Steampunk Mars game map
On the Paradox Interactive forum, I recently ran a strategy game I called the Scramble for Mars. It was a set on an inhabited Mars being colonized by 19th century powers, with a distinct steampunk theme. The key feature was the map, which I was never satisfied with.
I essentially took an image I found on DeviantArt, one of several awesome ones by I guy called Ittiz (I made sure to credit him, but don't recall if I got his permission):
Ancient Mars Map by ~Ittiz on deviantART
and adding canals clumsily via GIMP.
A collaborator helped draw these province boundaries:
It worked well enough, using colors to represent players. Here's what Mars looked like on the last turn, 1884:
Nymeria: cyan, Italian corporation
Nova Lusitania: turqouise, Portugese Royal Colony,
Shin Kyoto: Red, Japanese Imperial Colony
Neo Theassalia: Dark Purple, Greek Royal Colony
New Vermont: neon green, British Imperial Colony
New Aquitaine: Dark Blue, French Republic Colony
Ukrainian Martian Resistance: Yellow, Ukrainian rebel base
Deutsche Marsreich: goldish-orange, German Imperial Colony
Yeni Baghdad: Dark Red, Ottoman Imperial Colony
Land of Red Snow: Pinkish Purple, Tibetan Bhuddist monestary-kingdom
Republic of Mars: Dark Green. Independant Republic
Anyways, I'm thinking of taking another shot at this game. Among the many things I'd like to do better is the map. Rather than butchering Ittiz's good work again, I'd like to take my time working from a public domain elevation map, then fill in the oceans and seas, and add a more sensible system of canals. I'll have a smaller Tharsis ice cap, with an oval of canals surrounding it as though to catch seasonal meltwater and distribute it to the desert interior. Then populate it with the native martian cities and draw more sensible province boundaries.
Edit: If anyone has some suggestions that would make it seem more steampunk-ish, or more like a real life 1880s-90s map of a frontier/colonial region, without hurting readability, that would be helpfull.
Found your thread, Deaghaidh ;)
Wikimedia Commons has an amazing collection of old maps, sorted by year, which are great for inspiration and reference. Here are their 19th century maps:
Category:Maps made in the 19th century - Wikimedia Commons
For "pure" steampunk I guess it's 1880-90 you should look at in particular, as you said, but earlier maps could be useful as well.