The man is a Captain of the Geonese army and the year is 1242AD. He recently received orders to assemble a large host of men and march on the English held city of Angers. The man’s king recently allied himself with what remained of the French resistance. Together they believe they can hold back the armies of England which have taken so many of the French cities that France really doesn’t exist any more, especially as the English have recently been putting most of the money it owns into expensive Crusades to the Holy Land.
The Geonese King and the French King have been quietly building their strength for years while England was busy with it’s borders elsewhere and now at last they both will strike. The French believe they will take back what is theirs, but in reality the Geonese king plans that all the English territories in France will soon be his.
The Captain has a large host with which it should be easy to take the English city. The English have in recent years grown over-confidant and have placed only skeleton defence forces in their cities and castles, believing themselves secure behind their walls and the strength of the English empire.
The Captain has in front of him several ranks of pikemen followed by a few ranks of dismounted knights, he hides a sneer that they call themselves knights and cannot afford horses. Then comes the cavalry, the Captain at the van with 20 bodyguard who are amongst the best fighters in the army followed by four units of heavy lancers, all joking and laughing with each other. Behind them comes the real strength of his army: close to 700 Geonese crossbowmen, men who’s weapons can punch a bolt through the thickest armour but also who could hold their own against any force in close combat.
Suddenly a bugle calls in the trees to the right of the road, the Captain looks up sharply and orders a halt. The men in the narrow ranks on the road have all gone suddenly quiet and are scanning the trees with their general. Another bugle answers the first in the forest on the other side of the road. The Captain wheels his horse in a circle. The forest is dense and he can’t see anything, suddenly it occurs to him how foolish it was to assume the English would simply allow an army to approach their city and how even more foolish it was to not send out a single scout.
The Captain got where he was by being competent and a skilled tactician he orders the men to form ranks against the forest on either side, but it is too late. Just as the men start to move red and gold clad knights appear from the trees in a thunder of steel and death. He watches in horror as some 200 knights, from either side of the road, smash in the crossbowmen who scatter like frightened children. The pikemen, who would have been best equipped to deal with the heavy knights being used against them were overwhelmed in moments by the English general himself and another 100 knights. A further 100 have crashed into the ranks of cavalry from either side. The Captain orders a counter charge and he charges the English general himself. The fighting is swift but ferocious. The Captain knows he has lost from the second the first knight charged from the trees. The English general meets him head on. Their swords meet in the air again and again while all around him the English knights tear the Geonese army to pieces. Suddenly he out-reaches himself, presenting an opening no swordsman could miss and without any ceremony the English general chops off the man’s head.
The English general scans the field where the routing Geonese are being rode down by his knights. This attack, like the others that would follow it, had been crushed.
Such is a scene that occasionally happens in Medieval 2. And when the battle comes off in just the way you want it to, my god, does it feel fantastic!
A strategy game released in 2006 by Sega and The Creative Assembly, Medieval 2, like Medieval, Rome and Shogun before it uses the Total War engine, an engine designed to allow the player control not over individual soldiers but over large units of men who can combine into vast hosts of soldiers.
I loved the Total War games since I first saw Rome: Total War at Tim’s house, oh so many years ago. And I yearned for the day when I could have my own copy. When I got my laptop, one of the first games I bought for it was Medieval 2 (I prefer the Medieval time period to the Colonial/Roman and Feudal Japanese periods) and it’s expansion pack (Kingdoms) for the low, low price of £9.99 on Steam.
The game is a mix of real time and turn-based strategy. The movement of armies around the world, choosing where to fight and so on is turn-based (you and about 16 other nations in Medieval Europe and the Holy Land) as is the building of units of soldiers and buildings in your castles and cities. It is a classic system and is used in a great many games including Civilisation. You can combine your units into large armies of up to twelve hundred or so and then you can march them off to do your bidding.
The combat is however, very much in real-time. You position your men at the start of the battle while your enemy positions opposite you and then you bring you forces together. Arrows fly, swords clash and horses charge. You can pause and fast forward the battle at will, so it isn’t entirely real time and you have got time to plan your moves, but I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.
The graphics were good when they came out but nowadays they really aren’t anything special (especially when compared with the majesty that is Shogun 2). But so few games have the same style of combat that I just had to get on of the Total Wars, and I haven’t regretted it in the slightest. It has provided hours of fun, and while the campaign can be ridiculously hard and realistic at times (having to pay upkeep for all your men is annoying as hell and I run out of money pretty often) you can then fight a battle you are sure you will lose and if you win it, you feel like Caesar!
Which is the point of Total War! It’s meant to be difficult and realistic running your cities and your empire, so it gets harder the larger the Empire is and in battle you have to use strategy and think your moves through (in the battle I described at the start of this article I got lucky against the Geonese pikemen who under a non-ambush situation can slaughter cavalry). But when you pull it off, you feel like an Emperor! You feel like the dominant power in the world, and my god but it feels fantastic!
Remember, with the exception of the relatively new Shogun 2, the Total War games are all fairly old and so pretty cheap on Steam! So I would completely recommend buying any one of them and starting your own world conquest. (Piece of advice though, the ship to ship combat introduced in Empire Total War, is annoying and difficult as hell. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t get it.)
You can check out me playing the expansion pack of Medieval 2 (Kingdoms) in these two Youtube videos. The first is of me playing in the turn-based part of the game and the second is an example of a battle (not the one described unfortunately…)
Also for any of you who have already got one of the Total War games but feel like you haven’t got enough time to complete the game in (you have to complete the game in 225 turns in the long campaign, which I have always found to be nowhere near enough), I have made a tutorial of a way where you can edit the system files of Medieval 2 and increase the Campaign length to as many turns as you feel you would need to finish the game: