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Syt
07-29-2009, 04:34 PM
Just came across this little (seemingly free) program by link on a strategy games forum:
http://www.historicalsoftware.com/HSC/HSCmilsketch.htm

If you (like me) occasionally like to sketch out military campaigns, orders of battle, or operational and battle maps then this may be of use for you:


MILSketch is sketching software that makes it easy to create operational diagrams and order of battle hierarchies. Over 2,500 standard NATO unit symbols, line graphics, and tactical mission graphics are included with the program installation. In addition to creating high quality unit symbols over a map or other background graphic, you can create unit boundaries, text annotations, and freehand lines of many standard types. Probably the greatest benefit of the program is its ease of use.

[...]

"I came across this great program through Consimworld. Since I am webmaster of the 70th Infantry Division’s website and also a player of the Combat Mission line of games – I deal with a lot of maps. I was looking to see if this might be the program I was looking for to improve my maps, create illustrated AARs of my games, or create maps for scenarios I may build for CMBO, CMBB or CMAK. I am glad to say this program does indeed fit the bill! Installation went smoothly with no hiccups. I am using a Windows XP system with the latest upgrades with a 1.8 GHz CPU and 512 megs of ram. My video card is a nVidia GeForce 6200. This program is a snap to use. I did have trouble in the beginning in trying to figure out how to create symbols – after re-reading the introduction file and viewing the demo video on the site I was on my way creating maps.

The two samples you see were my first attempts at creating maps. I imported the background picture from Google maps. I cropped the image before importing it so none of the Google extras would show up. I then began picking symbols, adding unit notations and then placed the units on the map. Both maps were done in less than an hour. The program comes with DoD documents as reference material for all the symbols provided (2500!). It’s a great resource for war gamers.

This program does all that it claims. I highly recommend it."

Steve Dixon, Webmaster and VP South, 70th Infantry Division Association

http://www.historicalsoftware.com/HSC/HSCmain_files/baeranthalsector.jpg

http://images.boardgamegeek.com/images/pic297710_lg.jpg

http://www.historicalsoftware.com/HSC/HSCmain_files/tUS%20Situation.gif

(more screens when you follow the link)

Steel General
07-29-2009, 05:27 PM
Interesting - thanks for posting.

icosahedron
07-30-2009, 07:01 AM
Wow, this looks like a great program, thanks for the link. Can you create custom (eg scifi) unit symbols with it? It looks as if you can. Does tha background map have to be any perticular format? I've downloaded it, but I don't have time to play just yet. :(

ravells
07-30-2009, 07:22 AM
Bet you're thinking Traveller :)

So was I!

Syt
07-30-2009, 08:38 AM
Wow, this looks like a great program, thanks for the link. Can you create custom (eg scifi) unit symbols with it? It looks as if you can. Does tha background map have to be any perticular format? I've downloaded it, but I don't have time to play just yet. :(

No idea, haven't had time to try it yet, but it does indeed appear from the screenies on the page that you can create custom symbols.

icosahedron
08-02-2009, 05:55 AM
I got a bit of time to try MilSketch out. It's not as good as I thought it might be, but it has its uses. Here's an initial review:

The missing instruction:
When you call up the symbol designer, just click in one of the drawing spaces to activate it. Actually, the instruction is there at the top left, but you don't tend to read it or comprehend it at first.

First the bad news. You can't use MilSketch to create new custom symbols, the interface simply lets you mix n match several pre-existing symbols, eg the rectangle with the cross in it can be given one or more strokes at the front to denote unit size, and up to 3 text labels can be added to the symbol.

Nor does it place the symbols onto a layer and leave them accessible as clickable objects - your finished map must have all the symbols flattened into the base map, and (this is the killer for me) it seems each one must be permanently merged before you create the next symbol, making it effectively impossible to adjust and move the symbols on the map for optimum placement once you've created them all. Even rotation must be carried out in the symbol editor before placement on the background map. You can undo but you can't tweak, and I imagine you're going to spend a LOT of time undoing - unless you can guarantee placing every symbol exactly where you want it, as you go!

This step-merge process also makes sequential maps difficult. You can't create a map and then move/remove units to show the battle developing, you have to create a new map and new symbols every time. This would be a real PITA.

It only handles bmp, jpg and gif.

On the positive side, it has a comprehensive library of current military symbols along with a couple of index documents to identify their meanings, all the library symbols are stored as transparent gifs and the program is effective in calling up mixed selections of these generic symbols, merging them together, changing their colour, labelling them, etc, to create specific unit symbols for your map.

Presumably, it would be possible to create some custom symbol gifs in your favourite vector software and add them into the library folders for this program to choose from, so a sci-fi, fantasy or historical add-on is probably do-able if you want to go down that route.

It's simple and intuitive - and free!


Possible workaround:
If I were using MilSketch to create specific unit symbols for a battlemap, I'd probably choose a blank transparent gif as the background 'map', create a single labelled unit symbol, and save the 'map' as a single specific 'unit gif'. Repeating this process for each required unit, I'd then make a folder of these unit gifs ready for import and create the actual battlemap in my favourite vector software. This would allow me to layer the unit gifs and adjust to taste before saving, and would make sequential maps a breeze.

Summary:
For creating specific unit markers from components in a library, this program is good, but it can't design symbols from scratch and it's pretty poor at placing them on a background map; you need a separate vector drawing application for these jobs.

I can't help thinking that someone could write a 'select, transform and group' symbol editor macro for Inkscape et al that would render this program obsolete overnight. All you really need is the symbol library.

Good idea, needs development.

Someone else did a review here:

http://www.strategypage.com/wargames/articles_reviews/wargame_reviews_200812720.asp

His verdict leaves me worrying about national security... ;)