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Basic Map Features

Posted May 1st, 2008 at 06:58 PM by Velenne

From "The Cartographer's Scribe":

There are two things which define a map, two things that will determine how it will be played.

Height, for all strategists covet its advantages.
Glyphs, for all players need their bonuses.

Proverbs aside, if you plan your glyphs and heights carefully then your map will probably end up balanced.

Bear in mind the highest points of your map. If there is one high point, put it an equal distance from both players. If there are two, either put them both in the middle, or give one to each player (but be wary of this as encourages turtling). If there is more than 2, try to space them out evenly.

Multiple highest points which are less than or equal to 7 spaces apart (for a flier) is ideal because it will allow many units the ability to cover this distance while still shooting one-another. Putting them further apart will allow one player multiple shots down to an oncoming opponent.

It is rarely advisable to put a random glyph near one player's starting zone. The right (or wrong, depending on who's getting it) glyph here can swing the game from the start. Glyphs should be difficult to take and difficult to hold. In other words, their bonuses should be somewhat commensurate with the effort it takes to have them. Exposed, low ground is usually your best bet.

Fixed glyphs are an excellent way to give your map its own character. A move glyph on a snow map, a wind glyph on a castle map, and a few well-placed face-down pit trap glyphs can keep things interesting.

There are are two things which effect a game that players can do nothing about, two things with which they must contend.

The starting zone, because the designer will tell you how you may deploy.
The shape of the map, because all things in Heroscape are played within the bounds of the Null Space.

Even though it's your best interest to take a hill or a glyph, there's really nothing you can do about the shape of the map and where your starting zones are. As a cartographer, taking these factors into consideration allows you to further distinguish your map.

I've said before that most maps are blobbish affairs. There's nothing necessarily wrong with blobs (or blogs for that matter, except that both sound equally unappetizing) but if you want to change things up, altering your map's footprint is a great option.

Take a look at these three maps which feature similar dominant terrain features:
Redslick Bridge

Each of these maps is made with 1 RotV and 1 RttFF. Each features small areas of elevation and a central road that leads from one starting zone to the other. What separates these maps is their shape. Marr Highway forces a single alley of engagement where players much choose how and when to advance their units. Redslick Bridge initially forces units together, but then opens up to tall elevations. Road Rampage encourages players up the central road but also allows them to avoid it entirely if they wish. There's nothing better or worse about any approach. Either way, once a player deploys their army, they will make a intended decision on how to go about moving it.

Now look at these maps:

Fire Starter

Broken Skyline starts players on the narrow ends of the rectangle, creating a range-heavy map that spreads armies out by virtue of order marker placement. Fire Starter starts players along the wide sides of the rectangle, creating a more melee-friendly map that spreads armies out by virtue of deployment. Finally, Arctic Divide starts players in the corners of the rectangle, striking a melee/range balance (in terms of distance) and giving players the option of how they're going to negotiate reaching their opponent, either directly or by flanking.

Other maps employ "scouting zones" wherein some of the starting spaces are separated entirely from the main zone a good distance ahead. Still others divide the zone in two (usually for team maps). Where you put the starting zones on your maps can have just as profound an effect on the gameplay as height and glyphs.

So for these reasons, I keep the following four themes in mind when I first look at reviewing or designing any map:

* Height
* Glyphs
* Shape
* Starting Zones

These are the Basic Map Features which color the rest of its definition. The rest is what I call "Dominant Map Features" and these will be explored in the next few articles.

Total Comments 1


ZBeeblebrox's Avatar
There is some really good stuff in these blogs, nice addition Velenne.
Posted May 3rd, 2008 at 07:21 AM by ZBeeblebrox ZBeeblebrox is offline
Updated May 3rd, 2008 at 07:22 AM by ZBeeblebrox (Spelling error)
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