Every now and then I check out our advertisers, to see who we’re associating with. (Or to put it more accurately: ‘who is being associated with us’.)

And every now and then, my curiosity is truly rewarded.

I love gaming maps; they are one of the things that drew me into the hobby. But I do not enjoy the time spent creating them, and the steep learning curve of most mapmaking software aggravates me. I’d rather clean public toilets (or use Excel) than spend hours learning to use a glorified replacement for pencil and paper.

So I took a look at Hexographer, and was floored. Within 15 minutes, I had drawn the terrain for my current campaign. In under an hour, the towns, roads, and rivers were added. The intuitive interface really made things simple, and the maps had an ‘old school’ vibe that reminded me of the original maps from the 1980s World of Greyhawk campaign setting.

This map is admittedly fairly basic, although some of the samples are a bit more involved. The true value of this program is how quickly and easily maps are created. Open a blank page, choose a terrain type, and start clicking and dragging across the hexes à la Microsoft Paint. That’s literally it.

If you’re lazy (like me), just draw a squiggly line of mountains, some hills alongside it, a streak of plains, and a few dots of forest, and then run the Terrain Wizard, and let it fill in the blanks. Your CAD-based software is still loading, and I’ve got a ready-to-go map.

For the truly lazy, there is a random map generator, but the key word is ‘random’, as in ‘you’ll probably see some nonsensical geography’. It can make a good starting point for a map, especially if you’re ‘drawing a blank’.

The Details

Hexographer is a Java-based program, so check to see if you need to upgrade your computer’s Java version first. A note on the forum indicates that you should have at least Java 1.6 update 10. Test and upgrade your Java for free here.

Speaking of Java, the Hexographer code is currently unsigned, so there will be an “Are you sure?” popup when you first run it.

Hexographer comes in two versions: Free and Pro (or ‘paid’). The free version is launched from a browser window, and has most of the features of the pro version, including the ability to export a map as a PNG file. The free version works fine for creating a quick map and getting a feel for the software, although it requires internet connectivity and is a fair-sized download. It should be all that cheap-assed frugal gamers need.

The Pro version costs $31, but is currently on sale for $25.  Going ‘Pro’adds a number of features:

  • Can be run offline.
  • Supports custom icons/hexes.
  • Allows the user to expand/contract the size of the map (in terms of number of hexes).
  • Supports ‘notes’ appended to hexes.
  • Can automatically create a map key based on the symbols used.
  • Rewards the author of the software and supports future development.

There is also a one-year Pro license for $11 ($9 currently), if you’re torn between the two. It will stop working after a year, but maps created with it can still be viewed and printed with the free version.

As noted earlier, there is a fairly active forum, and the author of the program is a regular and helpful presence on it.

I haven’t yet used Hexographer to chart the spaceways or create battlemaps (as seen on the home page), but it does seem to support these. Maybe when I get that wide-format printer. (“Honey, can we get a wide-format printer?”)

Conclusion: Within two days of stumbling on it, I forked over $25, and now own the pro version of this software. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I still love it.

Caveat: I did exchange emails with Joe Wetzel, the author of the program, but only after I had stumbled upon it, tried it out, and posted on his forum. Nothing was exchanged for this review.

Comments, questions, or a different opinion? Sound off on the comments and let us know!