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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Scenery- my Thoughts

See what's wrong with this picture?

This post was triggered by two things:

1) Visiting Warhammer World, Nottingham
2) This post by Fritz

This is one of those topics that's close to my heart (there are many, many more!) and so it's a good idea to clarify what I'm going to be talking about.

Scenery is often a second thought. Gamers put months of work, blood, sweat, tears and money into finishing an army for their games. We all do it. Yet not many think about scenery. A friend of mine said it best- "I like building and painting models, but I hate building and painting scenery." OK, that's a valid point- until you realise that scenery pieces are models too! Oh, and scenery has a bigger effect on the game than either of your armies!

Scenery has, to my mind, three roles in games:

Your tables should, eventually, bear this logo.

1) It defines the battlefield. All of us have, I'm sure, fought over an open plain at some point. It's dull. Why? Because the addition of scenery pieces change the way you need to think as a gamer. How can you get advantage out of the battlefield? How can you make things tougher on your opponent?

A legitimate battlefield- 196 years after the fight!
(Oh, and look- woods, buildings and fields!)
2) Setting the scene. This will be more or less important to each person. That being said, I believe that everyone benefits from a well thought out battlefield. Fighting a Sci-fi game over Fantasy terrain is OK, but the other way around? Worse, I've had to play Ancients Battles games where my Greeks were fighting over a Martian oil refinery. Putting a bit of thought into good terrain however...
It wasn't until I saw this on GooglePics I realised I had a stalker

3) Removes distraction. When playing games, I want it to be immersing- I want to concentrate on strategy, tactics and my opponent, not on the fact that there's an empty battlefield with an office and a refinery in the middle of it. Not a lot of scenery is necessary, but it always helps.

I'll get one thing out of the way right now- scenery doesn't need to be difficult to look good. Not many places give advice on how to make terrain:

Model Railway Layouts
Aiden Campbell article
Building Model Railroads

Luckily there are plenty of places to buy good quality scenery, and now even gaming tables- check my Links for a reasonable list, and lots of places which show you how to paint it (check the blogroll!) There are also plenty of places for inspiration.

Speaking of which, here's the banner header from the Warhammer World front page:

Yes, it looks great- until you look at those tables.

This is the most prestigious gaming environment in the world today, at the heart of the biggest player in the hobby. So why are those tables so sparse? I can play games like that at home! Why are there only 3 truly awesome, awe inspiring tables- why aren't all of them like that?

All of the terrain, as well as the table, in the following pictures are courtesy of my friend Jakk. He doesn't have a blog, and is probably never going to do one. Which is a pity.

So- a visual walkthrough of a gaming table as I regularly use...

Half of the terrain collection for this game

Here's the terrain I'm using for a game of Warhammer 40K (which taking these photos interrupted!)- around 4' * 2' worth but note- much of that is "scatter terrain" (walls, rocks, craters- items not usually considered as a feature piece, so often ignored)

The other half!

There are a few buildings- because we like buildings! They are fairly non-descript ruins, so relatively easy to add in- plus, they were the first ones to hand!

This is where Warhammer World stop!

We started off by using the hills on the Realm of Battle board as real features- wooding one edge, and adding rocks to the crest of another. Being as this gave it a kind of valley feel, the buildings went in the centre at oblique angles, facing each other.

Wow- look at all that empty space! Tyranid players despair!
The killing field...

Oh, some more killing field....

Oh my god, we're fighting over empty No-Man's land!
 Now, the fact these buildings were ruined and reinforced in the middle of an empty field bugged us, so we gave them access... A road, with a few craters. This helped to make sense of the table, as well as further break-down line of sight.
This is clearly Britain, where we never could build things straight

God I hate those Skull-pits

Most of that was cosmetic. The road simply helps Set the Scene (point 2, in case you'd forgotten!) Next step- break down some of those lines of sight, fields of fire and provide a bit of cover.
Note the walls by the rocks, and along the edge of the road

An extra wall was added here, because we were unhappy with the isolated crater

Craters added- note the bombing run leading to the destroyed building

A few more craters, and rough terrain in the background

The rough terrain- this doesn't block LoS, but does count as "difficult."

Land Raider getting up to the T-Junction.

Land Raiders left sponson LoS- plenty of places for infantry to hide

Now compare this to the top shot...

 Finally, here's a few pics of the terrain actually being used, using Jakk's Flesh Tearer army (which I hope to photo for a future post, but no guarantees) and my Daemons.

Bloodletters desperately trying to get over a wall.

Height reference- True LoS stops models kneeling!

Scouts defend the reinforced ruin....
As the Flamers land badly!

Oh- a final note. That reinforced ruin demonstrates how Jakk likes to think about his buildings- there is no LoS through one side, but it's not restricted to the sides or rear. Buildings like this become really interesting with True LoS, since the unit inside can defend 270 degrees, but get assaulted from the other 90 degrees- they are, however, safe from return fire. Also, Whirlwinds are unbelievably good inside terrain like this :)

That's all for now. There will, undoubtedly, be more scenery and terrain articles in the future, but for now...

Comments, as always, are welcome.

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