Flugendorf ([personal profile] flugendorf) wrote2017-05-04 09:59 pm

Once Upon A Time In Fake New England

A very long time ago, when I was playing Age of Empires III and it was new to me, I... well, I've rarely ever tried fancy things with the troops. I usually play on the level of a brutal numbers game, and I sort of clumsily get my little soldiers to where they need to be.
But this one time, I was trying to be more clever. I moved my cavalry and my light infantry and my heavy infantry separately. Different formations.
And this game was one where I was eventually crushed. This was before I learned the brutal-numbers-game tricks that mean I usually win against a really dumb computer enemy.
But there was a moment in that game...

My triumphant attack on the enemy township had just been obliterated. The most dramatic obliteration I've ever seen. (Was it only back then that such extraordinary things happened in that game, back in the youth of the world?)
I'd been about to bring down the hammer. Secure in the sense that I had just wiped out the enemy's army and left it, for the moment, poor in defenses, I was marching my main force up the grassy rise toward the unseen place where I knew the enemy city was.
And at the top of the hill - I saw cannons roll into place. The first cannons I'd seen in that contest... and more of them at once than I'd seen ever. And they rolled into place in a way I'd never seen - they weren't in train, they were in a long line, shoulder to shoulder, all along the crest. I think there were thirteen of them.
And, as I saw this, a ridiculous flood of cavalry poured down the hill past them... and ringed my forces. There was a big red-ring-around-blue bullseye on the mini-map.
My balance of forces was such that I could have defeated the cavalry in itself, regardless... in less than thirty seconds. Maybe less than twenty.
Except at this moment it meant that I couldn't get at that long line of cannons - every one of which was, at that moment, sighting in...
I was like a bug in pine sap.
And then - in the blink of an eye or nearly so - the big red ring was empty.

So the enemy had just wiped out my grand army with virtually no losses... which brings me to the happy load of reinforcements that I had just dispatched from my town to head over to the enemy town, which should have been merrily burning by then.
A body of mixed reinforcements - nothing like the army it was intended to support - that was wholly inadequate to fend off the massive cavalry charge that I knew was headed toward them.
And they were too far along to get back behind my city walls in time. (I still used walls, then. I was not far enough along in tower-line theory yet.) They were going to be caught in the open by the enemy cavalry.
I had just a few seconds to scroll to them, and take stock...
And then the enemy cavalry swept in.

This is where I would love to be able to insert an exact account of brilliant generalship, but, if that's what it really was, I virtually missed it. I was so busy that I have no idea what I did.
With the "rock, paper, scissors" of the different kinds of troops whirling in my head, somehow I did this insane dance that kept pulling one block of troops, then another block of troops, then another block of troops out of the jaws of hell. Somehow I juggled that gigantic flood of cavalry at arms length, with nothing to juggle them with, all the way back, until I got the last of my people inside the defenses, and I don't think I lost five units. It made perfect intent sense in my head while I was doing it, and I'd never be able to do it again.
And then...

NAPOLEON GAVE ME A COMPLIMENT.

And I've never been able to remember the exact wording; I was just so surprised. It amounted to "that was a really nice job!"
Understand:
To my knowledge, the computerized enemy generals in Age of Empires III don't ever do that. They just either taunt you or say passive-aggressive sulky things. I've never heard anything like that again. Of course, the simplest explanation is that I've never played that well again, but I've never seen a reference to anyone else running into this either!
And how would the computer program know anyway?! The computer enemies in Age of Empires III play really crudely. At the hardest level they just start sending armies with more soldiers. They don't DO fancy-schmancy stuff. How would the program recognize fancy-schmancy stuff?
It makes me wonder. Were there originally more involved plans for the program? Did some programmer hide some extraordinary vestige in there, that spoke up?

To finish the story, after that point I never got the chance to leave my town in force again, beyond desperate "firefighting" sallies. I lost the game through a series of hurried rebuildings of my defenses after warding off cannon-heavy attacks, until the time I didn't quite make it and the enemy poured in. It was a classic early-Alex defeat.
But that compliment has stuck with me. It felt really good... and it was really strange.
I don't suppose I'll ever have an answer.