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There’s a Map For That

Map picture by alex dehnel

I am breaking up the procession of profession posts to talk about the maps for Spaceship 47. I have had two map-related topics on my mind in recent weeks, so I thought I would write about them both to help clarify them.

Line of Sight

Issue 1: Symbols or Colours

In an effort to make the game flow as smoothly as possible, the line of sight system I am using is the following:

“Each hex on the map will contain symbols. You have line of sight to your target if the same symbol appears in your hex and the hex the target is in.”

I have since found out that a game called Tannhauser used a similar mechanic – this made me happy as I was worried that if no-one else had used the idea then it must be a bad idea. Anyway, Tannhauser uses “floating” circles for the movement and each circle has the circumference of the circle coloured in various colours. If you and your target are in circles that have the same colour, you have line of sight. Please note, that I haven’t actually played this game. This is just from reading things on the internet. Here is an example of a map from Tannhauser:


Tannhauser Line of Sight Example

The colours look nicer than the symbols but I am worried about colour blind players,so at the moment I am going to stick with symbols, but will think about colours if there are few enough that I can use colour blind friendly colours.

Issue 2: Hex Grid or Circles

The other thing to consider is the use of circles by Tannhauser. A hex grid will require a lot of working out Line of Sight and the hexes could get really busy with all of the Line of Sight symbols. Additionally, I wanted some hexes to contain information in them such as starting points for monsters etc, which would make the hex even busier.

However, if I switch to the circles method of Tannhauser, I’m not sure how I could adjudicate who gets damaged by grenades in as smooth a fashion as the Line of Sight. If I have no grenades that means losing some of the cool equipment the players could have. So do I go for the less busy, simplified circles but lose out on grenades? Or do I go for the potentially more busy hex grid but actually have grenades in the game?

[NOTE: A cursory search shows that there are grenades in Tannhauser, but I can’t work out exactly how they work from internet searches. I really need to buy this game!]

Map Book

The second thing I have been thinking about is having a book of maps. This was sparked by seeing the awesome Gaming Books by Loke Battle Mats (go check them out!) at Dragonmeet. This would be a great way for the players to save time on setting up the game – no finding the right tile and matching them up correctly, just open the book to the correct page for the level, put the minis on the starting spots and boom, you can start the game.


Image from Gaming Books

I imagined each mission’s map being on a separate two page spread in the book. The map wouldn’t take up the entire two pages – probably the upper 2 thirds while monsters stats and other mission specific text would be in the bottom third.

I then started doing the initial design work for the first mission – rescuing the scientists at the remote underground Scientific Research Base on Europa. I asked Twitter for ideas about what rooms would be in the base. I got so many awesome ideas! It made me realise that this base would be too big to fit on two pages. However, I didn’t want to have a mission per level of the base as the game is supposed to be about exploring the wonders of the galaxy and having multiple missions in the same place goes against that design goal. Aha! I thought, what if the single mission was on multiple levels, but when the PCs get to the stairs of the level they are on, they just turn the page of the book and boom, they are on the next level but it is still the same mission! Spreading the mission goal over three levels might be good or bad. I need to play test that.

This got me really excited as it seemed to chime in so nicely with the map book idea. Minimal set-up, but making the players feel like they are exploring a big space.

But then it hit me. What happens to any stragglers? Two players get to the stairs, but the rest of the group had been slowed down by a fight and now it will take them a turn or two to catch up. I can’t let the players that are at the stairs go onto the next map as that is the next page of the book! But it feels odd that they would have to just stand there waiting for their buddies to catch up.

So I have decided that as long as the current map has been cleared of anything that could impede the players (i.e. all the monsters are dead) that if any player exits the level, then the page gets turned and the players start on the entry point for the next level, but any player that wasn’t on the exit point misses one turn. I think that is fair. But you may have another opinion.

So what do you think?

  1. What is your opinion on the line of sight issue?

  2. Hex grid or circles?

  3. Use circles and work out how to include grenades in the game?

  4. Colours or symbols?

  5. Any opinions on multi-level map idea?

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