The Iron Crown of Lombardy is another of the unnoticed and unreviewed ESCC entries, which is understandable as the scenario, though competently put together is fairly nondescript and average.
The game starts with a Fixed Force and picks up with a B&D on the other side of the alps, with a siege against milan. It plays itself out smoothly enough.
Even on hard difficulty theres little challenge posed to the player. The problem is the player has a squad of frankish paladins mixed with elite throwing axemen and crossbows, facing off against forces largely consisting of men at arms, spearmen, and crossbows. As you can imagine this force can chew through huge amounts of enemies, with the paladins forming a shield and the ranged units cutting down all who venture too closely. The enemy is a fixed force so there is no question of the players starting force being whittled down over time if tardy. There is no need to interact with the B&D portion as the players starting force can easily take Milan and the win. During the siege all the gates are locked so you can easily knock all three barriers down with 1 ram each;The problem with this approach is if the player doesnt think about this and loses all three rams at the front gate, he might as well resign and start over.
It should be noted that in AoK heroes do not heal so this is a bit more difficult there, but proper management of the paladins to minimize their exposure will still pull you through fairly easily. It should be noted that while the enemy forces are completely without reinforcements the player can switch into B&D and use attrition against the fortress. The map has a very large gold and stone mine, so it seems victory is certain, even if you deleted your paladins and other starting units just to spice it up. The enemy units dont get upgrades, so your fuedal age-restricted forces are stronger than they appear.
The enemy troops as setup are fairly passive. No attacks are ever made against the player base, so you wont have any difficulties maxing out an eco, if you so wish.
I was surprised by the lack of effort invested to shake things up, or throw the player into any unexpected situations. The usual tropes and situations that occur so often in these scenarios involving the alps and fixed force missions in general, were absent. You would expect at any moment to be ambushed by tribesmen in the alps, but there is really nothing like that in the entire scenario.
Map Design 3
The map initially gives a poor impression, and only mountains and cliffs greet the player, the alps having apparently been stripped clear of trees entirely. However it opens up on a nicely decorated countryside and the overall terrain meets the standards you would expect from a map. The forests are simplistic, similar to the es@sherwood map and the cities are nothing special, so theres nothing there to really merit a higher rank. The map, and the scenario length itself, are quite small, probably the shortest ESCC entry i have played yet.
Its a basic presentation offering objectives, some hints, and some normal ingame exposition\dialogue.
Final thoughts: Its an average scenario. If only the author had turned up the difficulty, thrown in some ambushes, and maybe added a reason to need the B&D this could be a fine scenario.