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Three Moves Ahead Episode 14 – Maps

May 26th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 10 Comments · Feature:Map, Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


The panel jumps the gun a little bit and talks about maps before Troy can finish quite his series, but they have good reason. The team goes over an hour this time so Bruce can call Civilization IV‘s map dead, so Tom can regale you with his wilderness adventures and so Troy can listen to his colleagues say nice things about him.

Listen here.
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Source of the Nile on Board Game Geek
Troy’s Map Series from the beginning.


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Andy B

    Thanks for the early release guys! I’ve now got two new podcasts to listen to during work tomorrow thanks to this early bit of honey from the proverbial honey comb of gaming wisdom.

  • Scott Kevill

    You talk in this one! You did this just so you wouldn’t be some other guy.

  • spelk

    I’m struggling to conjur up any bad strategy maps, I think its because you generally only remember the stand out maps. A lot of games utilise maps in a very bland way, sort of as a mere canvas to serve as a platter to put the action/strategy rather than as a key part of the action. I think maps should become more deliberately engineered as part of the strategic equation.

    One instance where a really complex and almost beautifully rendered map hinders my progress is in AGEOD’s American Civil War game, because the detail seems to obfuscate the abstraction I need at the strategic level. However, with careful use of the maps filters, you can colour over the detail, to help clarify your situation. And when you need to revel in the beauty of the map again, turn the filters off.

    Regarding the twee Advance Wars maps, you should take a look at Weewar.com’s selection of maps and user created maps. If you’re a paying customer, you can create your own.. and there are some excellent abstracted but historical renditions alongside the ridiculous bare breasted variants (I kid you not).

    And thanks to Tom for my word of the week. “Historicity”.

  • Nick

    There is a modern game for the DS which forces you to make your own maps, it’s called The Etrian Oddysey, which is sort of Bard’s Tale for the modern era.

    Some of the worst map design that I can think of is Galactic Civilizations 2, which some how manages to make space exploration dull. The scale of the map seems odd, with suns and planets almost randomly scattered, and strange floating symbolic resources. Great game, but weird map.

    The Total War series battle maps are often quite poor, with some weird random starting positions (often half-way up a mountain!). But as a game goes on and you fight repeated battles in the same place, it gets invested with meaning and history of your own making.

    Also, thanks very much for a really interesting series of podcasts, I hope that there’ll be many more.

  • spelk

    Still mulling over bad maps, I remembered a game called Spaceforce Captains (www.sfcaptains.com) where you have the limitless beauty of space tethered down into cluttered corridors of 2d exploration. The game plays out like Heroes of Might and Magic, but with terribly restrictive maps and quite unbelievable scales.

  • LintMan

    I haven’t played Dominions 3 to see how its built in random map generator works, but I actually did a good amount of programming for the community-created random map generator for Dominions 2 (bugfixes, replaced the RNG with a better one, tones of new map generation options, etc). I wonder if Bruce ever checked that one out.

    The worst maps in strategy games for me are the RTS “take your hero unit (or a handful of regular units) and run them through the mazelike gauntlet to solve the mission”. Maybe that’s the same as what Tom calls Puzzle Maps. Occasionally this type of mission can be well done, but mostly it’s cliche now, and sometimes they really do emphasize the “puzzle” aspect, and have only one workable solution, which is annoying as hell.

  • M.S. Smith

    I may catch flak for this one, but I’ll nominate Starcraft as a shining example of bad maps.

    My beef with Starcraft’s maps is that they are barely maps at all. They remind me of this patterned sheet I had when I was a kid. On the sheet was a repeating pattern of streets, road signs, and the occasional building. I would play with my Lego sets on it, making cars and houses. But what was on the map ended up being pointless because the map was just a flat sheet which was always the same and didn’t influence how I played. It was the Lego sets I was actually playing with, not the map on the sheet. Later, after the sheet wore out, it was replaced with a plain white bedspread and I played exactly the same as I did before.

    That is how Starcraft’s maps always felt to me. The only thing that mattered was choke-points. Elevation changes and obstacles were just ways of making more choke-points. Even resource placement rarely mattered, because maps always gave you the resources you’d immediately need right next to your home base.

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  • Wolff

    (Yes, I’m behind on your podcast, but I’m catching up.)

    Name-checking “Source of the Nile” was awesome. I grinned big when you brought it up. I’m introducing my 6-year-old daughter to the games of my youth. Today we were playing Talisman, which is her speed, but beneath it in the closet was the AH edition of Source of the Nile, and it’s sitting on the floor waiting to be restacked.

    Looking back, the novelty of making your own map of Africa with crayons (ON THE BOARD! OMG!) is perhaps its best feature. It has, like most AH games from that era, way too many rules in too-small type, and I seem to recall it had far too little player interaction—it was like playing an elaborate Africa-themed solitaire game, but your friends all had to sit there, too.

    Still, any game that has this table can’t all be bad: