Ruleswise, the Warhammer 40k Terrain Kits can learn a thing or two from Age of Sigmar.
Games Workshop has been making some fantastic army specific terrain kits for both Age of Sigmar and 40k. These kits are big, centerpiece models that really add some character to the battlefield. But while they might look equally cool, the 40k side of the house clearly has a few things to learn from their AoS counterparts in the rules department. What do I mean by this? Simply put, the AoS army terrain kits are actually useful for their respective armies and the 40k versions typically end up being used as just generic battlefield terrain – if they are used at all.
Be honest – when was the last time you saw a Genestealer Cult Army bring the Tectonic Drill and use it with the rules included?
Working As Intended?
Now before we get into how GW can “fix” this issue, let’s take a look at some examples of how they got it right. The Beastmen’s Herdstone is a really good example. It’s a Terrain feature that is important to the army and offers very specific buffs when it’s on the battlefield. You could make the case that the army doesn’t quite function as well without one and I don’t disagree. On the flip side, it’s kind of neat to see the Herdstone as a terrain piece and have to play around with that mechanic.
Another great example of how these terrain pieces have been incorporated into the army is the Gloomspite Gitz’ Bad Moon Loonshrine. Aside from being big and imposing, it also has rules that really help boost the army on the tabletop, too. Is it mandatory to take one in your Gloomspite army? No – not at all. Do you get some obvious benefits for bringing one with you? 100% true.
I can tell you from first hand experience using it every game with my own Ossiarch Bonereapers that the army will still function just fine without it, but it can make an impact. At the same time, it’s free points wise and I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to take it! I feel similarly about the Great Mawpot and the Battlebroth rule:
The healing effect could be very potent, but thematically it just looks too cool NOT to include in the Mawtribe army:
One of the strongest elements to all of these kits is that they are all thematically appropriate for their respective army. But perhaps even more importantly, players want to take these kits with their armies because they generate cool benefits. They may not win you the game, but they will help your army function better – and I think that is the key component that the 40k terrain kits are missing.
A Quick Fix?
Is there an easy solution for making the 40k army specific terrain kits more appealing? The obvious answer is “just make the rules better” – but that’s actually a very vague statement. How would you make the rules for the Aeldari Webway Gate better? Functionally, it does what you think it does and it’s a large, thematic terrain piece as well.
But it doesn’t really block line-of-sight. And functionally, it does seem like you’re really tipping your hand when you plop one on the table. “You’ll never guess what I’m going to do with this thing…okay, yes – I was planning on using it to bring unit from off the board to its exact location. Foiled again!” So again, how do you make it better?
The Chaos Noctilith Crown has a similar issue. But at least it blocks some line-of-sight. So how do you even go about making these kits more appealing for their respective armies?
Maybe GW’s intention for these big terrain kits wasn’t to make their respective armies better at all – maybe they were created so that these armies would have something cool to fight over. Their rules aren’t super strong. In fact these kits are so watered down that they feel almost inconsequential on the tabletop. They are neat-looking and make for very cinematic tables but who cares if no one is using them?
Striking A Balance
Perhaps GW doesn’t want the 40k versions of these kits to be as prevalent as they are in 40k. Maybe they are supposed to be set pieces that players fight over to help “forge a narrative” more than impact gameplay. I know for a fact that they can have a pretty big impact on the narrative especially when players have “bought-in” and are willing to engage with these set pieces.
I think that GW already solved this problem with kits like the Feculent Gnarlmaw. Not only is this useable in both 40k and AoS, but it’s thematic, has solid rules and is worth taking. It also encourages the Nurgle player to play around the Gnarlmaw – but it won’t win them the game either.
I think 40k needs more kits that function like this (the Gnarlmaw) and less kits that oversimplify the battleplan (aka Bunkers or Webways). If your T’au opponent shows up with the Tidewall you kind of know how their battleplan is going to go.
I’m not advocating for Bunkers and Bastions everywhere on the tabletop. I just think that GW should do something to make these great terrain kits more interesting to take that a fortification, a portal, or an obvious tip-off for your battleplan.
What do you think? How would you improve 40k’s army specific terrain kits?