Thursday 30 August 2012

SOAPBOX - "When is Terrain Too Much Terrain?"

This evening while checking some forums I came across this Blog article "When is terrain too much terrain?"

I am a firm believer that there can never be too much quality terrain, in fact if you think about the area covered by Terrain Vs. the area covered by Figures (or vehicles) on any gaming table - surely the vast majority is terrain and not figures.

I say Quality Terrain as in this article I am not talking about an overturned Subbuteo cloth with some lichen and one or two card buildings. No I am referring to beautifully crafted and painted terrain as highlighted by these examples below.

How can you not be inspired and awe struck when you see such tables. I know that in America there are rules that a tournament army must be carried and displayed on themed and modelled terrain or army boards. I feel that a similar view should be taken with wargame display games. The board should meet a minimum requirement, after all if I was a paying member of the public who happened upon a Wargame Show and the bulk of the tables were just green cloths with the minimum of quality terrain - or worse still, identi-kits of shop bought terrain then I would be wondering what these 'grown men' were doing.

Recently I attended SALUTE 2012 and this is where the bulk of these images were taken. There were many superb gaming boards and all were enthusiastically manned with volunteers who espoused the virtues of the figures, the terrain and the rules.

"Take a breath" - However Salute is not all wargame shows.  And I have attended many where quite honestly I sometimes wonder why the club or group had bothered turning up!  ("I'm not going to make any friends with that statement, But I feel it is time it was said").

Last year I attended Games Expo in Birmingham and with my trusty camera I browsed the Privateer Press Warmachine Tournament looking to see if there was any inspiration I could take from the dozens of tournament tables and battles being conducted.

There was one!

This was a major tournament (50 plus gamers) and there was only one piece of terrain I felt worth taking a picture of. I then came home and built myself a BETTER version of it!

Maybe I am alone in this - but I feel that wargamers are loosing sight of one of the most important aspects (and in truth one of the most creative aspects) of the hobby - the construction of terrain or scenery.

Regular readers will know that I build masters for Grand Manner, something that I am very proud of. I am yet to come across a comment that derides these superb models - I am not blowing my own trumpet as the bulk of the models are in fact sculpted by Dave Bodley - the owner of Grand Manner and not me.

The comments I do see are Grand Manner is too expensive, the shipping rates are too much, I would love to own one of these but the ready painted models are just out of my price bracket.

All of these comments might be true (and in this economy there must be many in a situation where they just cannot afford the models). But At least realise that without this quality terrain the whole experience of gaming - particularly wargaming is lacking. Here is the truth of the situation; Resin is expensive, shipping costs are increasing and to paint a piece of terrain to this standard takes time - skilled time.

As I write, I know that there will be many saying Yes I agree, well at least I hope so. So where is the counter argument. Where is the argument for fielding a beautifully painted and based army - all bright colours and carefully researched uniform detail on a table that any 4 year old could replicate with sticky back plastic and a green bed sheet.

On the news this evening was a comment that the designer of the new Queen Mary was inspired to build the new ship after seeing a piece on Blue Peter about the original. Let's inspire the next generation to build better terrain by showing them what can be achieved.

This is a call to arms - except the arms are modelling material to make new, better and real quality terrain for your own table top games.

Look at what is currently available on e-bay and what is currently on show in the published (and electronic) press, surely you can do better.  I know you can.

I confess, I am a real 'terrain junkie' - going to shows to see what others have produced or painted. Please don't disappoint me.



Anibal Invictus said...

Agree 100%, my gaming group is continuously looking to improve our table scenery. It is a key element to extract máximum enjoyment from our games

Thanos said...

Couldnt agree more with you Tony.
I am a sole wargamer, but, I continuously try to make better and better terrain pieces. :)

The Angry Lurker said...

Terrian is king and before the rules and figures!

Millsy said...

I think most people would agree that GM terrain at the upper end of the price scale. This is NOT to say it doesn't represent value for money given the wonderful nature of it.

However, you have to bear in mind that armies themselves are expensive beasts and gamers often don't have money to spend on both armies AND top quality terrain.

Gaming is a discretionary expense and when shekels are in short supply folks will buy figures over terrain. You can wargame without much terrain but it's a lot harder to wargame without much of an army.

Ubique Matt said...

Armed with a sharp craft knife, foamboard, cardboard and coffee stirrers, decent terrain is attainable to anyone with an average amount of modelling ability, (especially following the articles on this site).

I'm sure if you can assemble a fiddly Perry/Victrix Napoleonic figure you can make a half decent foamboard building and probably find it even more satisfying.


PatG said...

It all depends on the context. For something like a DBA tournament, bits of felt are just fine. If I am there to game, then I don't really care what the terrain looks like.

However if I am there to spend a pleasant evening with a couple of friends pushing lead around, then yes good terrain adds to the experience.

Another consideration for me is that the terrain should get in the way of the game. For example, you should be able to move those finely detailed trees around to get your skirmisher bases into the wood. Or, if the rules allow troops in buildings the terrain should allow you to put them in.

Like perfectly painted figures in the right uniform with the right gear, great terrain is a very worthy goal but not an absolute necessity.

PatG said...

...should NOT get in the way of the game...

Tony said...

It's OK Pat - I know what you meant.


TamsinP said...

Good looking terrain certainly does improve the overall experience of a game (and certainly makes for better pics to go on blogs), but it has to be playable as well - I've got no objections to stepped hills as they are easier to put figures onto.

However, as has already been said, the terrain shouldn't interfere with play.

Having made some of my own terrain, I can confirm that it's not that difficult but is very satisfying.

Tony said...

I have recently found this Wargames Soldiers & Strategy article by Jasper Oorthuys and thought it was worth highlighting here. Terrain Matters.

Go to this link for more details;


Tony said...

Another interesting article on terrain. In this case the placing of terrain on our gaming boards read more here;


Tony said...

I recently came across this Blog comment and thought it was worth re=posting;