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Civilization III - Conquests Developer Update: Middle Ages

Design Diary - Middle Ages


By Ed Beach, BreakAway Games
and Michael Fetterman, Firaxis Games

Sid Meier's Civilization III: Conquests, Firaxis' second expansion pack for the mega-hit Civilization III, features nine professionally-designed scenarios that introduce concepts never before seen in any Civilization title. The third designer diary in this series provides a glimpse at the design process and decisions made during the development of the Mesopotamian Conquest. Mesopotamia was designed by Charlie Kibler of Breakaway Games.


The year is 843 AD. The place - Paris, France. As King Charles the Bald, your goal is to lead your kingdom of Franks to dominance in the Middle Ages; but before you can think about glorious military victories, you must first concern yourself with the survival of your kingdom.


Viking longships are now regularly sighted in the North Sea and English Channel; when those Norse invaders come ashore, it is with devastating effect. They have already established a base at Nantes; and rumors indicate that they are thinking of settling in Normandy.


The nearby Celtic Bretons are also a threat. Occupying all of Brittany, they are within easy striking distance of Paris and will be your opponents in several battles to come. Though they have not made a serious incursion into France since the Battle of Tours - a century ago, the Islamic armies of Cordovan Spain pose a threat as well


Your brothers: Lothair of Burgundy and Louis the German, each rule kingdoms to the east. Although the Treaty of Verdun has ceased any fraternal warring for now, old jealousies run far too deep for them to disappear permanently. After all, all three of you are still vying for the favor of the Pope - who can anoint only one of you as the Holy Roman Emperor.

Charles the Bald
Middle Ages Tech Tree

You may find yourself in just such a dilemma when playing the Middle Ages conquest, one of nine detailed historical scenarios included with Civilization III: Conquests. One of the key design goals of Conquests was to ensure that the nine Conquests highlighted all of the various game modes available within the expanded Civilization III engine. We felt that it was important to demonstrate how each of the victory conditions and short-game modes could be used in a historical setting to add drama and tension.


The Middle Ages Conquest is no exception. Mass Regicide is the name of the game; and with eighteen civilizations on the map, Europe will quickly become a busy place indeed unless some of the weaker nations are culled by the emerging powers. Each of the thirteen playable civilizations begin the game with three king units, while the AI controlled civs begin with two king units. Each of these king units represent key leaders from that nation who ruled during this medieval time. Each civilization must keep at least 1 of these king units alive at all time, since capture of the final royal unit causes a civilization to suffer an immediate collapse. We settled on 2 or 3 royal units after playtesting revealed that countries with just a single king could be eliminated too easily (especially by Viking naval invasions). The use of Mass Regicide in this particular conquest results in 30-50% of the civilizations being pruned by the end of the game, which allows Europe to be split nicely between the remaining civilizations.

The Crusader
The Spy

A Call for a Crusade
Charles the Bald did receive the title of Holy Roman Emperor in 875 AD, near the conclusion of his reign as King of the Franks. The jealous Louis, also a contender for the imperial throne, immediately attacked, but Charles was able to eventually thwart his German brother. As Holy Roman Emperor, Charles continued to maintain his close relationship with the leaders of the Western Christian church, centered in Rome. That close relationship between France and Rome would continue for another two hundred years.


The other game mode highlighted in this scenario is the new Reverse Capture the Flag feature. Each of the four Western, Christian nations begin the game with a different Holy Relic (the French possess the Crown of Thorns, for example) that can be returned to Jerusalem for a huge award of 10,000 Victory Points (only 30,000 are needed to win the scenario outright). These relics are vulnerable and can be captured by enemies, who are also rewarded points for placing the relic back in its rightful spot within the Holy City of Jerusalem. This journey to Jerusalem is usually fraught with peril; and certainly contains more than enough danger to warrant the high victory point award. You can be assured that other nations will take notice when a relic on its way across the game map.


From the Domesday Book to the Inquisition
The crusaders from Western Europe traveled far from their homes, seeing all the sights of the medieval world. They traveled by the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and on into the Islamic kingdoms of the Middle East. Later, they would return to Western Europe with newfound knowledge, gained from the scholars of these foreign lands.


The diversity of cultures and learning experienced by the crusading knights of Western Europe is well represented in the tech tree for the Middle Ages conquest. There are a total of 37 technologies to research spread over three eras, including Castle Building, Monasticism, Viking Sagas, Byzantine Ingenuity, Lost Roman Secrets, Jihad, Assassination, and Religious Persecution. New units, improvements and wonders are found throughout the tech tree, a list of each is given below.


New Units: The new units designed especially for this scenario are the Longship, Crusader, Spy, Assassin, Inquisitor, and Holy Relic. In addition, the Middle Ages conquest includes the Curragh, Dromon, Swiss Mercenary, and Trebuchet units that have also been added to the random map mode in Civilization III: Conquests.


New Improvements: Mill, Monastery, Sheriff's Office, Blacksmith, Manor, and Joust Arena.


New Wonders: Domesday Book, Holy Roman Empire, Krak des Chevaliers, Norse Saga, Hanseatic League, Robin Hood, Magna Carta, Bayeux Tapestry, Knights Templar, and The Inquisition.


Another new feature added to the Conquests editor was the ability to create optional paths within a tech tree based on the use of the new "Flavors" feature. Each optional path starts with a "gateway" technology that can not be traded and is only possessed at the start of the scenario by civilizations that have a natural inclination to research along that technology path.

The Crown of Thorns
The Shroud of Turin

The Turbulent Close of the Middle Ages
The Fourteenth Century was not a quiet time in France. The Crusades were over, but a new threat came from across the English Channel. In 1337, Edward III of England landed in France to reinforce his claim to the French throne. These two powers would be at war for the next 112 years. Despite losses to the English at Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415), the French would eventually prevail, in no small part due to the heroics of Joan of Arc. The other severe threat to Europe during this century also arrived by sea, but this time it was the rats and not the English who were to blame. The first outbreak of Black Death occurred in 1346 and soon swept across the continent. At least a quarter of the people of Europe would succumb to the disease before the century would come to a close.


As they reach the natural conclusion of the Middle Ages conquest in 1453, players will not only experience major wars between medieval powers, but they will also be forced to contend with the Black Death - laying waste to cities and destroying the fighting capacity of medieval troops. If players are lucky, and prove successful in returning a Holy Relic to Jerusalem, they may be able to score enough Victory Points to triumph before this final, fatal stage. Let us hope that it is so, oh noble monarch of medieval Europe, for the Black Death is a terrible thing to behold...

- Ed Beach

Click here for the Age of Discovery Design Diary.

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