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Tolkien's Middle Earth (v 1.0)

Author File Description
Arcana
File Details
Ruleset: AoW2: TWT - TS Standard Rules
Map Size: XL
Levels: 2
Single Player?: Yes
Co-Op vs. AI?: No
PBEM/Hotseat?: Yes
Multiplayer Online?: Yes
# of Wizards: 8
# of players: 8
Skill Level: Any (depends on AI difficulty setting)
Password Protected: Yes
On this week of January 6 (2003) were previously posted two versions (1.0 & 1.1) of a scenario named "Middle Earth War (variation)", where the Halfling (Hobbit) wizard had been replaced by a Frostling witch.

This new file removes the Frostling side and restores the wizard Gandalf as the leader of the Hobbits.

The map and scenario, besides that substitution and a few alterations, is 99% identical to "Middle Earth War (variation 1.1)".

To be informed on the context of the scenario, please read the lengthy presentation of the "Middle Earth War (variation 1.0)" post: you only have to ignore the references to the Frostling witch and consider that another player in the alliance of Light has been added (Gandalf).

If you have any suggestions, you can e-mail them to me: sorceresss@hotmail.com--it's sorceress with a fourth 's'. I might incorporate them in further revisions. I will answer any question on the scenario.

AuthorComments & Reviews   ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )
Arcana
File Author
January 10: EOL and the "dark elves" >

A note on the dark elf "Eol" wizard. Tolkien purists will remark that the elf blacksmith Eöl does not appear in the War of the Ring trilogy. That is correct. But he did exist in Tolkien's universe, before that Third Age war.

We included a dark elf side, especially in the western part of the map, to add gameplay variety and for geostrategic reasons--left alone in the West, the alliance of Light would have been much too strong there.

You can find information on Eöl at the excellent Encyclopedia of Arda website, at the letter E. The references to the "East", there, signify that Eöl eventually moved east to Middle Earth, to the eastern part of Beleriand (in the dark forest of Nan Elmoth).

But on our map of Middle Earth, that region would be located in the north-west corner--not in the north-east corner, where another excellent AOW2 scenario has placed Eöl.

To complicate matters further, a Tolkien purist would retort that there are NO "dark elves" in Tolkien's world, not in the sense that is usually employed in fantasy RPGs and strategy games--such as MoM, AoW, Warlords, WarCraft 3. That is correct. Eöl is a "normal" elf. "The Black Elf" was only his nickname because he was a blacksmith. There are references to "Night Elves" in Tolkien, but those are not dark elves of the WC3 kind: they are "normal" elves of the Moriquendi tribe who were nicknamed by others as such because they chose not to cross the Great Sea. They did not consider themselves "dark elves" or "night elves". Consequently, to be more conform to Tolkien's mythos, the Eöl player should rule "normal" elves. But then, it would have posed a game-design problem: too many elves! You would have had 3 of the wizards ruling elves. For variety, especially since Eöl was not part of the alliance of Light and because a counterweight to the good guys had to be put in the western part of the map, Eöl was matched with a kind of "dark elves" which never appears in Tolkien's work.

I will eventually publish a 2.0 version without Eöl. He shall be replaced by the leader of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, in the north-west corner region. The bonus interest of doing that is that it will allow to add a third alliance in the game: the alliance of two Dwarven realms.

[Edited on 01/13/03 @ 07:53 PM]

Mister Pickles Argh! Why the password!? I will give it a go in any case.
Arcana
File Author
January 13.

As it is, the map is a reasonably adequate approximation of Tolkien's Middle Earth at the time of the War of the Ring. It would not be worthwhile to post a new version just to change and refine a few details to satisfy Tolkien purists. But...I have nonetheless decided to create a new version (2.0) that will try to be even more faithful to Tolkien's work. This project has been inspired by the fact that I have just finished reading the "Two Towers" book: some interesting details could be integrated, especially at the perimeter of Mordor. Even so, publishing a version 2.0 would require a more drastic change than just tweaking a few topographical details. I will consequently make the following major alteration:

-- Since the pseudo-DarkElf Eöl was not alive at the time of the trilogy, I decided to remove him. Those who will want to play that Wizard shall only have to play version 1.0. But I still think a wizard is necessary in the North-West to act as a geostrategic counterweight to the very strong presence of the alliance of Light in the western half of the map. After having read that the Elf blacksmith Eöl had been in very good terms with the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, I decided to put a second Dwarf Wizard where Eöl had been set (in version 1.0) because the Blue Mountains are located in the North-West. This major change, more conform to Tolkien's world at that epoch, does justify the trouble of generating a new version of the scenario. The bonus interest of doing that is that it will allow to add a third alliance in the game: the alliance of two Dwarven realms.

Besides that, here are a few of the details I wish to edit:

-- Someone suggested that I name Gandalf's and Aragorn's swords with their proper name (will do)
-- Frodo will receive his elven sword "Sting" and the phial of light Galadriel had given him
-- The Tolkien book mentions two watchtowers at the Black Gate of Mordor (will be added)
-- I had gravely misrepresented the tunnel, near Minas Morgûl, by which Frodo, Sam and Gollum had sneaked to enter into Mordor (this ending does not appear in the movie): I had put an entrance to the tunnel, but then, a very incorrect path and exit (the book also says that there is a watchtower near that exit)
-- Problem: the giant spider Shelob (also absent in the movie). If I put a dark-elf spider, it will look about right, but it will be too easy to kill, so I'm leaning towards creating an independent hero called Shelob that would have the simulated properties of a monstrous spider but not the looks (it would appear as a very powerful Undead hero)
-- Problem: The Nazgûl ring-wraiths. There are 9 of them, their leader being the Witch-King of Angmar. In a previous scenario, I had created a Witch-King hero. But what about the 8 other wraiths? So, in version 1.0, I created an agregate hero called "The Nine Nazgûl". That was not such a great compromise. I will restore the Witch-King as an individual hero and will try to find an interesting approximation to represent the 8 other Nazgûl.

If you have any other suggestions for this upcoming version 2.0, you can post them on this webpage or e-mail them to me (sorceresss@hotmail.com--with 4 's').

Thanks to all of you who have cared to make the version 1.0 a promising success during its first week of publication. I had put in a tremendous amount of hours doing research (books, maps, websites), editing the scenario, and play-testing it by wargaming each side.

[Edited on 01/13/03 @ 07:54 PM]

Arcana
File Author
January 15.

Since my last message, two days ago, I have accomplished over 20 hours of hard work on version 2.0. I did a lot of research in the three Tolkien books and in the fabulous and complex Tolkien encyclopedias found on two websites (www.annalsofarda.dk & www.glyphweb.com/arda). The new map will be even more conform to Tolkien's Middle Earth, and there shall be some major strategic changes affecting gameplay. Since that 2.0 version will probably be my last for a long while (Master of Orion 3 is coming out soon!), I'm intensely engaged into making this new scenario significantly more fascinating and more faithful to Tolkien's world.

[Edited on 01/15/03 @ 05:26 PM]

Shooting Star What's the password?!?!
Arcana
File Author
Monday, January 20.

Thanks for your support of version 1. It is hard work to research and design maps & scenarios that TRY to render Tolkien's Middle Earth and its War of the Ring : your support gives the motivation necessary to TRY to improve from one version to another.

For the past 9 days, since college had not yet started, I had the time to put in over 60 hours of work on the upcoming version 2 : a) more research in Tolkien's novels, in books & maps on Tolkien's ME, on websites dedicated to Arda, and within the very creative ME scenarios published here by other gamers ; b) more design revisions, corrections, enhancements ; c) some measure of play-testing for play-balance and to observe how the A.I. deals with the new units and features.

NONE of the AoW2 scenarios (including mine) can pretend to be faithful to Tolkien's Weltanschauung & Mythos. There are a lot of reasons for that :

-- The XL format offered in the AoW2 editor is not vast enough to accomodate many details found in Tolkien
-- The editor's tools are sometimes too clumsy and imperfect to render fine shapes, details and features
-- There are many maps of ME and they do not agree with each other when one zooms in beyond the very general picture offered by the official Tolkien Estate map
-- It's an AoW2 game, where the limitations of its rules hinder the implementation of many of ME's special features and dramatic actions
-- The programmation of the A.I., as always in computer games, has major weak points that a Human player can exploit, distorting the intent of Tolkien and of the designer
-- It's a game : it must be "fun" to play, competitive, reasonably balanced and "fair" (gamers do not agree on what is fun and fair : some like to start with lots of units and gold to rush towards a brawl, some prefer to take their time and think in terms of a patient "grand strategy")

At 6pm, I just started a new test-game of version 2 as Saruman. He now has 16 units at the very beginning : 8 Goblin (lower Orc) wolf-riders + 8 Orc (higher Uruk-hai) warriors. As Saruman does in the second Tolkien book and in the second movie, I used this force of 16 units to attempt to rush Helm's Deep. In the new version, Helm's Deep has two levels : a new town (aboveground) representing the Hornburg fortress (with 8 defenders at start) + the previous town (underground) now called Aglarond (the "glittering caves"), where the wizard Aragorn and the hero Eowyn start with one archer. It took me a few turns to march the 16 units to Hornburg. Aragorn had the time to put there 14 units (including the Eowyn hero). I won, thanks to Saruman's spells, but barely : only 2 units survived, very wounded. I then encountered a known AoW2 "bug" : the Human population loved me because my realm was supposed to be principally composed of Humans---it was not so, since my two starting towns (above and below Isengard) were composed of Goblins and Orcs, and since Hornburg was not very populated. Go figure : it could save me the trouble of migration.

Why did the Hornburg fortress fall? Well, in the book & the movie, it does fall, and the Orcs were then going to enter the Glittering Caves---it was the last minute intervention of Eomer's army that saved the day. In the game I am currently playing, what happened is that the Eomer & King Theoden (new) heroes took their starting cavalry to help out Gandalf, further to the east at Osgiliath, against Mordor's pressure. That's new to my 2.0 version. Gandalf now begins near Sauron at Minas Tirith (not in the Shire, much further to the north-west). Since my Saruman's "palantir" (an AoW reflecting pool) could spy on Minas Tirith through its own palantir, I could see that the Rohan army was moving against Osgiliath. [In v 2.0, Osgiliath is divided in two parts, as it should be, on both sides of the Anduin river : a Human outpost & a Goblin outpost.] I was astounded to see the blue A.I. (Aragorn) taking the initiative of rushing to help the white A.I. (Gandalf). What remarkable solidarity! In the Tolkien novels, that move does occur...but only once Saruman had been defeated at Helm's Deep and at Isengard. Here, blue made a big strategic gamble : the A.I. evaluated that its 14 units at the Hornburg (with its stone walls + one hero) would be able to hold off 16 units (with no hero). It should have, and it nearly did...but the A.I. doesn't seem to take into account the special role of spells when evaluating strategic threats. It were Saruman's spells that made the difference. Blue lost the Hornburg fortress, and when I will return to my game, it might also lose Aragorn's starting "capital" in the Glittering Caves. That's why version 2.0 will add wizard-towers at Edoras and Bree : it will prevent a premature elimination of Aragorn if a Saruman rush succeeds at Helm's Deep (and next, at Edoras)... But Blue's premature and risky move paid off in the East : the Orc half of Osgiliath fell, with its 8 starting units. Eomer was killed with most of blue's Rohan cavalry, but that Pyrrhic tactical victory did offer to white (Gandalf) a major startegic gain. His own position at nearby Minas Tirith, with its numerous starting Archon (new) units, is now much stronger against Sauron. I can't wait to see what the surviving King Theoden (blue Human) and Gandalf (white Archon) will do in the Osgiliath region : are they going to push their advantage against Minas Morgûl? Well...as it does occur in the third Tolkien novel, where the armies of Aragorn and Gandalf do cross the Anduin to challenge Sauron at his doors, the Dark Lord of Mordor has a lot of military power in reserve.

In conclusion, play-testing the new 2.0 version is particularly gratifying when events occur in a manner that is close to Tolkien's books. But when one plays against computer-players, this cannot be counted on very often. Designers should carefully play-test their scenarios to try to patch them up when the A.I. players express too many odd quirks which unbalance (and sometimes, fatally destroy) the designer's intent---especially when he tries to do some justice to Tolkien's story.

[Edited on 01/20/03 @ 09:18 PM]

Galahad_2nd I can tell that a lot of work has gone into this and it has some good ideas. I especially like your victory conditions of the game ending if an allied unit gets to Mount Doom, rather than having the Ring as an object. But I have some suggestions for improvements:
1. You would get more comments from myself and others if you removed the password protection. I can only see a little of the map unless I play it to completion, and completing an 8-player XL map is no small undertaking. If I could load it in the Editor I could understand your map a lot better.
2. From what I can see of it, the base map needs a little more work; some places are out of scale and in the wrong directions. For example, Osgiliath should be east of Minas Tirith, not due north; Moria should be NW of Lothlorien not SW; the caverns from Helm's Deep are way too big, etc.
3. Why did you want to put in the Dark Elves and Eol? Yes, I know, Eol is in Tolkien as a minor character in The Silmarillion, but I don't see the point in putting him into this map.
4. I'd make all the armies a lot smaller and weaker, to make the game go faster and also give more importance to the Heroes.
5. You need to either focus on making it a Single Player map or a multi-player map; the design goals and play balance are quite different.
Good luck with version 2.0!
Arcana
File Author
Wednesday evening.

Thanks for your generous comments, Sir Galahad. You are quite right. Version 2.0 shall address some of the issues you have brought to our attention :

2a. The exact location of Osgiliath is not certain. I've seen maps where it is due east of Minas Tirith, and others where it is north-east of the city. For v 2.0, I will put it east, as you have suggested. And Osgiliath will be divided in two parts, on the two shores of the Anduin river, as it should. Those two halves will be occupied at start by garrisons of Minas Tirith (white) and Minas Morgûl (black), as it should. Playtesting has revealed that this injects a lot of tension there at the very beginning.

2b. The eastern gate to Moria was put, as you noted, too much to the south of Lothlorien. I have moved it due west, according to a certain map I am working from. But when one zooms in at such a level of detail, maps do not agree with each other. The official Tolkien Estate map is too general.

2c. I have reduced the caverns of Helm's Deep, called the Aglarond (the "glittering caves"), but since I have put a village there named Aglaron, the editor did not allow me to set the walls too close. And I have added tunnels there to expand gameplay possibilities : my goal is not to be 100% conform to a theoretical underground map of Me--which does not exist anyway. It's an AoW2 game : some allowance must be made to enhance strategy and gameplay.

Some regions will remain out of scale because the XL-map format is simply not vast enough to accomodate all the details found in the Tolkien novels, and also, because the editor's paint-brush is often too clumsy to shape certain regions in a faithful manner. It would take a lot more hours to craft a map, like an analytical maniac, that would be precisely measured to be consistently scaled in proportions cogent with the official Tolkien Estate map.

3. You could have read some of my postings on the subject. I have there recognized that Eöl was dead and gone at the time of the WotR. He will be removed from version 2. But I still wanted an 8th player in the north-west quadrant to act as a geostrategic counterweight to Gandalf's and Elrond's expansion in the West. So version 2 will replace Eöl with an hypothetical ruler of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, in the North-West. There were Dwarves of the Blue Mountains: why not give them a base and a ruler?

In conclusion, I will say that since December 20, I have invested over 100 hours of pure research in Tolkien's novels, in the various ME maps, on specialised websites, within the other very good maps posted here...but my goal never was to produce a 100% faithful reproduction of Tolkien's ME and WotR. I think this is impossible within the limits imposed by the game-program and the editor-program of AoW 2. All the designers have had to make hard choices for the sake of playability and competitive play-balance and fun. Some players will prefer the choices I have made, others shall prefer the possibilities offered by other designers. But my version 2.0 will be in some respects more conform to Tolkien's map of ME.


[Edited on 01/23/03 @ 04:53 PM]

Arcana
File Author
Thursday evening.

Version 2 is almost finished, but I have to play-test the scenario to evaluate how a Human and an A.I. player manipulate the new features.

Problem: The 9 Nazgûl ring-wraiths. In version 1, I had created one super-hero named "The Nazgûl" which was an agregate compromise, but if it got killed, it was like losing the 9 Undead warriors all at once! So, in version 2, I first tried the alternative of 9 distinct heroes. I then noticed that a computer Sauron would split the 9 into two or three stacks. But when I played Sauron, I piled 8 Nazgûl heroes in one stack and I could "bulldoze" the map with such a powerful group: not fair, not balanced.

I will now test another approach: one "Witch-King" hero with items (the Nazgûl leader) plus 8 Dark-Elf shades. As the Tolkien novels reveal, a Nazgûl can be killed. Since there are no Dark Elf town in version 2 and since the "migrate to Dark Elves" option is then not available to Sauron, those 8 shades will be precious. The A.I. shall probably risk them unwisely, but a Human player should preserve them carefully if he wishes to cultivate the mystique of having about 8 Nazgûl in reserve.

[Edited on 01/23/03 @ 09:20 PM]


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