Rasher’s Scenario Design Series

Chapter 4 – Finishing Your Map!

Now that you have the basics of your scenario down, (the basic Map Design, Creativity, important parts, etc.) the fun really starts. In this section you will see your scenario really take shape. At this point, you should have your scenario thought out, have the basic Map Design done, important areas placed, Victory Conditions in place, and any or all of your creative elements working properly.

If you have all that behind you, it is time for the fun to start. For me, finishing the map is by far the most enjoyable part of creating a scenario. Everything tedious is behind you, and now is the time to let your imagination go crazy. For now is the time to finish your map:

At this point, you will want to place all the resources you will need. The type of scenario you are creating depends on where the resources go. If you are creating a puzzle or quest scenario where resource management plays a large part, you would not place an over-abundance of resources. Likewise, when you are creating a scenario where you must build up a large army, you would not scatter a few resources across the map. Unless, of course, it is your goal to make the player work hard for all his money.

If you want the AI to be active in training units, it is imperative that he have access to a good food supply. An AI player without food and resources quickly withers away to nothing, unless you give him lots to begin with.

One mistake that many designers make is to provide the player with an overabundant supply of gold. The player should have to work for his gold, and learn to manage it well, not just send out 20 villagers when he needs it. Likewise, resources should be placed at strategic locations. Have resources located in places where the player will have to work hard to get it, and may have to fight to keep it. In a puzzle or quest scenario, you will want to place resources well. For example, if you need enough stone to build a tower to rescue some Gaia units, you would not place a large Stone Mine in clear view, with a Storage Pit right next to it. Most likely you would want to place it out of the way, and hide a Gaia storage pit nearby, or have the player build one himself.

Remember, the bottom line is this: resources can control the entire flow of a scenario.

Now you will want to finish placing all the units on the map. This include your units, and Gaia units you will encounter, all enemy units and armies, and all allied units. To add a realistic effect, many times I will place a peaceful little town, or perhaps a little tribe of farmers, etc.. At this point, you will want to place any cities, towns, or tribes that have not already been done. However, we are not interested in Map Design now. Keep your cities simple, and you can fix them later. This can give your scenario some much-needed realism. There is not much more that can be said about this subject, so let’s move on:

Before I begin, let me say that some of the stuff you will find in this section has already been covered by Ingo van Thiel is his excellent article on Map Design, in which he does a much better job than I ever could in the following section. I would highly recommend you check it out either before or after you read this section, if you have not already done so.

By now you will have all of your cities placed, but they will most likely be bland and unrealistic. In this section, you will learn how to make the player feel like he (or she) is taking a stroll through a real town.

The first thing to do is to remember that towns and cities have trees. Many of the scenarios that I review have these boring cities that look like they are in the middle of the desert. (And even then you would want an oasis or two). Cities that with trees look a lot better than those without. The best way to do it is to mix Jungle tiles with Pine Forest of regular Forest. You can place them anywhere you want in your city to achieve totally different effects:

Trees can also be placed “In line” to add some nice looks to your city. Ash trees and many of the Pine trees look nice when placed in a row, as do many combinations of other trees. Check out these pictures for a few nice-looking tricks with trees:

Another important part of creating a city is to achieve the desired effect: If the city a bustling metropolis, you would not have a few buildings scattered within the walls. Likewise, a peaceful country town would not be jam-packed with buildings. Use buildings sparingly, and most of the time they should not be clumped too closely together, unless this is what you desire. The only time that I use tightly-packed cities was in my “Magnus” campaigns, where it fit the gameplay well, and they were supposed to look like large cities in England.

Stone Paths are a must for most large cities. Strategically placed, they will add a very nice effect. However, make sure that you do not use too many of them. Add some desert paths, and do not always use the Stone Paths. If your goal is to create a country town or the like, your best bet is to use the plain old Desert terrain tile. Use the smallest tile to connect your buildings and paths, and when artfully used with trees, these can look better than Stone Paths in a country city.

Gaia Grass Clumps also add a lot to your cities, giving a “grassy” look to areas, as well as some good-old eye candy. Not too much more can be said about this. Just fool around and see what cool stuff you can come up with.

To see what I consider the ultimate example of a great-looking city, check out “The Martial Emperor”, by Rich Parker.


Another designer that is great at creating cities and towns is Ingo van Thiel. (Of course, isn’t he good at everything?)

In my opinion, nothing adds more to a map than nice-looking forests. Forget about big blocks of boring old trees; you are going for realistic looking forests that will make the player forget that it is only a game. Although the Scenario Editor has many limits, with a little creativity you can create many stunning effects. Forests are one of these things. First of all, to make a good forest, you do not want big blocks of trees. When I am making forests, I use the tiny brush. That way, you have a not-so-thick forest, which looks a lot more realistic. The key here is to make sure that the forest still blocks the path of units, but looks realistic. The next step of making your forests is mixing trees; a forest made of JUST a certain kind of trees looks boring and bland. You should ALWAYS mix your tree types. I find that a combination of Jungle and Forest tiles work the best.

Many times you will want a desert area on your map. For many people, this simply means laying down the desert terrain and adding a few Desert Palm trees. However, it does not have to be this way.

The first step to designing a good desert is to make sure that you still have a fair amount of green. Even in the midst of a sea of sand, a few green patches make for some nice effects. Gaia Grass Clumps work great for this, as do Desert Patches. They should be used liberally across your desert, and will add a great effect. Another must for deserts is a large amounts of cacti. When mixed with Desert Patches and Grass Clumps they create a very nice-looking desert. To see a really good desert, check out this picture taken from the campaign “The David Saga #2”, by Imhotep:

One thing that many novice designers do is make these boring, plain old paths. True, all your paths do not have to be works of art, but with a little work you can make some unique paths. One thing that works well is to line your path with a certain type of tree. Ash trees work well, as do some of the different Pine trees. 

Cacti work very well too, and can be used to line your paths to add a nice effect. Also, make sure to use the tiny brush when making a path out of desert terrain. Paths that are too wide look blocky, and you definitely do not want this to happen. As with most areas of map design, the key here is to experiment and be creative. You be surprised at what you come up with. Trust me.

What is the most useful object in the scenario editor for Eye Candy? Although some people would argue with me on this, I must say that it is the Cactus, by far. Imhotep was probably the first designer to make good use of cacti, and Ingo van Thiel perfected it to an art.

Cacti can be used to do almost anything. From hedges to paths to fields to grass to swamps to pools of water to deserts, and many, many more things, the possibilities are endless. Cacti are most useful when they are placed very close together. However, the Scenario Editor seems to like them to be placed far apart. You can place them close to together, or on top of each other, but if you choose “Move” or “Delete” in the meantime, all cacti you try to place after this will automatically space themselves out. To correct this, simply choose “Gaia” from the dropdown list of players again, then choose “Cactus”, and you can continue to place them as usual. Some people say you must totally exit the Scenario Editor, but this is simply not true.

Note: This is as far as Rasher got with his series, Ai and Per were to be next, see the other articles in this section for all we know so far about them.

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