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"Wargame Table: Pretty vs Playable" Topic

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30 Jan 2016 10:16 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

2,757 hits since 13 Feb 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian13 Feb 2012 10:08 a.m. PST

Which do you prefer in your wargaming tabletop: pretty terrain or playable terrain?

clifblkskull Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 10:10 a.m. PST

Both :) though when I design terrain I try to think of figures moving around in/on it.

ArchitectsofWar Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 10:13 a.m. PST

Why not both?


GoneNow Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 10:17 a.m. PST

Playable is first concern for me.

wingnut13 Feb 2012 10:18 a.m. PST

Life is too short to play on ugly tables.

mad monkey 113 Feb 2012 10:21 a.m. PST


NOLA Chris Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 10:22 a.m. PST

both, just have to plan ahead and build the terrain
so it is functional and purty! :)

Sundance Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 10:25 a.m. PST

We generally have both at the same time!

DeanMoto Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 10:30 a.m. PST

Both should go hand in hand. That said, I also factor in transportability and storage – that's why I only have table cloth/coverings and not fixed boards. Best, Dean

whill413 Feb 2012 10:35 a.m. PST


WarWizard13 Feb 2012 10:39 a.m. PST

I go with playable first. Then do what I can to "pretty" it up.

Dynaman878913 Feb 2012 10:44 a.m. PST


Too ugly to play on is no good.
Can't figure out what the terrain does is not good either.

(reminds me of a boardgame review, the map was noted as being "Picassos dropcloth")

MajorB13 Feb 2012 10:48 a.m. PST


corporalpat Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 10:50 a.m. PST

A good mix of both leaning toward functional. I look for ease of set-up/tear down and storage if I plan to run it at a con.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 11:00 a.m. PST

Playable. With sloping hills, figures fall, roll, and lose paint. I prefer aesthetics, but function wins the day, as I hate re-painting more than anything. Cheers!

richarDISNEY Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 11:03 a.m. PST

I have never seen a pretty table that was not playable on…

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 11:09 a.m. PST

I have stuck to Playable because Pretty seemed like so much work

More recently, as my painting skills have matured a bit, and as my kids keep buying me terrain for my birthday, the table is starting to look a lot more Pretty

Both is the ideal

Personal logo Toy Soldier Green Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 11:14 a.m. PST

Maybe I define pretty different.

kyoteblue Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 11:29 a.m. PST


Scale Creep Miniatures Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 11:39 a.m. PST


nickinsomerset13 Feb 2012 11:47 a.m. PST

Both or I would play DBA!

Tally Ho!

Andrew Beasley Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 11:52 a.m. PST

Both with a leaning to pretty

nazrat13 Feb 2012 12:10 p.m. PST

I echo Andrew's comment exactly!

Mako11 Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 12:15 p.m. PST

Both for me as well.

Yesthatphil13 Feb 2012 12:38 p.m. PST

Both. FWIW playable can be pretty and pretty can be playable.

What shames us is lazy terrain… 'I can't be bothered terrain'.


Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 12:50 p.m. PST


McKinstry Fezian13 Feb 2012 12:55 p.m. PST

Both. I do not believe the concepts are mutually exclusive.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 1:10 p.m. PST


Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 1:11 p.m. PST


I've played in some games with gorgeous terrain, but they produced bad games because you could not move your troops over the ground. For example, unless you are playing the Normandy Bocage, lots of stone fences and hedge rows on a game table are not good for the flow of the game. It is important to have open avenues of approach for the players if you want a game with a lot of flow and action.

Personal logo Striker Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 1:37 p.m. PST


Broadsword Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 1:54 p.m. PST

A balance between the two, but being playable takes priority.

I've seen kitty litter, rocks and other debris used in wargaming ruins. They looked great, but they made it nearly impossible for figures to stand within the the terrain piece and increased the chance of scratching the figure's paint.


By using irregularly cut, half-thick sheets of foamcore glued flat to the floor, it gives the visual cue of rubble while still allowing the terrain to be functional.


Al | link

wrgmr113 Feb 2012 2:51 p.m. PST

Both, the esthetics of the game are a big part.

COL Scott0again Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 3:03 p.m. PST

Generally both, but if it came down to something that was beautiful but not very playable – I would rather play than just look at it.

Wargames not diorama is my vote.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 3:04 p.m. PST

Both, plus versatility.


Altius Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 3:08 p.m. PST

Hard to say. There has to be a happy medium. "Pretty" is great, up until you begin to actually play on the table, and then it loses its appeal fast. Still, it's a very important element to me.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 3:50 p.m. PST

As pretty as possible while remaining playable. I'm there to game, not just admire the scenery. I'll go driving in Door County if I want to gawk.

chuck05 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian13 Feb 2012 4:27 p.m. PST

Both leaning more towards pretty.

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 5:33 p.m. PST


I always use 'pretty tables' and it never seems to spoil my games. After all, if a terrain piece is 'in the way' that is just how it is in nature. A general cant order a forest, stream, or a village etc to be moved out of the way. He has to allow for that in his battle plan.
I've always considered the lay of the land, to be one of the things a general has to take into account. In real life some used this to great advantage and others failed to do so. That's how I see it on the tabletop.


That town is cluttered and crowded. Remove it so we can get on with the wargame!
BUT the very fact that it is cluttered and crowded is what makes it defensible. So the scenery is part of the game, not merely an accessory.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 5:44 p.m. PST

Pretty wins 60%-40% (for me).

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member13 Feb 2012 6:14 p.m. PST

I have never seen a pretty table that was not playable on…

There are many railway enthusiasts out there that have felt nervous at some wargamers looking over their terrain with some evil thoughts!!!

I think far too many wargamers fail to realise how important the 'lay of the land' is and was to military operations. The battle is not entirely fire power on fire power. Its the cunning use of the area for defence or for offense,or the lack of using it, that makes battles succeed or fail.

Micman Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2012 9:29 p.m. PST

60% playability. Though as I get more terrain features available I think it will change to 50/50

rct7500114 Feb 2012 12:03 a.m. PST

We had both here


SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member14 Feb 2012 3:46 a.m. PST


Total Battle Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Feb 2012 4:03 a.m. PST



SJDonovan Inactive Member14 Feb 2012 5:37 a.m. PST


I've got nothing against pretty but I hate making terrain. Mainly I want it to be easy to put up, easy to take down and easy to store.

Patrick Sexton Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2012 9:00 a.m. PST


Early morning writer14 Feb 2012 9:35 a.m. PST

Pretty, smetty. I want gorgeous terrain that is carefully crafted to be highly playable. And to Mal Wright's point about the terrain is integral to the field of battle, I am going to add a rule to my games that any player who moves terrain suffers a nasty, demoralizing penalty. You ain't got no bull dozers, you ain't movin' no stinkin' terrain! Use the terrain.

Walk fields of battle and even 'flat' fields are anything but. (only modern laser trimmed fields and heavy machinery can provide truly flat fields – either that or go to Bonneville and race in the salt flats).

Antietam would not be the same, or even close, if it were not for the lay of the land – doubt me? get a topographical map of the battle field and study it very closely. Or, better, go walk it.

Nice to see others landing so strongly on this point I am passionate about. Actually two points, good looking terrain and not moving it.

Personal logo flooglestreet Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member14 Feb 2012 10:18 a.m. PST

Both. Felt squares don't make it.

Lentulus14 Feb 2012 10:20 a.m. PST

*MUST* be playable. *Should* be pretty.

And *my* tables starts with "Affordable." Not cheap and shoddy, but I have a tight budget.

Ranger322 Inactive Member14 Feb 2012 11:41 a.m. PST

Show me some examples of terrain that is "pretty" but not "playable".

Now I can see if you had so much terrain that you could get your hand in there to move the minis, that would be "unplayable". Or if you had so many trees that you couldn't move your troops without knocking some over, that would be "unplayable". Or possibly if you had hills so steep that the men could stand on them without toppling over…other than that, what else would make a pretty board "unplayable"?

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