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Dominant Map Features - Castles

Posted May 14th, 2008 at 09:42 AM by Velenne
Castles are lovely. I remember being thrilled when I saw the first preview pictures of them. They certainly add a sense of majesty and even authenticity to the Heroscape brand.

But Castles are also tricky for the cartographer. A single tower is immediately the most dominant feature of the map, since few of us are willing to invest the tiles to create other levels of greater height. So while everyone wants to see two castles sally troops from their gates to meet in the midfield and lay siege, unfortunately that doesn't make for a very good game of Heroscape. On the other hand, our favorite game is modular. While the name of the set inclines us to build fortresses and walled structures for units to cower behind, the tiles of the set themselves offer the most variety of dominant features of any set. What follows are just a few examples of ways to use this set without building two castles across from each other.

The first dominant map feature I call "Central Pillars":

Spineback Ridge by Gamebear

Into the Breach by Grungebob and R˙chean

While I'll credit the team of R˙chean and Grungebob for first publishing a castle map without castles, LongHeroscaper showed us all what could really be done with this feature. His map shed some light for a lot of cartographers to start looking at their castle set from a new angle. Gamebear does his ample best to create a central area which isn't quite as dominant, and uses nearly every tile he has at his disposal to do so. It works because many taller figures can reach the highest perches. This is something a lot of folks using castle sets tend to do.

Next up is the "Central Castle":

Ashes to Ashes by Gamebear

Hunkered and Bunkered by Velenne

Wasaru Castle by LongHeroscaper

Two castles are trite, but putting a castle in the middle of your map and putting your starting zones on the outside is a great way to challenge players. Do it right, and you end up with some dynamic ladder battles and LOS issues. All 3 of these maps give players incentive not to get in the castle by tossing glyphs on the ground level behind extensive cover. Notice "Ashes to Ashes" features a multi-level castle which denies dragons the ability to perch and rain (reign in some cases) down with impunity. This is key to balancing the castle set on your maps. With no small amount of bias and just enough humility, I'll say that I like "Hunkered and Bunkered" the best of all of these because it offers multiple ways up to a broad castle (even for double-spaced walkers), tons of cover, and some tough decisions. I also could have used it for the next feature...

The castle set "Wall Walk" tiles can be used with road tiles interchangeably. Here are two maps which exploit that rule to create "Highways":

Overpasses by Luke C

Dignan seems to wonder, "What if we put the starting zones right next to each other?" And builds a great map around that concept. Pity the player who faces the Einar Imperium! Still, take a look at those roads. Road tiles make the game faster and their bonus presents a dilemma for any player. Still, it is almost always better to attack your opponent than take a glyph, so I forsee this one being a simple affair. "Overpasses" is more standard play, but again those roads just can't be ignored. What it does feature is two Wind glyphs next to each player's starting zone. Now the castle pieces become true roadblocks, funneling players toward the center. 6 glyphs may be a bit much for a map, but it certainly makes things interesting.

Then we see maps which don't even need castle walls. I call these "Hedgerows":

Husk of the Holdfast by Velenne

The battlements are excellent for sectioning off your map and protecting areas of small elevation without having to invest a lot of tiles. "Overlord" is a wonderful maze of LOS blockers, roads, and tiny mounds of height. Every turn is a critical decision. "Husk" adds a few ladders to the concept and fewer LOS blockers, but strings out the starting zones. The sublime "Embattled Fen" still stands out as the best though. Its elegant simplicity combines every basic and dominant map feature into a map that's truly representative of all its component sets.

And finally I'd like to feature two maps which break the rules in a way that is innovative and worthy of any casual gameday:

Marr Highway - Mile 451 by Velenne

Sunken Temple by Mooseman

While one must normally ensure that all ladders reach the ground, "Mile 451" features a concept called "Ladder Jumping" (which I credit to yagyuninja whose original map I can't locate). It's fun and it forces you to think about engagements in a new dimension. "Sunken Temple" (a nod to WoW, I assume) features castle walls without their required wall walk tiles. Now I personally have no clue why they're required, but according to Hoyle that's how you have to do it so shame on you Mooseman for trying to use castle walls without balancing your map to hell and back! Actually it's a cool map with a lot of character.

As you can see, the Castle set is highly versatile! I think there's still more to be done with this one, much more. I hope that with time we'll some new innovations with this set.

And that's all I have to say about that.
Total Comments 7


hextr1p's Avatar
I really like the look of 'Overlord.' Going to have to download that one.

Another great write up. However, features about the castle set you didn't discuss are the doorway and door. I'd be interested to know what you think about their use in the map builds, both positive and negative. I've often seen the doorway used as an archway without the door, as the common complaint about the door is it's a little TOO difficult to take out.
Posted May 14th, 2008 at 01:57 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
Velenne's Avatar
Essentially, I don't like the door for single FotA builds. It's normally used defensively -a task it may be a little too well suited for- and doesn't look good just out on its own. I've yet to meet a build which uses it that I like.
Posted May 20th, 2008 at 08:01 AM by Velenne Velenne is offline
I Love Castles!
Posted May 30th, 2008 at 07:44 PM by Syvarrisguy3 Syvarrisguy3 is offline
Finrod's Avatar
Great analysis, Velenne. Really thought-provoking.
Posted June 19th, 2008 at 05:37 PM by Finrod Finrod is offline
Pickledpie's Avatar
Yes, very thought provoking. Nice maps.
Posted September 7th, 2008 at 07:39 PM by Pickledpie Pickledpie is offline
gmartin's Avatar
very cool thanks
Posted February 22nd, 2009 at 04:27 PM by gmartin gmartin is offline
dok's Avatar
I should have consulted this post before I did all my own research for the symmetric castle map survey thread. I also really need to update that thread. I'm probably going to add a section for maps like "Hunkered and Bunkered".
Posted March 16th, 2010 at 01:18 PM by dok dok is offline
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