Barbarossa 1: Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick Barbarossa, after being elected the Holy Roman Emperor, attempts to force the squabbling German fiefdoms into his Holy Roman Empire, which he then must defend from the invasions and manipulations of the Italian city states and the pope in Rome.
Teutons have the best monks. However, their total force has significant weaknesses. The biggest one is that their cavalry is slow. This means, among other things, that it will have difficulty running away from a superior force. Another major weakness is that their scout is not only relatively slow, but weak. There are many important missions for combat-capable light cavalry, and the Teutons just can't do them. Furthermore, the Teuton unique unit is not useful. Sure, it has great melee armor, but how often does it actually catch something that it can beat? The Teutons do have several advantages, such as conversion resistance.
This scenario is not particularly straightforward, so there are more spoilers here than usual. The scenario is fairly hard at the beginning, as a lot of AoE scenarios are. Until you build up, you will be stretched thin, and you need to accomplish a lot. You don't control any secure territory, and you need to be engaged all over the map. You need to micromanage a lot of units all over the map continuously for a long time, otherwise they just commit suicide. Save the game frequently! You need to do like Napoleon did and use those internal lines of communication. The difficulties go down when the Mongols join you, because by that time, you should have some static defenses and some secure territory, you have probably knocked out one enemy, and you have just acquired a strong mobile force, at a bargain price.
The map is comprised of a lot of islands, all connected by bridges and river fords. You start the scenario in the middle. Where to go, what to explore first? There is no way of knowing, but you certainly need a lot more scouting capacity, so build that up immediately. About five scouts, plus a couple of monks to start seems about right. Scout aggressively! This seems to be more imprtant than usual in this scenario. A reasonable choice seems to be straight out, then clockwise with the first scout.
The map is crawling with sheep. Grab as many as you can as fast as you can. At least 10 should be found almost immediately.
By the time you have explored about 1/3 of the map, you should have made contact with Swabia to the west, Saxony to the north, Bavaria to the SE, and Burgundy to the south. Saxony and Bavaria have Towers and walls, Swabia has at least one monk, and Burgundy has Towers. In the balance, Burgundy seems to be the weakest. You should attack Burgundy immediately. Use all available knights, a couple of monks, and some villagers to build Towers and such. Swabia will be next on the hit list. Continue to scout aggressively. At this time you should also start to build static defenses. Stone walls should be used in the west, because those will be permanent positions, and you can expect to be attacked there soon. Some Palisade Walls will suffice in the east, because you have the castle there. Seal off the west completely, including gates, of course, but leave an opening near your castle. This will encourage attacking enemy forces to walk past your castle, where they will die in heaps. If your home area is not effectively sealed off, enemy units will run through there constantly, and at a minimum slaughter your sheep.
As soon as you attack Burgundy, you realize that they also have a monk, hiding in the middle of their town. That's unfortunate, but Burgundy is still the weakest of the potential targets at this time, because they have no other mobile military units. Lure the monk into an ambush, and then leap on him with everybody. If you do this properly, his chance of converting something will be very low. If he does get lucky, you should probably reload your latest saved game, because you cannot afford casualties this early.
Next, knock out a Tower with your knights, probably the one near the forage bushes. This is safe, because Burgundy does not have Murder Holes, and you have a monk nearby anyway. When the Burgundy Tower goes down, you may want to build your own Tower there, as close to the Town Center as possible. If enemy villagers come out to play with it (they often do), kill them with your knights. The next target for your knights is the monastery. You want the relic, and you don't want Burgundy building any more monks. While all this is going on, and definitely afterwards, do not miss an opportunity to kill enemy villagers. The best opportunity is when a villager ventures away from the TC to build something. Each time the villagers run into their TC, you should pretend to run away with your units, until they think it's safe and come out again. When the last enemy villager dies, you can destroy the Town Center safely and probably should. After you are finished with Burgundy, if you built a Tower there, you may want to put a wall around it. Otherwise, enemy melee units could show up and take it down before you can respond, although it doesn't really matter to the scenario.
The attack on Burgundy does not need to happen exactly as described above. The elements or their sequence could be varied. The main points are that you probably want their relic, and you probably want to knock them out. A complete knock-out requires destroying all production buildings and villagers, assuming that the remaining military units cannot hurt your static defenses. But there are other pressing concerns elsewhere, so you probably should only go for an economic knock-out before withdrawing; in particular, kill all the villagers and the TC. This way, even if they get resources from an ally, they can never rebuild their economy. Burgundy does not resign immediately when their last villager is killed, but will do so eventually, after a long delay.
By the time that you are finished with Burgundy, certain other things should have happened. You should have explored almost 2/3 of the map, everything except the SW corner (inaccessible due to terrain), the SE corner and some of the east side (inaccessible due to terrain and enemy presence), some of the west side (the territory of Swabia), and the NW corner (the territory of Saxony and some hard-to-reach areas). You should have made contact with Austria and Bohemia. Austria has a castle, which can easily kill your scout if you're not careful, a monk, and a mobile force, so you need to avoid Austria at this time. Bohemia has a monk but nothing else. Bohemia is currently the weakest enemy, although Swabia is fairly weak and closer to your main base. But Bohemia is right next to your brand new mercenary army! Therefore Bohemia is the next target.
When you check the diplomacy screen, you see that the Mongols want to be our allies. But do we want to accept? After all, they are the scourge of Europe (and Asia). And will they not betray us?
Our diplomatic stance towards the Mongols starts at neutral. At some point, you may decide to set it to ally. You probably won't think of this until the scenario is well underway, because you've got more important things to think about. Exactly when or if you do this is rather unimportant. As soon as you offer to ally with the Mongols, a section of the NE map is revealed, and you see a dozen Mongol units there. These units do not move.
Even if you never set your diplomatic state with the Mongols to ally, it won't have much effect on the course of the game. You know that the Mongols are over in the east somewhere, and you will eventually get there in the regular course of scouting. Allying with the Mongols will locate them earlier, but your scouts have other important tasks, as do all of your units. Therefore, you cannot realistically send a scout to make direct contact with the Mongols until you have explored a third or half of the map, and you will not be able to afford their fee immediately anyway.
When you make direct contact with the Mongols, they offer to join your forces for a total cost of 175 wood (for the market) and 240 gold (including the transaction fee). (For this single transaction, Banking does not pay for itself; you already have Coinage.) Mongolian mercenaries? Why not? For that price, you could normally only get about 3.5 cavalry archers, so these units are very cheap, and they are very useful, especially early in the game. (Note that many upgrades will be unavailable for these units.) Unfortunately, by the time you get the offer, you will have spent all your gold and wood on other critical things.
As soon as you have a reasonable number of villagers and your economy is starting to ramp up, you should make hiring the Mongols a priority. By the time they join you, you should have knocked out one enemy and can immediately throw the cavalry archers against the next one.
When the Mongolian mercenaries arrive, use them to take out Bohemia straightaway. The first step is to kill their monk. Lure him with a scout, and while he fixates on that, hammer him with seven elite Mangudai. He doesn't have a chance.
After that, it is relatively simple matter to hunt down their villagers. At some point, they will probably sit in the Town Center and refuse to come out. Teutonic TCs are very dangerous; you need to keep a healthy distance. Thus you have no alternative but to destroy all their buildings from range. Three Siege Onagers will make short work of undefended buildings, but stay away from the TC! One benefit of wiping out the buildings is that it may induce the villagers to come out to rebuild them, or at least try to. But if they still refuse to come out of the TC, you will need either long range artillery or battering rams.
While the Mongols are attacking Bohemia, your knights should have returned from Burgundy. Use them to take out the two Saxony Towers just north of your island. This is relatively easy, because they probably don't have Murder Holes yet, you have healers nearby, and no troops arrive to support the Towers. After the Towers go down, your mobility increases dramatically. You can now move monks and villagers freely over the entire map without much concern, except for those areas directly occupied by the remaining enemies. Expand your secure areas by building walls in judicious locations. Because of the many rivers and limited river crossings, this should be fairly easy.
Your early military ventures have probably used resources that might otherwise have been invested in the economy. Now is the time to bring the economy and population to the maximum and to go Imperial. You might be able to win the scenario with the forces at your disposal right now, but it would be a hard fight. But if you have a maximum economy and military, winning will be a piece of cake.
Now is also the time to upgrade your defenses in the east. Up to now you have been relying on your castle, with some Palisade Walls for channeling purposes and a few troops to help out. But enemy attacks will have been becoming more powerful, even if not yet dangerous, and they are starting to use siege weapons. Therefore it would be prudent to upgrade those defenses before you get heavily engaged with Swabia. At least a rudimentary Maze Complex is appropriate. Do not seal yourself in completely! Then the enemy will attack anywhere, and they will use siege weapons to safely smash your wall. As long as you leave one opening for the enemy, they will tend to use it, and all of their troops, including their heavy equipment, will just die in the maze.
If you cannot finish Bohemia immediately because their remaining villagers are hiding in their Town Center, wall them in and leave a garrison force. If they have no active workers, they cannot rebuild. But this seems to be an unlikely possibility.
Assuming that Bohemia has been finished, redeploy your army against Swabia. Swabia builds a lot of spear infantry. These units are effectively free, because they do not consume any rare resources (gold and especially stone). Relative to their cost, they are very powerful, but only against cavalry, which are primary attack units. However, they are weak against everything else. Swabia does eventually build generally powerful units - monks and artillery.
What do you have that is strong against Swabia? Your knights are too weak in relation to so many Spearmen, so leave them at home. Your Mangudai are definitely required, but stay away from the enemy Town Center! Your regular cavalry archers are borderline, so use them or not, as seems indicated. Your Siege Onagers could provide some amusement, but they are really too slow to be worth using in this attack. Monks are definitely important, but only for healing. After all, would you even consider converting a Spearman? You could build some Teutonic Knights; this might be a rare occasion when they are actually useful. However, while they might be great against spear infantry, somebody still has to take out the TC, and Teutonic Knights are definitely not the unit of choice. You could build your own Town Center in their town, and you probably should. This mini-castle is a powerful attacking unit if properly deployed, and it is relatively cheap. You could build a castle in their town, and you probably should. There are certain risks associated with the Castle Attack, primarily that the builders are exposed until the castle is built, and a castle is an expensive unit to lose. But one of the big strengths of the Castle Attack is that it negates enemy monks.
The recommended attack against Swabia uses the Mangudai, some scouts, some monks, and some villagers. Raid the enemy home areas, and advance your wall line as you sanitize their territory. You should probably build at least one TC for fire support and to give your villagers a safe place. The attack reaches its climax when you build a wall just out of range of their TC. Building a castle just behind that wall is useful but not necessary. When the castle is finished, the enemy morale breaks. This is a symbolic statement, because the AI has no morale as such. However, the fight is now over for practical purposes, because you now move up your trebuchets, and BOOM the enemy TC blows up and then your cavalry sweeps in to wipe out all the enemy villagers and there's nothing the enemy can do to stop it. Complete the conquest of Swabia by walling off what was once their territory.
You now have three relics, and only need one more. You may even have four! All of your six opponents start with one monastery, one relic outside the monastery, and one monk, except that Saxony does not get a monk, and may never build one. All of them except Saxony immediately garrison their relic in their monastery, and at some point at least one of them will raid the Saxony relic. So one of the opponents that you have taken out may have had two relics. Depending on how things work out, it is even possible to intercept the Saxony relic in transit. Note that if you want to keep playing the scenario, you don't actually need to put a relic you own into a monastery.
In any case, the scenario has pretty much become a regular AoE game at this point. You have a strong economy and a strong army and strong defenses. Your strategy, tactics, and operations should be superior to the AIs'. Therefore their attacks will be mowed down by your static defenses, while your attacks will smash whatever they encounter. Even outnumbered three to one, and you're not actually outnumbered in any meaningful way, you should win handily.
There are many ways to finish off the scenario. The fastest way is to grab a fourth relic somewhere; the slowest way is to eradicate all the remaining enemies. The walkthrough ends here because the rest of the scenario does not require any detailed explanation.