Rivals GIMP Tutorial


If you don't already have it on your computer, install GIMP

Next download the RR plugin and follow the instructions in the readme.txt file.

Example Map

Designing a Railway Rivals map that is both geographically accurate and entertaining to play is not easy. This web page covers the mechanics of how to create a map using GIMP and the plugin, nothing more.

For demonstation purposes, I am going to create an RR map of Iceland...

1) Get Background Map

Using a real map as a guide is not essential, but helps a lot. First I need to find a map of Iceland on the Internet. I download a version of the public domain one from Wikiepdia, and crop it to include only what I want on my RR map. The image size is 1739 x 1216 pixels, which, conveniently for printing, is an aspect ratio of 1.43 (close to that of standard ISO 216 paper sizes).

2) Autogenerate Numbered Hex Map and Import Background

As a result of installing the RR plugin, I now have "Create RR Map V2" on the File menu.

This creates a full set of layers (as described in the readme file) and also the hex grid, which can be any size up to 99x99.

I choose 40x25 (letters for columns) which the readme file tells me is suitable for A3 landscape printing. This is handy but the most important thing is getting the right number of hexes for the best map play, you can always best-fit / resize the final image at the end. Note that the plugin only supports flat-top hexes rather than point-up ones, so for the time being the letters for rows option is not recommended.

GIMP tells me my image image size is 1169 x 817

and I decide to make my map image a little smaller than this to allow for cropping of the final image for borders. I resize it to 1144 x 800 (retaining the aspect ratio).

Now I can import the image as a layer into my RR project using File, Open As Layers.

I set the opacity of this new layer using the opacity slider control so that I can see the hexes superimposed on the background map (in this case 60% is about right), then hide any layers I don't need for the next steps.

3) Terrain

Hexes need to be allocated as water, mountains or glacier. I decide to to use the "hex water coastal", "hex mountains" and "hex snow" brushes for these, though one might want to create a bespoke "hex glacier" brush for this map.

Always use size 38 for these brushes, except for where you want to revert a hex to blank, the "hex blank" brush works best as size 36 (because of hex edges).

Note that if you don't see a load of hex brushes, check the instructions for installing them in the readme.

4) Towns

Conveniently there are 36 towns on the map, but in 1995 Keflavík and Njaorvík merged to form Reykjanesbær and I want Reykjavík to be a double town so that's fine. Arranging them so that all those with the same first digit are near, I get...

56Borgarfjörður eystri

Placing these on the map I get the following image (background hidden).

At this point it becomes obvious that this is not going to be a good map to play without some redesign for a number of reasons such as:

But as this is only a demo, let's press on ..

5) Rivers and Lakes

I select the Rivers layer and the "pixel" brush, and set the size to 4px (5px might be better) and select a blue colour.

Rivers can then be drawn on freehand, or for a neater line use the Paths tool. This does take a bit of practice.

I select the Path tool and click once on the map for each vertex, as shown below.

When finished, I click the "Stroke Path" button which gives options on the line's appearance

I select another tool (e.g. Pencil) to complete the path. Note that if you don't like the results you need to undo all the way back to "Add Path" and start again.

Impassable bodies of water might be drawn freehand or place one or more water hexes for a large lake.

6) Number Towns

I select the Text tool and set the font and size to something suitable (in the example I have used Sans Bold 13)

I select the Town Numbers layer group (there is one sample number there at the start). Next I click on the map in the centre of a town hex and type in the number. The number probably won't be in exactly the right place, so I will need to tweak it with the Move tool.

Before using the Move tool, I need to select the layer I want to move either using the layers dock as shown below, or by switching to the Text tool and clicking the number, then switching back to the Move tool.

To move the number, I hold down the shift key and click and drag. Without the shift key I'd move the wrong layer.

For double hexes I need to make the font size a little smaller to fit both numbers inside the hex, see below.

7) Add Town Names

The process is not much different from placing the numbers. I'm going to take the font size down one to 12 and paste the Icelandic names in from the list (from Wikipedia). I will try to position the labels so that it's clear which label is for which town.

8) Edit Hex Number Layer

Almost done now. Time to switch on the Numbers layer. I don't want all the hex numbers on the map, just enough to help players with orders without interfering with town labels or other features. I use the hex blank brush, size 36, with the Eraser tool to remove numbers.

9) Add Legend Text

For a real map I would have lots of text and may need multiple legend areas (created by copying layers). Details of numbers of players, start towns, special runs and any additional rules for the map would be included. For this demo I just add a warning not to play it.

To change the size of the background, I need to right-click the layer name and choose boundary size.

10) Create Final Image

I have now finished editing my demo map (you can download the gimp file if you wish)

Now I can use the Export facility to merge everything into a single-layer image, as a jpeg, png or whatever.

I can if I wish tweak the image a bit such as cropping the edges, and then perhaps make it into a pdf file.