"The Return of the Wolf" is a skirmish death match mission putting you against the well-known AI. Its peculiarity consists in that you play AS an AI yourself, with the limited measures of the Abbott. "Crusader from within" in this sence.
Happily almost everything works fine in this constellation. Strangely enough I could not place ballistas on the Abbott's prebuilt square towers. The Wolf's behaviour and messages are as always.
The task is clear, a duell, but not simple to solve. For the most time of the game a balance of powers prevails. With few and weak starting units you cannot rush the enemy (in neither of the two versions). The Wolf's soldiers get lost on the way to your castle (see Balance).
What a human can do best is rearrange the grouping of buildings inside the walls. So I chucked out the hovels and one church - such a waste of space - and replaced them with fletcher's workshops. Also I removed the Fear Inducers.
As for tactics your, the Abbott's choice is extremely limited. No laddermen, no siege towers to win the enemy's walls, and of course no infidel mercenaries. For me it was a rather tedious part to slowly accumulate a huge mono-typed force.
I tried to use an outpost in the middle of the map (this side of the rocks) but it did not work effectively.
Fun was the only and final assault.
Is the mission hard? No, compared with many later missions of the first Crusader Trail. At first glance it may seem so because of the weak weapons and and non-existing armour of the troops at hands. On the other side the player is in a safe and comfortable, yet carefree position to prepare for a striking attack. Never in a skirmish map you're given that much starting gold.
In my opinion it's only the Wolf's fame as best equipped European count in Stronghold1 that makes people fear him. In Crusader his attacks turn out to be ridiculous. He sends out his troops very late and they are decisively weakenend by that high negative fear factor. His swanky, oversized castles are a tough nut only if you start to attack at the wrong corner. Eventually each Crusader AI is easily beatable with the right timing and by outnumbering his forces step by step.
Economically the AI might have an advantage through the bigger oasis. 3 quarries are at his disposal (against more iron deposits on the Aboott's side. Stone available from many directions could be very useful for him if one player decided to begin trying to snash his installation with catapults.
The core and big point of the mission. In many respects you can see that Lord De gravile has had a good look at the structure of Crusader.
Above all his idea of the player taking the role of an AI him-/herself. Not like there's sometimes an AI as ally in your neighbourhood but you play as "fixed role", partly within the limitations of an AI but of course as a thinking one. In invasions maps it's difficult to make the AI attack in a more creative manner. This new skirmish situation allows for "feeling" like the Computer a bit.
The author also exactly knows what he wants when he restricts many fighting (and some food trading) possibilities. What a shock, when you open a menu and the very element you want to choose is lacking (good things).
So for crossing the border of usual skirmish setting without compromise I give the high score. The duell-like situation did not attract me so much.
Map Design: 3.5
Here it was hard for me to decide which score is fair to the map. The author planned the landscape well to fit to the fighting situation. Two plains for the opponents, a middle line of rocks to let them be separated, too. Flanks of the same kind of rocks which may open ways for flexible strategies. Here stone and iron is worked in. Olive trees are ditributed in a pleasing, naturally looking way.
In my overall impression I'm not fully convinced of the outline. It feels a bit too shematic for me with the Wolf's castle and just these rocks dominating the scenery. Too much of the same.
Now there's a story, as short as lovely. A "monk commander" is involved and an engineer recommends "the awesome catapult". The Abbot's answer contains a hidden strategical hint. I immediately liked the text.
On the other side a "how to" would have been helpful. Many players will not know the possibility of copying maps and changing the file type at the end from "sav" to "map" again. How many copies were needed for the original version, where the Wolf is just starting to build up his castle while the Abbott's one is already completed? Did the author find certain availabilities of troops, siege engines etc. already being restricted by game programming?
A very good job for a first map! An interesting change of view, found indipendently of the comtemporary "Against Fort Truffe" by Mimihitam.
Two funny screenshots that hopefully won't spoil others' strategy.
Archers squeezed into the rocks waiting for the right moment to charge.
Monks on the way to tear down a church !! (The cathedral already razed.)
I'd really like to ask you, Lord De gravile, for some other probes of such a constellation. How about an AI whose castle lacks far ranged tower-based siege engines or the use of pitch? Frederick, The Marshall, the Wazir or "take care"-Nizar ...
Or someting else from you "inside Crusader".