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Patchwork Desert

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Number of Scenarios: 2
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This is really a parody of AoE. The story refers rather explicitly to the AoE and RoR vocabulary and the flaws in the game are gently rubbed in.

Don't download this campaign if you don't have a computer that can comfortably handle 400 units. If you suffer from claustrophobia, don't download it either - you're likely to get in a tight spot or two before all is over. ;-).

You must unite six tribes to fight a despotic ruler. In the first scenario you must visit the leaders of those tribes and collect people and resources for the fight; all fighting is in the second scenario.

Apart from the bugs mentioned below this is a really funny campaign to play.

With no fighting in scenario 1 and so many allies in scenario 2 to absorb attacks by the tyrant's army there's no balance to speak of. In fact, your most serious concern is that you don't get imprisoned by the building activities of your allies. Getting down the four (or was it five? - I lost count) Zenobia towers was a bit tedious. It's a very nice scenario for slow people like me though and I enjoyed myself a lot here.

Creativity, Instructions, Map Design
I don't really like to see my favourite game made fun of but everything in the design works together to make this a well worked out parody. SBE included the cinematics, there are good bitmaps - not quite as good as the ES ones but still pretty good; the maps are laid out well - it's just that you don't get to see most of it in scenario 1 if you don't cheat. And for those like me who don't have ears to hear and eyes to see there's the story to clear up any misunderstandings.

Shortcomings I couldn't win the first scenario - at least on my computer it was impossible to bring the initial villager to six areas at the same time. In the second scenario you don't have to complete the wonder to win - it's good enough if you defeat the tyrant. Admittedly, such bugs occur in the original campaigns by ES as well, so maybe it's part of the design :-D. With more playtesting, correct instructions and a more challenging scenario 2 I would have rated this at least 4.

[Edited on 01/18/05 @ 01:18 AM]

Scenario 1 -and A nice little race against time. What to do, build up or go and see the delegates? In fact it's better to do a bit of both, and grab some of the resources before they go. This created a feeling of tension as I wondered if I would get killed before I could achieve the VCs. Alliances can turn against you with one false move, so even though there was no need for any combat, exploring was a dangerous business and it was a clever way of creating a threat that wasn't an all out attack by a CP with superior units and resources. It got tiresome at times with other units constantly getting in the way, on the whole though it remained challenging and replayable.

Scenario 2
Now the fun starts. This is a long and hard battle, on hardest at least, but allows you to pick away at the enemy without getting swamped by rushes. More traditional objectives here, build a wonder, bring someone to it etc, well done though and certainly not lacking in challenge.

With good use of renaming units with the dlls, interesting situations created by the terrain and clever use of diplomacy providing a distinctly different type of challenge in scenario 1, it all hung together well.

Ironically, with no fighting to do in scenario 1 the balance was between the other CPs. Would they wipe each other out before I could achieve my objectives? As it happened they were balanced nicely and more often than not I died through my own mistakes as opposed to any concerted assault by an enemy. Some of the actual fighting was tough and arguably a little too tough, nevertheless I enjoyed it, although I'll be happy if I don't see too many more Zenobia Towers :)

Map Design
The maps were made more for layout than for looks, SBE went for layout and how it affected gameplay and used it well. There wasn't much eye candy but the placing and use of units and buildings made every map play well, terrain could be used in strategies against the CP etc and giving choices of approach for attacking.

Lol, well, a tongue in cheek swipe at the game and its ethos, good humoured and as a Brit I suppose I appreciate it more than some. The way the game terminology was worked into the storyline, and the silly names, showed attention to detail while still not taking itself too seriously. I challenge anyone to read the instructions without a giggle or two; with a few of the other stories being deadly serious and in some cases a little contrived it was refreshing to see a campaign that took a dig at itself. Instruction maps were in place and not bad at all.

After playing SBE's previous work I expected to get a good kicking from the CP on hardest, and I wasn't disappointed. At times it could be seen as over the top, but you get your money's worth, fight-wise and it isn't all BandD. Scenario 1 stands out because you have to do everything in your power to stop a fight, so variety of challenges is the strongpoint of this campaign. The landscape makes you work at your strategy to win and it all adds up to a good piece of work that is fun to play.

[Edited on 01/18/05 @ 01:16 AM]

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