Make your own

Some reasons to do your own map.

Hex numbering can be removed. These are completely unnecessary in VASSAL because a hex-grid overlay can be created, and the mouse-over stack viewer will display the hex number where the mouse is hovering.

Extraneous map features can be omitted, such as those included only for historical interest, and tracks and charts printed alongside the playing area.

Scanning hassles. Mounted maps have to be scanned in sections and stitched together in a graphics program. This can cause alignment problems if each separate scanned section has even the slightest rotation variance.

Use GIMP and Blank Hex Map

Download blank PDF hex grid from
which will generate a hex grid PDF with a vertical grain.

Example Settings:

  • PDF Document Size (select "Other") and enter dimensions:
    36 x 24 inches
  • Minimum Border:
    0.25 inches = blank space between hex grid and page edge.
  • Line Weight:
    0.7 points = thickness of hexside
  • Hexagon Size:
    0.5 inches = length or each hexside.

Open the generated hex grid PDF in GIMP:

  • resolution 100 pixels/inch
  • uncheck "antialiasing"

Note: Antialiasing is unchecked so that when hexes are flood filled with terrain, the color or pattern will go all the way to the hex edge.

The image in GIMP will be:

  • 3600 x 2400 pixels
  • 45 hexes wide (across the grain)
  • 27/26 hexes high (along the grain)
  • suitable for up to 61x61 pixel Game-pieces

If you want larger Game-pieces, change the resolution to 120 or 150 pixels/inch when you open the PDF file in GIMP. The overall map size (in pixels) will expand accordingly.

If you need a larger hex grid, increase the "inches" input on the incompetech form. For example: 40" x 30" will yield a 4000x3000 pixel map, which allows for 51 hex columns (width) with each column having 33 or 34 hexes.

Use Layers

Yes....use multiple layers in GIMP: ground level, woods, water, roads, terrain features, text.

Using a map scan

A quality scan of the original map is nice to retain the look and feel of the published game. But it should be adapted for used in a module.

I like to erase hex numbering when practical. GIMP has a clone tool that will allow you to wipe out hex numbers while retaining the background color and texture. Without hex numbers the map looks amazingly clean. Later, you can add a numbered hex overlay in VASSAL and display hex numbers in the Mouse-over Stack viewer.

Chop off tracks and tables that will be replaced in the module. For example, in Patton's 3rd Army I removed a track of 75 boxes to tally supply points for each US corps. It was replaced with a game piece having dynamic properties. Some other map-edge pieces that might be removed and place somewhere else in the module:

  • Turn record track > a separate map window.
  • Terrain effects chart > a separate map window, or reduced in size and incorporated in the module as a game piece.
  • Victory point or morale track > separate game pieces with dynamic properties.

The reason for limiting the main map image in the module to just the hex grid area is to minimize the amount of scrolling necessary.

If a module has a large map, be sure to include an overview tool to make map scrolling easier.

There is no way to rotate a map in VASSAL, so the map image should be oriented so that text is readable "right side up" on the screen. Ideally north should be at the top of the screen, but text orientation is more important.

If a map has a hex grid, always include one as a module component, along with hex numbering that shows in the mouse-over stack viewer.