Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Map making for wargames

I am about to reveal how little I really know about map making. This is especially painful as I was trained as a geographer in college! I use a program called Macromedia Freehand running on a few different PC computers. The "secret" to making my maps is understanding layering. In Freehand, one layer set atop another layer will obstruct your view of things on the lower layer.

So, in my mind, I deconstruct the map that I wish to make into sets of items or layers... maybe, if I show you it would make more sense. Here is a map that I made for a game that I hope to run someday soon.

1. Base layer - draw a rectangle, mix some blue, and fill in the rectangle.

2.Ground layer - I use the pencil tool to free hand the outline of the ground. In this case I mixed a darker brown for the earth and chose a tan/sand color for the shoreline.

3. Trees layer - Next I draw a small sample of circles, fill them in with some green color from the mixer, and then cut and paste my circles until I have enough to make a forest.

4. Rapids layer - I needed to show rapids in the river so I drew the needed shapes, colored them a lighter blue, and then close a pattern for the rapids and whirlpools to differentiate them.

5. Portage and shooting range layer - Using the pencil tool I drew the shapes needed for the portage trails and the shooting range, colored them a tan color, and then chose a pattern for them to differentiate them.

6. Rocks and Movement Info layer - I drew a few rocks and placed them over the rapids area. I added text boxes to give movement information for players to use if I ever get to run this game.

7. Event markers, Title box, and border layer - Lastly, I added "event markers" and a title to my map. Most importantly, I added a thick edge border to cover up all of my imperfect drawing of shapes on the lower layers...

It really sounds more complicated than it is. Map making is only as complicated as you wish to make it. As long as the map conveys a good idea of the terrain and helps a reader understand the action being described then it is a good map. I hope that this helps a little for those who wish to make maps to describe a wargame battle.


Phil said...

Thanks for sharing, very useful!

James said...

Thanks Phil. I think that your method of showing the events in your battles in photographs is far superior to just showing a map. I would rather look at pictures than a map!

Phil said...

Thanks a lot. But both, photos and maps, is better to my mind...I'll try it !

James Fisher, FINS said...

Thanks for that post James. You have opened my eyes to something that should have been staring me in the face.
I have been drawing my maps directly into my word processor program; not bad but a bit cumbersome. I have a drawing program called Easydraw that I use principally for work-related drawing, including layering, but for some stupid reason I was not using it for maps for our wargame scenarios!
I'll rectify that now.
Thanks, James

James said...


I am glad that my ideas will prove to be of use! I look forward to seeing some of your maps in the future!