SECRETS OF THE DARKEST ARTS OF SCENARIO DESIGN By Gumble


Heaven’s Design Pages

 

SECRETS OF THE DARKEST ARTS OF SCENARIO DESIGN

By Gumble

Foreword

*If you’re just looking for some design ideas I suggest skipping over to the Design Inspiration section.

After many years of toying with the heretic arts scenario design I felt that it was time to compile an exhaustive list of all the little quirks I have discovered in that quirkiest of games, Age of Empires. One would not have thought that such an old game could be overly complicated but I have found again and again, there are nuances and hidden properties right down to Gaia trees that completely change the way a scenario can be experienced. Other than my own extensive practice I will also reveal where I can, other hidden powers unlocked by other scenario artists so the reader can be confident that they have the most complete list of the capabilities of the Age of Empires Scenario Editor. If there is some blasphemy that I have yet to uncover, drop a line on the forums and let me know so it can be added to this grimoire of blackest magic.

Due to the large amount of information I have hoarded I have organized this enchiridion of evil into 4 sections: Unit Properties, AI/Per, Inbuilt/Physical Triggers, and Design Inspiration. Once properly mastered these four skills, an acolyte will have all the unholy knowledge necessary to summon the most complex and original scenarios their twisted mind can produce. So read on my sons and daughters! It is your time of designing ascension!  

Part 1: Unit Properties

Unnaturally, the 1st thing an up and coming practitioner of dark creations must learn is what each unit can do and more importantly what it can’t do in order to create a good scenario. Crucially it’s the relationships between units that make-or-break a scenario. You want creativity? You want originality? You want the darkest, most forbidden knowledge of Age of Empires Units? Then read on and be illuminated by my unspeakable arts…

I have a warning EVERY SCENARIO DESIGNERS MUST KNOW that the latest version of Rise of Rome has a SERIOUS SAVE GLITCH. A game cannot be reloaded if there are ANY missiles created at the point of the save (like a bowman firing an arrow). This means if you are planning to design in the latest version 1.0C, and use missile doodads provided by the Composite Editor you will not be able to reload any in-game saves of that scenario. There is a file in the granary however that allows you to roll-back your version to 1.0B which doesn’t have the save bug. ’Customize AoE’ and the ‘Upatch’ also fix this bug, both are also available in the granary. You can then use missile doodads to your heart’s content (and make some really cool looking stuff).

The Terrain Brush

Painting large amounts of trees/water/cliffs effectively is the most basic skill of AoE scenario design, I think it’s a skill best learn via experience but I will give some tips about how to get the most out of the paint brush.

Black Tile

You can only get to work with black tiles if you download special black tile maps from the granary. You don’t actually paint anything black, the whole map begins as black tiles and you remove them by painting other types of terrain such as sea or grass. This limitation means you have to pre-plan EVERYTHING before you remove each black tile, once gone you cannot bring a black tile back except by reloading a previous save. So use carefully and slowly and save often. The saving grace of this method is the fact cliffs can be painted over and removed without harming black tiles so cliffs can be used for guide lines. Why design with black tiles? For a start it’s an obvious border, and allows you to segment you map into different areas/challenges. It also can be used to simulate the interior of structures such as palaces/fortresses, caves, space/void, deep pits, tall mountains etc. You can even use it to sign your scenario. Birds fly can still fly over black tiles be aware of this.

Grass/Desert

There’s nothing really needed to be said about using the Grass/Desert brush other than those randomly placed doodads and trees and rubbish are annoying yes? Don’t worry about it. Paint grass/desert/ or water whilst using the Enhanced Editor or the Composite Editor available in the Age of Empire Heaven Granary. Random doodads are automatically turned off so you can shape a map without having to worry about all that random junk. Mixing in grass/desert patches to desert terrain, and terrain cracks/ruined small walls to grass terrain is a quick and easy way to texture you environments. In fact you can create many kinds of ‘terrain’ usually by densely placing various doodads from the Gaia Unit Tab. E.G:

  • Sand can be made from densely placed animal bones – Zapdotep’s Composite Editor is a life saver here.

  • Swamps can be made with a mixture of cacti, desert patches, grass patches, and shallows

  • Stony terrain can be made from rocks (duh), but you can mix it up with desert patches

  • Mud/Fertile Dirt is made from ruined small walls

  • Tidal pools can be made from shallows, and water rocks.

  • Savannah can be made from desert patches over desert, with ruined small walls and terrain cracks.

  • Tall Grass/Reeds can be made from densely placed cacti.

  • Autumn Leaves can be made out of a mixture of beach articles and bones (not regular bones but the bone doodad that is in the Composite Editor)

  • Rocky outcrops can be made from a mixture of cliffs, rocks, and stone mines (it helps if they are of a similar colour)

  • Rough water can be made out of densely placed whale tiles/discoveries.

  • Wasteland can be made out of terrain cracks, dead bush, rocks and bones

  • Pavement can be made out of roads or densely placed grey/black stone/ruined walls.

  • Snow can be made with either the white shells (randomly chosen from Beach Articles), or discoveries.  You have to paint them fairly densely to look effective (its time consuming yes but really rewarding once completed). Alternatively, Rasteve, who is a staff member at AoE Heaven, made a special snow mod which is also available in the granary. I haven’t used it myself so I cannot recommend it.

Trees

Forest trees made from the terrain brush is ok but often look unnatural and repetitive, inserting tees, rocks, grass, even berry bushes and animals from the Gaia unit tab adds character and life to a forest. It also allows for customization to expand biome to look entirely different from the classic temperate-jungle-pine forest. Note that forests painted with the terrain brush are ‘solid’ –completely path-blocking. Forests created with the Gaia unit tab are ‘soft’ -path-blocking is partially porous and units can sometimes slip in. Mixing different tree type brushes make more lively looking forests.

Water/Shallows

I mention water mainly for its unnoticed uses in scenario design.  Docks CANNOT be built on deep water so you can actually cut off a coastline by painting deep water right up to land. Water and shallows can also be hidden by painting other doodads (like grass or rocks) over top to make it look like it is land when it’s not. One would do this because: You can make an invisible barrier with painted-over water. By covering up shallows you can create a bridge that is traversable by both land units AND naval units. (I mean a literal bridge, when you have a river running through an advanced looking Iron Age town it looks better to have a bridge than shallows. Another use of painted over shallows is that it cannot be built on – A computer player for example could have their build plan shaped by hidden shallows, having permanent ‘gates’(hidden shallows) in a wall would be useful). This also works for the human player – you could designate an area of ground to be ‘sacred’ and it cannot be built over. You can also pin down player-owned units by having concealed water under their feet. It also allows naval units to appear to be moving across land terrain when in fact they are not. – Transport ships suddenly become transport wagons/skiffs, and merchant ships, now merchant caravans. By covering shallows/water with disappearing doodads (e.g. dead farm) you can create the appearance of flooding or rising tides IN REAL TIME because eventually the doodad will rot away revealing the water underneath. Shallows (the object not the terrain) can actually be destroyed. A blast from a lazor tower removes any shallows it hits. What uses could there be for this? Many actually. For example if the shallows are painted over grass/desert then instead of a rising tide/flood you now have the possibility of a lowering tide/drought instead. One could set up a scenario where you have to dam up a river, once finished the lazor tower would blast away all the shallows revealing the now dry river bed.

Elevation

Like shallows, elevation can be used to control a player’s build plan but not as effectively as they will still be able to build walls, towers, and houses. High Elevation screws up missiles from archers, towers, catapults etc trying to shot through/over it. When used with care unique challenges and scenarios can be made from that little fact alone.

Cliffs

Only 5 things worth mentioning about cliffs; 1st is that there is only one method I know of crossing the otherwise impassable barrier, which is by having a land unit board a ship over a 1 tile width cliff face. 2nd, Zapdotep’s Composite editor allows rotation and placement of cliffs like a unit which is useful for decoration. 3rdly decoration can be further improved by deleting cliff faces and using the cliff terrain brush to paint more of them at interesting angles so as to make mountain-like visual barriers and such. Cliffs usually take visual display precedence over doodads such as grass patches. The exception is roads/stone paths which can be used to decorate/hide cliffs. Finally using the unholy magic of the Lazor Tower you can actually blow up cliffs – but only visually. A blast from the lazor Tower removes the cliff visual graphic, but alas, the path-blocking barrier effect of cliffs remains.

Gaia Units

Artifact/War Chest

Short of the Lazor Tower, I think no unit has such a complicated relationship with the game. I thus list all the abilities of the Artifact and the War Chest together and the subtle difference between the two. How Artifacts and War Chest interact with each other and the victory countdown in regular games:

  • Normally War Chests do not give a countdown victory if you control them all. They ONLY provide a countdown IF another player owns a SINGLE artifact.

  • If a player owns all the artifacts, obviously there will be a countdown victory for that player. Curiously however if a player also owns at least one war chest as well as an artifact there is no countdown timer. BUT if another player controls at least one war chest whilst another player controls ONLY ONE artifiact then there are multiple countdown timers, one for each war chest controlled by a player and one for the artifact. What I mean by this is that if one player has the ONLY artifact AND every OTHER player has their own war chest, then EVERY player who has a war chest/or the artifact receives their own countdown timer totalling at the most 8 artifact countdown victories running simultaneously.

  • But if a player has all the artifacts whilst all OTHER players control ONLY war chests then ONLY the player with the artifacts receives a countdown victory.

  • If any player owns more than one warchest then their countdown is negated e.g. you have a war chest and you capture another player’s war chest both countdown victories are negated. (Provided a third player controlled the artifact). The same holds true if you control a war chest and capture the artifact, both countdowns cease.

  • UNLESS another player owns an artifact and you control ONLY ONE artifact and ONLY ONE war chest you receive a countdown victory but the other player wont. In this situation it doesn’t matter if other players own war chests, only you receive a countdown. This appears to only work if there are at most 2 artifacts.

  • If a player controls ONLY and ALL War Chests and other players control only artifacts then ONLY the war Chest players receives a countdown. UNLESS another player controls ONLY and ALL the artifacts in which case both the War Chest and the artifact player receives their own countdown.

  • I believe in any situation if you control more than one war chest you will not receive a countdown.

  • Even the GAIA player can be involved in these formulae, if you own an artifact or a war chest and the Gaia player has the opposite then you receive a countdown until you (and not another player) discover it.

  • If there are multiple victory countdowns from several players including yourself running from the start of the game (i.e. exactly the same time) then YOUR countdown supersedes all others, meaning you will win even if other player’s countdown finish at the same time yours do.

  • Even a defeated player can have an artifact countdown victory, meaning that if the only unit the player controls is an artifact then they can still defeat the human player even though they have been eliminated.

  • Curiously if you combined wonder and ruin countdowns, at most you could have no less than 17                                                separate victory countdowns running at once.

Other than the complex victory countdown abilities of war chests and artifacts, they all share other characteristics that make them interesting:

  • They are indestructible. If they are in a ship and it sinks they will hop to the nearest unused tile of land and flare its location (this flare won’t reveal Gaia units). If a free tile cannot be found they will remain where the ship sunk and cannot be moved unless picked up by another transport (if multiple artifacts/chests are on board then they will stack upon each other on a single tile). There is a difference between war chests and artifacts in regards to this, artifacts can ONLY hop to land but a war chest can hop to land AND shallows (you can’t even normally place an artifact on shallows in the editor).

  • This ‘hopping’ ability allows artifacts/chests to get into normally inaccessible areas. In its search to find an unused tile an artifact/chest will leap over walls, forests, and even cliffs. Also the artifact/chest will prioritize hopping towards land that has been explored by either you even if unexplored land is closer by. Provided there is land you have explored, no matter the distance, the Artifact/War chest will hop to it.

  • Additionally when a ship is sunk both the artifact and war chest revert control to the Gaia player (and thus lose any countdowns the player had) UNLESS the war chest/artifact couldn’t find land to hop to and remained at the ships last location STILL controlled by player.

  • If multiple Artifacts/War Chests are on board they will seek land independently, and could end up in very different places.

  • If the game starts and a unit from two opposing players are standing near a Gaia Artifact/War Chest then it will not be captured by either player until one of the units is removed from the vicinity which makes for an excellent trigger for a countdown timer.

  • Artifacts and War Chests make excellent scouts. Consider this, they are immune from attacks from wild animals and enemy towers and additionally they will change ownership when you encounter other player’s units and thereby pinpoint the location of their base

  • Unusual units such as Single/Double Pole flags, flares, Tame Lion, Blind Lame Priest, Ruins, the Lazor tower, Hero_Traitor, Mercenary, and other artifact/chests WILL capture Gaia artifacts/chests. Owned artifacts/chests won’t be captured by other ruins, Hero_Traitor, Tame Lion, Single/Double Pole Flags, Flares, or another player’s artifacts/chests

  • Catapult shots cannot capture owned or Gaia artifact/chests

  • The Lazor Tower can blast an Artifact/War Chest that is stuck in a cliff out of it and onto a free tile.

  • Artifacts/War Chests discovered by a computer player will attempt to bring the artifact back to the closest Town Center for safe keeping. This can be used to create an ‘attack the convoy/caravan before it reaches safety’ type of scenario.

  • Artifacts/War Chests can be used to block the path of Gaia predators for use in puzzle scenarios.

  • Artifacts/War Chests can also be decorative, either arrange in a line as a kind of fancy wall, or to simulate a trade caravan and such.

Alligator/ King

Alligators have a few interesting properties, they won’t attack other Gaia animals or Gaia units – only player owned LAND-BASED ones. However they only attack land-based units (the only exception being Hero_Traitor). and won’t touch boats which makes alligators useful for triggering. Also Alligators damage is random, perhaps the only random damage in the game again making them useful for triggering where a random factor is called for. Additional unlike other Gaia animals, alligators can cross shallows – a useful feature if one wanted to block a naval path. Alligator Kings are stronger and much faster versions of Alligators and as such are the most dangerous of the Gaia beasts. Like all Gaia animals, Alligators/kings only drop meat if they are hunted, not slain. This animal will attack towers if they are shot by one.

Lion/King

Lions are well known for their interactions with gazelles, in that they will chase one nearby (and Horses too) for as long as it can. Curiously lion kings do not share this feature. An unusual ability of Lions (not kings) is the fact they will attack Gaia units (e.g. undiscovered villagers, or bowmen etc) which is unique among the Gaia animals and good for triggering. Also Lions/kings cannot cross shallows. They also cannot go up to the shoreline so a tree line along the coast is a good place to hide from hostile lions. As a wild beast, lions/kings will attack any player owned LAND-BASED units it can see. Like all Gaia animals, Lions/kings only drop meat if they are hunted, not slain. Both Lion and Alligator Kings are useful for luring towards enemy units as a means of disposing another player’s units without aggravating them. This animal will attack towers if they are shot by one.

Gazelle/King

Gazelles are notoriously skittish, running away from lions and player owned units that come too close. For the King version, Skittish is an understatement, Gazelle Kings will flee from nearly any other object that is too near. It’s these qualities that make Gazelles entertaining for herding type scenarios as the King variant will defy any attempt to lure into an enclosure. Gazelles/Kings won’t cross over shallows and won’t drop meat unless hunted (at 400 meat per King, they contain the most meat out of all the animals). Additionally, the skittish nature of Gazelles/Kings makes them useful for triggering with a random element).

Elephant/King

Elephants stand out from other Gaia animals for their general docileness and large size. Unless provoked, Elephants will remain where they are the entire game – (a good way to gate an entrance for a certain amount of time). Not so with the King variant who will attack aggressively any player owned unit who comes by. You can use this to make a ‘stampede’ (i.e. releasing a pen of captured Elephant kings on an unsuspecting enemy. You can also create a ‘migration’ of sorts by using invisible demons; the Elephant Kings will attack and pursue fleeing Invisible Demons which to the human player will look like a herd of Elephants migrating. Again Elephants/Kings will not cross over shallows and only drop meat (a hefty 300) if hunted. This animal will attack towers if they are shot by one.

*All animals that are killed via hunting don’t immediately disappear until they rot away (their meat level reaches 0). This has some limited use for triggering and path-blocking.

Hawk/Eagle

Hawks/Eagles are vulnerable only to the spears to villagers and only if the villagers are selected to attack them. Otherwise the birds will fly around randomly. It is these 2 qualities which make Hawks/Eagles excellent for triggering.

Fish Varieties

Fish are an easy source of meat and are the only resource that can be farmed by both land and sea units. What makes them interesting however is the fact they are a decay resource which is useful for triggering (think ‘destroy specific object’ or ‘bring object to area’). Their interaction with fishing boats means that they can be used to block narrow waterways (the fishing boats ‘block’ until they are done fishing the source and then move on – good for delay attacks). As decoration Fish can be used as ‘rain’ over land, whales can be used as fountains or turbulent water. Finally, densely stacked fish tiles create an aura/magic visual effect (which also can serve as a pseudo-infinite resource location as it would take much time to remove that many fish tiles). Berry bushes, trees, gold and stone mines can be thus used in a similar way.

Horses

Horses are well known for their graphical issues in the AoE expansion, RoR. (This can be fixed by downloading a horse graphic file from the granary). They don’t have too many practical uses and are usually for decoration. However the fact that horses can only be harmed by area-of-effect damage and wild lions give horses a design niche.

The Dragon

You know the one, big flying monster, used to be a hidden unit? Yeah use it for fantasy decoration, it also fits in nicely to the ‘Bring object to object’ category for the player’s hero avoiding being hunted by the dragon. Don’t try to kill it as a scenario objective, it has 9999 hp and only villagers can hurt it (I think), that would take an awful lot of villagers an awfully long time to kill.

Berry Bush/Trees/Mines

All 3 types of harvestable resource share a useful feature of taking up space. What I mean is the fact they can be either used to block an entrance, hide a secret message written on the ground, or entrap a unit, or visibly conceal a trap/hide a unit, until removed by a villager (or destroyed by heavy catapult fire in the case of trees).  This feature has countless uses ranging from attack delays, to making hidden paths, impinging progress until cleared by villagers, or revealing hidden objectives, or as a reward for exploring thoroughly etc. As decoration Berry Bushes and mines can be placed over any unit but only using advanced editors. Trees however can only be placed onto Gaia buildings (place the Gaia tree on the ground using the Gaia unit tab NOT the terrain brush and then move an existing Gaia structure over the tree). You can also hide Gold/Stone Mines/Berry Bushes under structures (trees under Gaia structures) to act as plunder. E.g. destroying a government center uncovers a cache of gold or destroying a granary uncovers a supply of food.

Trees placed by the Gaia unit tab are ‘soft’ meaning structures can be built over them unlike trees placed using the terrain brush. This feature has its uses in scenario design. For example, having a secret path through a dense forest that can only be revealed by placing wall foundations through the Gaia unit trees. It also gives Computer AI greater flexibility in building towns, being able to have larger build areas. WARNING – forests made entirely of ‘soft’ Gaia unit trees are also porous meaning units (particularly villagers) can sometimes worm their way through them in unintentional ways and get stuck. Trees placed (using an advanced editor) on water cannot be removed except by catapult blast. Bushes/mines in water cannot be removed at all EXCEPT by the blast of a Lazor Tower – Useful indeed for triggering. The exception to this is if the tree/mine/bush water barrier is close enough that villagers can remove it (like close to the shore line). If one were to stack trees densely in a relatively small area you could create an impenetrable forest – one that could only be removed by catapult/lazor tower blast.

There is a Gaia unit tree type that needs special mention – “Tree-Forest”. Why is it special? Well it’s because it’s invisible. Yes an invisible tree. Useless? Far from it. It allows several options that the designer otherwise wouldn’t have. For example; Invisible barriers preventing progress till an apportioned time. Or densely placed Invisible trees In a line, once destroyed, say by a catapult strike, will suddenly reveal a hidden bridge (of tree stumps) across a river. Or to act as a snare, placed over another unit to keep it in place. Only computer controlled villagers can ‘see’ invisible trees and harvest them. Player owned villagers cannot target invisible trees for harvest except automatically when another visible tree nearby is cut down.

Discovery

Discoveries have several interesting uses. Most obviously they create Double-Pole Flags when walked on (Or shot at by a catapult) by a player owned unit. This provides a free scouting mechanism as well as a source for objectives for triggering. As decoration, discoveries are best used in inaccessible areas as snow or as water rapids. Normally it’s impossible to actually destroy a Discovery, but recent discovery 😉 of mine has revealed that a discovery can be removed by a blast from a Lazor Tower (the shot has to be exact and you have to scroll away from the discovery for it to be seen to be gone).

Ruins

There isn’t much to be said about the otherwise obvious nature of ruins, capturing them all gives the player a countdown victory. However (if you are using an advanced editor) they come in 2 visual flavours, ruined alter and rock circle. Both can have Gaia trees placed on top of them. Also contrary to common sense Ruins can actually be MOVED. Yep that’s right, MOVED. How? Well with the Magic of the Lazor Tower of course. A blast from a lazor tower will push a Ruin directionally away from the angle of the shot and move it to a new free 3-by-3 tile location. And yes, if shot in water it will jump a fair distance in the manner that an artifact hops until it finds a free space on the nearest shoreline. It also prioritizes explored areas like an artifact does and thereby it’s possible to make a ruin hop from one side of the map to the other but there is a maximum distance it can hop to. What makes the hopping Ruin REALLY interesting however is the fact that the 3-by-3 tile area where the ruin originally was is still treated like the ruin was there for the purposes of path-blocking, whilst adding new path-blocking in the area it now occupies. What I mean is that the Ruin will leave an impassable invisible barrier where it was originally and create a new one where it now located. This makes for some seriously unique design possibilities. One can now permanently block off certain routes by using a Ruin/ Lazor Tower trigger. One final note – When the Lazor Tower blasts the alternative ruin (the one that looks like an altar) it will also knock it back a few tiles but also make it turn invisible. The Ruin will appear to have been destroyed but has simply been moved back and will reappear when a player-owned unit captures it – If they can find it of course. If the game starts and a unit from two opposing players are standing near a Gaia ruin then it will not be captured by either player until one of the units is removed from the vicinity which makes for an excellent trigger for a countdown timer.

Gaia Towers

Of the Gaia units, towers are the only capturable hostile unit – they will shoot any non-Gaia unit that comes into its range. Of course as a ranged unit it will flare its location and thus if it shoots one of the human player’s units it will automatically be captured. Clearly it has value for triggering but also for setting up scenarios where you want some of the computer player’s units to be weakened (or killed).

Gaia Units/Buildings

There are a few ways capturable units/structures can be used with which adds interest to a scenario. 1st they are brilliant for use in triggering. Gaia units in general are unaffected by the player researching upgrades before and after they are found (Only certain Heroes are affected by upgrades). Also by using catapult fire one can damage units and structures so as to make a scene of devastation once discovered (e.g. the player comes across a burning village with the terrified injured survivors ambling about it). Area-of-Effect damage can also be used to induce otherwise docile Gaia units to attack the source of the damage and thereby alter the state of game play even before they are discovered by the Human player. One could set up a scenario where either by viewing the battle through allied sight or by directly discovering a battle between a computer player, and Gaia units in real time (like reinforcements coming towards the scene of a battle.)

  • Gaia Priests can actually be induced into converting other players units to Gaia!

  • It’s even possible for Gaia units to defeat another player in retaliation to attack!

I find that Gaia rafts/fishing boats make excellent temporary walls/unit snares as computer players will not touch them until they are discovered. (When I say unit snare, I mean placing a raft/boat under the units feet, thereby locking the unit in place until you discover the snare).  Gaia farms or houses covered with dead trees look like a realistic forest fire. Gaia buildings including the wonder take on the Asiatic building set appearance so it’s possible to own two different looking wonders. Also the building art is of the of the lowest age the structure can be built in which means if the human player is using an Asian civilization you can make unique multiple Age art towns by blending the Gaia structures the and the human players – particularly if the human player is in the Iron Age.  Damaged Gaia walls add decorative value to a scenario e.g. ruined fort/bridge.

Using the Composite Editor one can now place building foundations which opens even more design possibilities, entire pre-planned towns can be placed down and you can watch with delight as computer villagers build it EXACTLY the way you wanted them to (remember to include every item in the Computer build Plan). Want a structure built on cliffs or in the sea? No problem. Want a wonder to be built somewhere but can’t seem to get the Computer Player to do it in the right spot? No problem. One important note – Foundations are unstable even in the editor, when you design a scenario you must place them LAST, and I mean LAST or they may disappear. Finally, lions have no problem attacking Gaia units who will not defend in response – a useful feature for triggering. Conversely alligators will NOT attack Gaia units and thereby set up a different kind of trigger altogether.

Everything Else

Other Gaia placeables and doodads generally serve decorative purposes, much of which is left to the imagination of the designer. With the added capabilities of Zapdotep’s Composite Editor there is really no limit as to what one can make in order to beatify or set-piece their scenarios.  

Player Units – Heroes

What I really like about the Heroes of AoE is the fact that on appearances, many are similar but all in fact have unique characteristics that make each individual hero stand out in a particular situation. So 1st I will show the various statistics AoE Heroes have and then their individual abilities.

+Attack, +Armor, and +Shield stands for whether the heroes benefits from the related storage pit upgrades. The heroes also have listed other various technologies they benefit from under the Technologies column. The Civilization Bonus column lists whether the heroes benefit from being aligned with certain civilizations such as melee units benefiting from Macedon’s sight range bonus. Lastly whether the heroes can be placed as Gaia units is found in the final column.

 

Upgrades/Attributes

Hero

+Attack

+Armor

+Shield

Technologies

Civilization Bonus

Gaia

Hero_Traitor

False

False

False

False

Mercenary

True

True

True

Logistics

False

False

Alexander

True

True

Nobility

True

False

Hector

True

True

Nobility

True

False

Hero_12

True

True

True

False

Scipio

True

True

Nobility

True

True

Vercingetorix

True

True

Nobility

True

False

Caesar

True

True

Nobility

True

True

Hannibal

False

True

True

True

Tiberius

False

False

False

False

Amon Ra

Monotheism, Martyrdom, Fanaticism, Medicine, Astrology?

False

False

Mor Havoc

 

Monotheism, Martyrdom, Fanaticism, Medicine, Astrology?

False

False

Saint Francis

Mysticism, Afterlife, Polytheism

True

True

Blind Lame Priest

Monotheism, Martyrdom, Fanaticism, Medicine, Astrology?

False

False

Archimedes

False

Antony

True

True

True

Logistics

True

True

Jason

False

False

False

Logistics

True

False

Xerxes

False

False

False

Logistics

True

False

Hersifon

Jihad, Wheel, Siegecraft

True

False

Corlis

Jihad, Wheel, Siegecraft

True

False

Medusa

True

False

False

Logistics

True

True

Perseus

False

Ballistics, Alchemy

False

False

Stealth Archer

False

Ballistics, Alchemy

False

False

Black Rider

True

Ballistics, Woodcutting, Artisanship, Craftsmanship, Alchemy

True

True

Cleopatra

Ballistics

True

True

Flying Dutchman

Ballistics

True

True

Big Bertha

Ballistics, Alchemy, Engineering

True

True

Mirror Tower

Architecture

False

True

Zenobias Tower

Architecture

False

True

Lazor Tower

False

True

 

Hero Properties

Hero_Traitor_1

Hero_Traitor is someone special, and I mean special. People will be surprised to learn that he is invincible. You cannot actually destroy a Hero_traitor. When he loses his last HP he falls back 1 tile and is reincarnated with 1HP – Curiously the tile he occupied when he ‘died’ becomes impassable much like a hopping Ruin. Hero_Traitor cannot even be killed by the ‘Delete’ command. Enemy units never attack Hero_Traitor and flee if possible when he attacks them. Gaia beasts will attack Hero_Traitor but only after he initiates a fight – this means that not only can Hero_Traitor never be killed; in normal circumstances he will never be harmed anyway!

If the computer player owns a Hero_Traitor then he will remain passive and will not respond if attacked – other computer player  units only respond after hero_traitor ‘dies’ and is reincarnated. Hero_Traitor responds in exactly the same way an Artifact/War chest does when it’s on board a sinking ship, he will hop to the nearest available free tile on land (prioritizing explored areas) and leave a sight flare where he landed. If none can be found he will simply remain where the ship sunk, stuck until somebody picks him up. He will even hop to normally inaccessible areas (like onto an island that has been entirely cliffed off). Because He cannot be a Gaia unit, it means you won’t potentially lose control of Hero_Traitor in a sinking ship unlike an Artifact/War Chest.

His one weakness is that he shares the same traitor characteristic with the Mercenary, (not surprisingly considering his name). So a Hero_Traitor will switch ownership if no friendly units are nearby to keep an eye on him (unlike a Mercenary having two Hero_Traitors close together won’t make a difference as they both will change allegiance). But a Mercenary nearby a Hero_Traitor is sufficient to keep them both on your side. The same design ideas for the Mercenary can be used for Hero_Traitor and then some considering his invulnerability. Think about this scene: your transport is moving through a terrible storm (Whale tiles), and the bow is struck by a bolt of lightning (Saint Francis), the ship sinks and the only ragged survivor (conveniently with only 1hp) washes up on the nearest shore. However the precious cargo (the artifact) has also washed ashore somewhere else on the island. He is dazed and confused and will follow anyone who he comes into contact to (enemy players). Find the lost artifact before becoming lost yourself… Sound like a fun scenario? Well go make it! Phatfish’s ‘Heavenly Escort’ mini-campaign featured both these units and showcased various nuances about how these special heroes can be used, in particular the Mercenary.

Mercenary

Mercenaries have many interesting qualities that make them valuable for scenario design. Looking at the table one will notice that the Mercenary is unique among the cavalry heroes because it benefits not from cavalry bonuses but from Infantry ones, including the very valuable shield bonus. Mercenaries are also blind and cannot reveal anything through scouting by themselves. It’s thus possible to lose a mercenary unless you hotkey them. This can be used in several ways, it means you can move mercenaries though land you don’t want explored yet for whatever reason. It also means you can make a ‘blade in the dark’ type scenario where the player must guide the mercenary from one source of light to the other whilst avoiding the dangers that lurk in the darkness which he cannot see or defend himself from. Allied units can provide line-of-Sight. A ranged unit attacking the Mercenary drops a sight flare, briefly revealing where you are including Gaia ranged units who will reveal themselves and give ownership to you. If you attack other Gaia buildings/units that are not ranged you can destroy them without them changing ownership. – This has a rare use as a scenario objective/ trigger where you must destroy a particular Gaia unit without finding it.

This blindness is a curiosity yes, but Mercenaries are also interesting because of their traitor properties. True to their namesake, they will literally switch sides to the enemy if a Mercenary is too far from friendly units (a friendly unit could be another Mercenary BUT NOT a Hero_Traitor) .This traitor property has large amount of creative potential and I’m sad I haven’t seen a scenario use it yet. As an example, you could set up a situation where you suspect a traitor in your ranks so you send individual troops off to ‘scout’. Say there is an invisible demon nearby, and so the player will watch as their mercenary mysteriously betrays them and runs off into the hills. Or an ambush scenario where a heroes’ retinue suddenly turns on him during a surprise attack. Using a Language.dll editor to change the Mercenaries name to a more familiar unit such as ‘Heavy Cavalry’ would further add to the surprise of the betrayal.

Alexander

The Conqueror of Persia has one trait other than his fame to give him attention; he has the highest base-hp of the Heavy Cavalry heroes. He also boosts respectable attack and defence making him the 4th strongest land-based hero in the game. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon.

Hector

Hector is noted for his one special ability which is more of a handicap, He cannot board transport ships. However in the hands of a skilled designer this quirk can be used to make unique challenges/effects. For example it means Hector will never travel across bodies of water making him a purely defensive character and an excellent target as an end game boss. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon. Hector has EXACTLY the same stats as Vercingetorix, and therefore the only way to differentiate between the two heroes other than their names is the fact that Hector cannot board a ship. This makes for the possibility of a unique scenario: By using a language.dll editor and making both their names the same you can make a twin/doppelganger situation where you have to work out the real McCoy by his aqua phobia…

Hero_12

Hero_12 is decidedly mediocre hero stats wise (only incrementally better than a regular cataphract before storage pit upgrades) and only benefits from storage pit upgrades but not nobility. I suggest using him as a minor hero in a campaign or as a special-unit type such as a “Raider”. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon.

Scipio

Scipio is a low tier Heavy Cavalry hero who is only marginally useful by the fact he can be placed as a Gaia unit. Like Hero_12 I suggest using him in a support role. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon – This boosts Scipio’s (already higher than average) sight range to about 12 making him useful as a scout and responsive to enemy units nearby (He’s aggressive so use with caution) Scipio has a higher base movement speed than regular units of his type.

Vercingetorix

Caesars Gallic Nemesis is in fact (tied with the identical Hector) as the second strongest land-based hero in the game as well as the strongest of the cavalry heroes. The secret to this success is the fact he has the supreme 25 base attack value allowing him to strike down a foolish priest or villager in one blow. It is a true shame Vercingetorix cannot be placed as a Gaia unit but his favourable stats allow him to be used with prominence in scenario design. Vercingetorix has EXACTLY the same stats as Hector, and therefore the only way to differentiate between the two heroes other than their names is the fact that Hector cannot board a ship. This makes for the possibility of a unique scenario: By using a language.dll editor and making both their names the same you can make a twin/doppelganger situation where you have to work out the real McCoy as his double has aqua phobia… This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon.

Caesar

Surprisingly the man who is immortalized as a great conqueror actually sits in 6th place on the list of strongest land-based AoE heroes. Therefore he is in the medium-high range of heroes. But what works in his favour is that he can be placed as a Gaia unit which is helpful in scenario design. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon. This boosts Caesars (already higher than average) sight range to about 12 making him useful as a scout and responsive to enemy units nearby (He’s aggressive so use with caution) Caesar has a higher base movement speed than regular units of his type.

Hannibal

In short Hannibal is a beast. High Hp, high attack and the only hero with access to the trample-effect make Hannibal an interesting boy. His ability to tank damage as well as mulch large numbers of regular troops keeps Hannibal on the high tier of usability in scenario design as a boss/ally. Hannibal can easily stampede through tool, low bronze, and sometimes Iron units SOLO. When aligned with either Persia or Carthage, Hannibal gains either a terrifying boost in speed or increases his hp to an astronomical 750! (Through this boon is offset by the lack of Iron-level storage pit upgrades Carthage doesn’t have). This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon. Hannibal has a higher base movement speed than regular units of his type.

Tiberius

Tiberius is special preciously because he isn’t. What I mean to say, unlike all other heroes, Tiberius doesn’t gain any benefit from ANY technology or ANY civilization bonus. Without any base armor either, Tiberius stands out uniquely as the worst hero in the game. Tiberius’s lacklustre battle effectiveness begins to show itself late tool age, so keep that in mind when designing scenarios with him.

Amon Ra + Mor Havoc

Amon Ra and Mor Havoc are entirely the same other than that Mor Havoc has slightly more hp. They both have access to a good range of temple technologies but crucially miss out on both afterlife and civilization bonuses so your dreams of a +6 range super priest are not possible. What is interesting is that Amon/Mor misses out on the speed buff from polytheism because they have it inherently from the beginning.

Saint Francis

Saint Francis packs a wallop. I’m not kidding; he strikes down his foolish enemies with bolts of 200 damage lighting. What makes him really scary is that Saint Francis receives a range bonus when aligned with Egypt; along with +3 range from Afterlife this gives Saint Francis a lethal range of 16! He therefore can one-hit-kill almost anything before they are even aware that he is there. Only Big Bertha and a Mirror Tower could catch Saint Francis out. Saint Francis is VERY overpowered (hehe) and so if you’re using him in a scenario you better think very carefully about how to balance him in. Obviously he makes for a real cool end-game boss challenge but his unique attack animation gives him other uses. His Lightning attack is very cinematic shall I say? When used properly say, in conjunction with snared Invisible Demons, one could make a Lightning show trick? It would certainly add drama to a set-piece battle. Using this same trick but also with whale tiles, one could make a very convincing sea storm that your rickety transport has to navigate. I have used him myself to represent God’s wrath against a philistine city as part of a campaign I am developing. Even in futuristic type scenarios, Francis smiting a whole bunch of invisible demons stacked under a granary/tower looks like a really amazing power generator.  

Blind Lame Priest

It’s not what the BLP has that makes him special but rather what he hasn’t. His blindness makes him invaluable for triggering (it hides the trigger), for passively controlling a players total population (stacking a bunch of BLP in an inaccessible corner), creating a slow population release (A bunch of BLPs and an alligator slowly killing them thus freeing population room), to create sight flares when he is attacked by ranged units and thereby revealing Gaia units (at the flares location) to be under your control, for being a passive path blocker (he will never move EXCEPT by boarding a transport), as a passive healer, as a decorative old man/elder/teacher for a town, to capture artifacts/war chests (for triggering or scouting) etc. He CAN convert too; it just has a terrible range of 2. This means if he is attacked (by a unit with really low attack) he has a chance to convert that unit (I think he benefits from astrology which would help here). This again is good for triggering. If you have another unit giving the BLP line-of-sight then you can try to convert units that come too close – useful for a town beggar type of situation. Using the double-conversion trick with 2 BLPs you can guarantee the convert!  Quite often I pair a BLP with a tame lion-to-convert, it means the tame lion isn’t revealed until you find the BLP and then he can convert/heal the lion for free. Who knew a guy with no eyes and no legs could be so useful?

 

Archimedes

In our theme of strange-and-wonderful bearded old men we come to the strangest of all. Archimedes is even odder than even the BLP. He doesn’t heal, he doesn’t convert, he doesn’t get any upgrades or civilization bonuses, and he can’t even attack (sort of). So what’s his point? Well if a computer owned Archimedes will follow you if he doesn’t like you. Yep, that’s it. Archimedes is so well loved just because he follows his enemies around like some harmless pet dog (and you have no idea how many ways this can be used in a scenario). Now recently I came up with an idea and it’s cute and it’s also hilarious. By manipulating the diplomacy settings of several players you can make an Archimedes chain. What’s that? Well the Red Archimedes will only follow you. The Yellow Archimedes will only follow the Red Archimedes, and the Brown Archimedes will only follow the Yellow Archimedes and so on. One could make an Archimedes ‘chain’ of follow the Leader, with each old man closely on the heels of the other as you lead your colourful party of strange old men around. What spoils the fun however is that the chain can be broken at anytime by the Archimedes attack glitch.

Now to say he cannot harm you would be false. He cannot actually attack you, that is true. But every now and then (and I mean every now and then) the unit Archimedes is glued to will receive a single point of damage (it’s a glitch). Now if that’s one of your units and you are allied with Archimedes this is ok. But if it’s a computer player then they generally turn hostile and cut the old fella down (thus also breaking the Archimedes chain). This glitch has its uses, because now you can set up a diplomacy change trigger that has a random factor to it. It also means that a hostile Archimedes is the perfect target for your BLP to convert.

If the Archimedes has a passive AI and is hostile to you, you can use this to create a sort of human ‘Protest’ wall. E.g. you are being harassed by player A and Player B (Archimedes) also doesn’t like you but likes player A. Well you could lure several Archimedes to a choke point where they will block the path of player A thereby creating a ‘protest’ march. Another Idea I came up with is the truth-seeker scenario. Basically you have 3 units, each unit is owned by different player. One of them is a traitor but you don’t know who it is. So you bring in Archimedes (owned by a 4th player who is hostile to you). You leave Archimedes with the 3 units and Archimedes (with the unique diplomacy settings of the 4th player) uses his ‘follow’ ability to find the traitor! You can use Archimedes in a similar manner to find hidden units like Stealth Archers or Invisible Demons. Archimedes can be converted without Monotheism.

Antony

Mark Antony stands out by a mile as the single strongest hero in the game boosting incredible defences and a heavy attack. He can single any other non-structure hero including Carthage Aligned Hannibal. Even the mighty Saint Francis is felled by Antony’s hand, provided Antony strikes the 1st blow. Only Yamato aligned Cleopatra’s barge can hope to defeat him 1v1. The key to Antony’s success is the high base armor, shield, and hp allowing him to tank through almost any fight and walk out proud. He also gains bonus damage against cavalry allowing him to best the likes of Alexander or Hector. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon and also gains attack speed when aligned with Rome. With full access to storage pit upgrades and the resistance to conversion that Macedon offers, Antony becomes an incredibly difficult nut to crack. He is also absolutely lethal with the Roman attack speed bonus. Antony makes for either a great player owned champion for a campaign, or end game boss. Antony’s place as the human player’s champion is further helped by the fact he can be placed as a Gaia unit.

Jason

Jason’s claim to fame is the fact he has a unique Egyptianesk graphic. Although he is mediocre stat wise, Jason is very useful for scenario design precisely because he is visually different from everyone else. Jason can enjoy several roles, from hero to villain (he wilts out early Bronze Age) as well as a unique type of warrior class of middle-eastern flavour. Both Jason and Xerxes suffer from a lack of storage pit upgrades, Jason even more so as he is without base armor. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon and also gains attack speed when aligned with Rome.

Xerxes

Like Jason, Xerxes has mediocre stats which are offset slightly by a small amount base armor which makes him slightly more durable. Neither hero gets storage pit upgrades which begin to tell mid-bronze age where they will struggle to 1v1 more than a few regular units. Therefore In Scenario Design Xerxes is best used in a minor role or perhaps as a type of more bulky Infantry unit. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon and also gains attack speed when aligned with Rome. Xerxes has a higher base movement speed than regular units of his type.

Hersifon + Corlis

Corlis and the slightly stronger Hersifon are unique among heroes by being the only villager-based heroes. Don’t get excited as this is a total hindrance. Basically if tasked to do ANYTHING other than walking (ANYTHING means ANYTHING – attacking, repairing, harvesting, building, and even boarding a ship) they will revert to being normal villagers entirely – no unique name or stats. Hersifon and Corlis benefit when aligned with Palmyra gaining additional armor, but seeing how they cannot really be used effectively it’s a bit of a dud bonus. It’s a strong case for making these two heroes the worst in the game next to Tiberius if not for the fact they have two properties going for them. 1st, they do gain all the usual villager upgrades and civilization bonuses (considering their inherent limitations, somebody VERY creative could make something of it). Secondly their reverting nature has a narrow use in the context of scenario design. Think tracking down a spy among a town of villagers. Or perhaps escorting Hersifon/Corlis somewhere whilst keeping their true identity (a challenge in itself). Finally actually using that reverting nature for your own purposes – Hersifon/Corlis can run a gauntlet a normal villager couldn’t hope to survive and then resume normal villager duties.

Medusa

Now everyone should know Medusa from his unique feature – Once slain he turns into a Black Rider (A stronger version of a Horse Archer). Medusa transforms again once slain as the Black Rider into a Heavy Catapult. This feature usually delegates Medusa into fantasy type scenarios. But his other qualities give him use in other contexts. After looking at the Hero table you will notice that while Medusa looks like a villager he is treated as an infantry unit, receiving just attack upgrades and Logistics. Medusa also behaves like an infantry (he won’t perform any villager duties but will attack and defend like any other infantry would). Medusa is a ripe target therefore for use in ‘spy in the town’ or ‘Slay the feral villager’ type of scenarios. Additionally by using a Language.dll editor Medusa can be used as a named villager hero, like an ‘elder’ or some such who governs a town. – Good for protection/ escort scenarios. You could even name Medusa as ‘Villager’ – that way the only way to find the ‘spy’ or whatever is to look out for the villager who cannot work or has an attack bonus. This hero also gains additional sight range and conversion resistance when aligned with Macedon. I also think Medusa also probably benefits from the attack speed bonus when aligned with Rome.

Perseus

Poor Perseus is not a very good hero as his stats leave him with much to desire come Bronze Age where regular composite archers will soon come to match him. He doesn’t benefit from any crucial technologies and he doesn’t have that amazing camouflage ability that the Stealth Archer has. Therefore Perseus would be only suitable as a viable hero in the tool age and as a unique archer-class warrior.

Stealth Archer

He looks like a tree but shoots like a champ; the Stealth Archer is a welcome addition to the scenario design palate. He may not get any useful upgrades or gain any civilization bonuses but we don’t care at all about that because when he stands still he automatically disguises himself as a forest tree. That alone gives him all sorts of use in scenario design particularly in ambush scenarios obviously but he can be used in more subtle ways. Clearly a surprise forest attack is good but what about this: You have a palace complex or a park, and you traverse it many times during the scenario lulling you into a sense of security, and of course one of the scenario objectives requires you to steal/destroy something in the middle of said Palace/Park… Know where this is going? Stealth Archers actually do have a use beyond their namesake. If you are decorating a town in which you don’t want the villagers to chop down the trees, well passive Stealth Archers are a good option. Being player owned units and not Gaia ones, you can even place these decorative ‘Trees’ on top of buildings has a further layer of detail. They also form an excellent tree wall that won’t be cut down – this is excellent as a permanent or temporary barrier). Finally Stealth Archers have one other curious property, you cannot actually target units for attack (clicking on an enemy unit is treated as a move order). You have to make Stealth Archers stand ground in order for them to attack something. I believe this also means that a human-controlled Stealth Archer could never be induced into attacking non-hostile units, such as gazelles, elephants, tame lions, or even walls. Villagers/buildings too would be ignored if you had your opponent on a neutral diplomacy setting. I don’t think computer-controlled Stealth Archers would have the same problem. The Stealth Archer has a higher base movement speed than regular units of his type.

Black Rider

The second form of Medusa has its own little intricacies. For start it is the only heroic version of a horse archer which by itself makes the Black Rider useful for scenario design – a mounted ranged hero is a powerful one. Setting the Black Rider as the target for ‘Destroy Specific Object’ or ‘Destroy # of Objects=1’ is a way to counterbalance the atmosphere ruining effect of the Black Rider turning into a Heavy Catapult once expired. Black Rider also benefits from storage pit upgrades, technologies, and civilization bonuses as well as being able to be placed as a Gaia unit adding much to his versatility.

Cleopatra + Flying Dutchman

Cleopatra’s Barge I think overall is the strongest unit in the game. It has the highest combination of hp and attack. It can hit-and-run its opponents and when it’s aligned with Yamato Cleopatra can even solo the mirror tower. If you were to set up a computer AI to use Cleopatra’s barge with hit-and-run tactics I think it would take a fair bit to bring her down – an excellent end game boss. On the other hand the Flying Dutchman’s primary draw card is the fact it’s the Flying Dutchman! He sails over grass/desert as happily as across the seas in his search for prey. Both having catapult-type attacks means their actual range is one higher than what is said on their statistics. (Using the attack-ground function on maximum range, the Area-of-Effect damage of the impact damages 1 tile further away) Catapult-type attacks can also be used to capture discoveries and aggravate allies (this can be used intentionally for triggering). Both Cleopatra and the Flying Dutchman receives bonuses when aligned with r Yamato giving them a sizable boon to their hp, Cleopatra sitting on a bulky 650hp whilst Dutchman flies on a healthy 250hp. Neither seems to gain the Phoenician attack speed bonus – however Cleopatra intrinsically attacks faster and also moves faster than an ordinary Catapult Trireme). Cleopatra and the Flying Dutchman can destroy trees with the impact of their attacks – good for puzzles and creating new paths/unlocking new areas.

Big Bertha

Big Bertha is a terror weapon, having a much higher base hp than normal catapults as well as a MASSIVE area-of-effect of about eleven-by-Eleven tiles AND the longest range in the game (after engineering). Basically it is going to squish a heck of a lot. Like Saint Francis I suggest being very careful about how you use this super-weapon in a scenario because balancing is going to be an issue. I applaud the way Andrea Rosa incorporated the awesome power of Big Bertha appropriately in his scenario ‘Fury of the furies’. Big Bertha is absolutely monstrous to destroy when aligned with Hittites, doubling its already high hp to 400! Big Bertha cannot harm itself from its own attacks. I think by using the catapult-attack-ground trick one could increase Big Berthas effective range to something like 22/23 tiles – SICK.

Mirror Tower

Archimedes legendary Mirror Tower is a fantastic addition to any scenario calling for large siege battles. It is very powerful, and even more durable with architecture. It also has the longest range in the game bar an upgraded big bertha and so usually fires the 1st shot. The great range and damage of the Mirror Tower is tempered by a very slow attack speed. The Mirror Tower is very strong and should be used sparingly to highlight the strength and/or importance of a scenario objective.

Zenobias Tower

It’s a real shame Zenobias tower doesn’t benefit from Babylon’s tower hp bonus, its already formidable at 1200hp after architecture, imagine doubling its base hp to a grand total of 2400! Zenobias tower has less range and damage than the Mirror Tower but much more bulk. It is therefore ideal as the central keep of a fortress. Generally speaking, Zenobias Tower is a structure to built around as the focus rather than something to build around something else.

Lazor Tower

I thought I could find no stranger unit than Hero_Traitor until I found the Lazor Tower. Nothing can change the way a scenario can be designed than this single building. And that is basically because it can blow EVERYTHING up. Now when I say EVERYTHING, I’m saying it will blow up everything that can be destroyed as well as a whole lot of things you thought couldn’t. Here is a brief list of some of the more important objects that you thought was safe:

  • Cliff Faces and Shallows

  • Discoveries

  • Stone/Gold mines, Berry Bushes, Fish Tiles etc

  • Trees (even tree stumps after a second shot)

  • Ruined walls and other debris including Skeletons

  • Basically every place able doodad in the game

*Look up the Individual unit entries for more information about how they interact with the Lazor Tower. Of particular note is how Lazor Towers affect Ruins, Cliffs, and Artifacts/War Chests.

The exceptions I know of are Single/Double Pole Flags, Hero_Traitor, Artifacts/War Chests, and Ruins. Now this ability to utterly remove units from the game has some interesting uses. For example a hidden message written in the grass terrain with desert terrain can be revealed when a lazor tower blasts its covering off. Using a Lazor Tower to move ruins and create impassable walls is hugely significant; nothing like this could have been achieved before. The ability to remove shallows on top of land terrain means one could create a drought scenario in real time or conversely a flooding scenario with grass patches over water. There are many other uses of which I will leave for you to figure out. There are a couple of other quirks one might want to know about the Lazor Tower, it’s actually a unit and not a building. You cannot repair it but a priest can heal it and can also convert it without Monotheism.  It cannot however board a ship (that would be weird). It has a range of about 9 and does about 30 area-of-effect damage per shot. The Lazor Tower doesn’t use population cap. A Lazor Tower can capture artifacts/War Chests, Ruins, and Hero_Traitor but not a Mercenary.

There is one HUGELY IMPORTANT FACT EVERYONE MUST KNOW ABOUT THE LAZOR TOWER! It is incredibly unstable, clicking on tower even once risks crashing the game. Therefore I strongly urge scenario designers to use lazor towers ONLY for the aforementioned triggering purposes and not for combat or general use. You have been warned. I have learned there is a bugfix for it. This was contributed by former Chab:

“Lazor tower causes crashes because it is a living unit used as a tower (tower_mode=1).

This case is not supported by the game and displaying the icon in selection zone may crash randomly. Indeed the game uses different methods to display the icon according to unit’s type (building/living).

If you want to use lazor towers I can suggest 2 solutions.
I don’t guarantee there won’t be other issues but it seems to be working.

1) No icon (simple)
Remove the icon for lazor tower (id=236): set icon to -1 in unit/graphics section.

2) Use a relevant command attribute (allows enabling other buttons and displays unit information correctly)
The command attribute “2” is intended to buildings.
Change lazor tower’s Command Attribute from 2 to 4 (or 0, or other).
However, by doing this, the displayed icon will be wrong (it seems there are 2 categories, buildings and living units. 49 can be legion (living) or guard tower (building).

So, change the icon for lazor tower (id=236). You can set it to -1 (no icon) or something else if you find one that is relevant… Or modify DRS file that contains icons!”

Player Units – Regular

Mostly people learn pretty quickly about how units interact in Age of Empire and for the most part I will leave it up to you, the reader, to come up with some creative interactions. I will however give note to mentionable properties that you find useful in your planning.

Unit ‘help’ description

Yes one wouldn’t think that even the description of a unit can be used for the purposes of scenario design but it can. Nezon’s ‘Bushido’ campaigns masterfully used the ‘?’ function (it’s the ‘?’ button in the bottom right corner that gives additional information about a unit/feature) to add additional depth to gameplay and story. In his campaign you cannot work out your full mission objectives until you have ‘talked to’ (‘?’ a unit) to get additional information. As you can see in this one example, nearly any feature of AoE can be used to change feel and scope of a scenario.

Scythe chariots/catapults/catapult triremes/war elephants

Practically every unit in the game will serve some sort of purpose for triggering but these units I just listed are extremely useful in this regard because they all share a common quality: Area-of-Effect or ‘AoE’ damage. This means if you can compel them to attack other units may be harmed and this is great for inducing diplomacy change between computer players and the human player. They will turn hostile to the player who made the AoE attack. Knowing this, a designer can easily create timed or player activated diplomacy changes. Additionally you can use the AoE unit to indirectly damage units or structures – which can be for gameplay or cosmetic purposes. Heavy Catapults and Juggernauts can also destroy trees with the impacts of their attacks which are great for unlocking new areas, creating new paths, puzzles, and for opening up a surprise invasion route to an unfortunate player. This ability is particularly useful precisely because it can be triggered – by diplomacy change, by a timer, or by the player’s discovery. For example, player A is allied to player B, but wishes to attack them. Unknown to player A there is a catapult trigger setup in the forest behind their base. When player A changes diplomacy with player B the trigger activates and a sudden opening in the forest is made and lo and behold player B had a secret army waiting there to ambush the traitorous player A. Note all catapult-type units have 1 more range than what their statistics say due to their AoE damage.

Enemy catapults can be used to harm allied units without you doing it yourself e.g. a scenario where you want to destroy your ally but you cannot change diplomacy. You can use hostile catapult fire to damage your ally without technically hurting their units yourself.

Ships

Alligators/lions won’t attack ships. I mention this because you can use fishing boats and other harmless naval units in triggering. You can guide what the animal can do until the appointed time. E.g. an alligator king is walled in by player A’s fishing boats and on the other side of the boats is a clubman of player B. Now player A is enemies with player B but not the other way around. So if player B was ever induced become enemies with player A then the clubman will attack the fishing boats thus removing the barrier between himself and the alligator king. The alligator will kill the clubman and complete the trigger (a mission objective could be to kill the clubman by indirect means for example). Little fishing boats have another little use, as a decorative wall. When a lot of fishing boats are lined up nose-to-nose they look like a fancy wall of an eastern/oriental flavour.

Rafts are interesting for scenario design because they can fit into 1-by-1 tiles (larger transports can’t) and so can squeeze into interesting places. They can also only transport 1 unit at a time. You also cannot train them in a game so they have to be preplaced on a map. Ships can also be used to ‘blockade’ another player’s dock without actually damaging it. E.g. you are allied to a player but must prevent them from gaining gold from trading without actually attacking any of their units. So you can use several ships and the stand-ground option to lock down that player’s dock.

Player owned transports also can be used to capture or transport enemy soldiers. For example if you use a priest to capture an enemy transport that’s full of soldiers then they are at your mercy – and direction. Thus you can use these hostile troops to use up the enemies total population cap or you can also unload them into another location (like to attack a 3rd player for you!) Also you can use this possibility to set up a fancy scenario problem where you have to bring a hostile unit to a particular location but you’re not allowed to convert him.

Funnily enough you can transport a hostile unit WITHOUT converting their transport – by using your own.  You see, when an enemy priest attempts to convert one of your units and that unit boards a transport you own but is still in the conversion range of the enemy priest, then that priest will CONTINUE to convert your unit even when it’s inside the ship. Another oddity is that if the priest succeeds then you lose Line-of-Sight of your transport (so you better have it hot keyed). The transport isn’t converted but the unit inside is. You can now transport a hostile unit in your own ship. Using this method you control what kind of hostile unit you’re transporting, you can even give the computer player a unit they couldn’t normally have such as a Persian player having a chariot (which makes for some REALLY unique scenario objectives). In this way one can overcome the limitations of a computer AI. For example a computer AI will never ferry villagers across the sea. But if you get them to convert one of your own villagers, then you can ferry him yourself and thereby get the villager to expand the computer player’s civilization that would be impossible to do so otherwise. Heck, it’s even possible using the priest-transport method to ferry units owned by several different players in the SAME ship! Just think of the possibilities of this…

Priests

Priests have 1001 uses but I list only a few. 1st obviously by converting other player’s units you can increase your population beyond the 50 unit cap. If you’re devious you can also force a computer player to do exactly that by feeding them useless units (like fishing boats or villagers). That way they won’t have population room to train soldiers to attack you and so you would be able to take their city by storm without opposition. Martyrdom is a highly underrated technology but has so many uses. I have seen a scenario whereby to escape a hostile city the player had to martyr their trapped unit and use their convert to get away. Why stop there? How about a puzzle scenario where you had to make Martyr Chain: finding and converting several priests in order to perform a particular task. How about making it more complicated? How about having to convert a particular kind of priest who has that extra bit of range (I’m thinking Egypt here) in order to reach further.  How about making it more complicated? Add Monotheism into the mix. Make the chain end at a particular structure you have to convert in order to train another kind of unit? How about making it MORE complicated? That structure is a temple so you can train more priests and thereby wage a priest-war with another player? Chuck in transports, Blind Lame Priests, gold tributes, towers and such; you will have a unique puzzle to challenge someone to really think out of the box in order to win your scenario. Priests are a great way to strategic depth to any scenario. But to be successful with these bearded men you have to plan carefully, test rigorously, and include plenty of helpful hints and even a walkthrough if you made a real dozy of a puzzle.

Priests can be used to obtain units a player couldn’t otherwise have e.g. chariots for a Persia aligned player. However by banning certain structures in the ‘options’ menu you can control when the player can access these banned structures by either finding them or using a priest to convert one.

Priests also have cosmetic and cinematic uses. They are a great way to decorate a city to add diversity. By combining them with invisible demons you can create interesting effects. For example have computer player A have a priest face a ruin. Then dump a whole bunch of (Macedonian) Invisible Demons from computer player B whom player A is hostile to on top of the ruin. This will create the appearance that the priest is chanting or praying at the ruin. In a similar manner you can set up priests from several players around an invisible demon, since they are all enemies, they will each attempt to convert the invisible demon. This creates the appearance that a council of elders are having a discussion. By careful manipulation of the diplomacy settings you have each priest ‘speak’ in turn.

Priests also have another use for decoration. You can use them to convert structures of different civilization art to add additional variety to your city design. Also priests have a weird glitch, sometimes when they are killed they don’t immediately ‘die’ (for the purposes for scenario objectives/path blocking) you will notice you can click on their corpse and you will see their conversion number declining. Similar to a hunted animal, a priest won’t be considered ‘gone’ until this timer reaches 0.

Tame Lions

Tame lions have many properties that are truly excellent for scenario design. I used many of their features in my ‘Ancestor Blood Rites’ scenario. Here is a section from the scenario which dealt with some of their abilities:

Tame Lions have a special ability. Basically they won’t be attacked by the computer unless they attack something first (this excludes Gaia units). This means they make the perfect scouts and when they attack en-masse, the enemy can only respond to one or two at once rather than each individual Tame Lion. This means that in a big group if you micro-manage well, they can be deadly (sometimes the enemy doesn’t even respond to attacks from multiple lion packs). The second benefit to this status is that they are in fact mobile walls. Since they can’t be attacked without having to have attacked first, you can use them to block choke-points (like bridges!). They also don’t use up any population room so you can have as many as you want.

Additionally, like their wild counterparts, Tame Lions won’t cross over shallows; you cannot even get them to the water’s edge (this makes walking along tree lined coastlines impossible). Curiously Tame Lions cannot attack gazelles but they will attack other wild beasts (they are slightly stronger than wild lions). Another little known fact is that for the purposes of hostile diplomacy change, Tame Lions do not exist. You could convert 1 or 100 Tame Lions from another player and they wouldn’t care. Tame Lions cannot board ships.

Here is an idea: the hall of lions. You’re a villager with a bit of stone and have to make it through a narrow path with lions on both sides. The catch is some lions are tame and some are wild. Block the paths of the wild lions with wall-foundations and make it safely through the path.

Invisible Demon

Invisible Demons are nearly useless for the human player. They do provide line-of-sight but use up population room and are unselect able (which means you cannot delete them). They can be attacked and killed like any other unit. You can use them to make a semi-invulnerable barrier and they have a countless uses for triggering. They are especially well paired with a priest or a catapult to make unique effects. For example, using a catapult from player A shooting at an invisible demon from player B you can make ‘random fire’ (the invisible demon will run around avoiding the catapult attacks, so the catapult will appear to be shooing randomly). This effect is especially interesting if the human player cannot see the catapult, and the catapult has alchemy. That way it will look like a rain of fireballs from a meteor shower or a volcano.

Towers

Towers are good for triggering because they have a fixed range and location. By combining with a build plan you can cause a trigger to be activated when the towers range is increased (say to be able to hit an enemy unit it otherwise couldn’t reach thereby causing a diplomacy change/objective achieved.) E.g. You have to prevent player A from cutting wood or they will research craftsmanship, increasing the range of their tower which will shoot player B’s unit and thereby cause Player A to win. Thus any upgrade can be used in a similar manner in triggering but the tower stands out to be used in this way because it doesn’t use population cap.

You can make ‘Special’ towers by placing other units underneath them to add additional effects. E.g. one can hid a stone thrower under a tower so the tower appears to be able to shoot stones as well as arrows.

Any ranged unit (including priests, catapults/towers/ballistae etc)

They all share a common trait which synergies with Gaia units. When they ‘shoot’ one of your units they flare their location (If they are shooting from the fog-of-war they are revealed). If there is a Gaia unit RIGHT next to them (you have to have the correct positioning) they will be revealed and turn to your side. This is a useful trigger to reveal Gaia units that otherwise couldn’t be found (like your own units don’t have sufficient Line-of-Sight to reveal Gaia units themselves). I used such a trigger myself in “Ancestor Bloodrites” with an added layer of complexity: When one of your units attacked a particular wall segment owned by another player they will turn hostile to you. I had placed a BLP next to this player’s tower which flared its location when it shot my BLP and thereby revealed some Gaia wall segments which became mine. The wall segments gave the human player Line-of-Sight of a scenario objective. This is but one way of many that this trait can be used.

Villagers

Yes it IS possible to induce the humble computer villagers to violence but only in specific circumstances. Villagers will fight tooth-and-nail to defend their TownCenter from your own villagers and units and your towers. If you send a group of your own villagers/units to attack enemy villagers WHEN THEY ARE WITHIN A CERTAIN RADIUS OF THEIR TOWNCENTER they will defend themselves ENMASSE. The same holds true if you attempt to build towers or have towers built within this radius, the computer villagers will swarm the hostile tower and attempt to destroy it brick by bloody brick. Normally this isn’t very effective BUT you can improve the odds for the Computer villagers for an interesting scenario. 1st give them the technologies Wheel, and Jihad. Now the villagers pose a real threat to any low equipped enemy. By making the computer player Sumerian aligned or better yet Palmyra aligned the villagers gain a bonus to their HP or armor respectively. So now you have fast moving, relatively sturdy angry mob of sappers that will shred towers and be a real threat to unprepared armies. Catapults, ballistae, and priests in particular will be rapidly killed off if unprotected. The defensive perimeter of their TownCenter isn’t that large so several have to be placed strategically if you wanted to make a ‘rioting mob’ type scenario. Note that if your towers are completely walled off then the villagers will not attack them.

Other uses for villagers are their obvious building and harvesting abilities both of which, if properly guided can be used for triggering. For example you can seal off an area/ trap some troops that won’t be released until the villagers gradually clear the barrier (such as trees) away. In a similar way in tandem with a preconfigured Computer build plan one can control if and when a villager builds a particular structure and thereby changes the flow of gameplay. Other things to consider in relation to this are computer population cap or resource availability. The classic example would be a wonder. By controlling where resources are placed and controlling when or if the computer (or human) player can access them you can directly control their build plan. By in large it’s easier to control gold and stone in this regard than the ever-present food and wood. Remember that re-tasking villagers on different resources cause them to drop what resources they are caring.

You can also coax computer player villagers to move to certain locations in a similar manner that computer troops move to defend units under attack. By having a damaged structure that the computer player controls in a certain location, computer villagers will attempt to move to that location in order to repair it. If there is a building foundation of say, a Town Center (especially if it’s their only one) or a Wonder then computer villagers will move EN MASSE from considerable distances in order to build it. In this way you can make a ‘Mass migration’ or ‘fleeing villagers’ type of scenario. In a similar way by preventing the computer player from being able to build storage pits/granaries/Town Centers you can force villagers to travel large distances to and from resource locations to storage buildings. This can be used to make ‘attack/defend the supply train’ scenarios or bring planned cities to life with the townsfolk appearing to be actively ‘living’

A little known fact about villagers is that they can repair boats. I have never seen a computer villager repair a damaged boat so I assume only Human players will be able to do this. In relation to this villagers serve decorative purposes to add life to your cities. For example you can make it look like villagers are building ships in a dockyard. By having a Ship on ‘ramp’ (desert paths) next to water and having villagers immediately next to the ship AND invisible trees stacked on top of the ship you will have created what appears to be a shipyard. The villagers will cut down the invisible trees on top of the ship but it will appear they are actually building the ship. Siege weapons can be down in a similar way. Use your imagination here; there are countless little details and tricks that villagers can be used to breathe life into a city.

Market

The tribute system allows so many design options I dread listing them all. I will therefore surmise that a very clever designer will incorporate this system into their scenario to give the human player additional options to change how a scenario can be played. In ‘Monuments Built by Blood’ I used the tribute system to give the human player choice in their scenario objectives. They could ally with one player out of a choice of 5, and each ally had a unique set of objectives to complete. Be very careful about using the ‘Shared Ally Victory’ option in the diplomacy menu when designing a scenario. As near as I can understand it means you have to complete BOTH your objectives AND those of ALL of your allies. This is further complicated if diplomatic stances between allies and enemies is fluid. Remember tributing your ally isn’t the only way to gain advantage, tributing your enemies has its uses too… e.g. playing computer players against each other or converting special units they train or having them as a buffer state against a stronger enemy.

Remember that if you ban the market in the options menu then you can fix diplomatic relations between the human player and the computer players with a few exceptions such as failing to answer tribute requests, hitting allied units with AoE damage etc. Preventing the computer player from building a market also means if they have a high resource pile, they won’t be able to tribute it off to their allies which sometimes interferes with the gameplay of a scenario.

Houses

Another way to control the player’s or computer’s population or advancement through a scenario is limiting the amount of houses they have or can build. This could mean for example that a computer player only offers limited resistance initially but gets steadily stronger as the scenario progresses.

Special Buildings

By special I mean structures that were unlocked by Zapdotep’s Composite Editor, namely the trade workshop and the alternative Age building arts for various town structures. I just want to bring your attention to the fact that these structures serve ONLY decorative purposes as they DO NOT function as their regular counterparts. For example a bronze-aged styled dock placed from the Composite Editor (not the regular stone age one) cannot train ships or be used as a trade point for trade boats. The only exception to this loss of functionality is the alternative art houses which still increase your population cap.