Loose Ends is the third scenario of the reworked Bari campaign in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. It depicts the Second Battle of Cannae in 1018, in which the Byzantine forces of southern Italy fought the Lombard uprising led by Melus of Bari and their Norman mercenaries.
My father coughed and took another draught of wine. "Melus sought aid from Salerno, while Dattus fortified a tower on the Garigliano River. From there, they gathered support and renewed their strength.
Melus reached far for help. Lombards, Germans, and Apulians answered the call, eager for glory and plunder. But there was one more group whose help Melus enlisted!
A new generation of Norman adventurers, forebears of the scum who attack our city as we speak. It is because of Melus that this new menace is upon us.
In response, the Byzantine Emperor sent the general Basil Boioannes and an elite force of the fabled Varangian Guard to meet Melus in the field and crush the rebellion for good.
The armies drew up near the River Ofanto, not far from where the Romans had clashed with Hannibal of Carthage some twelve centuries earlier. The fate of the Mezzogiorno was about to be decided..."
- Starting Age: Castle Age
- Starting resources: 1,000 food, 1,400 wood, 850 gold, 450 stone
- Population limit: 125
Differences between difficulty levels
- Defeat Melus' Army.
- Defeat the Norman Mercenaries.
- The Byzantine forces are restricted to a population limit of 125.
- Remember that the Byzantines can advance to the Imperial Age quite rapidly because they do not have to spend as many resources as most other civilizations to do so.
- Protecting your ally keeps the possibility open of acquiring additional gold through trade.
Your scouts report:
- Basil Boioannes (1, Purple) has taken his position in the northeast of the map, while his allies of the Varangian Guard (2, Blue) have camped to the south. The Varangian Guard will mostly rely on infantry such as Berserks and Long Swordsmen. Although their loyalty is beyond question, they will be in for trouble if they are attacked by Norman cavalry.
- Your enemies, Melus (3, Orange) and his Norman Mercenaries (4, Yellow), have pitched their camps across the river. Melus will send infantry into battle and he will also construct rams and Trebuchets. The Norman mercenary cohort consists of heavy cavalry and Serjeants.
- Player (Byzantines): starts in the Eastern edge of the map with some Houses, a Town Center, six Villagers, and some cavalry. The player is in the Castle Age, but can advance to the Imperial and has a full tech tree, with the exception of gunpowder units.
- Varangian Guards (Vikings): they start in the South. the Varangian Guard is defended by just a couple of towers and a Castle, and will not build defensive walls. The Vikings field a strong army of Berserks, Skirmishers, and Scorpions that is very effective against Huskarls. They are scripted to advance to the Imperial Age a second after the player.
- Melus' Army (Goths): they start in the North, directly opposite to the player, across the river. Melus will train Elite Huskarls, Halberdiers, Crossbowmen, Monks, rams, and Trebuchets, and will advance to the Imperial Age. His initial Castle is behind stone walls, but his base is mostly undefended, as Goths have no Stone Walls and the few Watch Towers in his base are fairly weak. He also relies on Villagers and Trade Carts that can be raided.
- Norman Mercenaries (Franks; Sicilians since Lords of the West): they only have Stables, some Houses, a Castle, and a Market in order to trade with Melus. Their base is surrounded by a palisade. They will initially field Serjeants and Knights, but will advance to the Imperial Age together with Melus and upgrade their Knights to Cavaliers and build Trebuchets. Since they have no Town Center or Villagers, they cannot be raided.
There is very little gold on this map, so the player's first priority should be building a Monastery and training two Monks to recover the Relics. There is one easy to reach to the west, between the player and their ally's base. The other is north across the river, closer the Melus' base. There is a tower so it would be wise to distract it with some troops while the Monk runs the Relic. A Market for trade will help gold accumulation in the late-game.
The Varangian Guard will soon be under attack by the Mercenaries, but Melus is a stronger enemy, so the player can leave the Varangian Guard by themselves for the time being (the player can still win the scenario if the Varangian Guard is defeated). Since Melus focuses on infantry, the player should build a Castle and starting queueing Cataphracts to defend their base. Training more Villagers is also important, but the player is restricted to a population limit of 125 so they should either ensure they have enough population space for military units or delete Villagers later in the game when resources are not a problem.
When in the Imperial Age, the player should fully upgrade their Cataphracts (researching Logistica will be very important against Melus' infantry spam) and build at least eight Trebuchets. Now attack the Mercenaries, which should not be a problem with a big army of Elite Cataphracts and Trebuchets. Just avoid losing too many units as the gold will become scarce and Melus is way harder to defeat. After most of their buildings are destroyed, the Mercenaries will resign, but the player should still destroy their Market to disrupt Melus' trade.
Now it remains to defeat Melus. Even though the player's fully upgraded Elite Cataphracts deal +18 bonus against infantry and have 16 cavalry armor, Melus' Halberdiers still deal +16 bonus damage against Elite Cataphracts, and Cataphracts are also vulnerable to Crossbowmen (due to their low pierce armor) and Monks, as well as Towers and Castles, so the player should build a second Castle if they have enough stone and queue more Cataphracts to compensate for losses in battle and to counter Melus' infantry spam. At the same time, the Trebuchets should focus on taking down Melus' Castles first and then the Town Centers. Since Melus' Villagers will attempt to rebuild everything that was destroyed, the player should use their Cataphracts to kill as many enemy Villagers as possible and also ensure they do not rebuild (enemy Villagers will cancel the construction of any building, now matter how close to being built, as soon as they are attacked by any enemy unit). When Melus has no more Villagers, the player can finish the scenario by destroying Melus' remaining production buildings.
"Not unlike its predecessor, the Second Battle of Cannae was a massacre. The Lombards and their Norman allies were no match for Boioannes' strategic prowess and the ferocity of his Varangian troops.
Melus fled the field and sought refuge with the Pope, which sent him to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor. He gradually poisoned the minds of several influential courtiers and, eventually, the Emperor himself.
Melus died in exile, but the effects of his political machinations were soon to be felt throughout Italy."
- Following his defeat at Bari in the previous scenario, Melus spent several years in exile in Salerno, before raising a new Lombard force and convincing Norman mercenaries to join his cause. Assuring the Normans of an easy and profitable victory over the Byzantines, Melus' army quickly got the better of the Byzantines led by catepan Kontoleon Tornikios in two engagements and began Apulia. Tornikios was replaced as catepan by Basil Boioannes, whose army was able to deliver a devastating counter blow at Cannae, ending Melus' ambitions.
- As in the previous scenario, the Lombards are again represented by the Goths in-game. Like the Goths, the Lombards were a Germanic tribe that migrated south and settled in Italy.
- The Norman mercenaries are represented by the Sicilians after the Lords of the West update, replacing their earlier depiction as Franks. However, since the Normans had not yet begun their conquest and assimilation into southern Italy, they still use the Western European architectural style rather than their standard Mediterranean style.
- Cannae was one of the first Norman ventures into Italy, but also a disaster: commander Gilbert Buatère and most his knights perished in the battle.
- The Varangian Guard is portrayed as the Vikings. In real life, the Varangian Guard was an elite unit of Byzantine Empire, comprising recruits from Northern Europe. In 1018 its men were principally Swedes, but it also included Norse, Danes, Rus' and later Anglo-Saxons. In keeping with their Viking ancestors and the Berserk, the Varangians mainly fought on foot, relying on the Dane axe in combat.