I've been mulling city tile ideas. I did 4 city map tiles for Wayfinder 4 - here's an example:

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It's pretty, but has some problems. The issues I have with it are:

  • The directional light means I can't rotate the tile and still have it look good.
  • The square shape and roads around the side mean that a city map will be very gridded
  • The buildings are relatively large, so it suggests a literal depiction of a city and you'd need a LOT of these to make a reasonably sized city

That led me to wonder if there was a way to get round these problems. I came up with a hex based sketch:
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This has some upsides - and some downsides:
  • Non-directional lighting means it can be rotated
  • Hexagons mean that you get 6 tiles for the price of 1 with the rotations
  • A larger scale per hex means that you'd need fewer tiles for a city, and it doesn't look like it should be taken literally. It's more a sense of urban area than a house by house depiction
  • The larger area per hex makes it harder to show individual locations when you need a special area
  • Roads coming in on the middle of each side rather than following the sides means that the hexes automatically fit together, and helps to break up the repeating hex structure.

A quick test with just one tile gave this:
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I'm pretty pleased with that and I'm going to play with taking this further whenever I have time between other projects. Currently the plan is to create a couple of tiles for a few different types of district:
  • Rich - big houses, parks
  • Medium - large houses, terraced
  • Poor - high density small houses, no big streets
  • Warehouses

Then I need to figure out how to include specific features into the map, such as a castle, rivers, docks, city walls, a market and so on. Some should be given markers that just indicate they exist (such as a specific inn). Others should e shown on the map (city walls, docks). I'll resurrect this whenever I come up with new sketches, and any feedback is always good but this won't move quickly as I'm stacked up right now!

There's a bit more discussion of this on my blog here: