HCC - Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain
Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain (entry for the Historical Campaign Contest 2005)
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Ask the first ten people you meet to name the first king of Britain and it is highly unlikely that any of them would name Athelstan. These days, he is a relatively little-known figure in British history. In the middle ages he was very famous, a powerful and influential figure known, and almost revered, throughout Europe. He was intelligent, a fearsome war leader, and a man who instigated domestic reform of law and order, coinage and local government. His reputation survived the Norman Conquest, he was the subject of a fourteenth-century play, and was featured on Shakespeare's stage in 1599.
Athelstan was a grandson of Alfred the Great and came to the English throne in 924, ruling until his death in 939. He built on Alfred's achievements and pushed forward the frontier of English rule, overcoming the Vikings, Scots and Welsh, until he was effectively ruler of all Britain, the most powerful man to rule there since the Romans.
Emulate his achievements in this four-scenario campaign which has a mix of game-styles and includes music and sounds. The zip includes instructions for play. The three playable scenarios each incorporate difficulty levels in case you find them too easy or too difficult.
Full credits are included in the file, but I would like to say that I owe a particular debt of thanks to Anastasia who was a playtester par excellence. Her preferred form of payment, my first-born son, will be richly deserved.
I hope you enjoy playing.
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The campaign overall was very enjoyable to play. Tactics and strategies were required to win battles, and I found myself facing some new challenges in the campaign, which isn't something you can say very often. In particular I liked the challenge of having very few archers; you need to use them to get the edge in battles against enemy infantry, but you also don't want them getting killed as you can't get any more. In the final scenario there were a couple of long marches across the map, which got slightly repetitive, but other than that I was kept interested throughout the duration of the campaign. The mini-game with the wolves in the final scenario was an interesting addition that added to the gameplay experience well. In the first scenario the FF battles were slightly mundane and could have done with something extra to make them more of a challenge and therefore more enjoyable. I found no apparent bugs in the campaign, which is very commendable considering the pressure due to the contest deadline. One thing I found slightly strange was the fact that on standard difficulty the enemy units when pulled off from the attack gather in the woods to the left of the green player, which could result in a player having to search around the map after they had destroyed the towns if they hadn't scouted that area before. I did not deduct for this as it isn't a bug, but it is worth pointing out to any potential players. Overall, this campaign was an enjoyable play. 4+.
For the most part the balance was good, although I would say that it is a bit too much on the easy side in the FF scenarios. The battles in the first scenario are not too hard to win if you can use some micromanagement, but the second scenario will present a sizeable challenge if you are playing on harder and in force; the enemy will attack quickly and in force and you will be hampered by having to gather extra food to avoid your units losing hitpoints, although the attack is tempered by the strength of the town centre against Feudal Age units. The ‘removing food proportional to population’ trick (see later) really comes into it’s own on the harder difficulty levels; the continuous flow of units you need to defend in the early stages is very difficult to sustain if you have to make sure your food never drops to zero. A problem introduced by the limited technology in the B&D scenario is that battles can become a little predictable with only three different units available. Losing hitpoints in the final FF scenario was useful in that you were forced to keep your hero in the firing line, although one small niggle I had was that you were not forced to commit yourself fully into the battle, meaning you could pick units off fairly easily. To conclude, the balance is good. 4+.
Since Dark_Blade released “Removing Food Proportional to Population” I have been waiting to see a B&D scenario put it to use, and the author finally gave me the opportunity to try it out in the second scenario of this campaign. It brings a completely new challenge to the fore when playing; and the author should be credited for implementing this trick, although someone else thought it up. The B&D scenario also had an interesting “limited technology” feature – the player is limited to the Feudal Age and can only access certain technologies, which also made the scenario an interesting play. There were also some nice touches elsewhere, to cite a few examples a Sabato-esque riddle with a monk, the use of beta units and choosing whether or not to control your allies. This campaign utilises the Crnigoj-FF style battle system in the final scenario, which added an extra edge, but I felt the first scenario could have done with something similar as it was effectively two normal FF battles with no added effects, one after the other, to spice it up a bit. Nevertheless, on the whole this campaign was very creative. 5-.
Overall the map quality and the attention to detail were very good. The depiction of towns was very good, and I particularly liked the design of York; the mix of Feudal buildings with Castle Age ones was very appealing and the use of map copy and TWAL made for some interesting buildings. The use of grass terrain inside the city walls was also nice to see. The English countryside, not always the easiest thing to depict was well represented, in particular the mix of shoreless water, the individual tree placement and the gaia eye candy made the countryside look very pleasing. Maybe in the final scenario the terrain could have done with some more variation to keep the player interested on some fairly long treks across the map, overall this warrants a 5.
I thought this section was of impeccable quality; every aspect of this category was covered with great attention to detail and clarity. The history section was very informative, detailed and well researched. Each scenario had a different opening bitmap that suited the campaign storyline well and added to the historical “flavour”. The instructions, hints and scouts sections were always clear and well structured, meaning the player was never unsure of what to do next. One thing that could trip players up is in the second playable scenario – the player was given no instruction as to what to do with the rulers inside each town and what was happening with the walls, but I do not feel this is sufficient to dock a point as the player will soon realise what to do. There were also some nice touches with the humour in the first scenario, I recommend players click on all the villagers in and around York to see what they have to say. Overall, this is a great example of how to document a campaign well. 5++.
A very worthy winner, congratulations Stephen; this is an excellent campaign. Your campaign had a great 'historical' atmosphere - I can't really express it clearly, but the unit choices, the terrain and the narrative style felt most appropriate. If you could get rid of the units collecting in the woods in the B&D scenario and spice up the first scenario a bit I'll gladly update my review. Once again, congrats Stephen.
[Edited on 11/29/05 @ 02:02 PM]
Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain is Stephen Richard’s outstanding winner of the Historical Campaign Contest (HCC), and is a beautiful portrayal of the great English king. I played the campaign through on moderate at the time of the contest and then again on hard more recently.
Athelstan begins with a beautiful introduction scene. The music was grand and the telling emotional. The depiction of the seasons was spot on, and timing and exposition showed the utmost skill. To sum up it was great to watch.
In the introduction to the second scenario the music is great, with especially good timing.
I didn’t like the way the units were tasked to one spot once you got control of Athelstan though, looks a bit messy or ‘triggery’ if such a word makes any sense.
This scenario was sort of an introduction to the gameplay side and eased you in nicely. I felt the gameplay was lacking slightly in this opening scenario, and it was a little easy even on hard, however it is an introduction only, and it does not warrant a penalty in either playability or balance score. When exploring the city, there is subtle humour to be found galore, I was laughing out loud quite often – e.g. the “We are of the same mind” couple.
The second scenario is a B&D with quite a simple gameplay, yet it has a lot more depth on hard as I found with all elements that seemed apparently simple on moderate. The level is fairly linear, with strategic map layout and an obvious choice of unit, but I liked that, as I did the fact that you get few resources. This is the sort of old school gameplay we don’t see enough of these days, and it was terrific fun. The powerful enemies raided me relentlessly, and the battle swung back and fourth for hours. Just when I was about to win I lost Athelstan, after 3 hours. I was pleased that the scenario had managed to beat me, and I came back to it the next day for another go, and beat it this time.
In the last scenario the siege of the town was hard, and I tried many times, finally managing to draw them out and lay waste to them in the forests (as well as a few deer who my archers mistook for men!)
As for the final battle, I won without any allied help again, though I did exploit the system a little (ending with 1008 HP for Athelstan!) I wasn’t sure what exactly the mechanics of the system here were, so I studied the object has target condition and the effects of increasing max hit points in the editor. I must say this system is very creative.
I’ve talked about balance a lot in the course of playability. I must stress that I found the balance to be very good on hard, but more suited to a rookie player on moderate. If you are a skilled player I recommend jumping straight to hard.
Creativity abounds in Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain. Take for example the scene with the ‘bowmen’, not just for the visual aspect, but also the dialogues are simply excellent. The nearby tree house is also creative (and quite humourous!). The scene with the bucket and executioner again shows some incredibly creative visual tricks, while the scene is scripted very well with Athelstan walking back and fourth as he thinks about the boy’s punishment. The last scenario also has a great mini game, which is both fun and challenging.
Map Design: 5.0
The maps are of the sort that you want to instantly explore every tile of them even when you’ve seen them before. They are realistic, beautiful and creative, and the amount of time spent making them so was well worth it. The hand made forests look very good, while use of ‘pile of food’ is outstanding (though annoying for exploring foragers in the B&D scenario :-)
The maps have a noticeable Anastasian influence – shoreless water, the bridge, and sounds when you click on things; this style blends nicely with your own and we see amazing results, like the first-rate river in scenario 2.
The story telling during the scenarios is grand, and gives a nice intermission between scenes. The use of music files enhances the campaign so much, even the subtle things like a wind ambient at the end of the first playable scenario. The thorough historical research for this campaign is evident. The ‘History’ section repeated throughout was a little weak, but it was made up for entirely with the in game cutscenes, and you did point out it was repeated (I hate it when I read through it again only to realize I’ve already read it half way through).
A wonderful piece of work; Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain is a painting, a play and a poem rolled into one. The minor imperfections cannot sway me from giving this a perfect score. Mr. Richards, I am your fan!
Athelstan is Steven Richard's Winning Entry to the 2005 Historical Campaign Contest about the Great King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great.
The Campaign starts with a beautiful cutscene scenario. It includes a wonderful map design with emotional dialog and well placed music.
I really enjoyed this Campaign. It is a mix of build and Destroy and Fixed Force, which I liked.
The Balance was good. The enemy were not too weak, but they were not too overpowering. Athelstan suits all skill levels. In the second playable scenario I couldn't go past the Feudal Age. It limited the units I could use to destroy the Welsh and Scots.
Athelstan has many creative parts. I loved the idea of loosing HP if you run out of food. I also liked the limited technology as some techs in the game don't match with the time that this game was set in.
Map Design: 5
The Maps looked very realistic. The towns were evenly spread out and looked highly detailed. I liked the design of York with the mix of Feudal Age and Castle Age buildings. There was a lot of use of the GAIA Objects.
The Story was told extremely well and it was very entertaining and interesting. I thought that the instructions were very clear and explained everything I needed to know.
A MUST Download
Edited for typos
[Edited on 02/03/11 @ 02:33 PM]
'Athelstan, Emperor of the World of Britain' is a four-scenario campaign submitted for the 'Historical Campaign Contest' (HCC) back in 2005, and tells of the story of Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great and arguably England's first king, and his military and political exploits in forming the fledgling island nation.
The campaign features a mix of B&D, FF and Cinematic elements, and acts as a sequel of sorts to the author's previous submission 'the Battle of Edington', submitted a year earlier.
PLAYABILITY: I've decided to come at this piece in recent days as I'm currently designing a campaign of my own featuring the achievements of Aethelflaed when she ruled over Mercia (one of the Saxon kingdoms of Britain), and who also features as a cameo in this project. With that said, I can definitely say it is quite difficult designing a scenario from the confines sometimes present in history, let alone from the scarce resources of a figure from Saxon-ruled Britain, and I believe the author has handled the content matter very well. Indeed, there is something deeply-alluring about this particular campaign, or maybe it's just the well-grafted gift the author has in story-telling? From the touching cinematic narrative to the resolve of events as the warrior king works his way to uniting all of Britain, there is much here that is interesting and makes me want to continue and complete the campaign. The campaign covers much of the unheard of tale of Athelstan, arguably England's first king, and spans one cut-scene and three playable scenarios, covering the early days of Athelstan's rise to power to his annexation of Viking lands to the north, and defeat of the enemy coalition at Brunanburh; a now seemingly long-forgotten yet immensely important battle in English history. For all the wide network of sources that can be found on the Internet these days about the warrior king, sadly most of the inhabitants of England herself know little of him. I myself knew nothing about Athelstan before coming to this project, and it's an unusual delight playing this over and over again, something I maintain with little else these days. Maybe that just goes with my teeming fascination of the period? One can expect plenty of well-chosen music and sound effects, along with a touching story to form the historical narrative. Cut-scenes seem like the perfect reward in-between battles, and I was immersed with the epic-retelling as each scenario progressed. On a slightly lower note, there were a few aspects with the game play that I felt was limited and overall too linear for my taste, but what you see here is an overall good historical depiction and a nice visit back to the game play style that makes AoK fun. This should keep the attention of most while teaching you more than just a thing or two about England's earliest history. 5.0-
BALANCE: I initially tried playing the campaign on hard, but after having it handed to me in the first battle decided moderate would be the way to go. There are many points throughout each scenario whereby you feel the game play is 'missing' something, but the points that are generally worth mentioning are difficult and even require a wide degree of micromanagement to see your men through. Strategy plays a part where the odds are weighed heavily against you, and quick-thinking against a relentless enemy, such as in the third scenario. However, the campaign's sometimes linear game play counts against it and battles aren't as challenging or as technically-developed as one could have hoped they would be. Hard seems difficult, but still possible. 4.0+
CREATIVITY: The campaign is certainly an above-average design for its time, and there are more than just a few creative devices that keep each scenario interesting and different with each experience. Take the second and third scenario for example; the mechanic whereby the player loses food according to population only hastens the player into his objective, or to further gain more food, and I do not believe I've seen it used in a scenario before other than in Dark Warrior's 'Wrath of The Dark Lord'. Still, I suppose what interested me more was in regards to the technical aspects of the story, which the author has chosen to show through a number of well set-up cut-scenes. This was certainly the campaign's highlight for me and no doubt its strongest point for many. 5.0-
MAP DESIGN: I suppose the problem in rating a file that is over five years old is seeing through the eyes of today and failing to take into account the standards of the day. However, I felt this was no problem and even after half a decade the design still manages to define for itself a very competent and technical style. The author has clearly put in a lot of thought and effort and the overall quality and level of detail is quite good, if not very good. However, as for everything, there were a few things about the design that I thought were a little careless, and various aspects, although rare, were too linear for my liking. In this case, I refer to the last scenario where I thought most of the game play therein was resolved simply to wandering the forest when other more interesting things could have come into play. 4.0
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: The author does not skip out on detail, and the story about Athelstan is one the Blacksmith has not seen before, nor has since. The history and instructions screen are all very well presented and researched, and the hints are generally helpful. Each scenario even comes with its own bitmap. Really, there can be no complaint here. 5.0
CONCLUSION: Stephen Richards has created a fantastic historical depiction of presumably England's first king, maintaining throughout its duration an interesting and emotional tale. An epic might be nearer to the mark.
In a sentence - A touching historical campaign that, despite being five years old, does not fail to deliver.
In closing - A must download.
[Edited on 05/11/16 @ 02:53 AM]