Alright, so my two decades of AOE2 suckage is finally on the mend. I beat "Quetzalcoatl" earlier today, and man, I'll happily never play that mission ever again. Between the Spanish kicking my ass with their Bombard Cannons and the STUPID 75 population cap, it was hard getting the upper hand. The designers are a sadistic bunch, as well. To beat the mission, you're given the choice of either wiping out the Spanish or stealing 20 of their horses. The problem is, the horses are walled away in 3-4 sections throughout the heavily-defended Spanish base. By the time you capture 20 horses, you've basically destroyed 80% of the Spanish anyway. Bastards.
The next mission, "La Noche Triste", presented me with other challenges. It's another of those "beat the Wonder timer" scenarios, but this one has lots of devious elements thrown in. First of all, a solid half of the mission is spent running around, rescuing allies, and evading powerful enemies - all while the Spanish are building a Wonder. You're eventually given a settlement with two Monks and no Town Center; you're then told to convert some enemy villagers at the center of the map. Well, guess what? After sending my two Monks down a loooong causeway to the enemy base, the AI's villagers fled within the walls and never came back out. Terrific. My only other option was to put my Monks in Transport Ships and send them clear across the map to where the enemy Aztecs had a small village. That ate up even more valuable time, but the worst was still to come. When you finally build a Town Center, the AI scripts turn on and the Spanish start flooding the ocean with Galleons, Demolition Ships, and Cannon Galleons. I needed stone to build a Castle for making Trebuchets, but all the stone mines are along the coast, which means my miners got fired on. What a pain in the ass! It took some real effort to get a coastal Castle up in time Plus, thanks to the 75 pop limit and all the allies I rescued earlier, I had to split the same dozen villagers between each resource. When I had three Trebuchets, I had roughly 100 years left on the Wonder timer. Marching across the causeway to the enemy base was too dangerous and time-consuming, as the sea was teeming with Galleons. My last resort was to build a pair of Docks, create as many Transport Ships as possible (my previous ones were sunk), and send as much of my invasion force as possible to the beach where the Wonder was located. This desperate move was successful, and my army managed to destroy the Wonder despite three enemy Castles firing on them. And as you can see from the photo, I finished the mission with just under 25 years to spare. Like the mission before it, I'm not doing this one ever again.
Time flies when you're kicking yourself in the balls. Given the insanity of the last two missions, I'm tempted to hope that the worst is over. Sadly, that probably won't be the case.