I have been working on some gaming mats for a local wargaming club. I started working on cloth playing surfaces because I was sick of watching them play flames of war in a lush green field while forces more suited to the Russian steppes were clashing. I noticed there were not many stores selling mats beyond 1:28 and volunteered to work on something that worked in 1/100 scale. I dusted off my little knowledge of photoshop and came up with these two images: a muddy, war-torn area and a frozen battlefield, for someone whose soviet troops had snow as a main element in their basing. To be printed in 100dpi, 120*180cm.
Then, people from the club started asking me for other mats, such as a sea map for Sails of Glory and several city maps for games in the 28mm range. There are some out there, but I guess they liked having mats tailor-made to their specifications for free instead of buying commercially available ones. No, I'm not shocked either xD
One of the 28mm mats was themed in near-future zombie dystopia, so I went for the standard city planning style you find in modern european areas or american cities. The second one was intended for a World War Two ruleset, so I went for an old european city style of planning, no roadmarks, and included paved areas easily turned into ruins by adding just one or two broken wall fragments, in addition to extending the sidewalks for intact buildings as usual. I pushed to 150dpi in these, 120*180 cm as well.
And now, someone asked me to create a map for Battletech. I've never played myself (I have always been deeply tempted by the universe and the genre, but I find the quality of the plastics really lacking. Turn the Mechwarrior Online models into plastic battletech miniatures and you will have my money, game company!) but since I've been playing Mechwarrior Online since open beta started, I was dying for such a commission. The catch was the person who asked plays in a weird scale, so his hexes are twice as big as those in the usual mapsheets. 30*30 or so hexes are the most a table can fit in that scale
Since I know most people in the gaming club use standard size hexagons, however, and I'd hate to design something only one person would find any use to instead to providing for the whole club, I decided to design a map 60*60 hexes in size anyway, at 300dpi and cut it in four, so the club can use it while the person playing at twice the scale can print it whole at 150dpi and either have a huge map 300*360cm in size or choose any of the four quadrants to print, getting four differen mats instead of the single one he asked for. That meant going the extra mile with detail so the scaled-up 150dpi 30*30 hex mats don't feel lacking, while avoiding things so small that would be lost when printing at standard size.
I tried to design so the possible terrain missinterpretations were kept to a minimum, sticking to the axis of the hex grid as I laid the road. As requested by the club goers, only ground level features are... featured. Any mountains or buildings are to be added by the players in the form of 3d scenery as they see fit. This is only a canvas to make the table pop with as little effort as possible (and incorporating the hex grid into the playing field)
I was given little direction by the club member who asked for the mat regarding the lore of the planet he intended to fight for, so I went for a small colony, an agricultural one with little value and limited infrastructure. Mainly farming grounds with some very small industrial areas and population centres.
I decided I wanted at least two groups of buildings connected by a road system. I thought one of them could be an industrial area taking advantage of a river to dump waste and distribute cargo. Or maybe the water in this world has some component the industries extract and export.
The second one could have originated organically around a small spaceport. Not a big spaceport, barely enoug for a Leopard to land, but capable to receive and launch cargo to orbit. This spaceport is be the main hub where technology, luxury goods and spare pieces for machinery would come in in exchange for foodstuffs and whatever the industry extracts from the water. The planet has low population, but the hypothetical thing that makes it worth fighting for provides money for good infrastructures.
The industrial river area, the spaceport area and whatever other important places scattered over the planet surface would need to be connected by a motorway, while the rest of the zones would have a much more humble road network, shrinking progresively up to a single lane for farmland.
Said farmland would also need a network of irrigation conducts bringing water from the river. That's something I had not thougt about until I started writing this summary, but it feelt mandatory. I went for an open-topped look, in the style of the irrigation networks built in Spain during the muslim occupation. They were a ground breaking innovation back in the day and are still in use, nearly one thousand years later.
I intended to design the two populaton centres in ways that encourage different playstyles. The spaceport lanes, in the south, will be an open area surounded by buildings, while the industrial area, in the north, will be smaller and tighter, with buildings located in the centre of its quadrant, surounded by open space.
The other two quadrants will be much simpler. Farmland for the first, with no features past some roads, hoping the players will add mountains to the open spaces. The last quadrant will be similar, but a river will be splitting it in two, hopefully encouraging players to aproach it in a different way.
I am by no means a photoshop wizard. I barely used it during my education beyond the most elementary photo manipulation. Anything I do is new for me. (I had no clue of how to create a water surface for the river, for instance) so I was learning on the fly following any online tutorials I deemed suitable for this proyect. In addition, working with files this big (180*150 cm at 300dpi) is not something my computer can easily handle, and the "2gig max psd file size" limitation prevented me from working in a single psd file, forcing me to split several layers as individual files.
In the end, here it is: Full gaming surface:
Some closer shots:
And finally, some detail shots:
I am in no way as good as LeftoverNoodles (man, those are GORGEOUS) but I'm pretty proud of what I accomplished :-)