Giovanni delle Bande Nere (1498-1526)
|serve at 240
GIOVANNI DE MEDICI 1498 - 1526
|Number of scenarios:
Number of scenarios: 4
Author: serve at 240
--- Historical scenario about the life of the last and greatest mercenary in Italy in the
--- Three levels of difficulty:Hard,moderate,standard.
--- Detailed,Historical and eye-candy maps based on historical maps of the time.
--- Control of allies'armies in some battles.
--- High number of hitpoints to make the battles more lasting.
--- Historical names.
Giovanni de Medici (1498-1522)has been the last and the greatest mercenary in Italy companies of skilled mercenaries that were engaged by many states to fight some enemies..He fought during his life for Papal State France during the Spanish domination in North of Italy.In this campaign you will take part at several battles like the battle of Bicocca with France against Spain and the battle against Lanzichenecchi where Giovanni de Medici was wounded.You can also fight to free Italian shores against Berber pirates....You have to be a good player.You will use your own company of skilled arquebusiers,you will need to make ambush and to give an important contribute in battles.The main protagonists of this campaign are Papal State,Firenze,France,Germanic Empire,Spain,Venice and the Lanzichenecchi.
--Thanks to the inventor of immobile units Ai
--I used the various Editor Sound of Heavengames site's Utilities byfor music and sounds
--I DON'T EMULATED, Any map trick or trigger trick by anyone.I invented them by me and ONLY for me.
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The campaign consists of four scenarios; it is a mix of RPS and FF. The events take place in northern Italy, early 16th century, the characters are historical, the story based on historical facts. You play Giovanni de Medici (1498-1526), christened Lodovico, son of the remarkable Caterina Sforza (1463-1509), who changed her son's name to his father's, Giovanni de Medici (1467-1498) whom he lost as an infant. A real Sforza, he trained early to fight and his interests were horses, sports and weapons. As an orphan, he did his first hold up at the age of 11; a year later, he visited a brothel and killed a man. He became captain of the papal forces, later Italy's last condottiere, leader of a condotta, a group of mercenaries. He entered history as Giovanni delle Bande Nere because of the black stripes he wore, mourning the death of his relative pope Leo X in 1521 and as Italy's greatest military leader of the 16th century. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) believed he would be the only capable to unite Italy, but Giovanni fought for money, changed sides four times in four years.
PLAYABILITY: Giovanni delle Bande Nere (1498-1526) is a promising campaign with too many playability and balance issues. First scenario, a random bug, after I defeated all enemy units in the arena nothing happened. I replayed and lost Ezio Saviati but did not loose, even though the tournament director addresses him later outside of Firenze. I had to change diplomacy, kill a villager to get the prize as villagers blocked the path for player 1 and the attack of a certain Maculo/El Cid. From the stables, I tasked my units by clicking the revealed location on the mini map and missed the first group of bandits. In the village, my conquistadors did not change ownership, with the replay still one stayed player 1 to upset the weak balance even more. In addition, when I deleted Giovanni de Medici, I did not loose. In the second scenario, the Marshall says to take three of his men, but only two of them change ownership to player 1, in a town, the conquistadors change ownership except one. I missed the point of fighting on an 'island' with no access that interrupted a sea battle. It was confusing; after my men died on the island, it took too long to resume the sea battle and I quit game the first time I played. To take out the garrisons on the two islands was boring. I will further refer to this under map design and balance. The third scenario was an improvement and a lot of fun, still the task object triggers did not work for all units. In addition, the trigger for the line of hellebardiers failed completely. This led to a frustrating game play on the first attempts, because the player needs the hellebardiers to defend Lautrec whenever the Swiss mercenaries retreated. I finally achieved the victory signal by killing the last enemy units, three Spanish villagers, difficult to detect with the same player colour as one of your allies. I will refer to more playability issues in the other categories, but enjoyed the campaign so much, that an above average rating seems to be appropriate. 4
BALANCE: From my playing experience on moderate and hard, the third and fourth scenario also on standard, the campaign is unbalanced with exception to the third. The author claims under "Features: Three levels of difficulty: Hard, moderate, standard", which is partly correct and creative, but does not play as intended. The first scenario plays the same on all levels, and there was no challenge, all you had to do was to move to the enemies and let the comp do the fighting. Apart from a fun sea battle, challenge was non-existent in the second scenario. It is difficulty dynamic, for hardest the game adds enemy soldiers, galleons, fire and demolition ships, but even on hardest this is far too easy due to a design flaw and a major bug. The first island is too narrow; with the three canon-galleons player one takes out all towers and bombard canons before he sets a foot on isola 1. To make that even easier, the author freezes enemy bombard canons behind palisade walls. In addition, the four enemy transports upload their units at the cliffs of the 'island' in the middle of the sea instead of entertaining player 1 with attacks on the first island. The second island looked promising because the canon galleons could only take out the bombard canons along the coastline. To my disappointment I won for accumulating 3000 points for razing buildings half way to the castle. Great balance with the third scenario, three level difficulty dynamic, challenging, reloads, a learning curve and fun with replays, once you know the tactic to avoid the retreat of the Swiss and the frustration about the hellebardiers. The last scenario was monotonous on standard, easy to boredom to shoot 180 units that stand in groups, except one attack of the yellow player after 100 kills. Hard was challenging with many reloads to achieve 180 kills. 3
CREATIVITY: The campaigns strong point, good creativity with exception to balance and the use of some triggers. I liked the battle scenes with a good use of sounds, explosions with a realistic approach as your units are wounded or killed, when you get close and the great voice acting with a strong Italian accent. I saw many renamed units with their historical name; a lot of effort went into the research of the story and the historical background. 4
MAP DESIGN: The maps are above average, a good city design, but in general the landscape is too green with flowers replacing the terrain mix and blending. The rivers use one water depth only and the sea looks monotonous with only deep water, exception to the shores. The author claims "Detailed, Historical and eye-candy maps based on historical maps of the time", which I doubt regarding the bamboo in central Europe, northern Italy, and other overuse of 'eye candy', unrealistic with coloured flower patches on the battlefield. The technical design was not tested; too many units patrol and block your path in the city and when you generate enemy units with an area trigger, the map design is the tool to make the trigger fire, to keep the player on the intended path. There is a large, unrealistic island in the sea, while the narrow design of the isola 1 upsets balance and playability. 4
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: The campaign has a good story about the life of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, which spans the four scenarios and the two bmp were appealing. In the second scenario, I did not know what to do on two occasions. After my units were killed on the island, the objective to kill as many as I can was still in the objective screen as well as the one to destroy a certain galleon, but for some time I had no control of my ships. After the quest on the first island I had no further objective, nothing happened. The player has to explore by boat and gets the next objective when he disembarks on another island, which was confusing. In the fourth scenario I also lost when Francesco Della Rovero died, which was annoying, as it was not in the instructions. 4
OVERALL: Certainly high in the best of AoK after play testing and an edit.
SUGGESTIONS: Edit your campaign. FIRST scenario, make the player loose when Giovanni dies, remove patrolling villagers between the palisade walls or delete the walls on the side of Lorenzo, add trees, rocks, bushes etc to keep player 1 on the road until he fights the bandits. To improve the balance, all conquistadors should change ownership outside Firenze and make player 1 loose when Ezio Saviati dies. SECOND, fix the change ownership triggers and the triggers for the difficulty levels. The triggers are set for a .scx file, easy, moderate, hard and hardest, missing easiest, while a campaign file has only three levels, standard, moderate and hard. I do not know in which sequence you created the triggers, so I am not sure but believe that standard plays easy, moderate plays moderate or hard and hard plays hardest. The enemy enforcement does not upload at isola 1, because player 7, Berber's Pirates (orange) is enemy to Player 2 Firenze (red). Before trigger 'sbarco mentre assedio isola 1' fires, the transports leave for the cliff island due to the player 2 stone walls and upload their army there. Change diplomacy to ally between player 7 and 2. The sea battle has to resume at once after the units of player 1 are dead on the centre island and give some objective to the player after he has possession of the castle on isola 1. THIRD, the line of the hellebardiers does not move when the player clicks the tent because you stated pikeneers instead of hellebardiers in the related trigger. To avoid the search for the last yellow enemy villager, you can get rid of them, give victory related to the amount of enemy military units left or facilitate the search by changing that player colour. FOURTH, mention in the hints that the player looses when Francesco Della Rovero dies and check the triggers for the difficulty levels. You set the triggers for five difficulty levels in a three level campaign. The added units for hardest difficulty appeared also on the standard level. I got the same messages about kills on standard and hard after 100 and 180 kills, while you set the following triggers for messages, easy with 45 kills, standard 55, moderate 65, hard 80 and hardest 100.
Giovanni delle Bande Nere is a historical campaign charting the working life of one of Italy’s most famous mercenaries, the eponymous Giovanni, in the early 1500s. He was a man of changeable loyalty, and led a very interesting life – and in this campaign, serve at 240 attempts to recreate it.
The campaign starts off slowly, with you controlling Giovanni alone in the middle of Firenze (Florence), setting out to find your friend so you can take part in a tournament. Firenze is full of life and movement, but is a bit too large and can be confusing – the player is given no real directions except “Visit X Building”. This can be a case of trial and error; especially later on when you are told to visit the stables. If you haven’t already seen them on the way to finding your friend, you will have a tough time of it. The tournament itself is an interesting idea, and was quite fun to play, although many of the enemies simply stood still and waited until I attacked them – this was to be a constant problem throughout the campaign. After the tournament, you have a seemingly random encounter with a very angry little man who wants to kill you, and whose sudden appearance and subsequent death is never explained. You later gain some Mounted Arquebusiers, but only 2 of the 3 have their attributes changed, meaning that you baby-sit the third of them. This third mercenary also stays in your possession at the second tournament, when the others have left. The second tournament I found to be bugged – the objective was to kill a certain number of enemies, and when I did not achieve this, nothing happened whatsoever. I knew that I hadn’t won, but there was no message and no defeat.
Similar problems afflict the rest of the campaign, such as in the last mission – the enemies stand very still until attacked or until you come right next to them, making it very easy to slaughter the required number in time. Giovanni is allowed to die after this number is reached (because historically he died in this battle), and so I could have won at this point by deleting Giovanni. But no, I decided to keep playing and see how many I could kill, as I had not lost any men at all thus far. The enemy decided to attack my allies around this point, and I decided to go help them out, having wiped out the rest of their army, and most of the commanders. But my ally’s general died, resulting in defeat for me. This was not mentioned in the objectives, and the ironic thing was that had I made Giovanni commit suicide just before this happened, I would have won. This was yet another frustrating immersion-breaker of the kind that plagues this campaign.
The second scenario has many small errors, including certain units not changing ownership, an extreme example of timer overestimation, and transport ships unloading nearly all of their men in the certain of the map instead of on the island your men have just attacked. This resulted in only two of the pirates attacking me, and I waited fruitlessly for a new objective to appear. I eventually had to figure out where to go by myself in order to progress. The scenario is also incredibly easy, with your ships being given thousands of hit-points while the enemy has default values, and you are able to clear out most of the islands with your ships without fear of retaliation.
The campaign’s saving grace is the third scenario, depicting an immense battle in which Giovanni’s mercenary band plays an active role. In this scenario, you control your small group of Arquebusiers directly, and are able to commit the various companies in your allies’ armies to the battle by clicking on pavilions next to them. These soldiers have their own attributes that you need to remember – such as the Swiss mercenaries who will rout if they sustain too many losses. However, there is a bug in that you cannot order the two reserve companies to join the battle – this is frustrating as it is something that could help prevent the rout of the Swiss. The battle is very fun, though, as your men and your allies storm a heavily guarded ditch, and all manner of explosions and carnage going on around you. The fun is greatly diminished towards the end, though – your allies do not attack past the ditch, leaving your men to cautiously inch into the camp and attack the enemies one by one. Also, even after all the enemies have been killed, victory does not occur. Others have been more persistent in scouring the map for the last units and found them to be 3 villagers in an obscure corner of the map, amongst allied units of the same colour, but I grew tired of this and eventually used a cheat to access the final scenario. All of this earns the campaign a very disappointing 3.
The first, second, and last scenarios are unbelievably simple on Moderate difficulty – your men face little real (or organised) opposition and you either have weight of numbers or attack/hit-point superiority. The ultra-immobile AI file that appears to be in place doesn’t help here – it simply gives you an opportunity to take out enemy soldiers one-by-one, as the soldiers next to the ones you target often stand there twiddling their thumbs while their mates die.
The third scenario, however, is efficiently difficulty-dynamic, and perfectly balances edge-of-seat moments where victory is uncertain (such as the charge of enemy cavalry that ploughs through retreating mercenaries and reaches right up to the commander’s tent) with triumphant pushes forward into the enemy lines. This definitely contributes to the fun factor, and the balance in the battle is admirable. Once more, it is this third scenario that pulls the rating up, giving the campaign an overall 3 for balance.
The campaign certainly shows sparks of creative thought and design. The subject matter is hardly common, to start with, and is an interesting historical basis for a scenario, well deserving of more exposure. The designer obviously poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into laying the foundations of the campaign, with well-researched historical information, but it is in the execution that he falls down. Historical characters (or I assume they are) appear without explanation and disappear just as quickly, such as ‘Maculo’, who turns up shouting grammatically incorrect expletives and is there solely to be killed. Another potentially interesting idea is present in the second scenario, in the middle of a sea battle. The sea battle suddenly stops and you are taken to what looks at first like a random collection of walls in the middle of a strange area of cliffed water – but it becomes apparent that this is meant to be a representation of ship-to-ship fighting. The objective is “Kill as many as you can there” and your men are soon dispatched, implying that one of your ships has been incapacitated. However, this has no effect on the sea battle itself, which resumes after a long pause, and the actual wall-ships are slightly laughable, being composed entirely of stone. The battle in the third scenario is very creative and evokes such scenarios as Tannenberg 1410, but this similarity does not detract from the creativity of it. The campaign shows many potentially-great components, but in putting them into action it trips up. Nevertheless, this is the campaign’s strongest suit, garnering a 4.
MAP DESIGN: 4
The maps in this campaign are of varying quality. The first and second are pretty poor in parts, with a short exploration trip (about 6 tiles) from the main road revealing entirely blank areas of Grass 1, or the mind-numbing uniformity of the monochrome seas. The city of Firenze is nicely designed in parts (and indeed I recognised its general layout in comparison with the reality), but suffers from its enormous size – a case of gameplay being sacrificed in favour of a ‘selling point’: namely, the large and detailed city. Gaia objects such as flowers and rocks are overused, and are employed to cover up some of the blank areas in the second scenario, while some objects seem out of place. The third scenario has a pleasingly-detailed battlefield complete with nice terrain mixing, and skimps on the overwhelming level of Gaia objects that seem about to drown the screen in other scenarios. On its own, the third scenario’s map design stands out as superb, but in conjunction with the other maps, the rating must be lowered to a 4.
The historical background of each scenario is detailed and complete in more or less every way, but the pidgin English that is used by the author detracts somewhat, especially when you have to re-read certain sentences (and indeed dialogues in the scenarios) in order to make sense of them. There are many scenario designers who lack English as a first language, and most of them can manage very well with composing understandable text, and so I find little excuse for this author. After all, if I was to attempt a scenario in French, for example, I would be quite expectant of criticism of inaccuracies and incorrect verb constructs; thus it is fair to comment on this here. The instructions in the scenario are vague in the extreme at times, and sometimes plain lacking – such as in the second scenario, or the failure to mention one of the defeat conditions in the fourth and last scenario.
The Italian-accented voice-acting (presumably provided by the author or a friend) is a minor plus point, but it is sporadically and confusingly used. It often fails to tie in with the dialogue on screen; the voice-actor evidently has trouble with some of the words, pausing for a while in obvious puzzlement only to use different phrases entirely; the editing of the voice clips is error-ridden with some clips tying in to the wrong dialogues entirely; and some of the words are horrifically mispronounced. It ends up detracting from the experience for the most part, as concentration is broken by the erratically-used clips and you struggle do decipher just what, exactly, that bit about villages was doing in a dialogue about serving a nobleman. Another disappointing 3.
This campaign was a great disappointment to me – I felt that it could have been so much more, and yet was but a shadow of what it promised. Much of the campaign felt as if it had not been playtested by the author – due to the numerous almost show-stopping bugs or trigger errors. The map design was randomly excellent and poor, and the campaign’s balance was similarly all over the place. With all these points addressed, this could be a campaign worthy of attention and praise – at the moment, it’s an overly frustrating experience that dissatisfies more than it impresses.