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Black Forest (or "Schwarzwald") is the name of a mountain range in south-west Germany, with mountain peaks going up to 1500 m. The famous Black Forest Cake has it's origins here, as well as cuckoo clocks. The biggest city in the Black Forest is Freiburg.

The Black Forest lies on the eastern side of the Rhine Valley, facing the Vosges, some nineteen miles away. At the beginning of the quaternary epoch, the two ranges formed a single chain of mountains with peaks over 3000m high. Then there was a collapse, similar to that for a rift valley, leaving two fairly symmetrical ranges divided by a truly vast river valley. On the eastern side, the Schwarzwald adjoins the Swabian Alps. Principal cities of the area are Mannheim, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe, Ulm and Freiburg.

The Black Forest is also a map setting in Age of Empires 2. While most maps are designed as plains with the occasional forest area, this map is built as a big forest with plains in it. You begin in one of the openings of the forest (there are as many openings as there are players). There are clear paths to where your allies are.

This has gotten the status of "newbie's level" for some very obvious reasons.

The fact that all movement between cities is made in small paths makes this map ridicolously easy to defend, and a game on this map will often go on and on far into the Imperial Age if the players are even close to being equally good. You only need 3-4 stone walls to have a very hard-to-beat defense in the Feudal Age. You can get one single castle (unless you happen to have two paths leading away from your country) in the Castle Age and nobody will be able to take you. In the Imperial Age you'll only need some fast ground troops to defend against trebuchets. Therefore, it also eliminates most of the stone mining aspect of the game (I always thought that was hard - stone is hard to get, generally, and it's near impossible to build up a good defense without it (YMMV)).
It will render you immune to rushing. Nobody's going to gamble away his production just to make a rush when it's so easily defended against. I.e. you don't have to be fast to stand a chance. Speed is, generally, the hardest thing to get right when you start playing ANY RTS.

Still, it's not as bad as most veteran players make it out. It can be good for some fun - Siege Onager duels in a Black Forest are really fun. The really epic battles you'll many times end up having are a lot more fun and varied than the endless feudal rushes you see on other maps. And it IS a good learning level.

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