Last year I was asked to rework the maps for Academy Games’  ‘Conflict of Heroes – Storms of Steel’. Matching the style of Awakening the Bear and First Men In before them it was a 50/50 mixture of 2D and 3D with a good deal of hand painting.

The wheat and corn fields proved particularly tricky as at this scale little to no detail should be visible so I had to exaggerate the scale and form to ensure they felt like they could be crawled through.

Again, while functionality always has to come first, everything should suggest a history. I always approach the work as a player wanting to be able to tell a story. While there’s a limit to how much decoration the map can tolerate, suggesting how the farmer has ploughed and sown his fields, where soil is thin or dry and the seed hasn’t taken, where people have taken short-cuts .. adds to the sense that its a living environment. So its more than just a handful of terrain modifiers.

The balkas proved tricky. I went through half a dozen iterations, from realistic to what we eventually decided worked the best. Again functionality won the day. The rules require that the balka edges had to appear impassable, their insides flat and their entrances have tyre tracks. The use of cliffs particularly helped to visually support this.

I felt it important with these maps, since they’re set over vast swathes of farmland during the Battle of Kursk, to ensure there was a lot of open space. This in turn needed to be balanced by enough decorative elements to stop it from feeling boring.

This game came with a number of double sided overlays that can be used to alter the supplied maps. These included fordable rivers, a village, hills and some anti-tank ditches.