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Made in us
Fixture of Dakka





For years now, I've been surprised that map design isn't more of a feature of tabletop games. You play online shooters and their specific mechanics are often so secondary to how well thought out their map layouts are; and maps themselves are often such a feature of expansion. I do get the issues with terrain approaching that level in tabletop games; particularly in 6 (5?) footers like GW puts out.

I've been finding more and more that one of the big issues with terrain is just that to get the most out of terrain you need to simplify the interaction with it. A lot of games want to make sure vertical movement is costly, but then are so focused on reaching the center horizontally that anything that slows you down becomes effectively impassible. It's very easy for terrain to cause a model to "do nothing" and in most games this eats up a third or more of all that a model will likely do over the course of the game.

The games that work with terrain best are often the ones that treat it pretty casually. MCP, for example, makes its climb action pretty seemless with movement and a lot of modern games have realized that a flat movement penalty for difficult terrain is better than anything based on how far you actually move (it's almost impossible for "half movement" rules to be less punishing than a flat 2" for example). Of them all, I think Infinity probably has the best ability to interact with terrain, largely because models can take so many actions in a turn that you can do things like "move into position" without the model doing nothing. I wish more games had that feel of "using" terrain, but thus far Infinity is the only system that I've played that really pulls it off.
   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

 Da Boss wrote:
I liked what Nurglitch described, where your terrain is integrated into your win conditions. That makes a lot of sense to me in many ways.

But it's been my experience over the years that the majority of players are not very interested in making terrain or buying it.


I feel like that approach only works in the context of certain genres. Big stompy robots? Yes. Kill Team or Necromunda? Maybe not so much.

 catbarf wrote:

I've long liked the 25% guideline for terrain coverage- I think if the rules outright told you that the first step of battlefield setup is to start piling terrain into a corner of the board until you fill it, then distribute that out, it would set much clearer expectations for what level of terrain is required. Rescind the requirement that objectives not lie on terrain while you're at it.


Its a useless guideline unless the type of terrain is quantified. 25% of nothing but line of sight blocker - you and your opponent will never get a cover save and have to maneuver around just to find something to shoot at. 25% of nothing but forests - everything will get a cover save and everything will be in line of sight always (unless they changed how that works, haven't played with forests in a bit). 25% of nothing but scatter terrain - nothing will ever get a cover save and everything will always be in line of sight, might as well play on an open table.

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Nuremberg

Yeah, fair point. Though you could make necromunda about the capture and defense of territory, you'd be changing the game significantly and you'd be leaving out a variety of scenarios that would be more "in genre".

   
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Halifax

Choosing the right ground on which to engage the enemy is historically one of the hallmarks of a good general; which I think is the experience people are going for with these games.

And when I say 'these games' obviously people playing Necromunda are going for being the clever gang leader looking to eliminate rivals in a proper ambush or whatever.

   
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A little off topic, but for those who were around for 6th edition... I very much enjoyed the battlefield creation mechanic this edition used.

For those who are not familiar with it. The table (6'x4') would be divided into six 2'x2' sections. A D3 would be rolled for each section to see how many terrain pieces would be placed into that section. You and your opponent would then alternate placing terrain pieces one at a time until the battlefield was created.

It made for some really wild battlefields. Absolutely none of them were balanced, lol, but it was great fun.
   
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 Da Boss wrote:
But it's been my experience over the years that the majority of players are not very interested in making terrain or buying it.
Heresy of the highest order!

Industrial Insanity - My Terrain Blog
"GW really needs to understand 'Less is more' when it comes to AoS." - Wha-Mu-077

 
   
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 Eilif wrote:
No matter the game, or how good or cruddy the terrain rules I always give terrain high priority. I want the table to be so good that win-loose-or-draw, players feel happy just moving their miniatures across the table. Good terrain (and painted miniatures) sets the scene and provides context for the engagement. It is what elevates a game from chess with fancy pawns to a dramatic experience with story and purpose.

To try out another metaphor,

Without terrain your movie lacks a set.
I've never heard it expressed this way, but it is 100% the attitude that I'm bringing to terrain.

When I got started the terrain I had were the cardboard ruins in the 2nd Ed 40k set, an old tunnel from a train set I had as a very young child, two model railroad trees... and that was it. I used the boxes that the games/tanks game in as buildings, piling them on top of one another to make "proper" buildings. Even once used a Duplo train track/overbridge as a piece of terrain. Anything I could get. It all looked fairly bitsy and all over the place, and every table was basically the same. GW's original Necromunda card terrain helped make things more interesting, as did some of their card 40k terrain, but again, all the same.

Now I go out of my way to make themed tables that look good, combining the right terrain with the right mats to get actual proper boards. The world you're playing on should look good. It should enhance the scenario and give the framework for everything that's about to take place.

When I see setups like this* I have to wonder what the point of it all is. I mean, putting aside the dull symmetrical nature of it, why even have the mat if you're going to place buildings in the middle of the streets? Mats are meant to provide a more realistic or thematic surface for great terrain, and they're not cheap, so why go the effort of getting one if you're going to (dare I say it) mistreat it like that?

And that's before we get to the giant circles for objective markers. I don't care that they are convenient; they look awful. It's one of the reasons I don't base my terrain, as it would be covering up the surface below with generic brown/grey/green/flocked board, and who wants that? That stuff that GW showed off in their recent terrible terrain article - where everything had a clear plastic base - now that's a good idea.

Building terrain is the thing that gives me the greatest enjoyment in this hobby, and I don't expect everyone to take it to the same insane degree that I have, but we certainly need more of this, and less of this (or this!!! )

*I mean no offence to Zid and the batrep that pic is from, but his was a quick example of something I'm seeing everywhere.

 catbarf wrote:
I wonder if there'd be any market for videogame-style 'maps'. IE here's a set of terrain, and here's 4-6 curated layouts for that terrain; all you have to do is assemble the terrain and place it as dictated in the layout you want to use. That provides a one-stop-shop solution with repeatability/consistency/an official seal of 'balance', things competitive gamers seem keen on.
As long as the terrain isn't symmetrically placed L-shaped buildings set up in the same configuration in every game.

 Turnip Jedi wrote:
Mildly surprised GW hasn't tried to make app for it, X bits of LoS blocking, Y bits of Cover etc
They did try to turn it into a card game once. That was their contribution to terrain; another set of rules and points.

chaos0xomega wrote:
Agreed with oni. Interestingly, at least locally (but I've seen it said online elsewhere) the prevailing groupthink seems to be that GWs terrain is particularly crap for playing the game with. The competitive players will forgo playing on pieces made from GWs terrain unless those pieces are very heavily modified, etc. and would rather play on quickly and crudely made pieces of cardboard and styrofoam terrain instead.

Circling back to my previous point about GWs terrain - some of the local stores invested into outfitting themselves in official GW terrain. The vast majority of the player bases at these stores don't use those terrain pieces. Instead some of the resourceful players organized hobby days to build homemade terrain or printed out tables worth of terrain on their own dime - now all the nicely painted GW stuff just sits on shelves as decor while people play on mostly crappy stuff (the 3d printed bits would be great if they bothered to paint them, let alone prime them).
Why are they so against GW terrain?

Industrial Insanity - My Terrain Blog
"GW really needs to understand 'Less is more' when it comes to AoS." - Wha-Mu-077

 
   
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In terms of commercial or home made terrain? I only ask that it look good.

HSBC included two examples above of home made terrain looking less than impressive. And that’s why I buy GW stuff - my handmade offers would look no better than in the same examples, because I’m just not artistically inclined.

Plus, in terms of the engineering involved, by sticking with GW’s kits, model safety and stability is all worked out for me. I dare say many/most/all commercially available war games terrain is likewise designed with that in mind, but I can’t really comment as I for one simply don’t know.

Now if you are more capable than I (and let’s face it, that’s hardly a high bar!), go for it with your home made terrain. But I do urge to take inspiration from GW’s kits in particular. They’re quite substantial, have height, and thanks to how the gothic windows affect LoS when attempting an oblique view, pretty good at blocking LoS without being a boring, blank, continuous wall.

And please…..no pre-set maps, sir. It works for WarCry, as the board is dinky and the set the maps come with include the terrain for each map.

Any game much bigger than that, and it just get flipping expensive. Think I might grab my Necromunda boxed set, and see how many of the tiles I can recreate with my current ZM kits….

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New Jersey, State of Perfection

 H.B.M.C. wrote:

When I got started the terrain I had were the cardboard ruins in the 2nd Ed 40k set, an old tunnel from a train set I had as a very young child, two model railroad trees... and that was it. I used the boxes that the games/tanks game in as buildings, piling them on top of one another to make "proper" buildings. Even once used a Duplo train track/overbridge as a piece of terrain. Anything I could get. It all looked fairly bitsy and all over the place, and every table was basically the same. GW's original Necromunda card terrain helped make things more interesting, as did some of their card 40k terrain, but again, all the same.
Now I go out of my way to make themed tables that look good, combining the right terrain with the right mats to get actual proper boards. The world you're playing on should look good. It should enhance the scenario and give the framework for everything that's about to take place.
When I see setups like this* I have to wonder what the point of it all is. I mean, putting aside the dull symmetrical nature of it, why even have the mat if you're going to place buildings in the middle of the streets? Mats are meant to provide a more realistic or thematic surface for great terrain, and they're not cheap, so why go the effort of getting one if you're going to (dare I say it) mistreat it like that?
And that's before we get to the giant circles for objective markers. I don't care that they are convenient; they look awful. It's one of the reasons I don't base my terrain, as it would be covering up the surface below with generic brown/grey/green/flocked board, and who wants that? That stuff that GW showed off in their recent terrible terrain article - where everything had a clear plastic base - now that's a good idea.
Building terrain is the thing that gives me the greatest enjoyment in this hobby, and I don't expect everyone to take it to the same insane degree that I have, but we certainly need more of this, and less of this (or this!!! )
*I mean no offence to Zid and the batrep that pic is from, but his was a quick example of something I'm seeing everywhere.


A man after mine own heart. I own all the stuff to do all those sample layouts myself, just short a couple GF9 badlands plateus for the last one.


Why are they so against GW terrain?


Heh, you actually touched on what they prefer in your post:

As long as the terrain isn't symmetrically placed L-shaped buildings set up in the same configuration in every game.


I don't really understand the reasoning, they've never really provided me with any sort of real explanation other than "Games Workshops terrain is awful for competitive play".

I design and sell modular 3d printable terrain, a few weeks ago I got in a discussion with a group of them about how they might be able to set up one of my product lines for use it in a competitive layout... I was.... less than impressed with their approach. L-shapes, L-shapes everywhere. Thats all they wanted, didn't care about any other aspect of it. Completely lacking in imagination too - most of them looked at the available parts and how I have things set up on my sites and product photos and were basically like "its not L-shaped". I had to show them that they could set up the designs in L-shapes if thats what their heart-of-hearts felt was the best approach, after which they were content to just make various L-shaped pieces of different sizes and heights. It looked tons better than the foam and cardboard crap they are currently using, at least, but with all the potential that was otherwise available to them it feels like the flexibility of my designs was squandered.

At least some of the narrative gamers out there have been putting it to good use.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2021/07/21 11:56:06


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Nuremberg

I have been a tournament player in the past, but for me a huge part of the draw of tournaments was getting to play on new cool terrain.

The idea that every battlefield needs to be a perfect mirror is...blech. I think some degree of mirroring is good for a competitive match, but it shouldn't be an exact mirror because that's boring and looks awful.

Anyone have any insight into why L shapes are preferred though? You could make exact mirrors without L shapes.

   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

Yeah, I really don't know what it is about the L-shapes. Curious about it myself and have yet to get a straight/understandable explanation for it.

I suspect its because the shape of it provides a nice "pocket" or "notch" for minis to step into defined by the ends of the two legs, within which they have a well-defined area of cover/blocked line of sight, etc. Not sure why they wouldn't get the same from a square, circle, or other geometric shape though.

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Give 'em L-shapes full of holes!

Industrial Insanity - My Terrain Blog
"GW really needs to understand 'Less is more' when it comes to AoS." - Wha-Mu-077

 
   
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Halifax

L-shapes can be put together to form squares. Which is to say you can make buildings out of L-shaped segments. My GW-brand Administratum buildings are all built to look like the bombed-out corners of buildings.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/07/21 14:12:17


   
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My own suspicion on L shape: it looks like a ruined building corner. It provides potential cover/block line of sight from two axes. 2 "L"s can be opposite corners inferring for example rough terrain in the middle and where the other 2 corners would have been.

Oh, and if you're half way careful, you can stack them for transport.
   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

 Nurglitch wrote:
L-shapes can be put together to form squares. Which is to say you can make buildings out of L-shaped segments. My GW-brand Administratum buildings are all built to look like the bombed-out corners of buildings.


stroller wrote:
My own suspicion on L shape: it looks like a ruined building corner. It provides potential cover/block line of sight from two axes. 2 "L"s can be opposite corners inferring for example rough terrain in the middle and where the other 2 corners would have been.


Thats the thing - the layouts I've been shown and have seen don't put the L's together to make squares. They are just stand alone L's, the majority of which are generalyl oriented towards the center of the table.

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Like this drek:


Industrial Insanity - My Terrain Blog
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Nuremberg

Is it some sort of regional standard? Because one of your other picture had an identical layout but just with foam cut outs.

   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

Yeah, actually the addition of those ziggurats seems pretty novel compared to some of the other layouts I was shown. The one that my local community held up as the "gold standard for competitive 40k tables" was literally just triangles.

I think its less a "regional" thing and more a "national" thing. This is how Americans are competitively playing 40k - pretty much *every* major tournament worth its salt basically sets up their tables in this manner.

*All of them*

There might be some variations (like I said, this one has ziggurats, others I was shown just had more triangles) on it, but theres a huge degree of consistency and homogeneity in it. In particular, those two big line of sight blocking Ls side-by-side in the middle seems to be almost inescapable, I think I see that exact layout on basically every table I've been shown. Not sure what it is, I think its because it creates a firelane right down the middle, as well as a space for a centralized melee.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
So you can understand - this is what the group of competitive players (some of whom are actually top ranked players nationally) presented me as the consensus ideal terrain setup:



They collectively agreed this was a 9/10 rating for terrain setup and the only thing they would change are the corners needing a slight adjustment (I assume that means using a smaller L shape or maybe shifting their position slightly), though some grumbled something about the containers not being all that great, not sure what the issue there was. Apparently the two defense line areas towards the center of the table are "forests". A couple of the top ranked players went so far as to say that it was the best terrain setup they ever played on, better than anything they had ever seen played anywhere else. Apparently this was the standard layout that was used for a store-hosted tournament about an hour north of us. They are lobbying the other tournament organizers in the area to set up terrain at their events in the same manner.

FWIW, they did acknowledge that the quality of the terrain pieces themselves was only a 3/10 at best. They would prefer something higher quality (either 3D printed or made from plastic kits, etc.) over the foam/cardboard design, and better paintjobs would be appreciated, but this is what they insisted a 40k table *should* look like in terms of the size/shape of the pieces and their layout on the board.

You will note the exact same alternating "L" in the center of the table in this photo as in the one HBMC shared - the spacing might be a bit different, but same concept. I saw that exact same center configuration in basically every sample layout they showed me, and if you google image search something like "competitive 40k table" you'll see it pop up again and again and again - even on layouts that otherwise forgo reliance on L-shapes.

This message was edited 7 times. Last update was at 2021/07/21 15:59:49


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Nuremberg

Huh. That doesn't seem very interesting, but I suppose it makes people feel that more of the game is down to skill? Personally given the variance in other aspects of the game, terrain is the last thing I'd want to sacrifice for removing bias from the game.

It could be how tournaments are happening in Germany too, I haven't been to a 40K tournament in a long time.

Did one of the influential people online like the guys that run one of the big tournaments decide on this as the best possible set up or something?

It seems like it would be really boring to play games on boards that were always so similar in layout.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/07/21 15:59:03


   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

Basically, yes. This is the legacy of the ITC/Reece Robbins, NOVA/Mike Brandt, etc.

To be fair, its not like they went out and said "this is how you must play, go now in cardboard and foam L's, peace be with you". As I understand it, they don't even really proscribe terrain layouts directly (although I think Mike kinda does now that he works for GW and manages their competitive organized play circuit or whatever - there was a Warcom article a few weeks back by him discussing the standardized terrain setups for the upcoming GW US Open tournaments or whatever they are called, though he only used GW terrain and didn't use Ls if I recall).

Rather, this is what the gestalt consciousness of the American 40k competitive community arrived at through several years of trial and error as the ideal way of playing the games, and whatever feedback loop was in effect resulted in it becoming homogenized across a lot of the country.

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Nuremberg

That's a really interesting phenomenon. It says a lot about the values and aims of the people playing that this is what they want from the game. It's interesting to me because I would see GW games as being poor at delivering on those aims and values (if I am understanding them as wanting a tight, skill based game that allows for a satisfying competition).

The strengths of GW games are the aesthetics, narratives and background. This sort of set up provides none of that.

   
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Halifax

True, but it's a competitive way of playing and part of competition is a level playing field. Playing on identical boards means you're not going to accidentally draw a quirky, narratively-sensible board that will coincidentally knacker your army. Prioritizing playability at the expense of aesthetics is how it crumbles.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/07/21 16:26:17


   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

But Da Boss has a point - 40k is little better than a roulette table in terms of measuring skill. Those looking to 40k to satisfy whatever primal competitive urges they have are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. 40ks strengths are its aesthetic and narrative, but the competitive scene is foregoing that in preference for the aspect of the game which is basically its weakest feature.

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Nuremberg

I'd go for symmetric army lists in 40K for balanced competitive play before I'd go for symmetric terrain. That'd be much more likely to be an actual test of skill playing the game.

Or if not symmetric, pre-selected lists for each faction designed to be balanced and equal in power.

Without that, having such strict expectations for terrain seems like a bit of a waste of time. But I'm not playing competitive 40K so I might well be way off base.

   
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Halifax

On the other hand, if GW included terrain in the army list phase of the game, and it was an accepted practice for players to bring their own GW-brand terrain as part of their 'army' then the issue of table layout is moot. It's not like they haven't dipped their toes into this with fortifications having a role in the force organization chart.

   
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I don't really think bringing your own terrain is a great solution though. That just becomes something to try and pregame to your advantage. The idea is for map layouts to force you to alter your gameplan. For certain players, this is unacceptable; usually the chess backgrounds who need to memorize their opening moves to script. For most people though, its a bit of a push pull between wanting interesting table layouts, but not having them result in a negative play experience from things like "I got gunlined from them deployment zone" or "a building meant I couldn't ever reach the objective".

As something of a middle ground, I think there's value in looking to Monsterpocalypse. It's a game where players bring their own terrain but different maps define different places for that terrain to be placed. I don't think you necessarily need to replicate players bringing their own terrain, but I do think there's value in having say, 6 layouts of terrain placement to work from if they were given a lot of thought in their design.
   
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Halifax

 LunarSol wrote:
I don't really think bringing your own terrain is a great solution though. That just becomes something to try and pregame to your advantage. The idea is for map layouts to force you to alter your gameplan. For certain players, this is unacceptable; usually the chess backgrounds who need to memorize their opening moves to script. For most people though, its a bit of a push pull between wanting interesting table layouts, but not having them result in a negative play experience from things like "I got gunlined from them deployment zone" or "a building meant I couldn't ever reach the objective".

As something of a middle ground, I think there's value in looking to Monsterpocalypse. It's a game where players bring their own terrain but different maps define different places for that terrain to be placed. I don't think you necessarily need to replicate players bringing their own terrain, but I do think there's value in having say, 6 layouts of terrain placement to work from if they were given a lot of thought in their design.

That's a very good idea.

   
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Nuremberg

Yeah that monsterpoc style approach might work well. Would also take pressure off of tournament organisers to make terrain. I don't love the "GW branded official" aspect of it but it's probably needed to prevent low quality or unfair terrain.

I did google "competitive 40k terrain" and wow, so many of exactly the same ugly layout! Pretty interesting to see it.

   
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Chicago

 Da Boss wrote:
That's a really interesting phenomenon. It says a lot about the values and aims of the people playing that this is what they want from the game. It's interesting to me because I would see GW games as being poor at delivering on those aims and values (if I am understanding them as wanting a tight, skill based game that allows for a satisfying competition).

The strengths of GW games are the aesthetics, narratives and background. This sort of set up provides none of that.


I agree. I think that generally (there are of course exceptions) with 40k participation you have to hold two sets of contradictions in tension.

1)
The tournament scene and accompanying mindeset is very prevalent
But....
The game itself is ill-suited to even, balanced tournament play.

2)
The strength of GW games are flavor, aesthetics and narrative.
But...
Little of that makes it's way into the game setup, scenarios or gameplay.

I realize why people think some of the setups above are dumb -and I agree- but they are no more or less than the clear evidence of what the priorities are for the majority of 40k players.



This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/07/21 18:44:41


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As something of a middle ground, I think there's value in looking to Monsterpocalypse. It's a game where players bring their own terrain but different maps define different places for that terrain to be placed.

For what it's worth, this is exactly the system in Tactical Deployment, unless I'm not understanding correctly.
And nobody bought or liked that book.
   
 
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