I am starting to run an Iron Kingdoms game, and I am simply wondering what is an appropriate size for the battle map so players can move around but not get too far away.

I will be hand drawing them on a blank surface,* possibly on the fly during game play; is there a standard page size I should use (e.g. A4, A3, A2, etc.)?

* For the uninitiated and curious, Iron Kingdoms miniatures combat does not use a grid.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You mention 'grid-free' maps but end with saying that you want to use a 35mm scale, which is a grid measurement. Could you please clarify whether or not you want to work with grids? \$\endgroup\$
    – Bob
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 11:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ 35mm is the scale of the miniatures in the I.K. game. The tactical-maps are gridless i.e without squares or hexes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, I wasn't sure because the times we played we just used the paper we had lying around from our PF games, which had a grid on it. I'll see if I can work up a decent answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bob
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


First of all, there’s no real need to pin down a specific size of paper, or type of material/medium for that matter. You'll adapt to what is needed at the time, just make sure you have options available. I've played various games using A4, A3, A2, whiteboard, a TV screen and at one point a glass table on which we drew with whiteboard markers while using cheetos and funions as props. And I can truly say that these are all great options, except for the props getting 'lost' on that last one.

In determining a good size or the most suitable type of material/medium, there are a few things to consider;

TL;DR: I'd go with A2, but there are other options altogether.

Miniatures & Party size

Miniatures force you to go big in terms of the map's physical size as you cannot really scale down. And of course, the number of PCs you need to accommodate is also going to drive up your requirement. Using smaller tokens or just marking player positions has never really worked for me, it just isn’t the same. When drawing at 35mm scale, you will run out of room on A3 sooner than you think. That is especially true when your players get tactical, which brings us to;


It sucks having to pause the action to add additional sheets because one of your players wants to see whether he can circle around ‘those trees to the side’. Some GMs would say; “Well, that’s just the map boundary.” Come on, really? I prefer to avoid this type of ‘confinement’ and have the players feel like there is an actual world outside of what has been drawn. If there’s a group of trees, of course they can go around it to sneak up on someone. Just don’t blame me if at one point an NPC has the same thought... → See my additional remark at the bottom.

This is why I usually advise people to go with A2 size when using paper. Large tear off pads are affordable and available at any office supply store. Even if this seems big at first, trust me and just start in the middle. Don’t fold them over to make room, you’ll regret it!

Option B

There are other choices if you are not dead set on using paper, but it depends on your set-up. By which I mean the actual table at which you are playing. If there’s enough room so that players won’t be leaning on or putting their drinks/food on the edges of the map, you might consider putting a whiteboard on the table. These are available in sizes more than large enough for any battle and are perfect for drawing on the fly because mistakes a easily corrected. Even better is a smooth synthetic tablecloth, they are available in white but you can also go with transparent as long as you put something under it to provide contrast. You can draw on them with whiteboard markers and they clean very easily.

Additional thoughts on roaming players

The way I go about handling it is best compared to how you can roam about the Battlefield multiplayer maps. You are confined to the general battle area although you can still see a large rendered world beyond that. A player that leaves the immediate area of the battle not only risks being at a tactical disadvantage due to losing line of sight, he risks not getting back in time in case the battle goes pear-shaped. If your map is small enough for him to not run those risks, you should give him some leeway and expand the territory.

When I do not feel like adding additional paper or expanding the drawing, I discuss what the player is trying to achieve and give him the parameters. If he for instance wants to flank as per the earlier scenario, I just tell him how long it will take or what the distance is, what he encounters and where he'll pop up back on the map. Sometimes I also add an additional risk by declaring a 20% chance of attracting unwanted attention or running into an otherwise dangerous situation.

If this still results in your players wanting to explore more than the map you have in mind, just sit down with them and discuss their intentions. Outside of battle or when I do not feel like unnecessarily expanding my drawing, I mostly just describe their surroundings in detail so they can roleplay until they hit a point where they have an encounter with someone or something and it is important to know who is where exactly.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Good solid advice! We had a vinyl mat with squares on it for D&D, similar to your table cloth idea. Never even thought of that! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kalcipher23 yes they're great, just remember not to wipe them down with wet cloth during the game. If there is any moisture on the surface, the whiteboard markers won't work well. Wet wipes are often too much as well. We use an alcohol spray and paper towels, works perfectly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bob
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 6:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There is some Warmachine specific information (which Iron Kingdoms is based off of) that could also help inform this answer, although it's not really an answer itself to this question. Having said that, the battle map in a typical Warmachine/Hordes war game battle is 4 feet by 4 feet. There are various rules/scenarios that will shrink the "realistic" area to something smaller, usually by encouraging models to be more centrally located near objectives or models that stray too close to the table edge automatically die. But the physical table area for battle is a 4 foot square. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 18:29

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