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"Terrain as the third player in a game?" Topic

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Rick the Grumpy Gnome18 Jul 2021 1:29 a.m. PST

I have heard this idea expressed before, the idea that terrain is the "third player" or "third army" on a table. But I just read an old comment by Major_Gilbear that really has me thinking…

"Most games are like this, and it's often compounded by the fact that most terrain rules are added on to the core rules rather then being an integral part of the game.

What's weird to me is that:

1) Terrain (and therefore table set up) is effectively the "third player", but is often treated as an afterthought by many.

2) It's not hard to have 3-4 pages showing example tables with some author's commentary on particular features.

3) Terrain rules are often clunky, which leads to players avoiding anything detrimental or complicated – terrain therefore often just functions to make areas of the table no-go areas, rather than providing opportunities for a clever tactic, an interesting choice, or interaction.

For skirmish games, where every model counts, this importance is exaggerated."

Part of the reason this has become important to me is that I am looking at getting into the *grave series of games, Ghost Archipelgo most likely first, and trying to figure out board layout so I can plan my build requirements has been challenging. GW's Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game Battle Companies, which we have already been playing, has been much less challenging to plan and build for, largely down to pretty clear terrain suggestions in the scenarios.

What do you folks think of this concept of prioritizing terrain so highly?

What ideas do have for terrain as a tactical choice presenter rather than just line of sight blocker?

What games do you think have the best Terrain rules? Why?

Prince Rupert of the Rhine18 Jul 2021 1:50 a.m. PST

For some reason the term " Terrain as a third player." made me think of 1st edition 40k that had a whole section of rules dedicated to alien plants and terrain most of which was deadly to both players troops. If you where unlucky you could end up losing as many soldiers to exploding fungi and giant flytraps as you did to enemy firepower.

In my experience most players will just avoid difficult (or in the example above deadly) terrain apart from perhaps chucking some light infantry in a woods. Though I guess even then terrain is still effecting the game by funneling troops into certain parts of the battlefield.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 3:07 a.m. PST

I completely agree with your assessment of the importance of terrain features as a tactical influence as problems for commanders to solve, as possibilities to exploit, and as pitfalls to skirt. In my experience, the most interesting terrain scenarios have had neutral umpires/gamemasters. The gamemaster can present quite different information to the two sides concerning the existence of and effect of various terrain features.

Baring a neutral ref, I think Prince Rupert is on to something with the some of the scenario design features of various Games Workshop rules. Something similar would be along the line of providing randomizing tables for the effect of terrain pieces rolling on the table only when a unit is moved into the feature. Example of a woods table:

Roll of 1: Besides blocking line-of-sight and providing cover, there is an unmarked minefield in the center of the woods. The unit takes one casualty and halts; any unit pressing through the minefield will take d3 additional casualties.

2: A thick tangle of barbed wire in the center of the woods makes it impassable.

3-4: No particular features distinguish this woods, other than the usual rules.

5: A fine hunting trail allows the unit, and other units of its side who enter at the same point, to move at full speed through the woods.

6: A squad of men separated from their unit are discovered and join the unit which thereby gains a figure.

Et cetera… giving commanders real incentive to send scouting units ahead of planned attacks. If the scenario envisions the defenders having been in position for some time, allow them to secretly roll (and record the result) for features on their half of the battlefield.

UshCha18 Jul 2021 3:10 a.m. PST

As usual I seem to be on a diffrerent wavelength. To me tarrain is the primary player. Both sides need to look at the terrain and then within the range available to their army define what to fight and where. Real maps help begginers understand what terrain looks like in the area of interests or for Fantasy players what an area they fancey might look like.

Certainly on our games you play the terrain first. You loiok at it and decide the key features and what features can be ignored, as if the enemy is in them it's a bad choice and easily delt with to your advantage.

"Conventuional" games with points systems encorage not very real world terrain too little and too styalised.

Hexon II is proably the best system for hills with small scale (1/144) models you can get a plausible representation of key aspects of the real world with other features superimposed on it. I have no commecial involvement with them

Our own Fold Flat terrain (we do sell it) was an attempt to have flexible modular terrain system that for larger scales keeps the space requirement low. There are other modular terrain systems for large models but they do take up a lot of space but are still infinitely better than the styalized stuff of conventional games.

The best rules for terrain are obviously ours but that is an utterly biased opinion ;-).

However the key generally is KISS. Restrict terrain types limited, and reflect there impact as simply as possible.
Now with very capable players it is possible to define terrain in detail and its effect, where they differ from standard; 7ft high Maize fields are a unique challenge for most (but not all) periods but I would not use it for occational players as it would not be suitable.

One issue typicaly missing that we consider a triumph of our own rules, is an easy to used and reasonaly realistic definition of dead ground. Few games will be plausible without some for of dead ground definition.

PS,If its of interest I can post some of the terrain rules and why we implemented them as we did.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 3:52 a.m. PST

Terrain is not a player. It does not make decisions.

Terrain should be a core part of the rules. Rules are what govern the dynamics of decision outcomes; terrain has a huge impact on that.

Terrain is built into the rules of QILS. There are no terrain types; that approach tends to bog rules down. Instead QILS has a small set of terrain effects, each of which can have a magnitude. Terrain types are part of the scenario (there is a certain elegance to this as actual terrain is specific to an area) by assigning effects to the terrain.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 5:14 a.m. PST

In fantasy rules terrain CAN be a player, very effectively.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 5:33 a.m. PST

I agree with etotheipi that terrain should be important but integral to the rules.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 6:32 a.m. PST

Terrain is something to read, master or take advantage of, but it is not a player.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome18 Jul 2021 6:57 a.m. PST

Terrain as a player is a turn of phrase to capture a sentiment rather than a specific mechanic. It is true that terrain does not make decisions but terrain that does not force the players to make decisions is perhaps disappointing or at the very least suboptimal.

I have brought up this topic in various forums today and one thing that was mentioned in relation to terrain was weather. This is another interesting element often overlooked in recreational wargaming that was vital in wargaming I did in the military.

My wife and I have a simple random chart for weather we use for our Middle Earth gaming that we use along with a random time of day These conditions have minor modifiers to the game that help even repeated scenarios feel fresh in replays.

UshCha, I would be very interested in seeing any rules you care to share. Excellent points about dead ground and unusual situations like corn fields.

GurKhan18 Jul 2021 7:03 a.m. PST

The hills have eyes. But no hands to throw the dice with.

Terrain can't really be "the third player" unless it has a chance to win the game.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 7:26 a.m. PST

Agree terrain is not a player. I know nothing about fantasy games, but in skirmish games for the FIW, terrain is critical, forces challenges, may convey advantages, keeps you from getting shot. It may be a victory condition.

But I think in all historical gaming, terrain loses its impact because we can see and understand all of it except in games using blinds for units. Coming onto a battlefield, terrain should be a critical component which is not always known. Dead ground is a good example. Fords for rivers. Roads for flanking movement…both sides already know where they go.

Terrain is something to figure out and manage or you win or lose. It forces many decisions. Gaming often takes that away because we see all.

I am not sure how rules can address this except in small ways. Blinds, for one. Scouts who must move through an area and return to a commander before movement can take place there. River fords should have lots of markers face down, to be turned over by scouts…only one is the real ford. That kind of thing may help bring terrain closer to what I think is its true impact. An interesting question!

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 10:36 a.m. PST

I'm with UshCha and Rick the Grumpy Gnome: terrain should be central to decision-making on each side, and the topic title phrase is not meant literally.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome18 Jul 2021 10:57 a.m. PST

The difference between player view and model view is an interesting aspect of game play, as is command and control communication.

My point was that terrain is in and of itself so important to gaming that it can be as important as a third player in many respects. And that it can be so much more than mere window dressing.

Another nugget of gold from this topic on another forum is this example (Courtesy of an experienced gamer called Elbows)

-In my Old West game all the buildings are interactive. Through special events the "town" can assist the Lawmen and turn against the Outlaws. Buildings can also be set on fire by the Outlaws. Through special cards buildings can lock their doors (Outlaws must break the doors down while Lawmen may enter freely), they can begin shooting at Outlaws (a building will fire at Outlaws within 6" radius), they can simply evict Outlaws at gun point (forcing Outlaws out of the building, where they're often exposed to enemy gun fire, etc.). I use special event cards in scenarios to represent dust storms, the approach of night, creek beds being flushed out during monsoon season (so if you're in the creek bed you're swept away, etc.)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 12:34 p.m. PST

Terrain can't be a player--third or otherwise--unless it can actually make decisions and plot against me. Certainly terrain rules should be clear and related to the movement, observation, melee and fire rules, but continued description of terrain as a player will be reported to the Metaphor Police as being misleading rather than helpful.

altfritz18 Jul 2021 1:42 p.m. PST

I set up a nice cluttered table for 40K once but the other players complained that there was too much terrain – and that it "would get in the way".

Their usual table was a flat green field. That's how they played Flames of War as well. Once they pitted Tigers vs Churchills with an open field in between. "Do you want to play?" They asked… ;-)

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 1:52 p.m. PST

Terrain is not a third player, because it is predictable. One must only scout and take a look. Anything that is predictable is part of the framework of the game. Players are unpredictable, because the levels of their talent and their luck at any given time are variable and much less predictable than the course of a river or the steepness of its banks. The weather is a player, before modern forecasting.

wargamingUSA18 Jul 2021 3:56 p.m. PST

Don't know how terrain can be a "player." However, terrain is a consideration, and can be the key consideration, in a scenario; either by design, or by default.

Too often terrain is unrealistic in the way it is represented and susbequently impacts a game. I don't mean realistic in the visual sense, but in it's functionality.

One example, anyone who has been to Europe or seen good pictures while studying their history, knows how narrow most streets were/are in European villages and cities. Still, it is the anomaly rather than the norm to see narrow streets portrayed in wargames.

Another "almost without exception" occurance is that woods are, well, simply woods. In reality, obstacles, natural and manmade, exist within forests or are intermixed within large copses of trees.

Depressions and elevations, or being adjacent to terrain such as a railroad bed, all the things that exist in the battlespace and potentially help or hinder a force.

Personally, I think terrain adds to a wargame and the problem-solution aspect of a tabletop battle. Scenario designers and game masters are the ones who make or break play by introducing terrain as a consideration.

Two cents worth.

evilgong18 Jul 2021 5:24 p.m. PST

I have an Ent army in 15mm

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 6:04 p.m. PST

eported to the Metaphor Police as misleading rather than helpful.

Which was my point in bringing up the distinction. The way you address players in game design is different than the way you address terrain (or other scenario characteristics). I believe robert piepinbrink has elsewhere brought up the idea that we need to be clear about terms so we can have meaningful discussion. I agree. We shouldn't be using player handling techniques for handling terrain in game design.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. In the fantasy boardgame Vast (a PvP set in a dungeon-crawl like cave), the Cave can be a player. In the base game, the cave is handled modularly with tiles and simple automata rules. In an extension, a person can play as the Cave. In that case, the Cave has objectives and victory points and makes decisions about how the terrain progresses.

This is the only example of this that I know.

In this case, the Cave is genuinely a player with the unique capability set that they have a high and unusual level of control over the terrain.

It is very useful for game designers to play this game in various roles (it is a highly asymmetric victory system, so that merits some play on its own). It provides a unique opportunity to understand how the different components of a wargame (players, terrain, scenario, objectives, etc.) work and interact.

Thresher0118 Jul 2021 6:48 p.m. PST

I don't see any reason why this couldn't be done, both in fantasy and Sci-Fi games.

I seem to recall reading either a short-story, or Sci-Fi novel where plants were aware and very dangerous to the characters in that story.

You could also have some sort of sentient planet, where the plants, fauna, and other things work against "outsiders", kind of like our bodies do against viruses and bacteria. Think of the characters/forces in the game as the viruses that need to be eliminated by the host, or symbiotes.

Death Planet was one novel I read, eons ago.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jul 2021 9:06 p.m. PST

Think of the characters/forces in the game as the viruses that need to be eliminated by the host, or symbiotes.


And like Vast, you could have the environment controlled by a player. In that case, you have dynamic and evolving strategy as opposed to static rules that provide autonomous behaviour for terrain elements.

So the carnivorous plants don't suddenly decide that instead of sitting there to attack whoever wanders through, they are instead going to occupy a choke point between the players and the ship they must return to. Or the lava flow doesn't take into account the players' last three turns of movement to avoid it.

I suppose there is some Turing Test point in the automata within rules to make them a player, but that's probably getting beyond the scope of what people are willing to invest for a tabletop miniatures game.

UshCha19 Jul 2021 12:49 a.m. PST

Rick the Grumpy Gnome

The following is a section on buildings and includes a bit about vehicles moving in difficult going as it uses the same bechanism as part of KISS. Hope it is usefu.


Buildings must be classified as to their construction with regard to: -
Ballistic protection: soft or hard cover.
The size of the windows; large empty rooms with large broken windows, (office blocks etc.) allow Light Anti-Armour weapons to be fired from inside them.
Whether they have cellars. If they do, tanks attempting to crash through them will end up in the cellars (it is suggested this is the default).
Line of sight. Typically visibility is 20m for lines of sight passing through/within buildings. With the exception that troops at the edge. These can see out as if in the open. Troops (but not real/dummy markers) in such positions may be spotted (with a Spot command).


Troops moving within buildings must account for any vertical movement, by including the vertical distance the element moves (this is very significant in 3 to 4 story buildings). Note: as the buildings are oversize compared to the ground scale, troops do not have to enter or leave by a door or window etc.

Now to the rules, as has been eluded too the system needs to be well integrated to prevent the all too common discrepancies that gamers tend to exploit.

So infantry move carefully in the open at 60m a half turn, 6" at 1/72 scale models.

Moving through buildings and entering. You may not choose to assault a building every time as it imposes delay after while the team reorganises in effect.

The effect of the dire roll means that troops (at 1/72) move between 1" and 5" per half turn. The player can choose to move less than the maximum allowed in any half turn so he has an option to stay together as a price of moving slower.

We allow troops to ignore doors because houses are some 25 times too large (in area scaling) so the doors are a bit unrealistic and of course it's much quicker.

It should be noted that for us a tactically useful built up area consists of about 10 to 15 houses spaced typically 1 vehicle wide. This number means that some houses are internal and cannot be shot at from outside the built up area and they credibly restrict fire arcs. More than about 15 buildings to us becomes less interesting just more of the same and like the real world the pace of clearance is slow.

Skirmish Moving using fire and movement, making best use of ground. They are more vulnerable to fire than troops that are grounded. Elements in Skirmish are eligible to shoot all personal weapons including SAW/LSW, but not sniping rifles and heavy weapons.
Movement 10m to 60m. Skirmish mode cannot be used entering, leaving or moving through buildings.

Move to position – Infantry move 0m to 20m to take up covered positions. Elements may not fire in this mode.

Assault/Obstacle mode
Movement- Die score On D20 10/2 rounded up metres if in assault or entering, leaving or moving through buildings.

Visibility from buildings

To limit the number of troops that fire from a building in any one direction, effectively reflecting very crudely that not all of the 25 real buildings would see any given point, we only allow 2 figures to fire from each window.

To take advantage of the cover from a building troops cam only see an included angle of 90 degrees from the axis of the window. So 3 stories up there is a lot of ground the troops cannot be seen or see into. Troops can "hang out the window" and see directly down but they then class as in the open.

For vehicles we use a similar restriction to Building movement for them moving in or across difficult terrain.
Easy to remember as it's the same as infantry with the exception that on a D20 score of 18,19 or 20 the vehicle becomes temporarily stuck.

Note unlike many rules vehicles are capable on good terrain of moving VERY fast but not round tight bends or through obstacles.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome19 Jul 2021 2:31 a.m. PST

Thanks for sharing that UshCha. I see a lot of that references scale issues. And it does address some issues I remember from my FIBUA training "back in the day".

My gaming is all 28mm 1 model = 1 person/vehicle/building these days but I can see how many of your rules are helpful at the scale you game.

I apologize to those who feel mislead by the metaphor I chose for the title of the thread but my sentiment remains the same. Whether the terrain is actually run by a player, like in the game Cave, or not… whether the terrain actively seeks to harm you or not… my point is that terrain is often overlooked as mere window dressing and I think thatbis a huge mistake. It misses an amazing opportunity to enrich games and that by considering the table more important than commonly done so by many games we as players can improve the games we play… no matter the scale or genre.

UshCha19 Jul 2021 3:34 a.m. PST

Rick the Grumpy Gnome I see no real issuse with the scale. At 28mm you are unlikely to be playing at 1:1 ground scale. 28mm looks to bw ABOUT 1:62 (Assuming a man is typicallty 5 ft 9". At 1:1 an 8 ft table is 148m in the real world. I doubt that is the scale you opperate. I find a figure to groundscale discreppancy of upto 5:1 for dence terrain and 7:1 for more open terrain still looks plausible.

That makes an 8 ft table at least 750m. Now that still make a model house at 1:62 take up 25 times as much area as a real house. Hence my rules do not seem out of kilter with your 28mm figure.

Now if your 8 ft board did only represent 148m, 1:1 figure to groundscale, then Terrain generally will be at a very detailed level, perhaps you would need to define the actual number of trees in your tiny woodland. I did look at this but most modeles are bigger than the real thing, you model won't get through a narrow passage as his arms may be posed such that he can't get through.

So on balance my scale of game seems not to be a particular issue. Movement distances would scale accoringly which is why we quote real meters in the rules not 6" or 60mm depending on the ground scale chosen.

In addition quoting real scale distances is part of KISS. When the guy says he will see the man in the building opposite 100m away, you can point out a real set of buildings at 100m through the game room window. It clearly shows how hard it would be to spot a man standing back from a window at that distance.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 4:16 a.m. PST

Terrain is very important. Often best given general ideas of in rules and left to fine tune to the scenario.
The impact on play, is often wrong as we know the lay of the ground, the effects of it.
I often use a simple system, the idea for which came from Empire V, but simplified:
All terrains that can be somewhat causing trouble have a lityle brown counter in them. The other side is either green (lighter effect than normal or none) brown, (expected normal effect) or very dark, (worse effects). So a field can be no pb, slow you down, or be nearly impassable for ex for cavalry.
Then you can have the soggy grass at the bottom of the main hill to be attacked at Prague in 1757.
The one who did recon, who set on the field earlier etc can know far more. It works also fine with rivers and fords.
I know the feeling of proudly flanking with a division of cuirassiers arriving facing 3 Russian batteries behind a muddy field.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 5:50 a.m. PST

I have had some nice games in which the players were officially allied, prohibited from attaching each other, and their goals were to cross the tabletop the quickest. Like Chinese checkers. But there were ways to use inimical terrain against rival players. One favorite was giant fire ants who were programmed to move towards the nearest unit; one player's cavalry might lead them towards anothe player's slower troops and then escape as the ants switched targets. Some terrain pieces were "haunted" by neutral spirits who could be controlled by whichever player was able. For example, everyone had to cross the river at some point and the water spirit had a pretty powerful flashflood to unleash -- or not. Toronadoes were possible; one could be called by a player, but then moved randomly. "You can start a wind blowing, but you cannot then control in which direction it blows." Herds of thundering beasts are another fun possibility. And then there's the Gobbling Swamp.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome19 Jul 2021 6:59 a.m. PST

Fair point UshCha, that is probably why I find many 28mm games with problematic weapon ranges… because I try to get as close to 1:1 as possible. It is never perfect but close enough that one tree is supposed to be one tree for example. Things are never perfectly scaled, even on the minis themselves but my goal is to get as close as possible.

JcFrog that is an interesting mechanic and the kind of thing I am talking about.

DocMCB, sounds like it could be fun but some might consider leading giant ants towards an ally an attack or abuse of the conditions.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 10:27 a.m. PST

Perhaps part of this question is rooted in the rule tradition of positively defining the effects of terrain. I.e., "Woods=half speed, "Stream=-6", "Hills=half speed," etc.

Simple to be sure and easily remembered, but as well mentioned above, these known, set in stone limitations commonly mean players simple keep away from them, especially if the calculated time loss traversing them encourages an easy--and mindless--head on attack.

Two facts may certainly said about any terrain feature encountered on a battlefield: 1) It's THERE, and 2) It's impossible to know in advance just HOW MUCH of an obstacle it is.

Unless and until it is reconnoitered, woods pretty much look like "woods," and a hill is a "hill." (Obviously I'm assuming for a wargame that Suribachi is more than a "hill," for example, or the Mississippi more than a "stream." Such major terrain pieces usually never show up on a table, so we're talking common, garden variety features any player can represent on his table.)

So, why not accept that no specific rules should be assigned to any common terrain feature and, in imitation of life, let its actual effects be determined by chance?

For myself, at least, the easiest way to do this is use of a dedicated Terrain Card Deck consisting of a number of cards whose backs are marked "Hill," "Stream," "Woods," "Swamp," etc. Each card of its type indicates the movement (and other effects?) this particular feature has to the specific unit entering it.

Similarly, short of a paved road in good condition, how can one know in advance what the effects of a trail, path, or dirt road will have on movement? It might be good, bad, or indifferent, but that can't be known until someone has walked it for a distance. Thus, specific cards can be included for these and a range of effects, too.

And because a terrain feature won't reveal it's effects until entered, a player may suddenly realize that his Light Infantry or Cavalry, armored cars, or just a squad from 3rd Platoon, might just go over there, recon, and report!

My wargame rules motto is "Embrace Uncertainty." It can work for you as often against you, and if you know the woods are your left are clear of undergrowth and can be traversed quickly, and your opponent assumes they're good enough to stop you, I say push a force through those woods!

Mind, as "No one crosses the same stream twice," unless units are moving directly behind one another through the same feature, each unit entering the same feature from a different point still draws from the deck for effects. No law says a Wood is the same density or condition throughout.

Okay, so shoot me, but we do sell just such a Random Terrain Effects Deck here: link

Yes, it does say its for "The Sword And The Flame/800 Fighting Englishmen," but the terrain features (including "Jungle") are universal and results can be made to apply anywhere, anytime.

So there!


altfritz19 Jul 2021 3:04 p.m. PST

I recall, at our club, a bunch of us (I ain't taking the blame!) trying to set up a table for some version of WRG Ancients and being defeated by the terrain set-up rules, which nobody could understand.

I don't think we ever actually started the game b/c our brains hurt too much! ;-)

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 8:53 p.m. PST

TVAG, yes, I am working on a terrain module that is card-based (it also includes weather) with the table pretty much bare at the start. Players can lay down terrain if they have the card, and are restricted as to location by enemy scouting. I.e. "there can't be a hill there because my scouts would have seen it already!" There would be cards for "hidden obtacles" like the sunken road at Waterloo, or grass that covers a sucking marsh.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 8:54 p.m. PST

altfritz, yes, I think maybe I was there, or at least somewhere similar.

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 9:36 p.m. PST

"Terrain" is one of the "principles of war"; the other being surprise, maneuver, mass & economy of force, unity of command, etc. The list is flexible. It's a way of thinking about strategy. Terrain should naturally be used to your advantage and to your enemies disadvantage.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome20 Jul 2021 12:55 a.m. PST

The Virtual Armchair General, the movement rules of Too Fat Lardies Sharp Practice now makes a lot more sense tome when you put it like that!

UshCha20 Jul 2021 1:19 a.m. PST

Our approach above is a resonable compromise its a bit random but not stupid randoim. Its easy to go stupid.
In the real world if its been raining a lot, then terrain could be a lot worse but its a good clue its been raining so you would ammand your approach accordingly.
It is easy to set wider limits on the terrain, but always to me there is a need to keep within the set of interesting/usefull games. Like in the Manuals some tactics are best explored in an "average sort of terrain". Wild exceptions though real in some cases can negate the interest in a scanario.

One issue may be is whether the game is KISS. In our own games Cammand,Control and planning are the key. This is deliberately a hard task, (simple rules hard game like chess). Overy complex new rules can overload folk (including me) and then its no fun.

This may be dependant on scale, a company commander has a lot moore work than a platoon commander,

altfritz20 Jul 2021 4:49 a.m. PST

Principles of War uses a random roll to determine the effects of at least some terrain features the first time they are entered. And I think DBM does for river/stream features IIRC.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 5:07 a.m. PST

LOOSE FILES has dice rolls for movement distance, which reflects the little terrain features that disript a line. Different quality troops get different dice.

Wolfhag20 Jul 2021 1:02 p.m. PST

Principles of War uses a random roll to determine the effects of at least some terrain features the first time they are entered. And I think DBM does for river/stream features IIRC.

I have the same thing. As soon as a vehicle enters poor/soft terrain that could bog him down the player rolls based on the vehicle floatation rating. If it passes, it slows down and no more checks are needed while in that terrain type. You never really know if you can pass or not until you try.


Rick the Grumpy Gnome20 Jul 2021 5:24 p.m. PST

Getting the balance right between entertainment and simulation is challenging but essential no matter the genre. Unfortunately there is no simple yet always effective method to achieve this balance.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 3:26 a.m. PST

DBMM has a nice set of setting up terrain, and the layout of the land often decides the battle.

Alas, it hardly looks "good" from a modellers viewpoint.

Levi the Ox27 Jul 2021 11:23 p.m. PST

Something I've observed with terrain is that it often contributes more to a game when the rules for both it and movement generally are stricter (or, at least, are more closely followed).

For example, if all terrain is presented as area terrain, players aren't incentivized to take up any specific posture in or about those features. But if linear and semi-linear obstacles like walls, fences, and hedges only offer protection from certain angles, players will be incentivized to maneuver to deny the enemy those benefits.

Similarly, if units can blaze away in any direction, they can happily clump up in the best cover available and present strength everywhere. But if firing arcs are limited and repositioning time-consuming, players will have to choose whether to concentrate firepower, make best use of cover, or some compromise in between.

Heedless Horseman28 Jul 2021 9:59 p.m. PST

Not rally a 'Gamer' so have little regard for rulesets. Might comment, though. Fantasy tends to be scenarios where gamers 'want' their forces to FIGHT and terrain is often seen as an 'obstacle' or a ' movement block'.

Historical battles… the terrain is WHAT you fight for! 'Take X', 'Defend Y'. Terrain is more than a 'Third Player'… IT 'IS' THE BATTLE !

In reality, there is no such thing as 'impassible'. Regarding a feature as impassible would probably lead to very nasty surprises!

Naps or similar… a steep hillock might be 'impractical' for 'formed' infantry, but 'lights' would love it… safe from cav… and IF you can manage to get a Gun up there…

WW2… 'Marsh' might stop Tanks, but inf infiltration could be a serious 'Ball ache' on a disregarded flank.

Buildings can also surprise. Newburn 1640… a Scots 'Leather Gun', hauled up on to a Church tower… although of little 'effect' in itself, helped to demoralise English militia.

As Observation posts, terrain features could often become a serious objective, with a dis-proportunate effect on an action…'Little Round Top'?

If you just want a 'fight', then terrain might just be an impediment in a ruleset. BUT… that 'impassible' rocky outcrop might be a great 'fireball throwing' position for a Wizard… just have to get rid of the 'Stone Trolls', first… lol.

Rick the Grumpy Gnome03 Aug 2021 3:33 a.m. PST

Heedless Horseman, you make some great points. I quite agree with you.

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