General 40k Shinanigans

Terrain and tables…are we doing it right?

So, we have all done table setup.  HOWEVER, how many of us do it right?  Not many. I know I  didn’t.  Not even close.  I set up a game with a friend a month or so ago and we rolled dead on even and had a TON of terrain.  We  RAN OUT of matching terrain.  Plus…I’ve seen lots of pics of tourneys.  We don’t set up terrain right.  Period.  You can argue all you want, but most of us are vets from 5th and we rock the 25%-ish theory when in reality it is a WHOLE LOT closer to 50%.  HOWEVER…You should have 6D3 pieces of major terrain.  Minor terrain should be 1-3 PER major piece of terrain.  But…is more terrain what we need?  No.  Terrain should not just hamper a linear assault across the board.  Wars wash over terrain like water, with hills, cities, and valleys shaping the movement of troops like it would water.  This is how it REALLY happens.  So…how can we build  a better table to lead to, what I believe, an even more awesome experience!

By the way…this is what a strong roll looks like- 15 pieces.  So THIS is possible and sort of plausible because we have seen 6 dice rolled before with three 5’s and 6’s and three 3’s and 4’s.

1) Elevation.  Elevation exists.  Find me a battlefield that is flat.  It doesn’t happen.  Things like raptors on flat ground aren’t that good… if you add some significant elevation changes and PRESTO! They are meaningful.  Check out this table:

OKAY, OKAY! This IS a games day table.  However, check it out.  Lots of elevation changes.  Does this mean that jump infantry is needed?  No.  BUT, it does mean that that Wave serpent army jumping around is gonna take a LOT of dangerous terrain checks JUST TO MOVE because a) it has lots of terrain and b) he can’t just be up high and see.  This brings me to my next point…

2) Line of sight.  With 2″ hills, ruins, and the occasional LOS blocking thing, fliers are brutal and skimmers are just disgusting.  When drawing LOS is as simple as getting on top of a hill and then you are SOL, guess what…that’s what people will do.  Check out the table.  NOW…draw a line across the table.  From one edge to another.  Can you find a straight shot?  I couldn’t.  This changes the dynamics of combat.  6th hit assault armies, but buffed them again with increased terrain AND mysterious forests and rivers.  Suddenly a) you gotta work to see the enemies entire army with your retardedly powerful gunline and b) I wouldn’t suggest hanging out in terrain JUST to get those estra hits cuz he doesn’t have assault grenades or try to deny an assault because of assaulting through difficult terrain.  By not setting up terrain, we are empowering those cheezy metas that we all hate.  The quad riptide gunline.  Guess what…he aint that powerful when he has to always try to get a shot so he is always moving.  When it is open terrain he can shoot then run away and never move TOWARDS the enemy.  You make it with lots of LOS blocking stuff, he may only be able to get a shot from a certain spot.

3) Terrain as a shaping force: Check this out ——————————————————————–>

Basically, it’s a few hills…not even that much terrain (yes, I know it’s being worked on right now…).  HOWEVER, this terrain shapes the battle.  Terrain such as this allows for creation of choke points (because wars are not fought on random terrain!).  Things that both sides can use for their advantage.  Yes, the IG artillery player can hide beyond the canyon walls and ruin the day of enemies, but what happens when they flank the army?  What happens when they DO clear that choke point and break the IG artillery!  Now they are screwed. 😛

So, that’s all I will rant about this subject.  I only brought this up after having played several games and realized that a) the terrain did little to nothing.  Cover was minimal.  I could START in cover, but there were HUGE chunks of area for infantry to die in.  In total, about 25-30% of the table.  About 1-2 small to medium pieces per 2×2 square.  That’s some pretty weak rolls. 😛  I do it.  Many of us are guilty of this.  Sometimes it’s a theme thing (we are out of lava terrain…screw it, that’s enough).  Many times, it’s a habit thing.  I placed all the lava pieces available and much of the table was covered.  Small pieces that did little, but I said “WOW, that’s too much terrain”…and I removed some.  Often, we try to make things symmetrical and leave big open gaps.

I think a good test is this.  If you can pick a spot in a deployment zone from 6″ up and see everything, even if it is in cover, then your terrain placement is not good.  There is a reason why both players set up terrain.  That is to ensure that the table IS balanced.  Because tables set up with nothing really taller than that 2” hill with maybe two of them stacked is grossly in favor of gunline armies.  It just is.  Why oh why would we walk across no-mans-land into gunfire?  It’s silly.  Same time, why would a gunline player want a trail of terrain and LOS blocking stuff all the way up to them.  It’s not my FLGS only, either!  For example, some other examples:

That enough?  Three different sites, similar results.  Limited LOS blocking stuff.  Almost zero terrain elevation, none of which could not be simply walked over or at an almost zero impact driven around.  Look at the themes on the table.  Necrons.  Eldar.  Fliers with 100% visibiltiy!  What IS NOT present?  Assault forces (yes, I know, it’s only 4 armies, not a good sampling…I get it!).  However, let’s take a good look at our OWN FLGS and say “Hey, the book says do it this way, let’s try it”.  Then, let’s not settle for the same old terrain.  Do hills on hills!  Ruins on hills.  Treat that river as impassible except for bridges and ford sites.  Use mysterious stuff.  Think about the question – Can I get online and walk across to his online army and then beat the crap out of each other?  If yes, then perhaps you could think about a different setup.  This is NO WAY an attack on players setting up stuff like this…I DO!  But, rather an idea to broaden our gaming experiences and make our terrain tables look like battlefields…not tables.
Thanks for reading,

KI!

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8 responses

  1. Not having players setup terrain as defined in the BRB is mostly a time thing, at least for me. Usually one guy is setting up the board while the other is pulling his army. Tournaments we don’t do it for obvious reasons, time.

    That being said, I agree that as a general rule we do not use enough terrain, regardless of how we set it up. You’re right. Often times I’m rushing across a board at a gun line in the wide open with little to take cover from. If a gun line army does not have to move at all then the board is definitely not setup well, agreed. Likewise that terrain should impede an assault army some as well, slow down movement either through terrain or around it.

    January 22, 2014 at 8:08 am

    • Time is certainly a restriction. Tournaments are tough too. Please don’t ask how to solve THAT problem…I haven’t a clue. 😛 On the concept of impeding assault armies, the terrain should impede them equally. My beasts and infantry should not hit enemy lines only a single turn apart with both footslogging it. But often they do. Terrain that impedes assault armies makes things like beasts and cavalry that much more valuable…not trying to empower the screamerstar here btw.

      January 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm

  2. Your first picture is broken (dead link), but I agree with your points. That Games Day board is the sort of board I’d want to play on. However, it does restrict vehicles quite a bit. I’m not sure where my Land Raider Crusader would go in that game, for example. But of course, it does make the fight a little more real, since no one rolls up to the firefight inside their APC and then gets out. You dismount in a good area with cover, then assault in.
    The funny thing about 40K is that it’s a super-futuristic setting, but the armies fight like it’s the Revolutionary War or at best the First World War.

    I’ve tried to design a bunch of tables on pape,r, and they all end up being short on terrain. The Mars boards I made are definitely an indicator of that. I made a ton of pieces of terrain, but none of them are large LOS blockers or multi-elevation pieces.

    January 22, 2014 at 9:45 am

    • Static tables are super tough to make people want to play on. We USED to have some AWESOME LOS blocking stuff. I am not sure where it went though… I have often thought it odd that we fight like we do in 40k. Many games are nearly 100% devoid of real maneuver. Part of it is turn restrictions (I only have x turns to play…let’s get there and do this!). Another is the terrain. Lastly, the tactics that have been developed in the Meta push it. I think the easiest LOS blocker is buildings. Ruins work too. Just ruins with more of a “rubble” aspect. A 30 foot building doesn’t collapse into a 2 foot tall of rubble. Changes to our existing terrain is really the easiest step, along with solid setups. I think that would be the easiest step.

      January 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    • Fixed the link.

      January 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm

  3. justhippie

    I think the toughest part of making a table is in making it modular. Static boards are so much fun to build and look at but folks just don’t like to play on them.
    I totally agree we need to be using more terrain and our ‘themed’ boards all could use some improvements.
    I was really hoping for a membership program that would encourage and reward folks for putting effort into the 40K scene. This would certainly have improved our local experience as well as improved the store.

    January 22, 2014 at 10:42 am

    • If I was staying here, I would be in. The problem this faces is that people see the piles of cash that goes into the hobby and are often loathe to spend more on a communal product. ESPECIALLY since those that spend the most are generally who? The gunline players! Those that really run with the strong meta forces that emerge. Eldar serpent spam, quad riptide shenanigans, things like that. I can’t see them paying to level the playing in our favor. 😛

      January 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  4. Awesome post! Little did I know that I might be part of your experiments!

    January 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

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