MapMaking/Art

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In general this page applies to turn based play, unless otherwise noted.

Contents

[edit] Guidlines

Some broad characteristics of "good" maps:

  1. The outcome of the game is strongly determined by player actions.
  2. Maps don't drag on indefinitely.
  3. Players have a variety of options available to them.
  4. Have an Idea!!! That idea could be a theme, an interesting line for an about (try and guess which maps of mine have started off that way), or a new and clever gameplay option.


[edit] Balance/Fairness

How important is balance? Should you try to make the map very balanced? What do we mean by balance?

[edit] Heuristics

  • Maps should be mostly balanced, but not exactly balanced.
  • It is a good idea to have some areas that are more worthwhile than others. This focuses players attention, and creates conflict points in the early game.
  • Areas that are quite a bit better to start with, should be difficult to expand from.
  • In the case where map is too balanced (e.g. a symmetric map), and it is hard to keep and press an advantage, adding fog can help - because other players are less likely to team up if one person starts pulling ahead. Also the leader can try to misrepresent their position.
  • What you want is to make a map such that no matter what beginning placement you have, you've got just as good of a chance of winning as anyone else.
  • Making a map "round" can very much aid in making it fair. See: Alaska to Kamchatka on any Risk clone. Also, the Airports on [url=http://warfish.net/war/browse/board?bid=5842214]Mobs of New York[/url] are a great example of making a map "round." It's by no means a requirement, but it is an easy way to keep things fair.

[edit] Discussion

Some traits that a balanced map would have: Continent values reflect how hard they are to take and hold Continents may have different aspects that may make them better depending on the circumstances, but continents are not in general "better" (at least not to a large degree).

Balance can also imply multiple ways to play a map. If one strategy is way better, then it will be used every time, and the players have less choice. Less choice = less fun. Also if one area of a map is way better than the rest of the map, then whoever starts there will have a large advantage, and the outcome of the map is less dependent on player actions, and more dependent on starting position.



[edit] Examples

[edit] Beta map is slightly off balance

  • Austalia is generally considered the "best continent". It's easy to defend, and so players often focus on it in the beginning stages. But it is harder to expand from Australia than S. America.
  • Africa kind of sucks - only worth +3, & it is hard to defend.
  • But in general, continents values are similar to their difficulty to take and hold.

[edit] Pirates of Malta is slightly off balance

Malta is clearly the best place to start - easy to defend & worth 3. But it's harder to expand from Malta. There are also a few other areas in the map with several small countries which are also good places to start.



[edit] Choke points

Territories where players can defend large areas from a few well chosen points are choke points.

[edit] Heuristics

  • Have some choke points.
  • Continents should allow players to expand their control to another continent with only a small increase (or none at all) in defensive points.
    • Either contiguously - it's next to something that will be valuable, and the combo of them is not much harder to defend than just this one.
    • Or not - a 1 country continent worth a lot, relatively easy to defend, would allow you to expand somewhere even if it is not contiguous.
  • Chokepoints are not necessary when you use dice or border modifiers to artificially create varying levels of risk/reward in attacking at different points on the map.

[edit] Discussion

Without choke points, it can be hard to expand your territory. Depending on the map choke points may not be necessary. When would you need them? When is it ok not to have them?

Need to be able to take an area, and hold it to press your advantage, but don't want it to be too easy to defend (e.g. If, once you get objective X, the winner is basically decided, but will take 20+ turns to finish that is bad).

Choke points allow good/daring players to expand their territory (GL #1). Without choke points, a player can get into a good defensive position, but with nowhere to expand, they have to wait out the other players for several turns until they build up enough forces (GL#2). If they have to wait too long, cards get too powerful, and the winner can be decided randomly instead of skillfully (GL#3).

[edit] BAO

  • On a BAO board, you're not going to overrun an enemy in a single turn by breaking through one spot and spilling through. If you break through a perimeter, the opponent still has plenty of time to mass around your penetration point (albeit usually not with as many as you're breaking in with), engage in a slow, expensive, rolling defense, and, at the same time, press against you on his entire perimeter, thus taking advantage of the fact that you're not reinforcing yours. Consequently, maps like (Return to Atlantis), with no real choke points are still quite enjoyable, while maps like (Texas) tend to be far more frustrating.

[edit] Maps that defy convention

Non-standard continent bonuses should usually be employed for a large, open map with no choke points, either hordes-style or by setting the units-per-territory count pretty low (e.g. +1 for every 2 territories owned) to reward expansion, and it is perfectly acceptable to layer these continent bonuses with more standard super-continent bonus schemes.


[edit] Examples

  • S. America can be defended from 2 points. N&S America together can be defended from just 3 points.


[edit] Card Scale

It seems there are generally two ways card scale can screw up a game. A lot of games where players all have a lot of units, and cards are going up so slowly, it is never worth trying to take someone out. Generally everyone resigns the game, or someone goes suicidal, taking themselves and another out of the game. This can be countered by having cards values go up quickly, but then you run into the opposite problem, whereby the cards go up so quickly they overtake the value of the continents, and the game either ends almost randomly, or it quickly becomes about denying others cards. Especially in games with large #s of people. With 12+ people on a map, card values can grow very quickly in the beginning, and then in the later stages with just 3-4 players left, cards grow too slowly.

[edit] Discussion

Is there a mathematical formula that could help determine how quickly card values should increase?

For example: TPB = Total Possible Bonus (i.e. all continent bonuses, plus total # of territories/denominator) NP = # of players (at the start of the game) APB = Average Player Bonus (late in the game) = TPB/(np+1) (+1 in denominator, because of contention not every continent will be controlled)

Usually ~5 rounds until people first turn in cards, then 3, then 3

Based on the card scale you can estimate which round the card bonus will exceed the APB. Maybe this is the # you could concentrate on as a heuristic. Maybe around the 10th-20th round?

[edit] map size & # of players

It is harder to make a map that will play well across a range of # of players.

[edit] heuristics

  • It is helpful to have mods for player ranges (i.e. 2, 3-6 players, 7-11,

& 12-16).

    • Cards should go up slower for maps with lots of players.
    • In maps with lots of players, there need to be lots of small continents, because if the continents take too long to get, then the game will be just about cards.
  • 4/10 rotating sets are for BAO play. In turn-based, its usually too large a swing between the 10 set and the 4 set to keep things fair.
  • For a map that is relatively small compared to the number of people on it, a slowly escalating scale is pretty good. That way an early elimination doesn't lead to a cascade of kill collect cash kill etc and the game is over. If the map has a lot of people and is very large, the 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30... scale can work great. The prevents a stalemate later if you are concerned that continent bonuses will drastically outweigh the value of cards. Usually, though, just n=n+2 is a good scale for almost anything.

[edit] offense vs. defense

Maps that encourage offense too much will be over too quick. Maps that encourage defense too much will drag on forever.

[edit] heuristics

  • In 2 player maps, the best strategy is usually to be very aggressive
    • For a 2 player mod, provide some places easy to defend (chokepoints), or give defensive bonuses to some areas.
  • In 3+ player maps, the best strategy is usually to be very defensive and hope the other players attack each other.
    • Again chokepoints can help. They make it worthwhile to expand, because you have a better chance of retaining your new territory. Alternatively, you can give some areas bonuses to attack, so that it is more worthwhile to attack.


[edit] super continents

A super continent is an additional bonus given for controlling large areas of land, where you are already getting some bonuses for smaller continents. For example, if on the beta board, you got an additional +2 for controlling N. America & S. America, that would be a super-continent.

Super continents can help to wrap up games in the end state. A player who controls a large portion of the board, may take quite a while to slowly but inevitably wear down their opponents. By giving them some additional units as they begin to dominate, it helps wind the game up more quickly.

They can also make it a bit more worthwhile to attack someone who is growing powerful. If in the above example, you are able to take Alaska from someone, you've taken away not just their N. America bonus, but also their combined Americas super continent bonus.

[edit] Rules/Settings

[edit] Transfers

  • On a smaller board, only having one transfer can make sense - the Pre-Beta board holds up pretty well with this setting, for example.
  • Only having one transfer on a larger board can lead to tons of frustration, since it quickly becomes nearly impossible to maneuver or plan attacks and defense.

[edit] return to attack after transfer

  • On a smaller board, turning that setting on would lead to games that wouldn't last a card cycle.
  • On larger boards, it might mean the difference between an interminable month-long tire fire and an enjoyable week-long slugfest.

[edit] Graphics

  • circle mode generally sucks.
  • Turn your borders off; it should be possible to tell if one country can attack another without the borders on
  • Make a header image (the recommended size is wrong -- it will cut off the bottom 10-15 pixels of your image).
  • Use some custom cards.
  • Edit the colors, and make sure people can tell them all apart easily.

[edit] Mods

Learn to use them. Use them. Never let a game be played on your raw map. Even if your mod is nothing but some default board names, use one. It makes versioning much easier. You won't end up re-releasing the same map 10 times under different names or notations (this really annoys a lot of people). Make some default board names. They don't even have to be clever, but "World War" and "Crazy Battle" is getting kind of worn out, ya know?[/quote]

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