|Maximum Population||No change|
|Town Bonuses||+3% Production|
|Default Movement Rate||
|Possible Minerals (Arcanus)|
|Possible Minerals (Myrror)|
Desert is a type of Terrain in the world of Master of Magic. Deserts usually appear in large concentrations, mostly near the equator of both Planes, though isolated Desert tiles are not uncommon across all regions.
Desert tiles provide no benefits to Population Growth or Food production, making Desert areas hard to colonize properly. However, Deserts do provide a small bonus to Production.
Although most Desert tiles are not too beneficial, a large proportion of them will contain some type of Mineral - and usually very useful ones. Deserts are the only place to find Gems and Quork Crystals, both are fairly common. On Myrror, it is also possible to find the highly-valuable Crysx Crystals here.
The Change Terrain spell will turn a Desert into a Grassland tile, losing its Production bonus but gaining a significant bonus to the Maximum Population of nearby towns. This spell cannot turn any tile into a Desert, but there is no real reason to do so anyway. The Gaia's Blessing spell will provide the same transformation, but does so automatically at the start of each turn - turning Deserts near the affected town into Grassland tiles.
Geographical phenomenon, particularly related to weather, end up leaving some areas of the world parched. Insufficient rainfall, and the inability of sandy terrain to absorb and accumulate water, result in entire swaths of land becoming completely arid - incapable of sustaining more than the most basic types of plant and animal life. These deserts are open plains where life itself is difficult to say the least.
As a result, the Desert presents a problem for settlement. Without rainfall or fertile ground it cannot be worked for food. There are no sufficiently-large animals to sustain any sort of hunting industry either. With no plants to eat, herds of animals cannot graze here.
On the other hand, the same conditions that prevent life from taking hold in the Desert appear to condone the creation of non-biological resources. Deserts in the worlds of Arcanus and Myrror are perfect for the formation of Gems and crystals, both of which are extremely valuable. As a result, towns may emerge on the edge of such regions in the hope of harvesting these rare resources.
As in our own world, Deserts on Arcanus and Myrror tend to appear near the equatorial regions. They are rarely if ever found near the poles (where Tundra, another kind of arid terrain, is much more common).
Deserts often appear as entire areas covered in sand, rather than in isolated patches. A Desert region can be many tiles wide and, as explained below, largely uninhabitable. Towns will likely survive only on the edges of such a region, rarely right in its midst.
Town Development Edit
Desert tiles pose a problem for settlement. On the one hand, they do not provide a food source for a city to grow and develop, and only a very mild bonus to production. On the other hand, they often contain rare and extremely valuable Minerals which must be exploited.
Therefore, new Settlements are often constructed on the edge of a Desert, within reach of these Minerals, but also within reach of highly-fertile tiles like Rivers or Grassland which will provide sustenance. If a Settlement is placed near to too many Desert tiles, it may have significant trouble growing. Placing a town near Deserts that do not contain valuable Minerals is wasteful, and will often lead to a stagnant town that provides little benefit.
Maximum Population Edit
- Main article: Maximum Population
In other words, if a town were to be surrounded entirely by Desert tiles, its Maximum Population would be exactly 0. This means that not only will the town not grow at all, but will actually lose a few citizens each turn. Fortunately, negative Population Growth cannot destroy a town (it will never drop below 1,000 population due to negative growth), but will likely never grow above 1,000 either. This makes Desert areas extremely unfavourable for settlement.
Furthermore, Maximum Population also determines how much Food can be produced in a town before inefficiency sets in. Once this limit of Food production is reached, additional citizens assigned to Farmer duty will produce much less Food - thus being inefficient. Higher Maximum Population means a higher Food production efficiency threshold, thus allowing more Farmers to be assigned and still have full efficiency.
As a result, in a town surrounded by Deserts, only a very small amount of Food can be produced even if all citizens are set to Farmer duty. It may struggle to produce enough food to feed itself - again resulting in negative Population Growth, and struggling to gain more than a few citizens.
To counter this effect, if a town is set up near a Desert area, make sure that it also has access to high-yield terrain such as Grassland, River, River Mouth, or Forests with the Wild Game special. This will offset the poor fertility of the Deserts, allowing the town to grow at least a little. This will help the town make good use of the Minerals found in the nearby Desert. If no Minerals are present though - you may want to reconsider building a town next to the Desert at all!
Production Bonus Edit
Each Desert tile within a town's vicinity provides that town with a Production bonus of +3%.
This 3% is calculated based on the total amount of Production yielded by the town's Farmers and Workers. For example, if the town's population gives a total of 100 Production, each Desert tile in its vicinity adds +3. Note that total production is rounded down to a whole number, but only after all bonuses have been added together. For reference, point the survey tool at a town or proposed site for settlement to see the total Production bonus given by all tiles within its catchment area.
Increased Production is very useful, as it speeds up construction times of both Town Buildings and Units. With the Housing or Trade Goods projects it is also possible to turn this extra Production into Population Growth or Gold (respectively).
Though Deserts don't give a very large Production bonus compared to Mountains, it is nonetheless a respectable bonus. Of course, since they don't aid in Population Growth, Deserts are overall inferior to Forests or Hills. This all changes of course if the Desert contains a high-yield Mineral, as explained below.
Common Minerals Edit
Though a Desert is rarely beneficial on its own, this type of Terrain will often contain very valuable Minerals of one of three different types. The presence of such a Mineral turns a Desert tile into a highly desirable location for settlement.
On Arcanus, the most common Minerals found in Desert tiles are Gems. This is the most valuable Gold-producing Mineral, giving a nearby town an automatic bonus of +5. Gems also exist on Myrror Desert tiles, but are less common due to the prevalence of crystals.
Crysx Crystals are often considered the most valuable Minerals. They provide a +5 bonus to nearby towns - a fairly large bonus, giving about half as much Power as an Arcanus Node. Crysx Crystals appear only on the plane of Myrror, and are rarer than Quork Crystals but still not too rare. A new Settlement controlling two or more deposits of Crysx Crystals is an extremely important strategic asset, which must be guarded as zealously as a Node.
All three of the above Minerals are exclusive to Desert tiles - they are not found anywhere else. As a result, players will sometimes build a town near such minerals simply for the opportunity they present - even if the town has no real chance of developing properly (due to the infertility of Desert tiles). Nonetheless, it is often recommended to place such a town in a way that it controls the Mineral(s) but also has access to growth-providing tiles like Rivers or Grassland. Even if these are not available, it may still be a good idea to build the town simply to capitalize on the high value of these minerals.
Desert tiles are flat and open terrain, and so are easy to cross.
Units with the Non-Corporeal ability can enter this tile at 0.5 Movement Points.
Roads and Road Construction Edit
A single unit of Engineers will take 4 turns to construct a Road on a Desert tile - only slightly slower than on Grassland. Each additional unit of Engineers reduces this by 50% (rounded up). Therefore, 2 units will take 2 turns, and 3 or more units will take only 1 turn to build this road. Additional Engineers (beyond 3) do not speed this up any further.
Once a road has been constructed, the cost to enter this Desert tile changes to 0.5 for all units, regardless of their movement type. Note however that Swimming units still cannot enter this tile, since they cannot move on land.
If the road was constructed on Myrror, or affected by the Enchant Road spell, movement costs to enter this tile are completely removed for most units. In other words, Walking and Flying units can enter this tile without spending any movement points. Non-Corporeal units cannot use this special road, and will still require 0.5 Movement Points to enter the tile.
Change Terrain Edit
This increases the tile's Maximum Population bonus to any nearby town to +1.5. However, the tile no longer gives any Production bonuses.
Most towns will benefit greatly from this change, as increased population size often outweighs the loss of the Production bonus. Towns near Deserts are already quite limited in Maximum Population to begin with, so converting at least a few of the nearby Deserts into Grassland is generally a good idea. This is particularly true when building a town in a Desert region simply for access to one of the high-value minerals. Note that you can actually target the mineral tile itself with a Change Terrain spell without damaging the mineral!
If you do wish to preserve the Production bonus, consider casting Change Terrain twice on the same Desert tile. It will first turn into a Grassland tile, and then into a Forest. The Forest gives the same Production bonus as a Desert, but also provides a small increase to Maximum Population.
Change Tiles into Deserts Edit
The Change Terrain spell cannot be used to change any type of Terrain into Deserts. There should be no reason to do so either, as Deserts are inferior to most other Terrain types anyway - and Change Terrain cannot add new Desert minerals to the tile.
Gaia's Blessing Edit
While the Nature spell Gaia's Blessing is affecting a town, each Desert tile within the town's catchment area has a 10% chance each turn to transform into a Grassland tile automatically. This is the same effect performed by the Change Terrain spell (see above) except it happens automatically each turn while Gaia's Blessing is in effect, for no additional cost.
At the start of each turn, the game goes through each Desert tile in the town's vicinity, and rolls a random number between 1 and 10. If the number comes up "10", that tile is altered into a Grassland tile, and the game moves on to the next Desert tile (if any) and rolls again.
Note that if this spell is cast on a town that is benefiting from the Production bonuses from many nearby Desert tiles, prolonged use of the Gaia's Blessing spell will lead to that town losing much of this bonus - but gaining a large Maximum Population bonus instead. This can be beneficial or detrimental, depending on your strategy.
This makes the Gaia's Blessing spell exceptionally useful when cast on a town in the middle of a Desert region. You could put a Settlement right in the middle of a large Desert, cast the spell on it, and within a few turns that town will begin growing very rapidly as the Desert begins to disappear. This also means that Desert regions, largely uninhabitable to other wizards, can be easily claimed by a powerful Nature mage! Again, note that this causes no damage to any nearby Minerals, making it possible for Nature wizards to easily capitalize on all high-value minerals within their empire's reach.