Friday, March 25, 2011

A Land of Blood and Fungi

Mysterious Terrain in the Old World

One of the whinge factors of 8th Edition WFB that I have heard is the change to the terrain rules; that terrain is now “meaningless”, or has “no effect on the game”. I have to wonder if these people have read the random terrain rules in the rulebook.

For some that have, the random terrain rules represent merely another GW conspiracy for selling more of their terrain product. For the many other players that do use them, and for me in particular, this section is a wonderful addition to the game.

A roll on the random terrain generator is more likely to create a natural feature, like a forest, river or hill. A further roll determines the special rules of the feature, if any.  Less likely are the special buildings and monuments, which have a myriad of forms; Grail Chapels, Charnel Pits, desecrated temples, and so on.  

First up, the natural terrain. No, forests do not impede movement now. And infantry can move through them without fear of harm. They do not even do much to affect line of sight.  But even without special rules, they have positive benefits to skirmishers, and can be used to deter cavalry or chariots. I doubt that Empire player would be willing to risk D6 wounds on his Steam Tank. They also aloow soft cover if you have to draw your line of site through them, whether your target model is covered by the foliage or not.

And then you roll on the Mysterious Terrain table. Suddenly, that nondescript copse of trees will start eating your models if magic is used nearby, and then wander off in a random direction. Or, they become dangerous terrain for infantry, and give your zombies poisoned attacks. Or, your wimpy little peasants become fearsome, and those Chaos Knights somehow fail their Fear test. The terrain is no longer some passive feature there merely to block line of sight, but an active part of the battle strategy.

The same goes for the special buildings and monuments. How many people had an Altar of Khaine on their tabletop in 7th edition? Or a Sigmarite Shrine? Yes, there were buildings, but didn’t they more or less serve the same function as the forests, or hills, to block line of sight?

My point is that the terrain generator can provide a more narrative and varied battlefield in a way that you and your opponent can agree on easily. The special rules can make your 83rd Battleline game with the same opponent fresh, and a completely different prospect each time, as you will be vying for control of terrain pieces, which you can use to cover weaknesses in your own army, or exploit those of your opponent.

Practically speaking, it can take a fair bit of hobby time to create a wide selection of terrain pieces. My personal goal is to have one of everything, ready to use should they be rolled up. After all, how am I going to fill my days once I have finished painting my army?

I am aware of the problems of terrain. I can also understand people not having time or interest to create their own terrain, but my overall feeling is that the effort is worth it. GaleForce Nine have an excellent selection of affordable, pre-painted terrain that is ready to go straight out of the box, and I highly recommend them.

My own problem in the past was not using the terrain that I did have! After buying the LotR Helm’s Deep front wall from GW, my friends created a scale model for me of the rest of the fortress from polystyrene, painted up and everything. It was huge. I moved that with me from home to home for years, until it finally fell apart. And never once did I use it in a game.

Not the Helm's Deep I had, but not far off.

So if you do have the terrain, use it! And if you don’t, get some! Try out the blimmin' rules! They just add so much more to the game. My own battles have been far more exciting. You owe it to your pains-painstakingly well-painted army to give them something epic to fight over.