Solutions For Sparrow's Extreme Challenges
My picks of the most difficult maps to play on very hard setting.
Solution to challenge #3 Nov 19, 2005:
Star and Crescent by Brave Sir Robyn
Map size: medium Map uploaded: 4/18/03
This is quite a unique map, your keep in the middle of a raised, eight pointed star with each point an access ramp leading down to marshland, with farmland, trees, stone and iron deposits out on the far side of the marshes. Space is limited on the star but you can squeeze quite a bit in if you work at it. The configuration slows your resource gathering, but slows the enemy down a bit, too, and since access to your keep is only up one of the eight star points it's possible to manipulate the enemy movements to a fair degree.
From what I'm seeing in the forum there are probably many ways to tackle this map. I used what is for me a fairly standard approach. Gather lots of wood, create a wheat based economy, establish inns as soon as possible, and focus on intense crossbow production. Then start quarrying stone and build walls, towers and gatehouses. It's a slow uphill struggle and may take you the whole time limit to build up your settlement and establish dominance. The hardest part is right in the beginning with the first attacks, which come before you have much of a chance to make much progress. Survive these and work hard to build your economy and you should make it.
Food is a little tricky since wheat production is slow, as is hops production, but wheat and ale can be bought at the market if necessary. Wood is not in abundance on this map and there are several tree blights that really play havoc with what does exist. There are probably other ways of dealing with it, but my view was since the tree blights are going to decimate the wood supply anyway, you might as well get out there and chop all you can early on. You can buy wood at the market later, but in the beginning you need to do a lot of building and you really need your small amount of gold for other things like building weapons workshops and training troops.
I found balancing food rations, taxes, ale production, and troop training expenses took quite some effort and attention. I juggled food rationing between normal and extra in the early years, and later was able to settle in at extra rations. I eventually got ale up to a +3 with three inns for a population of 100 late in the game. The extra +1 for full ale consumption wouldn't have helped me since I was at -8 taxes and the next jump was another -4. Taxes were adjusted between 0 and -8 depending on ale consumption, food rations, and events like plague. On rare occasion a fair would allow maximum taxes for a short while.
I tried not to expand my population too fast in the beginning until food production was under better control. You start with 12 peasants so I placed my granary, set up nine woodcutters, two dairy farms and a fletcher set to crossbows. This occupied all the starting peasants and used most of the wood. As soon as wood started coming in I set up an armory, tanner, poleturner, barracks, some more woodcutters, wheat farms and a few hops farms. The first attack comes somewhere in the middle of this and I had barely trained one or two crossbowmen. I made sure I had enough wood left over to wall off the outer part of each of the eight stars, but leaving a single missing section in each to allow passage.
During the first attack I played with sealing up these "holes" to force the enemy around to the far star points, making the enemy waste much time and allowing my archers and crossbowmen to inflict more damage. I tried to keep one or two open to allow resource gathering to continue. This tactic allowed me to deal with the first invasion with a very small force, although production suffered greatly.
I continued to add wheat farms, a mill, bakeries, additional fletchers and tanners, a few breweries, and then quarries and iron mines, and finally some inns. For long stretches the invasions are almost continuous. You barely finish dealing with one and then another starts. I continued to shuffle the access passages through the wooden walls to divert the enemy but gradually did this less and less as I built up a good group of crossbowmen. The poleturner produced enough spearmen in the early years to help defend the keep by having them run interference to delay the enemy pikemen's advance and allow the crossbowmen to land more bolts. When iron started coming in I set up an armorer and switched the poleturner to producing pikes.
I started with a couple of quarries and ended up with four, using the stone to eventually set up a tower on each of the eight points of the star. The later invasions will destroy the quarries many times, plus iron mines and sometimes your farms. You just have to rebuild and continue.
Because space on the star was at such a premium I ran stairs down (two stair sections) from the cliff edge to a wall section abutting a gatehouse down at marsh height. There are three places spaced around the star where this is possible. This enabled me to wall off all eight star points yet still maintain three gatehouses. I also set up some pitch rigs in the marshes and there are two places between adjacent start points where there is room to build a wheat farm. I also put one inn down there next to one of the gatehouses.
To combat the invasions, as mentioned before, I played with the wall access points to run the enemy around, mainly the pikemen, and when they were quite weak, allowed them to head in to the keep for the final kill. I probably could have used pitch, as Brave Sir Robyn described in the forum thread, but my crossbowmen seemed to be doing a good enough job. This became less and less necessary as I got stronger and evenentually setup gatehouses.
The enemy invasions increase in size, but my army size outpaced them, so gradually, repelling them became easier, until I was in firm control at the end.
On the star I had:
- 2 dairy farms
- 2 mills
- 15 bakeries
- 3 breweries
- 2 inns
- 6 fletchers
- 4 tanners
- 1 poleturner
- 1 armorer
- 3 stockpile tiles
In the marsh close in to the star I had:
- 2 wheat farms
- 1 inn
- 4 pitch rigs
- 3 gatehouses
My harvesting and the blights eliminated virtually all the trees so woodcutters were removed. Around the outside of the marsh I ended up with:
- 19 wheat farms
- 7 hops farms
- 4 quarries
- 10 ox tethers,
- 2 iron mines
Population was 100
I invite you to check out posts in the discussion thread by the author, Brave Sir Robyn, plus those by Duc de Noisiel, Lord Blok, and Lord Beaker to get some excellent alternate perspectives on playing this map.
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.