Solutions For Sparrow's Extreme Challenges
My picks of the most difficult maps to play on very hard setting.
Solution to challenge #5 Dec 17, 2005:
Valley of the Wolves 4 by Duke of Wessex
Map size: large 400x400 Map uploaded: 12/26/02
This one begins with a huge invasion. You have a moderate sized defensive force, but not large by any means. You'll need lots more troops, mainly crossbowmen as soon as possible. The starting troops are distributed around the castle walls but will need adjusting. Some are on inner walls, some are on outer walls, but you may want many of those in the towers. Walls will be hammered on by the enemy and you may have a breach. Be ready to move troops around as needed as the invasion progresses.
If you put the game on pause immediately it starts you have the opportunity to recruit the starting peasants at the campfire to be crossbowmen with the starting weapons cache. But wait too long and they'll be off to various tasks.
You'll need plenty more woodcutters and lots more wheat farms. You can set up woodcutters west and northwest of the castle, but there's probably no use setting up in other areas until the first invasion is dealt with. Anything in the northeast, east and south that you set up outside the walls is likely to be destroyed until the invasion is put down. The granary is set up already outside, but usually survives. One of the biggest dangers to it is fire from your own oil engineers, so keep them well away from the granary.
While the battle rages you can be setting up fletchers and more tanners. You'll also probably want to expand the stockpile. I ended up filling all farmable land with wheat farms to keep adequate food stocks for a large population. They will be destroyed and need to be rebuilt several times but as you get stronger they will be in less jeopardy. After the first attack I put woodcutters on the east as well, but these will have to be replaced periodically.
You will need some dairy farms for your tanners, but they will not produce significant cheese compared to the amount of wheat you can grow. You'll eventually need a couple of mills and lots of bakeries. Set up inns and breweries as soon as you can, too, to get a +8 ale bonus going. Another important industry to get going fast is quarrying. You'll need plenty of stone.
Pitch and iron production are a big plus as oil engineers can add a lot to the wall defense, and a large garrison of pikemen or swordsmen is very wise to build up to handle any breaches in the wall. But your mainstay for protection will be crossbowmen, thick walls and well placed towers. Train lots and lots of crossbowmen.
The walls will need a lot of thickening and repair. You have many towers but a few extra in some key places is not a bad idea. The towers and wall at the southern tip of the castle in the center of the south side, east of the main southern gate seem to be the most vulnerable. Keep a good eye on this area and reinforce it well with stone and troops. You'll notice the very southern tower, while physically connected, is isolated from the rest of the walls. I recommend you keep it that way, providing access to it for reinforcements temporarily and then isolating it again. Sometimes when the enemy damages the wall around this corner they can accidentally create access to the tower via damaged walls. If the tower remains isolated from surrounding walls they will be prevented from exploiting it.
Other areas of the wall, particularly the big "U" shaped area in the southern center, and the whole eastern side will need strengthening and much attention as the enemy will be relentless in trying to get through it.
You can set up a church and chapels for the religious win condition early if you like, or wait until the last invasion has been dealt with.
This map has what might be called a flaw at the end, at least in so much as playing on very hard and doubling the invasions. Although an extreme player should see it as just another unique challenge. One of the win conditions is no enemy on the map. The problem is that the there is an invasion that repeats every two months. On very hard if you remain in the castle the next invasion will occur before you have dealt completely with the previous one, creating an endless cycle of invasions that never allows you to clear the map to achieve victory.
You must venture out and take the fight to the signposts in order to clear the map before the next invasion. I dealt with this by building towers as close to the signposts as possible. Eventually when you can man them with enough crossbowmen, you will be able to eliminate an invasion before the next one enters.
Getting the breathing room to do this and move the troops in can be tricky. I often have to sequentially build a chain of towers on a path towards the signposts, building and leapfrogging the troops from one tower to the next as lulls permit.