Monday, June 06, 2011

The Ocean Platform

Some planned posts have been delayed because it’s my busy season with the chorus; our Annual Retreat was this last weekend and tonight I’m emceeing our performance at the annual dinner of the Supreme Court Historical Society. PLUS, to prepare for the New Age of DC Comics, I’ve been sewing collars on all my tee shirts and practicing wearing my underwear on the inside of my pants, instead of the usual way.

But, with the conceptual assistance of my friend Noah and several Navy Seals...

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

...I did manage to create a new Heroclix map designed as a perfect arena for battles between land and sea forces. It began as a simple intellectual exercise in how to represent the vertical nature of the thalassic environment, using Heroclix rules to mimic the epipelagic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic zones...

Hey, the ocean drops off almost as fast as the sales of "Seaguy"!

...but evolved into finding a way to tune a map into a form where both aquatic and non-aquatic figures can play, each with their own home-turf but sharing a common mid-ground.

Behold, then...


Embrace drop shadow, but eschew lens flare.

I usually do not mark the starting areas on my maps (since the traditional starting areas at the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the map are well known to Heroclix players). On this map, if you are pitting a land-based team against a sea-based one, you’ll use the traditional starting areas (with, in this case, the land forces on the ocean platform at left and the sea forces in the Midnight Zone at right). If, however, you arraying two land-sea teams against each other, you’ll want to opt for the very ‘outside’ edges of the map as starting areas, placing each type of team member, aquatic and non-aquatic, in their ideal terrain.

One end of the map shows a concrete platform at sea. In its center is a building or structure whose roof serves as first level elevated terrain accessed by stairways in the rear. At its far corners are second-level elevation observation towers, each accessible by two ladders. Note that I’ve tried to use shadow size and placement to clarify the map’s various levels of elevation/submersion.

The platform terminates in five piers, at which are moored five smuggling boats, whose holds and hatches serve as hindering terrain. These dry areas are interleaved with standard water terrain to represent the surface of the sea (if you like, use a house rule to permit the aquatic figures to ‘swim under’ the piers and boats when they move). This combination of dry and water terrain forms the most likely ‘battle line’ of the opposing teams.

Then comes the sea. At first, I thought that the verticality of the ocean column could only be represented as a cutaway – very much at odds with the ‘top-down’ view of Heroclix maps. But I found a way around that by adapting the new rules for multiple elevated terrain. In short, the map employs “submerged terrain”, which combines the qualities of water terrain and elevated terrain (note that unlike elevated terrain, submerged terrain requires no "ladders" for access).

The first submerged terrain (at Depth Level 1) is the Sunlight Zone (a.k.a, the Epipelagic), the area where sunlight penetrates below the surface of sea. Text layouts the common characteristics of all submerged terrain: speed is halved for non-aquatic figures (due to water resistance, of course), all figures are grounded (because flying figs cannot hover above terrain that they are immersed in it), and figures do not block line of sight (due to the 3D nature of the environment). Additional text adds a rule specific to the Sunlight Zone: non-aquatic figures must halt their move when entering the Sunlight Zone. This represents the halting effect of dealing with change in the density of the environment (if coming from ‘above’) or pressure (if coming from ‘below’).

The second submerged terrain (at Depth Level 2) is the Twilight Zone (a.k.a. the Mesopelagic), where the light from the sea falls off. Here, for non-aquatic characters their range is halved and their line of sight only reaches four squares … unless they have an adjacent friendly aquatic character to guide their aim! So don’t send your land figs into the sea without a diving buddy, or the opposing aquatic forces will run rings around you.

That’s even more true in the third submerged terrain (at Depth Level 3), the Midnight Zone (a.k.a. the Bathypelagic), where sunlight simply does not reach. Due to the perpetual dark, all lines of sight from non-aquatic figs without an aquatic diving buddy are blocked. Furthermore the pressure is such that the terrain has effect of the ‘Poison’ power on any non-aquatic figs. That’s not something diving buddies can help out with, so don’t count on sending any land figs down this deep unless they have an inoculative power (Toughness, Invulnerability, Imperviousness). And when land figs return from the Deep, they have to take their time to avoid getting the bends; such figs take a click of damage upon leaving the Midnight Zone, unless they stop in the Twilight Zone along the way.

This is not an equal opportunity map. Aqua-fans will take to it swimmingly, but Bat-fans will be saddened to find that the Dark Knight is not suited to the dark deep (guess he didn’t have enough time to prepare). Marvel players will wish Dr Octopus were more like his namesake and even beleaguered Spider-man will be unable to turn off the dark.

I have some finishing touches to add: some sea gulls shadows, a scuba diver to decorate the Sunlight Zone, and in the Twilight Zone some fishes in the way found in the vicinity. Till then, you can get some of my other Heroclix maps (including the Carnival of Doom, the Civic Theater and two others that no one has seen: Civic City, and The Hideout) from the lovely folks at PosterBrain (They’re great, I use them for all my maps), who’ve been kind enough to set up a gallery of some of my recent maps ready to order here at this link. No profit for me; just want to make sure these are very easily available to anyone else interested in my custom Heroclix maps.


CobraMisfit said...

Heroclix Aquaman just went, "Squeeeeeeeeee!!!1!11!"

Scipio said...

LOL, you spend too much time with your sister, Cobra!

Scipio said...

Would you believe Noah and I came up with this in the car on the way back?

Oh, if only Craig had been there to enjoy the discussion...

SallyP said... seriously cool.

Scipio said...

Why, thank you, Sally! I forget: do you play Heroclix?

SallyP said...

Actually, no. But I think that they are cute, and I just like maps of ANY kind, so I still enjoy it all in a weird sort of way.

Steve Mitchell said...

I don't know if he can swim, but I now have a MLJ Shield conversion for HeroClix courtesy of our mutual friend TotalToyz.