The art of map-making design for tabletop wargames

I was first drawn to tabletop wargames and RPGs, not by the themes or the gameplay. The first things that captured my attention were the cool-looking hex maps of wargames and the polyhedral dice of Dungeons & Dragons.

I first saw an ad for Gamescience dice in an issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. I had no idea what they were for, but I was utterly captivated by them and wanted to be wherever they were used. Asimov also ran ads for Avalon Hill historical wargames and I was intrigued by the hex maps and chit counters of those games. The enchantment of these key elements of gaming has never left me.

Image from The Players' Aid, The Beautiful Boards of Wargaming! – Holland '44: Operation Market-Garden.

The art of wargame map-making and gameboard design is the subject of a weekly series on the wargaming site The Players' Aid. Every other Friday, they feature the map/board from a game that they think best expresses the art of this very specific and unique graphic genre. Their most recent entry in "The Beautiful Boards of Wargaming!" covers Holland '44: Operation Market-Garden, September 1944 from GMT Games:

Mark Simonitch is a veteran game designer and artist as he typically does much of his own map and counter artwork and layout. He has designed some really great wargames including titles such as Ardennes '44: The Battle of the Bulge (2003) from GMT Games, Normandy '44: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy (2010) from GMT Games, The U.S. Civil War (2015) from GMT Games and most recently Salerno '43: The Allied Invasion of Italy, September 1943 (2022) from GMT Games. A few years ago, we played and simply fell in love with Holland '44: Operation Market-Garden, September 1944 and a big part of that was the gorgeous map and its graphics. At that time, we were still fairly new in our journey into hex and counter wargames and the map just was so amazing that it urged us on to explore other games in the genre. I would characterize Mark's style as clear and very functional but he always puts nice touches on terrain and important aspects such as bridges, roads and cities. His maps just seem to pop and really set a great mood for his games.

Image from The Players' Aid, The Beautiful Boards of Wargaming! – Holland '44: Operation Market-Garden.

Read the rest here.

For what it's worth, my first hex map games were Steve Jackson's OGRE and Necromancer.