An Expert’s Guide to Life: How to beat your old school friend Max L______* in Age of Empires II: HD Expansion

Oh yeah. Here it is. Friday. Well-earned and well-received. High-fives all-round. No, scrap that; DOUBLE high-fives all-round.

And you know what Friday means. Yeah, that’s right – it’s time for some unadulterated, unfettered, uncompromising adult fun.

And the good news? Mum and Dad are out tonight. They’re grabbing dinner at a vegan restaurant in Newtown with Uncle Felix and his new girlfriend who smells – not unpleasantly; just distinctively – like Chicken Crimpies. They won’t be back until late; mum grasping a little see-through container of leftovers (shredded cabbage) and Dad sporting red wine and ersatz-meat stains just below his collar.

So you go to the fridge and grab a beer that’s been labelled ALEX’S BEER DO NOT DRINK, but this is a Friday so anything goes. It’s a twist-top, but you have a notoriously weak grip so use the bottle opener from the second drawer instead. Don’t be a hero.

Then you head upstairs and boot up Dad’s computer and spend a moment reflecting on the majesty of Age of Empires II: HD Expansion as you wait for it to load. “More civilisations. More unique units. More bizarre historical matchups,” the voice-over in your head says. So true.

Online, an acquaintance with the screen name YourMateFinnegan is keen for a 1v1 situation – and it pans out just how you expected.

“Like I say, I haven’t played since high school,” he says right before he surrenders. CRAM IT buddy, you think. Save your excuses for Family Dinner Night.

Then you notice someone else is online.

“Hey mate, how’s it going? How about a bit of a battle?”
“Sure, Max,” you speed-type back. “Lets do this.”
Max, Max, Max. The man with a fancy degree from a fancy uni with a fancy Swans membership (actually, you’re a 2014 member too! Go Bloods!).

He calls you via Skype and you engage in polite banter. You try not to reveal just how afraid you are. Max is not like YourMateFinnegan. Max is like Varsity in Mighty Ducks II. He plays to win, and he’s very good.
So how do you beat him? I’m glad you asked. There are three simple steps.

  1. Strike early. As soon as you can, divert funds away from researching scientific breakthroughs (Loom? Wheelbarrow? I think not) and start pumping out militia at the local barracks.

  1. Cripple his economy. Send your troops (see point 1) to crucial resource zones in his territory.

  1. Build a massive guard tower literally in the middle of his base. This point is a) self-explanatory, and b) the most important. You need a few villages to do this. You need to be sneaky. Failure is not an option.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded? Well, any minute now, you’ll hear Max over Skype. “You got me this time,” he confesses. (You detect a note of panic.)

“Same time next week?” he suggests.
“Maybe, man. We’ll just have to see.”

You make sure you sound casual, even though deep down you’re bursting with pride. For the first time in a long time, the Vikings have defeated the Aztecs. Your people rejoice.

* Identity protected

Dylan Chalwell