One of the things I've always liked about ASL is the match-up between a realistic top-down view of the buildings and the top-down view of the vehicles, guns, and SW. It helps to increase the feel that the units are actually on the terrain and interacting with it. It's even better with DASL, since the counters cover up the terrain less. (You might think that should logically lead to me arguing for doing the infantry with a top-down view as well -- but I think that always looks dumb, so no.)
The map from Canadian Crucible (back in post 14) is very pretty to look at, but once the game has started, having hedges with pretty shadows has nothing whatsoever to do with the side-view platoon of tanks next to it. They don't "interact", if that means anything. I don't find myself imagining the tanks lined up along the hedge, so the prettiness adds nothing.
Having said all that, the truth is that once the game has started, I'm not really picturing the action based on the graphics of the board or counters anyway. When I move a 4-6-7 across a Kibler-drawn road between two beautiful Kibler-drawn buildings, I'm not picturing it as a scene, I'm thinking of it as "collection of potential abilities represented by this counter" crossing "vulnerable hex" from "+3 Stone TEM" to "+3 Stone TEM", plus all the LOS possibilities surrounding the action.
That means that:
- What's on the infantry counters really doesn't matter -- as long as I can easily tell which type of counter it is when I look at the board.
One of the ways in which ASL's graphic design is absolutely brilliant is the three/two/one silhouettes on the different sizes of infantry counters. It's incredibly easy to pick out which are leaders, which are MMCs, and which are SWs, although I sometimes have to do a double-check on squad versus half-squad.
- What's on the vehicle and gun counters might matter a bit more -- depending on how often I have to use the counter as a reference.
If it's a simple, familiar vehicle where I can remember the details of without even having to look at the counter, it could be day-glo pink camo-patterned with gothic type face and it wouldn't matter to me. If it's a complex vehicle, then it's quite important that the information be easy to read and easy to translate. Given that even those simple, familiar vehicles seemed pretty complex to me when I started all those years ago, I'd strongly recommend sticking with "easy to read and translate".
- The map artwork has two key requirements: Ease of telling terrain types apart, and clarity for LOS purposes. Everything else is relatively meaningless.
One "too pretty for its own good" aspect I've noted in modern maps is the ones that insist on filling open ground areas with field patterns just to give the wandering eye something to look at. Because, you know, when I'm playing a company-level game I want to be able to imagine my entire company moving around in and interacting with each of those fields... not.The irony is that I did fall in love with ASL partly because of those shadows. They were part of the (what seemed at the time, anyway) "photo-realistic" style of the boards when compared with the abstracted boards of games like Panzer Leader. So I can definitely understand that there's some value to having artwork that will appeal to the new player. In the end, though, I think playability comes first and "sex appeal" only second.
My take is that if the graphic is there just to give the wandering eye something to look at, all it accomplishes is making the eye wander in the middle of the game. I don't want to have to stop and think in the middle of the game about what a certain graphic is supposed to represent.
As for clarity for LOS, the biggest offender IMO is shadows. I don't know whether Canadian Crucible uses true LOS but if it does, those building shadows would be a major offender. In fact, this is one place where ASL's own graphic design falls down, since most boards do include building shadows and the occasional LOS dispute because of them.