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ARV Maps - June 2017

Posted June 28th, 2017 at 04:36 PM by HS Codex

Map Craft
Map Size In Map Making
By: BiggaBullfrog


All right, map making time! Go to your collection and choose what youíre going to use. What kind of map do you want to make? Do you want to make a huge, epic battlefield? Or would you prefer a smaller map for a quick and nasty skirmish? How varied should the height be?

This is the first of a few articles that we in the ARV will be producing to help mapmakers improve their skills. In this article, weíll be going over map sizes, discussing topics such as how large a map should be and how high you should build it. Our focus will be competitive maps, although you can apply these principles to casual use.

ButÖ Why?

Letís answer the big question first. Why is map size and relative height variation an important concept in map making? Why will knowing this help you become a better mapmaker both competitively and casually?

Iím glad you asked. Creating an effective map size is a basic yet vital skill when creating a map, and itís all about knowing your target audience. Are you about to have an epic battle of 1000+ point armies? Then a small map consisting of only one Battle for the Underdark master set isnít what youíre looking for. On the other hand, if youíre looking for a quick 300 point game, you donít want to use all four of your master sets along with terrain expansions.

Usually when making a competitive map, there is a limit on how much terrain you are allowed to use. For example, the Battlefields of Valhalla group limited map submissions to 1 master set and 3 terrain expansions. In the Architects of Valhalla group, we limit the terrain to 1 master set and 2 terrain expansions. Other groups have had similar restrictions.

There are a few reasons for these restrictions on terrain. One is practicality of terrain use for the tournament organizerís sake: itís easier to assemble a group of maps if they donít have huge terrain requirements. A small collection can go a long way when maps require only a couple sets each. Another reason is map size, which we will cover in depth shortly.

Basically, once you know what kinds of games youíre trying to accommodate, youíll be able to create maps accordingly. For the competitive scene, map size and terrain used is vital to a tournament organizerís decision when selecting maps.

What is a good footprint?

First off, for those who donít know what is meant by ďfootprint,Ē it is the size of the map. Basically, how much room it takes on a table.

When creating a competitive map, itís important to balance the size of the mapís footprint. Too small, and youíll have armies attacking each other immediately without any strategy allowed to develop. Too large, and it will take a few rounds before attacks begin, and no one likes to spend the first half of a tournament game developing their army from the start zone. You want to strive for that sweet in-between spot where the game isnít decided on turn one of round one, but there will still be action by the beginning of round two at the latest.

Like so much with map making, there isnít a firm rule of ďif your map is X hexes by X hexes then it will be perfect for tournament play.Ē If you take a look through the BoV Display Thread, youíll see maps of all sizes. Some are smaller, like Fossil and Dance of the Dryads, and some are larger, like Elswin Plateau and Badru Valley. Even in the ARV, with (currently) eight maps receiving the stamp of tournament approval, we already have a range of sizes. And there are plenty of maps scattered through the middle.

So how can you tell what a good footprint is? While there is no set formula, there are some tips and tricks available to help guide you to the correct size.

First off, you generally donít want figures to be able to attack enemy figures on turn one. When one player can get a full turn of attacks on the other player before they get a chance to react it can be frustrating, especially if that first turn determines the course of the game. This means youíll have to pay attention to common threat ranges of figuresóhow far they can move and where their range will let them attack. Common figures to consider for this are Krav Maga Agents (6 move, 7 range), Syvarris (5 move, 9 range), and the Majors (5 move, double-spaced, 8 range).

While on this topic, there is another almost controversial unit with a scary threat range: Zelrig. With 6 move (sped along by flying) and a 7 range explosion attack, he is known as one of the scariest figures, with the potential to bomb the opponentís start zone. And, frankly, sometimes itís difficult to make it so your map doesnít allow a turn one Z-bomb. That said, while Zelrig is scary, heís far from impossible to beat, and his success depends on how many common figures his opponent has. Against some armies he has little utility, so a map that enables the Z-bomb isnít the end of the world (I know of many maps that are often used in tournaments that allow a turn one attack from Zelrig). It is, however, a factor to consider while building your map.

Another trick to use to measure effective map size is to consider how long it will take figures to move across the map. Heroscaper lefton4ya has a good rule of thumb when he suggests 5 move single-spaced figures be able to move across the map in three turns. Thatís also a good general rule to keep in mind when considering movement from one end to the other laterally. Youíll also notice that many competitive maps require two turns for both 5 and 6 move figures to reach any glyphs, and at least two or three turns to reach the highest point on the map. Now, all of these numbers are flexible; if your mapís numbers are a little lower or higher then itís not a huge deal. Youíre the one who knows what youíre going for, after all. This is also considers only the fastest route, while there may sometimes be a slower route on higher ground or one thatís more protected.

A final guideline for the mapís footprint is, well, the footprint. Tournament directors are looking for maps that fit on a table with room to spare for cards and dice. If your map canít sit on a table without spilling over the edges, youíll want to reconsider its size. This also helps with map transportation, as some tournament directors will want to bring maps pre-built. The smaller a map is, the easier it will fit on a board for transportation. (But again, not too small. Itís all about finding that balance.)

In the end, your map shouldnít begin the action without any chance for strategic development, but you also should not require multiple rounds to get your army from the start zone into position. Generally, I shoot for a map that allows a couple of turns for development, with some small skirmishes beginning at the end of the first round.

How high can you go?

Any seasoned Heroscape player (and most new ones) will tell you that height is one of the most important factors on a map. It draws armies out of their start zones and creates points of conflict. But if you look at maps commonly used in tournament play, youíll notice that most of them donít go super high.

The reason for this is a practical gameplay one. The higher a map goes, the more likely it is to be dominated by ranged figures. High ground is easily protected, and if melee is going to have a hard time climbing, ranged figures will be able to pick them off before they get close. If both armies have range, or if both are primarily melee, the winner of the map will usually be decided by who secures the high ground first. While height is used to create interesting and dynamic gameplay across the board, too much height makes for games that are neither interesting nor dynamic. And while scenarios of armies storming a hill or castle are fun in casual play, that fun disappears when itís a competitive game and your tactics are trumped by the strategy of ďI have the high ground: I win.Ē If height is too high and too easily defended, not even strong glyphs can allow an army to combat it.

So what is too high? Again, thereís no specific answer to that. A glance at competitive maps shows that the average is four or five levels, but there are others with more or less. Itís important to find the correct balance for your map through playtesting, as many factors can influence how strong the high ground is, such as accessibility, line of sight blockers, effectual terrain, etc.

That said, there are those who strive to create tournament-worthy maps that use high ground, especially castle walls. Personally, I completely support those endeavors and have seen good attempts at creating such maps. It is, however, playing with fire, as each good map Iíve seen falls short of being great, and while I will recommend them for a laid back crowd, I havenít played on one that I would wholeheartedly recommend for competitive play.

So, wait: what was I supposed to learn?

As I said at the beginning, map sizing is a basic but important skill to develop as a map maker. In fact, it is because it is so basic that it is so important. Itís required no matter what terrain you are using and what format you are preparing for. Itís being aware of your target audience, and, when youíre designing for competitive play, there are a lot of guidelines to help you make a map that can be proudly showcased on the tournament table.

With those guidelines in mind, hereís my disclaimer: While there are a ton of guidelines for creating a competitive map, very few (if any) are concrete laws. You can look through tournament maps and find many exceptions to the rules. But they are just that: exceptions. Itís okay to create a map that breaks the rules, but the best way to do so is to become an expert with the rules first and know what makes a competitive map competitive. I love to see experimentation in the map arena, but unless you know why some maps are tournament-worthy and others are not, itís likely that your maps will fall short.

Keep designing, keep building, and, most importantly, keep playing. We at the ARV have enjoyed the submissions weíve received, and hope our advice to you will help you become better mapmakers.

Thanks for reading, and keep íScaping!
Total Comments 3

Comments

Old
HS Codex's Avatar
The Codex is pleased to bring you the first article of its newest department - ARV Map Articles!

Bigga and Sir Heroscape will be alternating these articles, and they will feature various map-related articles, including map spotlights, and how to create maps. We're excited to bring you this newest addition to the Codex!
Posted June 28th, 2017 at 04:39 PM by HS Codex HS Codex is offline
Old
Sir Heroscape's Avatar
Great article Bigga! Very good points, and I think this will be very helpful to a lot of mapmakers!
Posted June 29th, 2017 at 12:25 PM by Sir Heroscape Sir Heroscape is offline
Old
Scaperedude's Avatar
Why haven't I found this before! This is great! Thanks Bigga!
Posted July 19th, 2017 at 11:48 PM by Scaperedude Scaperedude is offline
 
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