Help support TMP

"Plentiful Terrain" Topic

26 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Game Design Message Board

Action Log

22 Mar 2016 5:21 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Workbench Article

Basing for 15mm Stands

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian shows one way to base 15mm figures on a stand.

1,460 hits since 23 Sep 2015
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian24 Sep 2015 8:14 a.m. PST

Writing in Battlegames magazine, David CR Brown said:

…plentiful terrain is an important wargames mechanism, forcing the wargamer to think more akin to his historical counterpart as opposed to those games where terrain appears to be a mere afterthought or part of a points bargaining system.

Do you agree?

Dynaman878924 Sep 2015 8:37 a.m. PST

In general yes but there are plenty of battles fought in spots that were pretty free of terrain. Desert battles (not all for those itching to point out that there IS terrain in the desert…) and many pre-modern battlefields.

MajorB24 Sep 2015 8:43 a.m. PST

Should only be "plentiful" if the actual battlefields of the period were so.

MajorB24 Sep 2015 8:45 a.m. PST

to think more akin to his historical counterpart

In pre-gunpowder periods of warfare the historical general would often be looking for those open spaces in which to fight a battle …

Even in the ECW many battles were fought on moors and heaths… enclosed agricultural land was something to be avoided.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2015 8:55 a.m. PST

I definitely agree! Terrain should include rolls and dips on the battlefield in addition to all of the ridges and hills. Line of site should truly matter, so players should have tactical challenges created by this (even in most desert situations).

Most game tables are not encumbered enough the period/location of the battlefields. Besides, IMHO, the 3D effect we create with miniatures is what makes it so inviting. It all starts with the terrain, followed by the miniatures………… :-)

ironicon24 Sep 2015 9:05 a.m. PST

I never realized the terrain at the battle of Lingy was so hilly and complex until I saw a picture of one of the Waterloo games. It explains a lot.
If Jackson had lived he would have taken cemetery hill on the first day of Gettysburg.
Terrain is important.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2015 9:09 a.m. PST


Martian Root Canal24 Sep 2015 9:24 a.m. PST

Terrain is important; not sure about the use of the word 'plentiful.'

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Sep 2015 9:53 a.m. PST

Concur with Ambush Alley Jim's point.

I would probably say that "plentiful" terrain is about as bad as "sparse" terrain. How about "deliberate" terrain? Deliberate seems to be more the opposite of afterthought. I don't want to imply that wargamers should sit down, think about what they want in a game, then how to get that within their means before they throw some stuff on the table and start rolling dice … but, hey … ;)

PKay Inc24 Sep 2015 10:14 a.m. PST

So….just exactly when was it that we are supposed to worry about holding ourselves to the opinion of DCR Brown?

thehawk24 Sep 2015 10:49 a.m. PST

(I don't think plentiful and terrain should go together. Terrain is an area of ground. Plentiful is a quantity. I would interpret "the terrain is plentiful" as meaning bountiful.)

Assuming the intention was to argue in favour of terrain features, in general I'd agree. What's Culloden without boggy ground? What's Normandy without bocage? More terrain can be good too as it can increase the number of tactical alternatives and also become minor objectives for our troops to fight for. Even beyond what might be realistic. Generals used terrain to advantage in real life, we can do the same. WW2 tank doctrine manuals contained a lot of content about handling terrain. We can imitate that. But real soldiers never had the fun of losing VPs for failing to defend the bank at Wormington-on-sea.

I see the benefit of terrain as increasing enjoyment through more interesting game play. Being akin to reality is significant but secondary.

Also, good-looking terrain adds to the enjoyment both making it and fighting over it. I'm more interested in this aspect of gaming the visual.

tshryock Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Sep 2015 10:50 a.m. PST

When appropriate for the era or scenario, yes. Sighting your artillery becomes much more challenging with a lot of terrain on the table (talking H&M era). I use random "hedgerows" -- lichen and such glued to a wooden ruler -- to create random LOS blocks from undulating terrain too subtle to represent with a hill. More terrain also affects cavalry deployment and usage, creating a need for more careful thought on how you deploy and advance.
And it also tends to look better!

Lucius24 Sep 2015 12:47 p.m. PST

Also, as has been pointed out numerous times before, "flat" terrain is almost never flat. I spent a day at Austerlitz, and the "flat" areas on most wargames maps had enough rolling variation to partially block line of sight for units a mere 100 yards away.

Jamesonsafari24 Sep 2015 1:21 p.m. PST

Since most tables are too sparse I don't think we need to worry about having too much terrain.
And I try to remember the Red Shadow's admonition: "mediocre figures on first rate terrain look much better than top quality figures on mediocre terrain" or something to that effect

Kraken Skulls Consortium24 Sep 2015 1:40 p.m. PST

Something I find that goes missing on many terrain tables, in fact *most* terrain tables, is the subtle rises and dips in the landscape that can make a tremendous difference in visibility. A ridge only a few feet high with a gradual slop to a bottomed out valley a few feet deep is something very useful or debilitating in a tactical sense, but without using play surfaces that allow for it, many wargaming tables are very flat by comparison to real terrain.

Because of that, I have recently become a huge fan of teddy bear fur play mats laid over carved foam underneath to build very gradual terrain elevation changes. Along with laser pointers to determine LOS, it has added a lot to our tactical games, especially at the skirmish level.

PatrickWR24 Sep 2015 1:43 p.m. PST

Nothing makes me walk across a crowded convention all more than spotting a table full of gorgeous terrain (and models). But mostly terrain.

Yellow Admiral24 Sep 2015 2:23 p.m. PST

I think militarily significant terrain should only be as plentiful as it was historically, and its effects in scale with the game's ground scale, but I also think miniatures games should have as many cool scenic effects as can be crammed onto the table. The distinction is critical.

I put out a lot of terrain detritus, but only some of it makes a difference. There is usually a limit to the size and number of hills, ridges, swamps, bogs, woods, fences, towns, roads, rivers, and other obstructing features in my games. Conversely, the "open" areas are still full of things that are nice to look at but have no military effect: ploughed fields, lone trees and buildings (which move out of the way when soldiers march/shoot through), bushes (lichen), rocks, grassy areas, etc. Terrain is best if it adds interest to a battle without stultifying it.

I've discovered that hyper-decorating a battlefield also allows a GM to "ambush" players with terrain features. For example, I like to use a lot of buildings as decorations that move out of the way when the troops come through. Occasionally, I hide a bit of cloth under one to indicate that it's a big enough, stout enough structure to provide cover to units within the confines of the cloth outline. Sometimes players who "scout" the terrain (lifting buildings as they get closer) discover these and make use of them.

- Ix

zoneofcontrol24 Sep 2015 5:23 p.m. PST

Terrain is important. It effects movement/maneuver as well as sighting and combat. I think a nice balance between the actual terrain placed on the board and how the rules handle moving, spotting and fighting through it can keep things interesting.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2015 6:28 p.m. PST

Terrain is quite important.
Except in most naval games or space.

Ivan DBA24 Sep 2015 7:49 p.m. PST

A broken clock is right twice a day.

Martin Rapier25 Sep 2015 2:35 a.m. PST

It depends.

(Phil Dutre)25 Sep 2015 1:16 p.m. PST

A good gaming table should be as full with terrain features as possible, but not fuller.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2015 8:37 p.m. PST

Well, if your doing historical scenarios, then the terrain is what it is.

Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2016 6:35 a.m. PST

This I think is the only one of all these polls where I am close to being in a agreement with my namesake. I like a good bit of terrain but as others have already said it needs to be appropriate.


Zephyr123 Mar 2016 1:39 p.m. PST

Lots of terrain is good, but if it interferes with placing/moving minis, it is probably too much. Too dense ='s Jungle.

"A broken clock is right twice a day."

Unless it's using Military Time, or is a sun dial… ;-)

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.