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.
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.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.
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.