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Map Making Theory: deployment speed and uniques vs. commons

Posted February 16th, 2010 at 05:33 PM by dok
This is the sixth post in a series about the theory of mapmaking. Part 1 was about glyph placement, part 2 was about map footprint size and shape, and part 3 was about map orientation and map symmetry, part 4 was about elevation variance and small landings, and part 5 was about the interplay between line of sight blockers and map choke points. This installment is about how quickly figures, particularly common squads, can deploy on a given map.

The move toward more compact maps has benefited some figures in obvious ways. Zelrig can deliver more 1-OM bombs, and melee figures are less vulnerable to retreating or turtling ranged figures. However, I would note that maps that allow figures to reach the action at the center of the board in a single OM don't just benefit melee over range. They benefit common figures over unique figures.

The great advantage common figures have over unique figures is that they can continue to get a full activation on each OM even after suffering more a card or more worth of wounds. However, the flip side of this is that each activation only activates one card's worth of figures.

When playing a common squad army, there's always the risk of your figures being strung out, where some are still sitting in the starzone while others are engaged at the front lines. Moving figures up will come at the expense of attacks at the front, reducing the efficiency of your army. Players attempt to avoid this by "slow-rolling" their figures, but on maps with key glyphs or other positions, you may be compelled to either sacrifice board position by advancing the army as cohesive unit, or sacrifice OM efficiency by letting your army get strung out.

This reveals an advantage that unique figures, and in particular tough unique heroes, have over common squads. Once they get into the action, there's no OM tension or need to replenish their wounds. All six of Nilfheim's wounds get into play the moment he flies into position. For stingersx3, it can take 3 OMs to achieve the same effect.

Maps where the board center is a single activation away from the start zone alleviate this strategic tension that common squad armies experience. Because figures only need to move once to be in the action, you can easily keep your forced stocked in key positions on the map.

You can see the effect this had when you look at different map pools at different events, and the armies that did well on those maps. While 2009 Gencon certainly had its share of small maps, it also mixed in some longer maps. Two of the top 4 armies at the main event, including the championship winner, had unique figures as their main offensive force. By contrast, Hexes in Texas 2009 had perhaps the most small-map heavy map pool we've seen at a major event. The top 10 finishers at that event all relied on common squads as their damage-dealers.

I'm not attempting to imply here that small maps are bad, or that unique-based armies can't be successful on smaller maps. All I mean to do is point out that smaller maps do shift things in favor of the agressive use of commons. Small size may benefit gruts and knights and dwarves, but it also benefits stingers and 4th and 10th - relative to Nilfheim and Q9, anyway.
Total Comments 2


Jexik's Avatar
That's a factor that always made Marr Highway unique among 1 MS maps. It's super long.

The other thing about small maps is that they can still be decent for range. It depends a bit on the LoS blockers. There were small, wide open shooting galleries when Mattser won GenCon 2007. What that meant is that what took most armies to set up in one or two OM's, he didn't need to set up at all. In some games, he left Laglor and Raelin in his starting zone and was able to start sniping on OM 1.
Posted February 17th, 2010 at 10:27 AM by Jexik Jexik is offline
Sylvano the Wasabus's Avatar
Yes it's so true, and I should remember. I just lost a game on a large map where I had a lot of custom dwarf squads. They spent the whole game trying to get to the battle which was always over before they got there.
Posted February 17th, 2010 at 11:28 AM by Sylvano the Wasabus Sylvano the Wasabus is offline
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