Advice when designing new/alternate maps



  • When designing new or alternate maps (for A&A 1940 Global in mind), what is some general advice in map making.

    I have sketched out and used white boards for making prototypes of the maps, but most the time, they don’t feel right.

    When making tiles, should I design them for game balance in mind, or should I have the geography in mind.  Should borders be crisp and in neat lines, or should they look like they are following rivers or province borders?

    While searching the forums, someone said use Pacific or Atlantic islands, and just mash them together like a jig saw puzzle.  That sounds intriguing, and just might work, but if I’m sketching by hand, then should I forgo that option?

    Just looking for general advice. Right now I am trying to design the map to have the most play-ability where i plan the fighting to be, (scaling up areas, like what happened to Europe and Russia in A&A maps) and planning on routes armies would probably take to engage each other, but should I not try to force how I predict the combat would flow, and make the map look more pretty?

    Also, Sea tiles. It seems that there are either hundreds of them and they distract from the map, or they are way too big, and makes “maneuvering” of fleets not work.  I am trying to incorporate both sizes, but having trouble on doing that.

    Should I make them larger by the coast and smaller out in the oceans, or smaller at the coast and larger in the oceans, and should I make them long rectangles, or as squarish as possible?  Or should I just forgo squares and uses hexes?  should sea tile size change for islands?

    Anyway, what are some do and do not basics for map making?


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Skyian_Leader:

    While searching the forums, someone said use Pacific or Atlantic islands, and just mash them together like a jig saw puzzle.  That sounds intriguing, and just might work, but if I’m sketching by hand, then should I forgo that option?

    It’s hard to tell for certain, but I think you may be referring to an old post of mine.  As I recall, I was discussing a suggestion made in a book about designing wargame campaigns, in which the author was describing a quick, cheap and easy way to create a detailed map of a fictitious continent.  The technique is intended for use with hand sketching, so it may work in your situation.  The idea is to visit some travel agencies (or the consulates and/or tourism-promotion offices of foreign countries that can be found in various major cities) and pick up free brochures that include decent-sized maps of small islands or states which, due to their small size on world maps, aren’t likely to be recognized by their shape when seen at a large scale.  Cut out their outlines, fit them together in an interesting way, put a very large sheet of thin paper over them and trace their outlines in pencil.  (Alternately, cover them with clear plastic, like Saran Wrap, and trace them with a marker.)  This gives you a continent and major national subdivisions within it, in blank.  You can then transfer the blank map to nicer paper (or whatever you’re using) and fill in the details.  The little odd spaces between the major divisions can be be used to depict things like lakes, forests, or minor countries.

    Obviously, this technique only works for creating completely fictitious land masses, not for creating customized maps of the real world.



  • Ah, thanks! I could probably google island images, and print them out on cardstock and then do the tracing stuff, thanks.

    Any tips on game/map design? Like things to avoid doing? I might just need to finish up the map and post a photo of it so you experts can actually see it, instead of general assumptions. 😛

    Thanks for helping


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Skyian_Leader:

    Any tips on game/map design? Like things to avoid doing? I might just need to finish up the map and post a photo of it so you experts can actually see it, instead of general assumptions.

    The best advice on this will come from the board’s various map-making people, like Imperious Leader.  I’ve never made wargaming maps, but here are a few thoughts for whatever they’re worth.

    I personally prefer area-movement maps (like in most of the A&A games) over squares and hexes.  They look more natural to me and better suited (in my opinion) to games that operate at the global/strategic level.  This is due to the fact that, at that level, things like combat and movement and the depiction of the military forces involved occur at a very high level of abstraction – so it doesn’t seem like a good fit to combine this abstraction with the kind of fine-scale movement tracking that hexes offer.  Hexes, to me, only work well for large-scale actions when tracking is a central game element, such as in hunt-the-Bismarck type games.  On another point, I find it annoying that hexes only allow straight-line movement in six of the eight main compass directions.  Hexes are better than squares in that regard (since squares only allow straight-line movement in four directons), but they still don’t permit movement in one of the two diagonal axes.

    One idea you might want to consider, on the issue of map zone size adequacy, is to use a split-representation system along the lines of the “task force markers” that were used in the original A&A Pacific game.  In such a system, the plastic sculpts corresponding to a particular group of forces are placed off the game map (on a side table) rather than on the map, along with a small numbered identifying marker.  A corresponding marker is placed on the map to mark the position of the force group.  That way, the map sections only need to be big enough to accommodate these small markers rather than a pile of sculpts, and you only need to move the markers from position to position rather than the sculpts.

    As a further refinement, you can even use this system (if you’re so inclined) to introduce partial blinding into the game.  This involves keeping your map markers face-down until they make contact with enemy markers (which are also face down).  Before the markers make contact (at which point they are both turned face up), each side knows the composition of the enemy’s various forces (seen via the groups of off-the-board sculpts) and the position of the enemy’s various forces (seen via the map markers), but remains unaware of which group of sculpts corresponds to which map marker. This makes possible the element of surprise, which is absent in a conventional A&A game in which you can always see every detail of the enemy’s forces.  The old Stratego game works a bit like that, in the sense that you know what pieces the enemy has and you know where on the board the enemy has pieces, but you don’t know the specific unit type of each piece until you make contact with it.


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