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"Greetings, sire ! Your stronghold awaits you !"


A medieval-themed RTS series by British game developer Firefly Studios. It has a heavier emphasis on economy and base building than some other games. Calling it a "castle sim" would probably be the most accurate term for it, since it's possibly the only strategy game where you can build and customize your own castles and fortified settlements any way you like. Its gameplay can be best described as a blend of action-oriented RTS games like Age of Empires and more management-based strategies, such as the Settlers series. The devs from Firefly are the original creators of the City Building Series, and it shows...

Currently, the series consists of these installments :

  • Stronghold (2001) itself, which was set in England and Wales during an unspecified period of the Middle Ages.
  • Stronghold Crusader (2002) stand-alone expansion pack set during the Crusades, allowing players to play as either Crusaders or Saracens
  • Stronghold Crusader Extreme, a version of Stronghold Crusader which features better AI and higher unit limit cap.
  • Stronghold 2 (2005), which brought the series into full 3D.
  • Stronghold Legends (2006), a departure into fantasy territory, featuring the characters, creatures and settings of several medieval European legends. The game was rushed to release, many of the series' unique mechanics were underplayed, and it showed - the game was very poorly received by critics and gamers alike, and is considered a Dolled-Up Installment or sequel In Name Only by most.
  • Stronghold 3 (2011) The first "real" entry in the series since 2005. It suffered a poor release despite months of delays, was devoid of a skirmish mode, crashed frequently, was accused reusing sounds from previous entries, had an unstable multi-player mode, and had wolves climbing ladders. The game has since began to recover due to extensive patching from the developers.

Despite relatively poor production values and quite crappy AI, the series has a cult following and is notable for bucking many Real Time Strategy gameplay tropes in favor of more realism.

Not to be confused with the early nineties fantasy strategy game of the same name.


This game series provides provide examples of :

  • Zero-Percent Approval Rating: The peasants' opinion of the player really is expressed as a number out of one hundred, and the workers will begin to desert if you impose high enough taxes or refuse to feed them.
  • Animal Motifs: The four main enemies in the original Stronghold were called The Rat," "The Snake," "The Pig" and "The Wolf." Each required much more varied tactics than the last.
  • Anti Poop Socking: Your scribe (advisor) would occasionally say things like "How about a snack my liege?" or "You have been playing for a long time." depending on how long you have played.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI doesn't seem to understand that when you tear down its village's hovels, it should build new ones. Sigh.
    • Even more when you destroy buildings by torching the enemy castle, as they will rebuild their facilities on the same spot while it's still burning, fueling the fire further until they have no resources left.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking : The Lord is by far the most powerful melee unit, although his usefulness is limited because he moves very slowly and you lose if he dies.
  • Badass Grandpa: In Stronghold 3 The Wolf is looking noticeably older and badass this time round.
  • Badass Mustache: Sir Longarm.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The lord always dies in the same way regardless how it happened falling to his feet with no visible damage. Mothers also when they are hit via crossfire they simply disappear, anyone else including other females do not benefit from this.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In Stronghold Crusader, if you have your fear factor set to the happiest, your soldiers fight far more fiercely in your defense...
  • Black Comedy / Gallows Humour : Plenty of it, especially in the briefings and cutscenes. It's rather appropriate and nicely fits the down-to-earth portrayal of life in the Middle Ages offered by the game.
  • Bloodless Carnage: In Stronghold 2. Averted in the original and in Crusader, which featured bloody death animations for every sprite that were different depending how the unit died.
  • Booby Trap: For players to set up for each other.
  • Book Ends: Loosely for the first game. Your first and last enemies in the original Stronghold's campaign that you will fight? Wolves.
  • Boring but Practical: In Extreme with the auto unit generators the AI lords if they are given units that they are not designed to use simply send the units to attack the player's lord with no real strategy. While it can be dumb sending Catapults or Fire Balistas that can't do melee straight to the lord the sheer numbers they can send because of the generators can cause problems for the player.
  • Command and Conquer Economy: You expect the villagers to hunt for food on their own ? How silly ! Now build them a hunter's post !
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Or rather, construct additional hovels (to increase the number of your possible population).
  • Cool Old Guy: Sir Longarm.
  • Credits Gag: Sort of. After every map you kill one of the Four Tyrants the "victory feast" screen shows an item associated with that villain (such as the Rat's helmet being used as a candle holder and the Snake's eyepatch impaled with a dagger).
  • Critical Existence Failure
  • The Crusades: The setting for Stronghold Crusader, specifically the era of the Third Crusade.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Tunnelers. "Let me guess. Digging." Ask them to attack someone for extra fun.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: The Hawk in Stronghold 2. His power and influence rival Barclay's, and he has a much more direct and significant role in the story. He's the one who came up with the whole plan to overthrow the King in the first place, as well as the one who put it into action, i.e. hiring the Viking Warlord Olaf to attack the country, poisoning the King, orchestrating the capture of Sir William, and disbanding the King's army.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In the first game, the other villains talk the Rat into trying to betray you, than threaten him into overextending himself against a lord who rises in your support when he hears about the betrayal. His plan was to pull his forces back to his own stronghold and wait for reinforcements instead of smashing his armies against your walls, which probably would have worked.
  • Easter Egg: The narrator has a certain number of preset names to call you with if you use them.
    • Vader, for example.
      • Or Flying Poo!
    • During Christmas time, in a team match, your allies will wish you a merry christmas.
  • Easy Logistics: Mostly averted or at least subverted (except for building, since all structures appear instantly after you place them in the desired location). You generally need to set up a lot of basic production chains to get your economy and army up and running. Example : You need to send woodcutters to chop down trees, then wait till they bring it to your stockpile, then you use the wood to construct a farm, mill and bakery. Now your peasants will be fed and relatively happy. You can set the amount of rations for them anytime you like, depending on the situation. The amount of rations increases or decreases morale. Now, you want to train, say, a crossbowman ? You first need to build a tanner's and fletcher's workshop and a dairy farm. The tanner will occasionally visit the dairy farm, take a cow back to the workshop, slaughter it and start working on 3 new padded leather armors for the archers. In the meantime, the fletcher manufactures the crossbows and bolts. Both craftsmen put their products in the armoury (but only if you've already built one !). And that's not all : Finally, you have to build a barracks and have enough gold and unemployed (unoccupied) peasants, so you can train them into soldiers. Quite a lot of work for a strategy game, eh ?
    • Except, curiously, that as soon as your peasants are drafted into soldiers they no longer need to eat. Or need a place to live in.
  • Everythings Better With Bunnies: Inverted. They eat your crops. Kill them all.
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: Bears can be quite annoying, especially if you haven't had time to recruit soldiers yet. However, if you have enough resources you can Take a Third Option and wall them in. Voila, a zoo!
    • And then there are the dancing bears, which you can place in order to raise the morale.
  • Everything's Worse with Wolves: They come in packs, and they kill your villagers.
  • Evil Gloating: The Four Tyrants are fond of this.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Pig and Caliph are literally two of the most evil lords in their own way and are the most recognizable in this department.
  • Evil Laugh: The Pig is really fond of this. The Wolf gets an opportunity to do this near the end, too.
  • Explosive Breeder: "Rabbits are breeding at an alarming rate, liege! Our crops are threatened!"
  • Feudal Overlord:
  • Five-Bad Band: The four Tyrants in the first game, although they lack a Dragon.
    • The Big Bad: Duc Volpe (The Wolf)
    • The Brute: Duc Truffe (The Pig)
    • The Evil Genius: Duc Beauregard (The Snake)
    • The Dark Chick: Duc DePuce (The Rat)
    • Stronghold 2 has:
    • The Big Bad: Lord Barclay, AKA "The Hammer".
    • The Dragon / The Evil Genius: Pascal Devereux, AKA "The Hawk"
    • The Brute: Shared by Viking Warlord Olaf Grimtooth and Scottish Clan Leader Angus Mcloud, AKA "The Bull".
    • The Dark Chick: Edwin Blackfly, AKA "The English Traitor". Rather similar to the Rat.
  • Fourth Wall Mail Slot: The Wolf's Twitter account.
  • Fragile Speedster: Arabian archers.
  • French Jerk: The Hawk. Even though he's Sir William's brother and lives in England.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Richard the Lionheart wasn't known for being a great leader and instead was known for his military genius. In real life he mostly used his king status of England to fund his crusade escapades and rarely was "home". This is reflected in game by him being a great attacking lord backed by all the boosts available but his economy, while reasonable, is mostly to create troops with little bells and whistles as Saladin has and not much for the peasants. He also has rather poor dedicated defending troops.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: All of the animal lords from the first game with Snake and Wolf especially hate the player but they help the player and are willing to die alongside the player in some Trail missions with Snake and Pig being the most frequent of these (sometimes even together at the same time).
  • Glass Cannon: Archers and slingers. Richard as a character is the most qualified for this in Crusader. His attacks are some of the most cordinated with siege weapons, tunnelers to open walls, armored units and archers all boosted by a positive fear factor combat boost. On defense though it is not uncommon for his dedicated defense force to be 1 archer and 4 anti siege tower weapons.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Crusader, Warchest and Extreme Trail has pre sorted missions for the player with some allies. On occasion cruel lords help the "good" player such as the Caliph and even the Wazir who are the cruelest lords in Crusader alongside the animal lords from the first game (including Wolf) teaming with the player at least once.
  • Hello, Insert Name Here: In Stronghold Crusader, naming your profile after any of a couple of hundred common English names (or "Vader") causes the narrator to refer to you by that name out loud (otherwise, he just calles you "my lord.")
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Rat is all but forced by the other lords into attacking a lord that's allied with you, just when you're about to attack his castle. Finding it incredibly underprotected, you quickly take it over, beef up the defenses, and attack him when he's coming back from his unsuccessful siege. Given the fact that he was retreating to his castle with his defeated forces, he doesn't put up much of a fight.
  • Informed Ability
    • The animal themed original lords are said to be very cruel and the pig especially is shown making his intention clear to make the citizens of an estate he took over live a living hell from then on but in the game only the Wolf uses negative fear factor consistently, Pig only some castle designs use very minimal buildings and the other two do not use positive or negative.
    • Lord Woolsack is said to be one of the greatest advisers for the king and your father in the first game but throughout the course of the game he makes some rather bad decisions that lead to the people losing faith in his lead in favor to Sir Longarm and even to the player who isn't very proven at that point. He is also later killed by the Pig.
    • Sir Longarm in the original game is the only one aside from the player who can gain victories in the post snake chapters of the game against the Pig and Wolf and even rescues the King while the player does the castlework. In Crusader Longarm is literally a worse Richard with less attack power, slightly more defense force and a much worse economy.
    • The Wazir is said to enjoy going for walks in the desert at night... no way to do that in the game.
  • Informed Flaw: The Emir was added afterwards and is said to be rather bad at war but in game he is debatably better than Saladin.
  • The Jester: One of these goes around entertaining/annoying your people. At one point in the military campaign between missions your jester sings a song about your victory over the Rat's troops to the tune of Greensleeves.
  • Kill It with Fire: In Stronghold Crusader, slaves or ballistas can be used to set fire to the castle of any computer opponent one doesn't actually feel like fighting. The brilliant AI replaces the destroyed buildings while the rest of his castle is still on fire, until eventually he runs out of resources.
  • La Résistance: Your faction in the original Stronghold.
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everyone. Most notable is the narrator in Stronghold Crusader. The narrator was, um, quite enthusiastic about his job, narrating pretty much everything.
    • SAVING!!!
      • LOADING!!!
      • EXIT STRONGHOLD CRUSADER?!?!?!
    • EAT STEEL!!
    • Also the Wazir when he's defeated: "This was not foretold, I should not die, noooo..."
  • Laughably Evil: The Rat.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Knights and lords, when on horseback.
  • Man On Fire: Igniting pitch ditches will result in a spectacular display of pyrotechnics and people running around screaming as fiery silhouettes.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Inverted, the Lord is the single most important in the castle as him being killed means the player was defeated. Notably the Lord can get married in some game modes and it produces a Lady and if she is killed nothing happens really.
  • Mighty Glacier: Knights and lords when not on horseback. The Wolf's playstyle is this too.
  • Most Annoying Sound: Anytime you're reminded that you lack a material to build something.
  • Never Found the Body: You impaled the Wolf, twisted the blade, and he fell down from his keep. But did you ever recover the body? No. Now, guess who is back for Stronghold 3...
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The original's main menu background music.
  • Real Time with Pause
  • Ridiculously-Fast Construction: One of the few completely unrealistic aspects of the series, for pretty obvious reasons. Enemy troops coming ? Just click and drag and you have a wall (if the enemies aren't already too close to its location).
  • Self-Made Orphan: Implied with the Wolf from the original.
  • Shown Their Work : Though some of the graphics and aspects seem a bit cartoony, the workings of an average medieval castle (production chains and features like morale and army building) are depicted fairly realistically.
  • Shout-Out : Naming yourself Lord Vader in Crusader causes the narrator to refer to you verbally as Lord Vader.
  • Staying Alive: The Wolf is back for Stronghold 3.
  • Technology Levels: introduced in Stronghold 2, but it's optional, and most players set the option to off for multiplayer mode.
  • The Brute: Macemen in the original and Crusader and Viking mercenaries in Stronghold 2.
  • The Dung Ages : Subverted. This trope is more often than not affectionately parodied.
    • In some gametypes of Stronghold 2, dung will actually start piling up in your town, and you have to hire sanitation workers to clean it up.
  • The Siege / Storming the Castle : The most usual military activities of both you and your adversaries. The attacker has a limited number of units, and the defender only has to outlast the siege to win[1]. This is true for you as well: player sieges are as much an exercise in efficient unit use as they are about killing everyone in the target castle.
  • Tin Tyrant: The Wolf. The Rat and the Pig also wear plate armor, but the Snake prefers fancy clothes instead.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In Stronghold Crusader, the Rat sometimes builds access stairs on the outside of his castle walls.
    • The Snake also has castle designs that literally locks himself and everyone in his castle inside of said castle with no way to get out.
  • Took A Level In Badass: The Wolf despite how hard it might be to believe. In the first game he was already the strongest but in Crusader the other animal lords became weaker while the Wolf has the most defended castles with a powerful economy and the only reason his attacks are not as scary as Richard's is because he uses negative fear factor thus his troops suffer a combat penalty. He is however much better at harassing/raiding than Richard and Wolf also has the largest selection of troops out of any lord.
  • Troll: The Wolf has a twitter account, where people can ask him questions. His replies aren't very nice, and he doesn't answer questions which he finds stupid. He is also an Internet Tough Guy, and threatens people with torture and sieges.
  • Tower Defense: A more complex version than most; "Castle Defense," really, but still, 80 percent of the time, you're on the defense rather than on the offense. Rarely, you play a siege mission where you use your own troops to destroy an enemy castle; ever more rarely, you can have a castle-vs-castle section where you can keep building your own troops to throw at the enemy.
  • Tunnel King: Tunnelers.
  • Villainous Glutton: The Pig. Justified, though: when he was younger he was underfed, and after he took control of the bandit gang that raised him he made sure to always get the best food for himself.
  • Warrior Monk: "We are the Black Monks."
  • Would Hit a Girl: If you are a female who hasn't had a baby in her womb watch out... Ladies, and tanners (who are only female) could get clubbed in the face by macemen and suffer any other brutal death any male can.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Only applies to mothers. Ranged units do not target them and melee units ignore them, they also cower and run into their homes the first sign of danger.
  • Ye Goode Olde Days : Once again, affectionately parodied - to hell and back.
  • You Killed My Father: The Snake tricked him, and the Wolf killed him (which he really likes gloating about.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Or rather, "You require more wood, stone, gold, honour, swords, spears, pikes, armor, and/or bows."
    • "Not enough iron, mylord..." "Wood needed..." "You do not have enough gold to train this unit."
  1. Not as easy as you'd think, as the only safe places are within the castle walls, and you rarely have enough space or stone available to protect your farms. The only thing that devastates morale/happiness more than not have anything to eat is prohibitively excessive taxes, and if you can't get to your farms, you also can't get to the tree you need to harvest to make more bows...
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