My new friend was quite curious to learn of the motivations behind Sforza's deeds, as well as what the man learned in his journeys. I was appreciative of his curiosity because the more questions he asked, the more food he brought me! "So Sforza learned politicking from an early age by dealing with his rebellious Captains," he stated quite thoughtfully.
It was true. Francesco was not a Lord, and he did not inherit his father's retainers. He also inherited few of his father's contacts such as Queen Joan of Naples. He served many important people well and grew in fame. "This was the time of the Lombardy Wars. The Florentines, Milanese, and Venetians were reaching a boiling point and scrambling to hire out Condottieri such as Sforza. Duke Visconti of Milan hired Sforza, as well as Malatesta. The Venetians hired Sforza's old rival Carmagnola."
Duke Visconti was an ugly man, both in face and character. He was always paranoid and shied away from dealing with people, but had a cruel streak and enjoyed punishing others. Carmagnola once worked for Visconti. The Duke disrespected him at every turn. He used to call us "contract dogs!" But when Carmagnola acted like a dog and left to join the Venetians for more money, Visconti was furious. He called a man with no loyalties to begin with a traitor. This meant he was more desperate to retain help and thus Sforza Brigata had greater opportunity for glory... and gold.
- Brigata Malatesta (Teutons) is with his army outside Milan, and at the end of the game the player witnesses his army besieging Pizzighettone in the north, and having a band of his army being ambushed and slaughtered by Carmagnola's troops in the northeast.
- Duchy of Milan (Italians) is in control of Milan itself (northwest), Pavia (west), Piacenza (centre), and Cremona (east). Sforza meets Duke Visconti in Milan and obtains the market there, and brings his band of soldiers to Piacenza in preparation to raid Tuscany. Then the player is to defend Cremona from Carmagnola's invasion. Finally, the player is to return to Milan and then take over Pavia to defend Milan from the Venetian invasion.
Neutral → Enemies
- Brigata Carmagnola (Spanish): is serving Venice, and become enemies with the player once the player boards on the second Transport Ship from Piacenza (going to Cremona). They attack the player's castle in Cremona with many Cannon Galleons and they stop around there once done, and they invade Cremona with many Bombard Cannons and Hand Cannoneers, in attempt to breach the wall. At the end of the game, they defend against Malatesta's army, escaping Pizzighettone and ambush the invaders.
- Florentines (Italians): are in control of Tuscany, where the capital, Florence, is located in the south of the map. While the town is well-defended, the player is to destroy 25 buildings outside the town, including all the four Town Centers. Each time they defend against the player with several Hand Cannoneers and two bombard cannons in a group.
Neutral → Enemy → Ally
- Venetians (Byzantines): are based in the eastern tip of the map, becoming enemies with the player when the player boards on the first Transport Ship from Piacenza, and at this moment they send a few Demolition Ships to Pavia. After the player takes over Pavia, they send an army from the west (some in Transport Ships), in attempt to invade Milan and/or Pavia.
- Bandits (Italians): are scattered all over the map, consisting of Halberdiers and Arbalesters. Sforza say that they "look Venetians". As they are 'allied' with the Duchy of Milan, the player cannot be protected by any of Milan's possessions against the bandits.
The player starts with a band of Condottieri under Francesco Sforza, and Sforza is to meet Duke Visconti in Milan. The market in Milan is being given to the player, which the player has to rely on it for resources for the entire game. Then the player is to get some Paladins outside Milan, before setting sail to Piacenza. Along the way, the player will encounter bandits, and Sforza says that they look like Venetians.
As the player reaches Piacenza, they take over the Stables and Blacksmith there, and prepare for a raid on Tuscany, aiming to destroy 25 buildings, including all the four Town Centers outside the town of Florence. The player should not ever attempt to enter the well-defended Florence. The Florentines become enemies with the player once the player enters the countryside.
After the player completes the raid, they should get ready to head towards Cremona. Once the player boards on the Transport Ships, the Venetians and Carmagnola become enemies with the player. Since the Venetian Demolition Ships and a Cannon Galleon of Carmagnola pass by, the player must wait for all of them to sail past Piacenza before the player can set sail. When the player reaches Cremona, the Castle is given to them, but is immediately under attack by several cannon galleons from Carmagnola. The player should try their luck and quickly research Conscription before the castle is destroyed, so that they can create military units faster after this. (It is advisable for the player to save the game before heading to Cremona to ensure this research succeeds).
Sforza must meet the chief of Cremona before the player can take over the Barracks and start building an army to defend against Carmagnola's invasion. The invasion forces consist of Bombard Cannons and Hand Cannoneers, therefore the player should just create Condottieri, which have a bonus against gunpowder units. Carmagnola's troops aim to breach the wall on the western side of Cremona and cross it, and the player must prevent them from crossing, or else the game is lost.
Once Carmagnola's force is defeated, Sforza is to set sail back to Milan. However, Carmagnola's cannon galleons are an obstacle on the river, and attack the player if detected. If the player loses both of the transport ships, there are two more replacement ships in the west, where the player boarded from Piacenza. The player needs to distract the enemy ships elsewhere, or even destroy them whenever possible.
As Sforza returns to Milan and meet the Duke, the player will take over Pavia in preparation to face the Venetian invasion. The Venetians will invade Milan and Pavia, the Duke must remain alive and the castle in Milan must remain standing. At this point, the player will have a few Villagers who can gather resources, but might not be of much use because they will be very likely to be attacked by the Venetian troops later. The player should begin building troops. While the player can simply build a navy to destroy the Venetian transport ships in the east of Pavia (these contain bombard cannons, which are a very great threat), the player is likely to face much more challenge in facing Venetian troops that come from the west and from the northeast of Pavia, including those that come in transport ships.
After the player defeated the Venetian troops, the player will witness Malatesta's troops besieging Pizzighettone against Carmagnola, while Carmagnola's defensive troops flee. As Malatesta's troops are charging after Carmagnola's troops, they are ambushed and slaughtered by Carmagnola's hiding troops in a forest. After this, the player, Duchy of Milan, and Brigata Malatesta are jointly declared victors.
Visconti could be generous to his people and mercenaries who performed well for him. But the failure of his army and the destruction of his heavy cavalry enraged Visconti, as well as his pride in losing to Carmagnola. Malatesta had lost the day, but in his paranoia he imprisoned Sforza, believing him to have purposely taken too long at defending Pavia to help in Pizzighettone. I made sure my friend took great note when I told him, "Visconti sent one of the best Condottieri in Italy to rot in Milan's dungeons. He had risen to shine very great in his campaign in Lombardy but he was again laid low."
- In this scenario, the Elite Condottiero appears when Francesco Sforza leads an army of them to meet Duke Visconti in Milan before meeting Brigata Malatesta, who gives Sforza an army of Paladins.
- If the player does not board both Transport Ships, but instead only board one, the Cannon Galleons will not come to attack.
- If the player kills off all the Crossbowmen waiting to ambush Malatesta's troops using Trebuchets, the win condition won't be triggered.
- The player has a camel on a Milanese transport ship in the river on the northwestern edge of the map. This exists to prevent auto-defeat while the starting cut-scene is playing, and can be collected by sending a unit to the edge of the river and telling the unit to board the ship, so that the ship sails to the edge of the river, and then clicking on the camel's icon so that it ungarrisons. If the player has lost their two Transport Ships, they will instantly produce new two to prevent stalemate. However, before The African Kingdoms, this trigger does not exist.