After showing off the city map tiles for Wayfinder #4 (previous post) it got me thinking. The square format is repetitive and blocky. Also, the directional lighting means the tiles can’t be rotated for variety without it looking like there are 4 different suns. So, whilst they are pretty, they have their drawbacks when trying to create a large map. I also feel that creating a whole city at this level of detail is a bit of a fools errand. That’s a lot of tiles to build a district, let alone a full city.
So I’ve been playing around, and because this is a personal project rather than a commission, I can make my mulling public. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
Here’s some of the logic behind the design:
- The hexagon solves part of the problem with the squares. 6 sides means six different orientations, so one tile can be repeated over and over without being obviously repetitive.
- The roads all enter the tile at the center of each side, so the tile will line up with any other tile.
- The non-directional drop shadow on the buildings means that there’s no directional light to cause trouble when you rotate (or flip) the tile.
I had a very rough and ready play with this tile to see what I could come up with:
This looks promising. The rotation and detail add enough variation. The Hex structure is obvious in the edges, but that doesn’t distract me too much and the roads are interesting enough to pull the attention away from the hex tiling. The smaller scale hopefully results in the viewer understanding that it’s an impression of urban sprawl rather than a detailed house by house representation.
The next step is to create a tile for the different major types of city district:
- Rich – large houses with space and gardens
- Middle income – big houses close together. Market places and squares
- Slums – high density sprawl
The outstanding problems with this are how you add features that don’t take up a full hex.
- I could create stylised icons that sit above the map and allow a GM to clearly locate a feature without trying to accurately depict it. This will definitely work, but it feels a bit like wimping out.
- Create a transparent object smaller than a hex and drop it on top when it’s needed. This works for something like maptool, but wouldn’t work with a printed tile. It also won’t work with lining up roads.
- Create versions of the core tiles with specific features added in. It’s doable, but this could quickly end up with lots of tiles very quickly.
The kind of special features I’m looking at so far are:
- Reservoir/lake (rivers are a whole separate issue…)
- City Walls
- Open Air Bazaar
- Riverboat casinos (thanks Azhrei – no idea how I might depict those!)
- Barracks/parade ground
- State buildings
- City center tile where roads converge on a square or building
- Jousting field
- Rivers and bridges.
- Garbage/refuse sites
- Caravan staging area
- Tanneries/renderers/smelters (near docks)
- Great Library
- Farms at edges
- Low density sprawl at edges – this avoids a city that just stops at the walls.
- Any others?