Lay of the land

Happy Saturday everyone! Instead of having a full day of writing or working on a side project I decided that I had procrastinated long enough, got out my cheap hot wire cutter board and decided to get started on making a table of terrain for an upcoming small warhammer competition that I am looking forward to participate in around mid December. The issue being that there isn’t nearly enough terrain for the tables and most of it isn’t that impactful in a game. I hope that the new set I am making will change that.

So what do I mean by impactful? What is terrain and why is it important for tabletop war games like Warhammer? I thought that this blog was mainly about Dungeon and Dragons or other TTRPGs?

Well let’s explore that.


Warhammer

So firstly, Warhammer, particularly the later variants is shifting the mentality from large open fields where the knights of Bretonia charge headlong a wall of chaos warriors who brace for a charge with their halberds. Instead today we are seeing a unit consisting of small handful of models holding a key objective that will ultimately win that player the game. Why can just a handful of models win a game, well the easy answer is that the main fight is happening elsewhere but it could be because of the terrain and not just any terrain, impactful terrain.

Many fantastical spells, invocations to dark gods or benign deities or the mundane lead shot of a volley of hand-gunners generally require two things.

  1. To be within range
  2. To be able to see what you are targeting.

Now range is something that you can’t really change, except for a cheeky redeploy if your opponent makes a whoopsie, but that issue about line of sight can make a big difference.

Now, pardon the incomplete nature of the terrain (only just cut and glued them down today…) but the following two pieces of terrain could easily block line of sight.

Now as you can see by my little witch aelf here these pieces of terrain are quire tall and wide. It would not be a hard feat to get a unit of these ladies into, behind or around one of these pieces of terrain and what’s more important is, these would block line of sight from most things as long as the opponents units/models are on the other side of of the terrain which effectively means that your opponent can’t target the unit.

The other thing that terrain can grant you is Cover. This is provided to your unit if all the models are wholly on or in the terrain piece. As you can see the pillars of (yellow XPS for now) stone could house a unit of infantry comfortably to provide them with a bonus to their defensive capabilities by the means of Cover.

The jagged eruption of spikes is not something that could could have models in or on it, I would rule it as “Impassable”. Having something that is impassable can greatly change the outcome of a game. Playing cat and mouse around an impassable terrain piece could prevent your opponent from charging and killing your wizard or other support foot hero that is crucial for your game strategy.

You cannon move models over this terrain feature unless the model can fly, and you cannot set up or move a model onto this terrain feature (even if it can fly).

-Age of Sigmar scenery rules

Defensible terrain. When we talk about defensible terrain it is something that is new (ish) to Age of Sigmar 3.0. This is where units, or several units that add up to a total limit on model count, can effectively take up defensive positions in or on a piece of terrain. This grants a penalty to your opponents to hit your models whilst they cower bravely in the ruined building, the hut or the pillars of stone and also the benefit of cover (+1 to your armour save rolls).

Defensible terrain

Coupled with the scenery rules that can be given to to terrain pieces scenery can have a big impact to the game especially if they form choke points, block line of sight from your artillery to your opponents key units, or block a charge from your cavalry to your opponents archer because of impassable terrain.

Now to tie it back in with the question, impactful terrain is more than a few grave stones, a lone tree, a fence or a hill. It is terrain that changes your strategy, changes your deployment or changes where you position your troops. It is terrain that changes how you play.

Now D&D.

Table Top Role Playing Games

TTRPGs traditionally take place in the theatre of the mind, most of the games from my childhood of Dungeons & Dragons, OpenLegendRPG, Gamma World and so on all took place in my imagination.

Nowadays we have things like roll20, Tabletop Simulator, Foundryvtt, GMForge and the list goes on. Now I am quite familiar with Roll20 (its free 😉 ) and Tabletop Simulator (used for online warhammer games) and have used terrain available on these platforms to enrich my gaming sessions, however since I am a wargamer as well as a DM/GM I have access to the tools and a growing catalogue of experiences and techniques that I can use to hopefully create some really useful terrain for not only Wargaming but also RPGs for the table top.

Its not the fanciest, there is a bunch of terrain crafters out there who are, simply put, masters of sorcery when it comes to how they can turn popsicle sticks, foam, modelling clay and bits of fake grass/sponge/leaves/bricks etc., into amazing buildings, awesome cliff faces or full on terrain boards for wargaming or RPGs.

There is something very special and empowering when you (in my case) turn on the camera pointed at the table covered in terrain and miniatures and your party just go silent with awe. The excitement in their voices, the requests to zoom in, pan, spin, rotate not only led me to invest in a turntable/rotating tray for my gaming sessions where I plan to have terrain and minis on the table but also led me to want to craft more for my players so that I can keep their wonderment and excitement cranked up as often as possible.

The birth and update of the 3D printer has made terrain much more accessible to nearly everyone. You don’t need to have 6 meters of xps foam stashed under your table any more… I’m fine with it, really… a hot wire cutter, sharp knives, multiple types of glue and several other niche tools available to make terrain but can simply print it with a few searches on thingiverse and a message sent to your printer.

Whether you are a Wargamer, a role player or someone who just loves to craft miniature things I would encourage adding some terrain to your digital or tabletop games that impact how your players (or opponents…) interact with the game.


That’s all we have for tonight. I hope that you consider terrain as more than just something that is eye candy but look at the impacts it can have for your players and yourself in your future games.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week writeup where we look at what happens at the docks and potentially get a glimpse of things yet to come, and things that have come to pass.

As always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe

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