How to Add Scale to Created Maps

One of the many interesting features in the General Staff Wargaming System is the ability to import maps from old atlases or from the internet. While we intend to film a complete instructional video (we’re thinking of including a set of instructional videos explaining how to use the Army Editor, Map Editor and Scenario Editor) we thought we would first share a sneak peek of how to import a map from an old atlas.

An integral part of my office library, a well-worn volume of “The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War”

The “The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War” is one of my favorite books and, like many Grognards, I have dreamed about maneuvering units across these famous maps. I recently realized that I now had all the tools to do exactly that with the General Staff Wargaming System.  First I scanned the map I wanted (the First Bull Run / Manassas battlefield) using an inexpensive flat-bed scanner attached to an ink-jet printer. Then I imported it into the General Staff Map Editor using the built-in feature.

Next, measure the distance between two key geographic points on the map using your trusty Rock Island Arsenal Museum & Gift Shop souvenir plastic ruler.

Measure the distance between key geographic features using a ruler.

Next look up the scale of the map at the bottom:

The scale of this map is 2,000 feet to the inch.

Use Google to do the math (yes, this is actually a programming assignment that is often assigned to first semester college students in CS1).

Three inches = 6,000 feet. Convert to meters.

Just learned that the reprint of the Official Atlas of the Civil War was printed 10% smaller than the original so 3 inches actually equal 5,400 feet!

Next, select the ‘Add Map Scale’ feature in the General Staff Map Editor.

Select the ‘Add Map Scale’ menu item.

Click and drag a line on the map between the same two key geographic features that you previously measured and enter the length in meters:

Enter the length of the line you just drew on the map in meters.

And – voila! – General Staff automatically calculates the map scale:

General Staff calculates and displays the scale of the map you just imported.

A Big Thank You to John McNamara!

Yes, I really do have a doctorate in computer science but often that just means I’m aware of how much I don’t know about computer programming. General Staff is being written in Microsoft WPF and sometimes it seems very arcane to me. I recently had a major problem with something very small; I just wanted to add a ‘thousands comma’ in the display of unit strengths. Well, because of a number of weird programming issues specific to WPF and the Victorian typography that we’re using, it took a couple of days to straighten it out and then only because John McNamara of Maine spent a great deal of his personal time to help me understand how Hierarchical Data Templates work in WPF. Here’s what the final results look like;

Sneak peak at the Scenario Editor Module. Just click and drag units from the Order of Battle Table on the left onto the map to place them for the beginning of the scenario. (Click to enlarge)

Again, thanks John! You’re the greatest! You want a free copy of General Staff when it ships?

Results of the Splash (Hachure) Contours vs. Concentric Elevation Contour Survey

The results of our survey to determine if you preferred splash (hachure) contours or concentric lines to represent elevation on General Staff maps are in: 58.21% voted for concentric contour lines and 41.79% voted for splash or hachure contour lines.

The results of our splash (hachure) contour lines versus concentric contour lines survey. 58.21% for concentric contour lines, 41.79% for splash contours.

However, while waiting for the results of the survey we wound up writing a splash (hachure) contour algorithm anyway:

An example of splash contours.

This isn’t perfect and we’ll continue to optimize it. However, General Staff will now include both methods of displaying elevation on a map: splash (hachure) and concentric elevation lines.

Help Us Decide: Splash Contours or Elevation Contours?

We need your input on how elevation (hills and ridges) will be displayed in General Staff. Originally we had planned on using ‘splash contours’. Splash contours were often used in quick sketch maps on the battlefield and they have an authentic look to them.

An example of a splash contour representing a hill (artwork by Ed Isenberg).

However, recently “Cry Havoc” – a Grognard on Facebook – asked if we were going to include the original Kriegsspiel Meckel map with General Staff. That got us thinking and taking another look at the original Kriegsspiel maps. Below is a map from the original American Kriegsspiel (circa 1892-8):

An original American Kriegsspiel map (circa 192-8). Note the elevation contour lines. Click to enlarge.

Obviously, concentric elevation contours were in use in the 19th century so we could be authentic using either method of display.

This leads us to a very simple user survey: