The nature of tabletop gaming means that sometimes you only need your imagination, and other times you need a map. For whatever reason, a simple description of where you are won’t cut the mustard, because that doesn’t tell you whether you can stealth round the back of the guard and catch him with your stub pistol without being seen by the sentry in the lookout.
Many games have come to rely on maps to up the strategy and tactics of every encounter, leading to an upswell in wipeable grid or hex maps… but, those rely on your having some measure of artistic talent to come up with something more than poorly scribed rectangles.
Dramascape provides an alternative…
Ice Base Nivayohce comes in a ZIP file containing two folders and a PDF. The PDF is 67-pages long, 90% of which contains map images of grid, hex and unmarked maps.
The two folders contain additional images – one, a Small Web Format (SWF) file providing a 360 degree view of the location, the other containing a 4000 x 4000 pixel JPG overview of the whole Ice Base.
All maps come in full colour, around 100 dpi resolution.
Dramascape produces a whole range of map products covering many genres and settings, each in a similar format to this one. Why did I choose this one in particular? Well, I read Ice Station Zebra recently and loved the setting, so wanted to see if the map might provide a useful tool should I run a gaming session in a similar predicament.
The map image shows some relatively modern or near future buildings in a square, with low huts, supplies and cabling, surrounded by snow. The map shows a top down view of all the roof surfaces with a slight angle of perspective so you can see doors, windows, and so forth dotting the walls.
As mention above, the Ice Base Nivayohce comes in different format, suited to differing styles of play. You will need to have access to colour printing facilities and a tablet or monitor to make best use of the package at the gaming table.
The PDF provides images suitable for tabletop battle mats. The document divides into sections with different mapping approaches. After the cover and credits, the introduction outlines briefly what the map shows and the purpose of those buildings and huts shown. The following page provides a guide as to which pages you need to print for each version of the map and how they piece together to create the overall surface. The battle mats version require that you print 20 pages, five across and four deep. Once printed, you will need to do some trimming of white edges to piece the whole thing together ready for play.
If you have the resources, I think it would be worth considering laminating the sheets or sticking them together with masking tape and sliding a sheet plastic or perspex over the top. With this sort of prep, you can them use the map at your gaming table along with wipeable markers to make notes and plans without leaving permanent marks. If you plan to use a lot of Dramascape products, the latter option of a reusable clear surface would seem to make a lot of sense, even if it might cost a bit up front to purchase the material.
The booklet includes versions of the battle mat with hex, square and no overlay, catering to whatever method of movement your favoured game system prefers. The map has the potential for use with any game; I don’t see any reason why you can use it for skirmish scale wargaming as well as tabletop roleplay.
The environment of the Ice Base includes crates, barrels, freight containers, low huts, two storey habitats, power lines, high tension cabling, aerials, fuel tanks and plenty of snow – offering all kinds of potential for cover, climbing, stealth, trap-setting and other hazardous shenanigans. The back cover suggests some uses you could put the map to – with the technology in view suggesting modern or near future, but nothing to stop this being a low tech far future colony, a polar science station, a outer system way station, or the last outpost of a nuclear winter.
The two folders contain versions of the map suitable for other uses. The VTT folder contains a large JPG intended for Virtual Tabletops, where you import into an application or on to a device to display via a tablet or similar, larger screen-based surface. The 360 folder contains a SWF file that should run through a browser and some other applications, depending on the operating system/device you use. The file provides a 360 degree view of the Ice Base, akin to something like Google Streetview, so you can provide your players with a better sense of their surroundings.
I can see potential for this map in a lot of games, from military small unit or espionage games to modern or future horror. The various files offer an interesting range of alternatives for interacting with the environment – especially the 360 degree view that makes for an interesting way to kick off a scene at the base.
Constructively, I would have liked a version of the base with the interiors showing. I realise that this would have doubled the size of the product, but it would have more than doubled its reuse value. On the other hand, if you opt for throwaway printing, lamination or the wipeable surface, you can always decide what’s inside and draw it on. Actual interiors would have been a brilliant addition.
For the price of a Grande Latte, Dramascape provide a fine set of tactical, environmental maps in Ice Base Nivayohce, suited to your snow-covered investigations and military actions. If you care to provide your players with a richer, more vibrant gaming experience, the option to print this out or present it at the table on your mobile device greatly simplifies your preparations and adds to the engagement.
While interior views would have been great, Dramascape make a lot of maps to extend the playing area – like their crashed spaceship, The Protocursor, or detailed internal environments, like the Control Room. With all the spare imagination sloshing around at the table, it shouldn’t take much to take advantage of these other maps to provide a total gaming experience.
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