An 8 player extra large for AoW:SM, take your army through the magic gate to a true wilderness of unclaimed land. Build your empire and fight for supremacy stone by stone and sword by sword.
I'll come right out and say it: this is not for short games. Grand Royal was designed for 8 friends who wanted to play a competitive strategy game over a long term while they were in different countries. The 8 wizards on the map were designed by the 8 players who were to originally play it. There are no independent cities on this map, instead the players receive free pioneer units at the beginning of the game, and again on turn 10, to populate the map themselves.
The races of these pioneers were selected by the players in accordance with their desired strategy. I allowed each player to select a primary race and two secondary races. In some cases the same race was picked more than once (you'll note one player chose Shadow Demons for all 3 picks) and I allowed that.
The map should resemble a normal random map with the exceptions of these modifications: Each player was given enough gold to be able to build all of their pioneers into outposts without undue financial distress. Player wizards were modified in a uniform manner to be more formidable. The Underworld had diggable earth added in places that could create strategic accessibility, and also to treasures. In places water was added to the Shadow World. I made a bunch of magic items of exceptional power and left them unplaced for the random treasures and quests to potentially introduce. And the previously mentioned starting units changes and scripted reinforcements.
Also the users sent me .jpg files of custom portraits that they down loaded with the exception of Ravirin's portrait which is an original work by his player, Mark Burgess (done in pencil, inked, scanned, and photoshopped a bit). If I knew the names of the authors of the other pictures, I'd love to give them credit here as well. They are beautiful images.
I'm releasing the map here in case some other folks want to give this style of play a try. I personally advise making (or having someone make) a map with your own personal customizations for your armies. But if you don't have the patience for that, here's someone else’s to play with.