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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 #8   Jan 28, 2006:

Castaways - The Explorers by Sir Prise

Map size: medium 300x300     Map uploaded: 6/21/04

Key in tackling this map is understanding the different areas of which it is composed, how they interlink, and the puzzles that must be solved to gain passage from one area to another.

AREAS OF THE MAP:

Your starting area around the keep has some trees, many deer, and enough space for a building an economy. Inaccessible at this time is the large land mass to the north of the river, the small grassy area just below the cliffs on this side of the river where there are more trees and space for a wheat farm, and the grassy area across the stream immediately to the east with more game and lots of rabbits. Alas, this latter area is too rough to farm so is only of interest for its deer.

The old bridge to the large area in the north prevents passage to it and a very large part of the map. It contains a lake, quarryable stone, some farmland, an old mining pit, ruins around an old stockpile full of stone, and many wolves.

There is an island in the middle of the main river, not yet accessible, at the bottom center of the map that will provide access to the northern bank of the river canyon in the east. Then, in the east on the south side of the river is a high plateau with many bears and valuable iron deposits you will need to exploit.

The last area is a long, narrow sliver of land against the eastern edge of the map, filled with dear, and separated by a deep fissure with a stream at the bottom.

Each of these sections of the map is cut off from the others until you solve certain puzzles that will provide you access.

SOLVING THE PUZZLES:

Moat Puzzle: Going down the eastern bank to the water you may have noticed that there are a few moat tiles extending from the north and south sides of the small outcropping of land that extends into the river. Digging the southern ones provides access to the grassy land leading to the cliffs in the east. This piece has deer and many rabbits.

Digging the moat tiles to the north provides access to the tiny island next to it to the north which contains numerous wolves piled on top of each other. This island is also the spawn point for scripted wolf attacks. Digging the tile on the north of that island makes it possible to cross to the grassland below the cliffs where there are trees and space for one wheat farm.

Repairing the Ruined Bridge: Repairing and crossing the ruined bridge to the area to the north is probably the most perplexing puzzle. There are at least two solutions to this problem that I am aware of. First if you delete the ruins of the stone bridge that is there and then go find the three stone ruined sections of bridge that span the small fissure to the long, narrow, deer filled, inaccessible sliver of land against the eastern edge of the map, you'll have just enough stone to put down a wall tile and 5 stair sections running down from it from your side to the opposite side of the river, in the place where the old ruined bridge used to be. If placed correctly it will be crossable. All other stone, except the damaged stairs going up to the iron deposits, does not belong to you and is not recoverable.

While the above works, it isn't the way you're supposed to bridge the river. Actually the ruins that are there are stair sections, not wall sections. As you may already know, you cannot repair stair sections, they must be torn down and rebuilt. But one of the anomalies (and fun parts) of SH1 is that damaged stair sections can be repaired with wood wall sections. What you get when you do that though, is what looks like a normal wooden wall with a flat top, and the flat top is walkable. So, all you have to do to fix the bridge is to repair it with wood and you end up with a wooden bridge across to the other side.

Just in case you were wondering, it is not normally feasible to create these wooden wall walks or bridges while playing the game--creating the damaged stairs, that is. While it is actually possible, it is rather difficult as the only things you can have at your command (but not on this map) to create the required damage to the stairs are catapults, trebuchets and mangonels. You can use the attack here button to fire at your own stairs, but their inaccuracies in targeting make it extremely difficult to administer the required controlled damage. In the editor this is done easily by temporarily creating some enemy troops and directing them to attack the stair segments one by one.

Crossing the Stones to the Island: Once across the bridge you can travel past the old ruins with the tower and stone-filled stockpile, and down the stairs to the north bank of the river, across from the river island. Here you will encounter a patch of impassable stones. This is actually another trick, as those stones are really a section of moat in disguise. You'll find you can fill them in and get across to the island.

Passing the Ruined Bridge in the East: Once onto the north bank of the river canyon, a way along you come to another ruined bridge that blocks your way. Since it belongs to the enemy you can have your spearmen attack it and tear it down. One of the tiles extends to the ground and will let you pass once destroyed.

Getting to the Plateau With the Iron: Once past the bridge, and across the ford from it, back on the south side is a damaged staircase leading up to the iron deposits you must reach. Again, I know of two ways to gain access to the top. First way, repair it. If you've quarried some stone by this time, just repair it and you're all set. But you don't have to be quarrying yet. As long as you used wood to repair the first bridge, that leaves the three bridge tiles across the fissure to the eastern deer area I mentioned above. Reclaiming those will give you just enough stone to place the two missing stair sections to complete the path. Second way, remove the two or three lowest stair sections. This will give you enough stone to repair the two missing stair tiles. Now put a piece of wooden wall so you can build a wooden platform. Placed in the right spot against the stone stairs and oriented correctly it will provide the missing lower steps and allow access to the top.

This means you can repair the first bridge and this staircase, and get to the iron deposits without quarrying any stone. It doesn't have to be done that way. Even on very hard it's perfectly possible to quarry some stone and then repair the stairs and still have enough time to transport your 40 iron, but it is an easier option.

Unlocking the Deer in the Far East: The last piece of land you'll want to access is that thin strip of land in the east with all the deer trapped on it by the fissure. Once you've quarried your first bit of stone you can repair or rebuild those three stone wall tiles to bridge the fissure and provide access. It's wise not to do this before eradicating the wolves or you will see the deer torn to pieces.

SOME FACTS AND CONSIDERATIONS:

  • There is huge number of wolves covering probably close to three quarters of the map.
  • There is abundant game all over the map. Wolves will decimate the deer if you let them, putting this important food source in jeopardy. Protect your deer.
  • All wolves should be cleared before you release the final deer and to operate safely in the island's interior.
  • You can wall off a corridor for safe access to the river canyon in the east before the wolves are eliminated.
  • Bandits will be a concern later in the game.
  • Iron production must be started by about Jan of 1676 in order to gather the required 40 ingots when playing on very hard. While there are deposits of iron here and there I have only been able to set up three iron mines on the high plateau to the east.
  • Adequate stone for the victory requirements is relatively easy to quarry, but you will need a few extra blocks of stone to complete the bridge to the last deer refuge in the far east when your other stocks run out. This means you must set up a quarry before your starting deer and the ones released from the river canyon are gone. There are sites for four quarries. You should only need one, two at most.
  • You might be able to survive on meat alone, but I have always mixed in as much bread as I could make, plus you will need some bread to satisfy one of the victory conditions. There are sites for at least 7 wheat farms, 1 close by at the bottom of the cliff on this side of the river, 1 across the bridge northeast of the lake in the far north, 2 in the sculpted out depression in the northeast where the old Spanish mine is once the wooden walls and ruins are cleared away, 1 on the small island in the river a short way to the east, 1 on this side of the river below the cliffs where the iron deposits are on the plateau but accessible only from the other end, and 1 in the far east on the north bank of the river beyond the ruined bridge.
  • There are fires, but spacing buildings out and a couple of wells will keep these under reasonable control. Put a well near the iron mines so that production will not be interrupted.

There are ways to shortcut pathways, but even on very hard this is not necessary and the challenge was to complete this map without resorting to that. They all involve the use of stairs.

So that's what you'll see, how to access everything, and what I consider some of the main considerations. Now to put it together into a basic chronology.

THE START:

Since most of your deer will be accessed from across the bridge later in the scenario it's probably best to site your granary near the bridge. I recommend three woodcutters to start, one by the two trees west of the keep and the other two down the hill by the river in the north by the only other accessible trees. You have enough remaining wood for two hunters huts.

Send your one archer over to the cliff edge overlooking the two packs of wolves on the small island and start shooting. Have your one spearman start killing all those rabbits. Have the lord help if you wish.

If you're bothered by the useless pitch and ale on the stockpile you can delete and replace it at this point and only lose two planks of wood. On very hard it's perfectly possible to get the required iron in time so it's not necessary to change the stockpile's location. You'll probably want to add on another stockpile tile or two at this point.

When the first wood comes in from the very close woodcutter you can place two more hunter's huts. With the next two deliveries you can build an armory and barracks. Since there will be fires (fairly mild) and you cannot produce any weapons it makes sense to place things like the armory and hovels out in isolated places. I put the barracks well east of the keep. With the receipt of more wood I placed two more hunter's huts.

Set extra rations at the granary and taxes at -4 to help pay to train all the troops you have weapons for. After that you could back them down for a while if you like. I found the best for me was to stay at zero taxes after all the troops were trained, and tried to stay at normal rations. In this way I built up a pretty good food reserve and could adjust rations to counter later fire/bandit/wolf/plague events. Later in the second half when bread production kicked in I could go to extra rations and begin taxation to raise gold for the victory requirement and enough to pay for the good things I would need at the end. Not having any other use for gold I set it back to zero when this was accomplished.

Start training archers and spearmen. Send the archers to help with the wolves. Also send a few of them to the edge a little to the west to shoot the bears down below from the cliff top. When the wolves are eradicated send troops to dig the moat on the west side at the bottom of the hill towards the small wolf island. When filled continue filling on the west side of that island. This will create access to the area below the cliffs. Set up some woodcutters to clear the land for a wheat farm. A bit later, when it's clear, delete the huts and place a wheat farm. Have the diggers fill in the remainder of the moat providing access to the eastern piece of land and deal with the rabbits.

I used to set up a gatehouse, well back, and two wooden platforms on the cliff edge on either side of the slope leading down to the river with a long wall connecting each platform to their respective side of the gate. Three archers on each platform is adequate to deal with the wolf attacks that will continue throughout the mission. The gatehouse is to block the wolves but it also seems to interfere with the deer that accumulate around the gate and the hunters inclination to hunt them. I found that putting up the platforms and walls, but not the gatehouse greatly improved the deer/hunter situation yet still provided enough protection to deal with the wolves before they wandered into camp.

When all troops have been trained you might as well raze the barracks and armory, reclaiming the wood and reducing the fire hazard.

With all you troops trained you're ready to repair and cross the bridge. Note that as soon as you repair the bridge and make a path to your side, many wolves will advance. You can do one of two things. Have your archers stationed ready to kill all wolves crossing the bridge, or create a compound on the other side of the river before repairing the bridge to prevent the wolves from crossing.

I like the latter as it means you can start eradicating the wolves, but by keeping the gate shut you can insure you keep all the deer on you side close to your hunters and safe. If they stray across the river at this point they will be killed by wolves. Later when you run out of deer and most of the wolves have been dealt with you can relocate your hunters across the river to hunt new herds.

The more archers you use against the wolves the faster you can sweep the map. I like taking 25 archers, leaving six stationed as previously mentioned for wolf attack duty at the eastern end of your settlement. So I built a compound, repaired the bridge and sent over 25 archers and my four spearmen.

Two things are important to start on next. One, the wolves must be cleared as soon as possible so you can release more deer later when needed, without losing large numbers of them. And two, you need to clear the way to the iron deposits and start iron production. The path to the iron must be safe from wolves. Since you cannot eliminate the wolves fast enough to have the land clear of them, the only way I know to accomplish this is to wall off a pathway from the bridge to the stairs that lead down to the river canyon. To do this you need to route the wall north of the tower/stockpile ruins, between them and the close by signpost.

There are a few different ways to tackle the wolves. The one thing you probably shouldn't do is to try and advance all your archers from pack to pack as you can on some maps. Sometimes large numbers of wolves are triggered, enough to overwhelm even 25.

You can run an archer out towards some wolves, trigger an attack and run back to a gatehouse. Archers on the gatehouse will eliminate the wolves as they advance close enough. I also set up some outposts one by one, close to the next group of wolves, either platforms or wooden gatehouses, and ran a group of archers out to them. It's always a race to beat the wolves there, but really helps in reclaiming the land from the wolves. A combination of these two methods seems to work best for me.

Putting some woodcutters or hunter's huts deep out in the wolves territory may help trigger some of them when the workers approach their huts. I would recommend working towards clearing the eastern area first since it is closer to the last group of trapped deer.

So when you're ready to cross the bridge, build your compound with these ideas in mind. I set up one or more gatehouses, but keep the gates shut, except to allow archers to come and go, to contain the deer until they are close to depletion. I stationed archers on the gatehouses and started them working at the wolves and sent three archers and a spearman down the steps to fill in the moat/stones and proceed up the river canyon, use the spearman to smash through the ruined bridge, and proceed to the ford beyond. Filling in the moat/stones will also release a flood of fresh deer.

While your spearman is enabling passage past the old bridge, you archer should be able to eliminate some of the bears on the top of the plateau. When past the bridge, repair the stairs as outlined above to gain access to the top and the iron. Use your archers to eliminate the bears and your spearmen to deal with the rabbits. The archers can then target a lot of the wolves on the north side of the river.

Set up iron mines immediately. For very hard you must do this no later than Jan 1676, preferably before. Put a well near the mines! You can use an archer to clear the deer from the grassland on the south side of the river below the plateau as they just do not seem to want to budge. You can then place a wheat farm there, plus one in the far east on the north bank and one on the island.

Back at the compound across the river. I put many hunters huts north of the river in amongst the deer. As deer thin to nothing on the home ground I delete the huts and move across the river. Continue with your wolf eradication. Try to be done well before your deer are exhausted.

As soon practical set up a quarry and three oxen. You need just one load of stone to rebuild the bridge to the final heards of deer. You will have plenty of time for the victory requirement of 200 stone. You'll have to use the open stone deposit to the north even though it's surrounded by plenty of wolves. They have to go anyway. There are stone deposits beneath the cliffs on the north bank of the river with room for two quarries but you need to build stairs from the cliff top for access and you don't have enough stone at this point. Later you could utilize it after you quarry some starter stone.

As wolves are cleared you can send woodcutters to just northeast of the lake to clear an area for another wheat farm, and a couple of spearmen to raze most of the walls and structures in the old Spanish mining camp. When clean you can place two wheat farms down there, even provide stair access and a wooden gate to protect them from bandits, who love to smash them if unprotected.

I would try not to release the last trapped herds of deer until all wolves are gone. At that point I put many hunters huts deep out into the land. From there on it's pretty much replacing structures smashed by the bandits, adjusting taxes and food rations to balance negative events, monitoring your accumulation of goods for the victory goals and placing enough good things for a +5 fear factor once all other goals are reached.

If you can get those iron mines up no later than Jan 1676 and keep them functioning without interruption you'll usually be ok.

Good luck!


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