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    Special Units

    Special Units

    by Richard Ames

    Most of the units in this list are not available to the human player in a normal game. They are either rare or in some way special. This article aims to teach you about them, and to offer ways of using them in your scenarios. Units from the expansion are denoted (RoR).

    -Hero Hector

    Hero Hector is a special type of hero. He is available in both AoE and RoR. He is one of the strongest heroes available in the game, especially prior to RoR, and gets all the armour and attack bonuses, including nobility (some heroes get bonuses, some don’t). However, if you have ever taken control of him, you will notice he has some unusual traits. To explain it simply, you can only task him to move, not to do anything else. If you tell him to attack or board a transport, he will just move towards them as if you tasked him to only move there. Therefore:-

    -You cannot make him attack Gaia units (although he will fight back if attacked by a lion etc)
    -You cannot get him onboard a transport (nor can a CPU)
    -If you are set to neutral, he will not be able to attack buildings or villagers etc.

    In summary, he attacks other units that he normally would if not tasked, but there is no way to control anything besides his movement.

    Instead of taking this as a restriction, use it to your advantage. Perhaps he is an animal lover that will not attack villagers either, for they are innocent. And would he sail from his homeland? Never!

    Hero Hector is used in ‘Trojan War’ (Glory of Greece) – perhaps his inability to board a transport was created so he remained on the island in this level

    -Archimedes (RoR)

    The best scenario you’ll see using Archimedes is “The Union” in Ingo’s Budonian Tales. So I’ll let the Master himself explain it (text modified from the history section of that scenario)

    Some things about Hero Archimedes:
    – He looks like a priest and behaves like a warrior, although he hasn’t the abilities of either.
    – Although he cannot do enemies any harm, he automatically goes to them to fight.
    – If a Hero Archimedes follows your units, it is because his diplomatic posture tells him to fight you.
    – If Hero Archimedes is your ally, he will not follow you. If you provoke him, he will alter his diplomacy and regard you as his enemy. That means he will finally come after you.
    – If he gets stuck to a blind lame priest or a watch tower you have a problem. You’ll have to kill the unit by pressing DELETE.
    – By the way, there’s a little bug in RoR: if Hero Archimedes “attacks” you, sometimes you lose one life point. This should not be possible, but it happens.

    Hero Archimedes in ‘Syracuse’ (Expansion 1: Rise of Rome)

    -Invisible Demon

    This unit is quite a curiosity. It is basically a cavalry unit; it has the hit points of a hero, and the graphic, speed and LOS of a heavy cavalry unit. And it is invisible and uncontrollable!

    It becomes visible just as it dies. It has several known applications, and the potential for more. It can be used as a ghost, or some similar creature. It can be used as a spy, or a conspirator, either of an allied type or enemy, or one of your own. It can also be used just as a flare or visibility tool. They can stop an artifact or ruin from being taken from you or your ally, without there being any apparent reason. This could also mean that if you leave an artifact/ruin unguarded it magically changes ownership and you lose, or a timer starts and you must hurry to complete the mission. More on using artifacts and ruins later on…

    They are the only unit that can be used to block the path on water. Best to use your own IDs in this case, since they are not movable and don’t show up on the mini map as much as a non blue unit. Paint shallows where you want them, then remove them by deleting or moving away (with patch/RoR). This is much better than painting cliffs across water, which looks weird.

    Another use I recently discovered is to place them next to a CPU Archimedes, and use it to control the enemy unit. Since you can’t see it, it seems you have control of him. They can only be moved using changes in diplomacy however (i.e. they will move toward enemy units).

    Besides their uses, you also need to know how they behave. They behave a little like Archimedes in that they won’t attack you, but tend to move towards enemy units. Computer controlled IDs have somewhat strange behavior, since the CPU probably thinks they are a heavy cavalry unit. Use a passive per file to bring that under control, otherwise they may move towards your base as if to attack. As a human player’s possession they will move towards enemy units like any other melee unit. Also note, though they are invisible, your units will still attack them if they are your enemy, and your enemies attack them if they belong to you. To remove an invisible demon from the map you must drown them by painting water under them.

    The Invisible Demon appears in ‘The Red Demon’ (Budonian Tales) – though the unit itself is invisible, the surroundings make for an eerie atmosphere


    A flare removes the fog on the map on the area it occupies, and then disappears shortly after. Once the flare has gone, you can only see fog, just like any other area that has been explored. They have limited application, since they are only used at the beginning. Their main use is to make Gaia units belong to player 1 at the start, e.g. to have a house away from the main base but that looks like the Stone Age appearance. Make a flare, and then place Gaia house under it. This saves having to add another unit nearby to see the house.

    Another use is to make “Flare writing”, using the flares as a means of generating a message on the map or mini map.

    You can place Gaia units on them to be discovered, and they will instantly become yours. You could also place a ring of flares for a nice effect at the start, or use them to highlight an important area or reveal a little extra terrain. Flares are also generated in the game when a ranged unit attacks you (useful in some tricks), but not when a melee unit does.

    A flare seems to be easily deleted by placing things over the top of it, however this is an ILLUSION. If you want to get rid of flares, you must delete them by placing a CLIFF on top of them. Anything else will appear to remove them but they will remain behind. This will make them harder to delete because their outline will no longer show. However, if you want say, a path, to be flared, then you could place the flares, “delete” them with units (not cliffs, this way they aren’t really deleted), and then place normal eye candies like desert patches, that the flare normally blocks. This is because the editor no longer recognizes the flare, even though it is still there.

    It deletes some things itself when placed, so place the flares first. To see where a flare is, turn the grid on (Ctrl + A). Flares do not highlight CPU buildings, only the ground under them. If you want a permanent flare try a flag or invisible demon, or units hidden in forest (e.g. a scout – just make sure the CPU won’t attack it!). Single pole flags hidden behind the large forest trees work well.


    A mercenary unit is very unique because it has no line of sight. This is the same property that a Blind Lame Priest has, but a BLP cannot move. A mercenary can move, and attack. It is very similar to a heavy cavalry, but it cannot see. And if it cannot see, it cannot attack. Therefore, if it gets stuck in the fog, it can be attacked without being able to retaliate. You must rely on the LOS of nearby units to allow it to function, or of allies (with writing). Once it has started attacking it should continue to do so even behind the fog, if its target doesn’t move away.

    If a mercenary is in the fog, you won’t be able to select it either. However, you can still control it by numbering it, and selected it from the keyboard. Mercenaries are not Gaia units, and cannot be chosen from the Gaia list. They will not change ownership like an artifact either. They are just difficult to control. You could research writing, and then be able to take on a new mission now that you can see your mercenaries.

    A mercenary CANNOT find Gaia units. To do that they must be in your LOS. Since they have none, this is impossible, however, there is a walk around (isn’t there always?). A mercenary CAN discover RUINS, ARTIFACTS and DISCOVERIES. Therefore, just tell the player approximately where to go (or even have an ally player able to see the area) and place Gaia units next to the unit. Ruins work best for this. Did you know a mercenary can attack Gaia units if it has an allies LOS to see them? It’s not that surprising, since you can attack most Gaia units that don’t change ownership (e.g. deer).

    Another way to gain ownership of Gaia units is with flares. Flares are made every time a RANGED unit attacks you. If you place Gaia units next to the ranged unit, you can discover them via the flare created when it attacks the mercenary. This is also true for Gaia towers, which will attack all units, including the mercenary. A Gaia tower is a good way to help light up a mercenaries path, and may act as a sort of “light house” for it, but remember if you place CPU units near, it will attack them too.

    Sinarridh, a mercenary in ‘Terminal Agenda’ (Angor Wat and the Khmer Legacy) must destroy each temple by his own hand

    Corlis and Herisfon

    These two are basically villagers with higher HP. However, there is a bug which prevents Corlis and Herisfon from being “real” heroes; they become villagers as soon as you task them to do anything. The only way around this is NOT to task them. They can still be used as characters in your scenario, but if there are other villies lying around then tell the player to NUMBER them (i.e. assign them to a team), it’s the only way you can identify them. I recently played a scenario with Corlis, and I lost him among all the other villies.

    The other thing about these units is that they have increased attack, but this is meaningless since you can’t task them. A good way to make use of their HP is to have them stay as Heroes to survive, say, some archer fire, then to task them to gain the extra speed of wheel (assuming it has been researched) to avoid catapult fire.

    If you set the parameter that the Hero cannot die in Destroy # of Objects, you will lose only when the Hero dies, not when its villager form dies. Using destroy specific object doesn’t make any difference, you still lose. If you want them to stay in hero form, use Destroy all objects: Hero (Corlis/Herisfon). That way you lose if you tasked him.

    This can be applied in other ways as well. A regular villager is on the create/destroy lists, but only when in villager form. This means woodcutters etc do not count. So you could apply the above to villagers, and if you tasked any you would lose. Perhaps this could be used for keeping slaves under control so they don’t run off and mix in with the local miners, or perhaps they are on strike and you must not force them to work. You can also use it with “create object” for infiltration missions. So perhaps you must present yourself to a king in villager form in a location.

    Alas, there are no female units in AoE, but you can introduce them in creative ways. Inside a war chest, in a tower, or as a villager or Medusa are common representations. To help sell the illusion, perhaps use a female villager from AoK in the bitmap (See ‘The Pharaoh, The King and the Princes’ (Underhand Dealings from the Hatti Archive by Andrea Rosa) for a great example).

    I believe ES wanted the two heroes to be like Joan of Arc in AoK, but they never used them in a scenario so they didn’t spot the bug. Herisfon was renamed ‘Hersifon’ in RoR – perhaps a typo correction, as Dark Archer suggests in his language.dll article. There’s no reference to either on the net, so these must be very obscure historical figures.

    Hero Corlis as Utnahalja in ‘Fights and Flames’ (Underhand Dealings of the Hatti Archive)


    By typing in the cheat “Medusa”, your villagers and newly created villagers become Medusas, but not pre-tasked villagers, even when they change back to the “villager” name. This unit has a special property: when you delete them they are replaced with a new unit. They are ideal for fantasy campaigns. You can prevent them from being allowed to die by setting the opponents victory condition to killing the unit. A medusa becomes a “Dark Rider” when killed, which is very similar t a Horse Archer. It then becomes a catapult. If you wanted the objective to be that you had to kill all three forms of this unit, set the objective to “Destroy # of units: Catapult” (but make sure that player has no catapults of course). Unlike a villager, a medusa cannot build, gather or repair, although it can see WHAT you can build. It can attack, and its stance is set to attacking, unlike a scout or regular villager. You can use them as villagers if they aren’t going to be attacking anything, so that they will stand still (Making real villagers stay still is near impossible). You can also use them to give the appearance of villagers attacking a unit (provided the unit can’t attack back), since getting villagers to attack a unit is also very difficult. You could even set them to attack you, as angry citizens, and add a parameter that you can’t attack them back (use Destroy # of Objects: Medusa – 1)

    Flying Dutchman and Cleopatra’s Barge (RoR)

    Flying Dutchman

    This cheat unit is available in the editor (alas, they shouldn’t have hidden the others either!). For non-cheaters like me, the catapult trireme and juggernaut are converted into the ‘Flying Dutchman’ upon entering that code. It is a strong catapult trireme that has two extra properties:

    1) It can attack ground and destroy trees like a Heavy Cat or Juggernaut, and
    2) It can float on land AND sea. You can always block the sea off with cliffs, like Andrea did in ‘Covert Operations’ (Memories of the Gupta Dynasty) for a realistic use.

    Cleopatra’s Barge

    Although this unit cannot fly, it can move very fast. Its speed is “0.6”, the same as a Fire Galley. It addition to speed it has the same attack as a heavy catapult, and a whopping 500 HP. It can also attack ground in the same way as the aforementioned Flying Dutchman. In summary, it’s a beast.

    All units that have this parabolic trajectory attack are useful for timed appearances and damaging buildings, and the unusual nature of their damage area and directions allows them to be used in the impressive forest fire (Gaia farms) and smaller fire (Gaia houses) tricks.

    A Flying Dutchman is used in Covert Operations (Memories of the Gupta Dynasty) – Notice that it gets the +4 range bonus of the Hittite civ

    Mirror Tower & Zenobia’s Tower (Both RoR)

    These two towers have one thing in common – they are both very powerful. They both have high HP and attack.

    Mirror Tower

    Very powerful, kills most units with one hit. They have the highest damage and range of any unit in the editor, with a whooping 100 attack and 17 range. These are a slight exaggeration of towers that Archimedes used to defend Sicily, according to legend. They can hit targets unerringly, but they have long pauses between attacks, so are still very vulnerable.

    Zenobia’s Tower

    This tower is just as powerful as the mirror tower, but less accurate. Its attack is a huge 40 (Sentry towers are only 4!), and it has a much greater rate of fire than its counterpart above. The standout factor is that it has the most HP of any unit in the game – 1000. Only Bab and Shang walls and Carthy Eles can get near this figure.

    The towers compliment each other well, and converting them would be the best plan of attack. But don’t overdo it. I’ve seen scenarios where you have to take on hoards of these beasts, and scenarios where you are defended by hoards of them. In both cases it throws the balance way off, and you will get a bad score. Look at how Ingo used Zenobia’s tower in Budonian Tales for a great example.

    Zenobia’s Tower in ‘Xanobia’ (Budonian Tales) – This unit is used to bring a female character into the scenario


    The BLP (or Blind Lame Priest) is similar in function to a priest, but as you may know they can’t move, or convert. Also, they have no LOS, so they are useful in dynamics tricks (timed appearances etc), and puzzles

    Neither of these rules are quite true though. A BLP can move via a transport vessel, although they cannot move independently and they can convert, but only at very close range.

    When using BLPs in dynamic and appearance tricks, it’s important to note the rules of flares: A melee unit will not give off a flare, while a ranged unit will. So a melee (hand to hand) unit can attack without being noticed. The ranged unit’s flare can trigger the appearance of a Gaia unit, while another use of BLPs is a way or recording diplomacy state. This can be done in two ways;

    -If you want to make the player lose if they attack someone, set a BLP down where it will be killed in retaliation, and set their victory condition to destroying that unit.
    -If you want to make one of the human player’s objectives to make enemies with a player, set one of your victory conditions to destroying (your own) BLP, and have the BLP in an inaccessible side area. Place a melee unit (a centurion would be ideal) of the CPU player in question behind it, so that once you have made them change to enemy the melee unit kills it (without you seeing) and records the diplomacy state into your victory condition set.

    A BLP can not only heal, but they heal three times faster than a regular priest. One technique is to place two or three in close formation so that you can have all two or three healing at once. They heal at about 10 HP per second. A puzzle trick is to have to stand next to a BLP and heal while you fight a unit, as the only way to be able to defeat it.

    BLPs also get many of the temple’s researches. This includes monotheism, so they can convert buildings, or other priests. You need monotheism to convert a BLP, while a BLP with monotheism can convert a regular priest.

    These units can discover ruins, artifacts and discoveries like a mercenary can, and can be used in the same way as a mercenary in the artifact appearance trick described later on. Computer BLPs don’t get used in any way, but they will attempt to convert you if attacked.

    Priests in general are a great unit for tricks, because they are they only way ownership can change. Play around with them and you’re sure to find a neat way to use them. Though they are little use in multiplayer, they make up for it in single player.

    Tame Lion

    There’s no way to control Gaia units without using the cheat “Gaia” (yes, not too cryptic). This is quite a fun cheat to play around with – you get to see a lion when it isn’t sprinting (which is all it does normally), you get to make a gazelle attack an elephant and get pulverized, and you can also move horses and other units like the alligator king. But the problem is that there is no way to win a scenario when playing as Gaia, so there is no real application. But the one unit you can control in a normal scenario is the tame lion, which has some rather unique characteristics.

    A tame lion firstly will not be treated as one of the CPU’s units. In fact if you attack a tame lion it will just sit there and do nothing. The enemy or ally doesn’t take it as being an attack, which means you can freely kill or better yet, convert its tame lions.

    Similarly, an enemy will pay no attention to your tame lions, and you can use them as spies. However, there is a slight difference: If you attack an enemy with it, they will quickly realize that THAT particular tame lion (but not any others that may be nearby) is an enemy and will try to kill or convert it. These behaviors seem to indicate that the CPU player seems to think this is a Gaia unit.

    There is a bug with this. It was fixed with the patch for AoE (and in unpatched RoR), so puzzles using it are somewhat obsolete. Whenever you use more than one tame lion to attack the enemy, it is no longer aware of the others. It attacks the first one, and then leaves the rest alone, unless they pick a new target. In a couple of campaigns I’ve played this is used (Two Brothers, Conan the Barbarian), so you will have to file your patch away and paste the old .exe back in from the disk. The pre patch .exe is important for designing, since you can delete shallows. It also lets you play without the idle villager button, so it requires more skill.

    Like many Gaia units (besides alligators) the tame lion cannot cross shallows, or go near them or water. Nor can they board a transport ship. They cannot attack gazelles either.

    Tame lions are immune from enemy attacks while in stealth mode, but they are never immune from Gaia animal’s attacks, and you better believe that Ele kings, alligators and all those creatures will be hungry to take a bite of them. They do seem to have an advantage against a regular lion in combat though.

    The lion has sprints when it has been ordered to attack a target. They can of course discover Gaia units and gain control of ruins etc like a normal unit.

    The tame lion rots very slowly, like an elephant, and unlike a normal fast rotting lion, but its meat cannot be gathered (yes, it’s very unusual). It can be destroyed fully by attacking its cadaver with a catapult. You actually have to destroy this corpse as well for it to be killed, in individual victory. If a villager attacks them, he does so with a bone (or pitch fork), not with throwing spears.

    A Blind Lame Priest and Tame Lions in ‘Jason’s Escape’ (Two Brothers)

    Rafts and transports

    The raft is a special transport that can carry only a single unit. While this is good for a quest type role, having to transport many soldiers in it is tedious. The raft is a smaller unit than a transport of either type, so it can fit in gaps between cliffs that a transport cannot.

    Speaking of cliffs, believe it or not, they are not impassable. In fact if you have ever played a puzzle scenario, you are likely to have jumped off a cliff into a transport at least once. The trick is a unit can actually enter a transport from about two tiles away, and it matters not what is in between. This means a unit can jump up or down a cliff, and through walls to get into a transport. Look at the second scenario of Two Brothers, where Jason must escape his prison.

    So far I have seen this trick used quite a bit. But what I haven’t seen is a transport positioned on a full sized cliff – 3 by 3 (not the narrow ones I’ve been referring to so far) cliff, in such a way that you can get back again. This could be a great puzzle component where you must find an abandoned old ship beached up on a cliff as a way to climb up, or as a place to hide in. Another variation is to have unit(s) jump off a bridge and into a boat – a nice way to escape a battle where you are out numbered.

    Another interesting thing about transports is that they create a question about the ‘bring object to object’ condition. If a unit is next to a transport, it has been brought to it, of course. But what if it is inside the transport? The answer is this: A unit inside the transport is considered brought to it. But there is another catch – if you have a second object inside the transport as well, the two units inside are not considered to be brought to each other. Perhaps you could have two units that you must not bring together because of a bitter rivalry, but you must unite them somehow. Since they can both be recognized as inside the transport, you can have the scenario set up that they must both be inside to win but if they are brought beside each other on the map you lose. For a great example of using transport garrisoning as a victory condition play to the end of Budonian Tales.

    Ever wanted to make a structure that a unit can garrison inside like in AoK? It’s possible to make a reasonably convincing fortification using a transport on a tiny water area, and placing towers and walls etc around it. This way your villagers can hide in here while the enemy attacks you, until your towers can defeat them or reinforcements arrive. Not the most convincing visual trick, but its functionality can’t be questioned.

    A neat trick is to have an allied transport carry your units to a spot. Snake Eyes has a good write up of it at Woad Creations. In short it involves your units boarding the allied transport, and it carries them to a point on the map. It’s a great trick, and if you don’t have writing it is all the more impressive as your units disappear and the map is all covered in fog. Then you appear again as if by magic! You can even track the allied transport by selecting it and holding down spacebar. You must be certain that it will work though. You may have to design your scenario and map to suit the trick – otherwise it might just fail miserably.

    Another interesting property of allied transports is that you can manipulate them by attempting to board them. They move towards you, so you can control their position this way. Also, you can use an allied transport as a hiding place, perhaps where you will be killed otherwise if you cannot escape your assassins. Just remember, you cannot get the unit to come back out. Perhaps you could even use a raft among some fishing ships to make the puzzle ultra hard – as the player will think it is a fishing boat not a raft. Just be sure to give them some good hints!

    Perhaps you could present your ally with a gift – you can stock an artifact on an allied transport too. But be careful – sometimes it will change ownership when it reaches the transport, and become untasked. If you can keep a unit besides it this won’t be a problem. Here’s another way you could use it – make the artifact belong to the ally, and move their transport away using another unit elsewhere to order it to pick them up. Place an invisible demon of yours beside the artifact and when it leaves it will become yours. Now bring the transport back by tasking the artifact to board it, and you can place it inside. Finally you may want to lure it somewhere else and then turn on it and destroy it, allowing the artifact to pop up on another island.

    There are also some issues with converting units and transports. If you can convert an enemy transport with its units in, you don’t get control of the units. So if you unload them, they will still belong to your enemy. In fact the best idea is to just leave it, and you deny the enemy part of its population cap. If you have a unit boarding a transport as a priest is converting it, the unit continues to be converted as normal, and will change ownership inside, for a nasty surprise when you unload! Another priest connection is that units can continue to be healed when inside a raft.

    The brilliant prison escape in ‘Jason’s Escape’


    Beta units are units that were not made available in the scenario editor but are still in the game. They originate from scenarios made with the beta versions of the game either by ES or others, where they were not hidden from the editor. They are accessed by designing on a map with them already on it – called a “Template”, which you can download here at AoEH. The two that are most useful are the horse and trade workshop – these should be used whenever the map size allows.


    Some things are suited mainly to AoE or RoR – this is one of them. Horses are a great addition to any level, even if they are just something in the background. You can use them as an object to kill (perhaps a sacrifice) or perhaps to move (to chase them out of an enemy stable). Stables housing horses make a good eye candy. Use an actual stable and place some small walls or palisade walls using tree stumps. 

    In Rise of Rome they turn invisible when moving. In AoE they work fine. So in RoR it would be wise to bolt them to the ground with an invisible tree or cliff.

    Killing them is impossible in RoR, but doable in AoE, only with a villager. In fact villagers of the CPU will even hunt them in AoE – only for them to disappear! So not surprisingly you can’t get meat off them. Perhaps ES decided they were too noble an animal to hunt so they left them out. The other way to kill them is to use splash damage/attacking ground, e.g. a catapult. Their death animation is strange – a gazelle for an instant (meat form), then the carcass of a lion. They are easily scared, running away from more units than a gazelle (e.g. buildings), but lions do not have a taste for them.

    Some people don’t like using the unit because it is rather large. In fact it is smaller in the beta screenshots. It does look slightly odd right next to a cavalry, but I have no complaints, since they add a new appearance and sound to the scenario.

    ‘Horses that sweat blood’ are featured in an optional objective in ‘Chang Ch’ien – China’s Marco Polo’ (Martial Emperor)

    Nuke Trooper

    This is the cheat unit created by typing in “Photon Man”. As you will know if you’ve ever played around with the cheats (come on, who hasn’t?) it fires a laser gun, and moves quickly. It’s quite devastating against normal units, with its extreme rate of fire making up for its average attack. With its increased range as well, it isn’t a unit that is well balanced, like the towers mentioned earlier. In addition, the map it is on is unusually small, which further limits its use. It suits a fantasy and maybe puzzle scenario. Still, if you can make a fun and believable scenario on it, go ahead.

    This unit has a buggy looking death graphic, not surprising since it is just a cheat unit.

    Nuke Troopers are only suited to less serious scenarios

    Hero 12 (RoR)

    This is one of the least useful beta units. Hero 12 isn’t as strong as the other horse heroes, with a well balanced 180 HP, and a powerful 20 attack. Its stats can be increased with nobility and storage pit upgrades as usual, which is handy. The main problem is its name. Some rare campaigns have used it, and explained the name well, so perhaps you could think of an explanation too.

    Trade Workshop

    This is arguably the most useful beta unit. Perhaps originally intended for land trade and/or trading research, but in the final game the unit has no use at all, but is great for designing, as it is a new addition to the game’s basic units and sounds. The trade workshop template is the basis of most expert designer’s maps. It is on a large map, which is a good size. They have 4 forms (no new graphic in RoR, just Greek appearance for Roman Civs. They are an essential two tile unit, and the perfect compliment to houses. Try mixing Gaia and regular ones for a great effect. As always, the Gaia unit has the Asian Civ appearance. See also Andrea’s template, which has new rocks as well.

    The beautiful cliffs of ‘Hero of a Hundred Battles’ (Memories of the Gupta Dynasty)
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