|Ingo van Thiel
Posted on 05/22/01 @ 12:00 AM (updated 08/15/01
Harald Fairhair was the first Viking king to unite the small kingdoms of Norway. Legend has it that a proud princess provoked him into doing so: Gyda, daughter of Erik of Hordaland. She told Harald's messengers that she would not marry him unless he became king of all Norway. The messengers returned, expecting that Harald would order them to dishonor Gyda to punish her for her pride. But to their surprise, Harald accepted the challenge. He swore he would not cut his hair before all of Norway was under his command.
What sounds like the beginning of a romantic and heroic story ends in bloodshed, terror and oppression.
Installation: Extract all files to your Age of Kings folder. They should go into the right directories.
Thanks a lot to all people who playtested this scenario! Your names are in the "Scouts" section.
To all others: I hope you'll enjoy the campaign! If you find any bugs, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I first heard of this new scenario by Ingo van Thiel a week ago we he announced that he wanted play testers for his new scenario, “Gyda’s Challenge”. Regretfully I couldn’t play test it then, finishing my ES contest entry, but now when it is in the blacksmith I downloaded it at once. And I don’t regret it.
Ingo has been praised as one of the most creative mapmakers in our community. For example, his last campaign “The kings best men” gave us many impressions of “Huh? How did he do that?”. This time Ingo has used his old tricks yet again, but in a wonderful new meaning, and in a way that (to my knowledge) no one has done before.
As to be expected with an Ingo-map, it’s much conquest. What makes these maps so wonderful is that they are always tough, but never impossible. There were times when I played this campaign I thought that I might as well start over again. But, I didn’t, and I managed to finish it anyways! And immediately after finishing it, I want to play it again! It was such a good scenario!
The story was wonderful. You were dragged into a plot so thick you wouldn’t be able to make your way out again, even if you tried. And I can almost assure you that you won’t. It’s too much fun playing. The only single complain I could find was that the bitmap’s colors were a bit strange at some places, but as AoK is a 256 color game and the story is so thick and fun, this isn’t nearly enough to give it a 4 in this category.
I shouldn’t say this, because I haven’t played that many maps lately, but this must be if not the so at least one of the best maps to use the snow and ice terrains. The map work is wonderful, interesting, and even geographically correct! The only thing missing would have been to fill 70% more of the map with mountains, but that would have ruined the game play, as you surely understand. The map is over the southern part of Norway. Your own city is in the spot were Oslo is now, and a small part of western Sweden does therefore also show. The Swedish part consists of grass and green forests, while the Norwegian side is mostly snow, ice, and pine forest with snow on. You might think that the snow is such a boring terrain, just the same everywhere. Well, Ingo is one of those who have discovered the secret on how to use it right. I’m sure that if you are a mapmaker yourself, like me, you will get new ideas on how to do your maps after playing this one.
As stated above, Ingo brings some fresh ideas to the community with this scenario. You might raise your eyebrows when you first notice the turtle ship lying outside your city. But laugh and behold as Ingo turns it into an icebreaker, and gives you free passage to your enemy. It’s things like these that not only increase the creativity, but also the playability, as it’s fun, and makes you want to see it again.
“Gyda’s Challenge” is a worthy 5.0-scorer, just like the rest of Ingo’s work. Download, play it, enjoy playing it again, and then do so for as long as you finds it interesting, and you’ll have to do in many hours from now.
When I saw "Gyda's Challenge" in the blacksmith done by Ingo van Thiel, one of my 3 greatest idiols in scenario designing, I was very excited and downloaded the campaign as soon as I had time. However, I was more or less disappointed.
The playability was perfect. I really liked how it transforms from an RPG to a B&D and the different objectives concerning each enemy. Two thumbs up.
The balance was also perfect. I didn't feel at any point that I had nothing to do and the bases were pretty hard to destroy. Also, the final showdown with King Erik was pretty good too.
The creativity is a definte 4. There were not much new things in the scenario, just a combination of old tricks (which is not bad in itself). To sum it up, it just did not strike me as surprising and impressive as some original trigger tricks (which to this day hardly anybody uses) in TDS's epic campaign "The Nexus". But it was still good.
The map design is no doubt a 5, but many of the things (ie. eye candy tricks) were seen in Ingo's previous campaigns. But it was still excellent.
The story and instructions section is another minor dissapointment in my opinion. The instructions were ample and I didn't get confused or anything, but I didn't really like the story. The story had almost nothing to do with Gyda, the daughter of King Erik and the love interest of Harald, the main character of the story. Since she was technically one of the main characters, she should've had more to do with the story. Basically she just offered a challenge of taking over all of Norway and talked for a bit. And there were not much visual aid to the story, just the beginning part where you have to visit Gyda and the part where King Erik through a guy into the sea. To sum it up, I didn't really "get into" the story. So, I feel that this section should be rated a 4.
- Excellent playability and balance
- Excellent map design
Final Thoughts: If anybody could be rated as a scenario design god, it would be Ingo. However, this campaign more or less proved that there will never be a scenario design god (NOT that Ingo is not good). I still think that Ingo is one of the greatest scenario designers ever, though.
One of the areas that I like most in any great campaign is its map design so I will start with it. Just as the beauty in a woman that attracts a man and lure him in, an artistically crafted scenario is the first alluring aspect of the game that captures a player’s attention and makes him want to play. In this campaign, Gyda’s Challenge, the settings took place in the cold polar region, Norway. Just a few minutes into the game, using the sound effects of the artic wind blowing, along with the careful and deliberate selections of leafless trees and snow, the author successfully added feelings to the lifeless environment. It just gave me a chill feeling, literally! (I’m living in California, USA, and summer has started.) The area around the first town looked so real and beautiful: a stretchy, curvy, icy-blue coastline having edges textured with thin strips of grassy vegetations, supported by a few sea rocks
laced together with some oaks and snowy pines. Wow! So relaxing to the eyes :-). In the game, when King Harald’s messengers went to Gyda to offer the marriage proposal and said to her, “this is your lucky day, Gyda. Our king offer you a place by his castle,” -- I remember thinking to myself, “this Harald guy it quite romantic...he picked a really nice spot...with a lake view, too!” Well, these are just the few “goodies” on the list. I’ll let you find out the rest.
The second thing I look for in a campaign is the story. A beautiful scenario with a bad plot is like a newly painted car with a hundred-thousand-mile engine -- nice to look at, but it won’t run (maybe it will, but it will not get you very far). Well, this campaign has more than just looks: it has got “personality”! In the game, my first mission was to deliver the King’s message to Gyda. I was given control of the 4 messengers. As I moved the units just past the left corner of the town, my focus shifted from the town to the new path, so that I can prepare for possible enemy troops. Then, right at that moment King Harald called after the messengers, “...bring her here immediately after her consent.” At that point, I felt as if I was not just the player. I was the messenger! The author, with a simple, right timing of text display, ingeniously made me feel that I was part of that role. In addition, what impressed me the most was the author’s ability to give the characters their own unique personalities through well-written dialogues. Right off from the start, I could tell that Harald was a gutsy, impatient young man, who makes decisions mostly on his impulses. Gyda was also a tough person with a different kind of arrogance. She enjoys using her beauty and sharp wit as weapons to subdue men and to make them do idiotic things to one another. Sounds like someone you’ve met before? :-)
In a campaign, giving a player background information on the characters’ profiles and personalities by sheer means of pictures and plain texts, is easy. Making a player feel that he or she actually “knows” the character(s), through the game’s missions, is much more difficult. This
campaign has succeeded in this area, brilliantly!
Balancing a scenario is perhaps one of the hardest parts in scenario designs, if not THE hardest. Although this campaign was very balanced, the first time I played it, I thought the first mission (delivering messages) was quite easy. Because of my experience in random maps, I was able to kill off the group of archers and sword men with not even a scratch on my ranged units -- you know how you shoot a pig in random maps with a villager, make him get so mad and charges after your, and then you run your villager in a circle and let the other villagers launch arrows onto the pig’s behind?? Hehehe, that was what I did :-). Anyway, I thought that was easy. But then just a few seconds after that...oh boy, was I wrong!! Another group of archers came out of nowhere, and before my Berserks could be healed up, they got whacked on the head by axes of the enemies’ Berserks. With my two archers left, I made a quick dash to the town just to get bitten by three wolves. One of my two archers got killed; the last one had exactly 8 hit-points left -- just enough for me to hop into the town center. That was as close as it could have got!
The Playability of this scenario was just “right-on”! For example, when a group
of enemy knights and rams attacked my town, my heart started to beat a little faster. Then after a few minutes, I managed to wipe them out, and my town center was on fire. With the given villagers, I had them fixed the town, and right at the same time more villagers were being created. No big deal! When I have created about eight or nine villagers with a few blacksmith upgrades, a group of enemy soldiers flooded the north entrance to the town, while several longboats from the south killed off my group of farmers. Phew,That was so intense! I liked this particular mission so much that I saved it and replayed it over-and-over.
Last but certainly and absolutely not least, is creativity. You would be amazed at the new things this campaign has. I particularly enjoyed the scene where King Erik threw one of my units off the cliffs. I’m cruel? Come on, 99% of Aok is about killing anyway :-). Another trick that I really like is the ice-breaking ship. I’ll let you find that out! At this day and age, I couldn’t believe that there are even new tricks left undiscovered! Regardless of the tricks it has, this campaign, Gyda's challenge, is of a different "genre" than TKBM or The Quest: it gives you a different angle of looking at the campaign, the story about a young, inexperienced King named Harald, whom, with so much power in his
hands, got deflected into a wrong path by beauty and his own ignorance, which consequently ended up having no winners at all. This reminded me of an old saying, “great powers come great responsibility”. Overall, although this campaign doesn't have as much interesting objectives that give you non-stop laughter as in TKBM -- i.e. open the pigpen, set the pigs loose so they can attack the knights -- the lack of comedy was very appropriate. You shouldn't laugh when the story is about tears and bloodshed. Oops! I almost forgot about the author writing style: very witty, fun, and original!! None of the dialogues contained any cliche, which is very common in most campaigns. When we speak of creativity, we often get an image that creativity is bounded within map design tricks, trigger tricks, and not very much else. Creativity factors into more categories than just the two above, and one good example is the
styles in writing. The most specific and simplest example of the author’s creative writing, that would be easiest for me to explain here, is: in the “scout” section of the OJECTIVE box, the author wrote, “thanks to all the scouts who skimmed the map for bugs.” That was very creative! He could have written, “thanks to all the play-testers who tested the game,” and wouldn’t that have sounded SO BORING to you? There were a lot more creative things that he wrote, but this is the easiest one for me to explain.
In motion-picture films, Steven Spielberg is a famous director not just because he directed great adventure films such as Indiana Jones that kept your heart pounding the whole time, with the comedic, nonverbal aspects of it that made you laugh till your stomach hurts -- he is famous because he can direct MORE than just adventure films! Steven Spielberg have made amazing science fiction ones such as Jurassic Park and E.T. He also made thriller ones such as Jaws, and dramatic
ones such as Schindler's list.
Well, in scenario designs, there are many great designers, but the one that I would call "Steven Spielberg of Aok Scenario designs" is Ingo Van Thiel.
Most of us know that Ingo's work is always quite good. However, I was particularly pleased by this scenario because it is one of the rare occasions he has undertaken to recreate an authentic historical event -- the unification of Norway. To get right to the point, I felt like I was transported to another time by this scenario. The map is gorgeous and it seemed as though I'd been plopped down in medieval Scandinavia.... the detailing, the layout of the cities, the eyecandy... all contributed to that "you-are-there" experience. The story, though historical, still retained a whimsical, fun quality. Instructions and dialogue are clear and well-written. And the play balance was simply spot-on. I never felt like it was too easy or numbingly difficult. For that reason alone I think would-be designers should take a close look at this scenario. Anyway, you start out on a dodge-and-run quest, then build and defend, switch to a little RPG, and end with a climactic battle. Top-notch all the way around. This is a scenario up-and-coming designers should be imitating, and it's a download must for everyone.
As usually, Ingo made a great campaign, this time it was based on an historic event.
Playability:5 a very attractive and playable scenario, where the main events succeed quickly.
Balance: 5 despite it looks very difficult (on hard level) to send the messengers to Gylda and to bring them back, actually it is relatively easy. This scenario, on hard level, is a good challenge for any experienced player.
Creativity: 5. Ingo shown again a high fantasy level and an extraordinarey creativity. I have no negative comments.
Map design: full of bareers, the player is forced to follow a single possible route. I am very satisfied. Score 5.
Story/instructions: as usually, the story is fully presented and the instructions and hint come at the right moment. Score: 5.
Average rating: as usually for Ingo: excellent: 10.0.
It's been over a year since someone's reviewed "Gyda's Challenge", but judging from the Blacksmith and the comment above, it's still being downloaded at a rapid pace.
As the years go by, and more and more new trigger tricks are being developed, some other older campaigns are falling by the wayside. I think "The Conquerors" contributed to this to a great extent; it seems a little silly these days to have a Belisarus, two Joans and a La Hire running round a map pretending to be someone else. Sadly, even some of the great scenarios, such as Yogurt's "Christmas Morning" are starting to show their age.
Now that some cutting edge designers have begun hex-editing, and Digit's released his "Trigger Studio", it seems only a matter of time before all the old campaigns will be ready for the dustbin.
Luckily, "Gyda's Challenge" seems destined to evade this fate. It's charm, playability and creativity have not aged one iota since it was released. I am a relatively new AoK player, and having begun downloading the newer "campaigns" first, I was often disappointed by the older submissions. Not so with Gyda. Indeed, I can state with confidence that "Gyda's Challenge" is my favourite download from the Blacksmith.
(On that note, I am often concerned by the Blacksmith categories of "Single Player" and "Campaign". Just because a single scenario is wrapped in a .cpn/.cpx format doesn't make it a "campaign", does it? As no one seems to upload single player anymore, perhaps it would be best to change the categories to "Single Scenarios/Cut-scenes" and "Multiple=scenarios/campaigns"?)
As so many experienced reviewers (including Tanneur99 and Gordon Farrell) have already extensively reviewed the scenario, I shall be brief in my summary of the five categories.
This is an incredibly enjoyable scenario to play. To my knowledge, there are no bugs whatsoever- an achievement in itself. But that aside, the game is simply a pleasure. Rather than bombarding us all with squllions of ten billion hit point units, we are restricted by reasonably limited resources, a reduced technology tree, and a challenging map layout. This format is very fulfilling as we are forced to devise a strategy, and use our units to their optimum capacity, taking advantage of the castle and town hall to heal our troops and even, on occasion, defending with our town centre and villagers. There are very few campaigns I've wanted to play over and over, and this is one of them.
An easy 5.
For myself, the campaign was a spot to easy on "standard" and "moderate", but really stood out on "hard". I do think it's a shame that the five difficulty levels were reduced to three in "The Conquerors", but it's hardly Ingo's fault... a solid 5
There's more to creativity than simply coming up with new tricks. This is the reason "Gyda's Challenge" still stands out, even after dozens of other designers have used the same triggers. A great opening challenge- the messengers- is followed by great dialogue and a series of interesting objectives. I must say, I'm not a big fan of Ingo's "unit pictures pasted on a map" style bitmaps, but the the value of the visual map when it comes to game-play is huge. The icebreaker is, of course, very cute.
Creativity, in my opinion, gets a five.
What cab I say? A great looking, snowy, map, with just the right amount of stuff to keep you interested, and a fantastic overall feel.
If every scenario had a story as entertaining as Gyda, I'd probably never read another book. This category is very well done. It's always clear what's happening in the scenario, the dialogue is brilliantly written, and, damn!, I even care about those little pixelated characters on the screen. A rare pleasure.
Add to this a succinct but informative history section and you have... a winner!
Hands down a number 5.
I would recommend "Gyda's Challenge" for download. But alas, with 17,252 downloads already, I don't think there's anyone left to recommend it to! But seriously, Gyda's Challenge has stood the test of time well, and is a must for those who haven't tried it, and always worth another visit for those who have.
[Edited on 03/04/06 @ 09:36 PM]
I really enjoyed playing the Gyda’s Challenge. It is a very clever story filled with love, death and huge battles. I liked creativity and fun story of this scenario. I was playing for hours in the best scenarios I have played. Gyda’s Challenge is a scenario that can be played more than once.
Gyda’s Challenge is very challenging but can still be completed. I had to restart once or twice and had to save constantly. It played on Moderate and started to struggle near to the end. The scenario suits all difficult levels.
The Scenario used many old tricks which have been known for a long, long time. However the scenario has a great map design, filled with some great eye-candy. There are great trigger tricks and great bloodthirsty story. I really liked the idea of the Iron Ship smashing through the ice.
Map Design: 5
The bloodshed Map in this scenario is beautiful. It is an ice-cold wasteland were many soldiers fall by sword or the freezing temperatures. The map itself is a white wonderland. It is filled with a great range of snowy terrain mixing and icy eye-candy. There is a great use of Cliffs and elevation along with some pretty uses of GAIA Objects improving the map design even more. The different villages are spread out nicely.
Story/ Instructions: 5
If you are ever playing a bloodthirsty, romantic, horror scenario then you are playing Gyda’s Challenge. The strange mix of genres in the scenario makes it unique to many others. The story is highly enjoyable and filled with huge battles and lots of death. The scenario has perfect Instruction telling me exactly what to do and when. I never had a moment when I didn’t know what to do. There is also a great Hints page which helped me along the way.
[Edited on 03/03/10 @ 06:21 AM]
"Gyda's Challenge" is a near-legendary scenario depicting Harald Fairhair's bloody unification of Norway, supposedly in order to win the hand of the beautiful, but proud, Gyda. The player is putted against multiple Viking lords in a mix of FF and B&D.
Played using the HD version, the scenario ran near flawlessly. As mentioned in the comments, the one stumbling block was a pathing error in the part of an NPC transport delivering a mission-critical unit, but I was able to overcome that.
Another interesting quirk was that saving and loading appeared to break the ice-breaking triggers, making the supposedly "free" water unassailable again. Once again, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the game, and since I'm the only one mentioning it, I'm guessing it's an HD quirk as well.
Played on Moderate, the early stages presented a bit of a challenge, as the enemy assaulted my settlement with a nice mix of units.
However, winning over the first ally seemed a tad too easy (simply bringing a scout within the range of his tower did the trick), leaving me with only sporadic attacks to repel.
The siege sections were well done, as the AI put up staunch resistance to the bitter end, but after the few initial attacks, I never really felt threatened, so I'll leave this as a 4
Beyond the basic mix of genres, there's a lot to like here. The ice-breaker itself warrants high marks for creativity, but I also quite liked the "throw him to the fish" part.
Map Design: 5
The map was varied, good-looking, busy and interesting. Nearly every bit of the map served a purpose, and it was easy to understand and enjoy.
Dialogue is fairly fairly sparse, but it conveys the story well. The map is littered with signs that provide directions, and the Scouts section is likewise helpful. Once again, I'll go back to the "throw him to the fish" trick-sincerely in my first attempt I've actually sent Harald in himself.... And lost the game because of it, but it didn't feel unfair, but rather made me more angry at the duplicitous king Erik. Which I suppose is a hallmark a of a really strong story--when the author manages to get the player emotionally engaged in it.
It's still held as a golden standard, and for good reason. Although it's not complex by modern standards, "Gyda's Challenge" is still capable of providing several hours of fun to newcomers, with its interesting gameplay and a fairly engrossing story, that's defined by the little touches.
[Edited on 07/09/19 @ 09:01 PM]