Scipio Africanus in Iberia is a well crafted scenario which employs a mix of several styles. Each different moment of the scenarios plays out excellently, as I will go deeper into later. The player takes command of the forces of Scipio Africanus, meaning that they play the Roman civilization, starting in early Iron Age. As the Romans were voted AoEH's most popular civ in our recent poll, let me tell you that this is a scenario that really lets you take advantage of their uniqueness. Resource piles are scattered scarcely over the map, and you will want to make good use of your quick and cheap Town Centers in order to colonize Iberia. And while you're encountering the War Elephants of Hannibal's brothers, knowing how to efficiently combine their excellent infantry and siege units will be as important as ever.
The AI is pretty smart, and uses a real economy which means they adapt a lot to the situation and advance with the player, adding some decent replay value to this scenario.
My only real complaint is that paths at points are narrow, especially in the first sequence of the scenario, moving your big army is somewhat of a nuisance, especially when you're under time pressure. The river crossing was the worst, and this could've been easily avoided by adding some extra shallows.
As I said, the scenario can be divided into three distinct phases. You start out with the arrival of Scipio's expedition, which must be moved to the city of Carthage Nova. However, the Carthaginian army is blocking your way. This turns into a series of battles where you must maintain your fixed force efficiently and with thought in order to reach Carthage Nova with a decent defense force. The additional time constraint of enemy forces threatening to destroy the defenseless city of Carthage Nova adds an extra edge to this.
From here on you need to defend the city of Carthage Nova while trying to establish a decent economy from your 5 starting villagers. The enemy forces at your gates also here put up a decent challenge. Once you gain enough strenght, you will eventually bring the fight to your enemies, whose well fortified bases still place a lot of pressure on you as a commander.
One of the greatest finds in this scenario is that the difficulty can be customized to any level without causing adverse effects. If you're an intermediate player, you may be pleased to know that cranking up the difficulty to Hardest adds a significant but not gamebreaking powerup to the computer players.
While the scenario does efficiently combine different playing styles in i nice linear way, I believe this particular combination is pretty well-tried. It includes some interesting building restrictions and the scarce resource spots, which often combine gold mines with berry bushes, offer some interesting economical conditions, but other than that there is nothing particularly innovative about the gameplay.
The map design does contain some interesting spots, some of which I'm not even sure can be rationalized(?), but it feels pretty neat to find them. I found it interesting to discover ruins and artifacts on the map, despite these not having any purpose for the victory conditions. For some reason I think it's a nice touch. Not sure if there are any previously unseen tricks in this, the rapids of the map's only river might be an example.
Map Design: 4.7
What we're looking at here is a map with some real effort put into the crafting of the map. If I'm correct the entirety of this is made with the EE (Enhanced Editor) despite Zappy's Composite Editor beta being available at the time. Oldroman doesn't appear to have needed any of the new functions of the CE though.
Most of the forests in this scenario are very dense hand rendered forests, combining everything from palms to the most colorful pines. The subterrain has nicely rendered paths and a good balance between grass and dirt. Unique details spring up all over the map, it's clear that the author has put thought into every part of the map.
So why isn't this a full 5?
First of all, the map lacks geographical accuracy. While it's good enough to show that this is a representation of the whole Iberian peninsula, it contains some obvious flaws. The city of Carthage Nova, correctly placed in the bitmap, is placed way out west in the game map. Also the only river in the map is flowing South, irreminiscent of any major river of Spain. These small flaws however could be forgiven, since they make sense gameplay-wise.
However, as I mentioned above, some details are hard to make sense of, such as the carefully crafted circles of cacti in the middle of nowhere, as if a ghost was keeping a garden there. Also, at many points, the beautiful forest of this scenario almost felt too dense.
This is where the scenario suffers. Oldroman's abilities in the English language were apparently not too advanced. The instructions tell the player just what they need to know to make sense of the scenario, but leave some unanswered questions. For example, how did it come that Carthage Nova was already under Roman control, but left undefended?
While historical research has been done correctly, which is nice, the history section is a little incomprehensible. Spelling errors and other disturbances are present in the language, but the scenario objectives are still completely clear. The inclusion of a nice bitmap drives this score up a little bit.
In all, Oldroman has produced a great map, and this time managed to combine it with some interesting, but somewhat conventional, gameplay. Good balance and customizable difficulty is the scenario's greatest strenght. Interesting economical conditions, and constant aggressions from the computer players should manage to keep you busy most of the time The major downside of the scenario is the not-so-well-written story, however, once you engage in the actual game you don't think much of it. An excellent scenario from a designer who might not have received as much attention as he ought to.
[Edited on 01/24/15 @ 07:13 AM]