Sparrow’s Extreme Challenges

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My personal picks of the most difficult maps to play on very hard setting in Stronghold 1. Will you take the extreme challenge? I’ll be presenting some of the meanest, gnarliest, rip snorting, mind bending, teeth gnashing maps out there from our library of over 1500 invasion, siege, and economic maps.

New Stronghold challenge for Apr 8, 2006: #13

Treasure Island  by Duke of York

Map size: large 400×400     Map uploaded: 2/10/03

This map has been one of the top ones on my list ever since I first played it. I always thought it was quite difficult.

From a distance the face may seem a bit rough in design, but upon opening the map and seeing it close up you’ll see it has Duke of York’s usual attention to detail and is a fine piece of terraining work.

It’s a place-your-keep scenario and this will be one of your first big decisions. The various possible locations have trade-offs between resource gathering, food production and defense. Ultimately defense may be your overriding concern.

There are signposts on either side of the island, and you will probably see much use of both of them. There is the usual variety of scripted events you have come to expect from DoY, so things will definitely be interesting. For victory you will need to meet both military and economic goals.

Also this map has a rather unique combination of available defenses: wood walls, stone towers and gates, but no stone walls or stairs. Also, no trading, no moats, no killing pits or pitch ditches, but you can make use of boiling oil. And no crossbows in this one.

Good luck! The solution will be published with the next challenge.

download this map  | discussion thread for this map  | main discussion thread

Players who’ve beaten Treasure Island:
Your name could be here

To be included in both the above list and the Honour Roll of Extreme Challenge Masters below, submit your name in the map discussion thread for this map. You MUST specify the difficulty level you played on.

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Solutions for the Previous Challenges:

Stronghold Challenge #12The Oracle of the Forest by pmn3829 

discussion thread for this map | main discussion thread 

Crusader Challenge #1Grove of the Divine by Harmonastix 

discussion thread for this mapmain discussion thread 

All Sparrow’s Extreme Challenges and Solutions for Stronghold:

#13 4/8/06
Treasure Island 
by Duke of York 
#12 3/25/06
The Oracle of the Forest 
by pmn3829 
#11 3/11/06
The Tortured Road: Act III – Return of That Thing! 
by Andy Baz 
#10 2/25/06
Lord of the Rings: WeatherTop-Old to New 
by Ring Wraith 
#9 2/11/06
Shadowmoon Fortress 
by Hasit 
#8 1/28/06
Castaways – The Explorers 
by Sir Prise 
#7 1/14/06
4 Unexpected Return 
by Lord Arthus 
#6 12/31/05
Alwyne Valley 
by Duke of York 
#5 12/17/05
Valley of the Wolves 4 
by Duke of Wessex 
#4 12/3/05
Scottish Cattle Raid (1300) 
by Tasluk 
#3 11/19/05
Star and Crescent 
by Brave Sir Robyn 
#2 11/5/05
Beaumont Motte 1102 AD 
by Jack ofallTrades 
#1 10/22/05
1121-Lord of Ludlow 
by Alan Spencer 

All Sparrow’s Extreme Challenges and Solutions for Crusader:

#1 11/12/05
Grove of the Divine 
by Harmonastix 


Welcome to Sparrow’s SH1 Extreme Challenge Club, where playing maps on normal difficulty just isn’t good enough. I want to share with you the great maps I’ve played and enjoyed when playing on the hardest difficulty.

I’ll be presenting mostly Stronghold 1 maps since Crusader and Stronghold 2 have no difficulty setting. SH1 maps can still provide the most challenging play, in my opinion, but I may throw in a few Crusader maps that I found reasonably hard and SH2 ones if I can find some with an intense challenge. I plan to post a new challenge every two weeks. The solution for the current map will be published with the next challenge.

The Challenge:

To be an enjoyable challenge, maps must be more that just hard. They must be memorable plays that have elements of fun and/or satisfaction of completion. While some maps may not be that difficult on normal setting, they may change into a whole different beast when notched up to very hard. The challenge is about evaluating the land, deciding the best course of action for defense and to meet goals, building defenses, and creating the right army fast enough to survive. It’s about building an economy, fighting the enemy and the odds, enduring fire, plague, famine, theft, outlaws, and wild animals. It’s about welcoming all that a well constructed scenario can throw at you and doing what at first seems impossible.

The Joys of Playing on Very Hard Setting:

Playing on very hard usually means adapting to the unique conditions of the map and many times devising unusual defenses and employing unique tactics. It demands stronger and more efficient economies. More often than not you must rework any existing defenses into something quite different. I have learned so much from playing on very hard. And for those of you new to playing on this difficulty level, it is definitely that…HARD! If you stick with it, you will triumph over things you never thought possible, and in ways you never imagined. You will find new ways of overcoming old problems and will definitely become a much more confident player and formidable opponent.


You will get frustrated on many occasions. These maps are hard, very hard. If you’re up against what seems impossible and you just can’t find the key, take a break. Some time and a fresh perspective can work wonders. A day or two, a week or two, a month or two, even longer. If you don’t give up you will constantly amaze yourself with what you can accomplish. But don’t be afraid to set it aside, move on to the next map and come back to it later. Resist the urge to run to the solutions if you can.

Don’t expect to complete them all, but bravo if you do. This challenge is not for everybody, probably only a small minority. And don’t forget this is for fun…and learning to be a better player. On occasion a map just may not grab you. I’ve started maps that, for whatever reason, just didn’t seem fun, and let them go. It’s ok to wait for the next one.

For those who need to polish their skills a little more before tackling too many “very hard” maps, back the difficulty down a notch or two and work up to the higher difficulty as your experience increases. We all started out on normal or even easy, and grew from there. It’s one of the great features of SH1.

The Solutions:

Even very experienced players will have difficulty with many of these (that is the idea isn’t it?). The solutions are not meant to be detailed walk-throughs, but rather, hints or very encapsulated solutions to help a good player over a particular rough spot or to compare notes after victory. We have a forum thread set up for each map for Stronghold 1 and Crusader so you can discuss it, compare notes, announce your victories, or ask for help.

The Map Makers:

Hope you enjoy these maps. I know I did. And a special thanks to all these great map makers who’ve made this all possible. One thing map makers, really, really like by the way is to get thoughtful, constructive reviews, scored as you will. Think about giving something back by posting one. Be sure to follow the review guidelines in the Review Guide! Short reviews are possible, even while adhering to the guidelines.

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The Honour Rolls:

The Honour Roll of Extreme Challenge Masters:

A list of those completing the challenge maps on very hard

Player Names123456789101112
Brave Sir RobynXXXX XXXXX  
Lord BlokXXX      X  
Lord PacoX           
Andy Baz XX         
Lord Beaker XX         
WarLord Designs – ArthusXX X        
Duke of the Glen  XX XX     

The Honour Roll of Up and Comers:

A list of those completing the challenge maps on hard

Player Names123456789101112
Lord Paco X          
Lord Coeur  X   X     

The Honour Roll of Crusader Challenge Masters:

A list of those completing the Crusader challenge maps

Player Names123456789101112
Lord BeakerX           
Duc de NoisielX           

After you’re victorious on a map, submit your name in the map discussion thread of either Stronghold 1 or Crusader for the specific map you have completed to be included in the above lists. You MUST specify the difficulty level you played on for Stronghold maps.

Differences from Normal Play:

What makes “very hard” harder than “normal” in Stronghold 1? Here’s a list of the differences when playing on various levels in SH1. To the best of my knowledge these are correct. Please let me know if you are aware of any differences. Percentages are approximate:

Differences for Invasions

Difficulty setting:    Easy  Normal HardVery
Enemy Troops:    
      Size of invasions:    50%   100%   150%   200%
Bandits/archers in a    
bandit event:    
100%   100%   100%   100%
Your Troops:    
    non-cede map as defender:    112%   100%   67%   51%
cede map as    
100%   100%   100%   100%
Victory requirements:    
Numerical quantities:    50%   100%   150%   200%
Percentages:    100%   100%   100%   100%
Event trigger requirements:    
Numerical quantities:    50%   100%   150%   200%
Percentages:    100%   100%   100%   100%

Notes: With invasions doubled, scenarios that employ large invasions may hit the sprite limit of 1500, so invasions may not be able to double in size. They will increase as much as they can up to the limit. Since troops are assembled in a certain priority, those at the bottom of the list may not appear at all, engineers and siege equipment for instance. This is unfortunate but does not mean a battle will not be more difficult. My picks are based on actual play, so this has been taken into account.

The doubling of numerical event triggers (other than percentages) works fine for positive events like jesters, fairs, and extra archers, making them more difficult to get, but unfortunately the higher thresholds will affect the triggering of negative events too, delaying things like plagues, fires, bandits and such. This cannot be helped, but is not an issue on most maps, and is more than made up for by larger invasions and doubled victory requirements on those that use them.

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Sparrow’s Rules for Extreme Play:

Well, suggested guidelines really. These are what I generally follow when playing on very hard. Tactics that might be considered questionable in other forms of play are often necessary when playing a hybrid game such as regular maps on very hard. Below are my comments on some commonly known tactics or “tricks” for extreme play.

Stockpile Moving – Generally no. It is extremely rare for this to be necessary. I’ll certainly note it when I moved the stockpile.

Signpost Slaughtering – An absolute no no. Why would you intentionally change the difficulty setting to very hard, creating double the number of enemy troops per invasion, and then unfairly slaughter them while they just stand around the signpost. You might as well play on normal.

Tower Stuffing (packing more archers or crossbowmen into a tower than its normal capacity) – I’ve been doing this since way, way back, but have been trying to cut back some by building more towers when I can and spilling some crossbowmen onto the walls. But there’s still nothing like a well placed, packed tower of crossbowmen to stop an armored column dead in its tracks.

Stairways for Shortcuts or Inaccessible Areas – Sometimes needed, sometimes not. I’ll note it if it’s important that I didn’t use them.

Clearing Unbuildable Land – Since it’s possible for map makers to make land truly unbuildable, and some clearing happens by accident or in the course of building anyway, and in reality land can be cleared, I generally do it if I really feel a need to.

Blocking Enemy Gates (Crusader) – Another absolute no no. If the enemy can’t come out to play, where’s the challenge?

Rushing (Crusader) – Never. How can play be more difficult it you eliminate an enemy at the start of the game. It’s just not ever necessary for victory.

Sealing Your Castle/Blocking All Routes – I’ve done this less and less as I’ve improved, and even then usually only temporarily during attacks. I don’t think I ever block all routes. It still may be necessary to seal your castle/keep on some maps for short intervals. I have mixed feelings about it.

Diversion (manipulating enemy routes and choke points) – Protecting and guiding the enemy around vulnerable assets is part of a good defense. But this can expand into blocking pathways to force the enemy into using other, longer or more easily defended routes. I tend to use this judiciously as it’s probably a questionable tactic. Some maps do require it.

Funneling – An extreme form of diversion. Consists of artificially forcing the enemy into attacking through a single, very narrow slot where your forces await to deal out severe measures. May be necessary in the very early stages of a few maps due to the doubling of invasion troops before you can add troops or strong walls to defend.

Unassailable Lord (hiding the lord in a place where he can’t be directly attacked, such as a tower with no entrance) – Another no no. The enemy always plays fair by entering at the signpost. It’s only fair to maintain the lord as an available target at the keep or allow him to wander freely.

Winding Moat Paths – These are winding (sometimes zig zag) paths through the moat to the drawbridge or gate. I’ve used this a lot in the past, but have toned it down somewhat over time, recessing the gatehouse more, beefing up other defenses, and shortening the pathway.

Teleporting Goods – I never deliberately teleport goods, however occasionally it may happen by accident. Protecting your industries is necessary in many situations.

Exploiting the Sprite Limit – Again, where’s the fun in deliberately increasing the number of attackers and then overbuilding your army to use up the sprite limit and prevent them from entering the map? Aside from deliberately exploiting the sprite limit of 1500, inadvertently doing so is a concern on many maps with large invasions. On many maps I deliberately try to limit my army size, or reduce it at a certain point as my defenses get stronger and I have tougher troops. I pretty much have an absolute maximum cap for myself of 500 troops. But even that is excessive for a good player most of the time I usually shoot for about 300 or less. That means that with a population of 100+ and accounting for domestic animals and wildlife, there may be room for a 500 unit invasion to be doubled to 1,000.

Scavenging Wood, Stone and Gold – A judgement call. I try not to do it unless it’s really necessary. It’s a more satisfying win if you can get by without, but it is necessary in many scenarios.

These are where I’ve ended up after years of play. There are others, but these are probably the most important. You’re welcome to disagree with me on these in the forums.


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