|This dense jungle terrain channels figures between each piece, but they can't enter or cross them.|
I finished my jungle terrain pieces a few weeks ago and brought them to the game shop for our Monday night wargame. One of our group stopped to inspect them.
"They look cool, but you can't really do anything with them."
I was initially confused. You could do lots with my jungle terrain! Move figures around them! Hide behind them! Why, the possibilities were... two. There were just two ways figures could interact with my new jungle terrain.
I was still happy with the look of those jungle pieces, and they've served well to fill out our jungle themed Caribbean games, but I did go through quite a bit of thinking on terrain and came to some conclusions about what makes wargame terrain functional and fun to play on. First, let's check out why some terrain is problematic.
Bad TerrainMy jungle terrain blocks line of sight and movement through it. We haven't used it for any periods that include flying units or indirect fire weapons, so in most cases my jungle terrain has similar properties to the table edge.
I'm sure "the table edge" doesn't factor into many peoples lists of interesting terrain. In some scenarios units may be off table (reinforcements yet to arrive, or attackers making an offboard flanking maneuver). The table edge blocks line of sight to those offboard units, and prevents units on the table from moving across it (without abandoning the game for the most part). The jungle terrain I created acts in much the same way, except by creating "sinkholes" in the middle of the play area.
I also built a Spanish style building for our Caribbean pirate games. I was focused on making it robust since I'd be transporting it to and from the game store where we play. I made sure to glue everything securely, including the roof to the walls, and the walls to a base. It's a great model, but our group needs to make some accommodations when we use it in a game. Units that enter the building are moved off the table, with some sort of notation to remember which floor they are on. It works, but again, the figures are no longer interacting with the terrain piece.
In, On, ThroughWhen tackling my next set of terrain, I decided to try and adhere to three rules of thumb to make the terrain a bit more engaging to play on: figures would be able to be placed in, on or move through the terrain piece.
- In: A unit may be in the terrain piece. Most commonly, this applies to terrain features such as woods and buildings, but also handles rough ground, swamps, and more. As long as the unit gains an effect after being placed within the bounds of the terrain feature, it's in it.
- On: Some terrain features provide features to units based on elevation. A unit isn't "in" a hill, but on it, and usually gains bonuses for it's superior position above units below it. This also applies to the tops of buildings, cliffs, etc.
- Through: A unit can pass through a piece of terrain, entering one side and exiting from another. Some terrain prevents all movement through it (like my jungle terrain), but a building with one entrance, or a cave would also block movement through the terrain since there's only one entry point.
As an exercise, take a look at how we can improve this Spanish style villa.
|Please excuse my crude illustration.|
- In: Units can already enter the building and gain benefits for being in it. By making the roof removable, the figures can actually interact with the terrain piece.
- On: While a unit can attack from the elevated position of the second floor, we could add some variety by attaching a balcony to the upstairs bedroom. Units could be on the balcony but not in the building (perhaps an officer can provide a morale bonus from being visible on the balcony in addition to the effect of being elevated, but loses the defensive benefits from being within the building)
- Through: By adding an additional door units can enter and move through the building.