In the afpdip list, I conducted a mini-survey about mapping preferences. In it, I asked two main questions: ‘Do you have a preference when it comes to how units are placed on a map?’ And if they did, then ‘Do you prefer to have unobstructed province names or central unit placement?’ The heart of the issue is whether or not it is more important to keep the province name clear or place the unit smack in the middle of the borders. Of course, in some provinces it doesn’t make a dingo’s kidney’s worth of difference, because the place is so small that you can’t avoid covering the name nor can you even keep the icon within the borders at all. But for the average province, this conundrum faces mappers every phase of the game. The act of placing abbreviations for the same province, and sometimes different names altogether for the same province, so keeping them straight can be a tad difficult. As a side-note to this survey, a discussion of the possible psychological effects of unit placement began. The question was expressed as ‘what if placing the unit off the coast of Bre would trigger the player thinking there was more danger there rather than with the fleets in MAO and NAf. . .?’ It is a very intriguing question, but not conducive to answering, as it would take several games (with unsuspecting players, that’s the important bit) with a very manipulative GM and/or mapper to get enough data. Most mappers create and modify their maps in an image-editing program, naturally, many use one that will allow for either layers or discrete objects. This makes moving the unit icons in response to results quite easy. I use Photoshop and a layer for each country’s units, each country’s movements (since I do movement-maps as well as detail-maps), a legend, the phase, and the map itself as the background. Making movable names/abbreviations would be a good afternoon’s work of creating a new layer and cutting/pasting the text into it, then repairing the background map. Once done, though, would it be a snap to implement. The process would be similar for object-oriented mappers. However, for mappers who are using applications which do not support objects or layers and are modifying the base map itself, moving the province names would not work. The downside to this — a minor one, yes — would be constant uncertainty as to where to find province names on the map. With layers or objects, the text could be shifted each phase to accomodate different units (or arrow lines in movement-maps). But I think this concern would only bother very new newbies to the game or variant. I’ll have to try it out and see. Players should always keep in mind that mappers are human and can make mistakes. Depending on the map to be perfect can (will, in Diplomacy!) lead to mistakes in planning and strategy which could lead to losing all your supply-centres. Mappers cannot be blame means obscuring the province name. If someone is in doubt they can look at the blank map. None of these are ‘rules’ or were even preplanned, they are just what I tend to do unconsciously… with maps I also work on the principle that if you don’t like MY map then you are at liberty to make your own… as long as it’s accurate, that’s all I worry about. Pro: Very professional package. Being vector-based you can rescale things to any degree after you’ve drawn ’em. And you get PhotoPaint & lots of other stuff. All the text can be moved around as well as the units, orders, SCs and all, giving Total Flexibility in Map Making(TM). And the abbreviations & full province names are on seperate layers so I can switch ’em on or off. If you want a 24′ square map to play on then it’s yours without jaggies. Pro: layers, gif98a export, mode-changing (indexed to RGB), history palette (in v5, so’s you can back up to before that incorrect arrow you drew five arrows ago), available in 16 languages besides English Another mapmaker comments: Visions of sledgehammers and nuts are creeping up here. Of course the nice thing about Photoshop is that you could seamlessly blend in a photograph of yourself fading from left to right with the map fading from right to left THEN reformat the whole thing into a ball shape. I don’t use it myself, because I don’t do much (any) graphics editing, but other people swear by it, and I understand it to be very powerufl. Another mapmaker comments: The GIMP (X-Windows), GPL (free software), everything that Adobe Photoshop has and more, loads of free plug-ins, plug-ins to enable scripting in lots of languages, plug-in support for every known file format – can even save image as an HTML table. Cost: nothing. For the record. I edit and store maps in Powerpoint then export the move/movement files to WMF. Then import to PaintshopPro to convert to gif. This may sound a pain but I reckon its twice as fast as using a graphics tool like PSP throughout. Source.