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Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)
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Old 25 Jan 2006, 04:52   #1 (permalink)
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Default Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

Edit - cheers Spiritbw for putting this into the right forum

Everyone likes nice, clear, easy-to-understand maps to accompany a battle report that is otherwise dry blocks of text. But to actually draw out the battlefield, troop positions, scenery, etc, after every game turn is time-consuming and very difficult. Also, the movements in these repeatedly-drawn mas are often inaccurate and not-to-scale. Even the profesional graphic design team of White Dwarf will often resort to using "blocks" to represent units rather than individual counters for a number of reasons, including the lengthy business that is drawing a dozen maps and keeping everything to scale.

However, there is a way. It's free, it's easy, and it's simple. It's called Raster Layering. Usually the only programmes capable of doing this are expensive commercial programmes but there is one freely available one out there: The GIMP. You can download it here: http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/

If you've never heard of using "layers" in image editing, the easiest analogy is multiple sheets of transparent paper. You can draw an image on one sheet, then place another sheet on top and draw another image, and so on, and so on. If you have 5 of these sheet and need to move the image on the middle one, you can move it without it affecting the other 4 images on the other sheets. It's a crude analogy, but it works.

When applied to BatRep writing, it means you can use one layer as a background, a second layer for all the scenery, and then each icon that represents a single miniature, be it an infantryman, a vehicle, a daemon prince, or whatever, is placed on individual layers. Once you have the entire army deployed you will have an image made up of over a hundred "layers", often over 200 such "layers".

Because they are all individuals, you can move them independantly of each other without affecting the rest of the image. Because they are individuals, you can delete a single layer to represnt troop casualties. And because we use these layers, we can also introduce nearly-perfect scaling for 99% accuracy.

Before I go into the details/technical instructions, I'll show examples. Anyone who visits the "WitchHunters" sub-forum here has seen these before, but here are a few battle reports I made using this technique. All the maps were basically sketched out during play along with note-taking (takes a while, so I wouldn't suggest attempting to draw maps and take notes in a tournament game as you'll likely run out of time) and then later on I converted the maps into my BatRep maps with Paintshop Pro 8 (although GIMP, as I said, is just as capable and FREE)


It must be said that those aren't perfectly accurate since I did them in a hurry, but with more time and care, they can be done to 99% scale accuracy. The way to do this is easy and, although it takes a couple hours to set up for the first time, much faster than attempting to draw a dozen images all to-scale and with identical background etc.

First, decide on a scale. I use 10pixels=1inch, because the game is inch-based and images are pixel-based. a 10:1 ratio ensures accuracy and simplicity of conversion.

Load up your image editing/creating programme and create a new blank image. Using my scale, a 6footx4foot table is 720x480 pixels (6 foot = 72" = 720 pixels) Fill in the background with whatever colour it is your table top is. The create a new layer - in GIMP, you select "Layers" from the file menu, then "New Layer". A pop-up box appears asking for details, and you should enter the same size dimensions as your background (i.e. 720x480) and "transparency" for the "layer fill type". It's important that every layer is transparent.

Then you must create your gird. Create a new image that is 10x10 pixels in size, and draw a box around the edges in whichever colour you wish to use (I use grey). Sve that image as something memorable, such as "grid_box_01" and, most importantly, save it as a pattern. (in GIMP, the correct format is .pat. It's different for all image editors). You can then select "fill with pattern" on your main image, and lo and behold, you now have a perfectly aligned 10x10 grid as the second layer on top of the background. It will look (depending on your colour choices) something like this:

Background (note - this image is full size to show the grid. All others will be 50% of full size for viewing ease)

Now you create a third layer on top of the other two, and draw in your scenery. This is the first use of the "scale grid" you've got. As long as you know where the scnery was and the size of the scenery, you can place it all exactly where it should be. In the folloowing image, I've drawn in some boxes to represent buildings, lines to represent walls, and green spraypainted images to represent forests. When I'm writing battle reports, I must admit I do tend to "fudge" these slightly as I don't bother meauring all the scenery but the point is that with the 10pixel grid and accurate measurements, you could have perfect accuracy. Even doing it by best guestimate is close enough to be representative of your battlefield.

An example battlefield, left is the image with the grid, right is the image as it would appear after removing the grid (which you do when the BatRep image is complete)

So now you have a background, a scale grid, and your scenery. All you need is troops.

Now, to be perfectly accurate to scale, you need to again create a new 10x10 pixel image. Drawn a circle in this image. You then need to re-size this to 95% because standard GW slottabases are not exactly 1" diameter. This circle is your basic troop icon. You can use many different coloured icons, each colour representing a troop choice (i.e. light red for Tac marines, dark red for Devestators, blue for Assault marines). You can add stripes or stars of smaller circles within the circle to show Vetereans, special/gheavy weapons troopers, etc for even more clarity.

To enter these icons into the map, simply copy the image, create a new layer on your map (remembering that each layer must have a transparent) background, and copy the image into this new layer. Use the "select and move layer" tool to move this counter to wherever it's uspposed to be. Repeat this process for all your icons (miniatures). Again, the 10x10 grid is useful here for scale accuracy.

For 40mm bases, your intital 10x10pixel circle should be re-scaled to 153% to keep to scale. For vehicles, bikes, etc, you can draw draw simple graphics to represent them. For demonstration purposes, I'm just going to use basic troops. For simplicity's sake, I'll just use 5 red troops vs 5 blue troops.

Example deployment:

And it's when you're drawing the turns that layers come into force. Instead of re-drawing the image over and over, hoping to get the scenery right, and having to guess as to scale, you can move every trooper individually and with the 10pixel=1" scale, accurately as well. For dead troopers, you can simply delete the layer that icon sits on. If you want a "White Dwarf" feel to it, you can have have little stars to represent "hits" in one turn, followed by dead trooper icons the next (but I find it clearer and easier to simply delete the trooper). For damaged vehicles, you can add explosion and/or smoke effects on that layer.

This system takes some time to set up but once it's there, a full Bat Rep with a deployment maps and 12 "end-of-turn" maps can be produced in minutes. And if you save your basic two-layer background and a seperate image with pre-made counters, it cuts your prep time for future Bat Reps significantly.

A note on files - when using raster layers, you should save the file as whatever feil type the programme uses for it's own images. In Paintshop Pro, the file type is ".psp". In GIMP, the file type is ".xcf". When it comes to actually using the maps in battle reports however, the files should always be saved as ".gif". The reason is that .gif files can be viewed by all browsers whereas proprietary formats such as .psp and .xcf cannot. And there's no point making pretty maps if no-one can view them. You could also save them as .jpg but jpeg artifacting will often mess them up and make the images less clear.


Added because a couple people have asked me about this.

This system, BTW, can also be used for online battles. Again because of the scale accuracy you can measure and move your icons just as you would your miniatures in a table-top game. You can use an online dice-roller to ensure totally random results (as long as you trust your oppnenet to report such things accurately) ithout favouritism, and since 40K has reasonably simple and streamlines rules the turn sequence is just as easy online as it is in real life.

eg: Create map and scenery (harder to do random generation but the two players can come to an agreement).

roll for scenario, level, and who deploys first.

Player to deploy first places the icons representing one unit choice (Heavy/Troops/etc, in the usual order for that scneraio), saves the image, and e-mails it to the other player. Player B deploys one squad as usual, saves the image, and e-mails it back to player A, and so on until deployment is done.

Dice for first turn. Whoever goes first makes his movements (and because of scale acuracy, there can be no dodgy movements since both players can simply check how far each icon has moved).

In the shooting phase, use an online dice roller for your hits and wounds.

At this point there are two options - either the player who's turn it is can do saving throws and move into assault phase, or the image can be saved so Player B can make saving throws, choose casualties, then save the image and send it back to Player A. If the former, it is suggested that Player A NOT remove ANY of player B's models regardless of how many failed saves there are.

Move on to the Assault phase, following the same guidelines as for shooting. For combat again you have the choice of Player B making all rolls or both players making rolls and swapping the image.

It must be said that to play online, you and your opponent must come to a "gentleman's agreement" regarding a few aspects - i.e. if Player A has killed 3 models in the shooting phase and then assaults the same unit in the assault phase, does all the dice rolls, etc, than it is incredibly poor sportsmanship for player B to e-mail player A back saying "well, I decided to remove those casulaties in such a way that your assault failed". It's a perfectly acceptable way to play in real life, but when playing online you have to eiher agree to accept each other's assaults and such, or to go through the lengthier process of repeatdly e-mailing images for the defending player to chose his own casualties etc.

The latter way is of course a far more "true" way of playing, but the first is simpler and makes for a faster and more flowing game. Of course the former is open to a fair bit of abuse by a cunning player, which is why if you wish to play that way, you have to come to some sort of agreement.


Well, I hope this will be of help to someone on the board making their own Battle Report Maps. It's not the only way to make them, but it is a very neat and efficient way once you have the system up and running.
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Old 25 Jan 2006, 05:20   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

Nice post, good advice, kudos to you.

I also have an alternative, its much easier and in my opinion has high aesthetic appeal.

Basically, its just microsoft word. Using autoshapes on word, and grouping you can easily create complicated neat maps such as these:

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Old 25 Jan 2006, 05:44   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

I like GIMP. And I like this guide - nice work shortgoth! I'll have a go at it with Fireworks..
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Old 25 Jan 2006, 15:21   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

A lot of work involved, but it would definately help make battle reports easier to understand if everyone could do something like this. Good basic tutorial, Shortgoth. The idea of using Word autoshapes is new to me, but I assume it would work pretty well. I don't recall Word having a snap to grid option though, then again I'm using an old version. I have no idea what Fireworks can do so I'll have to wait for Mace to present his first battle report in fireworks.
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Old 25 Jan 2006, 16:15   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

nice maps!

after i moved to the UK my best mate and i decided to attempt 40k by email. its hard.
but i spent a good few hours at work on making some maps and units.

Im a photoshopman and although i like the gimp... its hard to go downgrade

So anyways I made some pretty maps... unfortunately its all resident in photoshop... layers with directories for troop units, layers to show LOS, Cover, and Diff Terrain etc. Just thought id show them off... these are static JPEG images whereas the playfiles are PSD's and are anything from 11megs to 40megs. So a tad heavy on the processor side

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Old 25 Jan 2006, 16:19   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Creating clear and accurate maps for Battle Reports (how-to)

Yeah, photoshop is vastly superior to the Gimp, but OTOH, the Gimp is free which is why I used it for my examples

Cheers for the responses all.
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