The Horde Rides West is the fourth scenario of the Genghis Khan campaign in Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. It is based on the Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia (1219-1221), and to a much lesser extent, of Cumania (1217-1241) and Russia (1223-1242).
Sleep in the saddle. Drink the rain. Eat nothing but dried meat, dried milk, and horse blood. Such is the life of a Mongol at war.
At night we are rewarded with fermented yak's milk and the promise of Persian treasures.
Driven on by the words of the Great Khan we have crossed miles of the Asian continent at a full gallop.
Before us lies the vast empire of Persia.
The Khwarazm Shah will be given one chance to submit, and then his cities will be pulled down brick by brick. But not all of us head into Persia.
Genghis has sent Subotai Ba'atur of the Reindeer People north into Russia. The Russian principalities are disorganized, and Genghis hopes that Subotai can break them one by one. Then the borders of Mongolia will cover all of Asia.
- Starting Age: Castle Age
- Starting resources: 200 wood, 400 food, 200 gold, 200 stone
- Population limit: 75 (125 in the Definitive Edition)
- Starting units:
Differences between difficulty levels
- On Standard, the Russians will have three less Boyars in their initial army and Khwarazm will not train Scorpions or Trebuchets.
- Subotai must survive.
- In the north, deploy Subotai's horde to conquer Russia.
- In the south, the Khwarazm shah is expecting a gift. But it is assassins he will find in our Trade Carts. We must deliver the carts to the shah quickly, before he breaks his alliance with us.
- Defeat the Khwarazm Empire.
- Your two armies are divided and will not be able to meet until they reach Samarkand.
- If your assassination attempt fails, the leadership of the shah will guarantee that the Persians are a much more deadly enemy.
- The Persians are expecting their gift. If they do not receive it soon, they may eventually declare war on you.
Scouts (Definitive Edition)
Your scouts report:
- The Mongols (1, Orange) have gathered in the east near Samarkand and constructed a small camp. Another Mongol army camps to the north. That horde is lead by Subotai, whose task is to invade Russia.
- Not far away from Subotai's camp are the lands of the Kipchaks (2, Green). The Kipchaks are a nomadic people like the Mongols, but are considerably weaker owing to inept leadership.
- The west of the map is controlled by the Russians (3, Red). They could be a serious threat early on, but in the long run the Russian swordsmen and Boyars will stand no chance against the Mongols. Beware their powerful rams, however.
- The Shah rules the Persian Empire (4, Yellow) from Samarkand, a heavily guarded and fortified city to the south. The Persians will defend themselves fiercely, relying above all on their mighty War Elephants, mounted archers and heavy cavalry. It is very likely that they will also produce siege weapons such as Trebuchets and Scorpions. To defeat the Persians, the Mongols will have to destroy the Shah's palace (Wonder) and all of his Castles.
- Player (Mongols): The player starts with two small bases: Subotai's in the north and Genghis Khan's in the east.
Ally → Enemy
- Khwarazm (Persians): Initially allied, Khwarazm becomes the primary enemy once the assassins kill the Shah. They have a large fortified city in the south with a couple of Castles. They mainly attack with Knights/Cavaliers/Paladins, (Heavy) Cavalry Archers, (Elite) War Elephants, Scorpions, Trebuchets, and Monks. Khwarazm will start the game with Camel Riders and Crossbowmen guarding the west gate into the city, but will not train these units. They resign when their Wonder and their two Castles are destroyed.
- Merkids/Kipchaks (Mongols in The Age of Kings, Cumans in the Definitive Edition): The Merkids have a small base west of Subotai's base in the north. They have no villagers and after killing their Skirmishers and two Cavalry Archers, they resign and give all their buildings to the player.
- Russians (Goths in The Age of Kings, Slavs in the Definitive Edition): The Russians are the primary enemy in the north. They attack with small groups of Men-at-Arms/Long Swordsmen and Battering Rams, occasionally adding Huskarls (Boyars in the Definitive Edition) and Knights. Their base is small and without walls, although defended with one Castle.
To win, the player must defeat the Russians and Khwarazm. The player will lose if Subotai dies.
There is a camp of Merkids west of Subotai's base at the north of the map, who will resign when they lose all their military units, providing several buildings and tributing resources for the player. The player should hold off defeating this camp until they can adequately defend it. Alternatively, the Merkids will resign when Khwarazm detects the player's military units inside the city of Samarkand.
The Russians will occasionally attack Subotai's base with a mix of infantry, cavalry, and siege. They will resign when they lose their Castle and have less than four military units.
Khwarazm occupies the south quadrant of the map, with the heavily defended city of Samarkand along the southwest edge of the map. If the player takes too long delivering the Trade Carts, the Persians will attack. They will also attack if the player sends military forces inside their walls. They will resign when they lose their Wonder and their two Castles.
Both Genghis' and Subotai's forces begin separated by a cliff, and it is only possible to unite them after advancing towards the Persian citadel. Subotai attacks Russia (Goths, Slavs in the Definitive Edition) from the north while the Khan must first deliver a gift to the Persian Khwarazm shah within 30 minutes (13 minutes and 20 seconds in the Definitive Edition) - but the presents are actually assassins hidden inside two Trade Carts, who will attack the Shah until he dies.
It is best to build up the military of the eastern camp first, since the Persians will be much more aggressive than the Russians. The Russians will only send in small waves of infantry which can be easily repulsed. The Shah's army consists primarily of Paladins and War Elephants as well as some siege while the Russians primarily produce infantry, rams as well as Boyars in the Definitive Edition.
The player should focus on training Cavalry Archers in the northern camp and anti-cavalry (camel/spear) units in the east to effectively counter the Russians and Persians, respectively. The Mongols have terrible Monks, so converting the War Elephants may not be all that effective. Monks can help dealing with the Persian army, however. It may be a good idea to wall off crucial segments in the eastern part of the map to help defend against the Persian War Elephants. The player should also focus on raiding Persian gold stockpiles to hinder their production of heavy cavalry and elephants. After the Shah is defeated, the combined forces of Subotai and Genghis should then clear up the poorly defended Russians with little trouble.
After bursting from their Trade Carts, the assassins will not be attacked by the Persians until they kill the Shah. Take advantage of this by killing all of the Shah's ceremonial troops (who incidentally also comprise most of the Persian Army), then slaughter the Shah without fear of retaliation. The two assassins alone can thus cause serious damage before the player's troops even arrive. Additionally, only the Castles and the Wonder need to be destroyed to defeat the Persians, so consider destroying them before assassinating the Shah. This can best be accomplished by building Siege Workshops in the Persians' base and creating Battering Rams.
In the Definitive Edition, the Persians will retaliate if the Shah is not killed within a few seconds of their appearance. However, the strategy can still be replicated as the Persians will not change their diplomatic stance in the first 13 minutes and 20 seconds as long as the player does not bring the Trade Carts. This means the player can change the diplomatic stance to neutral and use Battering Rams to destroy the Castles and the Wonder before the Persians become enemies.
The Persian army numbered nearly half a million men but was beaten by a Mongol army less than half that size. The governors of outlying cities were executed by pouring molten silver into their eyes and throats.
The capital city of Samarkand, which was expected to withstand our siege for a year, fell in five days. Separate mountains were made of the skulls of men, women, children, horses, dogs, and cats.
We roamed the streets in wonder at the opulence of the Persians, drinking at their fountains and gorging ourselves on sherbert and tropical fruit. For a man born in a tent, it seemed as if Genghis Khan had torn open the gates to Heaven itself.
Russia and Mesopotamia were now ours to command. The empire now stretched over seven thousand miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea. We were about to enter Europe when tragedy struck.
- This is the only scenario in the campaign that has no direct equivalent in the fifth Design Document of Ensemble Studios (dated 17 July 1998), although the assassination of the Shah resembles a planned mission to infiltrate a Hsi Hsia mountain fortress and kill their King.
- If the player fails to assassinate the Shah, then the Persians immediately gain 2,000 food and 2,000 gold, and train 40 Villagers instead of 25. It is still possible to beat them, albeit much more difficult.
- In Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, the Russians are now accurately represented by the Slavs, while the Merkids are replaced with the Kipchaks and given the Cuman tech tree.
- The north part of this scenario is represented also in the The Battle at the Kalka River scenario from the Kotyan Khan campaign.
- While the objectives section does not mention that the Persians will resign once their Wonder and both their Castles are destroyed, in the Definitive Edition, this information is stated in the scouts section.
- In sharp contrast to the scenario's temperate environment, this area is occupied by desert and steppe in reality, with forests only in mountain ranges and near rivers. In fact, one of the greatest feats in the campaign was the march of the main Mongol force through the arid Kyzylkum Desert to attack Khwarazm from the north, which the Khwarazmians believed impossible but the Mongols achieved through a revolutionary system of Logistics.
- The division of the Mongol forces mirrors their real life strategy of attacking with a decoy army through the mountains to the east, to lure the bulk of the Khwarazmian army there, then invading the weakened Khwarazmian garrisons from the north. The two armies converged in the capital Samarkand, as in the scenario.
- Though the scenario begins with the Mongols using traders to hide assassins for the Shah and weaken Khwarazm for an invasion, the real war was caused by the Khwarazmians killing a genuine Mongol trading expedition. Genghis Khan sent an army led by Subotai and Chepe to capture the Shah after the fact, but he escaped to an island near Abaskun in the Caspian Sea and died of pleurisy there. The governor who had the trading expedition arrested and executed was from Otrar and was killed by the Mongols pouring molten silver though his eyes and ears.
- The presence of Russians is strange. Wether the large body of water to the west is the Aral Sea or the Caspian, their in-game location would fall within the Cuman-Kypchak Confederation, which was invaded by the Mongols for sheltering Merkit refugees. Later on, the Mongols would invade Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria in pursuit of Cuman refugees.
- Relatedly, Subotai's role seems a combination of four of his real life campaigns - if not more:
- Against the Merkits and their Cuman allies in 1217-1220, during which he also defeated a Khwarazmian expedition against him.
- The invasion of Khwarazm from the north, which was actually led by Genghis Khan himself (with Subotai by his side).
- The "Great Raid" where Subotai and Chepe pursued the Shah west before turning north and defeating the Cumans and Russians at the Kalka River, in 1223.
- The invasion of Russia proper in 1236-1240, where the Russians suffered from internal division (unlike at Kalka and in the scenario, where they were/are a single force).
- Many players question the Khawarazmians using War Elephants against Genghis Khan due to the game's Persian civilization being based mainly on the Sassanid Empire. However, the Samarkand garrison did indeed have an elephant corps, and the Mongols defeated it by firing catapults on them. Not impressed with the elephants, Genghis Khan had the surviving animals released to the steppe to fend for themselves instead of incorporating them into his army, and they died of starvation.
- The cutscenes imply Russia to be a strictly Asian region. However, none of the medieval Russian states were located in Asia.