Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Terrain and all things tournament

Hey Guys,

through sure weight of sheer bullying I got my buddy Brandon Vallee, American tournament player and all round good human, to put together a post for the Shack..This is a particularly topical discussion because of Shack Attack 1, our very first tournament, being on this weekend....So over to Brandon to talk about good terrain and good tournaments

Terrain Placement and 6th Edition

Hey Everyone, Brandon here to shed some light of what I think makes good terrain in a tournament setting

I am writing up this piece in light of a few tournaments I have recently played in.  The premise of this article is written in a tournament minded individual.  The way terrain is set, how fortifications are handled, and the quality of terrain has varied greatly in all three of those events.  The need for consistency is essential in order match up results to not be determined by the terrain, but rather the skill of the player.  

Key Definitions

Line of Sight Blocking: These pieces come in various shapes and sizes and the sole purpose is to block line of sight.  What they are capable of blocking depends on the size of the piece. 

Non Line of Sight Blocking: These pieces also come in various shapes and sizes, however it is close to impossible to be completely obscured.  Their purpose is to provide cover to advancing units.

Extremely Large pieces of terrain:  These should simply not be used in a tournament.  Yeah they may look cool, but they simply on are not practical for small, fast pace games of 40k. Anything larger than 15” by 15” should be placed in this category.  The one exception to this rule is if the vast majority of the terrain can be played upon with relative ease (i.e. a base with scattered ruins to hide behind but most of the piece is covered in rubble). 

Large pieces of terrain: These pieces should include both LoSB and NLoSB terrain.  If the terrain is designed to block line of sight, it should be able to block out the view of the largest of models.  A land raider is primary measure of this.  Therefore, if it can completely hide a land raider at multiple angles, it is a large piece of terrain.  As far as dimensions are concerned, the terrain piece is somewhere between 15” by 15” and 9” by 9”.

Medium pieces of terrain: These pieces should include both LoSB and NLoSB terrain.  If the terrain is designed to block line of sight, it should be able to block out the view of the average sized tank models.  A Rhino or Devilfish is the primary measure of objective.   In regards to dimensions, this terrain piece should be between 9” by 9” and 6” by 6”.

Small pieces of terrain: These pieces should include both LoSB and NLoSB terrain.  If the terrain is designed to block line of sight, it should be able to block out the view of a standard infantry model.  A tactical marine should be the measure of this.  In regards to dimensions, the terrain pieces is less than 6” by 6”. 
Impassible terrain: This terrain can be in any shape or size, or may even be one segment of  a larger terrain piece.  Generally speaking, impassible terrain is defined by being unplayable.  In a tournament, impassible terrain is ok, as it adds extra dimensions to the game, but the trick is to not go overboard, and for the pieces to not being gigantic.  Anything larger than a medium sized piece of terrain that is impassible should not be used. 

Terrain Setup

Preset Terrain is about establishing balance in all games of 40k.  While it is not possible to ensure every table is balanced, this is a recommendations. 

Preset Terrain coverage should be done in an “X” formation on the board, utilizing Large and Medium sized terrain pieces at the center and the points of the “X”.  A large line of sight blocking piece should be placed in the middle of the “X”.  The reason for this is to prevent shooting oriented armies from blasting the opposing army off the table.  It forces them to make decisions on deployment and positioning of key units.  In regards to the points of the “X” I recommend alternating terrain and line of sight blocking options.  This way both sides are even. 
In the gaps of the “X”, this where small terrain elements come into play.  These pieces allow for cover of advancing forces while not being completely obscured.  Therefore, depending on the collection there should be roughly 2-3 large pieces of terrain, 2-3 medium pieces of terrain, and 3-4 small pieces of terrain.

There are two ways to set fortifications on preset terrain.  First is deploying the fortification within the gaps of the set terrain, leaving a few inches between pieces and if it can’t be placed it too bad.  Second is completely removing a terrain piece from the game in order to deploy the fortification. This judgment call should be made depending on how fortifications are viewed in your area.  

Player set terrain is about letting opponents set the terrain in an order which benefits them the most.  If the same style and quantity of terrain is given (2-3 large, 2-3 medium, 3-4 small) then there should be some coverage on the table.  However there is a risk of shooting armies or deep striking armies lining the board edges with terrain to leave massive terrain gaps.  In order to prevent this from occurring, perhaps prohibitions on  placement should be developed.  Such as:

·      No terrain within 6 inches of another piece
·      No terrain within 6 inches of the table edge
·      Only “x” number of terrain pieces can be placed in your deployment zone
·      Alternating terrain set up

Fortifications should be set up before terrain placement.  If one player has a fortification and the other doesn’t, the player who does not have one should be the one setting the first piece of terrain.  If both players have fortifications, then roll off to see who places it first. 

Special Terrain

There has been plenty of discussion based on the whether or not mysterious terrain or bunkers should be utilized in tournament gaming.  Personally, I think the rules are pretty cool and add extra dimensions to the game.  However, I can see what people don’t want those rules to have an impact on the game, because of maintaining balance.  Therefore, the use of these rules should depend on the climate and mood of the tournament.


  1. Some good advice, although I'm a fan of lots of scenery but I can also see where you're coming from

    1. Having too much terrain slows down the game while giving certain armies the advantage. Having a balanced amount allows all armies to be competitive and not lose games because of the table they were placed at.