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ARV Maps - October 2017

Posted October 3rd, 2017 at 11:07 PM by HS Codex

Map Craft
Start Zones
By: Sir Heroscape

Another installment of Map Craft is coming your way! This time Iím taking you on a journey to the Start Zone, where it all begins.
I just want to say that start zones are not to be taken lightly. Sometimes mapmakers (myself included) will have a map concept, build it and thenóalmost as an afterthoughtótack on the start zones somewhere on each opposite end of the board. Sometimes it works out, but true competitive map building should be held to a higher standard, and start zone placement taken more seriously. Hereís how to do it.
  1. Start building your map outside in. When I say this, I mean that itís a good idea to start with the start zone locations and then work your way into the map design. As you build the map, you may realize the start zones need some adjustment, but beginning a map build with the start zones will help you focus on balanced building. If youíre aware of the start zones, youíll be more conscious of pitfalls to avoid as youíre building the map. Adding start zones as an afterthought will likely result in a misguided start zone position because there was little effort in its placement.
  2. Start zones are 24 hexes large. This is by no means a hard-and-fast rule, because you are the map builder, but the standard for competitive play is 24 hexes and itís wise to follow that standard when seeking to build tournament-worthy maps.
  3. Start zones foster army development. In my experience, ill-placed start zones can ruin a map. The key is to make sure that the development of armies will be relatively smooth and easy. When determining this, keep in mind that 5-move figures are the most common in Heroscape, so try to use 5 movement as your standard when determining how easy it will be for units to develop from the start zone. Most of the time 6-move figures will be fast enough to get out of poorly built start zones, and 4-move figures will struggle immensely if itís not built properly, so try to see how each type of unit will fare when exiting. Also, try to compare 6-move figures to 5-move figures. Ask yourself: ďIf an army is based around speedier 6-move units and their opponent has 5-move units, will the speedier units have an unfair advantage during development?Ē Keep in mind: faster units will almost always have the advantage of getting position on a slower opponent, but sometimes a map build can make this advantage too extreme or unfair in a way that the opponent will have difficulty countering. So try to determine if a slower unit army will still be able to reasonably contest the position of a faster opponent. Start zones should also be open, with at least 2 Ė 3 main avenues that units can develop from. Maps that create a bottleneck with only 1 or 2 exits from the start zone (especially when only a single hex wide) arenít good. Make sure that an army wonít clog or choke itself up just trying to move out of the start zone. Iíve played on maps that do this, and it is frustrating when your own units clog each other up just because of poor start zone design.
  4. Try to keep start zones consistent and practical. The start zones for each player should be the same, or at least have very little variance. Keeping them the same size and position will keep the sides balanced from the start and not give an advantage to one or the other player. Also try to make start zones easy to identify. Remember, youíre trying to build tournament maps, and a tournament director isnít going to be very happy if he canít figure out where the start zones are or itís difficult to identify. Try to either use a single 24-hex, the back 2 Ė 3 rows of the map, or 3 7-hex terrain pieces with a few extra tiles to make 24. Also try to use the same terrain piece (all sand, stone, grass etc.) for the start zone so that itís easier to identify. These of course arenít requirements, but it brings a mapís level of playability up when itís easier for the players.
  5. Avoid too much height just outside the start zone. Not only can too much elevation clog up an army and make it difficult to develop, but it can also make it too easy for an army to take position, pod, and wait till their opponent charges up at a disadvantage. Easy access to height right out of the gate really breaks maps and should be avoided.
  6. Round 1 action. Start zones should be placed in such a way that fighting happens at the end of round 1. If a 4 or 5 move army can roughly reach mid-map within 3 turns, then youíre looking at a pretty good-sized map. Again, this is somewhat dependent upon the armies being played, but if start zones are too far away or secluded in a way that it takes more than a round to get into the action, something is wrong. There is nothing more boring than going a full round or more without fighting simply because you canít reach your opponent. Really try to position the start zones in a way that an army can reasonably reach the center at least by the end of the first round.
Map building should be fun and exciting, so go out there and have some fun and excitement! But, do consider these principles regarding the start zone when youíre working on competitive map builds, because a start zoneís position and design is critical to a mapís playability and balance.
Total Comments 1


superfrog's Avatar
Nice tips! I think having a practical and consistent start zone is an easy one that a lot of people miss. I by no means am a great map maker, but I try to make that happen on all my maps.
Posted November 6th, 2017 at 06:54 PM by superfrog superfrog is online now
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