The starting point for this was a question on Classichammer.com about how many terrain pieces people use and how they’re generated.
I don’t actually have a say in my terrain setup very often. I’m usually booking tables at one of those large wargaming venues that have sprung up on industrial estates around the UK within the last decade, and the boards are set up by staff members in the morning before either player arrives.
We generally tweak positions (to create lanes through which units can actually move) or angles (to create opportunities for dynamic play, or rather to eliminate borehammer by forcing choices).
The first Battle of Point Lestroud. This table was set up for us by the boys at Atlantic Games in Stroud, before I’d figured out how to hide the venue names in the report titles quite so well or learned that horizontal photos are best for blogs.
For the second Battle of Point Lestroud we nudged all the walls to 45 degree angles instead of parallel with the deployment zone.
This is something I picked up from Warmachine, where there are game-changing defensive bonuses to be achieved from being on hills and behind walls (as in “you may literally not be able to hit or hurt certain models if they stack DEF or ARM bonuses high enough, good luck if that’s their ‘caster or they’re on an objective!”).
A wall parallel to the deployment area creates a safe zone for whatever’s behind it, discouraging dynamic play, a wall at 45 degrees to it is more interesting as units can take cover in one direction but have to expose a flank in another. It’s really apparent in rank and flank games where the angle of approach matters so much, and the second game was so much spicier as a consequence.
This isn’t to say that weird “fight at an angle across the field” battles are always Good and solid defences are always Bad. This one’s the grand battle at Caerwysg, the big 6000 point game I played back in 2019. I got to set this one up but it had to be with the limited collection of fantasy/historical scenery that had been brought to the venue by attendees.
Here, the terrain has been deliberately arranged so that the Dogs of War army has something to stand behind – defended obstacles across almost the whole zone. We did this on purpose so that they wouldn’t be swept away by 6000 points of oncoming vampire filth before their Bretonnian reinforcements arrived (it was a mashup Flank Attack/Capture scenario because neither of us wanted to count Victory Points in a game this big).
Those obstacles were a huge factor in the Dogs holding out for as long as they did (although we did misplay the extended rounds of combat across them). It took me five turns to get my elite units across them and I lost most of said units doing it. That led to a wonderfully tense end turn where the Bretonnians could sweep the field but only the Green Knight could actually reach the Capture objective and kill Mannfred von Carstein – with Mannfred dead there’d be more Bretonnian than Vampire points on the mark and it’d be game for the good guys.
This is what I want out of my Warhammer – a game that goes the distance and is worth playing right to the end – and where possible I tweak the terrain I’m given to enable it.
Sometimes opportunities are missed due to a lack of communication. This table was set for me at Firestorm Games in Cardiff for the battles at Tor Caerdydd: I came up with the “ruined city” narrative entirely based on walking in and finding this monstrosity already set up.
If I’d know about this in advance I’d have advocated for a scenario from the General’s Compendium – the one that’s basically about fighting in the Emyn Muil from Middle Earth – because you don’t often get a battlefield that’s this busy with one feature type without setting it up on purpose.
In theory we could ask for something specific from the venues but a) most of them have way, way more 40K terrain than anything suitable for WFB and b) I’m still getting other players on board with my “curate as much of the experience as possible” shtick.
It’s one of the reasons I like the Warhammer: Resurrection events so much, because Alex is on my wavelength and sets up tables that represent areas of the campaign map and puts thought into the kind of engagement that should happen there.
One day I will get back onto the deep forest table…
Is there a “takehome” from all this? I think it’s that “how many pieces?” is less important than “what kind of game experience are you trying to create here?” – answering that question will give you an idea of what to do with what’s available. If it’s just a pick-up game between pals then “what the venue’s left us with” is fine, but as ever I aspire to something a bit more shared and controlled.