|The King Looks Down|
|Map Name||The Stairs (3)|
Richard the Lionheart
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This skirmish puts you against "the King" (aka the Lionheart) and his "vassal", the Rat. Reflected as much by the enemy composition, you also have been placed under a top of a ridge, from where "your superiors" gaze down at you. Given that you are also given little to no raw materials, the enemies have free reign over most of the map and will continue to send down units to test your mettle. Also, to win this mission, you need to climb the ledge and press back first the Rat, then the Lionheart to contend his power.
The Stairs is a map with a double ridge, increasing elevation from the west to the east and estates occupying each third of it. The "valley" position has ample oasis and forestation, while the hilltop has an additional stone. The middle position has no stone, and its outlying oasis is vulnerable to ranged fire. The rush distance is also very short between neighbouring estates, which makes it ideal for aggressive openers. You start in the west, the green Rat just next to you, foddering for the blue Lionheart on the other side of the map.
Establishing the defensesEdit
Having a very close neighbour, you have to build your economy and erect defenses very fast. Although the pressure is not big at any stage of the game (Richard sends raids rather rarely), any unit that gets to your domain makes managing your economy harder. Start by erecting the stockpile and granary close by. You are given a huge stock to survive, but you will start with no weapons. Start food industry in the plentiful oasis, erect a few wood camps near the forest and lay down a mercenary post. Only build enough buildings for a starting, self-sustained economy, since defense will require around half of your starting gold. You can raise taxes to 2, while there is a good food variety in your granary.
You will need one tower close to the elevation, which overlooks the surrounding area. You can build it anywhere from bottom to top, although the middle route seems the best: build it too much on south, and you give up control over the Rat. Build it too close to the Rat, and your harassing bowmen will be outgunned by superior numbers from the Rat's castle. Send in swarms of Arabian bowmen to that one tower, while you also hire a few Arab swordsmen and slaves to stop any hostile escaping your tower fire. Have your guards located just inside firing range, so that your tower archers can support as well.
The enemy will send a variety of barracks units against you. Siege camps will be erected just west of the Rat's domain, while the frequent raiders will go down the ridge, the only possible route. The Rat will send units all the time, but they should not pose any challenge, as your firepower is superior. Richard on the other hand, sends in huge groups comprised of macemen and archers. Since macemen will make mincemeat of your fodder troops (even without charge ability), you need to replenish/strengthen your guard force later on to counter them. Use Arabian swordsmen to deal with enemy armour.
Marching up against the hillEdit
You will find that the pressure on you is not as big, as in the previous missions. Again, having access to little raw materials means you have to get by taxes, in order to build up your army. Extend your economy by emphasizing food, ale or candles, possibly a combination of all. You can also erect an armoury and manufacture weapons, of which pikes sell the highest (12 gold apiece). You will boost your economy, no matter what, so that your expensive troops can start to kick in!
Having access to the mercenary post, you should bring in durable troops such as Arabian swordsmen or assassins. Since assassins are vulnerable to ranged fire, of which the enemy has lots, stick to Arab swordsmen! You can also opt for templar knights as well, if you want to fight the Lord with a combined-arms type army. Your defenses should hold out well, although a few replacement archers are needed to be hired.
Be wary that when you enter the Rat's territory, Richard will also send its patrols to deal with the intrusion. Macemen and rangers will come down, so lure them to your tower and dispose of them! With the packs dead, you will have free reign over the Rat, since Richard takes a lot of time to rebuild has patrol squads. Move up to the Rat and open up his walls, then give him a special of treatment from the army of yours!
With the Rat out of the picture, you can continue your march. Do not forget to bring in siege equipment as well for this attack! Richard has erected a very defensive perimeter in a form of a tight square-shaped castle, two towers, archers and rangers. The keep is brimming with swordsmen, so bringing in whirling dervishes is not a bad idea. Using ranged attackers are not advised, since Arabian bowmen are fragile (still prove to be a great distraction for attracting fire). Bring everyone from home and set the assembly points close by.
Knock a hole in the defenses, prioritizing mangonels and ballistae. These can be destroyed from the outside, but your units will take in high damage while they walk around the walls, so you might be well-off concentrating on the keep as well. Soften the enemies up with the dervish whirlwind ability or trebuchet area damage first.
As the Lionheart falls, you can now claim kingship over the surrounding areas. Well-deserved victory!