Gandalf's Isles TWC is an updated version of a RMS created with the goal of making a larger and improved island map with more variability, and with new options and strategies for gameplay. It does not represent any 'known' region, but while the location is imaginary, the gameplay is different and exciting.
What has changed since the original? Several major changes: - new patterns using terrains found in the War Chiefs expansion are added (from the California, NWT, Painted Desert, Andes and Araucania new maps). - new native minor tribes used, and the Iroquois, Aztec and Sioux replaced. - more variability in location of the larger extra island and the trade route found on it. - usually 1-2 more native villages on extra islands - changes in the randomization of forest size and number, in the number of some extra resources, and a few extra treasures - addition of a few 'caches' of resource crates and one or more shipwrecks containing gold - found on the extra islands scattered about the map; see below. - addition of extra 200 starting wood per player to get out fishing sooner.
The map is characterized by each player starting on individual islands completely surrounded by water, with variable starting positions, variable terrains, and great variation in the position of other islands in the sea. Enemy players will not always be directly opposite on the map. The 29 different terrain patterns are not meant to be a representation of any specific island area, just variety for the sake of enjoyment. These terrain patterns have appropriate forests, fauna, Native American types and treasures to match.
Each player's starting island contains a single Native American village, all of one type, with a few other villages of a different or same type scattered among the other islands (the number is variable but is also related to player number). On the starting island are 2 herds of some type, 2 mines, 3-4 treasures, and a fair amount of forest.
In addition to the player's starting islands, there are other islands scattered randomly about the map. This random map will always contain a large island with a short trade route and 2 trade posts (or 3 if over 5 players) - this island can be centered or off to one side, depending on player starting locations. The other islands will vary greatly in size and location, and will contain various needed resources. Most important is the silver and gold - there are always a few silver or tin mines and usually a few gold mines (value 5000 coin) scattered about, as well as additional forests, occasional treasures and a few animals. Forest will normall vary a little in amount, and the more 'desert' areas often will have noticeably less forest than other patterns (but never expect a wood shortage except in prolonged games with serious naval warfare unless you are bottled up on your own island). Other resources also vary a little ranomly in amount or number.
The seas are rich in fish and whales, risky to harvest due to the possiblility of enemy warships, but a valuable economic boost if you can collect them.
The extra resource caches were inspired by features on the map Dogleg Islands by Jugit - I have adapted his idea to this map and changed it a little. There are stacks of firewood, possible gold caches, and stores of food put away by the native inhabitants - steal them for your own use! These vary in appearance and number by the map's terrain pattern and with randomization, and occur only on distant islands.
Well, aside from the above details, how does the map play? There is a need for aggressive control of the seas to control resources - the resources on the distant islands as well as the fishing and whaling that will boost your economy. You need to thoroughly explore the seas and islands to see what is available since there is great variation in how and where players and the extra islands are placed, and of course scout to keep track of the enemy. You need to venture off your island to establish bases elsewhere - economic centers as well as military. This map is truly great for teamwork. Coordinated team play to control straits and islands is very useful. Coordinated team landings are better at eliminating an enemy.
Of course to play this map having a deck built for a water map is helpful - I recommend considering the Admiralty card, free warships, Rendering Plant, Schooners, Improved War Ships, Advanced Dock, and any specific cards for your civ such as Water Dance. Cards giving free wood are also a great boost to get on the water quickly. I am not sure of the value of the Privateer cards - any thoughts on these? I also like having cards to give Outposts or War Huts - shipping these is a great way to quickly establish a base on the enemy's island and subsequently send shipments there.
NOTE -This map is much larger than any of the ES-created maps and may give some lag problems for players with slower computers and with greater player numbers. Because of the map size and script complexity, the script will take longer than usual to load. Also note that games on this map take somewhat longer to play due to the size and the need to spread out before launching an assult. There is full support for FFA games in this script.
To play this map, the two files (Gandalf's Isles TWC.xs and Gandalf's Isles 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.
I have enjoyed making this unique random map script. Thank you to ES for giving us the tools to do this! Hope you enjoy the map.
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