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Brent: Terrain… Couldn’t Be More Important!

7 Minute Read
Jun 17 2014
Warhammer 40K

Terrain for tabletop wargaming is a favorite subject of mine, and it doesn’t take much to understand why.

Imagine:  you’ve got a newly painted army of Imperial Knights  and you’re squaring off against the Orks.  The Gorkanaught isn’t dry yet because your buddy just finished painting it – but he’s a gamer so he’s using it anyway!  Two great armies, both an investment of time, energy, and commitment.

Then the epic game is played on the dining room table, using books under a white tablecloth for terrain.  C’mon, be honest; admit it would be a letdown!

Sure, you’d still have fun.  We’re gamers; we’ve all made do at times.  These days though, we don’t have to.  Good terrain is simple to make or easy to buy.  There’s no need to be a martyr for the cause! Ditch the sheet and put the books back on the shelf, and +10 cool points if they weren’t game books of some type.

But this brief pictorial isn’t about making terrain.  I’ve done plenty of those on Bell, and while a small population seem to appreciate them, it is fair to say they don’t draw the crowds.  Nor will this one, probably, but it does have cool pictures of game boards we’d like to throw down a game on.

This is a board I’d really enjoy playing a game of 40K on.  It screams Necromunda, and if I was to hazard a guess I’d say that’s probably what it’s used for.  But super-dense, multi-layer, and dilapidated… what more do you have to ask for?  I think it would be perfect for a 1000 points.  It’s not hard to imagine a Storm Raven hovering near the main tower, blasting apart the superstructure as it guns for the enemy.  Good stuff.

Frankly, this board couldn’t be more boring.  It’s green, with some built in hills.  And its, you know, green.  The players couldn’t be bothered adding the trees into the forest bases.  This is a last generation, 2D arena of death.  Gunlines welcome.  *yawn*

This is more like it!  This is a corner of a larger board, but the attention to detail and the multiple levels scream for a narrative of some kind to anchor your game.  It wouldn’t be hard.  I see World War II; tight confines, dense fog of war, and intense battles for the real estate that’s a gutted wreck – worthless!  Except the other guy has it…

To my mind, this is the perfect table.  It has different colors and textures.  The large pieces are in toward the center.  The buildings are all running along the same angle, so regardless of where your deployment zone is you’re going to have some line of sight blocking.  To me, this is the perfect compromise between terrain density and the need for some fire lanes in the form of open ground.

Here, there is maximum use of the tall buildings.  They’re in toward the center, where much of the fighting will naturally end up.  The other terrain is off toward the edges, but that makes sense given the street.  It provides an interesting challenge – and isn’t it nice that not everything is a burned out wreck?

This is the only table I’ve used two pictures of.  The picture below is with the scenery added, so it’s easy to miss the details and coverage built right into the board.  It’s a pretty great idea that’s been well executed.

In this picture, you get the sense the world is lush and new, with plenty of ground cover and foliage.  Of course, the Imperium will soon fix all that.  Starships paint best in ash grey.  Anyway, while the terrain is dense, the trees can be moved around as needed; further, I imagine they don’t do much to block line of sight, so cover saves will be important until you can close with the enemy.

This is a rather odd scene:  terrain by cards.  Apparently this was a donation event, where people used donated cards to build these crazy shapes and buildings.  At the end, people threw donated money at it to knock it all down.

This is more in the way of an interlude.  Moving on!

These next two tables are for Infinity.  What’s important to know is that the terrain can’t be dense enough.  Terrain that’s fine for Warhammer Fantasy, 40K, Malifaux, and WarmaHordes simply won’t cut it.  Luckily, there is no company that is quite as supported by 3rd party vendors selling laser cut PDF or thin plastic scenery to fill the 4×4 space.

Of course, it’s all useful for 40K!  Frankly, I’ve been itching to play 40K on an Infinity board.  It’s hard to imagine a more simple solution for “Forging the Narrative” than to have a real city fight.  I’ve often wondered why we so often limit ourselves to some preconceived notion of what a proper ratio of terrain to table is.

For long years, it was 25%.  People take what’s listed in the newest edition of Warhammer 40K very seriously.  Regardless, that was the rule of thumb.  How would 70% change the game?  What units would take on new importance.  Would a dedicated assault units rule the board?  How much carnage would a Dreadnought do?  Those would be fun questions to answer.

I love this one for its minimalist genius.  It’s got line of sight blocking terrain both above and below the horizontal axis!  I think it would be a long time before you got bored of fighting it out on this one.  If you did, the simple addition of bridges or buildings would change things up again.

I love this one.

Here’s another that provides room for models in the form of multiple levels.  It’s also scenery that tells a story.  The building on the left looks to be a rather ramshackle hanger.  The tower on the right – is it covered with barbed wire or power cords?  If the latter, what’s it powering?

There’s an objective right there!

Here’s a table that could use some improvement, unless it was hosting an Apocalpyse game.  While there are enough buildings, it doesn’t appear to make for useful terrain, what with so many against the edge.  The fire lines are so open; this is a sniper’s paradise.  Do we need more tables that reinforce all those players that build armies that maximize firepower?  Those lists sacrifice balance, but it’s hard to punish them when so many of the boards we play on seem tailor made to support gun line army builds.  What’s more fun that two armies shooting each other from their deployment zone?

That’s a rhetorical question.  The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with just why movement is so vital in 7th.

To finish it out, here’s another board I’d love to play a game or ten on.  The board tells a story, making it easy for you and your opponent to suspend disbelief and really get the most out of playing with man-dolls.

Er, for the rare female war gamer, replace the last with just “dolls” and I think it still works as “somewhat demeaning but meant in jest because we all do it.”  

That’s it for the pictorial portion of today’s Terrible Tuesday.  My point is pretty simple.  Our games are improved by playing on an interesting table.  For those of you looking for a new challenge, try doubling the terrain you normally play with.  Hell, triple it – I really don’t see how you can go wrong!

As always, thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and grORKings?


Mmm… for some reason, I feel compelled to celebrate the upcoming Orks Codex.  I saw this army on the Spiky Bitz blog, then promptly stole the pictures to reuse here.  

Right – I think we’re back in business.  Anyway, you’re up!  Feel free to share links to terrain articles, products, or features that you think we’d enjoy looking at.  And thanks in advance.

Author: Brent
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    Warhammer 40K