a matchlock arquebuse deals about three times more damage than even the strongest units may take. And then you have muskets and fusils - the latter can be even upgraded to inflict One-Hit Polykills in case you have another target right behind the first one. The only thing that prevents firearms from being an outright Game-Breaker is their inherent inaccuracy and relatively slow reload - at least for earlier types.
    • Certain units can gain, either by upgrades or from combat experience, a damage output to slaughter just about any basic infantry unit. As the kill count rises, so does the capacity for violence.
  • Victory by Endurance: Most of campaigns missions for natives is about resisting Europeans until they run out of soldiers or raiding them non-stop until they can no longer keep up.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: Units gain experience with each kill, translating into various factors. Entire formation feels more assured in victory with some kills behind their belt, rank and file have higher confidence if their leader himself killed few of the enemies and most importantly, there is a melee bonus with each kill. It might not sound like a lot at first, but certain units gain 10 bonus damage for each slain enemy. Three kills in, they double their maxed out damage, ten kills in they can wipe out any given foot soldier with a single swing of their weapon. With a bit of micromanaging, a small group of highly experienced units can go through tens, if not hundreds of enemies, as long as they keep fighting in close quarters.
  • Zerg Rush: Fear all factions that have bow-wielding peasants, as they will keep sending entire swarms of those on regular basis. They aren't real fighters and don't even have any tech upgrades, but they can still easily overwhelm or burn down your settlement thanks to their sheer numbers.