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Basic Mapmaking Techniques

Posted April 29th, 2008 at 06:58 PM by Velenne
(This was originally posted somewhere around here and made it into the HS Codex #5. I'm reposted it here in case you missed it. )

Over the last couple of years, Iíve made a few dozen
maps. Many of these are posted in my (OMG SHAMELESS PLUG!-->>) maps & scenarios thread. All thatís to say: Iíve learned a few things in this time. Iíd like to share these things here in the hope that it helps some folks become better map builders.

1.) Map designs come in two flavors: Pretty and Functional. The best maps are swirls of both, but for the most part your maps are going to be one or the other. Pretty maps inspire awe but quickly reveal flaws that unbalance
the battle. Functional maps are usually simpler, symmetrical affairs whose creativity only blossoms during game play.

2.) All parts of your map should be attractive to action. Height, water, and line-of-sight issues can leave a part of your map completely unused. If you find that play always centers around one feature of your map, you may want to make revisions.

3.) A single castle wall or high bridge usually dominates play so add these elements cautiously. If I do use them, I try to put a Wind Glyph far away from it so everyone wonít draft flying units. Iíll also try to make a way for double-spaced figures to make it up there.

4.) Symmetry. Hate it or love it, if youíre going to balance a map for all players, symmetry rears its much-maligned head. In a 1v1 map you may be able to give each side its own asymmetrical advantages, but this becomes much more challenging as the number of players grows. You want a balanced, 4-player, asymmetrical map? Fugghedaboutit. Go save some time and mental energy by writing a masterís thesis in calculus.

5.) If youíre going to play with non-consumable glyphs (I usually donít), at least have those glyphs in mind when you create the map. A Range or Defense +2 glyph can completely shift the tide of battle. You might put the former in a map where the lengths of great range are limited by LOS issues. You might place the latter surrounded by higher elevation in an action-heavy area.

6.) In contrast to my feelings above, I really like the consumable glyphs. Healing and summoning add a unique element of strategy to a battle thatís more than squatting on a tile for the entire game. Find creative places for these!

7.) Try not to have corners with empty spaces on your map unless you do it on purpose. The question will invariably arise of whether or not movement and/or sighting can occur across these gaps. People may have strong feelings one way or the other so avoid the arguments by building your map properly.

8.) Please understand that by having a huge castle (or any elevated area) in the middle of your map with nothing but ladders leading up to it, youíve severely limited the choices of viable armies. Heroscape already tips the balance in favor of ranged and/or flying units so by building a map that caters to them, you might as well not have wasted your money on melee and/or double-spaced units.

9.) Try tinkering with some of the rules when you build your maps. Alternate uses for glyphs is a fun way to change things up. Iíve used (re)movable or destructable terrain in my scenarios to great effect. Teleportation is always a fun dynamic as well! Ten is a good, round number so Iíll stop with:

10.) SHARE! As a valued member of this community, youíre obligated, no, called to share your creations with the rest of us! Grab a digitial camera, make sure all your lights are on and windows unshuttered, and snap us some shots. If all you have is your phone-cam, well, give it a whirl and see what happens.

Until next time!
Total Comments 6


mrbistro's Avatar
This is great advice. Every "Whoo will help me mak a map?" poster should come here first.
Posted April 30th, 2008 at 12:47 PM by mrbistro mrbistro is offline
hextr1p's Avatar
I do love me some castles, but do agree with the fact that they often cater too much to flyers and ranged units. I know there are many ways to help this imbalance, but what are some ways you suggest? I mean, the castles are a great asset to the theme and creativity of the game, and not seeing them used often because of the balance issues somewhat sucks.
Posted April 30th, 2008 at 02:16 PM by hextr1p hextr1p is offline
NecroBlade's Avatar
Posted September 4th, 2008 at 01:27 AM by NecroBlade NecroBlade is offline
roostertail9000's Avatar
Great article! This should help me.
Posted December 1st, 2008 at 07:11 PM by roostertail9000 roostertail9000 is offline
GGGames's Avatar
We find balancing a map usually takes us about two to three games to see where problems are. We wish that virtualscape was easier to program. If you don't take the time to do it as your building it. It seems to take alot longer to program as you disessemble it. Maybe someone has some creative ways around this.
Posted December 5th, 2008 at 09:28 PM by GGGames GGGames is offline
That's a great idea!... the only problem for me is doing it
Posted October 26th, 2011 at 04:31 PM by Son of Osiris Son of Osiris is offline
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