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Mapmaking Fundamentals - Camp Design

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Mapmaking Fundamentals - Camp Design

This was originally written as an internal design document meant to guide our current development of new campaign maps. It has been shared here for interested players and as an aid for aspiring community mapmakers. 

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BattleForge campaign maps have a particular feel to them, and this feel is a fundamental component of the unique experience which is playing BattleForge. The goal of this design guide is to use existing campaign maps, particularly the best campaign maps, to understand and to categorize the distinct features of the camps in BattleForge’s campaign, such that we can better design future campaign maps. This guide is therefore intended to categorize the design choices of the original devs and to act as a reference for future development for both community and official map development.


Given the nature of map design, this guide uses a high density of visual examples to illustrate map design principles and standard practices. Across all examples, a standard legend is used.

  • Purple – is used to highlight NPC camp formations. Purple text is used to describe the various dynamics occurring in the enemy camp.
  • Light Blue – is used to highlight spawn locations and any special interactions which these spawn locations enable.
  • Orange – is used to highlight non-standard flanking routes available to players. In the majority of cases, orange designates available paths for flying units, but it can also represent potential cliffing opportunities, particularly for artillery units such as Firedancer and Firestalker.
  • Red – is primarily used to highlight player attack routes. It is secondarily used to highlight key features of camps which affect said attack routes.
  • Black – is used to highlight terrain features.

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Table of Contents

1. Player Agency - Angles of Attack:
2. Camp Formations – Line vs. Center Based
   A. Simple Line-based Formations (Blight)
   B. Complex Line-based Formations (Nightmare Shard)
   C. Center-based Formations (Crusade & Siege of Hope)
3. Area Formation - Lodgement
   A. Encounters with Twilight Analysis
   B. Mo Analysis
   C. Behind Enemy Lines Analysis
4. Appendix I: Standard Camp Layout Diagrams

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Player Agency - Angles of Attack

BattleForge is a game well beloved for how much agency it gives to players. Players can choose which modes to grind for rewards, which cards they collect, how their decks are constructed, and how they approach each map. The continued cultivation of player agency has and must continue to inform map design. One of the most prominent aspects of player agency is how a player can approach a map, which enemies they fight, which paths they follow, and how they attack any given camp. Given this document’s focus on camp design, it is worthwhile to start our analysis by visually highlighting a good example of camp design which enables player agency by a multiplicity of angles of attack.

In nearly every example shown in this document, there are a number of red and orange arrows highlighting some of the available angles of attack for each given camp. I strongly encourage the reader when following along in the analysis of each camp to also consider how the original devs used the terrain features and enemy layout to enable and disable different angles of attack; the reader ought to then consider how this affects the player experience in both positive and negative ways. The diversity of approaches both within and between camps is one of the major factors that contributes to BattleForge’s maps remaining interesting even after dozens of playthroughs.

Blight Enclave 1 - Northeast

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Camp Formations - Line vs. Center Based

In general, the vast majority of camp designs in BattleForge’s campaign maps fall into 2 distinct categories, line-based and center-based camps. Line-based camps are so called because the enemies in the camp are visually aligned into line formations, similar to real life pre-modern army arrangements. Each line is typically made up of only a couple different types of units and both the front and reserve lines are often supported by buildings. Center-based camps are so called because the enemies in the camp are clustered in the center as a group. While initially clustered, center-based camps quickly self-differentiate when attacked. Contrary to their line-based counterparts, center-based camps are highly diverse, utilizing as many different enemy types as possible but with a deemphasized focus on towers.

Simple Line-based Formations: Blight

The majority of camps in Blight fall into the category of simple line-based formations. What this means is that the camp is made up of 2 lines, a frontline and a backline. The frontline is typically melee units, a support building (Waystation), and towers. The backline is composed of support units or buildings (Shamans, Bandit Sorceresses, Waystations), long-range backup (Bandit Sniper, Artillery), and melee reserves. While higher tier camps have increased unit diversity, most simple line-based camps make use of only a small number of distinct units in each line. Diversity is more to be found between the lines than within them. While most camps have spawners, these are usually not the focus of the camp, with several only being triggered by the global map timers. In all cases, while the camp itself is fortified, it also feels lived in. When looking at the camp, the defensive formations are believable, and the player can imagine that the Bandit camps also double as homes.

Blight Enclave 2 - Southeast366001077_Blightenclave2south.png

Blight Enclave 3 - West

Complex Line-based Formations: Nightmare Shard

Nightmare Shard’s design revolves around defending the Forge Shard and destroying 4 camps, each of which is themed after a different element. Each of the four primary camps falls into the category of complex line-based formations. This type of formation is a more complex version of the simple formation illustrated above by the examples from Blight. While simple line camps only have a front and backline, often with no spawner, complex formations have multiple layers of defense and almost always make use of a well-protected spawner. The general design idea is that the frontline, largely made up of melee units, impedes the player’s initial progress, while being kept alive by a possible support line. Simultaneously, an archer line, made up of ranged units and towers often protected by terrain or walls, provides the primary source of damage. Once the frontline dies, the archer and support lines, still protected by towers or a fallback artillery location, delay the player until the frontline can respawn from the spawner farther back. These types of camps at their best create the feeling of a great ongoing battle where the player slowly and steadily advances against the enemy. At their worst, they feel like an unending slog against a never-ending horde.

Nightmare Shard - Shadow Camp

A major factor that determines if the camp is enjoyable or frustrating is how the camp manages strategic depth. In the 3 examples included here, the strategic depth of the camp is handled significantly differently. In the first example above of the Shadow camp, absent Mana Wings or leaving the camp until post-T2, the player is forced to attack into small chokepoints with no capacity to retreat due to the wild magic zones. Paired with enemy Vilebloods, whose death temporarily blocks any forward progress, this often leads to a choice between reaching the spawner but sacrificing a large portion of your army to Vileblood acid; or delaying to save your army but facing a second wave of Vilebloods. Choices such as these are frustration fodder because the player feels trapped into making a bad choice with little capacity to adapt. Still, the distance between the spawner and the initial engagement zone is very small, and if this were a T2+ camp it would likely be well balanced given stronger player damage and CC spells. In general, lower tier complex formations should have lower strategic depth, measured here as the distance between the initial engagement zone and the priority target, as well as the capacity of the enemy to continue fighting.

Nightmare Shard - Frost Camp

The Frost camp is an example of a fully fleshed out complex line-based formation. There is a center frontline, with both an archer line and support line directly behind. The sides have additional archer lines (towers + ranged units) which can continue to attack the player if they try to run for the spawner, which is well protected at the very back of the camp. This overlapping multi-layered defense is the major component of any complex line formation. It is also believable. Given the available troops, the arrangement of the Twilight forces makes logical sense. A player given the same troops would likely place them in a similar fashion.

Another key part of all well-made complex formations is permanently destroyable strongpoints. In this case, the Frost camp is formidable not just because the units can respawn, but because the towers help to hamper forward progress. When the camp is originally encountered, it is at its strongest. But, if players are careful and destroy the towers before launching a full assault, they increase the chances of taking the camp without being repealed or losing most of their forces. This creates a give-and-take with the camp where it feels like the player and the enemy are actually matching wits against each other. The best complex line formations have a strategic depth that can be degraded or circumvented by smart players, but which acts as a formidable wall to the reckless.

Nightmare Shard - Nature Camp

Similar to the Frost camp, the Nature camp has multiple layers of defense. The Twilight Pikemen slow enemies while they get damaged by a substantial contingent of Twilight Slayers and a well-positioned Twilight Bombard. The camp has 3 forms of CC: slow, blind, and M-knockback. These make it very difficult to reach the spawner which is located very far back in the camp. While the ultimate goal is the spawner, the Twilight Bombard is provided as a solid secondary objective. By destroying it, the player makes any subsequent attacks on the camp much easier. Additionally, one of the most intriguing aspects of this camp is that, absent the single Bombard and Whisperer, all other defenses are T2 or below, while the camp is a T3 camp. It is the perfect example of how a well-designed camp with significant strategic depth can provide a challenge even to higher tier players without the need to utilize stereotypically powerful units. This camp also well illustrates that many complex line formations make use of only a few units with little compositional diversity in the camp as a whole.

Center-based Formations: Crusade

Crusade - West Bottom Camp

Crusade - West Middle Camp

Crusade - West Top Camp


Center-based Formations: Siege of Hope

Siege of Hope - Western Enclave

Siege of Hope - Town Guard

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Mapmaking Fundamentals - Camp Design (Cont.)

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Area Formation - Lodgement

The type of camps a map designer employs has a major effect on the feel of both the map in its entirety and also specific subsections of the map. For example, Mo, which will be discussed below, transitions from a one-path map from T1 to T3, to a lodgement map in T3 & T4. Camp formations in Mo then transition types accordingly. Lodgement maps, or map subsections, are sufficiently different from normal maps that they deserve particular attention. In these types of maps, the player is required to progress and conquer land, as normal, but under the constant threat of permanent or semi-permanent enemy patrols. The patrols occupy a large portion of the enemy power budget, leading to a situation where the camps themselves are often of reduced strength. Many camps in lodgement maps are in fact only half-camps, containing only some of the aspects of line or center-based camp formations. The reason for these seemingly incomplete camps is that lodgement maps are not balanced on a camp-by-camp basis, as is true in the previously discussed maps like Blight and Crusade, but as an area. While each camp on Blight is self-contained, the entire area of a lodgement map should be regarded as a single complex line camp formation. This also means that strategic depth in the given area is not measured camp-by-camp but area-by-area. To help demonstrate this, we will discuss several examples below via visual illustration.

Lodgement Formations: Encounters with Twilight

Encounters, Lodgement.jpg

Encounters with Twilight - Lodgement

As already mentioned, many lodgement style maps feature a series of half-camps guarded by permanent or semi-permanent patrols. In the case of Encounters with Twilight, each half-camp, or strongpoint, is functionally equivalent to a non-respawning frontline. The patrolling Vileblood and Whisperers function as reserve and support lines respectfully. This design encourages a player to either preemptively destroy patrols or to avoid them altogether to isolate enemy strongpoints which are weak on their own.

The patrol units in a lodgement map are highly relevant to the player’s experience, and Encounters with Twilight’s patrols are a masterclass in good camp design. The patrol’s primary goal is to hamper or repel player advances against NPC strongpoints. Since these strongpoints do not respawn, every time a player is able to destroy a target, they permanently weaken the area’s defenses, reducing its strategic depth. Vilebloods therefore represent the perfect reserve line as they can either prevent forward progress until the support arrives via their area of denial on-death effect, or they can force a player forward into an enemy strongpoint by blocking the path of retreat. The Whisperers are good complements, able to function both as a support and archer line. Their damage is decent; they can heal multiple allies simultaneously, restoring the integrity of damaged strongpoints; and provide a large area blind. This creates a dichotomy. The Whisperers discourage ranged units, while the Vileblood discourages slow melee units. Many veteran players of Encounters therefore lean towards swift melee units like Burrowers to snipe strongpoints while avoiding the incoming patrols.

Lodgement Formations: Mo

Mo, lodgement.jpg

Mo - Half-camps412610196_Molodgementcampdesign.png

If Encounters with Twilight’s patrols are a masterclass in good lodgement area design, Mo’s patrols are the prime example of what not to do. In this section of Mo, the half-camps, or strongpoints, function as the archer and support lines while the patrols represent the frontline. This is a solid design and the strongpoints themselves, both the half-camps shown above as well as the various towers stationed on the center plateau, are well designed and interesting. The issue is that the player will almost never reach these strongpoints to claim them for himself until after the patrols have stopped spawning. This happens primarily because the patrols are too strong, and their spawn points are badly placed. In Encounters with Twilight, the patrol spawn exists at the point farthest from the player’s initial entry into the area. In Mo, the patrol spawns are located closer to the player than the vast majority of strongpoints. Additionally, the northern spawn is so close to the player’s intended strongpoint that it actually becomes a liability for the player to attempt to establish a beachhead in what otherwise should represent an ideal location to facilitate further conquest of the area.

The primary lesson to learn from Mo’s bad example is that not only the composition of patrols is important, but also their location. Patrol spawns should be located as far as possible from the player’s initial entry and expected expansion into the lodgement area. This gives the player the ability to expand without having to worry about enemies spawning in the very midst of what should now be conquered territory. Additionally, it allows the player more time between spawns to move forward and capture and/or degrade enemy strongpoints in preparation for total conquest of the area.

Lodgement Formations: Behind Enemy Lines

While the above 2 maps have lodgement sections, Behind Enemy Lines is a giant lodgement map. The player starts in the center and is required to slowly expand outwardly in all directions under constant siege while preventing the enemy from generating more powerful patrols via Twilight Disciples. Behind Enemy Lines is the synthesis of all the ideas we are covered so far in this document, and it is therefore the perfect conclusion to our analysis of BattleForge’s camp design.

Behind Enemy Lines - Expansion Zones
BEL, lodgement.jpg

  • Zone 1 – Vulnerable initial starting zone.

  • Zone 2 – Half-camps supported by patrols. Natural expansion zone, guarded by terrain features.

  • Zone 3 – Hybrid camp design. These camps are simple line & center-based formations simultaneously with destroyable spawners. Fortifiable by the player post-conquest, also permanently reduces patrols and naturally intercepts disciples.

  • Zones 4 & 5 – Complex line-based formation camps. Permanently safe locations once conquered.

  • Final Camp – Multilayered complex line-based formation camp. Map ends when destroyed.

When considered zone-by-zone as just outlined, it is easy to see that Behind Enemy Lines moves from simpler to more complex camp formations as the map progresses. Each zone also gives the player tangible benefits, such as a more easily defensible location, easier access to the Twilight Disciple path, and periodic permanent reductions in the quantity of patrols. In exchange though, the player must now defend an increasingly larger portion of the map. Additionally, both permanent spawn locations are sufficiently removed from the player’s own strongpoints and are located outside of the natural progression of the map. This gives the player options in how to respond to incoming threats. Finally, the map contains a large mix of terrain features. Chokepoints are connected to wide pathways, which are flanked by cliffs, both favorable and unfavorable. This allows the player a plethora of ways in which to approach the map.

Behind Enemy Lines - Zone 3 South, Hybrid Camp Design


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Appendix I: Standard Camp Layout Diagrams

Standard Simple Line Formation Layout.png


Standard Center Camp Formation Layout.png


Standard Complex Line Formation Layout.png

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