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The Belly of the Beast is the third scenario of the reworked Alaric campaign in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. It is based on Alaric's second invasion of Italy in 408 A.D.

Intro[]

Rumors spread that Stilicho was ready to make a deal with Alaric. Our hopes were raised, but as weeks passed with no news, we knew that more Gothic blood would have to be shed.

The Romans resented Stilicho for making a pact with 'barbarians'. When parts of the Western Roman Empire were overrun by usurpers and invaders, they blamed Stilicho. He soon learned the hefty price of Roman politics: they declared him an enemy of the state and had him executed.

In a frenzy of hate, the Romans followed Stilicho's execution by murdering all soldiers of Germanic descent. Then, in another rush of blind rage, they turned on the families of those soldiers, and murdered them too.

The survivors flocked to Alaric, begging him to raise an army and march with them into Italy to exact vengeance.

Alaric coldy answered them, 'The Romans have never known fear, but that will change.'

Scenario instructions[]

Starting conditions[]

Differences between difficulty levels[]

  • On standard difficulty, Sarus trains way less units and Ataulf can mostly take care of him on his own.

Objectives[]

  • Defeat Aquileia.
  • Defeat Cremona.
  • Send an envoy to the emperor.
  • Defeat Sarus.

Hints[]

  1. The Visigoths can reach the Imperial Age and support a population of 210. Gunpowder is unavailable to the 5th century Goths.
  2. As Italy has been weakened by several Germanic invasions, you can take your time to build up your forces - the enemy will be slow in preparing theirs.
  3. Avoid approaching Ravenna until the emperor is willing to speak with Alaric. The Visigoths do not seek to destroy the Roman Empire, but simply to obtain a better bargain from it. Nevertheless, sack the Roman cities in Northern Italy to demonstrate your tenacity.
  4. The strength of the Visigoths lies in their numbers.

Scouts[]

Your scouts report:

  • Situated on the Adriatic coast, the city of Aquileia (3, Blue) has rather strong fortifications. Taking it with just infantry and no siege weapons might prove difficult. Aquileia will train Pikemen and Crossbowmen.
  • South of the Visigoths is the city of Cremona (4, Yellow). Its strength lies with its army of Knights, swordsmen, and Scorpions, which can counter Gothic Huskarls.
  • Ataulf (5, Cyan) has taken control of part of the Gothic army to assist Alaric. Once he is strong enough, he will deploy the typical flood of infantry that the Goths are known for, but until that moment he will need support and protection.
  • Rumor has it that the Gothic commander Sarus (6, Purple) has joined the Romans. He is a longtime rival of Alaric and knows him well.

Players[]

Player[]

  • Player (Goths): The player starts with a sizeable base in the northeast and a Castle west of the base.

Ally[]

  • Ataulf (Goths): Ataulf has a similar base and slightly more forces southeast of the player.

Neutral → Enemy[]

  • Sarus (Goths): Sarus controls some buildings and units within Ravenna's territory. After betraying the player, all buildings in Ravenna's southern base also switch to Sarus's control, including a Castle.

Neutral → Enemy[]

  • Ravenna (Italians): Ravenna is a largely passive player found on the western margin of the map, which can only be reached after defeating Aquileia and Cremona, and crossing a river and then a narrow passage defended by Watch Towers and soldiers. It has a larger fortified base on an island to the northwest, and a smaller base south of it, that is only protected by Palisade Walls and switches mostly to Sarus's control after his betrayal. Several Cataphracts and Legionaries are scattered through Ravenna's territory, while a fleet of Galleons protects the section of the river north of Cremona.

Enemies[]

  • Aquileia (Byzantines): Aquileia is a large, fortified city in an archipelago to the east. It is the most dangerous enemy because it is just south of Ataulf's base, but also difficult to assault due to a moat limiting access to a few chokepoints. Aquileia will resign when their Town Center and their two Castles are destroyed.
  • Cremona (Italians): Cremona is a large, semi-circular walled city near the center of the map, southwest of the Gothic forces. It is the weakest of the Italian cities. It also has a small, inactive village southwest, near the passage to Ravenna. Cremona will resign when their Town Center and Castle are destroyed.

Strategy[]

Not only do the enemies take a long time to attack (as stated in the Hints), they also concentrate on Ataulf, so the player is free to build a second base west (north of Cremona, which is rich in resources) and boom. However, Aquileia should be the priority target because it is closer to Ataulf and more aggressive. Scout to find its economy outside the walls and raze it to weaken Aquileia, then invest in siege weapons and Huskarls to breach the northern Gate and gain access to the interior. Ataulf will support but not lead, as the AI trains mostly Infantry and can't figure how to exploit the weak spots in Aquileia's defences. After conquering Aquileia, reinforce the army with Pikemen to fend Cremona's Knights and attack it from both north and east.

Once Cremona falls, a Scout Cavalry spawns southwest and runs to meet Emperor Honorius (a Centurion) northwest. However, Sarus betrays the player and kills the Scout halfway, turning himself and Ravenna into enemies. Ravenna then sends a large army of Elite Cataphracts and Legionaries against Ataulf, that makes short work of his Infantry and puts his survival in peril if unchecked. After defeating it, Ravenna returns to a passive, defensive position. Following attack waves are smaller Gothic armies from Sarus. They include Huskarls at first but as time goes on they become almost exclusively Champions and Halberdiers.

Build a third base near the Roman ruins south and a Castle on the choke point crossed by Sarus' armies. Afterward, use Trebuchets and ranged units to clear the Towers and Legionaries in the narrow passage leading to Ravenna's territory, then assault Sarus' base with Huskarls, Champions, and Rams until he is defeated.

Note: after both Aquileia and Cremona are defeated, both Ravenna and Sarus will do nothing until the player sends the Scout to Ravenna's Gate to get betrayed. To avoid being caught unprepared against Ravenna's Cataphracts and Sarus' infantry spam (which can be countered by the player's own infantry spam), the player can use this to their advantage to freely boom and train an army as big as possible (if the player trains an army big enough to reach the 210 population cap, then victory is mostly guaranteed).

Alternate strategy[]

This is a guaranteed victory, but it might be considered unfair by some players, as it undeniably cheeses Sarus's triggers until the player is poised for a swift victory.

Follow all of the above until the meeting with the Emperor, including the delayed cavalry to the Emperor. Instead of sending the Scout Cavalry, send the entire army of Elite Huskarls (should be close to 3 full command groups of 60, totaling around 180) and position them directly under the red Town Center and near all of the red buildings that Saurus will convert. If the player is unsure about which ones those are, save the game, reveal the map, engage the dialogue, and then reload. The next stage will not trigger until that scout reaches the gates of Ravenna and Sarus declares his assault.

Note: Ravenna's force are set to hotkey F: do not attack. They will not attack if the player attacks them. This can be used to the player's advantage, but carefully: Saurus will declare his assault if the player kills too many of them. Take out the Mangonels and Cataphracts first.

The instant Sarus betrays Alaric, use the Huskarls to crush the buildings and especially the Castle. Ignore Ravenna, as they will yield once Sarus is destroyed. Once the Town Center, Castle, and other military buildings are destroyed within the first few seconds, kill the Villagers and everything else purple. There are villagers just to the west of the enclave, and they will build a second Castle if not killed immediately. After Atulf declares it is time to take Rome, the scenario is won.

In some cases, it is possible that Sarus's villagers will refuse to leave the walls of Ravenna. If this happens, reload and repeat the assault. Keep the Huskarls inside the small enclave until the player sees either the villagers or a purple building foundation. Then kill them before they rebuild their Castle and Town Center, as they will instantly mobilize Elite Huskarls.

Outro[]

For all the Romans did to us, it seemed logical for Alaric to seek their downfall, but that is not what he wanted. After sacking the cities of Northern Italy, he met with the Roman Emperor, Honorius. Alaric's demands were reasonable and humble, a sign of reconciliation between our two peoples. And all would have gone well, had it not been for the Gothic commander Sarus.

Sarus had vied with Alaric over the Visigothic kingship and had lost dishonorably, instead entering Roman service. Jealous of Alaric, he ordered his soldiers to attack our king by surprise and kill him.

Luckily, Alaric and his men survived the assassination attempt, and escaped.

Trivia[]

  • This scenario overlaps chronologically with the first three in the HD Alaric campaign (All Roads Lead to a Besieged City, Legionaries on the Horizon!, and Emperor of the West). Of them, it has more in common with the third, featuring Alaric's army trying to reach Honorius in Ravenna and introducing Sarus as an enemy. Notably, the reworked campaign ignores Alaric's earlier blockades of Rome, which were the subject of the first half of the HD campaign.
  • Cremona is also an enemy in the third Barbarossa scenario, and Aquileia in the sixth Attila the Hun scenario. As in the latter, the player must destroy some cities in northern Italy before trying to reach the Western Roman Empire's capital.

Historical comparison[]

  • In contrast to Emperor of the West, Ravenna is depicted as an inland city that is connected to the sea through lakes and rivers. This is somewhat truer to reality, although the game's Ravenna seems to be even further inland, in the Po valley west of Cremona.
  • When reaching the ruins, a Gothic soldier comments that they are remains of their previous invasion of Italy. Indeed, Alaric first invaded Italy in 401 A.D. but left after being defeated twice by Stilicho.
    • Another Gothic ruler, Radagaisus, invaded Italy in 406 but was captured and executed by the Romans. Radagaisus' most capable soldiers were pressed into Roman service and were later victims of the massacre referenced in the cutscenes.
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