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Evading the taxmanHere is my first map, hope you guys like it. Reviews and comments would be much appreciated. The map has been playtested for normal, hard might be possible but it has not been tried.
Please see zip file for full story and instructions, below is much shortened version.
Sir Hart returned to his tax outpost on traders to find that two competing Lords are coming to destroy his outpost now that the King is dead, so they no longer must pay taxes to move their goods between their counties.
If you like this map please try out another of my maps, Iron Mountains
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The map is very fun to play and it can be easily enjoyed by everyone. It has also some more replayability and that's quite good. However I want to tell you the bad parts of this scenario: The scripting is quite basic, excepting the invasions. It's good that you insered an event but I didn't expected to "fall from the sky". More than this that is a bad events and it doen't make the life very happy. More events would make the playability better;) Second, the map has some parts in which I became bored. I just didn't find anything to do then. Again, the annoyng part can be fixed with more constructive events.
Alltogheter, the playability receives an everage score.
The balance is probably the best part from this scenario. I took me several tries to won even from 'hard'. Very hard managed to beat but from many more tries. The map requies some very good tactics and the different aproach of enemy gives more trouble to the player. Liked it, well done.
Your map is very creative. Liked how the stockpile is used like a bridge on the castle's gateway. How peter said, It fits very much to the idea of a goods taxing station. You have much imagination, like that. The story is also creative, enjoyed reading it.
As for events, I already explained about them on p.a. Much more constructive events will probably rise this score.
Map Design: 4
I liked the valley of map, the forest, ruins ,elevation and many more aspects of the map but in some part I disliked the river in which I was a bit confused from where it comes and where it goes. Also didn't liked too much that the wall of castle was straight but I apreciate that the trick of Wooden Platform Bridges is used right.
The story was excellent in my opinion. It was understandable and I liked the dialog between those men. One more thing, you wrote on story's name of document "with instructions" though you didn't write any intructions on it. Any explication?
enjoyed this map. keep up with them :)
After playing Evading the Taxman, I was left with the distinct feeling that I had done something wrong. In fact, I know I did something wrong: I cheated. Using methods that could be considered unfair, I was able to complete the map with only 7% of my troops marked as casualties. It is my belief that it is the author's sole responsibility to erase the possibility of cheating from his or her scenario, and anyone who doesn't is just inviting the player to use those exploits against the map. This messes with balance as well as playability, and in Evading the Taxman's case, the exploits are even related to the map design. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad map by any means, but it's still a tweak or two from becoming truly playable and balanced.
Playability - 2.5
I love cheating. I do it all the time. Monopoly. Stratego. Checkers. I mean, the only board game you won't see me cheat at is Chess, but that's only because it's just really, really hard to cheat at--and that brings me to my point. If a game, whether it be Stronghold or something else, gives the player the opportunity to cheat (without changing rules completely, of course), then the game is thus inviting the player to cheat. And why wouldn't the player cheat? If you're trying to win a game, and you see the easier course of action, then you're going to take that chance and exploit it for all its worth.
In Evading the Taxman's case, the ability to cheat begins with its map design--but I'll discuss that later. For now, let me explain to you how I cheated, and how you could avoid these exploits in the future.
First off, I deleted all of the weapon producing buildings to gather a sufficient quantity of wood and gold. Then I boxed in the keep so that no one could get in or out--this is the crucial part. I then "boarded up" the small land bridge to the far right with wooden walls (facing the river from the castle's point of view), and created a looooong wall from the river to the castle walls on the left. The only reason I didn't board up the land bridge to the left is because the signpost was too close, which is good. What this setup allowed me to do is stall the AI at the signposts, effectively turning them into sitting ducks for my archers and crossbowmen. Coincedentally, there was land that overlooked these signposts (more or less) that melee units couldn't reach, so they all fell prey to the 40 or so ranged units I had available. Some improvisation was required, like temporarily creating holes in the walls just so the enemy troops would run toward them and into my archer's line of fire, but I just boarded those holes up again right before they were close enough to remove my ability to do so. Down they went, and the only casualties I suffered was due to a freak accident where they actually broke through the wall when I wasn't paying attention.
This led to an extremely easy victory, even on hard. I know it wasn't what you intended, but if you set it up, I'm gonna knock it down.
Some good things about the playability was how you pitted two signposts on lower ground against one castle, if you had just worked out the few kinks it had the map would have been fine. There's a nice focus on defense while not locking the player into one exact spot. A lot of times I saw places where I could move my troops into a more tactical position--such as pikemen in the front and archers in the back on raised ground. The need for those moves, however, never materialized.
When I make my maps, I always try to make sure that the number of exploits that make it into my final version are minimal, if any. I do this by first making sure--first and foremost--that the AI has PLENTY of paths to take to my castle and that the player cannot box himself in like a turtle. This makes it impossible to stall the AI at the signpost, and it can actually make cheating a bad idea for the player.
In Evading the Taxman's case, I would start off by turning off the ability to build wooden walls. Sounds harsh, huh? Actually, if you did that, then you could reduce the number of armored units that appear in your invasions, as a large, less armored force could penetrate those one-time-only walls. That would increase the pressure on the player to protect those walls, and ultimately (at least in my mind) make the map more engaging. Secondly, you should make fjords in almost every single place that could be of some use to the enemy. If you made more routes to the player's walls, then it becomes impossible to block off every single one of those routes; pay special attention to the top of the mountains as well, I think that there should be routes via fjord that connect either side of the river, so if a player blocks off one side, then the AI can travel around to the other.
If all else fails, just get other people to playtest specifically for exploits. Ask them to find ways to cheat, and then get rid of them one by one.
Balance - 2.5
On the same token, it doesn't matter what you intended for the player, all that matters is the player's interpretations of the scenario and how he or she played it. If you allow exploits to slip through into the final product, then that screws with the balance as well as the playability.
For example, what if Firefly Studios had shipped Stronghold with a special key combination that spawns 100 friendly swordsmen on the current map? It's an exploit that could be utilized as a replacement to what the studio had in mind, and it would ultimately drag down the quality of the game.
Some other things that hurt the balance: enemy invasions don't have a lot of ranged units, which meant that I could pick off their melee at will; huge spaces in between invasions didn't seem to serve any purpose other than to artificially extend the life span of the scenario; there seemed to be a lot of armored units--a little too much, in fact.
Some things that Evading the Taxman could improve on: add a lot more ranged to the invasions and a lot less armored units. You have plenty of macemen, and those are sufficient enough for bringing down wooden walls. Work on getting rid of the exploits.
The lifeblood of an invasion map are the invasions themselves. If they're not varied enough and balanced against what the player can produce militarily, then how can it possibly work? The Devil's in the details, as they say. Take out the periods of time when there's rest and put in smaller invasions to keep the player busy--always keep em on their toes.
Map Design - 3.5
As I mentioned a ways back (I know, long review), the exploits materialize because of the map design. There are simply too many chokepoints and not enough ways for the AI to attack the player. Most of the fjords lead to no where, and a lot of the ruins (though they do look nice) serve no purpose or are too far away to admire for an extended period of time. The basin itself--where the opposing rivers meet into a little lake--looks great and almost realistic, but the actual rivers need a bit of a sprucing up; the rivers lack direction and seem to go any which way they want. The land bridges are serviceable, but one of them needs to be moved close to the signpost, so the player can't build wooden walls into it and blockade it.
Also, at the very top part of the mountain--where the river begins--there is no crossing. This irked me a lot, because even though the landscape looked pretty good, it wasn't functionable. It ended up feeling claustrophobic and small on a larger level because of the total disregard for that half of the map.
Otherwise, you did a good job on the map design. It looks good, and there's some noticeable eye candy, like the castle's main gateway/stockpile and the walls, which are nice touches. Next time, try to utilize more of the map for either the player, or the enemy. Perhaps an enemy lord set up a small estate up there? Maybe some of your soldiers are trapped up there and need reinforcements? Something; anything.
Creativity - 3.5
Not much to say here: there are some decent looking ruins scattered among a tree laden mountain wilderness. There's an interesting setup about two lords and some taxes. There's some eyecandy. In the end there's something for everyone--though it might take you a couple playthroughs to see it.
Personally, I would have prefered that the castle had spilled out and encompassed the basin itself. It could have been a ripe staging ground for a few water mills and aquaducts. Also, it could have lent the castle a bit more of a ruined, Romanesque look that I think you were going for.
The main problem is that the main bulk of the map looks bland. There's a ton of trees and a lot of water, but none of it is really used for much. Try to incorporate your eye candy into that scenery instead of incorporating the scenery into the eye candy, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
Story/Instructions - 3.5
Again, not much to say here. Your writing had me chuckling a little, and the story gave me clues as to what to expect for the scenario. Spelling and the like was, on the whole, fine. The story was a little short though, and didn't really give me the most dramatic reason for playing the map, but it was serviceable and sufficient for a small invasion.
Enjoyed reading it. Next time though, try to make it longer and a bit more interesting with more characters.
All in all, Evading the Taxman is a map that is riddled by possible exploits, but that will only detract from the map's otherwise meaty score, not the player's enjoyment. In other words: download the map, but buyer beware. Good job! :)