Limit access to certain more difficult maps to players who have earned a promotion.
Could we limit the selection of maps available for new players, much as we limit the types of games in which they may participate?
Some maps are better suited to introduce a player to the game, while some are complex, long-running, require patient strategy, or otherwise are not as well suited to new players. The Classic, Iberia, Portugal, and many other maps are excellent examples of straight-forward, interesting maps to learn the game; while D-Day: Omaha Beach!, Napoleon, Valley of the Kings, and many others are not easily learned. Similarly, Circus Maximus seems simple, but requires great patience and strategy.
This would both improve gameplay on those more difficult maps, and also speed play, as the problem of deadbeating newbies wouldn't exist on those maps. Making your first promotion would also have more tangible effects -- a whole range of new, interesting maps would open up for you.
First you are confusing "harder" with "differant". When I started out, I BEGAN by playing Age of Merchant.. and gained in rank rather quickly just because the strategy is not like the others. I was able to beat older players who did not bother to read the legend, etc. Also, people just have different "tastes". Some people LIKE the more complicated maps right off and find the standard Risk "boring".
I DO think new players should be excluded from Fog of War. There is no real "benefit" to newer players to play with fog. BUT, when it comes to the maps and Assassin, I think a "pop up" warning is better and more appropriate. Something like "warning, this map has unusual features" or "this is an Assassin game" be sure to READ the instructions BEFORE playing! A link might be provided to a list of "recommended" beginning maps.
In fact, I would like to see that warning posted the first time ANYONE plays Assassin game type.. It seems the vast majority of even experienced players goof the first time or two on that one!
Which brings it to the biggest issue. We really need more detailed instructions. Something that explains Assassin better and that gives a little guidance on what to expect in various maps. Not full details or anything ... folks can peruse the strategy section for that (though a clearer mention of that forum in the instructions might help), BUT something that says "these maps play more or less like standard Risk". These maps have bombardment. Bombardment means you attack, but do not conquer. The last army turns nuetral. These maps have varying bonuses.... etc.