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"Desert terrain ideas needed" Topic

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captaincold6905 Oct 2019 8:52 p.m. PST

I'm going to get one of those beautiful WarSigil desert maps, but I'm doing some various Google image searches for area around Casablanca, Oran, Algiers were the US first landed in North Africa.

Would appreciate any terrain ideas from the experts here.

I'll be playing IABSM in 6mm

Thank you

WARGAMESBUFF06 Oct 2019 12:56 a.m. PST

I have used the reverse side of teddy bear fur and Chinchilla sand then for rocks cat litter !

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2019 6:05 a.m. PST

Some hills,Dunes and wadi would be a good start.

Legion 406 Oct 2019 9:39 a.m. PST

Well a desert is basically rolling wind blown sand dunes or rocky and generally flat with the occasional slight rise and/or wadi or depression. And/or some scrub brush with a rare Oasis and possibly some ruins dating back to ancient times.

Depends on exactly where you are located. E.g. the Sinai can be a bit different than the Sahara.

The area you are talking about is a bit more rocky or even mountainous with ridges of all sizes. And the further you get away from the coast the more it turns into rolling sand dunes.

I am no expert, I only have been in the Mojave a couple times for training. But I have studied the entire NA campaigns in my youth.

You may have seen these photos … link

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2019 11:19 a.m. PST

Agree with Legion 4 that one area may differ from another. My experience driving through the Journada del Muerte in New Mexico is that the plants have an increasing amount of space between them, there is a lot of bare ground between them (no "ground cover"), and the plants tend to look like things you'd rather avoid. It kind of looks like the wind blew any sand away, leaving just hard dirt and unpleasant plants. Perhaps this is just a transition area between grasslands and the sand dunes one thinks of in conjunction with the Sahara; I don't know. At any rate, for my Foreign Legion, I have a sand colored cloth, and individual wicked looking, spiky, khaki bushes on washers to spread around and break up the flatness.


Lion in the Stars06 Oct 2019 12:02 p.m. PST

There are probably 4 major terrain types you will want for the desert, not counting a random town.

1) Wadi – a steep-sided gully that you can see across, but not into. Gives troops and vehicles a concealed approach.
2) soft sand – dangerous going, likely for vehicles to get stuck
3) low rise – something like half a wadi, it provides cover if the troops are right up against it (from either side) but does not block LOS otherwise.
4) rocky ground – gives cover to troops in more or less all directions, fairly good going for vehicles.

Codsticker07 Oct 2019 7:18 a.m. PST

As you mentioned Algiers, which is on the ocean you will encounter more scrub and greenery then you would inland and the terrain a little less flat. Here is picture of a coastal road in Algeria:


…compared to inland:

Blutarski07 Oct 2019 7:58 a.m. PST

Most of 'the desert' along the NAfrican coast is hardpan and easily traversable by wheeled and tracked vehicles; hence the wartime comparisons of NAfrican tank combat to naval warfare. In some places, the hardpan can be so rocky as to hinder or even prevent off-road travel. Areas of soft sand and marshy ground (believe it or not) will also affect vehicle movement. In other places exist lengthy non-traversable escarpments prevent movement (hence the importance of Halfaya Pass for example). Steep-sided wadis (think "balkas" of southern Russia and Ukraine) could also pose movement barriers for vehicle traffic.

I recommend searching through the DTIC and CARL digital library websites for documents on NAfrican desert topography. I recall having found useful material there back in the day.

Then there is the "sand sea", which is very aptly named. The area I visited outside of Dubai stretched as far as the eye could see and consisted of what can be best described as a storm tossed sea of sand dotted here and there by remnant pillars of deeply eroded sandstone. The dunes criss-cross in a chaotic fashion and can be 20-30 feet in height from crest to trough (I know because I slid down a few on my butt and had to be hauled up by ropes). The sand is so fine that a vehicle cannot get sufficient purchase to climb. Movement, whether by foot or vehicle, could only follow along the crests of the dunes where it was possible at all. We are talking about Qattara Depression terrain here impossible to traverse by any tactically meaningful formation and therefore represented the southern limit of the NAfrican operational theater.

Eleve de Vauban Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2019 8:29 a.m. PST

It is a common misconception that the Mahgreb area looks like the Sahara desert, that is the sand desert that is to the East and South of the High Atlas Mountains. We have driven around Morocco. The Allies landed on the coast that is North of the High Atlas Mountains. This land, a few miles away from the coastal strip, is highly cultivated with many villages and towns. The landscape is very much like Codsticker's picture of a coastal road in Algeria. There are arid areas, usually higher ground that is rocky but may also have wooded areas.

hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2019 10:29 a.m. PST

I would use a combination of topographic maps, like here:



and Google Satellite Views,like here:


captaincold6908 Oct 2019 11:40 a.m. PST

hinds TMP…thank you so much for this!

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