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The Best Laid Plans is the fourth scenario of the reworked Bari campaign in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. The original campaign only had a total of three scenarios. It portrays the 1022 defence of the fortress of Troia by the Byzantines against the assault of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II and his papal allies.


"The rebellion was over, but Boioannes still had a difficult task before him. The once-rich province of Apulia lay in tatters, and the hostility of its northern neighbors did not bode well for the future.

Melus' brother Dattus still preyed on the surrounding lands from his lair on the Garigliano. Additionally, rumor quickly spread of Holy Roman armies massing in the north.

Boioannes was not about to let his hard-earned gains slip away like a fish from the net. The odds were against him, but he had a loyal army and a plan.

The Apennine pass was the gateway to southern Italy, and Boioannes intended to fortify it. Thousands of soldiers and masons followed him to the ruins of Aecae, an ancient Roman city near the mountains, and began construction of a citadel named Troia.

Boioannes would restore the grandeur of Byzantine power in Italy, or die in the effort."

Scenario instructions[]

Starting conditions[]

Differences between difficulty levels[]

  • On standard difficulty, Capua will not betray the player and the player also starts with Murder Holes, Ballistics, and Guard Tower researched. The player can also build Elite Cannon Galleons in the Castle Age (most likely due to a bug, as they are not available on other difficulty levels, not even in the Imperial Age).


  • Defend the castle in Troia for an hour, or defeat the Holy Roman and Papal forces.
  • (secondary) Destroy Dattus' tower on the Garigliano to end his raids into Apulia.
  • (secondary) Plunder the Abbey of Montecassino to seize its wealth and relics.
  • (secondary) To hire the Norman mercenary cohort, tribute them 1,000 gold.
  • (secondary, only if the mercenary cohort was not hired) Defeat the Norman mercenaries by destroying all of their Stables.
  • (secondary) Reconquer Capua from the Holy Roman Empire by destroying its Castle. (on moderate/hard difficulty only)
  • (secondary) Send villagers to mine away the stone in the mountain pass to cause an avalanche and block the enemy trade route.


  1. Basil Boioannes can support a population of 200 and advance to the Imperial Age. He does not have the capability of constructing additional Castles, however.
  2. Completing side objectives will almost certainly pay off.
  3. Sometimes offense is the best defense. Feel free to launch attacks on your enemies instead of hiding in your fortress, as victory can also be achieved in this way. Indeed, if your enemies succeed in destroying your Castle, this will become the only path to victory.


Your scouts report:

  • The forces of Basil Boioannes (1, Purple) have constructed a fortress in Troia. There are enough resources in the vicinity of Troia to feed its garrison.
  • The north of the map is controlled by the Holy Roman Empire (4, Red). Because of its excellent siegecraft and powerful infantry, the Holy Roman army is probably your most threatening opponent.
  • The Papal States (5, Green) should also not be underestimated. Expect fierce attacks comprised of archery units and swordsmen. In addition, the Papacy will make use of Battering Rams to assault your Castle.
  • In the south is Capua (2, Blue). This city has remained loyal to Boioannes thus far, but it is possible that the enemy could capture it and force its population to fight against you.
  • Rumor has it that some leaderless Norman Mercenaries (8, Yellow) have camped near the mountains. Perhaps they will assist you—if you are willing to pay them, of course.
  • The traitor Melus is no longer a threat, but his brother Dattus (3, Orange) has sworn to continue the struggle. Dattus' army consists of infantry, mounted archers, and Battering Rams.
  • To the east is the Abbey of Montecassino (7, Grey), which is barely defended. Seeing as its Monks support your opponents, there is little reason to spare them.



  • Player (Byzantines): The player starts with a base and some Villagers and military units to the east. Their goal is to protect the Castle in Troia.

Ally → Enemy → Ally[]

  • Capua (Franks): Capua is located in the south, with some walls and towers protecting their base. On moderate/hard difficulty, they will turn on the player after nine minutes, but will become an ally again once their Castle is destroyed. They mainly train Knights, Battering Rams, and Throwing Axemen. They also trade with the player.


  • Dattus' Rebels (Goths): Dattus' Rebels have a small camp not far from Capua. They train mostly Cavalry Archers, Long Swordsmen, and Battering Rams. They will resign when their Tower is destroyed.
  • Holy Roman Empire (Teutons): The Holy Roman Empire has a strongly-fortified city to the north. They will field Teutonic Knights, Pikemen, Knights, Battering Rams, and Trebuchets.
  • Papal States (Italians): Papal States have a stronghold to the far west. They will field Long Swordsmen, Genoese Crossbowmen, Pikemen, Battering Rams, and Trebuchets.
  • Enemy Trade Route (Teutons): They have no actual units or buildings in this scenario aside from a cart occasionally appearing in an inaccessible area close to the middle. Once the player mines all Stone Mines near the cliffs, they are immediately defeated.
  • Abbey of Montecassino (Italians): They only have a Monastery, two Guard Towers, and a few Monks not far away from the Holy Roman Empire. They will only train Monks and will stay passive until attacked. Destroying their Monastery will give the player 1,000 gold.

Optional Ally (Enemy)[]

  • Norman Mercenaries (Sicilians; Franks before Lords of the West): Norman Mercenaries have a small camp in the middle area and will stay passive most of the time. At some point, they will ask to join the player's side for 1,000 gold. If the gold is not paid soon enough, they will become an enemy. They only train Cavaliers.


Getting started[]

If playing on moderate/hard difficulty, immediately train nine Petards and send them to move towards the Capuan Castle. Within three minutes of the ninth one arriving, the ally will switch teams and nine Petards is exactly enough to destroy the Castle if micro-managed correctly. If playing on standard difficulty, Capua will not switch teams and so this step can be ignored.

While Cannon Galleons are unavailable in this scenario on moderate/hard difficulty, the player can build Elite Cannon Galleons in the Castle Age on standard difficulty (most likely due to a bug). A single Elite Cannon Galleon can destroy the orange tower, triggering their surrender. Either way, as long as the player manages to recapture Capua and hire the Mercenaries, those two factions will destroy Dattus' Tower on their own (even on hard difficulty).

Use one or two more Villagers to build a plain wall at the small bottleneck north of the base, past the enemy Monasteries. This will funnel both of the remaining enemies into attacking from the same side now, which is huge. The player should wall off the northern part of the town in order to funnel the enemies to the river crossing. The player should control the river with a number of Galleons. As Galleons outrange Dattus' Tower, the player can use them to destroy it if Capua and the Mercenaries have not done it by then.

Send the initial starting army north to destroy the Monastery there. Lure a few of the Monks outside so that the archers can kill them, then run the cavalry in to kill the remaining Monks. If the player pays close attention to the spawning Monks, they can safely destroy the Monastery with the Cataphracts, triggering the Abbey's Towers to surrender and dropping two Relics. The player will also receive 1,000 gold. The player may need to spread the units out when the Monastery goes down, or it is liable to drop one of the Relics on the cliff where the player cannot retrieve it.

At some point (either upon discovering their Stables or after a certain amount of time), the Mercenaries will offer an alliance with the player if they tribute 1,000 gold to them. If the player starts mining gold immediately, they should be able to buy the Mercenaries by then, which will both deny their use by the enemy and act as a distraction. If the player takes too long, they will revoke their offer and become their enemy. It is a good idea to pay them the gold regardless of strategy, but the player must first wait until they are in the Imperial Age and have a sound economy.

Finally, mine the stone next to the enemy trade route to 'cause a landslide'. The Trade Carts are invincible, and only the landslide can prevent them from accumulating gold.

Castle defense strategy[]

In preparation for the first wave of heavily armored Imperial Age units, the player should train several additional Pikemen, which are less expensive for the Byzantines. They will be useful for stopping the Holy Roman Empire's Cavaliers. However, the player should also train lots of Crossbowmen to deal with their infantry. Mixing in some Elite Skirmishers is also wise, as they will be strong against the Papal States' Genoese Crossbowmen and Dattus' Cavalry Archers, not to mention they are also discounted for the Byzantines. To ensure numbers are high enough, the player should consider erecting an extra Barracks and Archery Range, as well as two extra Town Centers. Finally, some Cataphracts will be invaluable in the long run, as they can handle both the Holy Roman Empire's Elite Teutonic Knights and Halberdiers, as well as the Papal States' Champions, and will be much more useful for responding to siege weapons than the rest of the player's army.

If the player's army is ever badly outnumbered, they can force the invading soldiers to chase their Cataphracts around the Stone Walls surrounding the Castle until the enemy units are few enough to attack directly.

After surviving the first waves from the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal States, advance to the Imperial Age and research all possible upgrades from the Blacksmith and University. Eventually, the player's enemies will begin threatening the fortress of Troia with Trebuchets and Battering Rams. If any become visible, send some Cataphracts to destroy them as soon as possible.

Tribute the Normans 1,000 gold as soon as all Imperial Age upgrades are done being researched. Their Cavaliers will serve as a useful distraction against the Papal States so that the player can focus more on warding off the Holy Roman Empire as they begin integrating Ironclad siege weapons into their main force and upgrade their Cavaliers to Paladins.

If the Castle takes lots of damage, task a Villager to repair it. There is some stone just to the southwest of the Castle that the player can mine for this, but the player can buy some stone from their Market, as well. The player should never allow the Castle to have less than half of its initial hit points whenever possible, as they will need plenty of flexibility in case enemy siege weapons start damaging it. If the player loses the Castle, they will not be able to build a second one and can only win the scenario by defeating the Papal States and Holy Roman Empire, which will have to be done without Cataphracts or Trebuchets.

Conquest strategy[]

If the player prefers to win the scenario by simply defeating the Papal States and Holy Roman Empire, their army should be primarily comprised of Halberdiers, Arbalesters, Paladins, and Siege Rams. Halberdiers are less expensive for the Byzantines and will be useful for stopping the Holy Roman Empire's heavily armored Paladins. Arbalesters can be fully upgraded and are great against the opponents' Teutonic Knights, Genoese Crossbowmen, and Halberdiers. Without a Castle, Cataphracts are unavailable to the player, making Paladins the best option for destroying siege weapons and slaying Villagers. Likewise, Trebuchets cannot be produced if the Castle is destroyed, so Siege Rams are the player's best option for destroying enemy buildings. Garrisoning the Siege Rams with Halberdiers will allow them to move faster and protect them in case enemy Paladins start attacking them.

The player should ensure that they have a strong farming economy in the eastern corner of the map, which will be easier to protect than the passes leading to the enemy factions. The player should protect the road leading to Capua, as not only is there plenty of wood to chop down, but it will allow them to trade with Capua after exhausting the gold mine just southwest of the player's starting base. Unlike the northern passes, this area will be less vulnerable to attacks by the Holy Roman Empire.

Although the player should boom up to the Imperial Age quickly, they should not forget to train additional troops to guard their base, as the enemy factions will otherwise quickly overrun the player after destroying the Castle.

As usual, tributing 1,000 gold to the Normans is important, as this will make defeating the Holy Roman Empire much easier as the Papal States are side-tracked dealing with the Norman Cavaliers.


"The Holy Roman Empire was no trifling opponent. Many good men fell parrying the assaults on Troia.

Boioannes' forces struck out at Dattus' tower on the Garigliano and dragged him from it. Following the ancient Roman custom, Dattus was confined in a leather sack with a rooster, a monkey, and a viper, and cast into the sea.

Byzantine Italy flourished under Boioannes' tenure as catepan. Alas that the incompetence of his successors have brought us to this dreadful pass..."


  • Shortly before attacking the player, the Holy Roman Emperor declares that he will install Melus as Duke of Apulia. However, Melus is dead by the time that this scenario is set, as his brother Dattus is seeking to avenge him.
  • Prior to update 44725, the Holy Roman Emperor would boast about the strength of his siege weapons only a few minutes into the scenario. However, now that they do not start producing siege weapons until much later into the scenario.

Historical comparison[]

  • After his decisive defeat at Cannae as shown in Loose Ends, Melus fled to the Papal States, where his story piqued the interest of Pope Benedict VIII. Keen to reverse the switch in allegiance of the southern princes from the Holy Roman Empire to the Byzantines in the wake of Cannae, Benedict met with Holy Roman Emperor Henry II to discuss a response. Although Melus was granted the title Duke of Apulia by the emperor, he died only days into planning the campaign.
    • Melus' brother Dattus remained at his fortified tower on the Gonarigliano. It was while the pope and the emperor were conferencing that Byzantine catepan Basil Boiannes and the prince of Capua Pandulf IV assaulted the tower, captured Dattus and had him executed in Bari by poena cullei. This brutal execution outraged the pope and became the immediate spark for open hostilities.
    • As in the rest of the campaign, the Lombard forces of Dattus are portrayed by the Goths; both civilisations were Germanic tribes that migrated south and settled in Italy.
  • In the scenario the Norman Mercenaries can be bribed to ally with the Byzantines. In real life, Basil Boiannes impressed the Normans with his victory at Cannae, and so was able to bribe some Normans to the Byzantine cause. It was these Norman adventurers who garrisoned the newly constructed fortress of Troia against Henry's assault. Their successful defence of Troia on behalf of the Byzantines raised the profile of the Normans in Italy considerably, and their services were in ever higher demand after the campaign.
    • If left alone, these same mercenaries will take the papal side against the player. Norman mercenary companies fought on both sides of the 1022 campaign and against each other. However, the Normans were then able to intercede on their brethren's behalf after battle, sparing their lives of defeated mercenaries. Thus the Normans evaded casualties on the scale of Cannae and ensured that one way or another, they were on the winning side.
    • Following the Lords of the West update, the Normans are represented as the Sicilians. Consistent with the previous scenario, they still use the Western European architectural style of the Franks.
  • Henry brought three armies against the Catepanate of Italy. He personally commanded the main imperial army that assaulted Troia. A second force under Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne moved to capture Capua, while a third detachment led by Patriarch Poppo of Aquileia moved across the Apennines to join the siege. The scenario combines the roles of these second and third armies commanded by religious leaders into the Papal States force represented by the Italians.
    • Ultimately, the imperial casualties sustained in the doomed effort to seize Troia from the Normans and the failure to bring Boiannes to a decisive battle forced Henry to abandon the campaign and withdraw.
  • On harder difficulties, Capua will turn against the player. Capua was subjugated by the Archbishop Pilgrim's imperial detachment and Prince Pandulf, who had previously sworn loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire before becoming a foremost advocate of the Byzantines after Cannae, was captured. Henry almost had Pandulf executed but for the intervention of Pilgrim. Although imprisoned in Germany, within two years Pandulf was free and with Boiannes' help became prince of Capua again by 1025.
    • While the princes of Capua were also Lombards, Capua is represented by the Franks in-game.
  • Contrary to its portrayal as supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope, the abbey of Montecassino was aligned with the Byzantines. Its abbot, Atenulf, had previously received grants from both Pope Benedict and Emperor Henry, but was considered a traitor for having been drawn to the Byzantine side by Boiannes even before Cannae. Atenulf narrowly escaped arrest by Archbishop Pilgrim and fled to Constantinople, only to perish in a storm en route.