Dawn of War Maps

A mob of Chaos Space Marines blast away at a Space Marine Listening Post. Units remain exactly perpendicular to the surface they stand on, regardless of how sloped it is. In the case of Heavy Bolters, they'll look like they're firing into the air or the ground, but rest assured they are blasting that LP to bits. The map is flat; it only looks 3D because of an invisible painted height map that determines its shape. Units can shoot through obstacles, the ground and each other with absolutely no ill effects.
Dawn of War is not a "serious" war game. Its a semi-fluffy simulation of a tabletop diorama made up of groovy figurines. Its really quite fun, looks and feels just "right". It blows vast amounts of CPU time creating a fabulous impression of a big battle so you can fly the camera through the carnage and almost peer up the nostrils of your favourite Space Marines. But the game is just that: a fabulous impression. It might look 3D, but it cuts a lot of corners to put on a big show. It doesn't have much resembling "realistic" game physics, apart from guys being thrown around after the effect. The shape, height and details of the terrain has little or no effect on proceedings, except for invisible zones painted onto craters and in shallow water that designates "cover" or "negative cover", Snakes & Ladders style.

The 3D terrain in Dawn of War is created by a painted height map. Characters stand exactly perpendicular to the ground, regardless of what angle it lies at. Some weapons, (e.g. like Heavy Bolters) will also shoot parallel to the ground, regardless of angle; so if you ever see any Heavy Bolter squads standing on a slope firing into the air or the ground, you may rest assured they are in fact blasting the enemy. Its just the way they've been animated: the actual graphics in the game doesn't necessarily show you what's going on inside the game engine itself. Units can shoot through the ground or any solid looking obstacle without restrictions. Squad formations stand in big messy clumps blasting away at each other, through each other. Rubble, destroyed buildings and other set dressing might occasionally block a units path but they're basically just there for looks. Even obstacles are a painted layer: in fact the game engine treats them as a type of cover: Blocking Cover.

This is not a game like Total Annihilation where emergent behaviour decides battles. In an RTS with "realistic" (ho ho) physics simulations, every shell and bullet is worked out on the fly and there's no telling where exactly they might end up. Its actually possible to duck artillery fire in Total Annihilation if you've got the right unit and your wits about you. In DoW, the visual effects and everything you see is largely preordained, like any old two dimensional RTS like StarCraft or Age of Empires. It's one of the "flattest" RTS games around. I think its safe to say that elevation in Dawn of War plays no part in tactics and strategy. (Even StarCraft had rules concerning ground levels!) Being on top of a hill doesn't appear to give a squad any advantage over any squad stuck in a valley. Whether one stands on a mountain top or another is stuck down a mineshaft, if they're both within horizontal range they'll cheerfully blaze away as though on a bowling green. DoW uses the same logic and physics of an old tabletop board game - or more appropriately, its more like a football pitch. Your (team's) tactics, timing and movement pretty much can trump everything in the right time and place.


Cover and Negative Cover

Our Chaos Marines crossing Blood River. The river has negative cover, which means they all suffer a movement penalty and are more susceptible to any ranged enemy fire from its banks. Note the negative cover icons floating above their heads. Cover is determined at a individual level, not at squad level.
Cover is an invisible painted layer on the map. Any unit or vehicle that enters a Covered area slows down and gains an armour bonus. There are two types: Light and Heavy, but you won't be able to tell the difference in game. Light Cover grants a 25% armour bonus but a 10% movement penalty as a general rule, while Heavy Cover awards a 50% armour bonus and 25% movement penalty. You'll see a small blue and white shield icon float above the head of any unit in Cover. Your mouse pointer changes to a dotted outline when it moves over any terrain with Cover.

Flamers and Burnas negate the effects of Cover. Huddling in a crater won't save your troops from getting singed.

Negative Cover works the other way: units are more exposed than normal to enemy fire. Usually you find Negative Cover in any shallow water, or around the odd Critical Location to make them harder to hold. Its DoW's way of making a choke point. Any unit in Negative cover suffers a 20% movement penalty and is subjected to an extra 10% ranged damage. Close combat damage is unaffected.

Cover bonuses are applied on a unit by unit basis. For the most part they're the same across the board, but some units are special. Space Marine Scouts don't suffer a movement penalty in cover, and neither do any Jump Troops, although they still benefit from the Armour benefits. Hovering vehicles like Landspeeders or most of Eldar's hover tanks don't suffer any movement penalties either, but have slightly lessened armour bonuses. Buildings and structures of all types, including Minefields and Turrets, are immune to the effects of cover.

Necrons are completely unaffected by any kind of Cover.

I suppose if there's a weak spot in DoW, its the shrinking number of Skirmish maps (especially those in the Automatch rotation) that are considered to be "fair". Skirmish maps, especially those used in competitve 1v1 duels, tend to all be perfectly symmetrical, sometimes even down to mirrored crater placement. Starting positions appear in each corner, while and carefully placed obstacles and Strategic Points are arranged in the middle to make life interesting. Smaller, simpler maps are better for rushing, while larger ones with lots of Strategic Points give players the opportunity to tech up and grow quickly. Certainly, the cycle of Automatch maps is limited, since balance has been a contentious issue since the original game was released. Over time, many maps have been dropped for giving one army unfair advantages over another in competitive duels. Dawn of War maps as a general rule have limited slope and offer limited strategic variety compared to other RTS games.

But don't think for a second this is a whinge. No no no! No one thinks football is boring because its plays on a big grassy rectangle with some lines drawn on it, or that all the grounds look the same. The real spark in this game boils down to unit interaction and the seamless blend of real time tactics and strategy. Think of it as the footy fan's version of a sci-fi RTS.


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Dawn of War Map Sites
RTSC says: these are maps every Dawn of War player should have!
indicates the maps are for Dark Crusade only.

Community Map Packs
Full Scale War Research
For old Dawn of War and Winter Assault fans, this should be your first port of call for any Dawn of War maps! There are four Community Map Packs, developed by players and mappers keen to see a lot more variety and gameplay on Gamespy than the relatively limited official offerings for the game. These custom maps are designed so that the Online presence of Dawn of War would grow and develop. The result were three excellent Community Map Packs, each tried and tested, and each one made up of the pick of the mapping crop at the time. The fourth arrived after a long lull in "official" fan mapping. Each Pack comes with its own trouble-free installer, and the first three maps work with all versions of Dawn of War. The fourth only works with Winter Assault.

You can find the four original packs at the Warhammer-Maps.com page, DoWFiles, and BitTorrented at the Homeworld Community Server.

For the Dark Crusade expansion, the Community Map Packs have been revived: the four old packs have been repacked into a convenient, single package that you can chase up at its RelicNews forum thread. Note: when you install, install to the folder that your Dark Crusade game folder sits inside (and not the game folder itself) otherwise you'll create a new DC folder inside the old one.

It looks life a fifth Map Pack might be underway.Back

Cokane.com weblink

Cokane.com is the personal web page for game designer Connor O'Kane, currently working at Tantalus Interactive and a major contributor to the Community Map Packs.Back

DoWFiles Maps download page

This is DoWFiles.com's Maps Downloads section. You can find just about every Dawn of War map here. Back

David Hayward's
Level Design
for Dawn of War

David Hayward is a designer for Black Cat games, and his Dawn of War mapping tutorial pages go into considerable detail on how to produce a map for Dawn of War from a designer's perspective. They're very good: straightforward, nicely presented and illustrated, and an excellent complement to the other guides out there.Back

Mega Map Pack
Mod
A map "pack" that comes as a custom mod: this is a mappers' resource for building maps with incredibly detailed and lush environments. Its not really designed for playing unless you want to install an entire mod just to play one or two example maps in it. The "mod" is necessary to enable the new custom features and there's only one or two actual maps in it. Regular players won't see anything different unless they play the only map in it called Happy Valley, and it only works on the regular Dawn of War. Make sure you get the hotfix for it (which includes the Slaneeshi Temple map), otherwise you'll see nothing but purple boxes everywhere. Current version: 1.11.Back
Rayden's
Dawn of War
Map Centre

On of the contributors to the excellent Community Map Packs has his own web site dedicated to producing custom Dawn of War maps. His site contains one mission based map (which can be played singly, or cooperatively against AI's or other players) and several general multiplayer maps, and a big mapping FAQ and tutorial page. Back

RelicNews:
Dawn of War
Map Room
Relic Developers' Network
This is the Relic Developer's Network (RDN) official modding and mapping forum. If you want to keep tabs on any new maps, or have any questions on maps or technical issues answered, this is a great place to go. You can browse the forums as a guest without any problems, but if you wish to use RDN properly, or access its Wikipedia for some serious map making or modding, then you will have to register to do so.

There are also some other notable mapping threads here:

Dawn of War Mission Editor Guide takes a community perspective on how to use Relic's DoW Mission Editor for building maps.

FAQ: A Constant Work in Progress an ongoing, home grown FAQ built from fan contributions.Back

Survival
Map Packs

Survival maps are a specialised type of Skirmish map where a player or a small team of players is pitted against a horde of AI players. Unlike a comp stomp, which takes a normal multiplayer map and (often) stacks things horribly in favour of the human players, Survival Maps are supposed to be a big challenge, as you pit your forces against superior numbers in an environment that's a little bit like a one map single player campaign. These two packs of maps come with their own instructions of how to play (you need to set your game settings correctly in order for the maps' custom scripting to work) and only work with the Dark Crusade expansion.

Links: Survival Map Pack I and Survival Map Pack II. Both these packages come with their own hotfixes. Make sure you read those instructions!Back

Strategy Informer's DoW Mods and Maps link Strategy Informer DoW:WA Mods List:The Strategy Informer game site has a nice big list of Dawn of War: Winter Assault custom mods and maps - all with downloads. Nooiice!Back

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Last modified Fri, Feb 22 2008 by Lindsay Fleay