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ARV Maps - July 2019

Posted July 28th, 2019 at 09:50 PM by HS Codex

Map Talks
Interview with OrcElfArmyOne
Author: BiggaBullfrog

Hello and welcome to a new type of ARV article! While discussing amongst ourselves what kinds of content would be most appealing to our audience, we had the idea to try interviewing prominent users in the Heroscape map community. This is the first of these interviews.

This month we’re talking to OrcElfArmyOne, who is well known in the competitive scene of Heroscape. He made a current version of the Heroscape Power Rankings with current GenCon formats and trends in mind, and has a similar ranking of the BoV maps. He also selects the maps that are used at GenCon (here’s this year’s map list), and he was kind enough to answer some questions from fellow ARV judge Flash_19 and myself about the process behind assembling a map pool for the largest Heroscape gathering of the year.

Let’s start with a little bit about yourself. How long have you been attending GenCon, and how did you become one of the map selectors?

Hi! My name is Mike Schober. I’ve been attending GenCon with my dad since 2012; he’s gone every year since then, while I had to miss 2016. We first helped build maps in 2013, and have helped each year since. Two years ago, we game mastered the Team Tournament for the first time. Last year was my first time as map selector; Ken (Matthias Maccabeus) asked me to propose a pool of maps for GenCon.

I think he chose me for several reasons, one of which can clearly be seen from the stats above: I help the organizers out. The number one way to become involved with GenCon HeroScapers is to volunteer your time and not ask anything in return. I did not ask to be a game master, nor did I ask to build the map pool; instead, I showed up each year and helped them out with whatever they needed. This has led to a friendship between myself and the main three organizers (Ken, lonewolf, and Raider30), and especially with Ken; this certainly does not hurt. I think Ken respects my competitive sense for the game (I am 1 – 0 all time against him, although he claims he doesn’t remember the game ...), and our numerous communications have helped build a trust between us.

I know there are a lot of uncredited helpers with any large event. How many people assist you and others when deciding a map pool?

I think the community has the wrong idea about the size of the GenCon team. The main three organizers handle most everything, and ask others to help them out with specific tasks. Ken asked me to build the map pool again. The two people that helped me were dok and infectedsloth (Nathan). dok sent me a great Google Sheet that automatically calculates how many of each set is left after each map. infectedsloth and I did the actual building of the pool; he deserves just as much credit as I do for making this pool as great as it is.

What is the process of choosing maps for the GenCon map pool like?

Well, I knew I wanted some variety year-to-year. I built a first draft of the pool; about half of those maps made it into the final pool. I then contacted infectedsloth and we had three or four one – two hour phone calls where we went through map threads. He went through every thread in the first 50 pages of the maps subforum looking for any hidden gems. We discussed and iterated on the pool a bunch until a day or two before the deadline, I sent our recommendations on both the maps and the number of copies for each map to Ken, and he then approved it (Ken has final say on just about every matter).

What are some characteristics you were looking for in the maps you selected? Were there characteristics you were trying to avoid?

The single most important thing I aim for is balance. Balance trumps all. People travel all over for what we consider the pinnacle of the HeroScape experience, and the last thing we want anyone to feel is that “I would have won this game if it wasn’t for this map.” I also want the maps to force the players to make interesting and engaging decisions turn after turn, usually through a dynamic usage of elevation shifts. Wyrmwalk is a great example of a map that does this, while not being too bumpy for melee to be able to compete with range on it.

After that, there are general characteristics I either look for or avoid in maps. For example, lots of map makers make two-hill maps; I strive to avoid these. Of all the map archetypes, this may be the worst; these maps manage to usually be neither interesting nor balanced. The BoV map Swamp Thing is one of the worst offenders of this. I had one tournament game at a local tourney against Sir Dendrik (a very solid player) on it where we both had range and moved our range up the hills on our respective left. Whoever moved off would more than likely lose the game. After two rounds of sitting and staring at each other, we intentionally drew and played a game of Summoner Wars instead. This is the type of thing I strive to avoid in the GenCon pool.

Some other common issues in maps I avoid: too wide, yours-and-mine glyphs, horizontal instead of vertical roads (I call these “fake roads” because they usually do not actually help with movement), left or right advantage (Sirocco’s main problem is whoever goes left has a large advantage over the person who goes right due to the natural pathing of the map), tight passages that are easily clogged by screens like Rats, good Raelin perches, heightened start zones, high height right outside the start zones, and wide shooting galleries.

Most maps fail at least one (and usually more than one) of these categories. I would estimate the percentage of maps that have a chance of being used at GenCon is only somewhere in the 5% range; the average map usually has issues. This is not to try to call out mapmakers; rather, I hope they review this checklist every time they build a map and work out its problems so the overall quality of maps improves. Map making is very hard, which is why I respect those who do it, especially those who consistently make high quality maps.

What features do you look at to establish a diverse pool of maps?

I don’t tend to think too much about diversity. Again, balance is king, although I am always looking for more maps. The terrain requirements are also super important. We only have four each of the following sets: lava, tundra, and castle. We only have 12 dungeon and jungle sets. It is very tough to build a pool from such tight requirements.

What are the main army matchups you consider when testing/assessing potential maps?

The first four units I immediately consider are Raelin, Rats, Q9, and Nilfheim. If any of the four break the map, it’s automatically out. For example, Nilfheim, when played correctly, is a beast on any map; if you give me a map that is busted for Nilfheim, I’m not losing a game. The other three units are the same way.

After that are the generic matchups of melee vs. melee, melee vs. range, and range vs. range. Nathan and I also test main event-style armies on them (like “Splash,” “Toolbox,” and the other archetypes enumerated by Vegie in his great thread). Both of us have played countless games and on plenty of maps, so just a game or two lets us know whether we made the right choice or not in including the map.

This year’s map pool is a step away from traditional GenCon map pools. What influenced the decision to go with non-traditional maps?

The map pool a few years ago had a few non-traditional maps like Wyrmwalk; I believe dok had a hand in that pool. My hope is that a few years down the line, I have a good pool of 30 or so maps that have been used before and that I know are good enough to be used again. Then, I can add in a new map or two each year, while having a diverse pool of previously used maps to draw from to build the foundation of the pool from.

What advice would you give to a map designer with a goal to get a map into a future GenCon map pool?

Balance, balance, balance. Review that checklist of common problems. It’s a map, not your baby, so don’t get too attached to anything about it. Be willing to change and iterate on it until it’s the best it can be.

After that, the biggest thing is to vary the sets that you use. As I mentioned above, our terrain supplies are very tight. If every map you make has dungeon and lava, you’re going to have a tough time getting your maps into the pool. Use RotV, SotM, and road. Build 1 MS + 1 expansion maps. Build RotV + SotM + 1 expansion maps (we have plenty of the first two master sets). It’s when you use two – three expansions that we only have four of that you will run into major problems with getting your maps selected. Ticalla Sunrise is used a lot because it does not fall into these common problems. Less is sometimes more. Strive to build the next Ticalla Sunrise or Highways and Dieways.

Lastly, if you had to pick one map to play on for the rest of your life, which would it be?

I think I would choose Highways and Dieways, for balance alone. I don’t think it’s the most interesting map I’ve played on, but it may be the most balanced. If I went for my current favorite, I’d choose Wyrmwalk; that map provides interesting games every single time.
Total Comments 4


Taeblewalker's Avatar
Cool article. That 2016 Main Event ticket that you got came to me after you canceled! George let me know about it.
Posted July 28th, 2019 at 09:59 PM by Taeblewalker Taeblewalker is offline
OrcElfArmyOne's Avatar
Yeah, I'm glad it went to you! We need to make it back down to IslandScape again soon.
Posted July 29th, 2019 at 10:35 AM by OrcElfArmyOne OrcElfArmyOne is offline
Flash_19's Avatar
Thanks for the great interview OEAO! I enjoyed reading your responses!
Posted July 30th, 2019 at 09:22 PM by Flash_19 Flash_19 is offline
flameslayer93's Avatar
Great article! It’s a shock that there’s so few terrain resources available for GenCon, though.
Posted July 31st, 2019 at 10:02 AM by flameslayer93 flameslayer93 is online now
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