Friday, 16 April 2010

Setting up terrain & objectives in games of 40k (or any other wargame)

Over on Ron's 40k fromthewarp blog he's recently posted a piece about using area terrain features without a clearly defined area (no base/hard edges).

It's an interesting approach more akin to True Line of Sight (TLOS) skirmish gaming than the competitive mass combat game that 40k has become over recent years. (Yes 40k uses TLOS but it's a bit of hybrid in practice).

He also brushes on another topic which is a bit of a pet niggle of mine in 40k - that of setting up the terrain before a game.

I see many people place terrain in a strategic fashion, taking it in turns to lay pieces on the board, trying to ensure they're in useful/advantageous positions once the game gets going. This procedure results in an uninspired table layout IMHO.

I much prefer to set the terrain up as though it is a real place. Ruins are arranged so that they look like they form part of a big building complex. Craters are positioned to look like the were part of a bombardment on the buildings and other features are placed in appropriate places as if it were 'real'. It helps to think of the story of the region to guide you when placing the terrain - even for one-off games.

For me this makes the games much more visually pleasing and also forces players to use their forces differently than if they'd purposefully positioned the perfect firebase building/s in a deployment zone and forceably created clear corridors of fire for their mass shooty force etc.

I can understand that some players might see this as part of the game, but for me it's just not as engaging.

In a similar vein the positioning of objectives is often seen as a strategic part of the game - I can understand that, I just don't find that way of positioning objectives very entertaining.

I often find myself thinking why would that bare piece ground in the far corner of the tabletop (in a deployment area) be important when that whacking great tower dominating the centre of the table isn't? It jars with my sense of the 'reality' of the game, sure it's just a game of toy soldiers, but for me the story unfolding on the tabletop is half the fun and that story needs some sense of reality.

I prefer to see objective markers placed onto a feature that would be captured on the battlefield rather than on a tiny spot that just makes things awkward from a 'gamey' point of view.

What do you think?


  1. We map the scenery before we play, and with campaign games we do connecting map layouts.
    Its why the systems I am working on at the moment use smaller game area's and are laid out in formations to make cities or farming area's.
    It is also a pet hate of mine to see a cluttered bored that has no realistic formation.

  2. I probably handicap myself in our local tournaments because we set up terrain in round 1, so most people go for tactics in the setup, while I'm going for aesthetics.

    But I'd rather have a fun looking game, even if it costs me a bit of an advantage.


Thanks for looking at my blog and taking the time to make a comment. Please keep it clean, it's a family show, many thanks in advance. :-)

Note to Firefox users - I'm using embedded comments and have found that Firefox on a mac doesn't seem to work with it (at least for me). Safari works fine though.