I am REALLY behind on this. Over the last few years, my ability to find time to really sit down and map with Campaign Cartographer has been very little. I was able to do the 2007 review and I liked it so much that I’ve been continuing to get the annual even though I haven’t any time or ability to really use them. More recently, I’ve decided to take some time to sit down and go through them, I do think these annuals in general are very good at helping you learn how to map and develop your own styles, if nothing else.
In my opinion, 2008 was a fairly weak year overall which is too bad.
The year actually started strong with the Pete Fenlon overland style map. The style is based off Fenlon’s style which he developed while doing the Middle-Earth RPG. I thought the theme was pretty slick overall, very standard map style, nothing special but very cool. I liked it.
The problem, though, started right away with the second month which showed how to make your own customized symbol catalog. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a useless lesson. It is good to have one of these every year as it shows you how to do something more advanced in CC3 which I do think has its place. The problem is that this year had several like this.
In addition to the Symbol Catelog issue, there was an issue which showed you standards on how to link maps together, which is really basic. [1. To be fair, they did include a section on how to create custom toolbar buttons for CC3 which I admit is really cool. But the base how to link was kind of silly.] Another issue was how to make your own custom map borders, and some tips on how to make them pop out better.
And lastly, was a video tutorial series which was really geared at new cartographers. Now to be fair on this one, this video tutorial is excellent and one of my all time favorite issues. But there were already four other how to use base features of CC3 issues this year, and they provided lower resolution versions on youtube of this issue free to anyone as a promo.
Besides the 5 base how-tos. There was one issue which showed off new features of City Designer 3. I did actually go through this feature several times when I got CD3 and did find it useful to acquaint myself with the new program. But I did find it to smell faintly like an advertisement for the newly launched title.
Perhaps my least favorite of the issues was the Battle Maps issue which actually I could find useful if I ever GM’d. It is meant as a way to make a standard gaming map for a pen & paper game for your players to be able to move around in. But I’m not hugely interested in this so I didn’t care about it.
I liked the idea of the Shaded Relief maps, however I never got this one to work. I don’t know what it was about it, but I’m going to try it in a live map instead of doing it in the provided template sometime to see if I can get it to work better.
Despite the above complaints, there were a few good ones. My second favorite issue was the Heraldic Symbols issue. They provided shield backgrounds, furs, and easy to use symbols to add to the shields. Then they told you basically what each component meant on the herald so that you made them appropriately. A really cool concept for them and I liked the usage.
The other decent issues were the Lighted Dungeons which showed you how to use lighting in the DD3 (though it was a weird cross between the CD3 issue and the base how to issue), the simple but useful overland black & white maps, and that star system template which had some great backgrounds to use and was cool to see how to map my solar systems.
Overall, I give this particular year of Cartographer’s Annual a solid “meh.” The decent ones are pretty good, but there is a lot of stuff in this one I could do without. Like I said, had they made just one or two of those how-to’s this would have been a much better year.