Gandalf's Giant Random Land Map Plus is a new random map for Single-player or Multiplayer use, based on the original Giant RLM for The War Chiefs, but including a couple extra units for an interesting variation in gameplay. All native civs start with a War Hut Travois, Russians start with a Blockhouse Wagon, and all the rest start with 2 Outpost Wagons. These units help with either defense or map control, or offense if you are so minded. Each player also starts with a Native Scout (yes, an extra if French) – the map is so large that it seems helpful to have that extra scout to find resources and the enemy faster. Otherwise this map is identical to the just-released Giant Random Land Map for the War Chiefs – full description below.
Besides the 'plus' items, what's new from the original AOE3 version? Well, the major changes include: 1) addition of Huron, Cheyenne, Navajo, Apache, Klamath, Zapotec and Mapuche Native American tribes to the mix (note I did not completely replace the Iroquois, Aztec and Lakota as did ES - they are still possible minor tribes in my map) 2) addition of several new terrain patterns with matched fauna, treasures, forests, native types based mainly on the new maps of the War Chiefs game (the new patterns are from Andes, Araucania – north, south and central patterns, Painted Desert, California – green and desert patterns with several forest variations, Northwest Territories, and a new palm desert pattern) 3) addition of two new possible trade route patterns 4) fixed the outside edge trade route patterns so that the trade posts would not lie on the edge of the map with occasional non-placement 5) added more variety to cliffs for some map patterns 6) added more variety in the river feature, with a little less straight rivers and a few river patterns now have shores which are buildable for docks 7) sometimes a central lake, canyon or cliff area acts as a longer partial barrier between teams or sides of the map (but never a complete barrier) 8) simplified a few elements of player placement to reduce size of script 9) added several new placement location options for the Native American tribes
This map was originally created in response to requests from other players for 'bigger maps'. This map represents an 'unknown' land with a wide variety of randomly chosen terrain patterns possible (28 patterns total), each with fauna, treasures, and decorations to fit the theme. Some of the 28 patterns have 'sub-patterns' with the base terrain and/or forest pattern varying slightly or significantly. The Native Americans also roughly fit the terrain patterns as well. Player starting positions will randomly vary a good bit, especially on 2-player games. The map is fully twice the height and width of Carolinas for a 2 player game, and about 1.9x the size of Carolinas for other player numbers. Doing the math shows that the area on a 2 player map is 4 times that of Carolinas! The map is of a large contiguous land area, with a possibility of some cliffs, a lake, mountains, canyon, hills or river (always with crossings - this is a land map) across the center. On this map there can be much more variation in elevation than on the standard ES maps, and the above listed terrain features are not just included for appearance - their presence can influence gameplay by acting as natural barriers or choke points. Trade Routes randomly vary between 12 different types of routes, each with at least 2 possible patterns of Trade Post placement. For example, there can be a single long route around the periphery of the map with 6 to 12 Trade Posts (depending on player number), or there can be 2 semi-circular routes following the same course (or a variety of other patterns). There are 22 possible patterns for the number and location of the Native American Villages. There can be as few as 2 villages, or as many as 10 on a map, and this is sometimes partly dependent on player number. These will be of one or two types of native per map. The NA villages can be placed one or two per player or at certain places along a map axis or per side of the map. This gives a great variety in possible gameplay and strategies.
The food resources on each map can vary slightly. There are always 4-5 'herds' of some type per player - the numbers vary randomly and types will vary per map theme. Most of the maps have sheep, cows or llamas, and those that do not might have an additional group or two of huntable animals. Most of the map patterns have some berries at the start area, and a chance of some other berries on the map. All maps have 2 mines per player near the start area (though the second is just out of the starting screen), with an additional several per player further off. There are always more total mines than on the standard maps, but given the size of the map some may be quite distant. In this version for the War Chiefs, mines can vary in type, with silver, copper and gold mines possible. Silver and copper mines have the same value, but gold mines are worth 2.5x the amount of coin, and occur randomly in some map patterns (but are almost always more distant, not the start area mines). Forests are placed fairly and are scaled better than on the large ES maps, and all players have a few small clumps of trees near the start area to be sure initial wood access is equal. Occasionally the center of the map is relatively clear of forest. For the maps with a lake, river or ponds there may be a few fish at most, but never enough for a good dock boom since the focus of this map is on land. Note that the shallow crossings in the rivers prevent ships from traveling the entire river length, so docks and ships are of limited use. There are no Water Flags so do not include ship or canoe cards in your decks.
Treasures or nuggets are placed in increased numbers above the ES standard (but are not more concentrated due to the size of the map) and are keyed to the map type or pattern - a minimum of 6 per player per map - 2 of the easy ones nearby, and 4 of increased difficulty further off (always there are per player one level 2, one level 3, one level 4 and randomly one either level 2 or 3 treasure). Sometimes there can also be an extra level 2 or 3 treasure per player, or an extra level 4 treasure per map.
This map has an amazing number of randomly chosen variations possible - each of the 28 terrain patterns or 'skins' can have 2 lighting sets for a variety of appearances, at least 2 different patterns of fauna choices, and each has at least a few variants in the possible terrain features. Each map has the above-mentioned multiple variations in Native and Trade Route patterns, and the player starting positions varies unlike the standard ES maps. In standard 2 team games, teams are opposite, but can start in any of the 4 quadrants, at a variety of distances from the map edge. The distance between players on a team can vary significantly, causing the need to consider different strategies for teamwork and mutual protection. Sometimes teammates will be relatively close together for such a large map, sometimes farther away. For 2 player games, there is even more variation in the player start positions and the enemy may not be directly opposite you! Other features that have been randomly varied include the size and shape and height of cliffs, the size, density and underbrush of forests, the size and number of lakes, forested hills or elevation, and many other features.
In my testing this map produces extremely fair, balanced maps for 2 team play with a wide variety of possible strategies. I have tried to eliminate any 'map screws' as much as possible; ‘fair maps’ are one of my main goals, achieved through use various types of map symmetry and testing to eliminate dropped resources and features. Effective play involves scouting the various resources, Native types, Trade Routes, map terrain, and of course, the enemy. Scouting is a much harder task on this large map, requiring a longer time to find the nearby and distant resources, features and the enemy. Of course being a significantly larger map, rushing is changed and delayed somewhat, affecting gameplay and causing the need to consider new strategies.
This map supports FFA play, and extensive testing on the current version was without problems. My testing has not shown dropped player resources for larger player numbers, but on a more crowded map that could be considered a possibility. Early in the project I encountered rare instances of Trade Post or Native Villages not placing, but not in more recent testing of the final version.
To play this map, the two files (Gandalf's Giant RLM Plus TWC.xs and Gandalf's Giant RLM Plus TWC.xml) must be placed in the folder: My Documents\My Games\Age of Empires 3\RM2. Please do not place them in the game's install folder - that will not work. When you start up a skirmish game in Single-player or Multiplayer, use the small blue 'Custom Map' button, which allows you to then select one the random maps in that My Games folder from the drop-down window. The files will transfer in Multiplayer if your allies or opponents have not downloaded the files. Please do not edit the files or you will have compatibility problems in Multiplayer. Do not try to play this in the original AOE3, as the new terrains and natives will not work.
A point about the startup: the map area is 4 times larger than the Carolina or similar ES maps and the map script is 4-5 times larger than the standard ES map scripts so it takes longer to load - be patient!
Thanks to ES for making map scripting possible.
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