Hack’s Hardcore Hints #4: Map Making Sequence

 Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

In Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

Have you ever wanted to get into scenario design, but hesitated because of the daunting amount of work in map making? With all the roads, various terrain features, elevations, streams, and labels, it can seem overwhelming. Those were the things that kept me from doing scenario design for a couple of years. But, with a good plan of attack, you can simplify the whole operation, and do it in a systematic way that will make the job more manageable.

Grid Overlay

The most important concept that helped me overcome my fears was the hex grid overlay. I began by making a screenshot of a blank map (with coordinates showing of course,) and then pasted this onto a topographical map using the transparency feature. You need a graphics software to make the transparency. PaintShop Pro, Gimp, and formerly the Microsoft Picture-It software are needed to make the grid semi-transparent. (40-50%) Currently I use a software called Photo Pad Image Editor. But, there are many software out there that can make an image semi-transparent to paste over a topographical map.

Best Topo Maps

And the best topographical maps to use for Campaign Series are the 1:50000 scale. That best fits the 250-meter hexes, and the level of detail available in the map editor. Preferably, the topographical map will have elevation contour lines. These are the best tool for putting on elevations.

Sequence of Adding Elements

Once you have a suitable topographical map and have the overlay, what is next? What is the best approach for making the map overall? It is still quite an undertaking. The best way is to use this sequence:

  1. Roads, streams, and towns
  2. Elevations
  3. Foliage and terrain
  4. Labels

Roads, streams, and towns

By placing the roads, trails, streams, and towns first, this sets up a structure that aids in doing the elevations. The waterways are particularly important, and indicate how the contours should go. If there are areas of swamps or lakes, these should also be placed in the beginning along with roads and streams. Make sure that all villages and towns are identified as well. This will help with elevation work later.


Then tackle the elevations. Do this prior to adding terrain features like jungle, because these tend to obscure the contours, and color differences when viewing in both 2D and 3D. With elevations, it is best to work on small areas of the map at a time, using streams as boundaries.  Use the topo map contour lines, and trace out a line of hexes with that particular elevation on the map. Change the elevations along streams, one hex on each side. And then, look for high points or ridges between streams. The hexes in between are filled in last.

One important rule: A stream should never run uphill and then downhill again in the same direction. This may sound overly simple, but I have played several scenarios in the past that had “supernatural” streams that could flow uphill. Pay close attention to this, as it will help with elevations in general. Lakes and swamps covering several hexes should all have the same elevation. Keep this in mind with rice paddies also, although terraces can allow elevation changes in a group of rice paddy hexes.

Once the streams and contours are finished, then fill in between the contour lines. Using this systematic approach you can get the elevations reasonably good. There is a three-level limitation, so that if two adjacent hexes are more than three levels apart, the 3D transition will not look good. Try to avoid this if possible.

After finishing elevations, it is best to look over the whole map in 3D. This will reveal any inadvertent “holes” or areas missed. Also, it provides an opportunity to spot hexsides with more than three elevation levels difference. As mentioned earlier, it is easier to spot elevation errors before adding all the jungles and other foliage features.

Foliage and terrain

The terrain features, like jungle, scrub, or tall grass, etc. can be handled systematically by referring to the hex coordinates. Simply start from left to right, and concentrate on one vertical column at a time, selecting and changing each hex from top to bottom. If your screen is too small to cover the whole map, then just do smaller rectangular areas at a time. If there are large areas with the same terrain, like light jungle, then a whole column of hexes can be changed at once. Click on the upper hex to change its elevation, and then hold down the control key (Ctrl) and click on a hex somewhere below it. The in-between hexes will immediately be converted to the selected elevation. This speeds up the process.


Finally, make the labels. I like to put a geographic coordinate somewhere on my map, using degrees and minutes, preferably with rounded minutes. Like 15°20’N, 105°35’E. This serves as a reference for players, and others who may want to find additional maps of that area. I use the left justification that puts a little plus sign (+) on the left side of the label. I use plain size 1 font for this. For small towns or villages, the font size is 0 and center justified, with plain black color. Streams are labeled using the “water” or blue color and mountains and forests that are named use the “Forest” or green color. I also label roads if they have a Route Number. Airports or other military facilities use “Special” or a red color. For the CS Vietnam map editor, I use the “Transparent Enhanced” option. That puts a thin white background around the text, and makes it stand out better if placed over dark green terrain. The term “transparent” means that the map background shows between the letters. This is more evident when viewing in the 3D mode.


Well I hope that you are encouraged to design scenarios, and not get discouraged because of map making. If you have a plan of attack, like all other things in war, it will make the job easier and less stressful.

I’m fairly certain that Col. Hackworth appreciated the value of good maps, and used them to plan his attacks on the VC.


Hack’s Hardcore Hints #3: Flavor Text

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

In Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

You might wonder, “What in the world is ‘Flavor Text’?” And, this is understandable. But, have you ever started reading a long-winded scenario description only to find yourself nodding off to sleep? All those detailed organizational phrases, passive tone sentences, and non-descriptive bureaucratese adjectives? Did it read like an Army FM manual?

Well, writing can be exciting and interesting, as well as informative. Flavor text can add some “spice” and intrigue to any scenario description. The most familiar example of flavor text I can give you was the advertising description on the old Avalon Hill Panzer Leader box:

“The sound of sporadic fire break over the ridge line.  Back in the distance, the deep rumble of the American heavy artillery echoes up and down the valley. The Allied offensive is now about to begin!

 Spread out behind the lead German tank is a motley column of Panzers and tired, but experienced, German infantry.  This is all that remains, to plug the breach on the front. .

 Outnumbered and outgunned, the chances are slim for German Kampfgruppe. . .

And they would be, except for the lone, solitary figure atop the front Tiger . . .

 This man is the Kampfgruppe commander. He has seen all the important battles in the war: France, 1940; Russia, 1941; Tunisia, 1942; Sicily and Italy, 1943; and now in the year 1944, he defends fortress Europe from the Allied invasion. 

He is the “Panzer Leader.”

This alone may have sold many a game to excited wargamers. The flavor text paints a picture in words of the battlefield scene, and somehow stirs emotions. This helps to maintain reader attention, and add enjoyment. Novel authors use this approach.

How to write flavor text, but without being too corny?

The key is to use adjectives and nouns that convey visual imagery and also describe sounds. In this example, these phrases provide visual imagery: “motley column of panzers,”   “solitary figure atop the front Tiger,”  and “fortress Europe.”

As for sound: “sound of sporadic fire,” and “deep rumble of American heavy artillery echoes up and down the valley.”

Writing flavor text is mostly an art. The writer has to use some imagination, and perhaps do a little brainstorming, and not be afraid to use a Thesaurus.

Here are some useful flavor text keywords:

  • Thunder
  • Cold Steel
  • glint of dawn
  • Clank
  • Scream
  • Roar
  • Smoke, haze rising from the ruins of hapless tanks…
  • rat-a-tat-tat
  • infantry (riflemen, grunts, soldiers, etc) hug (grasp, cling, grip) the earth, (sod, ground, dirt, mud, ect)
  • gun crews load their weapons
  • commanders bark orders and shouts of encouragement
  • wave upon wave
  • ominous minefields ringed with razor-sharp barbed wire…
  • fiery inferno
  • onrush
  • deadly hell
  • hailstorm of fire
  • grayclad landsers
  • battleworn veterans
  • trembling in fear

To write flavor text paragraphs, keep these points in mind, and use this general structure:

  1. Describe environmental sounds and sights- “Clanking thunder”
  2. Portend the imminent attack or enemy action (from defender POV) through imagery. Metaphor, hyperbole, simile, etc. “Heralding the arrival of an onrushing wave…”
  3. Describe emotions or actions of combatants in poetic terms- “Riflemen hugged the earth…”
  4. Use some visible or audible sign that symbolizes the opening fight. ‘Topping the rise, a glint of dawn reflects off the muzzle of a German Panther…
  5. Announce the opening of the attack- “The attack of the 116. Panzer is about to begin!”

How to incorporate this into a scenario description? Here is a possible structure:

  1. Background situation. Calmly gives history of the units and situation.
  2. Describe the attacker’s goals and forces
  3. Describe defenders’ forces.
  4. End with flavor text. Dramatic effect to put player right into the battle.

With the new CS Event Engine, scenario designers can provide side specific briefings to be shown on the first turn of the game. These can give information that is intelligence and not intended for the other side to see. (Remember, scenario descriptions are seen by both players.) These can also be tailored to the kind of lingo used by the country. Communist propaganda lingo is particularly unique, but colorful, and adds interest and enjoyment. For example, if the first side is North Vietnamese, the briefing might be like so:

“Comrade Quang Tuyen: troops of the Vietnam People’s Army  face fierce engagements with enemy resistance, and must capture Pleiku, by storm, and liberate it from the yoke of the American Imperialist Invaders.

 The latest Cuc Nghien Cuu intelligence indicates massive bombing attacks are planned by American reactionaries. Keep our air defence forces alert!

 Long live our victorious Resistance war!”

Communist propaganda lingo is always politically charged with ideological terminology. The purpose is to excite proletarian emotions against whoever the non-communist enemy is. Communists always refer to each other in a friendly fashion as “comrade.”

The enemy is always portrayed in evil, but ideological, terms. The Soviets referred to the Germans as: always either fascists, Hitlerite, Nazi, reactionary, invaders, or bourgeois.

However the communists always refer to themselves in noble terms such as revolutionary, anti-fascist, proletarian, Bolshevik, the people’s . . . etc.

For the Vietnam War, there were variations used by the North Vietnamese to describe the French and later, the Americans: They were always  colonialist, imperialist, capitalist, invaders, occupiers, landlords, or reactionary.

And the North Vietnamese referred to themselves as anti-colonialist, proletarian, communist, resistance, socialist, liberation workers, radicals, comrades, the people’s . . .

And then there are various closings used by communists. Closings from Stalin’s Orders:

  • Long live the Red Army and Navy!
  • Long live the green and women guerrillas!
  • Long live our glorious native land, its freedom and its independence!
  • Long live the great party of the Bolsheviks which is leading us to Victory!
  • Long live the invincible banner of the great Lenin!
  • Under the banner of Lenin onward to the defeat of the German—fascist invaders!

Closings used by Ho Chi Minh:

  • Workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, school students! Long live the revolutionary war!
  • Oppressed and exploited fellow-countrymen! Long live the Resistance War!
  • Long live independent Viet Nam!
  • Long live the unity of the entire people!
  • Long live the Viet Nam National United Front!
  • Long live the Vietnamese-Cambodian-Laotian great unity!
  • The resistance will certainly be victorious!
  • The camp of peace and democracy will certainly be victorious!

 You can use these examples, and without overdoing it, or making it too corny, these can add some interest, enjoyment, and perhaps a little humor into scenario descriptions and side specific briefings.

I imagine Col. Hackworth was not impressed with journalists’ flavor text regarding the American Army problems in Vietnam . . .

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

US Order of Battle in Campaign Series: Vietnam

United States Order of Battle – Campaign Series: Vietnam

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a functioning organizational structure for the Americans that was simplified but spanned from 1948 to 1985. This simplified version was the basis for the Vietnam game and served as a starting point for a couple handfuls of scenarios that were created by Stephane Moutin-Luyat.

However, as I detailed in my previous post about the German Order of Battle in the coming East Front III game, we had set a new standard how to depict orders of battles. Full, platoon-scale availability of all units, for all branches, separately and individually.

Then, the only solution here was to create platoons for each of the various branches for the US military as well.

Woah, what? Madness. Madness indeed!

Four main branches were chosen as they would have the largest impact when playing the game;

  • Army,
  • Cavalry,
  • USMC and
  • Airborne.

Fortunately, with the new six-digit UID, expanding the platoon file to incorporate all the new platoon ID’s was sweet and simple. The classification for the platoon ID’s is as follows:

US Order of Battle in Campaign Series: Vietnam

PXX0001 – PXX0499 Tanks, Light Tanks, Self-propelled Gun (as SU-100) 
PXX0500 – PXX0599 Cavalry Tanks, Light Tanks, Self-propelled Gun (as SU-100) 
PXX0600 – PXX0799 Marine Tanks, Light Tanks, Self-propelled Gun (as SU-100) 
PXX0800 – PXX0999 Airborne Tanks, Light Tanks, Self-propelled Gun (as SU-100) 
PXX1001 – PXX1499 Artillery (Self-propelled and towed) 
PXX1500 – PXX1599 Cavalry Artillery (Self-propelled and towed) 
PXX1600 – PXX1799 Marine Artillery (Self-propelled and towed) 
PXX1800 – PXX1999 Airborne Artillery (Self-propelled and towed) 
PXX2000 – PXX2599 Infantry (All types) 
PXX2500 – PXX2599 Cavalry Infantry (All types) 
PXX2600 – PXX2799 Marine Infantry (All types) 
PXX2800 – PXX2999 Airborne Infantry (All types) 
PXX3000 – PXX3199 Headquarters (All types) 
PXX3200 – PXX3299 Cavalry Headquarters (All types) 
PXX3300 – PXX3399 Marine Headquarters (All types) 
PXX3400 – PXX3499 Airborne Headquarters (All types) 
PXX4000 – PXX4199 Leaders (All types) 
PXX4200 – PXX4299 Cavalry Leaders (All types) 
PXX4300 – PXX4399 Marine Leaders (All types) 
PXX4400 – PXX4499 Airborne Leaders (All types) 
PXX5000 – PXX5999 Off-map Airplanes (All types) 
PXX6000 – PXX6199 Reconnaissance Vehicles (Armoured Cars, Recce Jeeps, etc) 
PXX6200 – PXX6299 Cavalry Reconnaissance Vehicles (Armoured Cars, Recce Jeeps, etc) 
PXX6300 – PXX6399 Marine Reconnaissance Vehicles (Armoured Cars, Recce Jeeps, etc) 
PXX6400 – PXX6499 Airborne Reconnaissance Vehicles (Armoured Cars, Recce Jeeps, etc) 
PXX6500 – PXX6649 Helicopters and ON MAP aircraft (All types) 
PXX6650 – PXX6699 Cavalry Helicopters and ON MAP aircraft (All types) 
PXX6700 – PXX6749 Marine Helicopters and ON MAP aircraft (All types) 
PXX6750 – PXX6799 Airborne and ON MAP aircraft (All types) 
PXX6800 – PXX6899 Naval Units (Boats, Landing Craft, etc) 
PXX6900 – PXX6999 Marine Naval Units (Boats, Landing Craft, etc) 
PXX7000 – PXX7399 Transport units (All types of Trucks, APC’s, IFV’s, etc) 
PXX7400 – PXX7499 Cavalry Transport units (All types of Trucks, APC’s, IFV’s, etc) 
PXX7500 – PXX7699 Marine Transport units (All types of Trucks, APC’s, IFV’s, etc) 
PXX7700 – PXX7999 Airborne Transport units (All types of Trucks, APC’s, IFV’s, etc) 
PXX8000 – PXX8199 Antiaircraft (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX8200 – PXX8299 Cavalry Antiaircraft (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX8300 – PXX8399 Marine Antiaircraft (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX8400 – PXX8499 Airborne Antiaircraft (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX8500 – PXX8799 Rail 
PXX8800 – PXX8999 Misc Buildings, special units (Factories, News Crews, etc) 
PXX9000 – PXX9399 Antitank (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX9400 – PXX9499 Cavalry Antitank (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX9500 – PXX9699 Marine Antitank (Self-propelled, towed, man portable) 
PXX9700 – PXX9999 Airborne Antitank (Self-propelled, towed, man portable

The process involved taking a copy of the existing US platoons and triplicating them and then assigning the proper platoons for each of the branches while removing the platoons that the branches didn’t use. Those curious will see in the organization editor that a lot of the same platoons are available for all branches (trucks, jeeps, engineers) but will be coded with the UID specifically for the branch. Doing this resulted in 1,911 unique platoon ID’s.

Weapon values and graphics were assigned for each of the new platoons. Each platoon type has a unique graphics, so an Army M48 can look different than a Cavalry M48, USMC M48 or an Airborne M48, if one wanted to go crazy with the visual details.

Proofing the US Order of Battle for the upcoming games

As noted above, the organizations span between 1948 and 1985. This means that the US Organizations are ready for future games and DLC’s; including, Cold War and Korea. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the details for the pre-Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras, but the generic organizations are there. For the Vietnam era, I made the effort of researching and building the combat divisions, brigades and regiments that were in the Vietnam theatre. I admit, I probably missed some, but a valiant effort was made to include them.


Campaign Series Vietnam US Order of Battle

A variety of sources were used for the United States organizations. Shelby L Stanton’s Vietnam Order of Battle and a plethora of Gordon Rottman’s Vietnam Osprey books. More importantly was reviewing the hundreds of After Action Reports and Lessons Learned reports by the various divisions and brigades during the war and gleaning them for information.

One thing to note is that the organizations that are included for the Vietnam era are designed as the general organizational structure of the division for that year. It will be up a scenario designer to revise the structure to be “Organized for Combat”, as this changed on a task per task basis. The fundamentals are there for the designer, but they have a little massaging to do after.

3D unit bases

Campaign Series Vietnam 3D Unit Bases
Knowing that we are working on Vietnam, Gary (known better as callsign XLVIII Panzerkorp in the various Matrix Games fora) supplied a variety of unit bases for the difference branches for the Americans. These included the Army, Cavalry, Marines, Navy, Special Forces, Tac Air, Air Force and the Airborne.

Campaign Series Vietnam 3D Unit Bases


That’s awesome! Thank you, Gary!

2D counters

Campaign Series Vietnam 2D counter bases
We have not forgotten you boardgame fans out there either. Crossroads modeled a separate chit base for each of the base, similar to what Gary had done in 3D. Thank you Petri!


This was a mammoth task started to provide a better visual experience for the player. We really hope you enjoy the results!

Thank you for your support!
Jason Petho