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Aide de Camp 2 Hints and Tips

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

By Nicholas Bell

 

This text assumes that you have thoroughly read the manual and have spent some time with Aide de Camp II experimenting with at least the gamesets included on the CD.   I have digressed to using terms more familiar to my wargaming vocabulary.  I prefer to use "unit symbol" instead of "piece symbol" and "terrain symbol" instead of "Map/Board Symbol" which the ADC2 manual uses.  The following comments are more for the typical hex-based board wargame conversion process.

ADChint1.gif (4182 bytes)
bulletFirst, create a new folder in your ADC2/Gamesets folder.  Name the folder the name of the game you're going to make a set for and follow it by the current date.  
bulletThe purpose of putting the date on the end of the folder is to make backing up the your work easier.  After every session, compress the entire folder using the name of the folder as the zipped file name.  Before you start work in your next session, rename the folder with the new current date.
bulletBy doing this you will create an archive of your work which you can go back to if a problem arises.  Save these archives for 4-6 sessions before deleting them.
bulletIn addition to backing up your gameset, it is absolutely essential that you save your map work, symbol creation, and game *.ops file frequently - every few minutes.   You never know when Win2000 / XP / VISTA / 7 / 8 is going to decide to stop working properly, or when you might inadvertently make a serious error.
bullet

The next step is to decide on the map and unit symbol sizes.   Never just start making a set without first making a few unit symbols and putting them on a blank map to see if they really look like you want them to.  While the Symbol Editor does allow for changing the size of terrain and unit symbols after the fact, it is limited in its flexibility and the results will never by as nice as making the symbol the correct size from scratch.

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The size of the symbols at each zoom level is critical to how the gameset will look and play.  Most set creators follow this basic guideline for size symbols at each zoom level:

Zoom 1 should show the entire mapboard if possible and is used for getting an overall view of the game situation and to assist players in zooming in and out (which is often easier than scrolling).  Terrain symbols may be simplified to make map more clear and locating the units easier.   Because of the small size of the units (necessary because the small map terrain symbols), they do not display a lot of information.  Sometimes just the nationality by color, flag, or emblem (e.g. German Balkan Cross, Russian Red Star) and/or the unit type (using the typical 'NATO' symbols as icons will be too small).  Remember, the game is not intended to be played at zoom 1 - its use is for gathering information on the game situation as a whole.
Zoom 2 is used primarily for movement, with combat resolution possible, but not mandatory.  Players will be able to determine terrain and its effects on their plans and unit movement.  Dependent on unit symbol sizes, numeric information on the unit pieces maybe present, but unit type and function to should definitely be made accessible to the player at a glance.  If possible, size the map so that number of hexes visible on the screen is twice as many across as the maximum movement rate of fastest unit.  For example, if the fastest unit has a movement rate of 8, then try to make the map hex size small enough to ensure that at least 16 hexes across are visible on the screen. The greater the area of the map displayed, the easier the game will play.  Of course, this is dependent on the player's monitor size and the resolution used.  Those players with 19" and 21" monitors have a real advantage as they can see more of the playing area if they set their resolution to 1024 x 768. (or even higher - if they have good eyes!)
Zoom 3 is used primarily for combat resolution as not enough of the map will be visible for moving units in most cases.  Unit symbols are normally shown with all numeric factors, symbols, icons, or other eye-pleasing embellishments.  Again, those with larger monitors may be able view more map, but just because you have a huge screen doesn't mean everyone else does, so don't make your terrain and unit symbols too large.
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While you are limited to increments of 5 pixels when creating hex sizes, you have total flexibility regarding the size of the unit symbols.  There are a couple of things to consider here:

1.  You want to make sure that the data you wish to display on the unit is easily readable.  However, if you make the unit too large users will not be able to see the type of terrain the unit is in.  Furthermore, if you make the unit symbols too large, they will overlap the hexsides and block out portions of other units.  Make your unit symbols 60-75% the size of your terrain symbols for the best results.  Example:  Terrain Symbol size is 40 x 40 pixels.   Unit symbol size should not exceed 30 x 30 pixels.

2.  ADC2 allows for either 1 or 4 unit pieces to be displayed.  If you desire multiple units to be displayed in a hex, you need to make the symbols considerably smaller - usually less than 50% the size of the hex terrain symbol if vertical. Horizontal grain may allow displaying multiple units at up to 63%. You will have to experiment - vertical hex grain maps will display multiple units differently than horizontal hex grain maps.

Multiple Unit per Hex Displays

Vertical Hex Grain

wieH2.gif (10100 bytes)            wieH3.gif (9891 bytes)
Terrain:  35 x 35  Unit: 19 x 16 Terrain:  45 x45  Unit: 19 x 21

Horizontal Hex Grain

ETOH2.gif (5353 bytes)            ETOH3.gif (5527 bytes)
Terrain:  35 x 35  Unit: 21 x 21 Terrain:  55 x55  Unit: 35 x35
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Unit symbols should normally be odd numbered pixels in size, e.g. 27 x 27.  This enables you to center symbols and numbers.   Careful examination of the majority of even-number pixel sized unit symbols reveal symbols, icons and numbers which are not perfectly aligned.  This may be distracting to the discerning eye

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Decide on how you are going to orientate the mapboard.  Is north toward the top of the display?  Some game mapboards orient the map to facilitate across the table play.  Since this has no impact in ADC2, you may want to consider orienting north at the top of the screen.  Just remember to duplicate the correct hex grain when you create you terrain symbols.  You cannot change the hex grain after creating symbols.

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Decide whether you are going to use a hexgrid overlay or if you are going to make the hexgrid an integral part of the terrain symbols.  A hexgrid overlay gives you much more flexibility.  You can turn the grid overlay on and off during game play.  If you use a hexgrid integral to the symbol, it's there all the time.  However, an hexgrid overlay displays on top of hexsides, which can interfere with the appearance of rivers, borders and other types of hexside symbols.  An integral hexside is not visible under hexside symbols, resulting in an appearance more similar to many actual game mapboards where no printed hexside is visible along rivers.

bullet

Whenever possible, try and make use of the sets available to avoid having to recreate a lot of symbols.  Check out the various terrain, symbol sizes, and hex grain of the many sets freely available and see if they match your needs.   Making coastline, road or river hexes (transparent hex attributes, not hexlines/hexsides), and forests with treelines look great but can be quite time consuming to make.  Borrow heavily whenever possible.  (Be thoughtful too, and give the original set creator credit where due).


Examples of Symbol Sizes at Zoom Levels 1-3

Clash of Arms War Without Mercy

wwomH1.jpg (2347 bytes) Zoom 1  Terrain: 10 x 10      Units: 7 x 7
wwomh2.jpg (13290 bytes) Zoom 2  Terrain: 40 x 40      Units: 29 x 29

 

wwomh3.jpg (23527 bytes) Zoom 3  Terrain: 60 x 60      Units: 45 x 45

Clash of Arms Napoleon at Leipzig

napH1.jpg (3575 bytes) Zoom 1  Terrain: 10 x 10      Units: 7 x 7
napH2.jpg (19499 bytes) Zoom 2  Terrain: 30 x 30      Units: 19 x19
napH3.jpg (27318 bytes) Zoom 2  Terrain: 50 x 50      Units: 37 x 37

XTR Berlin 1945

berlinH1.jpg (4210 bytes) Zoom 1  Terrain: 15 x 15      Units: 11 x 11
BerlinH2.jpg (12665 bytes) Zoom 2  Terrain: 35 x 35      Units: 21 x 21
berlinH3.jpg (13290 bytes) Zoom 3  Terrain: 55 x 55     Units: 37 x 37

MiH Triumphant Return

TRH1.jpg (5107 bytes) Zoom 1  Terrain: 25 x 25      Units: 17 x17
TRH2.jpg (12283 bytes) Zoom 2  Terrain: 40 x 40      Units: 29 x 29
TrH3.jpg (20788 bytes) Zoom 3  Terrain: 70 x 70     Units: 53 x 53