Terrain in perspective: My perceptions of terrain usage in wargames.
by, 12-05-2011 at 01:36 PM (456 Views)
I have spent a lot of time meditating on tabletop terrain usage and I thought I would share some thoughts. I will use Warhammer 40K as my example system, but most of these ideas could apply anywhere.
If there is one thing I have noticed more than anything else when it comes to tabletop terrain, it is that people go for simplicity, in 40K terms, that tends to mean it is either cover or it isn't, and if it is cover, then it provides a 4+ cover save. If not, then it either blocks line of sight or doesn't matter.
There is nothing wrong with simplicity, and I am not here to judge, but I wonder sometimes if players are missing out on a more fulfilling, challenging experience by keeping it so simple.
For example, the 40K rulebook calls for cover that can provide anything from a 3+ to a 6+ cover save, ranging from a true fortification to fences to razor wire. Having a variety of cover types on the table can create interesting decisions and tactical situations, do I move into the 6+ cover to take advantage of a weak spot in my opponent's line? or do I sit tight in 4+ cover, keeping my troops safe, but losing the offensive opportunity?
Another thing that gets lost to simplicity in a lot of games is terrain that doesn't count as cover at all. For example, Roads, Lava flows, Minefields, etc aren't particularly 3D, and usually are forgotten on the tabletop. Roads can allow vehicles to move faster, again creating interesting tactical decisions.
Lava and mines could create dangerous terrain, people seem to forget that dangerous terrain is not limited to bikes and Jump troops. When faced with a strong assault army, for example, I might choose to put my devastators behind a minefield instead of in cover, and let the dangerous terrain provide a more useful barrier, or at least kill a few of the assaulting models as they approach.
How about impassable terrain? I almost never see anyone using impassable or line of site blocking terrain on the tabletop. In keeping with our theme, these types of terrain create more challenges to the player, based upon how they are used. Interestingly, the 40K rulebook recommends about a third of the terrain on the table to be terrain that blocks line of site completely. When was the last time your table had that much line of site blocking terrain on it?
What kinds of terrain and features do you think are missing from the tabletop? What ideas have you had for changing terrain up and making more interesting tactical decisions?
Please comment and let me know what you think, I am considering making a regular thing of these articles. The next one will focus on Warhammer Fantasy battles terrain.
Thanks for reading!