GURPS · How We Play

How We Play: Hex Boards for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

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It’s coming!  It’s coming!  But what kind of battle map are you going to use for it, eh?

Recently I’ve been inspired by other GURPSophiles’ efforts to show the world all the cool stuff they play with: not just in-game stuff, but all the fun peripherals such as props, meals cooked specifically for the game, and so on.  As I said last time, I’d love it if there was more sharing of this sort of thing in the GURPS community.  And in fact, I made a solemn promise to try to contribute to that myself.

So in that spirit – and because I’m insanely excited about the new Dungeon Fantasy RPG coming out early next year – I thought I’d share a couple of the props I use for Dungeon Fantasy games.  What sort of props?  To find out, you’ll have to read on…

To build the suspense (woah, so much suspense…) let’s start by examining the problem these props are trying to solve.

A Fun Problem for GURPS Gamers

3d6.jpg
GURPS: as simple as this!  (Unless you want more…)

GURPS has an amazingly versatile combat system. Combat can be very simple, requiring just a few dice rolls, with the action taking place entirely in the players’ imaginations.  But GURPS also supports much more in-depth combat, scaling up in complexity until it becomes a fully-fledged map-based tactical miniatures game.  That sort of play really requires a battle map.

Floor_Plan_2_The_Great_Salt_Flats_thumb1000.jpg
These are free to download from Warehouse 23, by the way.  Not bad.

And of course, when GURPS uses a battle map, it uses a hex grid rather than a square grid.  And this is where the “problem” arises.

The upside to the hex grid (and it’s a big upside, in my view) is that it allows more realism and tactical depth than a square grid does.

But there’s a downside, too: the D&D square gird is the industry standard – which means that the vast majority of cool dungeon props for sale out there (particularly the fancy 3D ones) aren’t really perfect for GURPS play.

What to do?  Must GURPS players be forever condemned to playing on The Great Salt Flats?

I’ve seen people develop all sorts of fun solutions to this “problem” (opportunity?) of needing/wanting more evocative hex-grid battle maps for advanced combat in GURPS.

Here’s my own solution, such as it is:

My Cheap Solution: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Hex Boards

Here are a couple of the boards I made for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy a few years back.  The cultist is just for FNORD I mean scale, yes, that’s right, that cultist is just for scale.

 

Once I’d got the hang of making these, I made a few with more interesting tile patterns, the aim being to break up the hex grid visually, while still leaving the hexes legible for game purposes.

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And then of course I had to add some standard dungeon corridors, just to link things up.

I made all these via a very relaxing but nevertheless somewhat labour-intensive method, which involved hand-making each of the hex tiles individually out of modelling clay,  gluing each of them to a balsa base, and then painting.

Since they’re made out of clay and balsa, they’re very sturdy, and heavy enough not to shift around during play.  But honestly, when I make some more of these, I’m probably going to use an easier method.  In fact, I suspect I’ll probably just mark out the hex-shapes in foamcore, and then texture and paint.  Much simpler.  Shaping all the hexes individually out of modeling clay was fun in a meditative kind of way, but it probably wasn’t the most time-efficient method…

Next time I think I’ll probably use a somewhat more realistic colour palette, too.  These ones are fun, but some of them turned out just a little too cartoony for my taste.  I might even repaint these ones onee day, if I get around to it.

But for now, these are some good, sturdy hex boards that bring some life to my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy games.

Does anyone else in the GURPS community do this sort of thing?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.  It’s about time we started getting more of our peripherals out there!

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5 thoughts on “How We Play: Hex Boards for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

  1. I like the look of your boards Joe but I’m amazed you made each hex individually – that must have taken an age! I love being able to recreate battles on the tabletop but I’m quite lazy so I’ve bought a bunch of D&D Dungeon Tile sets off eBay (Dungeon, City & Wilderness) as well as some maps from 0one Games and I use them for visual (rather than imagined) battles. Same thing with the minis to fight each other – I bought some cheap painted models from eBay and others I’ve found online as my own painting skills are pretty much on a level with my seven year old’s artwork! I have bought a few plastic scenery pieces from Reaper minis to add some 3D depth to the playing area too and painted these up for effect. I have to admit (preparing for odd looks and breath being drawn in) I’ve never taken to the hex grid, always been happier with a square layout – there, I’ve said it now! But I certainly do like the additional visual effect of playing out a combat in miniature. Do you have a specific mini for Temian?

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    1. It did take a while to make each hex individually, but I like working with clay, so it was pretty fun. Or rather, “fun” isn’t quite the right word – it was very calm, and it gave me time to think. I like to work with my hands while thinking about stuff. Helps with the thinkin’.

      Great that you’re using a square grid – why not, I say? If that works for you I say, go for it. If you’re using the basic combat system, it barely makes a difference, and even GURPS’ advanced combat system work surprisingly well on a square grid, I find, with only a few adjustments.

      I’d love to see the Reaper scenery you’ve got going on. Maybe on your blog? (Hint hint!)

      It’s funny you should ask about a specific mini for Temian – I’ve been using a very basic combat system in this game, so I’ve not needed one, but since I’m thinking of switching gradually to a more advanced system, I just bought one a few days back. He’s not painted up yet, though, so I can’t get him up on the blog just yet. Hopefully soonish – though that’s not top priority just at the moment..

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  2. My blog..? Ah yes, I’ve kind of neglected that already! But I’ve been working on something new for my campaign which will be appearing very soon on the blog… Definitely plan on taking some pics of the decent minis on the Dungeon Tiles with any reasonable scenery pieces for depth so I’ll hopefully be able to upload those to my blog reasonably soon!

    Looking forward to seeing your Temian figure when you get a chance to paint him up!

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