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An Unlikely Alliance is the second scenario of the Ivaylo campaign in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. It depicts the alliance between Ivaylo and Maria Palaiologina which led to his ascension as the Tsar of Bulgaria.


After her husband's murder, the tsarina ruled a kingdom in disarray. Though this would have challenged even the most capable tsar, the dark-haired Greek princess was greater than most men.

Beautiful and cunning, Maria Palaiologina Kantakouzene was a daughter of two of the greatest families in Constantinople. She had wed the tsar on the orders of her uncle, the emperor, but her byzantine[sic] guile proved as much a benefit to her husband.

When a rival bolyar threatened Konstantin's rule, Maria offered to adopt him as her son and heir. The opportunistic bolyar accepted and feasted in the tsar's court, only to be found dead shortly afterward. Poisoned.

But now, with an uprising in the countryside and scheming bolyars in her own court, it would take all of Maria's cunning to preserve her power. But a more threatening menace came from her own uncle...

The headstrong Roman Emperor Michael Palaiologos demanded his niece's submission. The tsarina, just as strong-willed, refused.

Furious that his own niece stifled his ambition, the emperor chose an exiled prince to place on the Bulgarian throne. Ivan, the returning son of the Asen dynasty deposed by Konstantin, led a great Roman army in order to retake his father's kingdom.

The tsarina alone could not defeat the Romans. Nor could Ivaylo challenged both the tsarina and Ivan. The logic of these facts dictated a most unlikely alliance: between a rebel leader and the wife of the Tsar he murdered.

Scenario instructions[]

Starting conditions[]


  • Capture and hold the Church of the Patriarchs.
  • The Church of the Patriarchs must not be destroyed.
  • Enter Tarnovo to fulfill the Tsarina's request.


  1. You are restricted to a population limit of 200.
  2. The Yantra River is too shallow for large war vessels. You will not be able to construct any.
  3. The land is boggy and many areas are unsuitable for buildings. You will need to defend the Church of the Patriarchs with units instead of walls and towers.


Your scouts report:

  • The city of Tarnovo, on the Yantra River, is ruled by Tsarina Maria, who seeks an ally in her war against her pretender Ivan Asen.
  • The two claimants to Bulgaria's throne are battling for control of the Church of the Patriarchs, the seat of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Whoever controls this Wonder will have claim over the Bulgarian tsardom.
  • Ivan Asen attacks from west and east. Both of his armies field infantry, but his western force (3, Green) musters Konniks and Cavalry Archers, while his eastern wing (4, Yellow) fights with Boyars and Monks.
  • Ivan is aided by the Romans (5, Cyan) in the south. Their Cataphracts are dangerous, but their base lacks walls.




  • Tsarina Maria (Bulgarians) controls the fortress in the center of the map as well as the town being raided by Ivan Asen, and will hand over control of the former to the player[ once Ivaylo arrives there. They do not actively participate in the scenario otherwise.


  • Ivan Asen (Bulgarians) has a well fortified base in the west with two Town Centers outside their military base. They train Two-handed Swordsmen, Pikemen and sometimes Konniks. Once the player controls the church and the timer reaches 50 years, a large force of Konniks will appear and will head to the church. 
  • Ivan Asen (Slavs) is based in the east, and mainly builds armies of Champions, Onagers and Monks.
  • Romans (Byzantines) is located in the south. They mostly train Elite Skirmishers, Halberdiers and Capped Rams.


The easiest way to claim victory is to first secure the base. Move the initial army into defending the base. Periodically, move a Knight or two near the Wonder to reclaim it to ensure that the timer does not get too low. This must be done when no enemy troops are nearby. Once the player has built up a few Castles (2-3) to defend the base, go to the nearest Monastery holding Relics and grab them. That should provide additional gold income for troops. But the player should also be careful about the cyan player, since they produce rams.

It is recommended to train a mixture of Pikemen and Archers or Elite Skirmishers, followed by cavalry. Once the player has built a significant force, claim the Wonder and defend it. The player can build several small towers and Kreposts to help defend it. It is also advisable to spend some stone walling off the nearby bridge leading to the green player's base, as once it is blocked, they will be forced to take a longer route via the south since they do not construct siege weapons.

Then just wait out the timer and hold the Wonder. Once the timer reaches 50 years, the green player will send a large force of Konniks to attack. If the player's base is well defended with Castles and troops, the player should have no problem fighting them off. But the player should also be careful not to lose control of the church, otherwise timer will be reset and player has to wait and deal with those Konniks again once the timer goes below 50 years.

If the player wishes to pursue an offensive strategy, it is very important to note that if the green Ivan Asen player resigns and the Wonder is currently in their possession, or falls into enemy control later, the Wonder will instantly be destroyed and the scenario will fail. As such, it is advisable not to completely destroy the green Ivan Asen player. The player is best off wiping out the Cyan and Yellow players as it will allow them to focus more on defending against Green; after all their proximity to the wonder turns it to Green.

Alternative strategy[]

Although it requires some decent micro skills, the scenario can be won very quickly if the player has at least some troops stationed next to the Church of the Patriarchs at all times, which will prevent any of the enemy factions from ever taking control of it.

After inheriting Tsarina Maria's base, the player should move their initial army towards the Wonder, where they can pick off any enemies that try to capture it. After accumulating enough stone, the player should build a Krepost or two outside of their front Gate in order to hold off the green Ivan Asen player, as well as produce additional Konniks more efficiently. Garrisoning the starting Archers in the Krepost will slow the green Ivan Asen player even more.

As the Romans and yellow Ivan Asen player periodically send units towards the Wonder, the player should use Konniks and Cavaliers to deal with Onagers, Cataphracts, Elite Skirmishers, and Monks, while using Dismounted Konniks, Two-Handed Swordsmen, and Cavalry Archers to ward off Pikemen. It is advised to bring Patriarch Macarius (the Monk hero unit) to heal the player's army; producing an additional Monk will preserve the player's forces longer still.

The player should reinforce their army guarding the Wonder whenever they can afford it. If the player can preserve their numbers long enough, the enemies will never be able to completely destroy the player's army and the scenario will soon be won.


Ivaylo's army filled the Yantra River with Roman dead, securing Maria's place on the throne. Now, the tsarina had to fulfill her end of the bargain. As Ivaylo approached the gates to the fortress, Maria waited silently for the man who had killed her husband.

As Ivaylo stepped before her, the tsarina placed the tsar's crown, once worn by her husband and father of her child, on the swineherd's head, crowning a peasant a king. The objections of the watching nobility were silent but palpable.

Then, in a hasty ceremony, Maria wed the newly crowned tsar, tying her fate with his.


  • As Bulgarian history shows, it is not that 'unlikely' for a tsar to marry the widow of the previous tsar, as this was the case with tsaritsa Anisia and tsars Kaloyan and Boril (the latter being nephew to the former through being the son of his sister). Kaliman II Asen did the very same thing with the widow of his cousin Michael II Asen whom he murdered during a hunt.