Posted on 01/26/06 @ 02:37 PM (updated 02/04/06
Dry wind blew over the rocks. Silent. Grey. Shapeless rock that yet grinned towards him with evil faces. Everywhere demand. Everywhere control. He woke up.
Samael sat up. It was dark, still night. He was sweating, although it was cold. He got up, washed his face in water that could just as well had been floating ice. Walked towards the opening, peeked out.
”Dramaen…damn, I’m still only in Dramaen” he thought to himself, although he couldn’t be sure if he had uttered it out loud as well.
The fires were still lit. Or they had been lit again. If it was early or late in the night he couldn’t tell, there was no moon to rely on. Perhaps the fires hadn’t been put out at all. Autumn was closing in, and it was getting chill. The soldiers probably wanted to stay warm, ignoring the fact that a thousand small campfires is a great way to alert a waiting enemy that a hostile army is approaching. He went back into the tent. He lit a candle. It didn’t give much light, but just enough for reading. He opened his notebook. He had been taking notes all since the march started some three weeks ago.
Three days of marching. Yet no sign of any enemy activity. The men are still brave at heart. They don’t know what a long, tidy, march they have ahead. They don’t know what dirty work they’ve been dispatched to do. I just hope I can keep the morale up.
The situation was worse now. They would reach their destination around noon the next day. The men knew what was ahead of them. This dirty work. This pointless fighting. But someone had to do it.
He went out to take a piss. It was much colder outside, even though he had figured that his pavilion wouldn’t give much protection from the chill nights. When he came back, the wind had put out the candle. It didn’t matter. He was tired. But he couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow was the day. “Take the castle by storm”. That was the king’s orders. That, and no more. The man knew nothing about warfare. He should have listened to Samael, or at least the other members of the military council.
Samael was a warrior of age and experience. And yet he was sent off to do this simple work. He had been fighting for years, taking part in five grand battles, conquering and defending dozens of castles. He had seen more death than any other he could think of. Well, there were a few, but they were all dead now anyway. A few of them had been executed on his orders. He had not been promoted a general for nothing. He knew his business, better than most others. Ruthless, that was probably how he was best described. But he wasn’t. Only when he needed to. This time he didn’t, this time he couldn’t actually. The king had ordered him to go kindly with the peasants, after all, Seryll castle was a part of Dramaen, and it would look bad if the king went hard on his newly liberated countrymen.
Seryll castle…He had been there before. The question was if the king had ever been there…He had once fought as a defender of the castle, and now he was about to “take the castle by storm”. The castle was strong, laying as it did atop a high cliff next to river Waer, the river that marked Dramaens northernmost border. The king was a fool, he should never had become king. He wasn’t fit for the position of ruling a country, especially not a country as busy as Dramaen, he was more interested in hosting great banquets and drinking large amounts of wine.
And now, on the orders of this lousy king, he was about to retake Seryll castle from two rebellious little rascals. That’s all that they were in his eyes. Little rascals. Knew as much about warfare as the king. Spoiled brats with too much spare time that wanted something to do, so they started a civil war. Great work.
These men, Forluin and Draegen, more rightfully known as the Pig and the Snake were a big pain. They had never done anything useful, but they at least hadn’t bothered Samael before. And now they had started this. So useless. Dramaen had plenty of enemies out there in the big world, the last thing the country needed was a civil war. Two spoiled nobles who wanted some action…pathetic.
Samael went up again. He couldn’t sleep. He lit the candle once again. Dug up some documents from his suitcase. The suitcase was of brown, nearly green from aging, leather. It was an old war trophy of his. Not worth anything to anyone, except for him. From what he knew, Forluin had been left in charge of the castle, while Draegen was located somewhere else, disposing over a great army, probably greatly reinforced by mercenaries from other countries. The castle was strong, but most probably too weakly armed to withstand a siege. The castle should be able to capture without too much of a fight, despite the silly tactic commanded by the silly king.
He checked some of the documents concerning the two nobles. Nothing interesting about them…Born rich, never did anything in their entire life…Sleepy. Finally.
He put out the candle and went back to bed. Bed? It was no real bed, just a thin mattress put over a few wooden planks, that was about it. At least from his point of view. It didn’t matter, he fell to sleep almost immediately. The fires were still lit.
”General Samael, sir?” Samael gnarled.
“General Samael, sir?”
Captain Wyrren shook him. “General Samael, sir, the men are ready to leave. Everything has been packed…well, except from your own pavilion of course.”
Samael sat up. “Good…Good, Wyrren. I’m up, I’m up. Help me get the pavilion packed, and we will be leaving right away”.
”Of course sir”.
Later that day, about noon as predicted, they spotted the river Waer and Seryll castle. Time to do the dirty work. Cleaning up others’ mess. Well, someone had to do it. And no matter what he thought of himself, he was still just a pawn in the game. The king’s pawn, always ready to some work for someone else. Always ready to clean up other peoples mess.
”The king’s pawn, that’s all” he thought. “The king’s pawn…”
The Author’s Notes
First, I’d like to thank all who playtested.
The idea behind the map is that after playing through a lot of great castles ("great" meaning both that they rock, and that they are big) I found that most of the bigger, well done, castles were so hard. Most pro-designers tend to put the playing difficulty to "pro" as well, which somewhat reduces playability and balance scores. So my intention whit this map was to create a great (or at least big) castle, that still everyone can complete. This may dissapoint some people, but on the other hand, those who seek a real challenge may play the map at Hard or Very Hard.
It is to note that the opening siege may, at first, seem somewhat hard, but I assure you that it is winnable, and once you find the right tactic, you can actually complete it with rather small troop-losses. The siege isn’t affected by the difficulty level, so if you’re worried about having to play the map at Normal to able to beat the siege, you can be totally comfortable.
The map is an eco-vasion, but none of the aspects (economic and invasion) should be too hard individually, combined, however, I hope that they’ll present some challenge. As mentioned before, the map is rather easy, so the more experienced/skilled players may want to play the map at Hard or Very Hard.
As for the map design, I went for a very naturalistic look. The entire map slopes gently towards the river, as it would in reality (rivers causes erosion). Although, I did add some detail just for the look of it, a real river-valley wouldn’t be that rocky/craggy. I know there could (or even should) have been farms out in the grasslands just below the castle, but I decided to leave those out, since that would require the gates of the castle to be open, and that way, some of the enemy troops would have rushed out of the castle in a counter-attack (the AI isn’t the best really).
The castle is based upon several real castles. Many castles were sighted atop a high cliff overlooking a river, my main sources of inspiration was Barnard, Ludlow and Chepstow Castle. I mainly used custom-towers, as I think they blend better with the walls, and none of the towers in the Map Editor really had the right size (and some of them didn’t have the right form/shape). And you won’t have to worry about not being able to rebuild the Square Towers in the inner ward, the AI won’t touch them.
I hope you will enjoy playing this map as much as I enjoyed designing it. Enjoy!
Hints (don’t read unless you really want to, they might spoil some of the fun):
- The less you destroy during the opening siege, the more you will gain.
- Don’t let your Fear Factor reach –1. Terrible things will happen!
- The castle has a pre-built economy, however, most of this is highly ineffective and VERY vulnerable to fire.
- It’s a good idea to have the eco-goals achieved before the final invasion.
- If deleted, the ruin will actually provide you with one additional quarry.
- The production-speed for iron is slow, so get prepared to buy some iron if you attempt to use many macemen.
- The castle is very stretched-out, so adding additional gates along the sides would be wise.
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"My intention with this map was to create a great castle, that still everyone can complete." And you have succeeded fully in both ways, well done! :)
This map is fun to play, you have to defend against invasion whilst completing economic goals. There is a lot of downbeat time but I was never bored, I was happy adjusting and perfecting my castle and economy. The initial cede was not overly hard but still took some thought. I liked that you used the time off event to give the player time to think about the best approach at the start.
Although the author clearly states that he wants the map to be beatable by everyone and their little sister, I feel this approach has been taken just a bit too far. The updated version does provide a bigger challenge both economically and military wise. I played this map on very hard and lost half my troops.(including a large number of troops lost during the cede) The last invasion now seems to have the right size but is hindered severely by poor AI on higher difficulties, mainly signpost walking which can be easily remedied by replacing singular big invasion by several smaller ones. I also feel the gold requirement could be raised further. Other than this the map is very well balanced with a good combination of eco goals and invasions.
The castle is well designed and implemented into the landscape, and there are lots of custom towers. The story also has plenty of creativity. There was nothing new or mind boggling though, so not a 5.
Map Design: 4
Considerable time and effort has gone into the landscape but the castle is the true star of this map. I love the motte design and inner bailey surrounding it. But apart from the church with the nice little garden next to it I did not like how the buildings are placed inside the castle very much. It was too 'clean' and mathematical IMO.
But overall the map design was solid.
The story is well written, interesting and is a great incentive to download and play the map. This is precicely what a great story is supposed to do. The author has written some notes and tips as well, nice. :)
Conclusion: I'd recommend downloading this one. It is fantastic for new/avarage players and still very fun for more advanced players as well.
[Edited on 02/06/06 @ 03:54 PM]