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The Desert and the Mountain - Empires of Africa


Retired Moderator
Nov 14, 2003

The dry sirocco wind whistles over the vast Sahara wastes. It is the wind of change...

Immense camel caravans carry the treasures of the Orient south over the desert. But where they once made for legendary Audagost, now they head for Djenné, Gao, or Katsina - new trading centres where fortunes may be won and lost. In West Africa, in the lands of the mighty river Niger, the ancient mercantile empire of Ghana falters, and Mali, Songhai, and others vie for control of the trade routes and the unimaginable wealth they promise.

The dry sirocco wind whistles over the vast Sahara wastes. It is the wind of change...

The peace of Lake Chad and the boundless savannahs of the centre of the continent is shattered by the harsh trumpets of a new power. The petty chieftaincies that have dominated the lives of thousands for centuries are growing, merging, coalescing, into great kingdoms. The feared cavalry of the ruthless Kanem-Bornu empire wheel across the plains, bringing the faith of the Prophet on the point of a spear. Can anything stop their bloodthirsty expansion and fanaticism?

The dry sirocco wind whistles over the vast Sahara wastes. It is the wind of change...

Where once pharaohs sailed up the eternal Nile and armies of slaves laboured to build the greatest monuments of antiquity, new powers, more formidable even than those of ancient Egypt, have emerged. Under the peerless Saladin, the Ayyubid dynasty is establishing itself as the superpower of North Africa. To the south, where the Nubian sun beats down upon the desert plains and where the White Nile meets the Blue, the Christian kingdoms of Makuria and Alwah quake. Can they survive in the face of the mightiest Muslim armies on the planet?

The dry sirocco wind whistles over the vast Sahara wastes. It is the wind of change...

Far to the east, the ancient civilisation of Ethiopia has endured for centuries, outlasting dynasties and empires alike. But now it faces the greatest double crisis in its history. The Muslims of the Red Sea coast are uniting and, under their mysterious left-handed leader, threaten invasion of the Christian empire. Most terrifying of all, a deadly insurrection has broken out, led by Yodit and her Jewish zealots. Can the empire survive this combination of external and internal threats? Can the Ark of the Covenant be kept safe in its mountain home? Or can Yodit lead her freedom fighters to victory and the re-establishment of an African Zion?

It is now - between the years AD 1000 and 1600 - that the fate of North Africa will be decided. As three great religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - meet and clash, great empires will appear, flourish and vanish again like flowers in the desert. You must struggle for control of land, of resources, of the people's affections, and - most of all - of the all-important resources and the trade routes to them. Control the trade routes, and you can become rich and powerful. Lose them to your rivals, and you will wither.

This painting was done by an unknown Ethiopian artist in 1950. It depicts the last battle of the legendary Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, or "Grañ", the "Left-Handed". In the sixteenth century, Grañ; united the armies of the Adalian sultanate and led them on a holy war against Ethiopia, bringing the empire to its knees and wreaking devastation throughout the country. As the emperor fled before him, Grañ; claimed to be sent by God and to be impervious to bullets, and, it was said, he could chop through the trunk of a tree with a single blow of his immense sword. But at this critical moment, the Portuguese made contact with Ethiopia and came to their rescue with a tiny force of musketeers (depicted in the top left-hand corner of this picture). Grañ, despite his boast, was killed by a Portuguese bullet, and the Christian empire was saved.

Play the scenario and see if you will be so lucky!
The scenario

In this scenario, the player can take control of one of ten different civilisations - Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, Hausaland, Ouaddai, Makuria, Alwah, Ethiopia and Beta Israel. There are five distinct tech trees, each of which is wholly unique: that is, there are NO shared techs between the different trees (although there are a few duplicates). This means that that the Science Adviser screen will look different depending on which faction you are playing.

The factions are divided into the five tech trees like this:

West African - Ghana, Mali, Songhai (and non-playable Benin)
Central African - Kanem-Bornu, Hausaland and Ouaddai
Nubian - Makuria, Alwah
Ethiopian - Ethiopia
Beta Israel - Beta Israel

There are also a sixth and seventh tech grouping, but they contain only dummy techs, because all the civilisations in them are non-playable. They are -

Arabian - Almoravids, Hafsids, Ayyubids, Bejans, Adal, and Yemen
Tribal - Beja and Chollo

Having different tech trees for the different civilisations means that they also have different units, improvements, and wonders (although again there are a few duplicates). It also means that different civilisations have different routes to winning the game and different problems to overcome.

Rule changes

In this scenario, it is impossible to move onto desert terrain. The only exceptions are Workers and camel-mounted units, and also barbarians.

Jungles cannot be settled. But mountains can be settled! Only Ethiopia and Beta Israel can build viable cities on them, however, because only they can see the Agew resource that makes them productive.

Most civilisations must research an Agriculture tech before they can build Workers.

Settlers and Workers cannot be captured.

Armies can be made up of only two units, not three.

Golden Ages and malcontent caused by whipping both last ten turns, not twenty.

The luxuries available are:

Gold (now a luxury)

The West African civilisations

For Ghana, Mali, and Songhai the game is all about trade. For these civilisations, it functions a little like the system used in the Age of Discovery conquest, but in reverse. The player must find resources in the region of the river Niger and the southern forests, link them to his cities, and build improvements. These will then sporadically generate Trade Items. These Trade Items must then be picked up by another unit and carried to the Trading Posts - of which there are three: one each in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Taking a Trade Item to a Trading Post gives a cash and VP bonus, because the Trading Posts are also VP locations.

The Trading Posts are all within the borders of AI-controlled civilisations. So what's to stop the AI just plonking its own units in the VP locations and preventing the player delivering a Trade Item? Simple: only camel-mounted units can enter the Trading Post. The player must use these units to carry Trade Items over the Sahara Desert to their destination.

Note that it is possible to build hidden-nationality camel-mounted bandits, which can be used to ambush the trade caravans in the desert. The solution? Research Desert Warfare and recruit camel-mounted warriors to see them off! Thus, there is scope for an almost naval warfare sort of subgame in the Sahara.

Although they share a tech tree, Ghana, Mali and Songhai each have their own Unique Unit. Their different starting locations also provide their own challenges.

The central African civilisations

The key to success for Kanem-Bornu, Hausaland and the Ouaddai sultanate is expansion and warfare. They are hampered in several ways. There are not an awful lot of improvements they can build, and hardly any Wonders. Moreover, they cannot research Agriculture until late in the game - which means no Workers until then! To offset this, the central African empires can research a wide range of powerful Specialists. They can also, at an early stage, build Nomads, cheap settler-type units. Expansion is quick and simple, and a selection of cheap and powerful military units will allow them to overrun their enemies - provided they expand faster and more effectively than their aggressive rivals, of course. In the later game, however, the Nomad unit is replaced by the Founder unit, a much more expensive settler. Later techs allow new governments which are better suited to building and less suited to expanding or supporting large armies. The player must decide how quickly to change from the earlier, semi-nomadic form of society to the later, more settled form.

Although they share a tech tree, Kanem-Bornu, Hausaland and Ouaddai each have their own Unique Unit. Their different starting locations also provide their own challenges.

The Nubian kingdoms

Makuria and Alwah find themselves sandwiched between more powerful neighbours - Ouaddai and Kanem-Bornu to the west, Ethiopia to the east, and the Ayyubids to the north. They can build a number of useful improvements and Wonders and can build a strong culture, and they have some handy units that can muster a good defence against invaders, but they are less powerful than their neighbours. Their special route to success lies in diplomacy. In real life, Makuria and Alwah survived for centuries because of the "Baqt" or pact that Makuria signed with Egypt, whereby the two nations, one Christian and one Muslim, agreed to co-exist peacefully. In this scenario, the Baqt is a buildable Wonder which allows a diplomatic victory. The player must survive long enough to build it and remain on sufficiently good terms with the other powers to seize victory!

Although they share a tech tree, Makuria and Alwah both have different Unique Units.


At the start of the game, Ethiopia is the most powerful playable kingdom. It is the most settled, with the most cities and the most powerful units that are immediately buildable. But it faces a crisis: it is in not one but two locked wars - one with Beta Israel, who have powerful units within its own borders, and one with the formidable Adalian civilisation located in modern-day Somalia. Ethiopia faces an onslaught and it will take skill to survive. It cannot move on the first turn, to give Beta Israel time to strike.

Fortunately, this civilisation has some things in its favour. It can build viable cities in the mountains, and these will be easy to defend. Moreover, this civilisation has a large number of culture-producing improvements and wonders to build. It can build up a very powerful cultural rating, which could be enough to win the game -if it can survive that long. A good strategy is to retreat to the extensive mountains of the Horn of Africa and build and regroup there.

However, if Ethiopia can retain or recapture its coast, there is the possibility of trading overseas - for Yemen is friendly and has many useful goods. That means there will be war in the Red Sea, since the Arabian powers wish to control this waterway and its vital trade routes; fortunately, the Ethiopians have a number of naval units at their disposal to wage war in this theatre.

Beta Israel

Beta Israel potentially offer the greatest challenge. They are Ethiopian Jews, who spent much of the Middle Ages living semi-autonomously within Ethiopia, paying homage to the Christian emperor. They also spent much of their time rebelling against the empire. One such rebellion is said to have broken out in around AD 1000, led by the mysterious - and beautiful - Queen Yodit.

In this scenario, therefore, Beta Israel begin with some very powerful units right in the middle of the Ethiopian heartlands - but they have NO cities and NO settlers. When this happens, a civilisation follows slightly different rules from usual. It will survive from turn to turn even with no population, but only as long as it doesn't lose a unit. The moment a unit is lost, the game is over. But if the civilisation succeeds in capturing an enemy city, this becomes the new capital and it reverts to "standard" rules.

Therefore, the first task for Beta Israel must be to capture an Ethiopian city - but to do so without any loss. If this initial attack succeeds, Beta Israel must build up their strength and prepare for a tough guerrilla war - for the Ethiopians can be relied upon to hit back! Luckily Beta Israel have a number of crafty tricks up their sleeves: spies and assassins, espionage missions, and - of course - a lot of enormous boulders... They must use these to wreak all the damage they can on the Ethiopians. In particular, the Ethiopians have three Holy Relic units. They have no special function other than defence, but they are worth 1,000 Victory Points each to whoever destroys them.

Difficulty levels

I play at Monarch (with variable success) so that's the level it's designed for. You may well find it too easy if you're a better player than me (probable), so ratchet up the difficulty level accordingly.

The West African civs are relatively easy to win with (partly because the AI is not good at the Trade Unit business). Mali is probably the easiest of these.

The Central African civs are relatively easy to do well with, but you will need to work hard to win. Hausaland is probably the easiest and Ouaddai the hardest.

The Nubian civs are tough: you could, in theory, win via cultural domination, but it's easier to go for diplomacy, which means avoiding war where possible. This is hard when the Ayyubids are breathing down your neck. Makuria is better for warfare and Alwah is better for expansion.

Ethiopia should provide quite a tough challenge: simply staying alive to begin with, and building a good infrastructure and cultural buildings in the later game.

Beta Israel are very variable: the more of your starting units you can retain after the first few turns, the better your chances. Note that this is the only civ that can carry out espionage missions, and unlike the main game, they should be affordable.
New version

As of 20 October 2008, this is version 1.5. Have a look at this post for a list of the main changes.


Please note that this scenario requires Conquests 1.22. If you don't have Conquests, it can't be very expensive these days. And if you don't have 1.22, you can download the patch for free from the CivIII website itself. I think it will run without the 1.22 patch, but some of the text will be screwy.

The files and instructions are all here. Be sure to download the optional soundtrack for that full desert experience!


As of version 1.5, the scenario includes four multiplayer maps. A multiplayer game cannot contain more than eight civs in total, so each of these maps focuses on just part of the main scenario:

  • Desert MP 1 allows you to play as Ghana, Mali, or Songhai.
  • Desert MP 2 allows you to play as Hausaland, Kanem-Bornu, or Ouaddai.
  • Desert MP 3 allows you to play as Makuria or Alwah.
  • Desert MP 4 allows you to play as Ethiopia or Beta Israel.
The only rule change in these maps is that there is no Domination victory. If you want to win through conquest, you will have to eliminate all of your rivals.

The MP maps are effectively mini-scenarios, taken from the main scenario. In the main scenario, civs from one region often interfere in other regions in a not-very-historical way. You might prefer to play the MP maps, even in single-player, if you dislike this and would rather focus on just one region.


I scrounged stuff from practically everywhere, so if I've accidentally left anyone out, please let me know.

Special thanks to Asclepius for the title banner on this thread, Aaglo for the Boulder unit, R8XFT for the Sultan Abd al Karim leaderhead, and GRM7584 for the Fortress of Fasilides and the Throne Hall. Thanks also to Sword of Geddon for help with some of the graphics and for finding some of the music tracks. One of them is by his old teacher! Thanks go to Rambuchan for help with the music too.

Leaderheads are by R8XFT, Civ Army s. 1994, ShiroKobbure, Rita Poon, Grandraem, and sween32.

Popheads are by R8XFT and adapted from work by Civ Army s. 1994, and ShiroKobbure.

Units are by Kinboat, UtahJazz7, R8XFT, Civ Army s. 1994, Dom Pedro II, Aaglo, Riptide, Deaze, CamJH, Aluminium, Lab Monkey, embryodead, JimmyH, and Sandris.

Improvements and Wonders are by Ukas, Lusikka755, R8XFT, Bjornlo, Arne, Aaglo, Kenta’arka, AK47, and Lucky Dragon.

City graphics are by Arne, RedAlert, and Sword of Geddon. There's a resource graphic by Pounder too.

Some of the tech tree icons are by mrtn and odintheking. Other graphics are by Varwnos and Traianus.

I must also thank the beta testers, who gave lots of useful advice, especially Ciceronian. Special thanks also go to CivChris for his suggestions and revisions to the map.

A note on accuracy

This scenario runs from AD 1000 to AD 1600, but not everything in it really happened between those dates: players must research techs that were actually known before this time, and they can build units and Wonders that actually came later. This is simply to add a bit more variety to the game. Similarly, there are a couple of units that didn't really exist, but could plausibly have done had history turned out a little different.

With Beta Israel in particular, current scholarship suggests that the military leader known to legend as Queen Yodit was probably actually the leader of a hostile army from outside Ethiopia, made up of pagans, rather than of an insurrection of the Jewish Ethiopians. But I've decided to go with the traditional view, because it makes for a more interesting game situation! Beta Israel were never really a separate political entity, as represented here, being rather a group within the Ethiopian empire with varying degrees of self-determination and tendency to rebel; but this game doesn't model that sort of thing very well. So here they are a separate civ, in a locked war.

Similarly, the sultanates of the Horn of Africa weren't really in a locked war with Ethiopia - relations were often cordial - but that makes for a more boring game.

The map

Despite the vastness of Africa, this scenario is played on a relatively small map. This is because I think these sorts of games are more fun - less micro-managing, and each city (and each battle) becomes that much more significant.

Note that the geography of North Africa has been tweaked a little (especially in the Ethiopia region) to improve gameplay. Sinai is impassable.
Some pictures...

Beta Israel have successfully taken over the Ethiopian empire, but their troubles are far from over. Ouaddai has declared war and, to soften the ground before its armies arrive, has infiltrated the region with agents who are busy destroying the infrastructure and diverting the troops' attention from more serious matters. Meanwhile, the Adalian sultanate are sending some suspicious-looking troops from the southeast, Alwah is expanding to the west and south and may become a threat, and the Ayubbids are launching some kind of expeditionary force into the region.

The first trader from Songhai begins a perilous journey across the desert. Will this oasis be his last chance for a rest before reaching Marrakech?

Just another victory in the expansion of the mighty Kanem-Bornu empire. Can anything stop this well-oiled military machine?

The tech screen for Mali.

This is what happens when you try to play diplomatically - everyone stronger than you uses your country as a thoroughfare without even asking.

A very dodgy character.

All that way, just to ensure that Mansa Musa has a suitably enormous nugget of gold to tie his horse to.
I will try this one and let you know what I think as soon as I get a chance--probably some time this weekend. Wow. I've been looking forward to this scenerio for a long time. If it's anywhere near Rood and Dragon, I'll be well pleased.

Here's a pre-playing thank you for putting the time and effort into making this scenerio. Thank you!
Congratulations on getting this one finished Plotinus. I know this is another high quality, action packed classic, so well done and thanks!
Lookes great, downloading now...

You have done yourself, CFC and Civ3 proud with this fine creation Plot. I commend your dedication, patience, curiosity, scholarly qualities, creativity and generosity.

What's most pleasing about this release is that it shows:

a) Civ 3 modding can still really climb to new and greater heights (well we knew this already).
b) Africa is finally represented in an African way in a scenario.
c) Game goals need not revolve arond Conquest and Domination.
d) That you've found time for this in amongst your travels and studies.
e) Evocative artwork from the areas and periods in question can be included with succcess and panache, making it a more evocative experience (again, we knew this from my scen ;) )

Now I need to come up with something to solve the same problem I have as TLC! :gripe:
[TLC] You sleep? I'm amazed, the amount you seem to do. Presumably you gave up eating a fair old while ago.

Thanks for all the comments so far. I hope the scenario lives up to them! In particular, it's very gratifying to see kind words from seasoned creators like UtahJazz and R8XFT, without whom scenarios such as this would be completely impossible - or at least a lot less interesting.
Thanks Plotinus for this amazing scenario! I've started playing it and I am really enjoying it! :goodjob:
Started as Falasha and I was able to conquer and keep all Ethiopian cities including Massawa (the Adalians were unlucky in their attacks). Now for expension and invasion... :groucho:
I'm downloading (thanks, its size is within the range of my poor modem, ah R8XFT, what did you do!?) and I will be trying this over the weekend. This is real unknown territory to me, as my knowledge of African early history is, to say, very rudimentary. I hope to learn a lot here (and have fun!), thanks Plotinus.

EDIT. Well, I don't know if it my connection or CFC, but I get less than 400 bytes/sec, that's more than 35 hours of downloading! I guess I will have to try later :(
I just downloaded and played a bit of this scenario, and am very impressed! Here are some of the things I liked and didn't like.

First of all, I don't know what the big deal is with the size. I managed to download both the main file and the music file in a total of less than 10 minutes. I spent more time extracting these things than downloading them.

I like the African and Muslim music. It adds a nice flavor to the game and puts you in the mood. I also like the city-scape graphics, with the sharp difference between the African and Muslim cities. I like the game play. I played as the Ghanans and managed to amass a huge army of swordsmen and crushed the Songhai. However, I ran into a problem when trying to send wagadan caravans, with gold, to trading posts in Morocco. First, I built a road through the Sahara, running along the west coast of Africa. Then I sent waves of these camel caravans, thinking I'd be able to do this swiftly. When I arrived at the trading post, it was occupied by a hidden-nationality camel bandit! I attempted to attack and was defeated. Is this intentional? Perhaps there is some way of removing their ability to enter the trading post.

Overall, however, a great scenario as always, Plotinus! :goodjob:
[TLC] Well, I meant you do so much Civ-type stuff, at least - you always seem to play new mods/scenarios, beta test, and make your own at the same time. I assume you do other stuff as well!

Good to get some playability feedback. Thanks for the comments!

[beboy] That sounds like a great start. I find that provided you play the first few moves well, the Falasha are not difficult. The AI does not play Ethiopia well. If you've actually wiped out Ethiopia, it shouldn't be too hard to go on an absolute rampage and rack up the points. Now, when you've done that, try it from the "other side", which I think is quite a bit harder.

[Nanocyborgasm] Well, I downloaded it myself before making the thread (just to test it) and it took about half an hour on the university "good" connection. Not bad given that it took all night to upload the damn thing.

There isn't a bandit unit preplaced at the Trading Post, but there's always a possibility that one may take up residence there. So it is sort of intentional, or, to put it another way, these bandits are one of the problems you must overcome in getting your caravans to their destination. Note that you can build them yourself if you research Piracy. The most reliable course of action, though, is to research Desert Warfare, which will give you more powerful camel units.

A cunning idea to build a road over the Sahara! Of course, it forces you to go for only one of the Trading Posts. There are two others, so trying them is another option when one becomes inaccessible for some reason.
Plotinus said:
There isn't a bandit unit preplaced at the Trading Post, but there's always a possibility that one may take up residence there. So it is sort of intentional, or, to put it another way, these bandits are one of the problems you must overcome in getting your caravans to their destination. Note that you can build them yourself if you research Piracy. The most reliable course of action, though, is to research Desert Warfare, which will give you more powerful camel units.

A cunning idea to build a road over the Sahara! Of course, it forces you to go for only one of the Trading Posts. There are two others, so trying them is another option when one becomes inaccessible for some reason.

I'll try both of those ideas, thanks.

Here's another question: Can cities be settled in Oases?
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