The general phases for me when building a Battletech map are:
- Get inspired about a new map. Make doodles on paper until I have a rough idea of how things will be arranged.
- Open up a new map in Google SketchUp and mess around until I am happy with the design.
- Grab map bases (or build more if I am out).
- Use my plastic template to lay out the pieces on my foam. (I used to lay out the pieces onto posterboard with my plastic template, cut out the posterboard pieces, stick the posterboard pieces to foam with rolls of tape, then trace around the posterboard with my hotwire cutting tools to make the shapes. Now I just mark the foam directly with my template and cut the foam carefully by eye without tracing around anything. It's almost as accurate and takes far less work and time.)
- Use my plastic template to mark the grid on my base boards.
- Use Super 77 spray glue to attach the foam pieces to each other and to the proper places on the base boards, reinforcing the layers as needed with toothpicks, bamboo skewers, and heavy gauge wire.
- Use my HotWire engraving tools to texture the foam.
- Apply texture coatings and protective coatings to the foam and base boards.
- Apply loose gravel and other bits to be locked in place and painted that are not trees and such.
- Paint the maps.
- Use my plastic template, and pieces of poster board with grid holes poked in them, to remark the grid on the maps.
- Glue down trees and other tall elements.
- Introduce the new map set to players.
Steps 4, 5, and 11 all involve laying out the hex grid using my master plastic template, or surrogate templates punched into sheets of poster board. These poster board templates can be cut to lay flat around 3-D terrain features or split to go under arches in ways that my rigid master plastic template can't.
These same three steps are the most tedious and boring for me as they are necessary to getting the final product made, but do not involve much creativity or excitement. They can get a bit monotonous, and they require a fair amount of precision and attention to make sure the maps work right.
That said, I take steps to make my way through these grids without getting too worn out or discouraged. I play music or listen to the news. I work in batches with discreet goals (get this many rows done before I take a break, etc.). And I take short cuts wherever I can. For instance, when making my poster board templates, I stack however many sheets I will need on top of each other and prick through them with a pin all at the same time so that I only have to use my master plastic template once. I also try to reduce mistakes in fun ways, like marking the row I am on with a small plastic shark to keep me company.
Short answer, yes, marking the grids are the most tedious parts for me. But it's worth the effort and there are ways to get through the boredom that won't drive you mad or leave you dreaming of endless rows of hexagons while cradling your poor cramped fingers.