Advance Wars By Web Wiki
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"... and that's how it's done."
This page is intended as a guide for newer players.
If there is anything you are still unsure about or feel could be improved, feel free to leave a comment!

Caustic Finale, one of the most famous AWBW maps.

Design Maps is the map editing and sharing suite of AWBW that allows users of the community to easily create, share and play on their own custom AW maps. Users can save up to a maximum of 30 different maps on one account, though additional accounts in order to host more maps are allowed.

Creating a Map

Maps are found and created in the Your Maps section of the website, accessible using the sidebar. From here, the first things that need to be specified to create a map are its name, the number of players and dimensions.

The name can be whatever the user desires within the character limit and is entirely up to personal preference, though a distinctive name may help a map to stand out. The number of players is largely a legacy feature as number of players is now determined by the number of HQs on a map, so the number put here does not matter. The size of a map, however, plays a significant role on its overall gameplay, and should be considered carefully as it cannot be changed after the map is created. In general, a small map will tend to produce short and swingy games with large numbers of footsoldiers from both sides and a CO metagame of strong day-to-day powers. A larger map tends to correlate with higher funding, a taller army with more expensive units on the field, an emphasis on COs with map-wide effects, and longer turns and games in general.

A typical 2v2 map in AWBW is around 20 tiles by 20 tiles as this creates a good balance between interesting gameplay and reasonable match times. The minimum supported size is 5x5, but this is far too small for essentially everything except for some Toy Box purposes. The maximum size that can be specified in the Create Map page is 36x36, but this is generally only suitable for maps with higher player counts and not 1v1 games. A map size of 50x50 is also possible, but only through the Upload Map function (see importing). Such maps should only be used for the largest and most crowded of game modes, such as 16 player FFAs.

Once you have created your map, it will appear in your list of maps with the dimensions you chose and filled with Sea tiles by default. From here you can change its name, edit, delete or publish the map, or view any active games, the map analysis or any favourites by other players. For a new map, you will naturally want to edit it first.

Editor Controls

The map editor screen.

Once in the map editing screen, you are able to interact with tiles on the map to change the tile and its properties, as well as any predeployed units.

The options bar at the top presents your tools for editing:

  • IconZoomIn.gif Zoom In / IconZoomOut.gif Zoom Out can help to resize the map appropriately for your screen.
  • IconSave.gif Save saves any changes made to the map to the server.
  • GEStealth.gif Hide/Show will stop/start rendering any predeployed units so you can see the terrain underneath.
  • IconFill.gif Fill fills the entire map with the selected tile.
  • Symm or Symmetry controls what form of symmetry will be used for the map; if one is selected, placing a tile will automatically populate its matching tiles elsewhere on the map based on the type of symmetry used. Symmetry options include:
  • Rotate 2Q/4Q
  • Flip X/Y/4Q
  • Diagonal X/Y
  • Rotate and Flip 4Q are only available if the map is a perfect square. Symmetry also does not copy over units in any way.
  • The Palette covers all the Terrain and Property tiles and Units that you have at your disposal to create your map as well as which faction a unit or preowned property belongs to. Clicking on one will both select the active tile or unit currently shown in the bar and open a submenu that will list all tiles and units available. If you click on a tile or unit in the submenu, it will switch the active one for the one you clicked.
  • Cursor controls whether the AW-style cursor appears when editing and is purely personal preference.

Design Considerations

For a competitive map, the number of Bases and the overall income level is the very first consideration made as these dictate the unit variety on display. A typical competitive 1v1 map features 3 Bases and 1 Airport with around 7k per Base as this produces a slightly Infantry-heavy army with supporting light vehicles, predominantly Tanks. A Base count of 2 (known as Base Light), or more generally maps with higher income per Base, can be done as well, producing a vehicle- and air-heavy meta with higher numbers of tech units on both sides. Higher Base counts are sometimes possible too, but are usually avoided as Infantry spam becomes problematic if funding per base is too low. Odd numbers of production facilities or facilities that are contested are always to be avoided as this creates an advantage that is often insurmountable for whoever owns the additional base.

Symmetry

Symmetry is an important base element of almost all modern AWBW competitive maps, with the majority made with Rotate 2Q in mind. This is due in part to AW grid-based system where creating defensive walls on Flipped or Diagonal maps becomes very easy, increasing the chances of stalemates where neither side is incentivized to attack. For maps that do use these kinds of symmetry, they often tend to be Mixed Base maps (such as Caustic Finale, the page image) that intermix flanks to avoid this issue. Rotate 2Q allows an equal imbalance between two armies on opposing flanks (known in mapping terms as a strong flank and weak flank) where optimal angles of attack are not obvious and easily solved, thus creating more dynamic gameplay.

A balanced asymmetrical map is theoretically possible and asymmetry was one method early mappers used to try to resolve the issue of FTA, but is generally extremely difficult to pull off especially between highly skilled players who can extend even small advantages to great effect. It is not recommended to make a map asymmetrical for a competitive experience.

Terrain

The layout of terrain and properties on a map will strongly shape battles fought on it.

As a very general rule, a map's ease of traversal is inversely proportional to its defensive attributes - maps with higher quantities and qualities of defensive terrain tend to be more difficult to traverse, and vice versa. Too much defensive terrain is generally poor for gameplay by limiting movement and increasing defenses. Overly open terrain can also be bad by making reinforcement times too short (which can also be exacerbated by Bases that are too far forward) and properties (which have high defense values) difficult to safely assault and capture. Most maps try to strike a balance between ease of traversal and defensive attributes while enabling a variety of strategies to coexist.

Plains, Roads, Bridges and Shoals are all considered open-style terrain and usually make up the majority of a map, offering high freedom of movement, typically around areas of expected fighting. Jake and Koal benefit from large use of these while Sturm is weakened by them.

Forest (and to a lesser extent, Reefs) are considered splashable terrain to be used infrequently in specific spots for slowing down units travelling through them and/or to offer more defensively favourable spots to attack from. Lash enjoys maps with forests placed in strategic locations such as next to contested properties.

Mountains and Rivers are used as semi-impassable terrain and will shape the fronts of the map by impeding vehicles while allowing Infantry and Mechs to cross. Sturm is almost always broken on maps that make heavy use of these, especially for slowing down the capture phase of a map.

Sea as on a non-naval heavy map is used as impassable terrain for all land units and can be used to gate access to bonus properties in addition to forcing longer paths for reinforcements. Pipes are similar, and their ability to stop air units as well means they can often be seen around Airports to shape aircraft reinforcement time.

The appropriate balance of terrain can shift depending upon the intended game mode. During Fog of War, limited vision combined with even moderate defensive terrain can become too difficult to push through, especially with woods also concealing units, meaning Fog maps tend to be larger and more open, with much more careful placement of forests and mountains in particular as their ability to hide units and give large vision boosts for footsoldiers respectively strongly impacts the vision game. High Funds, on the other end of the spectrum, can afford to run with heavier than normal terrain, as the increased prevalence of air units and higher damage output in general make traditional stalling tactics less of an issue.

Finally, though it may seem trivial, aesthetics can be an important factor in the memorability of a map and attracting new players to play on them, such as if the map is featured in Z Games. Visuals are by nature a subjective topic, but overall an attractive map will feature natural-looking terrain or recognisable patterns or a blend of both in a way that does not disrupt gameplay and may even provide some backstory or lore for the map. If a map does not fully utilise all of the game space such as the back corners of the map, consider filling the space with landmarks for finishing touches.

Properties

If well-designed terrain allows for dynamic combat, properties are what is used to incentivise it. They can be roughly divided into three groups:

  • Backwards properties lie off the beaten path, usually behind the bases in the corner of the map but this can also apply to properties on remote islands that need a T-Copter or Black Boat to reach. These can be a good way to add decision-making to the capture game without introducing an abundance of properties elsewhere, though the number of them should generally be limited so the investment does not become the obvious choice. Any neutral Bases and Airports are almost always this type, though any property is fairly safely to include this way.
  • Intermediate properties are in the middle areas where fighting is not normally expected but where units will pass through to reach the important areas. The biggest effect these buildings have is usually offering repairs for damaged units - usually Cities, but sometimes Airports and Ports that have been ghosted to disallow production of units are included here to allow a refuge for air units and/or disallow land unit repairs, respectively. Otherwise, non-ghosted Bases, Airports and Missile Silos are properties that are likely unhealthy to include here.
  • Contested properties are properties that can reasonably be captured by multiple players during a match and are usually located near the lines where players' Base and Airport sphere of influences are evenly matched. These are the properties used to draw attention of players nearby and create areas of engagement, with an appropriate amount included to encourage attacking without including too many highly defensive positions. Contested properties are almost exclusively cities.

Although Comm Towers are optional, it is usually good practice to include some on AWBW maps due to their general positive effects on gameplay and consistency. They can be in any of the three groups, but is inadvisable to make them fully contested. 2 per player can also be used if faster gameplay is a goal, though keep in mind Javier is immediately banworthy on maps with more than 2 Comm Towers per player.

Loaded Missile Silos are rarely seen on AW maps. If they are, they are usually a backwards property requiring investment to acquire, and then only in limited quantities of 1 per player. Unloaded Missile Silos are more common and are useful in places where the defenses and mobility of a property are desired but not the income or repairs.

Labs are the final noteworthy property and are used primarily as a substitute for the Headquarters, usually as a tuning lever for FTA purposes. In cases where there already is an HQ, Labs only serve to provide vision in Fog of War and to enable Lab units and otherwise have no particular differences to an empty missile silo. If fog or lab units are not enabled, they are largely useless, though it usually does not hurt to accommodate for any potential games where lab units are used.

Predeployed Units

Predeployed units can be used in AWBW maps in a number of ways. The classic example shown in many vanilla Advance Wars maps where each side has a number of combat units already fielded is generally a bad idea in competitive maps, as these can have a destructive impact on FTA that is difficult to account for and tends to distort the capture phase of a map which otherwise represents an important skill gap.

Predeployed units can however still be used to great effect if restricted in their movement to align them for a very specific purpose; for example, predeployed landlocked Recons are frequently seen in maps built for Fog Of War to provide free vision that may or may not be possible to remove with an investment of resources, and predeployed Black Boats may be placed on HQs to slow down the effectiveness of HQ rushes, especially on maps with very forward HQs that would otherwise be vulnerable to cheese strategies. Whether these units are necessary is up to the mapmaker and their intentions for the map, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

On a broader scale, some maps may include predeployed transports such as Landers which can actively participate in games, often staying relevant up until the late stages of the game. This can be used as an alternative or in addition to thick terrain to slow down units exiting from a particular base, or to give an alternate, usually slower route to take that allows units to cross to a different flank. Again, this is up to the mapmaker and their intentions for the map.

FTA

Main article: FTA

FTA (or First-Turn-Advantage) is an important consideration for any AWBW map and represents the inherent advantage given to the players who move first in any given game. Minimizing and correcting for this advantage takes the form of careful map design and a dedicated FTA counter which can take many forms but is typically (for a map with 2 preowned Bases and 1 Headquarters) done with a predeployed Infantry on top of that player's strongest preowned base. It is generally one of the last additions to a map as its implementation depends upon other specific factors of the map, such as the number of preowned bases, starting properties, funding curve and other predeployed units.

For a more detailed explanation and overview of common counters, see FTA.

Uploading and Exporting

Instead of generating a map from scratch, a map can also be uploaded in the form of a text document, which can be created using any basic text editing software. It uses a simple format where tiles are represented by their tile ID and denominated using commas, with each new row in the document denoting the next row down on the map. Up to 50 rows and 50 columns may be specified using this method, making this the only way to create maps larger than 36x36. Unfortunately, the map editor cannot be used to edit tiles or predeployed units beyond the 1333rd due to a bug.

Exporting a map can also be done from the map's preview page to generate the necessary text document as well, which can be used for archiving, editing of a map with an inactive author, or as a workaround to resizing a map by importing into a fresh map with the correct dimensions. Predeployed units are not saved during exporting and must be readded in after importing is complete.

Tiles that have missing (null) tile data when importing will create Black Tiles in their place, a glitch tile that has a movement cost of 0 for all unit types. This is the only way to create such tiles on a map. Any such map featuring these should do so sparingly as a unit cannot end their turn while standing on them or they will become bugged and unable to take further actions.

Sharing a Map

Once a map is built, it can be shared by Publishing it, which can be done from Your Maps. Publishing the map makes it visible to the public through the map browser or Recent Maps. You may also Unpublish the map which will accomplish the opposite. Maps that have been published can also be rated (from 1-10) and have comments left on them by the community.

The map will not have any categories assigned to it right away (see below). Once a map has been published and categorized, it may be eligible for use in the automatic Z Games, depending on what categories the map receives. A map cannot be edited if any games are currently active on it - if you would like to edit the map, it is advised to unpublish the map to prevent any new games from being generated on it while existing games play out, and then it may be changed once they are done.

Map Categories

Once your map has been published, it will need to be categorised appropriately (if any apply). Map categories serve as a way to group maps based on their attributes, such as their intended function and game type, overall quality of play, and sub-categories. All categorization is done by the Map Committee (MC), made up of a volunteer group of veteran map makers. Recently uploaded maps are regularly scanned by members of the MC and placed into categories based on their analysis and/or any comments by the map maker. To browse the full list of existing categories, you can view the list of categories on the website.

Maps categories in AWBW are loosely grouped into 3 distinct blocks. A full description of each category is as follows:[1]

Map Quality

This includes S-Rank, A-Rank, Casual Play, and New. These categories are mutually exclusive, and maps are placed into these categories based on how well the map plays (the lowest level is to be not categorized at all).

Map quality is measured by a few key metrics:

  • Balance
  • Emphasis on dynamic, fluid gameplay (likelihood of stalemates)
  • Meaningful player decisions (unit variety, interesting fronts, etc.)
S-Rank The highest level of quality for maps, making them suitable candidates for competitive matches. These maps are characterized by negligible balance issues (if any), interesting and non-obvious capture phases, and well-created fronts encouraging dynamic gameplay. These maps will generally deserve ratings from 8 to 10.
A-Rank The "normal" level of decent maps, suitable for friendly or non-competitive AWBW matches. These maps are characterized by small but noticeable balance issues, solid capture phases, and decently created fronts that are not dynamic, but will not usually result in stalemates. These maps will generally deserve ratings from 6 to 8.
New Maps created recently that have potential as A- or S-Rank maps. These maps generally need play-testing to determine which category they fit best in. Casual Play-level maps or lower do not get categorized into New.
Casual Play The lowest level of maps that are recommended for casual games only. These maps are characterized by serious balance issues that will not create auto-win situations for low-level players, weak or very obvious capture phases, and fronts that promote defensive tactics likely end in stalemates for experienced players. These maps will generally deserve a rating from 4 to 6.
None (No category) Maps not recommended for any level of gameplay and not placed into ANY category (including the sub-categories discussed below). These maps are characterized by balance issues that are so severe or the map is so poorly designed that fun games are extremely unlikely. These maps will generally deserve a rating from 1 to 4.

Map Function

This includes Global League, Under Review, and Hall of Fame, as well as Historical/Geographical, Sprite, Joke, and Toy Box. Maps are grouped into these categories based on their usage on the site, rather than the actual characteristics of the map (for example, usage in competitions). With the exception of Hall of Fame, these categories are all mutually exclusive.

Global League Maps currently being used for Global League matches.
Under Review Maps that are under review for placement into the rotation of Global League maps. These maps are in need of play-tests and further evaluation before being cleared for League use.
Hall of Fame Former persistent League Maps or maps that are deemed worthy of recognition for their impact/significance in the history of AWBW mapping.
Historical / Geographical Maps that faithfully recreate a historical event or geographical location. There is a minimum standard of quality that should be maintained here - an amorphous landmass map dotted with a few forests named "North America" does not belong in this category.
Joke Maps that someone found funny in the past. This category is not seriously maintained.
Sprite Maps that faithfully recreate a person/thing/etc. that doesn't belong in historical/geographical. Once again, a minimum standard of quality is maintained.
Toy-Box Maps that are not meant to be played with normal AWBW rules. These maps can have custom rulesets or be AWBW versions of other games (e.g.: Hide and Seek). These maps must be playable to be included in this category.

Map Features (Sub-categories)

This includes all of the other map categories. Maps are grouped into these categories based on the characteristics of each map, especially to help users know the type of gameplay expected on that map. These categories are not mutually exclusive.

Base Light Maps with a relatively high funds-to-base ratio, or a relatively low bases-to-fronts ratio. This often means larger maps that have only 2 bases, or maps where each base is responsible for 2 or more separate fronts. These maps are generally typified by scarceness of infantry on each front in the mid-game and an increased volume of high-tech units.
Fog of War Maps that are playable with Fog of War turned on. Note that this does NOT mean maps with a high density of forests, that is a common misconception. These maps often have predeployed units meant purely to provide limited vision in Fog of War games.
Heavy Naval Maps that encourage naval play beyond transports and battleship towers. These are not necessarily maps that have a high density of ocean tiles.
High Funds Maps that are playable using more than 1000 funds per property per turn (nominally 2000). These maps can most easily be detected by their special FTA counter, which features no preowned bases.
Innovative Maps that have a unique gimmick or setup that has a meaningful impact on the type of gameplay seen on the map. Maps that are innovative but are not meant to be played with "normal" AWBW rules should not be included here (for example, maps with special conducts that must be enforced separately by the players).
Limited High Funds Maps that are playable using less than 1000 funds per property per turn and and high starting funds (100,000+). These maps can most easily be detected by their special FTA counter, which features no preowned bases.
Live Play Maps that are suitable for real-time games between players. These maps are generally smaller, easier to understand and produce fast games, with intuitive capture phases, modest funding and dynamic gameplay with appropriate numbers of contested properties and few defensive choke points.
Mixed Base Maps that feature a "mixed" base pattern. These are often characterized by one or more bases that are responsible for more than one front and are sandwiched between opponents' bases.
Teleport Tile Maps whose gameplay is meaningfully impacted by the presence of black tiles.
FFA Multiplay Maps with 3 or more players that are best designed to be played as a free-for-all.
Team Play Maps with 3 or more players that are best designed to be played as a team battle.

If your map was not categorized, or you believe it was categorized incorrectly, please contact a member of the Map Committee and they will be able to help you.

Further Reading

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