Vain Ambition is the first scenario of the Edward Longshanks campaign in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - Lords of the West.
It is the curse of all royalty to be compared with their forebears. My illustrious father built himself a kingdom in his youth; now I can barely hold on to it in mine.
I hear all of the nobility’s whisperings at court. They say that I may be King of England by birth, but I will never be so by merit. That I, Edward II, am unworthy of my father’s name…how much longer until these whispers become cries of rebellion?
My heart quivers when I visit his tomb in the abbey; I am wracked by fear; it claws at my soul like the talons of demons. Fear, that I will prove them right; that I will disgrace this family’s legacy, as my grandfather did…
Yet, I must not give in. I will study my father’s reign, and hope that it will imbue me with his strength; the fortitude that I so lack.
My father Edward spent his youth watching in disgust as his ineffectual father Henry drove England to the brink of ruin. When his subjects could bear his ruinous reign no more, a rebellion led by the baron Simon de Montfort deposed Henry, leaving his kingdom in tatters.
After the disastrous Battle of Lewes, the baronial forces captured and jailed my father and grandfather in Hereford. Some kings begin their rise to the throne from within the palace. Edward began his from the anguish of imprisonment.
Yet, even when the future seems bleak, fate occasionally extends its hand and offers allies from the most unlikely of places…
- Starting Age: Feudal Age
- Starting resources: 0 food, 0 wood, 0 gold, 0 stone; then 1,000 food, 800 wood, 500 gold, 400 stone
- Population limit: 125
- Starting technologies and upgrades: Man-at-Arms, Squires, Light Cavalry
Differences between difficulty levels
- On standard difficulty, Castle Age is researched right in the beginning. While this saves the player 800 food, 200 gold, the remaining Feudal Age technologies and upgrades still have to be researched.
- Edward and Gilbert must escape Hereford and mount horses at the nearby inn.
- (subsequently) Edward and Gilbert must seek help in the town of Worcester (Grey).
- (subsequently) Build up your forces. Simon will soon learn of your escape.
- (subsequently) Defeat or subdue 3 of your 5 opponents (Baronial Forces, Hereford, Gloucester, Kenilworth, and Welsh).
- (secondary) Subdue your opponents by destroying their Town Centers and Castles instead of annihilating them wholesale.
- (secondary) Attack Simon the Younger and destroy his force near Kenilworth before Simon de Montfort attacks.
- Lord Edward is restricted to the Castle Age and a population limit of 125.
- You can escape Hereford in any of 3 ways: by stealing a damaged ship, with a leap from a tower on the town wall, or, most perilously, by fighting your way out through the front gate.
- Be aggressive. Some of your opponents are initially weak and will crumble to an early attack, but could pose a problem if left to develop unchecked.
- Do not destroy what you can conquer. Gloucester, Kenilworth, Hereford, and the Welsh can be subdued by leveling any Town Centers and Castles and will support you thereafter.
- The Baronial Forces will fight to the bitter end, but they are being supplied by the local towns. Each one subdued means less resources for this deadly enemy.
Your scouts report:
- Lord Edward (1, Red) is currently held prisoner in Hereford, but an unlikely ally, Gilbert de Clare, has arrived with his squires to spring Edward from captivity.
- Worcester (2, Grey) is a small town on the River Severn in the center of the map. Its people are sympathetic to Edward and will join his cause, should he arrive.
- Gloucester (4, Orange) lies further down the River Severn to the south. It is initially vulnerable and poorly defended, but given time will harass Edward with armies of Long Swordsmen and Elite Skirmishers.
- Kenilworth (5, Green) is a small castle to the northeast. Its garrison of Spearmen and Light Cavalry poses only a token threat, but rumor has it that Simon the Younger has camped nearby with a large force.
- Hereford (6, Cyan) is a fortified town in the west situated on the fork of the Rivers Wye and Lugg. It fields a powerful army of Serjeants and Crossbowmen and will bring Mangonels to assail Edward’s holdings.
- The Baronial Forces (3, Blue) are the fierce elite of the rebel army and are camped in several locations. For the moment they remain idle, but expect to face droves of Knights and Men at Arms when they strike.
- To the west and northwest lie the lands of the Welsh (7, Yellow). These deadly Spearmen, Skirmishers, and Longbowmen will also construct Battering Rams when going on the offensive.
- Player (Britons): The player starts with Edward Longshanks and his loyal vassal, Gilbert de Clare of Gloucester. They are trapped in the city of Hereford ( 6, Cyan) and must make their escape to begin their subjugation of the rebellious barons.
- Worchester (Britons): Located nearly dead center of the map, Worchester is loyal to Edward and will support him if he successfully reaches it. All buildings except the Inn and all units will convert, giving the player a good starting base with 10 Villagers.
- The Baronial Forces (Sicilians): By far the most dangerous foe, the Baronial Forces have two enclaves, one in the southwest and one in the east. Simon the Younger also commands a sizeable force just east of Worchester. They will not attack for some time, but if they are given the chance, they will unleash hordes of Cavaliers and Long Swordsmen. With sufficient force and careful tactics, Simon the Younger can be defeated early, cutting off half of their army and opening the way to Kenilworth.
- Gloucester (Britons): Far to the south, Gloucester is poorly defended at first and can be overrun by an early swarm. They also lie directly on the river and can be harassed with warships. They start in the Feudal Age, so they will build no Castle for some time. Defeating Gloucester will cause Gilbert de Clare to join them, so be wary of losing him too early on.
- Kenilworth (Britons): Directly east of Worchester, Kenilworth is only a small outpost containing a Castle and a few military buildings. They are garrisoned by a handful of cavalry and Spearmen. Once Simon the Younger is defeated, they will be an easy target; however, they will produce a dangerous swarm of ram-killing Light Cavalry and cavalry-killing Pikemen if given a chance.
- Hereford (Sicilians): Located far to the west, Hereford is a powerful and well-fortified city. They will produce an army of Crossbowmen and Sicilian-unique Serjeants to assail Edward, and if given enough time, will produce highly lethal Mangonels. Attacking them is not recommended, as Gloucester are Kenilworth are far weaker, and the Welsh or Baronial Forces can be easily outmaneuvered.
- Welsh (Britons): The Welsh control the north and northwestern part of the map. Although initially neutral, they will strike their banners behind Simon de Montfort once he learns of Edward's escape. They start off with only two small encampments, one with a Castle and one with a Town Center, and do not initially move. They are vulnerable to an early raid, but beware their garrison of Spearmen, Skirmishers, and the powerful Longbowmen. If attacked before the initial 15-minute timer expires, the entire garrison will attack, swarming any units in their path with an advance guard of cavalry, pinning them with infantry before killing them all with Longbowmen from afar.
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While fleeing Hereford, it is best to choose the sneaky path; go south, kill the two Crossbowmen, and use the Transport to go west. Avoid the Demolition Ship (the scenario will show the player where it is). Once the player reaches the inn, the player's heroes and any units that survived will become cavalry units. The player can rush to Worcester; best to let the Pikemen take care of any patrols the player runs into (cavalry units from The Baronial Forces).
Instead of going for the transport, head northeast. Two Pikemen and one Long Swordman are guarding a Fortified Tower. Use a hero to lure the enemy one by one and kill them. Note that they are on defensive stance to they won't chase the player far. Once the player has killed them all, the Fortified Tower will become the player's so they can do the "leap of faith" (garrison in it and exit on the other side). There is another way, which is delete and walk through the hole on the wall. It's also better to delete the Tower (it has an attack, but will not attack the enemy even if they are in range) because once the player crosses the river via the bridge, it will return to Hereford. Now before the player crosses the river, they have a chance to an easy start. Change diplomacy with Hereford to neutral and either dismantle the entire base (be careful of the Blue player troop) or destroy the Castle and Town Center only. After leaving Hereford, cross the bridge to the inn and proceed like the rest of the guide.
Subduing three opponents
Once the player reaches Worcester, get to work immediately and get a strong economy going. There are abundant resources all around the city (gold to the south, stone to the north, wood to the east).
The scenario has two countdowns. The first one gives the player about 14 minutes before Simon learns of the player's escape.
Once the first countdown is over, a second countdown begins: 29 minutes before Simon's army attacks. After the countdown is over, a little before the hour mark, whatever of The Baronial Forces' cavalry that is still alive will attack the player's city.
Make great use of the countdowns by reaching Castle Age (on higher difficulties; on standard it is automatically researched in the beginning), upgrading technology, building up forces and building a Castle as soon as possible. Build the Castle east, close to Simon The Young's base; by using the Castle to whittle down his troops, the player can attack him far before the baronial forces attack, and unlock the "Unchivalrous Pragmatist" achievement (defeat Simon the Younger's army before the baronial forces attack in "Vain Ambition"). Destroying Simon The Young's troops also opens up the way to Kenilworth (Green), making it easier to destroy their Castle.
The key to winning is speed and good counters. The enemy cities will mostly attack with Pikemen, Skirmishers and Longbowmen. The Baronial Forces use cavalry; have a detachment of Pikemen handy to expedite them.
Because the player is stuck in the Castle Age, they will need rams to destroy Castles and Town Centers. The player can choose their targets; it is easier to go for Kenilworth (Green) after destroying Simon The Young's troops, then the Welsh (Yellow) before they become too much of a nuisance, and finally Gloucester (Orange). Don't attack other Baronial bases (Blue) if it can be avoided.
With sufficient speed, the player should be able to complete the objectives before the second countdown runs out. The player won't automatically lose once the counter runs out, though the player might have to destroy the army The Baronial Forces send at the them.
The player can gather wood and gold to get rams and archers. Build a Market to gain gold and buy Longbowmen when Hereford is neutralized. If the player destroyed the Castle and Town Center of Hereford, that is one enemy down. Assuming that the player deleted the Fortified Tower, there will be a hole in the wall. Either use Petards or rams to rush in and hit the Town Center and the Castle with archers providing backup.
Since Hereford is already neutralized, the next target is Gloucester. Use the heroes as bait for archers and send in the ram to take care of the Town Center. The player will lose Gilbert, but gain another ally. Last on the hit list is Kenilworth, which has a Castle that needs to be destroyed, but is also guarded by Blue. Build a wall of palisade starting at the bridge. Make a gauntlet for those troops to run while the archers fire. Tower and Castle is optional. After the blue troops are gone, send in a ram with archer support to take down the Castle.
A blue force is camped between Hereford and Kenilworth. Use heroes as bait and archers to deal with the troops. A ram will take care of the buildings. Now only Simon remains. Various tactics work for him, but palisades, archers (Crossbowmen and Longbowmen), and siege weapons work wonders. Use the wall to force Simon to head straight to his doom.
The Welsh are the most troublesome enemy, as they have two bases, but hitting the northernmost base will make the stream of attacking troops cease in no time. It's not necessary to destroy the Welsh, a ram to draw arrows and javelins, a few Light Cavalry in case Welsh send their own ram and lots of Longbowmen with several Villagers to do repairs will make short work of the northern base. Now swing west to cross the bridge and hit the towers and Castle.
Like his Norman ancestors, Gilbert de Clare was a shrewd opportunist. Initially a commander in the rebel army, he keenly sensed its divisions and saw that he could further his own ambitions by defecting to Edward. My father moved with alarming speed. Worcester and Gloucester, Gilbert’s family seat, were seized without delay. After a string of further victories, he compelled the leaderless and battered rebel forces to capitulate. Known by many as Longshanks, Edward was feared for his imposing stature and foul temper. While Henry was restored to the throne, all were well aware that Edward was now the true power behind it.
- This scenario appears to be a combination of two major battles of the Second Baron's War: Evesham and Kenilworth.
- Although most of the fighting depicted in the scenario occured at Evesham on 4 August 1265, when Simon de Montfort, his son Henry, and his brother Peter were all killed, Kenilworth did not fall until 13 December 1266, and the castle was not breached. The defenders, running out of supplies and stricken with disease, were simply forced to surrender under siege.
- Although this scenario allows the player to kill Simon the Younger, in reality he was never slain. He escaped the Battle of Evesham and fled to Kenilworth, leading the garrison during the siege. After the castle's surrender, he and his younger brother Guy de Montfort fled to Sicily, where they eventually murdered their cousin Henry of Almain and were subsequently excommunicated by Pope Gregory X. Simon de Montfort died of Toscana phlebovirus later that year.
- When Simon de Montfort is killed, he laments: "How skillfully they are advancing. Our bodies are theirs, our souls are God's." This quote is historical, said after Edward's army seized the only bridge across the Avon, effectively cutting off all of Simon's reinforcements.