The Battle Hymn maps are a bit different to previous Shenandoah projects as my role was mostly art direction. I reworked the font hierarchy and balance, had a lot of input on the colour, style, shading, content and many of the techniques but the final execution and a lot of inspiration was down to Rob Shields, Shenandoahs new artist, and he did a great job.

Early in pre-production I’d asked our Kickstarter backers and fans of CiC which of three potential styles they wanted for Gettysburg, presenting a semi realistic version (similar to CiC), a hand drawn version and an etched version. The majority said they preferred the realistic version which, given our previous titles was unsurprising, but went completely against my thoughts and gut feelings.

I very much wanted to push the etched style and there were a number of reasons for this. In no particular order ..

  • Most of the more recent ACW games that had come to the mobile market used realistic looking maps,  and in the world of iPad war games it was becoming a bit samey and bland. Even board wargames were starting to use it. So I wanted something slightly more interesting.
  • Shenandoah was known for CiC and my particular, semi-realistic look that was an off shoot of techniques developed for Academy Games Conflict of Heroes that was itself built on my VFX work for Ark. This was a new IP and so needed to stand on its own and have a unique place in Shenandoahs portfolio..
  • I wanted the game to really have, as much as is possible and practical, a period feel. I loved the military maps that had been drawn shortly after the ACW. Their line work, their typography, use of colour and patterns, their solutions to age old cartography and information problems.
  • I thought we could combine traditional wargame values of clarity and simplicity ( paying homage to Eric and Nicks involvement with SPI ) with a period aesthetic while making best use of the level of quality its possible to achieve with today’s tools on today’s devices. ie. cherry picking the bits I like and giving it a slight modern twist. Nothing new there but its a solid enough approach.
  • There was talk of releasing a new battle every 4 weeks and so, what with development time and testing, the maps had to be able to be created within a couple of days without a loss in quality.

So that’s direction it was steered in. Bit of a gamble given the initial public opposition but I figured people usually vote for what they already know and like, and there were no arguments presented that really sold me on a realistic approach.

We iterated on the various terrain types and did lots of tweaks to fonts and styling. New techniques and tools were explored, always with an idea to be able to get these turned around in a week. By the time Shenandoah closed its doors we hadn’t completed or playtested its functionality. It was abandoned with a list of fixes and ambiguities left to address. Sad, but to be honest, not the most depresssing aspect of Shenandoah going bust.

Gettysburg ..

Gettysburg Map

This next one is 100% resolution. click and zoom in for a closer look.

Gettysburg_Close up at 100% Clisk and zoom in

Here’s a view of the map in action

Gettysburg Screen_01

Pea Ridge was likewise nearly finished however the coded gameplay portion was never started. We’d moved ahead with the map to make sure the style would work for more than just Gettysburg. There were still obvious problems to iron out.

Pea Ridge Map

This next one is 100% Resolution. click and zoom in for a closer look.

Pea Ridge close up

Shiloh and Bentonville were both a long way off being finished – baring in mind that the last 30% takes 70% of the time.

Shiloh Map Unfinished

Bentonville Map Unfinished

UPDATE: It looks like the paper version is finally getting made by Compass Games and is looking really quite good.  Nice for Rob to get some credit.

And the Players Aid have done a nice write up – The Beautiful Boards of Wargaming! – Battle Hymn Volume 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge from Compass Games