Help me Fight The Hot War on Land This Time
March 17, 2023 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Hi AskMe, A surprising number of years ago I wrote this question about an old war game, and got some great help from MeFi at the time about ways to make it work. I come back to you with another question, about a different game from the same company.

This time, I am looking at a land map, this one, which is probably a little harder to deal with than the mostly ocean stuff in the earlier game. A sighted user could just use Paint or whatever as done in this gameplay video, but that's not really practical for me, alas.

The rulebook provides info about which color matches which terrain type, but the game, once again, doesn't really explain itself beyond giving coordinate and unit numbers.

So that's where I'm at :) Any help sorting this out would be appreciated indeed. Thanks a lot, this place is truly the best.
posted by Alensin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
What would be most useful to you -- a chart of the squares, with their color (and thus meaning), as well as any roads or other structures?

I am curious how well ChatGPT can do this for you.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:18 PM on March 17

Response by poster: Presumably a chart would be useful, although a spreadsheet has the advantage that I can more easily move from square to square in a manor similar to the way the original map is supposed to be used.

I too thought of ChatGPT. I'm not sure how well it will work without some tweaking, I tried it on an image but it basically said it can't read data from external URLs, which makes sense I suppose.
posted by Alensin at 12:24 PM on March 17

I am wondering how hard would it be to 3D print something like this, just enough to give an "overview" of the area?
posted by kschang at 1:54 PM on March 17

Response by poster: I hadn't really considered 3D printing. Interesting idea... FOr actual gameplay I gather that the specifics of, say, cover/line of sight are kind of important, but an overview is obviously something a sighted person just gets naturaly so...
posted by Alensin at 2:00 PM on March 17

Response by poster: For anyone interested, this excerpt is what the rulebook has to say about the map. The game just refers to squares by grid reference, (10,04), or what have you. When moving by road, I have to specify the destination, but it doesn't present any sort of menu to pick only road squares, alas.
posted by Alensin at 2:57 PM on March 17

Best answer: It is a 40x30 grid, so you could put it into a 40x30 spreadsheet.

I think you could come up with a simple encoding for each grid space that would give you all the information you need.

- There are four elevations, so indicate them as 1, 2, 3, 4 from lowest to highest.

- Three special terrain types, so F for Forest, O for Orchard, and U for Urban. (Most grid squares have no special terrain type - I assume they are supposed to be meadows or fields or similar.)

- Two types of roads, 1st class & 2nd class. You need to know how they pass through the grid square, so for example 1NS would mean a 1st class road enters the square from the north and exits to the south. 2NE would mean a 2nd class roads enters from the north and exits on the east side. Sometimes there is a road junction, so you end up with something like 1NEW - meaning that 1st class road segments come in from the north, east, and west, all junctioning together in the middle of that square.

- Water features are Rivers and Streams, so abbreviate them as R and S. Like roads, you indicate which sides they enter and exit on. So RNE for a river that enters from the north and exits on the east side, etc.

- Most roads, rivers, and streams cut through more or less the center of the square, so NS EW NE etc give you all the info you need. But a few of them run along the boundary of the square instead of through the middle, so you could just add "on S" "on E" "on N" or "on W" to indicate that feature runs along the south, east, north, or west boundary of that square.

- Finally, you could just arrange these in a spreadsheet a grid, making it easy to just use arrow keys to move around, but it might be helpful to have the grid square positively identified, too - like 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, etc

- You could also add the quadrant to each square, if that would be helpful (you can calculate the quadrant pretty easily based on the description of the map, but some times it's easier to have it listed out - avoids mistakes).

This doesn't quite encode every nuance of the map - for example, some squares are split between elevation 3 and elevation 4. Some are only partially forest and partially meadow, etc. But my sense is, if you indicate the majority elevation, land type, etc that would be a bit of a simplification but good enough for practical purposes.

Using a system like this, I think someone could type up an encoding of the map in say a good spreadsheet in maybe 30 or 60 minutes.

Picking a random column of grid squares that has most of the above features, it would go something like this:
7-26.12 3 [Elevation 3 meadow]
7-26.13 3
7-26.14 3 2EW [Elevation 3 meadow with 2nd class road crossing from east side to west side]
7-26.15 2
7-26.16 3
7-26.17 3
7-26.18 4F [Elevation 4 Forest]
7-26.19 4F
7-26.20 3
8-26.21 3U [Elevation 3 Urban area]
8-26.22 3 1EW SEW on S [Elevation 3 with 1st class road passing east to west and a Stream passing east to west along the South edge of the square]
posted by flug at 8:26 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

OK, I put together a google spreadsheet using this scheme. You can try it and see what you think. Link here.

Sheet 1 has the map encoding and Sheet 2 has a map key.

The only thing I did different from above is I put the quadrant and grid square numbers at the END of each cell, rather than at the beginning. The idea being that as you mouse around the spreadsheet, your screenreader probably starts reading from the first of the cell. So it will tell you the most important information first (what elevation, type of terrain, etc) and then if you're not sure which quadrant and grid square you are in, you can let it keep reading to get that info, too.

Also I only did the first row, all the way across the top, grid squares 1.1 to 1.40. That way you can try it out and see if that type of format will work.

(I filled in the quadrant and grid square for all the rest, but didn't put in elevation, terrain, and those other details.)

We could tweak the format, abbreviations, etc as you like and if you're happy with it maybe we could crowd source filling in the rest of the map. I made the sheet world-editable, so anyone can just start editing.

You can also make your own copy of the sheet, which might be wise, both now and of the final version if we get that finished. (Since it's editable by anyone, anyone could come along and mess it up - either on purpose or accidentally.)

Also it should be easy to export the google sheet to Excel or some other spreadsheet, in case that works better for you.

You could also make yourself a new copy every time you play the game. Then you can also use that copied sheet to make your own notes on whatever cells/grid squares you need. That duplicates the functionality the player in the video was doing with a grease pencil on the map.
posted by flug at 9:10 PM on March 17

Response by poster: Hey,

Thanks so much. This is a brilliant idea. The encoding seems to work quite well, with just a couple questions...

Is the first number intended to be the elevation? If so, I thought you said there were four variations. Is there a fifth somewhere or was that a typo?

Also, minor but persistent annoyance, the "." makes the screen reader read thecoordinates like decimal numbers, which is a bit hard to get used to. Maybe we could replace that with a comma in the grid squares.

Other than these minor quibbles, it seems to be working well so far. I did notice one river which didn't appear to flow the way the map said, as well, but I'm not sure if I was just missing something.

Thanks for the work on this and the encoding :)
posted by Alensin at 9:38 PM on March 17

OK, the first quadrant is complete (here), so you can try it a little more extensively. As always it takes a little more time than anticipated . . .

There are indeed 5 levels of elevation. I missed the highest level, which is only on a few squares.

Also, I replaced the period with a comma - hopefully that helps.

The roads are pretty well behaved but the streams and rivers are a little more tricky. They go more diagonally and cut across corners and along the sides of squares a lot more. So something like 2 SNS on W is trying to describe a stream that comes in on the NW corner, goes south along most of the west boundary, then cuts across diagonally to exit in the middle of the south side. You can't quite tell all of that from just "SNS on W" but when you put it together with where it came from and where it is going to, it kind of makes sense. We could put a more detailed description for any squares where it doesn't quite make sense, if it is important for game play.
posted by flug at 11:11 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's looking great.

I suspect the oddly-laid out streams are just to add flavor and don't actually contribute all that much, but I don't know exactly how the game implements a lot of the map stuff internally. Extra detail about those probably isn't needed. At least I can reliably follow roads and start to get a picture of the landscape now. :)
posted by Alensin at 6:58 AM on March 18

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