If Sforza thought taking territory would make him safe, he was a fool. The King of Naples looked hungrily northward to the cities so easily taken by a rogue mercenary.
Sforza needed allies. Sigismondo Malatesta came with a Venetian force, as did Sforza's ever-loyal cousin Micheletto. But the condottiero needed a more powerful ally. He took his biggest gamble by going to meet an old friend.
You might have thought that when Sforza walked into the Milanese court that Visconti would have ordered him arrested - or that Piccinino would have personally killed him. But surprisingly, Visconti accepted Sforza like a father accepts his wayward son. Sforza and the duke's daughter were finally wed and the implication was obvious - Sforza would rule Milan when Visconti died.
Whatever the duke's intentions, this favoring of the prodigal son incensed Piccinino. He furiously tore his contract and stormed out of Milan.
If Visconti would not see Sforza for what he was, Piccinino would find another patron. Pledging himself to the King of Naples, Piccinino had one goal: to destroy Sforza.
- Starting Age: Castle Age
- Starting resources:
- Population limit: 200
Differences between difficulty levels
- On Standard, the player will start with the Light Cavalry and Crossbowman upgrades already researched.
- Defeat Piccinino.
- You are restricted to a population limit of 200.
- Sforza is fighting on his own account, and will not receive resources from a wealthy patron. Instead, he has conscripted Villagers to supply his army.
- Sforza has not had time to establish himself in the region, however, and will need to advance to the Imperial Age to build an army that can challenge Piccinino.
- Piccinino relies on an economy outside his town walls, making him vulnerable to raids.
- Trade with the Lombard Villages would be profitable, but requires control of the lake.
- The rivalry between Sforza and Piccinino has brought the two men and their armies to an Alpine lake in northern Lombardy. A victory here would give either man a reputation as Italy's greatest captain, with all the power and profitable contracts that status would provide.
- Piccinino (Red) controls a port town on the southeastern coast of the lake, a mountain Castle in the southwest, and two camps in the east and northeast. These positions and his warships allow him to attack Sforza's camp from multiple approaches. Piccinino prefers an army of Cavaliers, Condottieri, Hand Cannoneers, and Genoese Crossbowmen, but he will adjust his tactics to best counter Sforza.
- Lombard Villages (Italians) - Not an active player. Has two "outposts" east of the player, next to Piccinino's camps. Represents the local population of the region that can be traded with. Is allied to both the player and Piccinino.
- Piccinino (Italians) - Rival of Sforza. Has a well-defended base and three camps (one to the east, two to the west); both his main base and westernmost camp are guarded by a Castle. Starts with a massive army mainly composed of Condottieri and will build a solid fleet of Galleons if left unattended. Will send constant, but not massive raids against the player both by land and sea. Despite having a Town Center and some Villagers, he will not develop a sizeable economy.
There is a Relic northeast of where the player starts; go get it, but send the Light Cavalry in first as there will be Wolves nearby. Put archers in the towers by the water, and start building an economy. The player will occasionally be attacked from either side, but the aggression is mostly over water. Nevertheless, it is advisable to wall up making use of strategic chokepoints, as stone is scarce in this scenario. This will allow the player to develop their economy at peace. It's difficult to win water battles prior to the Imperial Age, so get there quickly.
In the meantime, it is possible to resist attacks from enemy Galleons by upgrading Galleys to War Galleys as quickly as possible and then training enough to outnumber the enemy fleet. Because Piccinino has multiple Docks and is already in the Imperial Age, granting him superior technology, the only way to successfully counter his navy from early to mid-game is to outnumber it. Avoid being lured by his hit-and-run tactics until the navy is strong enough.
Once enough stone has been gathered, a single Castle slightly south of the Docks along the water filled with 10-20 archers will be plenty to defend against raids from the southwest camp, assuming the player researches Murder Holes and a few other Blacksmith/University defensive upgrades.
Once the player is ready, the enemy base to the northeast will crumble fairly easily with its Palisade Walls and weak defenses. Similarly with the base to the far east on the map. The southern base nearest the starting position won't be able to harm the player through their Castle for quite a while, so ignore them until the player can train Trebuchets or Bombard Cannons. Rams can significantly speed up the process of beating the enemy, but the player must protect them well since they're especially vulnerable to the enemy's swarming Condottieri.
With all three of the weaker bases defeated, the player should be ready to win. The enemy can be easily taken out from the sea with a strong navy - their Castle and towers will quickly crumble to Cannon Galleons, and once their main navy is defeated, the player should be able to destroy their Docks before they can fully rebuild, giving the player the water superiority. After devastating the enemy's coast (and main base) for good, the player's navy will become mostly useless, since Piccinino's camps are out of reach even from a Cannon Galleon's range.
Regardless, once the player has taken out the small base to the north, and the small base in the far east, the enemy will be hamstrung and it's only a matter of time.
The battle between Sforza and Piccinino was the centerpiece of the war over Italy. Sforza served Milan against Piccinino's Neapolitans, and then Piccinino returned to Milan's service while Sforza went to the Venetians. No matter which banners they fought under, the rivalry between the two men became the one constant of the war.
But Sforza's furbizia proved to be decisive. He defeated Piccinino in battles across northern and central Italy. The disgraced Piccinino was finally relieved by Visconti and spent his last breaths in Milan cursing Sforza's name to his two sons. With his rival and equal finally defeated, Sforza seemed destined to fulfill his grandest ambitions.
Then, by a twist of fate, Filippo Visconti died, undoing all of Sforza's plans.