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Solutions For Sparrow's Extreme Challenges
My picks of the most difficult maps to play on very hard setting.

the challenge  |  discussion thread for this map

Solution to challenge #4   Dec 3, 2005:

Scottish Cattle Raid (1300) by Tasluk

Map size: medium 300x300     Map uploaded: 4/14/02

There are several ways to achieve victory in this map. First off, you can stay in your starting keep and build and fight from there, or since this is a cede scenario, you can capture the small fort to the west, take it over and continue the battles from there. When, or even if you do it is up to you. Playing on very hard, however, it will probably be quite difficult to capture the other fort before building up a larger army than what you start with.

The starting requirements for victory are 30 (60) swords, and 30 (60) metal armor. If you can meet these before January of 1328 you will get victory, but not before January of 1315. On January of 1328 the victory conditions change to "No Enemy and Invasions Left" so you no longer need the swords and metal armor, but you will have to clear the map of all enemy, including all troops in the western fort.

I didn't try to beat the January 1328 deadline for weapons so I can't say how feasible that is playing on very hard. It also would appear to be quite tricky to capture the fort early on, although Arthus of WarLord Designs reported he was able to do it. I instead stayed put in the starting keep and built and made bows furiously.

There's much to slow you down on this map. Quite a few invasions are not only tough to defend against, but macemen and knights especially, play havoc with woodcutters, farms, etc. outside your walls. This, along with scripted events such as mad cow disease and nasty fires, makes progress toward the victory goals slow and difficult.

There are scripted events for fires, mad cow disease, wheat disease, and tree fungus. These have triggers, rather than just being time based so it is possible to avoid some, if not all of these if you really feel the need. For more information see the bottom of this write-up. When I first played this map I wasn't aware of these triggers, and even on replaying it I prefer just to build normally and let those events happen that will. I would find it rather restrictive to try and stay under the triggers. But if you really have a thing against fires it is possible to avoid them. I find them manageable in this scenario even though they are quite nasty, you just need lots of wells. I think it's preferable to face fires head on and learn to deal with them. In my opinion it will make you a better player, but adjust your play if you must.

Duc de Noisiel reported creating a wall from the archer platforms, southwest across the end of the stockpile to the western cliff edge, and pulling everything except some dairy farms back inside the wall, leaving a large portion of the hill open to the enemy. In this map I have always preferred to seal off the access to the large hill you are situated on, in the northeast. It has a secure rim made of low cliffs except for that one part. Sealing and maintaining a wall there gives you freedom to use all that flat land north and west of the stockpile for dairy farms, bakeries, breweries, inns, anything you like, and lets you chop those trees in peace. It can be tricky maintaining the wall when the catapults show up in later invasions, though. Claiming the entire hill also allows you to put a tower on its northern edge later so your archers can soften up the invasions before approaching your gate and deal with those catapults.

Either way, I think the following strategy is one way to get through this map:

You start with some dairy farms set up and a decent supply of food. What you need fast, and plenty of it, is wood, then some fletchers working, some wells manned, and establish some wheat farms. Then start adding inns, more fletchers, and maybe a poleturner for spears. If you need pitch, you can set up rigs nearby at the eastern map edge and iron is available further north.

You'll need at least one extra hovel to start since six of the starting eight peasants are already occupied. Then place as many woodcutters as the wood supply will allow or set up a marketplace and buy more wood. As wood comes in or you purchase more, set up more hovels, the industries you need, and start building walls. I didn't buy any because I wanted the gold to build fletchers.

If you end up triggering the fires you'll need lots of wells. I also segmented industries into groups to help limit the spread of fire when it occurred. It will tend to sprout up in the same place repeatedly, so concentrate wells even more in those areas.

The buildings outside the walls will be repeatedly destroyed and need to be constantly rebuilt anyway, so I didn't place any wells outside, even though many woodcutters huts, and maybe other structures outside will ignite. More important, I think, is to delete the flaming buildings and try to save the trees.

As wood was available I added inns to maintain full ale coverage, eventually setting up 6 fletchers, 7 wheat farms and a pitch rig outside the walls, and one wheat farm inside the wall at the eastern edge of the map. I kept the granary set on normal rations because of the constant interruption of the wheat supply. I had two mills and 10 bakeries. I dabbled in hops and breweries early on but when they were destroyed I didn't rebuild. I ended up with plenty of gold to buy ale at the marketplace. I spread the hovels around, mostly outside the castle because of fire, some at the bottom of the western cliff, some at the northern edge of the map, and a few inside the walls.

You can also set up a couple of quarries, but archers in the wooden fort will kill them unless you use walls to protect them and force them to ford the river just a little bit further north than where they will head for without a little nudge. With stone you can set up some real towers, but it's not absolutely necessary.

I trained archers as fast as I could since your melee troops will never be a match for the attackers.

At the start most of your starting forces are marching toward your castle from the north. Most are traveling at swordsmen speed so you might want to speed up those that can travel faster. Put the newly arrived archers up on the wooden platforms with the others when they arrive and bring the spearmen down to join the other melee troops.

The wooden platforms are located well, have a good height and a commanding coverage of the approach up the small ravine. I later used some of the hills on the east side of the ravine for archer positions, also. The first invasion will come fairly soon, probably before you have wood available for walls. You can beat back the first couple of invasions with just your archers and melee troops, but the sooner you get walls up the better.

If you use a wall on the northeastern side of the hill, north of your archers, it will need to be quite strong, four or five logs thick, more if possible. Troops will hammer on it, but if they're made to spend time there, your archers will pick them off.

In later invasions this wall will be in severe danger from catapults. One protective measure you can take is to build a wall, or at least partial wall segments along the northern cliffs of the hill. This, being closer to the catapults, should attract most of the catapult fire and hopefully spare the main wall. Mine was breached several times in early to mid invasions and I still managed to survive, but I lost all my melee troops. If you're able to save your knights, you may be able to use them in some invasions to sally forth and destroy the engineer tents before the engineers or the main force arrives. Even foot troops may work for this.

You may have to move a good sized group of archers near the cliff edge on occasion to eliminate pesky archers lingering out of range of you main archer platforms and creating havoc with your woodcutters and farmers. If you decide to quarry stone, when you finally get some you can set up a tower on the cliff edge and deal with those catapults properly. But you'll have to stuff it with more archers than usually fit by simultaneously sending many small groups of archers to the empty tower top. Without a large force on the tower, enemy archers and crossbowmen will get the better of them. I had about 90 up there.

In the east I set up a gate facing northeast, directly above, and facing towards, the ravine that is the main approach. The first level ground for this was slightly behind the archer platforms. I then filled the gap between the gate and the closest platform and ran a connecting wall from the east side, northeast to meet the very low cliff on the first hill. Then a small filler wall from the map edge to the cliff on the other side of the next hill to the north sort of connected to the first one, just where the marsh starts, completes your castle enclosure. These will all need beefing up as they all will usually be attacked.

The sooner you get those walls up the better, to save as many of your melee troops as possible. Later invasions get stronger with siege equipment and armor, and even more knights. You'll need hundreds of archers, but if you train lots, together with the ones sent to you, you should have enough. You can erect towers on some of the small hills east of the ravine if you wish. I used lots of killing pits in front of the gate and pitch a little further down. Comes in quite handy.

It's tedious to keep rebuilding all those farms and woodcutter's hut, but sometimes that's all you can do. Try to maintain a reserve of wood or buy it if necessary. If you can buy or mine iron and create 60 each of metal armor and swords before January of 1328 (but not before January 1315, victory will be yours. If you go past 1328 the victory requirements will change and you'll have to kill everybody at the fort as well, but then you won't need all that armorment. You'll have plenty of troops and archers to overwhelm them.

WARNING: Don't read the following if you don't want to learn about the event triggers.

EVENT TRIGGERS - It is possible to avoid certain events by knowing their triggers and trying not to trip them. Very hard doubles the trigger numbers to the ones in parenthesis. There are triggers for the following:

  1. Repeating fire event - every 24 months after FEB of 1301 when you achieve 75% ale coverage. This could be avoided if you hold your inns back carefully, but if an invasion kills a large number of woodcutters and farmers your percentage could jump up suddenly.
  2. Mad cows - every 50 months after FEB 1303 if you enclose the keep. Hard to avoid this one.
  3. Wheat disease - every 5 months after FEB 1308 if you enclose the keep, get 40 (80) bread, and 65 (130) wheat. Easy to avoid if you keep mill capacity up, converting all wheat immediately to flour, or sell excess wheat.
  4. Tree fungus - after DEC 1308 if you accumulate 150 (300) wood. Staying under 300 wood should not be difficult.

If you'd like to post comments, share your own strategy, or see how others have tackled this mission, visit the discussion thread for this map.

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