Jungle Ruins 3-D Hex Map (Part 1)

[This project write-up was originally published on TerraGenesis.com on June 14, 2017 . What appears below is mostly a cut-and-pasted copy of what was on that site at the time, including some of the readersโ€™ comments.]

I received a commission request to create a set of 3D hex-based map boards for Battletech, and decided to post my progress here. 

The person commissioning this map really liked the look of my first jungle waterfall map from way back in the day. This new set of maps I’m going to build uses the same overall arrangement of elevated terrain, but takes advantages of lessons I’ve learned to make the boards more evenly playable and realistic.

Stylistically, instead of generic rock outcroppings like before, the elevated sections of these boards will be ancient ruins reclaimed by the forest. Think Mayan and Indonesian ruins. The story is that this is an abandoned temple complex that was completely overrun by the jungle thousands of years ago. The original complex had lots of ponds and reflection pools. These, combined with the daily torrential rains, have created lots of waterfalls and streams winding their way throughout the ruins. The complex had wide plazas interspersed with elevated platforms and temples, along with some bridges. These have tumbled apart to create many interesting shapes. Because the entire place used to be paved, I’ll be able to indicate hexes with broken hexagonal flagstones intermixed with plants and rubble. Everything will look like heavy forest, but the hexes will be clearly delineated without need for any kind of drawn grid.

Since the boards can be arranged in hundreds of different ways, the cover and woods placement needed to work from multiple directions for balanced play. 

Things are arranged so that the elevated ruins can form “forts” that provide semi-cover from multiple directions. There are trees and smaller bits of ruins to provide cover for mechs to leapfrog between as they approach the forts or travel across the map. While there are lots of woods placed in strategic locations to provide cover and block line-of-sight, there are also lots of open lanes for long shots and scattered bits of ruins to allow mechs to climb up and see and shoot over intervening obstacles. 

Hunkering down in a base and assaulting a position are equally favored throughout the map design. Snipers have elevated shooting positions and close-in fighters have sufficient cover to get to their optimal ranges without getting picked off. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hopefully I’ll have enough time to really have fun adding lots of little details at the end. 

Here are a few SketchUp pics of the map designs in some of their possible arrangements.

And here are some inspirational pics to give a feel for the look I will be going for.

Now to go get my workshop ready!  ๐Ÿ˜€

[Outlaw said] – Hurray! I signed up so I could watch this thread and see your work. Your other hex map job logs were fantastic resources to show your thought process and techniques. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you create here.

[locomoticopter said] – Very nice. Did you have to lay out that grid yourself in sketchup, or did you find one somewhere. I have used sketchup a lot and can’t imagine laying out that many hexagons.

@ locomoticopter –

For my very first map, I downloaded an existing Battletech hex board, but it had lots of extraneous detail I didn’t need (each hex was numbered, etc.).

So I made my own.  It’s actually quite simple. 

First I used the polygon tool to create a hexagon of the size I wanted. Since I wanted the sides of my hexagons to equal 1 inch, I used a 1 inch radius. The radius and sides of hexagons are parts of the same equilateral triangle, so they are the same. (My hexes are this size so that the short sides of my maps are exactly 24 inches, and so that there is room in each hex for terrain features in the corners and still have space for a mech on a standard metal hex base in the center.)

Then I selected the hexagon and used cntrl-c and cntrl-v to copy and paste more hexagons in a row until the row was longer than my short side.

Then I selected the entire row and copied and pasted it until my group was larger than I needed. (You could even get really clever and cut/paste one row to make two, then select both to cut and paste to get four, then select four to make eight, and so on. But it was easy enough for me to just repetitively paste the single row and hook them together.)

Then it was just a matter of drawing in the lines between centers where the borders of the map were supposed to be…

Then erasing the leftover bits outside the border.

After saving the map and renaming it so I don’t have to do all that work again, I start playing around, coloring hexes with the fill tool to try out tree locations and using the lift tool to elevate the terrain. (Since I use 1-inch increments for my terrain levels, I just start to lift up a hex with the lift tool then type in the number of inches I want it to go, hit return, and SketchUp moves the hex the exact right amount. I can also drag the lift-cursor over to a matching height piece of terrain while the hex I want to lift is selected and the terrain will be lifted to match the targeted height.)

Hope that helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

[locomotocopter said] – I figured that would probably be the only way to do it from scratch. It still seems like the initial line would be a bit of a chore. Good job.

Actually, since the Move tool is really good about snapping to locations you indicate, arranging the original hex line and then linking together the lines into a full board took less than a minute. ๐Ÿ™‚

Seriously, for a free tool, SketchUp is amazing.

Happy building everyone!

All right. I got my workshop into a state I can work with.

I recently redid my workshop. Those who have seen some of my previous posts may have seen what it was like. I used to have four giant 4’x8′ tables, two of which were always pushed up against the walls and covered in junk. I also had a bunch of wire shelving mostly filled with science teaching materials. I did use the space above the shelves for sheet good storage (plywood, foam, etc.). The space worked well, but it was cramped and didn’t have enough storage (despite all the shelving). ๐Ÿ˜€

So, makeover time!  

I converted a bedroom into a giant storage closet and moved all the science materials and most of my wire shelving in there. That freed up space to remake the workshop. 

I cannibalized my four tables to create workbenches around the garage perimeter and to make two new tables.

These tables are designed to act as sheet good storage, with shelves large enough to hold 4’x8′ materials. Making tops for these proved a bit of a challenge since standard sheet goods would necessarily be too small.  ๐Ÿ™‚

The current iteration isn’t perfect, but it works well enough.

All the workbenches are secured to the walls making them rock solid, and there’is also lots of possible map storage scattered around the shop now. ๐Ÿ™‚

The tables and workbenches are done, but most of my tools and supplies have just been stuffed any old where. I’ll get them organized later. I want to get building! ๐Ÿ˜€

(My apologies in advance. I didn’t realize my camera lens was dirty until I got back inside to post these pictures. My future pictures shouldn’t look like my garage is full of petroleum haze.)

Here you can see the shelves under the tables that can hold sheet goods. Each space is also tall enough that I can put my plastic storage boxes or standard cardboard banker boxes on them easily so I can use the table shelves that aren’t busy with sheet goods as efficient storage.

I salvaged the casters from my earlier tables. These are great. Not only can they hold 300 pounds each, but the locks not only keep the wheels from rolling, they also prevent the casters from turning. Once locked, the casters effectively turn into solid rubber-coated feet. Just locking one wheel in two different corners is enough to secure the table so that it feels rock solid.

While one caster in each corner might have been able to carry the load of these tables, using eight guarantees it. I would have liked to have put some casters under the middle of each table to help spread the load, but the floor in my garage has some serious “hills” in it. If I had center wheels, the tables might “see-saw” back and forth over the central pivot.

I also managed to make some stations for some of my tools, like this bandsaw. (The card catalog drawers were a score a friend found for me at a garage sale. They are going to be used in my gaming table project.) The wire shelving above each bench is sized to store maps on end or flat as needed.

This bench was also arranged to still leave easy access to the attic (where I store my longer pieces of dimensional lumber as well as usual attic stuff.)

The space under the workbench by the garage doors is tall enough to hold maps stacked on end. Should all the other map storage areas fill up with maps, the top of this bench can store maps as well by removing the narrow shelf above it.

The bench by the air conditioner has shelving under it sized for my plastic storage boxes to fit on the floor and some drawers above. (An AC is absolutely necessary. It’s only June, but the low at night has been in the 80s F and the days…)

The map storage above the back workbench is already full with previous projects.

Under the A/C is the fume ventilation system I rigged up using some flexible ductwork and a blower from pottery kiln. Now I can clamp this thing down next to where I’m melting foam or plastic and not have to have the garage doors open wasting all my cool A/C. ๐Ÿ˜€

While extremely heavy, the tables roll easily and can be arranged in lots of different ways that still leave plenty of space around them.

Need a giant 9’x’8 table, you’ve got it.

Or a long 4’x18′ table? You can do that too.

This makes supporting sheet good while cutting really easy. Just push the tables close to each other leaving a gap. Mark, place, and secure the wood, then cut.

All right, enough prep. Time to build! ๐Ÿ˜€

[Munin said] – That is a fantastic workspace!

[Nelmarticus said] – I just sign started a new account after a long time. I remember your projects, and was in awe! Can’t wait to see how this goes!

[Caleb said] – Not messy enough to be a workshop. Needs more foam shavings and flock. Get to it. ๐Ÿ˜€