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ARV Maps - January 2018

Posted January 1st, 2018 at 10:14 AM by HS Codex

Map Craft
By: BiggaBullfrog

You may be thinking, I hear “pathing” all the time, but what does it really have to do with map-making? And why does autocorrect keep changing it to bathing? First off, it’s because “pathing” isn’t a real word and “bathing” is. I believe pathing was first “officially” coined by mad_wookiee in his article about it in his Cartographer’s Toolbox (an awesome resource for any mapmaker, go check it out). Pathing is essentially the use of paths in a map to get from point A to B. Today, we’ll be looking at how you can use that to enhance your map.

Why Is Pathing Important?

Really, paths are crucial to a map. They connect start zones to height, to glyphs, and to each other. Maps with simple pathing will have a straightforward route for armies to follow where they will then meet in the middle and clash. Maps with more complex pathing will encourage decisions during play and allow players to develop more strategy in army development. And maps with ridiculous pathing will see to it that players are fighting the map and its terrain in addition to each other.

Different maps require different kinds of paths. You may want your map to be flat with few obstacles to movement, or you may want a lot of steep elevation changes. It’s important to know what your needs are and how to address them. Usually you don’t want your paths to be too easy, or the strategic value of your map decreases significantly. You also don’t want it to be too difficult, or games will be unenjoyable because most turns are spent moving across the map and not interacting with other figures.

A map with good paths will allow action to flow. It happens when armies are able to develop out of their start zones fluidly and make their way to height, glyphs, and other strategic locations with ease. There is plenty of interaction between figures, and the terrain and paths enhance those interactions. This doesn’t mean that there should be no difficult areas. After all, most maps have water and line of sight blockers on them, plus other terrain such as heavy snow and molten lava—along with changes in elevation—that provide barriers to movement. Good pathing just means that all these are taken into account so that even when movement is difficult, it is still dynamic.

When I look at maps, I envision how the action is going to flow across it and how things will play out. I’ve prepared examples of three maps to attempt to show how the paths allow action to flow across them. In all cases, action will be flowing from left to right.

Example 1: Sirocco by mad_wookiee

Here we have a great example of open pathing. Development is fast and easy from anywhere in the start zone. Figures can climb onto height relatively easily. They can also opt for a faster route to the enemy through the center with the cover of shadow and jungle terrain. You can make it from one side of the map to the other within one round in most cases, meaning that army development isn’t going to take long before the action happens. Perhaps the most punishing move would to be to commit to one extreme flank of the board, and then to have to go to the other side for some reason (basically from one glyph to another), but even that is a relatively easy journey. This map is a good example of how there is easy pathing laid for figures to get to height, but it’s also easy to attack the high ground by way of the central cover (a common scenario for melee vs ranged armies).

Example 2: Highways and Dieways by UranusPChicago

This map is a good example of how chokepoints don’t necessarily mean bad pathing. The first example is the start zone: there’s a one-hex bridge leading out of it. (You can also move figures into the water to climb out the next turn, but usually stringing them onto the bridge is the faster option.) However, once a figure gets onto the road, there are a multitude of options for them to take to fight for map control. They can swing around the edges to fight for glyphs, move onto high ground, or even go straight for the enemy start zone. There are also a lot of choke points throughout the map, but the movement provided by the abundant road tiles mitigates any potential problems. If your opponent tries to block off one route, there are a couple more paths you can take to your destination. And, of course, running into enemy figures eventually is part of the game, after all.

Example 3: Draugur by mad_wookiee

Here I have the first part of general movement across the map. As you can see, movement in just the first couple of turns is already open and easy as figures make it onto height or glyphs. But if you continue on to movement from there:

You can see that there are still many more options to take. You can run from point to point around glaciers and through shadow as you fight your enemies, choosing to either control high ground or go straight to their start zone. Movement on this map is fluid, but nonetheless dynamic.

On all of these maps, you’ll see that it’s easy to use each part of them. No one area is so difficult to reach that it will be ignored by armies and not see play. Instead, because the strong points are able to be reached without getting a headache, players are more likely to try to use each aspect of the map, encouraging decision making. You won’t always be able to reach each enemy start zone as easily as the pictures suggest, because there will be enemy units in the way. But that’s part of the fun of Heroscape! As figures engage, their combat is enhanced by the strategic decisions that good pathing encourages.

It is also important to consider not just how figures will get from place to place, but what the places they’ll want to go will be. If a figure can get height or hide next to a jungle bush as they move across the map, those will be focal points of their path and they may forsake a lower, easier route for the safer one.

The Usual Exceptions and Disclaimers

As usual, there are rules and there are exceptions. These usually have to do with what your end goal is. Here I have addressed maps you’ll find in a tournament setting, but a map you design for a dungeon crawl, for example, may be different. Development will also change if you are fielding a hero-based army with few figures as compared to fielding a horde with a full start zone. However, the principles of pathing remain the same. Each map tells a story, and the paths are the muscles that keep the story moving and exciting. If you find your action is getting too stale or too difficult, looking at your paths and where they lead may be a key part in making your map even better.
Total Comments 7


Sir Heroscape's Avatar
Great job Bigga! Really enjoyed the read. I hope mapmakers actually read these cause you pointed out some great things!
Posted January 3rd, 2018 at 11:31 PM by Sir Heroscape Sir Heroscape is offline
japes's Avatar
Thanks for this article...very educational. Also thinks for Mad_wookiee's link.
Posted January 4th, 2018 at 10:32 AM by japes japes is offline
Leaf_It's Avatar
Since you mentioned it, @Sir Heroscape I read all of these.
Posted January 5th, 2018 at 12:34 AM by Leaf_It Leaf_It is offline
Sir Heroscape's Avatar
Oh good, I’m glad!
Posted January 5th, 2018 at 01:41 AM by Sir Heroscape Sir Heroscape is offline
The Grim Reaper's Friend's Avatar
Thanks, @Leaf_It It's a great motivation to us all at the Codex to know people are reading what we write.
Posted January 5th, 2018 at 03:18 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend The Grim Reaper's Friend is offline
Sherman Davies's Avatar
Excellent article, even for those of us who don't do a lot of map designing!
Posted January 5th, 2018 at 08:06 PM by Sherman Davies Sherman Davies is offline
BiggaBullfrog's Avatar
Thanks so much for the positive feedback, all! It's always a great boost for us to see that our articles are being enjoyed!
Posted January 6th, 2018 at 09:46 PM by BiggaBullfrog BiggaBullfrog is offline
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