Monday, 29 August 2016

Question: Terrain Junkie or Terrain Snob?

I have been rightly accused of having too much terrain. I cannot deny that I get a great deal of pleasure from building and designing a table with bucket loads of character. 

Above: Nice.

Back in the day, when wargaming manufacturers could be numbered on one hand (with maybe a couple of extra fingers), the common and garden wargamer would think nothing of building their own terrain and the only real decision to be made was 'should I build sloped or stepped hill?' [In a situation where I was asked to draw up a list of the top ten wargaming nerd's nerdiest conversations of all time this would be right up there].

However, over the past few years a fantastic thing has happened. Thanks to laser-cut MDF, crowd funding websites and pre-painted pieces, manufacturers never fail to disappoint on the variety, detail and affordability (Although, if you want to spend a awful lot of money, this is also catered for). 

A game that has really benefitted from all of this is Infinity N3. When I first began to play, we used GW terrain, but, although this was functional, this never really ticked the boxes for being aesthetically pleasing. Weirdly, the trickiest piece of terrain to find was the humble shipping container. Not now. Even with such a supposedly simple item, there are a great many options available.

Above: Shipping containers

Above:......and in their natural habitat.

Despite everything that is now available, the art of scratch building is not dead. In fact, having a unique piece of terrain owned by no one else has a great appeal, and I still dabble every so often.

Above:  Recently built raised walkway pieces with some custom built steps and ladder access made from various other kits.

A nicely laid out set of terrain which is pleasing to the eye and can tell a story is a real joy. Whether it's a piece of inhospitable jungle or an abandoned factory, it all adds to the gaming experience. It's probably why I like Infinity N3 as a game over Drop Zone Commander. 

Above: I have gone too far. (Although, you do need to be careful, as the table above shows. Too much terrain on a table, or conversely, too little, can ruin a game, making it a haven for either chain rifles or sniper nests. As with tightrope walking, balance is everything).

I appreciate that at this point I risk accusations of being a terrain snob, and I am aware that some very good firms have created a huge range of different office blocks and the like. But fundamentally, Drop Zone does not need anything too grand. Whether it is an amazing 4 Ground piece, or a cardboard cereal packet, the game will still play the same.

For instance, Darkops have created some brilliant Drop Zone buildings. But when I saw them, all I could think of was 'I don't want to waste them on Drop Zone, how can I convert them for Infinity?' 

Above: My Darkops buildings taking pride of place Amongst some very nice Plast Craft Games pieces.

And for a final note, conventions and tournaments are a great place to get inspiration. For instance, following an Infinity tournament in Exeter a few years ago I saw an ornate Japanese themed garden table, and this has been a long dreamt of project ever since. 

Above: Stuff for which my next terrain project will be built.

The answer to the question I posed myself in the title - Answer: Both.

Happy gaming to you all.



  1. You can never have too much terrain! How would the rest of us cope?

  2. Hello Mr H. Pleasure to hear from you and pleased to be of service.

  3. I love terrain! I've found playing Frostgrave which uses dense tables & specialist terrain in a number of scenarios has really got my terrain building bug on this year.

    I get what you are saying about DZC. The couple of tables set up at the club comp last month on battle mats and not the grid like street maps really made it look like a different game.

  4. Bryan. A word of caution. Building terrain can get out of control. Before long you have purchased a seventh different version of a power node, and before you know it, there is no where in the house left to sleep!

    1. Too late Alex! Already lacking space in the house for more terrain and models. But the kids wouldn't mind sharing a room right?

      I might be running a Frostgrave intro game down the club so some of my terrain could be making an appearance.

  5. I agree, but also disagree. You can almost never have too much terrain but...

    Good terrain is wasted on Dropzone Commander? No way!

    My biggest disappointment with the game is that we so rarely see anything much more than the cardboard buildings, which are functional and great for getting you going, but aren't what attracted me to the game.

    I love the epicness of games on well-modelled boards. It's what the scale of game is really meant for. There's little better in wargaming!

    I haven't yet made any progress with painting my Scourge, but I'm collecting cool terrain. The end goal has to be to play on some awesome looking terrain, or what's the point?

    1. Fair point AD. Although, and noting Amitverse's comment below adding characterful pieces, such as scatter terrain, can impede a game, especially in the tournament environment. Although, taking this point one step further, when did you last see an initiative roll off before turn one where a player chose table sides? I think it can only have happened for a Resistance player who needs wide access for their Thunderstorm.

  6. A good wargame table is the best advert for a game. Your terrain and infinity games always look amazing.I also really like does neon signs that they do. DzC does have the tall columns problem sometimes, but I also think the rules make it difficult to have interesting stuff, due to the LZ rules of the game. The Cardiff tournament had scatter terrain out in the form of burnt out cars etc, but was removed from the tables as it meant it was too difficulkt to land the drop ships anywhere.

    1. I note, and agree with, your comments and I have referenced them in my reply above to AD.

  7. I suppose I have two answers to this. Or there are two ways of dealing with it. The first is to just ignore the scatter terrain for gaming purposes. Leave it there just to look cool. I accept that tournament games have different and more stringent criteria to a normal game.

    But the other option is to not play tournament games and just be aware that the game is going to be more complicated than normal. It seems to me that 'friendly' games of DZC are so rare that as a community we need some practice so that we can come up with an alternative standard practice for what is normal and acceptable for 'fluff' games.

    Not that there's anythign wrong with tournament games; I just feel that we're missing out on something that DZC can do at least as well, if not significantly better than many other games.

    1. Very true. I think the only non tournament DZ games we play are to explain the basic rules to new players. Just been catching up on Ed's post on OB where he talks about the new rules in reconquest. Seems that there are some interesting new options to have a 'fun' game.

    2. Yeah, I don't quite get why this is...

      The game is a huge amount of fun, and my natural instinct is to play 'fair' or tournament type games, even when not at a tournament... but why?

      The setting has so much opportunity for different kinds of game, and with a bit of effort, I don't see why a new tournament meta couldn't develop based on non-urban battles.

      I hope this book and these rules (which I confess I haven't got round to reading yet, as I've been focussing on the story) help open things up a bit more.

    3. I think this happens for 2 main reasons. Because there isn't really a campaign mode for the game I think the story side gets put to one side because you are playing for victory points rather than long term campaign mission success.

      We did the escalation games, but that wasn't a real campaign ( it was still a lot of fun to do) A real campaign (in my mind anyway) involves a map, factions with different but clashing goals, fixed resources with a mechanic to replenish units. Story based missions, mission results effecting the next mission, uneven points battles etc. They are hard work to organise, time consuming, but also rewarding to play for everyone. There has been much call for such a campaign as far as I can tell.

      the 2nd reason is that tournament play has the advantage it is a know set of rules by everyone, and is a thing that can be practised for. Less work, easier to get a game, helps prepare of up coming tournaments.

    4. I think you're right... But in a way it still doesn't answer the question.

      While organised campaigns are cool, they are indeed a lot of work, and I completely understand why we don't see many of them.

      But other games seem to have many more 'friendly' games. Where people just 'bring what they have', or where someone invents a scenario or where people just set up and play without worrying about victory conditions.

      I wonder if it's actually because DZC is so balanced? I don't just or particularlly mean between factions, but internally and in the way units interact with the rules.

      In 40K, to take a well-known example, you can throw in all sorts of random stuff, add units, recycle them, invent new victory conditions, etc. and it doesn't really matter.

      I've not tried, but my suspicion is that if you did something similar w/ DZC you'd very quickly find one side getting crushed, or that they wouldn't have the units they needed to properly participate in the game, or something like that.

      I certainly think official support, a campaign pack, etc. would be good - if only to get people over that threshold and thinking about non-competition games.

      I'm actually more interested in 'friendly game' support than I am in a linked-mission campaign pack. Advice on alternative and lopsided victory conditions, house rules for selecting armies where no buildings are involved, a table you can roll on to generate a backstory to the game with some influence on victory conditions, etc.

  8. Infinity as a game is practically designed for terrain snobs! I've very likely spent far more money on things that my toy soldiers can round around, through or over than I have on the models themselves at this point!

    1. Peter. Good to hear from you. You comment has really made me think. It is probably a close run thing for me also, toy soldier spending vs terrain spending. Maybe I am not a wargamer at all. Could it be I am a frustrated terrain modeller pretending to be a wargamer?

    2. There are other tell tale signs...

      Have you found yourself attending model railway shows looking for wargaming terrain bits (confession; I have/do...)

      Do you have a box of card/plastic rescued from the recycling box for terrain projects (ditto the above for me).

      Found myself looking at bits in the museum shop at Historic Portsmouth Dockyard today and wondering what could be used!

      Do we need terrainaholics anonymous?

    3. Another sign. Members of you family hand you bits and pieces of household waste and say, before growing it out, "is this any good for anything?"

    4. All these symptoms seem worryingly familiar...

  9. Having played Kill Team last week Alex I've finally decided. Junkie. Definitely terrain junkie.

  10. Who was I trying to kid. I can only agree with the evidence. Terrain junkie - guilty as charged.