The Escape of Hernan Cortes
|Al_Kharn the Great
Posted on 06/07/14 @ 01:38 PM (updated 10/21/15
An AoK HD: Forgotten Empires Campaign
||Age of Empires II (2013): The Forgotten
Montezuma is dead and the city of Tenochtitlan has risen against you. As Hernan Cortes, lead your conquistadors out of the massive and hostile capital during La Noche Triste. When you win, choose a different conquistador to be your lieutenant and see if you can escape with more gold and fewer losses!
30th of June, 1520 Anno Domini
In the early morning heat, the Aztec emissary approached the conquistadors with the air of haughty conceit fitting of a Mexica nobleman among his inferiors. He walked through the palace grounds, the gardens of the tlatoani Montezuma, now dead only twelve hours, filled with the white men and their Tlaxcala allies, century-old enemies of his people. Scattered in the once pristine foliage and stone paths were the strange weapons of the invaders, along with barrels, boxes, and sacks, hills of trash and refuse, juxtaposed with the strewn piles of pillaged gold and jewels; a scene that betrayed the nature of these bandits and vagrants once viewed as demi-gods of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl. The emissary's resolute gaze only projected forward and high, his chin raised as if his nose were seeking the higher fresh air, away from the consuming stench of ordure and unwashed bodies.
He stopped before the leader of the conquistadors, his high gaze not lowering to meet the brown eyes of Hernan Cortes. His vivid feathery adornments and jewels of jade, amethyst, and polished obsidian contrasted with the muted grey iron of the Castilian's breastplate.
The emissary puffed his chest and through the translations of La Malinche and Geronimo de Aguilar demanded the Spaniards' surrender of the palace and removal from the city. His brow raised and nostrils flaring, Cortes responded in fast and heated Castilian: "Do you not know the power we possess? Have you not seen the three thousand bodies of your countrymen at the pyramids of Cholula? If a single javelin appears over these walls, I will personally kill one hundred of your warriors!"
Unblinkingly and with the composure of his station, the Mexica raised a bejeweled arm to the palace walls, behind which could be heard the chattering of thousands of Aztec warriors. "My people could lose two hundred and fifty of our bravest sons of Aztlan for each and every white man we kill," the emissary explained with assured confidence, "and we will still annihilate you."
The meeting ended, Cortes turned to his lieutenants. He had just returned from Vera Cruz after successfully defeating the Spanish army of Panfilo de Narvez, dispatched by the treacherous Diego Velazquez to arrest Cortes. He left his forces in the capital to Pedro de Alvarado but the cruel and merciless Alvarado had massacred eight thousand unarmed festival-goers, inciting the wrath of the entire city. Now was not the time to assign blame, however.
The palace walls were high but the Spaniards' food and supplies could not sustain a lengthy siege. Much of the gunpowder and ammunition had been expended and Cortes wondered if the abundant gold in the palace could be shaped into balls for the cannons and arquebuses. If they retreated from the palace, where would they go? The narrow causeways out of the city were veritable death-traps and likely blocked and well-defended by the shrewd Mexica. To even reach those causeways would require an intense fighting trek with house to house fighting against a numerically superior foe in the dense streets and canals of a hostile city. Even now, many of his men, scattered throughout the city, were fighting for their lives.
As the sun climbed into the sky over the pyramids of Tenochtitlan, Cortes had many problems. But had he not problems before? Had he not landed in Santo Domingo many years ago destitute, armed only with his wits and the respected name of his father? Had he not organized this expedition even amid the avaricious whim of Governor Velazquez who, hours before he was set to sail, revoked his charter? Had he not defeated an army dispatched to arrest him? Had he not fought and parlayed his way into an alliance with the Tlaxcala and Totonac and into this very city to hold the god-king of an empire for ransom?
Had Hernan Cortes not triumphed before?
- Choose from one of four famous conquistadors to define the character of your army based on their historical personas (See Lieutenant System below for more information)
- Low visibility night-time combat
- How well you do determines Cortes' place in history. Play multiple times to see if you can match or surpass El Capitan General himself!
- Three difficulty levels (El Teniente, El Capitan, and El Caudillo)
- Every Spanish unit is a named actual member of Cortes' expedition (using Bernal DiÃ�ï¿½Ã�Âaz del Castillo's memoirs as a reference)
- Spanish units have been altered to emphasize the disparity between the Spanish and Aztec:
*Armored units (condottieri) are sturdy but move slowly
*Metal swords and bullets inflict great damage
*Cavalry are very quick but unarmored horses make them vulnerable[/ind]
Your choice of second-in-command defines the character of your army based on each famous conquistador's historical persona.
Each lieutenant provides different bonuses, different starting bonus units, and slightly different dialogue. Your army also earns experience from kills and are upgraded based on your lieutenant's specialty (at 250 and 500 kills).
Pedro de Alvarado (boosts infantry: Tracking/Squires researched; condottieri +25hp; experience benefits condottieri) was Cortes' second in command. Called 'Tonatiuh', or Red Sun, by the natives for both his red hair and his feiry disposition, it is believed Alvarado's appearance influenced the native associations of the Spaniards with the god Quetzalcoatl. Alvarado was feared by the Mexica and known for his cruelty and brutality. On 20th of May 1520, Alvarado, ostensibly to preempt a coming attack, had his men slaughter thousands of Mexica celebrating the Toxcatl festival at the Templo Mayor. At scenario start, Alvarado is with Cortes in the palace.
Incited by your teniente Alvarado's ferocity, your Spaniards have killed 250 warriors! Your rodeleros eagerly charge into the native throngs! (condottieri +3 speed)
Alvarado's mercilessness against our heathen foe inspires your infantry to push and stab even when struck so that they swat away the enemy's blows like so many mosquitos! (condottieri +1 armor)[/ind]
Diego de Ordaz (boosts archers: Ballistics researched; archers +2 range; experience benefits archers) was the grizzled veteran of the group at forty years old, having participated in the earliest expeditions to Panama and Colombia. Unskilled at cavalry tactics, he was talented in the employment of archers and cannon and served in that capacity. In 1519, he climbed the volcano of Popocatapetl, a feat that impressed the Spaniard's native allies. Besieged in Montezuma's palace, Cortes dispatched Ordaz to scout a route out of the city. At scenario start, Ordaz is away from the palace but returning soon.
The disciplined firing of your gunners and archers under Ordaz' experienced eye has sentenced 250 enemy warriors to hell! Your archers have become better shots! (Spanish archers +4 attack)
Ordaz has taught the archers techniques he learned in Panama to better protect themselves against the Mexica weapons and tactics. (Spanish archers/gunners +25 hp)
Gonzalo de Sandoval (boosts cavalry: Bloodlines/Husbandry researched; experience benefits cavalry) at twenty-three was one of the youngest officers in the expedition and among the most popular. An excellent horseman, he was known for his courage and concern for his men. Bernal DiÃ�ï¿½Ã�Âaz del Castillo would describe him as 'not highly educated, but a simple man; neither was he covetous for gold, but only for fame and to be a good, strong captain.' At scenario start, Sandoval is somewhere in the city.
[ind]With every courageous charge and cry of 'Santiago!'', Sandoval inspires your cavalrymen to weather the storm of enemy spears and arrows. (cavalry +25 hp)
Sandoval's fearless example inspires your cavalrymen to drive their steeds harder, galloping into battle. (cavalry +2 speed)
Cristobal de Olid (gold, weaker enemy wonders, native allies +20hp, experience provides unique events) was raised in the household of the governor of Cuba, Diego Velazquez, and was in many ways the prototypical conquistador: resourceful and very ambitious yet quarrelsome, Olid was by his nature a rebel. His disputes with other conquistadors, notably Pedro de Alvarado, were well-known and fractured the Spaniards' solidarity. Nevertheless, due to his ties to powerful men and his own skill, he remained an important ally to Cortes. At scenario start, Olid is somewhere in the city.
[ind]The enterprising Olid has somehow obtained Mexica warriors willing to kill their countrymen for Cristo y Espana! (3 Elite Jaguar Warriors appear at the palace)
Fortuna smiles on us! The resourceful Olid has somehow managed to convince the Aztec nobles to consider a ceasefire! (Aztecs ally for 120 game seconds)
Fight in the city's temples
The farms on the way to Tacuba are fraught with danger
Explore the Floating Gardens
Defend the Palace of Axayacatl then challenge the massive city
Pillage the riches of the New World
Enemies emerge from the shadows in the Night of Sorrows
If you fail, hungry Huitzilopochtl awaits
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The Escape of Hernan Cortes is Al_Kharn the Great's depiction of the plight of the Spanish expedition during La Noche Triste. Instead of playing as the vengeful Aztecs, you will guide the trapped Spaniards through droves of frenzied Aztec warriors and escape the city...with all of your stolen gold, of course!
The scenario is a Fixed Force that demands strong multitasking skills from the player, who is required to defend their enclave and the gold within as it is loaded onto donkeys while scouring the city for stranded members of the expedition and the opportunity to loot more gold from other temples. Once the gold is loaded on, the Spaniards must flee the palace and escape with many Aztecs in hot pursuit. The playing experience was challenging and entertaining thanks to numerous minor mechanics and objectives, strong balance, and a significant replayability factor. Not only is the player given the choice of appointing a lieutenant at the start (each of four choices contribute unique bonuses and strengths), but the ending that the player achieves also depends on how many men and how much gold they have left. Slightly detrimental to the playability, however, was the combination of a cramped city design and numerous off-grid gaia objects, which due to HD's poor pathfinding ability made it frustrating at times to manage your troops.
The balance was pretty spot-on, and inclined the player to strike a fine medium between the defense of their citadel against periodically intensifying incursions and the exploration of the city and a route to the exit, which involved fighting in close quarters against throngs of patrolling warriors. Particularly appealing was the various means by which these objectives could be accomplished - one can either divide their troops equally between the tasks, or leave their troops in the citadel and send a smaller squad of fast units around the city, relying on micromanagement and the accumulation of followers as you run into stranded conquistadors around the city. The final stage featured a creative mechanic where the darkness of nighttime impeded the line of sight of the player's units, lending an extra level of challenge to the engagements during the escape.
Throughout the scenario, I was thoroughly impressed by the numerous creative elements involved. Aside from the numerous aforementioned mechanics and objectives, the map design itself showcased considerably creative inspiration in the author's unique rendition of a floating city. The scenario makes effective use of new and existing elements of scenario design, and the result is excellent. One feature I enjoyed in particular was the renaming of each individual Spanish unit to portray actual figures of Cortes' expedition as relayed by Bernal Diaz del Castillo.
Map Design: 4
The map design was gorgeous and creative to boot. The author clearly invested a significant amount of effort into the design of the city of Tenochtitlan, which sprawls across most of the map and is divided into realistic and unique portions. Highlights included various temple complexes, the chinampa farmlands, artfully-depicted causeways, and the use of various combinations of buildings to convey the feeling of a cramped urban center which, in fact, was home to a larger population than any city in Europe at the time. The author might be inclined after all this time to revisit some building combinations and certain design elements, particularly the heavy use of off-grid objects which, while contributory to a pleasing aesthetic, was nevertheless somewhat detrimental to the gameplay.
Always the author's strong suit, an effective storyline and clear instructions concisely sum up this category. The player is provided with detailed yet useful explanations of the various game mechanics, and the combination of introductory write-ups, beginning and ending cutscenes, and the gameplay itself contributed to a wholesome narrative experience. With the large amount of effort expended to convey an effective storyline, it would be difficult for the player to not feel as if they themselves were scurrying through the streets of Tenochtitlan, fleeing from the Aztec hordes. Music was used well and I think the designer struck an excellent balance between guiding the player and allowing them to roam and explore the map, searching for conquistadors and the routes to gold-filled Aztec temples. Incredibly effective, and certainly worth top marks.
One of the better FF scenarios ever designed in the HD Edition with AoF, this work of art is well-deserving of a spot in your custom scenario library. Download it and have a go!