There is something of magic to this place, and there is something of dread as well.
Your Town Center has been destroyed. In its place is only a pile of rubble. You population huddles at night in small straw houses that managed to survive. Survive what, you're not sure.
The bones of a behemouth lay bleaching in your town, and no one is sure where it came from. It is though it was always there, never moving, and never changing.
Your town comes back out of its collective daze to see that there are a few trappings of life left. The lumber camp stands, as does the mill. An outpost still keeps watch, and there is an eerily large gap between the population present, and that which you can sustain.
Step one is to get the town center rebuilt. There is a debate whether to stay here, or move on, leaving behind bad memories, but also useful buildings.
There is a legend, though, of a great plain called the Elephant Graveyard. Here the bones of years lie out in the sun, and here too is said to be a wealth of gold enough to sustain a population for years to come.
But with no horses left to mount and scout upon, there is fear that the enemies may reach the graveyard first.
* The town you start with is little more than a collection of yurts. There will also be a lumber camp and mill to get you on your feet, and a lone outpost scouting the distance.
* Regicide towns start with 4 additional villagers, a fourth yurt, a king, and some additional outposts, but nowhere to stow a king away in.
* The Graveyard is located in the middle of the map, and is marked early on with several Dead Elephants. These have a tendency to rot away, though, and may not be there when you arrive, but if you do find a field of gold and carcasses, you've found the Graveyard. There will be Gaia mining camps there to greet you. The gold is spread out, though, and others will come looking for it.
* The standard AI seems to be at a bit of a disadvantage. In several tests, only rarely does any AI foe come up with the idea of putting down a town center, and without one, they are rather weak, sometimes not even advancing to Feudal.
* To TC or not to TC. In Regicide you have the starting resources to land your Town Center immediately, and it may be best to do so, as there is nowhere else to put your king. In standard play, though, some wood will be needed before you can TC, and thus before you can start expanding your number of villagers. How and when to TC is definately as much an issue as Nomad, but without the necessary resources, can become tricky. Some may want to play Medium or High resources for this reason.
* You may want to get to the Graveyard early, just to begin taking advantage of the gold, and the converting mining camps. Or you may not. There is the standard amount of starting gold, and some smaller deposits on the map, but if one player can end up controlling the Graveyard, they can also control the later parts of the game. Walling the graveyard may be an option and possible tactic.
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I first downloaded this map because I thought the name was cool, and the description seemed interesting. The map definitely exceeded my expectations.
About the Map
Elephant Graveyard starts players with a few huts, a mill, a lumber camp, and the usual villagers - but no Town Center. It is set in a pretty dense story, but not as dense as Black Forest. In the center is the graveyard itself - containing elephant carcasses and lots of gold. Basically, it's a cross between Nomad, Black Forest and Gold Rush.
I decided to use 7 categories for the review. Each is given a mark from 1 to 5, where 1 is awful, 5 is excellent, and 3 is average (ES-quality). Then the scores are averaged out.
1) Setting - 4
The Setting category is about how unified the map is and how it fits together with some theme or other. I gave it a 4 because, while the thick forest, huts and Elephant carcasses did give a sense of a tropical setting, it wasn't really augmented by starting units, and the large patches of road didn't really fit. It was good but could have been better.
2) Playability - 5
This category is about how a game on the map plays. The map scored excellent here because whenever I played it, it was great. There is enough space to build a base, enough resources to keep you going, and an area of intense action in the center. The map very rarely lagged. The graveyard in the center was just the right size for a heated conflict. Great job here.
3) Balance - 5
This category is about how balanced the play was on the map. Elephant Graveyards is very well balanced. It has the right amount of resources. It has plenty of space for each player. The lack of a TC and scout is made up for by the presence of houses, a mill, a lumber camp, and an outpost. The graveyard, though it gives a lot of gold to whoever holds it, runs out soon enough to give the other players a chance, and can be captured fairly easily. Great work here, thurld01.
4) Visual Appeal - 3
The map is only average in this category, however. Large patches of road in the jungle that don't really look like old cities or roads, as well as a lack of eyecandy, lowered the score. However, the mixed forests are a very nice touch. However, don't expect more than an average ES map.
5) Creativity - 5
Elephant Graveyard is brilliant in terms of creativity. Nothing like it has been done before, and it plays in its own unique style. The starting conditions are interesting, as is the graveyard in the center and the elephant remains. A very creative work.
6) Randomness - 3
Well, this is a random map, but it turns out not to be too random when played several times. There is no variation in terrain or starting buildings, and no variation in resources. This is partly made up for because the paths to the graveyard often change, changing the flow of play, but that's not enough. Don't expect a really different game play experience every time; the randomness is just average.
7) Fun - 5
This is the most important rating, because it is what ultimately affects playing on the map. Let me put it shortly - Elephant Graveyards is a blast! The starting conditions lead to interesting decisions and risks about where and when to place your TC. The fight for control of the center is very intense, and you can't ever be sure who will win it. The resources are just right. You can try many different strategies. I played several Internet games on this RM, and everybody agreed that it's great fun.
Overall - 4.5
When these scores are averaged out, we get a 4.3. But rounding this to a value on the Blacksmith scale, the closest value is 4.5. And that is what this map scored. This means one thing - you definitely gotta download it. Elephant Graveyards is a great map, and though it has some flaws, you can expect long hours of fun and entertainment on it. I congratulate the designer, thurdl01, on his achievement. We can definitely expect more high quality work of this sort in the future!