The Importance of Mysterious Terrain in AoS

Mysterious Terrain can add a lot to your games, if only you’d use it.

An integral and important part of Age of Sigmar that can often be overlooked, Mysterious Terrain is a fantastic addition to the game. While you may think it just adds more complexity to your games, here are the reasons why I think it should always be used.

This apparently isn’t an issue over in the U.K., but over here in the U.S.A. there are many communities and tournaments that don’t utilize the Mysterious Terrain chart found in the core rules of AoS. This was a bit of a surprise to me when I first found out, since my local group has always used them. For those who are unaware, this is the chart that you roll on for each piece of terrain on the table to see what rules apply to it, such as Damned or Mystical. It may seem like this would just be another element of the game that would be hard to keep track of once dice are rolling, or to others it may seem like something more suited to Narrative or Open Play instead of the more competitive Matched Play. I love using Mysterious Terrain though, and when given the option I will utilize it in every game I play, even at tournaments. So, what makes Mysterious Terrain so good, and why should you be using it in your game?

Meant to be Played that Way

This reason may seem a little on the nose, but the Age of Sigmar ruleset was written with the intention of these rules being used in every game. While the game still works without it, you are definitely losing something by leaving it out. All of the rules in AoS, from the core rules, to the warscrolls, to the more thematic Time of War rules were written assuming you would be using Mysterious Terrain, so by opting out of it you are missing out on an important part of the game.

Has a Significant Impact on the Game

The rules from Mysterious Terrain have a rather significant impact on how games of Age of Sigmar are played. When you go to deploy your army and there is a piece of Mystical terrain right in the middle of your deployment zone, you’ll suddenly find yourself leaving a 3″ pocket around it, lest you test fate with the dice roll to see whether your units our befuddled or not. Do you want to take the damage from a piece of Damned terrain to get the +1 to hit? When a piece of terrain is Dangerous you’ll suddenly find both players carefully avoiding it. Besides the bonuses or detriments to your units, they also create areas on the table where models are suddenly funneled as they try to avoid crossing the Dangerous woods. The extra level of tactical decisions this layers on top of your game is invaluable. When you compare a game played with the Mysterious Terrain rules and one without them, there really isn’t any comparison. This is why it’s vital to the tournament scene too, especially if you want to start comparing results across different tournaments. Would the person who won one tournament without Mysterious Terrain win another that includes it?

It’s Easier to Keep Track of than you Think

One of the bigger hurdles some people have when approaching the use of Mysterious Terrain is the extra level of record keeping it presents you. I’ll admit, in my first few games of AoS I found it a little difficult to remember what was what and what it did. Once I had some games under my belt though it became fairly easy. Once you’ve been using it for awhile you’ll start remembering what each piece of Mysterious Terrain does without much effort. For keeping track of what each piece of scenery is, there are several solutions out there. The simplest one would just be to write whatever you rolled for the scenery piece down on a small piece of paper and place it nearby. For those who want a little more pizzaz there are plenty of companies out there that make tokens you can use to mark what each one is, including the Scenery Dice from Ben Curry which you can just roll and leave near the scenery. The Warscroll Card packs from Games Workshop have some tokens included in them as well for Mysterious Terrain.

It’s Fun!

Lastly, the most important reason, they’re just plain fun to use! There’s nothing like using Damned terrain on your Spirit Hosts and suddenly causing mortal wounds on a 5+, or seeing a heroic Dracoth charge fumbled by a piece of Dangerous terrain. They add more of those “story moments” to your games, the moments you’ll remember a year later when talking with your friends. The tactical challenge they add in, as mentioned above, is fantastic as well. I love having to be more careful with my deployment, table side selection, moves, and charges. The Mysterious Terrain rules just provide a more engrossing, challenging, and engaging game of Age of Sigmar than ones without them.

So, what are your thoughts on Mysterious Terrain? Does your local scene utilize them in games of Age of Sigmar? Would you like to see them more widely used? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

Tyler is a life long painter and hobbyist and took home his first Golden Demon award at the 2012 Chicago Games Day with a follow up at the 2013 North American Games Day. More of his work can be found at his blog, Mengel Miniatures.

  • Jared Swenson

    In 40k, I avoid the mysterious terrain rules. They’re cumbersome and rarely really make a difference in battle. They just seem to get in the way. In AoS I try to use them as much as possible. AoS is handled so elegant that the terrain rules are easy to track, especially using cards or the 3rd party terrain dice I use. They add an interesting element to games. I also highly recommend using terrain rules.

    • ZeeLobby

      So what’s the difference between the two? What makes AoS’s version elegant over 40Ks? (I haven’t really ever looked at AoS’s)

      • Jared Swenson

        I guess there really isn’t much of a difference. I am guessing 40k is more rules heavy than AoS, which means you already have too much to deal with in a game that you don’t want to have to remember terrain rules as well. Since AoS is slimmer, having terrain rules, whether random or scenery specific rules, is just easier to remember and work off of. It’s just my experience and how I feel, really.

        • ZeeLobby

          Got yah. Yeah. I mean I’m a big fan of scenery specific rules if both sides agree. Even better if it’s built into the scenario. I guess I’ve just always found randomized terrain as a nuisance, though maybe with rules as simple as AoS, it’s a nice addition to add depth. I could see that.

      • Matthew Pomeroy

        found them both to be obnoxious and a detriment to the game, I would never call mysterious terrain “fun”.

  • Bigwebb

    So i plyed in those UK tournaments. Mysterious terrian is ok for terrian that doesnt already have rules. Playing in the grand tournament and ignoring the realmgate on the table because they decided to roll for it is dumb. The mysterious terrian rules are meant for terrian that doesnt have rules.

  • Marco

    Long live Warhammer Fantasy and the Old World!

    • Rainthezangoose

      *yawn* this “meme” got old quickly

    • I_am_Alpharius

      It does live on….in both the small glimpses referring to it the World that Was various bits of fluff…

      *whispers quietly* Also it lives on in every gaming group that wishes to keep playing it 😉

    • Ghachii

      **** off, you sad person.

      • Mira Bella

        Why are you offended?

        • Ghachii

          Not offended, irritated. This person posts the exact same childish protest under every Age of Sigmar article. He has every right to do it, but it’s pathetic, pointless and obnoxious. BoLS is making an effort to embrace AoS here by inviting a positive, proactive and respected member of the community to write interesting content, and all this little Marco turd can do is crap over it with his infantile nonsense. The guy needs to get a life, as does anyone who feels inclined to feed and perpetuate his sad obsession by giving him upvotes.

    • Bakvrad

      Long live cheese toast! Eat more cheese toast!

  • Its too much to keep track of if every piece of terrain has random rules attached to them. What it does contribute to is the desire to lessen terrain even more.

    I use it for my events, but you roll for every piece and on a 6 it has something tagged to it from the chart.

    It more or less becomes a point of frustration moreso than something that enhances the game in its current form.

    • Chris Hilliard

      According to the rulebook, you should be using 0-3 terrain features per 2 foot square. Most games should only have 1 per square. Are you rolling for scenery too?

      • Pretty much every event I’ve been in the tables are pre-set. To date, I have never seen anyone actually use the 0-3 terrain features rule, though I plan on implementing it in my next campaign with a random terrain chart.

        • Johan Kristian Milde

          I usually only roll for terrain pieces that stand out from the crowd, such as ruins, towers or larger woods, instead of having every single hill and tree being Mysterious.
          The easiest thing is simply agreeing with your opponent what kind of terrain is key enough to warrant rolling for.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    I certainly enjoy using them. Interacting with terrain features in both AoS and 40K adds another aspect to the games you have to plan tactics and strategise around. Terrain rules are just another part of the games you have to learn to smoothly integrate into the flow of how you play. The more you use them, the easier this becomes.

  • zeno666

    Mysterious Terrain = roll on random table for some odd effect?

    • Chris Hilliard

      The chart is on the front of the rules page. You roll for each terrain piece to give it special rules for the game. Some are powerful advantages to claim, others are a risk/reward decision. The tactical decisions about when to take a piece of terrain versus when to ignore or avoid it make a game less formulaic.

      Please note that this is only for designate terrain, not scenery. So trees without a rule attached block line of sight, but you don’t roll for them.

      • ZeeLobby

        Are they real “tactical decisions” though. Most seem pretty obvious, as it’s been in past editions. Randomness may increase reactive decisions, just not a fan of calling it tactical, especially in a game driven by random dice rolls.

        • Chris Hilliard

          The tactical decision is between maintaining your formation or dedicating troops to denying your opponent’s Wizard bonuses to casting rolls. The trade off is between gaining advantages for yourself and denying them to your opponent.

          • ZeeLobby

            I mean I get that it’s a decision. I just don’t know how tactical they are. I mean maybe they’ve become much more so lately, but historically it’s usually choosing between the no-brainer decision and the worse one. Like the depth of choices is usually only one layer deep. Usually one choice is just clearly the better one, depending on your list, theirs, and the situation on the table.

      • zeno666

        Thank you for the link!

        Hate these things though (random tables for terrain stuff).

  • Mike Tbone Green

    GW really needs to bring back their range of Terrain. the Fortified Manor was awesome.

  • Grumpy Scot

    Mysterious Terrain is so jarring as a concept that it actively makes people laugh at the beginning of every game. I’m not a fan of every forest being bizarre in some quirky way.