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It has likely been a very long time since most of us last played an Age of Empires game. My last time was around two decades ago, back when the real-time strategy giant was originally released for the PC. I failed to grab the HD version when it first launched, feeling that the graphics were a tad bit outdated.

Much to my personal chagrin, I later found out that the community still remains devoted to the game. After all, having Bill Gates answer queries about the franchise candidly does make dedicated fans hope for the best. The Age of Empires II HD remake also sold spectacularly on Steam, just shy of 6 million sales.  That’s probably why Microsoft is patroning an Age of Empires II competitive league — The Escape Champions League.

The Escape Champions League

The Escape league — pronounced as “E-Scape” rather than “Escape” — is a multi-stage event. Of the hundreds of teams that have registered, only eight qualified. The eight teams will have representatives battle it out in multiple mini-tournament stages culminating in a grand final next year. The prize pool: $60,000.

Each stage will have a specific set of rules as well as match types. The stages don’t represent the venues or the teams competing in each, but rather the specific civilizations and maps in play.

Stage 1 – Europe East

  • Dates: July 21, 2018, to August 18, 2018
  • Game Types: 1v1 and 4v4
  • Civilizations: Byzantines, Goths, Huns, Italians, Magyars, Mongols, Slavs, Teutons, Turks, Vikings
  • Maps: Baltic, Scandinavia, Arena, Cross, Acropolis / Team Acropolis, Budapest, Valley

Stage 2 – Africa

  • Dates: September 8, 2018, to October 6, 2018
  • Game Types: 2v2 and 3v3
  • Civilizations: Berbers, Byzantines, Ethiopians, Franks, Italians, Malians, Portuguese, Saracens, Spanish, Turks
  • Maps: Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Sahara, Desert, Team Islands, Gorge

Stage 3 – Middle East

  • Dates: October 27, 2018, to November 24, 2018
  • Game Types: 1v1 and 3v3
  • Civilizations: Britons, Byzantines, Ethiopians, Franks, Huns, Italians, Mongols, Persians, Saracens, Turks
  • Maps: Arabia, Mediterranean, Desert, Bedouins, Hideout, Vital River

Stage 4 – East Asia

  • Dates: December 15, 2018, to February 20, 2019
  • Game Types: 2v2, 4v4
  • Civilizations: Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Mongols, Portuguese, Turks, Huns, Khmer, Indians, Burmese
  • Maps: Mongolia, Steppe, Salt Marsh. Mt Fuji, Twin Puddles, Chaos Pit

Stage 5 – Southeast Asia

  • Dates: February 23, 2019, to March 23, 2019
  • Game Types: 1v1 and 3v3
  • Civilizations: Burmese, Chinese, Indians, Khmer, Malay, Mongols, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese
  • Maps: Bog Island, Pacific Island, Archipelago, Atoll, Bog, Decentring

Stage 6 – Americas

  • Dates: April 13, 2019, to May 11, 2019
  • Game Types: 2v2 and 4v4
  • Civilizations: Aztecs, Inca, Maya, Portuguese, Spanish, Britons, Franks, Vikings, Italians, Slavs
  • Maps: Yucatan / El_dorado, Cenotes, Gold Rush, Atacama, Caribbean, Hamburger

Stage 7 – Europe West

  • Dates: June 1, 2019, to June 29, 2019
  • Game Types: 1v1 and 3v3
  • Civilizations: Berbers, Britons, Celts, Franks, Spanish, Italians, Magyars, Portuguese, Teutons, Vikings
  • Maps: Clearing, Lombardia, Acropolis / Team Acropolis, Highland, Fortress, Houseboat

Age of Empires II Microsoft

Age of Empires II — for a new age

As you can see, each stage has its own specific rules and game types to keep the competitive spirit fresh. Contestants also have to follow a strict set of rules, such as:

  • No Town Center fights
  • No Villager fights in the first 3 1/2 minutes
  • Barracks, Outpost, or Palisade Wall may not be built until the first Town Center is constructed
  • And yes, specific rules are even in place when killing deer and boar

The multi-stage format also makes it possible for players on the same team to face each other in the finals of these stages, earning the 1st and 2nd place finishes for their team.

The Escape Champions League for Age of Empires II is up and running. You can catch the battles via Twitch here. There’s also a stream that’s available for Spanish-speaking viewers.