View Full Version : The Great War Map (WIP)

12-19-2010, 07:47 PM
Europe 1914 (https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B2XdHMs2SAz3ZTQ2MmJmZjUtNmE5My00MDY2LTk5YTg tMmRlYWRjYTA1NGIx&hl=en) (Go to File, Download Original, to see the 15mb pdf.)

In my spare time for the past year I've been working on a board game for my friends and I to play via email. It's grand strategy treatment of the First World War that aims to give players a measure of plausible historical freedom to fight the war as they see fit. It's a hexagon based war game on land, but at sea it is divided up into much larger, but roughly equal sea zones. Currently, neither the hexes or the sea zones are on the map of Europe. There is also no surround on the map, but the red lines are railroads circa 1914, and dashed red lined are railroads built during the war, but not ready at the outbreak. I did my best to ensure that the borders are accurate to the period, as well as place names, since many of them have changed significantly with the break up of old empires. And you'd be surprised how many lakes were actually man made in the last 80 years thanks to huge hydroelectric projects. The text placement isn't finished yet, so it's still kind of cluttered.

I haven't yet incorporated the terrain and land cover. I have an example of what the terrain looks like at low resolution attached as a thumbnail. The terrain is derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and after significant geo-processing, cleaned up in Photoshop. Green is normal movement and defense, light brown is rough and dark brown is mountains. Land cover is forestry and desert derived from Landsat imagery. I have that data, but not in a finalized format.

12-21-2010, 01:26 AM
That's lovely! I've been looking for something similar to this for maps of my own (real world shapes with topography, I mean). How did you get it, may I ask?

12-22-2010, 12:13 PM
That's lovely! I've been looking for something similar to this for maps of my own (real world shapes with topography, I mean). How did you get it, may I ask?

Well, there's oodles of geographic data available for free online via many government and academic sources. The one problem is that much of it is aimed at users of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. There is free, open source (http://grass.fbk.eu/) GIS software though, but it's not the easiest thing to learn.

Anyway, for my pdf map I linked, I got data like lakes, rivers, coastline, cities, contemporary political boundaries, etc from Natural Earth (http://www.naturalearthdata.com/). However, their vector data comes in ESRI shapefile format, which requires some kind of GIS software to work with. Raster data comes as a TIFF, which can be opened in photo editors.

The terrain and land cover I got from the Global Land Cover Facility (http://www.glcf.umd.edu/data/). They have lots of satellite imagery and data derived from satellite imagery. It comes as a geoTIFF, which is a TIFF with geographic information tagged to it. It'll still open in a photo editing program. If you go to their data viewer (http://glcfapp.glcf.umd.edu:8080/esdi/index.jsp) (click on Map Search), you can download the data. I downloaded specifically, the 'SRTM GTOPO30', which is the continental sized tiles of world topography, with each pixel covering 1km x 1km, and the 'Global Land Cover, Global', which classifies the Earth's surface by vegetation or land use, with each pixel also covering 1km x 1km. There is much higher resolution imagery, but it covers much smaller parts of the Earth.

While I didn't use them, there are free shaded reliefs of different scales and regions of the Earth available from the Shaded Relief Archive (http://shadedreliefarchive.com/). The format is TIFF.

I hope that helps answer your question somewhat.

*Edit: I forgot to mention, David Rumsey (http://www.davidrumsey.com/) has a huge collection (24,000+) of historic maps going back over 500 years, all scanned at very high resolution and available for free viewing and download. I used them for checking historical political boundaries and place names. It's a great place to go even if you just want to look at beautiful old maps.

01-09-2011, 10:28 PM
Here's an updated version of my boardgame map, with hexagons and sea zones for movement and combat. I integrated the land cover and terrain, but it still needs some work. Forest is green, and the desert is the speckles in the Middle East and North Africa. I turned the names off for now, so the map can more easily seen.

Comments, criticism?

01-09-2011, 10:43 PM
Oh wow, the detail! This looks fantastic, and you can just feel the hours and sweat that went into it.

The only critique I have is that the coastline-sea border looks too ... um, too. I'm not sure exactly what it is that's bothering me. If it was my map I'd start by shrinking the blue line and maybe putting a gradient in place of the thick blue line, but I'm ALL trial and error -- I have no idea if that would fix the problem. Of course, if you look at it and think I'm nuts, there is no problem in the first place :)

Upon thinking more, I can see the boardgame-thick border thing, in which case I'm wondering why nothing else has the thick border. Ah well, hopefully that gives you some food for thought anyway.

01-09-2011, 10:48 PM
This makes me want to get out some little miniatures and start taking land from my neighbors. You might want to tone down the roads (the orange lines) just a little bit on the non-mountain areas (because those are orange as well). Could just be me but my eye seems to be drawn to those areas the most. The blue rim around the land I might go darker but not too much. Looks pretty darn good, though, man.

01-10-2011, 10:50 AM

As for the coastline, I think you're right about it being a bit too dominant. It's actually kind of difficult to see in the small resolution jpeg, but there is actually three lines offset from the coastline itself, like you see on old maps. I attached a close up example of what I was trying to do. I gave the thing a print out at its intended size, and the dominant effect is way too strong. If you take a look at lakes, the effect is less, because the line weight is lower. So I'm going to match the coastline effect to the lakes.

I'll fiddle around with red lines, which are actually railroads. They didn't seem to me to be too dominant, as they are supposed to be strategically important, as they are they are essential for long distant movement and supply. I didn't want them to get lost, but I'll see what they look like when they are more toned down.

I should have another version by the end of the day hopefully.

01-10-2011, 03:21 PM
Looks fantastic but that's a LOT of hexes!!!

Have you played 'Paths of Glory' by GMT games? Best WWI wargame I've ever played.

Looking forward to seeing the progress!

01-10-2011, 03:51 PM
Oh, I see. At full size the rails don't look too bad actually and since their pretty important you might as well leave them. If a tonal contrasted railroad system looks good then I'd still opt for that, myself, but it's not necessary.

01-10-2011, 09:37 PM
Ah! Yes, full res makes a big difference! I still think those coastlines are a bit strong, but I can see where it was coming from now. I don't think the rail lines look too strong, but you may want to (if it's vector and won't take forever) put little crosslines in along them, that's a pretty common notation for rails.

01-11-2011, 07:19 AM
Following on from what Gidde and Ascension were saying, I'm with the 'too dominant coastlines' school. I think the usual convention for rail lines is that they are black (with or without little cross lines), but it's just a convention. Would it make any sense (any relevance?) to capitalise the lettering for capital cities? Or maybe distinguish the dot in some way (e.g. make it a square?). If capital cities have no 'in game' relevance, then I guess not.

01-11-2011, 10:38 AM
Here's another version of the map. The coastlines were definitely too dominant, so I toned down the line weight of the contour effect to match that of the lakes. I pumped up the contrast on the relief to make it stand out better. I figured out how to make my country outlines fade away from the borders to completely transparent, so the effect on the borders makes them easier to see, while not obscuring the underlying terrain within countries. Before, I could only get the colour to fade to white and I applied a partial transparency on the whole thing, which was not ideal. I changed the desert colour, but I'm not sure I'm happy with it. And there were some other minor changes like toning down sea zone lines and altering forest colour slightly.

I didn't change the railroads at all in the end, and I realize that they are not the usual cartographic standard, but considering there is going to be a lot of text placement, and other symbology (cities, industry, resources, forts, naval bases), making them black with cross ties I think would add to the clutter, and harder to see.

The cities and associated text you saw in the screen grab of the coastlines are not yet final. After getting these base map elements done, that's my next step. Cities will have a symbol more evocative of an urban area, its size, industrial capacity, etc. Capitals will have have their names entirely in uppercase, while I'm undecided if I will use a text hierarchy for other classes of cities yet, as I have a lot of text to place correctly.

Looks fantastic but that's a LOT of hexes!!! Have you played 'Paths of Glory' by GMT games? Best WWI wargame I've ever played.

A huge number of hexes was what I was aiming for, to give players a lot of room for maneuver. This won't be a game you can play in an afternoon or evening, and is aimed at play by email, partly because the group I used to play board games with moved away to all different places, partly so I can play new people, and partly because the pace of email games allows for a much greater degree of complexity. It's not just the military aspect of WWI, but in includes economics, diplomacy, espionage, technological development, politics, and if things go badly for your country, revolution. Every player will have to keep track of a few record sheets for their country, but it will be a bit more fun than doing your taxes, and no strain on your finances, as I intend to offer the game for free.

I haven't actually played 'Paths of Glory', but have heard good things about it. I have played 'Storm of Steel' by Decision Games, which my board game started as attempt to rework some of the rules and fix what I felt were flaws in the system (most especially naval warfare). Now however, it's a very different game which shares some core ideas, but radically differs in the details.

01-11-2011, 05:07 PM
Ah, yes, the coastlines look MUCH better now. And the railroads really look fine, as long as you've got a legend that explains the red line = a railroad. They're visible without being overpowering.

01-12-2011, 02:37 PM

Just one thing: by creating such a detailed map, you might end up with problems with where exactly things are. For instance, in the blown up portion, the city dot for Antwerp is right on the corner of three hexes. Which hex is it considered to be in? Or would it be in all three? Same question with rivers, mountains, or borders. If a border goes through a hex (rather than along the edge) does that mean that you can have multiple armies in the same hex? I"m not trying to downplay the time and effort you have put into this amazing map; I"m just thinking out loud, so-to-speak, as an old hex-and-counter wargamer.

OK after re-reading all the post, I will assume you have taken these things into account.

BTW, You really should think about giving Paths of Glory a try; I heartily concur- its one of the best wargames I have ever played.

So, if you are planning on making this a email-able game, may I ask if you are going to use one of the computer-assistance programs specifically made for emailing turn based games, like VASSAL, Cyberboard, or Zun Tzu?

01-12-2011, 03:43 PM
It's great to see more contributions to the boardgame side of guild. Tim has been pretty much holding up this sub-forum on his own!

01-13-2011, 10:05 PM
Here's a semi update of the map. I've started work on placing names and adding the city symbols. So far the British Isles, the Low Countries and Northern France are done. The city symbol comes in three different sizes to represent the relative populations of cities at the time. I'm aiming for a good degree of historical accuracy for city size, so if something looks out of place tell me. I've been moving cities and railroads clearly into a single hex to prevent confusion playing the game, so in some circumstances, cities aren't exactly where they should be. At some point, I'm going to have to do this to the rivers, putting them on hex edges so they can be properly used as defensive bonuses.

Currently, I'm getting the text placed so that it is at least clear to read, but I'll have to make another pass later to make it more elegant. If anyone isn't clear which feature a piece of text is labeling, tell me please.

So, if you are planning on making this a email-able game, may I ask if you are going to use one of the computer-assistance programs specifically made for emailing turn based games, like VASSAL, Cyberboard, or Zun Tzu?

I've looked into it a little before, but I'm not quite sure about where to start with those programs. At this point, I'm aiming at getting the map and rules done, and then I'll look closer at the software. I just hope I'm not setting myself up for a lot more work by not planning them in from the start.

If anyone is curious, my city symbol is roughly traced off of a 1933 Ordnance Survey map of Cheltenham (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cheltenhammap_1933.jpg) in the UK.

01-13-2011, 11:01 PM
I see what you mean with the rivers, but I like the text placement fonts/placement so far, and the cities look natural even if they aren't quite where they'd otherwise be. Can't wait to see this finished, it's a huge undertaking!

02-21-2011, 05:56 AM
This is certainly a lovely map, but as a Dutch person I have a slight problem with it, or rather, several problems.

You commented on how many lakes are 'manmade' and did not exist in 1914-1918. Us Dutchies have always wanted to be 'different' and did things the other way around; you may or may not know us for our sometimes ridiculous feats of land reclamation. A famous Asian (Hong Kong) airport was built on Dutch land-reclamation technology, and those famous land-reclamation resorts in Dubai are also a result of Dutch engineers at work.

However, we (as in: our nation) did NOT get this handy with land reclamation by just standing here, and building a few dikes. The word 'land reclamation' already says it: (re-)claiming land from the sea. But as mentioned our engineers did not get this good at it from nothing. However, the truly impressive projects where sparked by a flood in 1916... World War I was halfway by then (though the Netherlands where neutral).

This took some planning... The first project was the diking of the 'Wieringermeerpolder' construction started, in 1927... (it is the most North-west red shaded area). At the same time, construction started on the 'Afsluitdijk' (Enclosure dike), which is the dike I shaded out. The dike/dam (32 km long, and 90 meters wide) was finished in 1933, and the land in the Wieringermeerpolder became usable in 1934.

In 1937, the reclamation of the 'Noordoostpolder' (North-east polder), directly south of Leeuwarden, started. The largest area (most south) is actually the largest artificial island in the world (it is separated from the coast by a narrow strip of water), and construction did not start until 1957 for the first part and 1968 for the second part. Flevoland became a separate province in 1986. It's total area is 1419 square kilometres... all reclaimed land.

However, these dates imply that this rather large patch of land, and this long dike should not be on your World War I map. But you're not the worst offender BY FAR... I've seen these structures even on supposedly medieval maps :P

I'm certain you can find more accurate maps than the rough crossing I did, and you may even choose not to include this as The Netherlands did not really participate in WW I, but I wanted to get it out anyway ^_^


edit: There are MANY more polders in the Netherlands which where not yet reclaimed at the time of WW1, but these are the most major, and probably the only ones really standing out on your scale, though there are several projects about the size of the Wieringermeerpolder or only a little smaller.

03-22-2011, 12:40 PM
Sorry about the belated reply. I've been busy with school, and not really been paying attention to the community here.

Embarrassingly, I had kind of forgotten about the possible impact of Dutch land reclamation on their coastline. So thanks for the heads up, because now I can alter it, based on this map (http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~3069~430028:Western-Europe---communications--Th?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_L ist_No%2CSeries_No) of Western Europe from 1922. I'll have to check for other areas in Europe and the Middle East for land reclamation, although I don't think it would be as extensive as the Netherlands.

While the Netherlands was neutral historically, the game does allow players to change that. For example, earlier versions of the German war plan, the Schlieffen Plan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlieffen_plan) involved invading the Netherlands, so it is plausible that players could do something similar.