The Author has pointed out that the title is not representing his original intent correctly, and in all fairness the “No Rush” title doesn’t portray the theme fairly. For this reason I have updated this review, and taken the authors intent in to consideration.
The theme for Elfland is not a “No Rush” as the title states, but rather a “semi no rush”. No Rush meaning a map where each player is separated, usually by a band of trees, thus preventing an opponent executing an early attack upon you (Flush). The maps are predominantly forest, with open areas between. Each player starts in his own area surrounded by trees, and there is always a central area that is isolated, and contains extra resources and a few relics. Trees do separate each player from each other, and there are always area’s where the trees are a single tree in thickness. These are usually leading to a central ring of trees, and means the player only needs to cut down two trees to gain access to an enemy. So as you can see calling this map “No Rush” is incorrect, due to the fact a single tree can be cut down by two or three woodchoppers fairly quickly, and hence the player/opponent is still capable of executing a flush. However as already stated the theme was never intended to be a no rush, rather more of a “semi no rush”. So the theme does indeed work very well if you take all things in to consideration. The overall concept is not new, but it is a different approach to this type of map.
Visual Appeal 5
Elfland is without a doubt one of the best looking and most natural looking RMS of this style I have seen to date, and the author has clearly put a lot of effort in to achieve this. Instead of the usual un-natural looking uniform wall of trees surrounding each player, all the trees are placed very randomly and certainly add a natural look to the map. There is plenty of eye candy (rocks, paths, flowers etc), a few small ponds, good use of elevation, and a good amount of variation in terrains. The maps vary each time you play, sometimes with predominately grass, sometimes leaves, and the amounts and type of eye candy also seem to vary. You will always be presented with a delightful looking map every time you play, and this is a true credit to the author’s excellent ability.
Each player starts with the usual villagers, Town center, a scout, and the same reasonable amount of resources that are always easily accessible. There’s a good number of sheep and wild life to hunt, and the addition of a few small ponds containing fish can aid your economy greatly in the early ages. The number of relics seems to vary each time you play; there are always at least five, and I have twice seen 8, this means you never know if they have all been collected and keeps the player searching. This is indeed a nice touch. The game style plays similar to Fortress, where you have a limited degree of safety, however because it is trees the enemy is “attacking” (cutting through) you will not get a warning of an impending attack, and often be very surprised to see a group of Archers attack your villagers in the Feudal Age. So as you can see the “No Rush” name is not appropriate, but in all fairness Elfland was intended to be a “semi no rush” and it does work well in this respect. As well as each player having their own area separated by trees, there is always a central ring in the center of the map again surround by trees. This is a kind of no-mans land and always has some resources and usually a relic or two in this area. This adds an area of strategic importance to the map, and often becomes the scene of intensive battles. The standard AI plays well on this map, and the single thickness of trees actually improves this map for playing against an AI opponent. Most maps of this style are difficult for an AI, it is often very late in the imperial age before they break out of there starting area, but with Elfland the AI is far more likely to break free earlier, usually late Castle or early Imperial age. This makes for a much improved, and more "human" like game play against an AI opponent.
Elfland is one of the best looking no rush maps you’ll find, but unfortunately due to areas of single thickness trees it does tend to fail as a no rush map to a certain degree, and should be viewed as a semi no rush map. The central ring presents a great area for strategic planning, and really adds to the game play. It plays well against an AI opponent, and if you are looking for a No rush type map to play against an AI opponent you will be hard pressed to find one better than this. I look forward to seeing more from the author.