What can we do to make tabletop war games easier to set up and prettier to look at? That’s one of the questions we asked ourselves when we launched 6 Squared Studios about a year ago. Since then we’ve launched our line of 6×6 terrain tiles and accessories but we’d still like to do more. We decided that one thing we could do to make the process easier was to use pre-printed maps for background and add our terrain features on top of them. In this post I’ll discuss the early stages of this product’s development, show off where it’s at right now and talk a bit about what to expect in part 2 of this article.
Why marry pre-printed maps with 3D terrain? Well, it goes back many years to when a friend of mine and I would spend many (perhaps too many) hours playing the FPS version of Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force. We would play one-on-one in PvP mode until the wee hours of the morning. One of my favourite parts of that whole experience was the finding and trying of fantastic new maps (Danger City is my all time favourite) and I wanted to bring that fun to tabletop gaming.
The idea that a fixed board can be used for tabletop gaming isn’t totally new. Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Miniatures Game used fixed maps to great effect and there were some very beautiful examples of maps produced by the community that became some of my all-time favourites. The one thing pre-printed maps lack is depth. So why not add some traditional 3D terrain to the map to spruce things up a bit? Hmm… a nice, printed map for a pretty background and some 3D terrain for traditional cover/obstacles/objectives/etc.; I think we’re on to something. So we made the decision to put some time into developing one to try out and see how it works.
What would be our first map? We considered a few options such as an old west town and an isolated road through the woods but we finally settled on a small, family farmstead. We have a scenario in mind for game that would benefit from having a farmstead and we already have a few terrain pieces that will work well on a farm.
So I spent some time pouring over images of farms on Pinterest and Google image search for inspiration. I went out and drove by some small farms in and around my home town to see first-hand the scale of some of the building we’d use (Pro tip: January isn’t the best time of year for that exercise – brrr). Having decided to use a 3’ x 3’ playing area, I had to squeeze several features into a relatively small area to give the impression of a farm so we came up with a list of must-have features. We would include:
- A farm house
- A barn
- A chicken coop
- A pig pen and
- An irrigation pond with a windmill
Now, I’m no artist but I am reasonably skilled in the use of computer graphics software. Fortunately, my partners are more artistic than I am (one of them ‘doodles’ better than I could draw if my life depended on it). Another tool in my belt is a commercial licence for a series of art tiles by a fantastic artist named Raymond Gaustadnes who produce the tiles for a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The tiles are easy to use and look great. I only wish they covered a greater range of subject matter; I won’t be able to use them for everything. Below are a few stages of the map up-to-and-including its current state (low resolution images; obviously the printable file is much too large to include here).
Textures down for dirt, grass and water. White rectangles indicate building locations. The rectangular dirt patch is also a building location; it’s the farm house foundation which is already drawn and the white placeholder removed.
Here’s the house’s foundation finished and placeholder added for a vegetable garden.
Here the front yard has been spruced up a bit with a fense, gate and big tree.
What Comes Next?
Next on the agenda is to finish up the map (obviously). Now that the farm house’s foundation is done, I’ll work on the barn (the biggest white rectangle). After that come the smaller buildings and possibly some extra features to provide cover and obstacles. There will be the edge of a corn or wheat field at the left edge of the map and more trees around the perimeter of the map (windbreaks) I’m still not sure what I’ll do for the windmill; I might have to ask my partner to draw one from scratch.
Once the map is finalized, we’ll look at what we have for 3D terrain to go on it and what we’ll need to create. The next big step will be to do a test print and see if it turns out the way it’s supposed to do. One thing of which we’re still unsure is how durable our vinyl will be. But that’s what play testing is for. We’ll put it through its paces and see how it holds up. This will also give us a chance to play test the game scenario we have planned for this year’s conventions. I don’t want to give away too much but if you like The Walking Dead and M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs you’ll want to come find us at various conventions this year. We plan to run the game for the first time at Reapercon in Lewisville, TX.
That’s all for now. To see the map take shape and find out how everything goes, keep watching this space for Part 2 when we’ll show off the finished version (with and without the 3D terrain on it), and maybe even have some shots of the game in action.