The Castello dell'Imperatore rises in the ancient tuscan city of Prato, to around 20 Kms. N/W from Florence. It was built on specific testamentary condition by Federico II° around half 1200 on the rests of a precedent military installation: the rich ghibellino Panfollia Dagomari, in fact, left every good of his to the emperor to condition that he built in Prato an imperial castle. Wish that Federico II° it didn't have difficulty to respect, so much more than the strategic position of the city assured a good overseeing on the streets of communication between Germany and South Italy and besides he could be proclaimed a strong warning to the respect of the imperial supremacy on whole Tuscany.
As every other federician architectural expression, also in this case the sketch of the castle corresponds to a precise symbolic choice, founded in the form of the square and his projections.
Playability: This is one tough map to play, however there is a flaw. The description says that you need to kill the lord as well as the troops. On the first attempt, I discovered that the lord was within a small wooden area outside of the main castle (I assume he wandered there..) with a handful of archers on wooden towers. As a result, I won within a few minutes and 1% troop loss. The next attempt I disregarded this in an effort to play the map and kill all the remaining troops. This was damn difficult, yet very well done. One entrance to the castle only, from behind and then there are the masses of archers to get past. Could have been a better score if it wasn't for the ease with which I killed the Lord first time round (and the game went into victory mode as soon as I did, leaving the castle in tact and troops twiddling their thumbs).
Balance: Largely due to the points above, I can't give it higher than a 3. In addition, it makes it virtually impossible to win with the hoardes of archers and liberal use of pitch. Again, with these gripes aside, it is a very well done map that tests and frustrates to leave you wanting more. A patient approach suited me best, figuring out how to get troops into the castle without losing all and sundry.
Creativity: ...is okay, well presented but nothing extraordinary stood out for me.
Map Design: The castle was well constructed and can virtually defend itself. Good notes accompany the map and there are a couple of nice images in the zip file. Yet the map is a little boring. Saying that, this is a 'real' castle siege and maybe the terrain resembles the area? Difficult one to mark.
Story/Instructions: As always with this author's maps, there is a decent write up and an assortment of pictures to whet your appetite. Can't really fault this, and I am aware that when playing the map the objectives screen prior to launch is not in English. I assume the write up we have in English is a translation on the description page.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing this, but it could have been better if it weren't for the Lord appearing out of the blue in front of 30 of my archers when I least expected it. Shame really, as this is a damn fine map and a bit of a tough nut to crack.