Posted on 11/24/05 @ 10:58 PM (updated 11/26/05
It is the end of the 2nd Century AD and the Antonine Civil Wars have finally come to an end. The rise of a new dynasty, under Septimius Severus, has ushered in an era of peace, and Caesar has made it clear that he wishes to restore Roman governance and prosperity to many far-flung regions of the Empire, especially in the fertile region between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
Your assignment, Quaestor, is to re-establish a strong Roman presence in this region, known as Mesopotamia, “the land between the rivers.” This fertile river valley has always been one of the great centers of civilization --- indeed, our scholars suspect that it was the site of the very first cities ever built by humankind. Beginning in the coastal city of Tarsus, you will need to build up significant trade routes, as wheat can be grown here but all other crops must be imported. With regard to resources, timber is available as well as iron ore and marble, but mines can only be built on the eastern banks of the Tigris. Furthermore, to encourage you to focus on rebuilding Babylon, Caesar is permitting maritime trade routes only along the River Euphrates. You’ll find suitable locations for docks near the site where the ancient city once stood.
A word of warning. Your trade caravans must pass through the land of Judaea. Be wary of the inhabitants there, as the Judaeans have never borne the Roman yoke happily. You can count on the occasional local insurrection as well as rebel armies being mustered to challenge your authority from time to time. Nevertheless, these attacks will not be frequent and you will have much time and energy to devote to re-building Babylon.
By the time you are done, Quaestor, Caesar expects this region to become a shining example of Roman civilization, so a population of at least 6,000 must be settled here. In addition, he expects a Prosperity rating of 60, as well as Peace and Favor ratings of 80. Since he is a military man, culture is of less importance to the new Caesar; and a rating of 50 in this area will suffice.
May the gods speed your efforts, my friend. Septimius Severus is not known to treat failure kindly.
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This mission is clearly directed at players of an intermediate standard, rather than experts, as indeed the opening screen suggests. As is pointed out in the instructions, this is primarily an economic mission. A player of reasonable skill should not have too much difficulty thriving economically in this mission.
Expert players might like to set their own goals for this map, since the map would quite comfortably support a population much higher than the required 6,000. A good player could build just a few tents and wait six or seven years and still win comfortably. There is nothing to stop a strong player changing the population requirement in the map editor to 20,000 for example.
My assessment is that the mission is of the approximate difficulty of Londinium career mission. Although the military aspect is easier, and the opportunity exists to become extremely wealthy through trade, there are logistical problems to overcome. Only wheat is available from farms, although there is a large harbour where fishing is available and the map offers fairly generous food import possibilities. All the farming land is a long way from the fishing areas, meaning some major food haulage issues if you want to go over Large Insulae.
Clay is also only available by import, so the player will need to work out a way to distribute pottery efficiently.
Strictly speaking you don't need to open any sea trade routes to win the mission- but there is a series of requests that can only be satisfied by sea imports. I doubt many players would be satisfied to ignore these requests and make up the favour by gifts.
You also get health problems from rats, and wages vary frequently both upwards and downwards.
The requests are quite gentle in the main, but there is one that might cause some difficulty. In my blind run I was not able to complete this request in time, and had to send Caesar a gift to reach the required favour by the time Peace reached the required 80.
If anything, the mission goes a bit to long, in my view. This is due to the 80 peace requirement, which means it will take a minimum of 18 years to complete.
Wine cannot be imported hence Grand Villa is the highest housing possible.
Startup money and top-up are not overly generous but adequate provided the player's attention is turned to producing trade income right from the start. If native trade potential is realised, it isn't even necessary to charge taxes to build a very nice bank balance.
Certainly the game is more economic than military in focus, and it's difficult to see many players being in trouble militarily.
It's not all that hard economically either, the challenge is moving food and commodities around. A considerable number of getting warehouses will be a must in this mission.
Clearly Gordon wanted to make a mission playable by non-expert players, but I think he made the invasions a little too easy, at least those in the first 18 years.
The mission appears to stick to historical fact, even so far as the name of the Emperor. The creativity of the map cannot be faulted.
The map in fact represents the Tigris-Euphrates valley with a number of "cities" contained within. This is a very creative touch.
Map Design: 5
Simply superb. Easily up to the standard of the Caesar 3 career missions. The way raised areas have been placed and the presence of the rivers makes it a very long way from one side of this enormous map to the other. This has implications for land trade, and the player will need to give thought to placement of trade warehouses and the location of the pottery, oil and wine industries, all of which require imported raw materials.
There are three native eclaves, each consisting of a native trade centre and several huts. These represent cities or sites for cities within the area depicted in the map. A raised area represents the ruins of ancient Babylon.
The completed city with 6,000 population only appears as a few dots on the mini-map and there are masses of farmland. This map could support so many more people than this and would look great into the bargain.
The story appears based on historical fact.
You are advised to start with Tarsus, then proceeed to the ruins of Babylon. It is not necessary to follow this advice to win the mission, but since Tarsus is in close proximity to the entrance/exit and also the natives, it seems good advice to start here and get trade rolling quickly.
The instructions come complete with screenshots showing the different cities within the map region, as well as the Tigris, Euphrates and Orontes Rivers.
If anything, the information given is perhaps a little over-generous, as you are told the location of sites for iron and marble, which could have presented a puzzle for the player to solve.
I have really enjoyed playing this map over the past few days. It is expertly drawn, I only wish I could produce a map this well drawn. This would make a very good challenge or contest map, or part of a campaign.
[Edited on 12/16/05 @ 05:44 AM]
There are so many ways to lay out the buildings on this map that it invites one to try another time, especially once one understands where the invasions are coming from and can feel more secure that large bulwarks are not needed. For instance, my win featured a crowded city on the land between the two rivers with an efficient supply network and some surrounding fortifications. Although the quality of life was good for the people there (a mixture of large and grand insulae), I could have made their lives even better by expanding the settled area, and am tempted to go do so.
The requests were skillfully timed, along the lines of the methods of the original game designers. The one requested item that surprised me was attainable through trade, and required that I cease to import a good that I was processing for sale in order to meet the deadline. This was a good implementation of forcing a trade-off. The only event that seemed to be not within the player's ability to control was the final epidemic not long before the peace score is achieved and this is a technique also used in the original game. A well-run city can take the loss of 1/6th of the population in stride by that point, making it a nice test of skill. I had feared more invasions, and was glad to not see them. This scenario could easily have been made much harder by sapping off the weapons trade into Legionaires, but I would not have enjoyed that nearly as much.
This scenario allows building in a rich environment, while still providing a challenge. In that sense it is comparable to the original scenarioes, and yet it is staged in a new area. The concept of designating the villages as real-life towns, and providing ancient ruins to build upon, is refreshing.
Map Design: 5
This map makes me want to design a scenario around it. It is a beautiful piece of work with a lot of potential. I suppose that reflects the potential of the actual geographical area, but if so then the creator did a fine job of reproducing that.
Instructions were clear and interesting. Effort was put into giving the scenario historical context.
This is my first attempt at reviewing. If I have placed some comments under the wrong ratings, I apologize.