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ARV Maps - October 2019

Posted October 6th, 2019 at 09:51 AM by HS Codex

Map Selection
Perspectives from Tournament Directors
Author: Flash_19

Between GenCon and National Heroscape Day, fall seems to be the best time of year to battle for the fate of Valhalla! This month’s article is meant to complement and build on our previous article—an interview with the GenCon map selector, OrcElfArmyOne—as we reached out to a handful of tournament directors preparing events for National Heroscape Day (or events being held soon). We wanted to learn more about their process for determining maps used in the events they host, and to see what insights they had to offer about the types of maps they prefer to use.

We at the ARV hope these two articles give you some new insights about maps used in the competitive Heroscape scene. While this article will not extensively quote the tournament directors that we interviewed, the content will be based on their responses. While different tournament directors have slightly different methods for deciding on maps (some seemingly more arduous than others), there were strong commonalities that are useful to know—particularly for mapmakers who hope to see their maps played in tournament settings.

Balance is King
By far, the number one element a tournament director looks for in a map is balance. Tournament directors are under a lot of pressure to ensure that maps aren’t game breaking. A bad experience on a map can be a real killjoy and has the potential to reduce the number of people who turn out to play. To quote Chris Perkins, “The biggest map characteristic I care about is balance, mainly in the form of ‘do all/most reasonable B– and higher armies have a reasonable shot on this map?’”

It is important for current mapmakers to know that directors typically have enough experience with the game that they can recognize balance when they see it. They know what units are more likely to be played at the events they host and will look for how a map accommodates units that might not perform as well as more highly played units. This means that if a director is kind enough to offer feedback on your latest creation, you would be wise to strongly consider their recommendations. This should also emphasize the need to make sure your map images are crisp and give a good view of the map.

The following were some specific pieces of advice our directors gave for determining whether a map is balanced.
  • In Scytale’s words, “excessive height changes [favor range]” and “poorly designed hills can screw over double-spaced figures.” Movement should flow well across the map, and melee figures shouldn’t have to slog through no man’s land in order to engage an enemy ranged unit.
  • Well-placed cover can reduce the inherent advantage of ranged units, whether that cover consists of line-of-sight blockers, shadow tiles, or jungle pieces.
  • A map shouldn’t be too big or too small. Maps that are too big tend to favor range, while maps that are too small can favor melee units or increase the chance of turn 1 power plays.
  • Road tiles are a great way to improve movement across the map and are particularly effective when they run adjacent to the highest points of the map.
  • Camping is a great recreational activity that shouldn’t be replicated in a game of ’Scape. Watch out for places where ranged pods can set up shop and remain untouched while raining lead and arrows down on approaching units.
  • Most pathways through the map should be at least 2 hexes wide in order to reduce clogging and limit the effectiveness of strong screen armies.

Those Who Have Gone Before
While having some initials attached to a map may not guarantee a map will be played in a tournament, a stamp of approval from the BoV, ARV, or WoS lends credibility to a map. Maps used at GenCon are considered particularly reliable because of the highly competitive nature of GenCon, and the process used to select those maps. These resources are often the first place tournament directors turn to for many of the maps they use since maps endorsed by any of the aforementioned groups are typically tried and true (though as itsbuzzi pointed out, some older maps approved by these groups have a harder time holding up to newer standards).

Having said that, the initials aren’t everything. Directors are looking through map threads for new, exciting maps to try. While not necessary, the chances of a map being used can be increased if that map is hosted on Heroscapers—meaning it can be found and downloaded from the downloads section on the site. A map located in the downloads section of Heroscapers is also more likely to be used because directors can search for a map based on the terrain they have available.

Limitations are Real
Some maps are chosen specifically because they fit the terrain limitations of the director. To paraphrase Xotli, it doesn’t matter how cool or balanced your map is—if it takes too much terrain, it’s not going to see the play table. In addition, there are some map combinations that are just harder to accommodate. It seems that maps using multiple jungle sets, and multiple dungeon sets are more likely to have to sit out, which might not come as a surprise considering the cost of those particular sets.

Maps Can Get Stale
The best maps offer dynamic experiences to players with each game. In other words, these are the kind of maps that you can come back to time after time and still enjoy because of their depth and various options for play. These maps offer multiple options for developing through the map, with each path having some benefit in terms of positioning, glyphs, etc. Nobody is going to take the level 0 swamp water path that leads right out into nowhere when the road path is so much more useful. Many maps remain unused because they either offer nothing new, or the map feels shallow in terms of decisions made by the players. If a map feels too much like a tried and true map without offering anything new, the tried and true map will win out.

Obviously, there are common characteristics of most tournaments maps. However, this doesn’t mean that mapmakers should be scared to push the boundaries—the key is knowing which boundaries to push, and how to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise balance. Many tournament directors specifically look for maps that push the boundaries as part of their process. When selecting maps for events, Kevindola mentioned that he always makes sure to include at least one map with a split start zone because of the depth it can add to how a map plays. While other directors didn’t take such a defined stance, many expressed an inclination towards maps that use split start zones or other features. In addition, Necroblade emphasized the value of maps with reflective symmetry (e.g. Embattled Fen by GameBear or Valledon Fortress by Antmarchingroves) instead of the rotational symmetry seen on most tournament maps.

That’s A Beauty
At the end of the day, there are so many maps to choose from that are balanced and well designed. A map that looks beautiful on the table is going to be more likely to draw attention from tournament directors, not just because they look inviting to the director, but also because they draw attention from people at the game stores where events are likely being held. Utilizing terrain in creative ways that are visually appealing is the cherry on top of a great map.

Special thanks go to Chris Perkins, itsbuzzi, Kevindola, Necroblade, Scytale, and Xotli for their expertise, experience, and willingness to help with this article. Links to the full interviews will be posted (with their permission) in the ARV subforum as those interviews contain additional information that was not included in this article.
Total Comments 6


Flash_19's Avatar
Links to full interviews will be posted tomorrow!

Here is that link.
Posted October 6th, 2019 at 11:07 AM by Flash_19 Flash_19 is offline
Updated October 7th, 2019 at 07:45 PM by Flash_19 (Added link for interviews)
flameslayer93's Avatar
Great read!
Posted October 6th, 2019 at 12:19 PM by flameslayer93 flameslayer93 is offline
BiggaBullfrog's Avatar
Really good article @Flash_19 ! I can't wait to read the individual interviews as well! Great job!
Posted October 6th, 2019 at 12:44 PM by BiggaBullfrog BiggaBullfrog is offline
TGRF's Avatar
Great job on your first article, to our newest Codex contributor!

~TGRF, who couldn't think of a better way to word that sentence.
Posted October 6th, 2019 at 09:25 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
Flash_19's Avatar
Posted October 7th, 2019 at 06:25 PM by Flash_19 Flash_19 is offline
itsbuzzi's Avatar
Wonderful read. Great insight from others. Very useful information here. Keep it up!
Posted October 8th, 2019 at 08:38 AM by itsbuzzi itsbuzzi is offline
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