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Map design. What are the factors at play?

2 replies [Last post]
Joined: 02/19/2012

Hey all,

In the game I am currently developing, players many maneuver no more than four "stacks" of units in a given territory within a central shared map (like Risk, but where only a few stacks are manipulated), and I'm now at the point where I need to refine what that map needs to look like. Player starting positions will be fixed at opposite ends of the map.

I've got a ballpark figure in my head that the map is going to need about 20 "territories" that connect to each other (in a fashion that is again, similar to Risk). What I have no idea about is how they should be positioned relative to each other, and if it matters.

The few thoughts that come to mind are, if only four stacks are interacting, then the central map probably shouldn't be much wider than four or five territories otherwise stacks will just cross by each other and not interact, and that key territories of interest should be equidistant from the starting positions.

Are there other factors that I should be considering when it comes to developing a balanced, fair map, or is this the sort of thing where I just need to draw randomly and hope it all just comes together on paper?

Thanks for your consideration.


Joined: 10/13/2011
The impact of landscape

Hi LordRooster,

I have approached this issue a couple of different ways in the past with mixed results, but some of these ideas may help your design.

I usually start by taking my map and stripping off the grid or "territories". This leaves me with a landscape full of rivers, mountains, deserts, etc. I then ask myself if it makes sense that people would fight over this land. Are there natural high points or valleys? Is there a defensible river? Would a dangerous trip through the desert allow for a surprise flank attack? and so on... Once I am happy with the land, I usually overlay a standard grid pattern that has the number of spaces I think I need (in your case 5x4 or 3x7 would give you about 20 territories). I then start evaluating the landscape under the grid to decide how I think it might affect movement or how hard it would be to control the area. Depending on the landscape, I will usually combine 2 or more grid spaces into a single space or may divide a single space in smaller, individual spaces. For example, open plains might be best represented as being twice as large as a standard grid space (easy to move across, but attacks can come from any direction) whereas something like a jungle might be lots of little spaces (difficult to traverse and impossible to control more than the immediate territory)

Although I try to apply logic to the design, this still amounts to a lot of trial and error! However, I believe the more "hands on" time you spend with your map, the more likely you will have something that is well balanced and believeable.

Throughout the process, I check for things like "fastest route to point X" or "how many moves to the other side" as a way of determining if one starting location is inherently superior to the other.

A couple of other thoughts...

If the map is the "centerpiece" of the game, I would suggest a map that really "pops" when printed out. Something like a satellite photo has great realism, but your players may end up sqiunting at the board saying "Is that a command bunker or a Taco Bell?" A large, colorful map (even if it is a touch cartoonish) is attractive and more likely to catch the eye of potential game players when they walk by a demo table.

If your map isn't the focus of the game, or if the objectives are randomly placed on the map, you may be better off with a grid approach. It's not as interesting, but it is very easy to create, print and balance for play.

Well this was a much longer post than I intended - good luck with your design!

bonsaigames's picture
Joined: 12/20/2010

Great advice Orangebeard!
I'm copying this into a file on my computer for later use.
Levi Mote
Bonsai Entertainment

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