Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Real World Visibility

I found another reason for slow blog posting: Alaska Summer. The days here are getting really long, so you'll be out doing stuff and think, "Self, it is only like 7 PM, I've got hours before bed! Then you realize you are mowing your lawn at midnight." Even though I try to be careful about living by the clock I continually seesaw between sleep deprivation induced coma and manic outdoor activity.

However, I have had a chance recently to "field test" two Hexploration related concepts.


First, we went down to Colorado for a mini-vacation and did the Pike's Peak thing. The view from Pike's Peak is about as good as you can get in North America, with visibility of around 200 NM on a clear day. It was enlightening to note what can and cannot be seen on a "strategic" scale. That would be 1 or 2 48 league hexes; imagine being able to see all of the heart of a small empire and parts of the periphery from one spot (yes, I am calling Kansas the periphery of the Mighty Coloradan Empire).

Also notable was what you can and cannot see. At the strategic scale only strategic features are visible. Mountains yes; foothills, yes; small hills and embankments, no. Highways, yes; roads, sometimes; trails, no. Rivers, yes; streams, sometimes; creeks, no. This led me to think of a few levels of terrain feature that match up with the scales of play (Strategic, Operational, Tactical). Perhaps you get something like this:

Major - Obvious on all scales
Minor - Obvious on tactical, operational scales
Miniature - Obvious on tactical scale
Hidden - Never obvious

So, if I'm on Pike's Peak, mapping at a strategic scale of some sort, then I can note other mountains, big hills, major highway, major watercourses, towns, and so forth, but locating a minor feature like a hamlet or rutted carriage road requires some sort of time, effort, and check (luck). Locating a miniature feature from there might be possible with lots of time, effort, tools (optics), and a hard check (lots of luck).

To illustrate this, imagine spot and stalk hunting. It is a hunting technique where you climb up a major terrain feature and look for animals. You start by glassing with binocs at 8-10 power magnification which lets you note minor features but scan large amounts of area relatively quickly. You then pull out a spotting scope with much higher magnification to investigate possible animals and evaluate trophies before setting out after one. If I sat on top of Pike's Peak with a 60x spotting scope I could probably locate a miniature feature like an individual cottage or a small trail in the woods, but it would take a LONG time, good conditions, and a fair amount of luck.

Next time you get a post on Travel Times & Distances based off some real world travel we did in Alaska. I've scheduled the post for the near future for your reading pleasure. Until then, I'll let you enjoy a photo from our recent trip!