I still never visited the four little islands.
They are very useful individually when the game just WON'T give you that primary skill (:edit) that you want. For instance recently I played the map as barbarian and my main hero was stuck at an annoying 9/4/1/3 for much of the game until I visited the +1 spell power island.
Blue and I fought over the Lighthouse (with him winning) for most of the game but nobody bothered with the town or the gold mine.
I don't know what version you are playing (I have updated many times myself and forgot to upload it to my site and I'm at work right now), but I recall weakening the town defenses many times and allowing the castle to be built. The mine is mainly there as a small bonus for "controlling" the island along with the town.
As for recent updates, all I did was move a little bit the knight and warlock castles to make everything more symmetrical... and maybe add/remove a few rare resource piles. I don't document changes.
This map is still quite fun and would probably make an excellent free-for-all multiplayer game if the human players agree to space themselves evenly.
By space themselves, you mean not start up next to each other? In any case, in the map editor it is really quite fast and convenient to change the colors of the castles (all placed colored player castles are "default" so you can delete and replace them at will). Convenient to make the map 2v4 to make any faction allied with any faction, not necessarily knight & wizard vs the rest.
My only other comment is that I'm not sure Normal is the correct map difficulty. There isn't a whole lot of room for error here since you can never fully close off any conquered territory. OTOH, most of the stock Hard or Expert maps have some sort of unbalanced/unusual starting conditions. What do you think?
I think it's easy enough. I play on normal difficulty and played all factions myself, except warlock, and won without too much of a hassle. This is the nature of Free For All maps - AI players are opportunistic and will always prefer to go after the weakest AI opponent whenever they can - rather than you. BUT I play more slowly and conservatively than most players though and can never get a good score, I usually end up with a level 3 critter rank like royal mummy or griffin. And I never reload - what happens happens.
To make it a very nasty challenge though, if you have a roommate, try what I did with Darmani on our very first shot at this map: I changed the ally settings in the map editor to have blue and green vs the other 4 players all allied to each other. The computer players will then become extremely nasty and we almost got our butts kicked several times. Well Darmani did almost die and I saved him, but to be honest that's what happens when a slow conservative player (me) teams up with an aggressive expansionist risk taker (him) . Yellow, Red & Orange rushed his weak castles, he was spreading too thin, while I had only the purple barbarian to worry about and it took me far too long to eliminate him.