Friday, May 7, 2010

Types of map details

Once you know how you're going to define the details on your map whether it's by a grid overlaid map or with their own borders on a freeform map, it's time to start detailing your map. The types of things that can be classed as map details are anything that would effect the armies playing in the campaign.

The effect can either be on a strategic level affecting armies movement and interaction on the campaign map or on a combat level, affecting armies on the tabletop. In this section, we're just going to be looking at how these details can affect the armies playing in the campaign at a strategic level, we'll be looking at the tabletop level in a later section.

These strategic details fall into two broad categories, either natural like woods, rivers, mountains etc or man made like cities, roads, defensive lines etc. When you're designing your map, it's best to start with the natural features of the map building up the landscape before adding the man (or alien) made details. There's a whole host of details you can include on your map to build up landscape, including things like .....
  • Mountains - These can reduce armies movements whether by half etc on freeform maps or requiring some sort of test before movement even including things like dangerous terrain tests where you risk losing X amount of points for failing tests. You could also ban armies that include tanks etc from moving through mountainous terrain.
  • Woodlands - Much like the mountains, woodlands would restrict the movement of armies, especially those containing vehicles although they're less likely to be dangerous to armies moving through them. 
  • Flatlands -  Include things like plains, rolling hills and even deserts, generally these don't affect an army moving through them in any way.
  • Marshlands - These act like woodlands, restricting the movement of armies especially those containing vehicles. You could also consider marshes as dangerous terrain.
  • Rivers / Lakes - These could act as a barrier to movement forcing armies to use specific fording points or bridges, thus making these points strategically important or simply work to slow down an armies movement.
  • Seas -  These are mainly impassable to armies but you could include ports on your map and allow forces that control a port to allow to move armies across sea regions.
  • Miscellaneous - There's all sorts of other terrain features you can add to your map including things like arctic or volcanic regions and don't forget that there's alien terrain features as well and these can be as weird and wonderful as you like. (If you have any suggestions, add them in the comments)
Whereas natural map details tend to affect the movement of forces across the map, man made map details tend to have a more strategic often in the form of defensive or tactical bonuses. What sort of bonuses these details give are down to how complicated you want to make your campaign. Common man made details include ...
  • Roads - Obviously, these would allow armies to move more quickly around the map. You could either double the freeform movement rate or allow them to move through more grids per turn as long as they follow the path of a road.
  • Defensive lines / fortresses - These would offer an advantage defensively, which is a lot easier to represent on the table top but on a strategic level, this could be represented by reducing the points lost by an army battling in this area etc.
  • Cities - Another defensive structure but you could also include subsistence bonuses if you're using supply rules.
  • Ports / Airfields / Starports - These could be used to allow rapid redeployment of forces and resupply in the form of reinforcements. 
  • Factories - These could allow units to repair vehicles, increase the amount of reserves a player gets in the form of reinforcements.
  • Comms centres - big dishes, towers etc. These could allow sneak peaks at enemy rosters or planned moves, improve scouting, reserve rolls, orbital attacks etc.
  • Nuclear or Post-Nuclear Zones - Man-made, though not necessarily impassable. However, moving through such zones would incur significant penalties to the armies from rad sickness or even outright loss.
  • Variable Frequency Zones - Man-caused or natural as a result of geological/atmospheric composition. Armies can move through as normal, but they just can't communicate very well. Possible result is random movement direction of large formations as their orders are continually scrambled whilst moving through.
  • Daemonic Influenced Zones - Could be just about anything. Assuming this world is very nearly under complete Warp-control, it is entirely possible armies could end up - 1. fighting each other due to daemon influence 2. suffering a number or combination of effects of other zones as reality warps around them 3. completely impossible for normal men to cross or enter 4. army suffers extremely slowed movement as the natural defence reaction would be to tighten defences and communication to stave off influence. Basically, anything out of reality as we're talking serious Warp-control here.
  • Miscellaneous - There's all sorts of man made details that you could include, from hospitals, to monuments to missile silos. Your only limited by your imagination and how detailed you want you ruleset to be. (If you have any suggestions, add them in the comments)
When laying out the map detail, it’s important to distribute the details evenly so that no one particular player gains an advantage over the rest. This doesn’t mean that every player should have a wood, city, defensive river etc. It’s fine to clump various details in certain areas, thus creating expanses of industrial areas, heavy woodland or mountainous areas, as long as each area has its own advantages to players starting in that area for a balanced campaign.

For campaigns that follow a particular narrative such as an invading force moving towards an industrial centre, then it’s fine to make the map layout more unbalanced as long as you balance the campaign in another way such as more forces to the player who has the lesser resources from their starting position.

Once you've fleshed out your map and sorted out your basic map rules, it's time to start looking at where people will start on the map.


Can you help? I'm after suggestions for any other map details and their potential affects on the armies passing through them, include them in the comments and I'll get them added to the page.

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