It is the fifth month in the year 1101 Anno Domini. After the slaughter in Jerusalem You left with a few good men to explore the vast Syrian expanses east of the Holy City. You have had some minor skirmishes during the last few months, but the area You are in now seems quiet.
This morning, when following a dry riverbed, Your scouts found an old castle - a few defenders fled when sighting Your patrol - and You are now inspecting the walls and towers. The castle seems to be ancient, probably Byzantine in origin, with a few more recent additions. You understand why the defenders fled: The overall condition of the castle is by no means satisfactory.
You see possibilities, even though the local bedou tell You that no trading caravan have passed through this area for years. By building a new strong castle, You can control the surroundings and take advantage of its resources.
The bedou call the place "Wadi l-Kbir", which should mean something like "The big riverbed". The bedou have their camp near the castle, and - although followers of the Prophet Muhamed - they do not appear to be hostile towards You. They seem very willing to sell their services for gold, but You doubt if You can rely on them in the long run. Attracting more crusaders to the castle should be a priority.
You have set the goals for Yourself:
1) Rebuild the castle.
2) Attract 42 sturdy men and women.
3) Brew enough ale for all to have their promised daily ration of 12 pints.
4) Stock enough to arm and equip at least 30 knights (30 swords and armour).
5) Show everyone Your dominion of Wadi l-Kbir, and that You can face any hardship, at least for two full years.
There are lots of things to think about in this scenario. You have a castle, but you need to tear it down because the walls belong to an enemy faction. There are lots of small passages leading out of your fort that need taken into consideration, and you must balance the conflicting needs of lumber, food, and ale. Unfortunately it seems like the use of dairy farms and therefore crossbowmen is impossible unless you obliterate your tree supply early in the game. Later in the game there are events which prevent you from ever raising any cows. Crossbowmen are not required to win the level however. It's a lot of fun to see just how long you can hold out against the endless waves of invasions at the end of the level. The victory timer is a bit tedious though. I'm not sure what the point of the hunter's posts was, as there are no deer to hunt.
This scenario took me two attempts to complete, the second one using one reload from a saved game once I'd gotten all the swords and armor. It is challenging enough to be interesting but not so difficult as to be frustrating.
The placement of all the resources so far away owing to the twisting paths you must take to reach them (although there is a hack you can use to get stone much more quickly) is quite creative. The division of the scenario into stages is also different from many other scenarios. The obstacles you face have all been carefully chosen to complement one another, making for a fairly unique challenge.
Map Design: 4.5
The map is pretty. The oasis is well done, and there are several interesting rock formations to keep your attention. The fort does a great job of appearing abandoned, and there is very clearly a dry riverbed which runs past your castle. The hill on which the castle sits is very well done.
It gets the job done, and definitely explains the mercenary camp sitting out in the desert which you're unable to rebuild, which was a nice touch. It's good enough for me for a four.
I think it's hilarious that these enemies who have inexhaustible supplies of soldiers decide to leave you alone simply for making 30 swords and suits of armor, and getting your medium-sized populace drunk for two years xD. Also, it's never really clear what motivates your enemy to send absolutely overwhelming force against what seems like such an insignificant fortification.