Scenery rantings

27 Jun

Today’s post is going to be about a subject that’s recently started to become a bit of a “Soapbox topic” for me.

I'm gonna stand on this an' rant at you all...

I’m gonna stand on this an’ rant at you all…

Terrain and Scenery.

Warning – the below is very pic heavy


My first games way-back-when were played using wooden construction blocks with the cut-out counters from Rogue Trader


No full-on plastic minis for me to start with… Not like you kids nowadays! mumble mumble….

I’d always wanted to have terrain like that I saw in White Dwarf (Remember – this was the days before the internet).

Never did quite manage it, partly because I didn’t have the first clue on how, and partly because I lived out in the boondocks where things like polystyrene sheet, foamcore, plasticard, (decent) flock and all the sundries of the terrain makers art mentioned in the aformentioned monthly magazine were merely mythical items…..

Nowadays, and over the last few years, the options for making terrain have blossomed massively – again, with the growth of the ‘net and communication between all the disparate groups of war gamers bringing a whole wealth of ideas and inspiration.

Now.. I play on boards I’ve made myself (with help from my lovely “assistant”). There not hugely striking, but I’ve learned something with everything I’ve made – even if it’s what-not-to-do….. And strive to improve on every piece I’ve made/painted. It’s not impossible for somebody with basic skills to knock up something fairly nice looking.

 Kleindorf boards

Fantasy Scenery 1 Fantasy Scenery 2

Now, there is a mix of manufacturers in my scenery, from home-made, to various laser cut kits, resin pieces and Gw.

It’s entirely possible for someone to be able to buy everything they need for a gaming table now if they want, from flock to boards themselves

Strangely, to me, one of the worst terrain ideas GW have ever released has been the realms of battle board.

Why? You may ask. (And you are.. I can hear you…..).

Well, (Other then the overlaod of skulls on it.. There under the ground for crying out loud!!) in the time before the realms of battle was first released, in White Dwarf and on the website, rulebooks, codexes etc etc etc you saw pictures of various types of terrain, cobbled together from plastic, card, resin and all sorts. The gaming tables at Warhammer World had a really nice mix of relatively plain boards, and more detailed boards – I remember playing on one that consisted of a dried-up lakebed with a beached and rotting out ship in the middle.

GW even printed these:making wargames terrain Wargames terrain classic







Now, it’s all identical Realms of battle boards, with basic trees and basic block buildings.




I can kinda see what the last folk to use it were trying to do….. but it’s not working for me


Looks familiar… and boring…


What the?? I mean.. it may as well have been an empty board…….


Really…. well, I suppose the middle ruin could be an objective….. but still…..


I can understand why though, they get knocked about a lot, plus they need to be seen to be using their own product in the games.


Doesn’t help the state of the stuff when people just pile it up to get it out-of-the-way


There’s a large zone mortalis board setup.. and it’s stuffed – this isn’t weathering in the picture.. it’s damage.


The only exceptions are the big centrepiece tables – the massive city boards, Tomb kings complex and similar. Those boards, while being serious eye-candy are not much good to play on, as they are all 8’x6’ which makes reaching the middle a tad tricky for me, and near impossible for heather (being 4’11” as she is) even before you take into account the dodging of the city buildings, stelae and all the junk.


Tau scenery… and Jungle trees… Lots, and lots and lots of jungle trees…. and marsh. Too much if you ask me for the size of game 40k is meant to be. Interesting for small skirmish games as I can see a lot of options for stories and scenarios here.


One of the dedicated Fantasy centrepiece boards I quite like it myself, but again it’s giving me plenty of ideas for skirmishes, full on WFB sized battles, not so much I always tend to picture that sort of thing being on the outskirts


Tomb Kings. This is one of the big 6’x8 (or 12′) boards. It’s difficult to reach the centre due to the sheer size of the thing


6′ x 8′ cityfight board. Nice looking, but a total pig to actually reach any figures or units in the middle. There is a second city board that if anything, is even denser

gw large table

And, last but not least, 6′ x 12′ ! defensive line again another one that gives problems reaching to the middle. I believe this was designed for apocalypse games as that’s what I tend to see being played on it – that said, I think that all eye-candy aside, playing apocalypse games using anything smaller than a SPORTS HALL is ludicrous. If you want to play something that large, with loads of superheavy’s.. Play Epic or another 6mm system.


However. GW aren’t the only ones guilty of mediocre terrain.


I’ve seen plenty of photos of tournaments, and in a couple of rather surprising instances, convention display games where the scenery is quite simply put…. Appallingly bad.


I see 3, maybe 4 pieces of terrain/scenery.. I mean… what the hells…..


This is not telling a story, this is just obstacles to have a fight over, no different than my first games with the wooden blocks.


This… this is my particular favourite picture. I can see a total of 4 pieces of scenery, 2 forest bases (sans trees) 2 hills, and 2.. well, I have no ideas……. Guys, I mean c’mon.. this makes babies cry. Even the models on it are probably crying.. and the kicker? This is an example battle of the 40K Wikipedia page!


Look what you did! LOOK AT IT!


– These are just some of the pics out there on the net – If there yours, let me know and I’ll credit where I can.


Now, to me, scenery and terrain should help enhance the game, and any narrative that you may be trying to tell with the game (For example, Which would you rather relate? Your armies sacking of the village of drunesberg, the relief of the colony of proxima-12 from the alien hordes… Or the Battle we had on the big flat field with a couple of trees….


Here’s a few pictures (Taken on my phone so I know there a wee bit dicey.. deal with it) of game’s we’ve had, or the scenery setup just before hand.

Each has their own story, and even just looking at the pics I’m sure you can think of some of them:


table 3

This, was the small settlement of Konisgberg near talabheim. It was the scene of a clash between Druuchi raiders and the local militia. Overall it was an interesting game, the Dark elves cane from the top right (Needing to cross the river), with the Empire coming from the bottom left. The obstacles of the fences and buildings make for quite a challenging game for both sides


table 2

A clash between the Druuchi and the vile ratmen, each trying to seize control of the massive fountain of energy and wyrdstone that had erupted just outside Junesitstein. This was a laugh to watch to be honest…. With a combination of dave’s (Dark elf) usual appalling rolls, and Heather’s Skaven technology being it’s normal reliable self, I’m still not sure who claimed to have seized the wyrd fountain, but it was a laugh


table 1

The plains of Congozonia IV and the adventures of Inquisitor Cleusau-Holmes. (the fluffy white stuff were banks of think smoke from the crash) A GM’d game – The shuttle carrying Inquisitr Cleusau-Holmes, his Eldar prisoner and various items of confiscated Xeno-tech had crashed, with only the inquisitor and his prisoner surviving. Tau (Al) and Eldar(Heather) Inquisitor & farseer captive (GM) basically a lot of fun, finding and recovering technology (and swiping each others) finding the inquisitor to capture or kill – though killing him would detonate the farseers psychic restrain device and kill him, along with an ever shortening countdown to the arrival of an imperial cruiser and reinforcement s(in the form of a terminator squad) It was chaotic, but a great laugh.


So. I’m drawing a line in the sand,



and starting up a little campaign:

CANS! the Campaign Against Naff Scenery!

I did consider calling it Bin Off Overdone Bad & Inexplicably Erroneous Scenery… But then I had to give it second thought….. it had a bit too much of an Arnold Rimmer ring to it…



And, just to start things off I’ve swiped a couple of inspirational pics of decent (to my mind) tables from the web. Again, if there yours, let me know and I’ll credit where I can


Yep, it’s on a realm of battle board, but there’s a reasonable amount of scenery for a skirmish or pulp game, I can just picture Indy running through this pursued by angry lizardmen…

TH table 2 600

First glance may look very cramped and busy. But this is really nice, with a lot of possibilities for how engagements or skirmishes may play out on it, but then I suspect it’s intended for games that last longer than 6 turns…


Well, that’s me all ranted out for now… I’ll be over here finding where I’ve put all my terrain links…



Posted by on June 27, 2014 in CANS!, Soap Box, Terrain


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Scenery rantings

  1. Azazel

    June 29, 2014 at 1:08 am

    I think the RoB board is a good idea, with rather mediocre execution, and sadly over-executed to the detriment of creative and interesting tables. It’s what you expect from Skullhammer these days, unfortunately, but it is what it is. When Secret Weapon and Games & Gears eventually deliver (hopefully before 2014 is done) there will be some other decent pre-fab options for this sort of thing (as opposed to making your own tiles).

    I think one of the key problems is aesthetics versus playability – not to mention accessibility. Some of your criticism of the tournament tables is really quite unfair – tournaments these days have much their terrain supplied by people willing to bring in their own stuff, and that necessitates a “take what you can get mentality.” Also, it’s the last place I’d expect a “forge your own narrative” style of game to take place. (and no, I’m not a tourney player or organiser – last one I played in was about 14 years ago!)

    Your Konisgberg and Junesitstein tables look lovely indeed, but problematic for playing 6×4 mass block battle games on (but perfect for fantasy skirmish or 40k). I’ve been trying to find that balance on my own table – as you would possible have seen, I put a decent amount of effort into scenery as you also do, but when I play KoW (no more WHFB here) I struggle to find a balance between a table that allows only, say, two paths to combat and the bareness of an arena – despite so many historical battles taking place on effectively bare fields anyway.

    40k, narrative and skirmish gaming is where the money lies for the best tables and terrain layouts, in my opinion. My long-term Zavod 311 plans should give me a lot more I can use in those types of games, but doesn’t make a fantasy table that gives room to manoeuvre while looking great on a 6×4 all that much easier…

    • Ady

      July 1, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Thats a fair point about the RoB board re idea vs execution. It would have been nice to see more than 2 optional sections for it I suppose, but then it’s getting into risk vs return for the business to produce them int he first place.

      And I couldn’t agree more about asthetics vs playability. There is a middle ground though, it’s just that sometimes it seems like everything is towards the quick & cheap method.

      To be fair, both the Konisberg & Junesitstein both had mass battles on them, 200 and 1600 points respectivley, the terrain certainly made them play very differently than the usual line up & charge, especiall in the case of the Konisberg board if the cavalry didn’t want to give too much of an enfilade shot 🙂 It was also interesting how much of a difference a simple fence made as well – reminiscant of Pickets charge at one point.

      But yes, skirmish & narrative games always see the best terrain as you can edge a little (but not too much) towards the asthetic over practicality,

      I wonder if some of the problems with scenery and 6×4 tables with infantry blocks on them is a matter of scale, scale it down to 15mm or 10mm and suddenly that 6×4 table becomes a lot larger – but at the same time that’s heading towards my soapbox regarding apocalypse games, whereby all the games i’ve witnessed just seem to be an unbroken line of almost touching unist crammed on the board with no room for maneuver.

      • Azazel

        July 2, 2014 at 1:30 am

        I admit, I almost bought a RoB board on release – except there was a price errata sheet inserted into Australian subscription copies of WD that bumped the price by about $150 or $200 – so I never bothered. On balance, I’d call it a wash. I’ve got a few boards coming (eventually) from those Kickstarters, and I made do with a mat in the intervening almost-decade, though I’m sure I’d have been happy to have it in the intervening years.

        I can see that your two example tables had Mass battles on them – and I can definitely see tables like that being appropriate for scenarios and campaign battle, but for “standard” battles (for want of a better term) that type of table becomes even more problematic than the “line up and charge” across a football field, simply because it narrows the rather limited move and manoeuvre options down even further.

        You’re spot on the money when you talk about it being a matter of scale. When you look at smaller scale games from FoW down on a 6×4, you see the space open up enormously. It’s just one of the issues with 28-32mm models – and an abstraction we’re forced to endure as part of using the nice models we all enjoy. When you consider that most 40k games are played in a space the size of a supermarket parking lot (or not even that in many cases!) and feature tanks, dreadnoughts and nowadays, aircraft and walkers the size of knights it’s really quite amusing…

        Apocalypse (which is where 40k is headed now, let’s face it) started as a cool idea “get all of your figures and have a big battle with your mates” that has been corrupted/leveraged into a “sell more models” subgame, and now has become the main game itself…

        I plan to play some Bolt Action games using individually-based FoW figures (and cm for ranges) at some stage and see how it goes. Just need to paint the figures first…


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