Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Lets Talk Area Terrain

Terrain. To me, an evocative table-top is more important than the miniatures who represent the beings who will fight and die for our amusement.  With the right pieces the mind can be swept away to alien vistas and ancient lands where only the mind may travel.

Sadly, the trend in todays miniature gaming is to use True Line of Sight and what I call "Terrain Micromanagement".  In this environment each piece of terrain is placed on the table and becomes an immovable object; a force that even the gods cannot move.  We then spend much of the game arguing what one can and cannot see from the vantage point of a 25mm tall plastic/metal figure.  Absurd. 

In days gone by, wargames used another system.  The designers knew that the tabletop battlefield was only a vague representation of the actual location.  We need not be concerned with the placement of each tree, rock and bush.  We only need to know what might be in a general area of the battlefield, as indicated by a specific area.  Perhaps a piece of felt, cardboard or MDF would represent this area.  The point is that the zone represented contained a certain type of terrain: rocks, jungle, water or even buildings (yes buildings). Even GW's 40K used such a system in the days of old.  Designers knew that today perhaps your forest area represented but a light wood, whereas next week it may be an impenetrable jungle.  All we need concern ourselves with is how big the area is.

Woods and Rocky Areas

Below are two examples of area terrain and how they can be used on the tabletop: a wooded area and a rocky area.  The area of each is indicated by a piece of flocked MDF.  The pieces of terrain inside this area can be moved around at will, or even removed.  We need not be concerned with their placement.  If a miniature or unit does not fit inside the area we simply remove terrain pieces until they do.  This method allows us to create dioramas and terrain features which are modular and are user friendly.

Rocks found in my backyard, repainted and based on 60mm bases.
These terrain pieces were quite simple and cheap to produce.  Rocks can be found anywhere.  However, they should to be painted if at all possible.  Unpainted rocks on a tabletop simply look like small pebbles or rocks.  Once painted though they become miniature boulders and colossal granite formations.  The best part about rocks is they are free.  Perhaps this rocky area blocks line of sight within 2" of the base?  Perhaps only 1".  The choice is yours.
a rock

a tree
 These are trees from various manufacturers.  I simply glued them onto 40mm bases.  A little flock and they are done.  Maybe these areas are jungles, permitting but 1" of visibility in or out?  Perhaps they are light woods, permitting a 4" line of sight.  The choice is yours.
look, more trees
Area terrain simplifies line of sight, cover and just about everything else associated with vision.  Arguments vanish under it's lawful gaze.  We spend less time arguing and more time playing and hopefully enjoying ourselves together.


  1. "True line of sight" in games is ridiculous. I agree that area terrain simply works better and makes more sense on a table top.

    I like your rock formation idea. I think I will be hunting down some rocks for my own table.

    1. I have had so many arguments over who can see what it is just exhausting. Funny, people pay a fortune for foam and resin rocks when there are lots outside your door.

  2. Great post - heartily concur. And nice job on the modelling front too!

    1. Thanks Paul. I would really like to branch out and do some alien flora and even buildings. Not sure how to tackle that one though.

  3. Indeed I would say , Finding "good" stuff outside is fun also :):):).
    Take a look here also if you haven't done so already.






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