|Al_Kharn the Great
Posted on 12/27/14 @ 12:11 PM (updated 10/21/15
Raid and pillage the Carpathian Basin as you lead the Magyars to a new homeland
||Age of Empires II (2013): The Forgotten
||Build and Destroy
What is it?
Was the HonfoglalÃ¡s (Hungarian Conquest) scenario from Battles of the Forgotten too laggy for you to play? Me, too. Instead, live the Magyar Conquest on an optimal Tiny-sized map!
The steppe stood before him: a rolling, endless god of infinity who provided a bounty of grazing lands and riches for those warriors with the daring to conquer it. A god, it was mighty but well-tread: pock marks of horseshoes spread across its wind-swept brownish-green face. A war god, his people were its servants, carrying ruin and despair across it and into the soft settled lands beyond. A fickle god, it too could bring destruction to those nomadic servants, like his people, crossing its gaping maw.
Pursued by the ferocious Pecheneg who had seized their ancestral pastures, Ã�rpÃ¡d led his people through the Verecke Pass in the Carpathian mountains to the basin known to the Romans as Pannonia. Here, Slavs, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Moravians, and Vlachs conquered, migrated, and settled. Here too had crossed the Goths, Alans, and Avars in their raids into Europe. Here, the grasses still lay folded under the ancient weight of Attila's horses as they marched to conquer the Caesars four centuries before. Here, the Seven Tribes of the Magyars would cross.
The steppe stood before him.
A steppe people known for their horsemanship and archery, the Magyars originated in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, the homelands of many nomadic peoples such as the Cimmerians, Scythians, Huns, Alans, and Avars. Beginning in the 9th century AD, migrations of Turks from Central Asia, likely forced to find new grazing lands due to climate change, pushed the Pechenegs westward into Magyar pastures. Unable to defend against the rival tribe, the Magyars migrated west, beginning with raids against the Eastern Romans and the Franks. By 895 AD, the raids turned into a full-scale migration, as the Magyar gyula (war chief) Ã�rpÃ¡d led his people through the Carpathian mountains into modern-day Hungary and Romania.
The region they invaded, the Carpathian Basin or, as the Romans called it, Pannonia, had long been the crossroads of nomadic migrations. After the disintegration of Attila's Hunnic empire, the Avars, a Turkic people, migrated into the region in the 6th century. The Avar Khaganate would be destroyed by Charlemagne between 791 and 795. A Slavic kingdom, Moravia, centered in the modern-day Czech Republic and Slovakia, filled the vacuum of power along with the Bulgarian Khanate invading from the south in the early 9th century. By the time of the Magyar migrations, the region was home to a diverse population including Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Germans, Bulgars, Moravians, and Vlach (a Romanian people).
Like other steppe peoples, the Magyars lived and fought in the saddle and specialized in horse archery and hit and run tactics. While they avoided melee confrontation, the Magyar horsemen carried lances and fokos, a one-handed axe. Pagans, they developed a reputation among the Christians as a vicious people prone to pillage and plunder.
The Magyars would continue to raid as far afield as Bavaria and Franconia before gradually becoming settled and converting to Christianity by the 11th century.
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'The Magyar Conquest' is Al_Kharn the Great's rendition of the Honfoglalas, a Magyar pseudo-legend about the historical "land-taking" of the Magyar tribes as they migrated from the Urals into eastern Europe. This scenario focuses on the latter part of the tale, detailing the conquest of Greater Moravia by Arpad and the Magyars.
Al_Kharn has shown us many times over his ability to create scenarios with exciting, innovative gameplay, and this is no exception. One particularly excellent aspect of the scenario is the balance between the base gameplay of AoE2 and the triggered mechanics that are used to enhance the gameplay. Looting, reinforcement, resource generation, upgrade, and raiding systems are all used to excellent effect. The end result is indeed immersive - I truly felt like a Magyar chieftain descending upon eastern Europe while defending my people from Pecheneg raids. As simply put as possible, the scenario was just fun to play, and easily merits a 5 here.
The balance, while generally rather good (and having greatly improved since the testing stage), could use a little tweaking in some spots. There is a bit of a learning curve to the mechanics the scenario uses, and players trying it for the first time might run into some frustration trying to raid, defend, and utilize the triggered systems that the author has put in place. I think the beginning part especially could benefit from being a little less fast-paced so that the player has time to orient his/herself. The level of challenge is quite good in the early and middlegame, but tapers off a bit once the player reaches that comfortable point where they have ample resources, buildings, and troops to commit entirely to the offensive and not have to worry about the threat of being overpowered of caught off guard. This is probably more of a commentary on the B&D genre in general rather than this scenario in particular, but something to keep in mind going forward.
An easy 5 here. I've already touched on many of the systems that the author uses to enhance the gameplay, but little atmospheric touches like the introduction of the Pecheneg raiders and the Moravian Druzhinas really shine in this regard. The map and writing styles also lend themselves well to demonstrating the creative skill of the author, but more of that later.
Map Design: 4+
The design was so, so close to a 5 here, and I'm sure a 5 could be achieved with a few tweaks here and there. One thing that strikes me about Al_Kharn's work every time is the diversity of his map design. Steppes look like steppes, but there are wildly different parts of the map as well and they are all implemented skillfully. The towns all look quite good, though some spots could benefit from a little more terrain mixing and elevation. The layout of the map itself is conducive to exciting gameplay, with a mix of open and closed areas, key strategic locations, and a feeling of accessibility that only a tiny map can bring. One of the great strengths of the small mapsize was that I felt that my troops could be anywhere on the map in a minute of travel at most, which (coincidence or not) contributed to the lightning-quick raiding atmosphere. The map does suffer in some parts from the placement of off-grid objects, which unfortunately can create issues as the pathfinding in AoE2HD is so much worse than that of the CD version with UserPatch.
The writing style of the author is rich, unique, and a pleasure to read. I'd recommend that he at least consider a career as an author, as the writing I see in his scenarios is truly captivating. The instructions are all clear and help a player transition into what could otherwise be a very alien setting with all of the different mechanics that the author uses. One very underrated part about Al_Kharn's design is the organization of his objectives list, which also does an excellent job of orienting the player. All things considered, it is clear that the author enjoys and invests a great deal of effort into his writing, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
An excellent scenario, and a must download for those who have the Forgotten Expansion (AoF) to AoE2HD. One can only hope that Al_Kharn keeps producing scenarios of similar quality to this one!
[Edited on 06/30/15 @ 03:47 PM]