Tag Archives: Terrain

4Ground Terrain Review


The tabletop gaming landscape is very different today than what it was a little over 20 years ago when I was introduced to the hobby via my father. This was via a trip into a local Games Workshop, no doubt the entry way that many of us proceeded through that led us to where we are today.

At the time GW was really the only option. I did some looking around at independent retailers and there was nothing out there that came close to what GW offered. Their models were (and some could argue still are) a cut above the rest and there wasn’t any other game that gave you the scale of combat that was possible for either Fantasy or 40k and that was when 40k was far more of a skirmish game than it is today.

If you wanted terrain for your games you had to make it. Eventually GW did come out with some cardboard kits (as well as stuff they gave away in White Dwarf… remember those days?). Gaming was generally done on a green felt mat, or white table cover (lots of games on snowy terrain there!) Very different to how things are today.

After making the decision to finally leave GW behind I’ve been much more free to rediscover some other gaming systems and look at the games I want to play. I’m waiting on some boards to arrive for Dropzone Commander from a Kickstarter that I backed. Turning my mind to some other skirmish games I rediscovered Malifaux, a game and universe I’d already enjoyed previously, not with a second version of the rules and a huge improvement to boot.

I picked up the Rules manuals and some Arsenal decks and took a look, liked what I see and decided I needed to return. But, I hear you utter, what on earth does that have to do with the title of this post? I’m glad that you asked. In this day and age there is a whole gamut of places whereby one can get affordably priced terrain to enhance your games. I’ve spent a large portion of my gaming life fighting across the grey plastic battlefields of the 41st millennium after all. As I looked into Malifaux again I decided that I wanted to make a proper table, one that would encourage me to have a painted force to play with too. So, I went looking.

4 Ground is a company I’ve been aware of for a while and are at the forefront of this, very popular, movement of laser cut MDF terrain. As anyone who has ever purchased their stuff knows, it smells fantastic! It looks good too and is relatively light on the wallet.

There have been very few moments in my gaming career that I have come across a product that I would have little reservation in completely recommending to anybody, the 4 Ground terrain is in that elite category. I have a little collection of the stuff now and have found it to be a really great product.

Each kit comes in a bag with a number of sheets of pre-cut, pre-painted MDF, along with a page or two of instructions. I heartily recommend that you familiarise yourself with the assembly instructions and look over the terrain sprues just so you know which parts are where and how they are supposed to fit together, this will save time later on when you’ve put glue on the wrong bit!

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I will say that these are certainly not for your beginners, there are also some parts that are very easy to break, especially door frames. However, because this is all just wood, a good dab of PVA and you can resurrect most pieces.

I’ve assembled three kits so far and have bought another three and I’ve never had so much fun putting terrain together. Some of the parts can be a tight fit, but these can be shaved down and you will feel like you’re going to break some of the parts as your try to prise them out of their frames, but as you build things up and you see the building come to life… Well, it’s a pure pleasure, I’ve seriously never enjoyed putting terrain together as much as I have with this stuff.

While the instructions could be clearer in some instances (hence why I recommend you study it out first) things go together easily enough. Occasionally you’re going to want to leave some assemblies to dry for a while as you’re using PVA not superglue so bonding isn’t instantaneous. This is not always a bad thing, although I end up really anticipating getting to sit down and finish off the buildings.

As well as the Marshall’s Office shown above (that I finished last night) I have Rogan’s Bar, the Gallows set and, as of yesterday, Hitching posts, Corrall set and an Under-construction 2 storey building. That should round out my Malifaux table quite nicely.

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What I love about these buildings is that they aren’t just shells. If you pop the roof off there are interior details, this is more obvious in the Marshall’s Office as it has actual working jail cells and interior doors. The bar shown above you could actually decorate if you so wanted, there’s a lot of room in there for stuff.

My only complaint with the Gallows is that the rope is a little too thick and therefore doesn’t quite work to the scale of the models it’s going to be used with (and the string in the instructions is obviously much thinner). But, I still can’t really complain about it for the price.

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This terrain set has also been bought for potential use with Deadman’s Hand. In fact, all of the terrain I have is from this range in 4 Ground’s catalogue. I can’t speak highly enough about the quality of it and the wonderful experience I’ve had assembling stuff. It makes me happy to think I still have some more to do at home and when I think of how this is going to look when it’s on the battlefield… This is certainly going to be the best one I’ve ever put out to play games over.

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6 Inch Move Review – Hawk Wargames Cityscape


Cityscape_website_1_mediumMore grist for the Dropzone mill today as we take a look at the Cityscape terrain set from Hawk Wargames. When Carabus and I took a trip to visit Hawk and playtest the game prior to release we got to use the display terrain that we’d seen at Salute and that was in all the artwork. Dave explained about the customisation of the tiles and that they were going to be a premium product not designed for general consumption. I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be quite as expensive as it was, but there we go. Hawk also did release a lot of their terrain as free downloads which is more than a lot of other companies do.

Still, with a 10mm scale game rather than the far more prevalent 28mm we’re used to dealing with getting the right terrain means getting something in fresh rather than reusing something bought years ago. I’d seen the cityscape on Hawk’s website but not really given it a thought, I mean, a 6′ x 4′ battlefield for £30, can’t be all that good can it? As we kind of experience a gaming drought post Salute last year things around the floating citadel just didn’t play out as we’d all hoped. This meant that we didn’t get to see our DzC stuff on the table, nor show it off to anyone else as we had planned to do.

So it was that when we went to Salute this year Dropzone Commander wasn’t really on our radar. We planned on stopping by and checking in with Dave but not much else other than that. Fate it seems like to give us a good nudge every now and again. Gribblin and nBreaker got to enjoy a demo game, suitably impressed they bought in, as we knew they would. However, we also got to see the Cityscape up close and personal. It may only be card but it’s of a very high quality and looked excellent. Free buildings from the kit were being handed out on the stand too so we got to have a quick look at what they were like. For £30 this seemed like a steal now that I’d clapped eyes on the things so I picked one up to give us a battlefield that would be compliant with the scale, the objective based nature of the game and friendly on the wallet.

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First up I need to tell you that the thing is heavy! We’ve actually got two of the things so I spent a lot of time with plastic bag handles trying to sever my fingers through the afternoon. This will also mean that we can have more than one game going at a time, or just use a really huge battlefield in a multiplayer game. When you open the box up everything is nice and securely padded with bubble wrap and it does feel like a meaty package. When you open it up you’re treated to all the flat packed buildings, pre-scored to make for easy assembly. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday putting the whole thing together. There’s a large stack of double-sided base tiles to use too. You may be better off choosing a layout and then gluing these to a board to give them some stability and stop them from moving on the table although obviously you’ll then have to store yet more terrain boards.

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That really is a wad of card you get. Each building just pops open, the roof is then glued down to make the structure rigid, each wall then has a fold on top where you fold down a small flap to “warp” over the top to give you a lip to stop stuff falling off as well as make things look prettier than just having bare white card. I used common, run of the mill PVA to glue mine together. Not watered down, just fresh out of the bottle. I applied this liberally to the roof tabs and also to the flaps. If you want to save yourself a lot of time sat still holding things then I’ll pass on a tip we got from Bex at the show, use bull-dog clips! I put forward exhibit A to show you how I did it;

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This works really well and I found that the glue stuck very quickly using this method. I only had the one pack of clips, which wasn’t a problem but I’d suggest people get two if they want to try assembly in this way as it would have just been a nicer experience if I wasn’t taking them off and using them again on the same walls of some of the larger buildings.

The only problem I see with the whole thing is that the buildings are probably going to easily be knocked about a little when gaming. Now this is nothing new but as this terrain is so light in individual pieces I can see this being more of an issue than with other, heavier terrain pieces, but for the price I’m not sure you can really argue against it.

We’re hoping to have a game using it very soon, if I’m feeling generous I might even take some piccies of it in use. However, from an assembly point of view and seeing it all together I must say that this really is a bargain and a very nice set, for the price you’d pay for a single kit from other manufacturers you have a full battlefield to play over. I am really looking forward to using it. Although I might let some of the other guys have a go at assembling the other set so I can get on with getting my army painted.

 

The Hidden Costs of Gaming


With all the brouhaha going on at the moment in our beloved hobby I thought this was probably a timely post to write. Other than that, the picture heading the post looks like it would be an awesome “underground volcano lair” despite the fact there is no ground, nor volcano. Hollow out that bad boy for a Bond villain lair the likes of which has never been seen. Just make sure not to fill it with hot chicks of dubious loyalty!

Anyways, on to the meat and potatoes of today’s topic. As gamers we are aware that our hobby isn’t necessarily cheap, especially when you factor in the typical addict type behaviour of gamers. I still loathe people’s arguments that hobby Y is more expensive than gaming so I should be more than happy to pay current prices. We call that kind of thinking a fallacy!

However, while we often lament the price we pay for whatever brand of army men we are purchasing what often gets swept under the carpet is the cost of the various tools and paints that are needed to realise the potential each model has. While I’ve been in the hobby long enough to know that most armies never get beyond the grey plastic stage, despite our best efforts, I know that every single gamer more than likely has a basic set of tools and some paints. Just as different gaming companies gouge our wallets to a varying degree and for varying quality of goods (I’m glaring at you Failcast!) so too does this carry over into the tools we use for painting.

Over my roughly 20 years in the hobby I’ve used a number of different manufacturers. I started off with Games Workshop’s own brand, luckily for me I’ve changed that and use Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes and a combination of Privateer Press’ P3 paints and Vallejo Model Colour. GW paints cost £2.25 a pot while I can get the Vallejo ones in their handy dropper bottle for £1.40. My brushes cost around £7 each but then I only have 3 of them a 1, 0 and 00, they are much higher quality than the GW offerings and will last far longer if looked after properly.

For gaming with either plastic or metal you are also going to need things like clippers, a knife and a set of files. It also helps to have some greenstuff and sculpting tools to fill gaps in metal models. Then there are basing materials to consider too. All of this is quite a lot of stuff and while you do not NEED all of this when first starting you’re going to at least want clippers, some glue and a hobby knife to be able to assemble the stuff you buy to use on the table.

Once you get on the tabletop you’re also going to want terrain. Do you play over boards, whether modular or not? Do you just use a gaming mat, are you happy with just an old tablecloth and a few piles of books? Generally I have found that terrain is pretty fairly priced and there is a lot of choice out there to furnish your battlefield with depending on your game of choice. For current 6 Inch Move flavour of the month, 40k, you can get some half decent bargains like this which I consider to be pretty good value.

My point is that when you think about the startup costs of gaming, you have your starter set or rule book and then the models you are going to use but there is so much that can sneak up on you too. Extra dice, tape measures etc… etc… It’s not long before you’re a true hobbyist that has a huge haul of stuff cluttering up a bedroom or a front room.

While I think we are quite good at making rational comments about how much it costs for newcomers to join our hobby with the increasing prices of miniatures, what we should not forget is just how much the true cost is even higher! We might take for granted that we have every pot of paint we are likely to ever need but newcomers will not be so lucky. Depending on what brand people choose to go for (and in GWs case they are hoping you go for theirs which are, unsurprisingly, overpriced) you can make some decent savings but you need to know what you are getting into. Personally I would not recommend Model Colour as a range to the beginning painter but in the long run it is a much cheaper and better quality paint to use (and it smells awesome too!).

While nice terrain is not a necessity the fact it is plastered across all the pictures you see of painted models it does seem to indicate some level of obligation that you have to emulate those kinds of battlefields. I know a lot of people like to make their own and there are some really talented people out there but all this extra work means less time for actually painting the army men you started out with.

If I could offer one recommendation to people starting out, what would it be? Well, considering the situation I am in I’d say get your stuff painted and worry about the rest later. I procrastinate as I have so much to do (and I just love assembling stuff too) but I am really starting to feel the shame of not having a painted army. I’m working on my problems to try to correct that, so I’d encourage those on their first foray into gaming to really push forward with getting their purchases painted. You’ll thank me in the long run.

Warhammer 8th Edition – New Terrain Rules Investigated


I am about to open up yet another post stating my own personal opinion about something. Regular readers are no doubt aware that we do this from time to time, I mean, what else is the Internet for if not expressing one’s self? This is also the reason why the 6 Inch Move citadel is a floating one, kind of like Dalaran from Warcraft. In order to avoid the vitriol of close-minded nerds who seem unable to grasp the concept that other people might think differently than they do, we magically airlifted the bunker in which the writing team were hiding themselves. Since doing this we’ve, thankfully, stayed out of range of the majority of nerd rage.

As is inevitable with a new set of rules there is the potential to divide a community into camps who like the changes and those who do not. This isn’t quite as polarised as it may seem though as many people will like certain changes that others do not and dislike some changes that another party may find works well for them. Now, no rule set is ever going to be perfect, humans are imperfect creatures and GW has a long history of ambiguity and unclear writing. This then lends itself to division between players, in general this division does not result in a clash of sabers but there are camps out there in Internetland that will defend their particular standpoint with the full force of a cabinet minister being caught on a night out with some ladies of ill-repute. Normally this is reserved for the various power levels of individual armies, yet this preamble is getting towards what I would like to discuss today; the new terrain rules.

This is probably (next to the introduction of True Line of Sight) the cause of the majority of discussions regarding the new rules. I bought the issue of White Dwarf that heralded the arrival of 8th Edition and it provided some insights there. For every scenario in the rulebook there is a guide telling you how to set up terrain for a game, this panel normally refers you to page 142 which says for you to place D6+4 pieces of terrain on the table. Normally this is done by rolling on a table and looking up what that roll represents, some terrain pieces are then rolled for to see which particular type you get. For instance, you could roll for a building, you then roll again on another chart to see what kind of building that is. Sometimes you will get just a normal building, however, in the majority you are going to get a piece of terrain which can have an impact on units nearby. These rules range from a modifier to certain dice rolls (i.e. a minor buff) to the potential to cause significant damage across a unit.

GW have explained that the Warhammer world isn’t just a fantasy medieval version of our world, it is something wholly different where the very land is as much a threat as the inhabitants. This in turn raises the argument about what do you want from a game? Do you want a test of generalship one person to another?, or do you want a narrative whereby you are just playing a game and the battlefield is as much an enemy as the army you are facing off against? Historically Warhammer has been a game where one person faces another to see who marshals their forces better to complete an objective (normally kill everyone, take names and maybe try to hold table quarters in turn 6). With the addition of scenarios there is now a range of battles you can fight without having to make stuff up yourself and I commend GW for this. However, when the terrain has the potential to kill off your dudes, I believe the game loses focus. Sure, there is as much a chance for your opponent to fall foul of the things that you do and it does ask you to make decisions that you would otherwise not have to make during the game, however, you are not there to fight against the board, you are supposed to be having fun with a friend. I’ve only played a few games of 8th so far and am looking forward to more, however, in one game terrain did virtually nothing, in the second game it had a much more profound effect. We rolled a Haunted Mansion and dropped it in the middle of the table. If units are nearby it does a random number of Strength 1 hits to every unit in range. Now, strength 1 might not seem like much, but rolls of a 6 always wound in the new edition, you can imagine where this is going. Even with armour and ward saves I was losing troops every turn I was near it, we used a proper mansion to represent it as well so the building was quite large. To be honest I almost lost more models to the Mansion than I did to the enemy!

Considering you are also going to have a minimum of 5 pieces of terrain on the battlefield chances are that only one of those is not going to be something out of the ordinary, thereby you are either going to be flicking through the rulebook to find out what they are, have to remember, or write down what each terrain element actually represents. I don’t think that this helps the flow of the game. While it can provide for some comical moments (Daemons getting nailed by S1 ghosts…) I’m not sure that it fits within a wargame where the general MO is to crush your opponent into dust. I’m still going to play a few more games with these terrain rules before our group makes a decision on whether to use them or not. However, another thing it brings up is the tournament scene.

Now, I am not a tournament player, never have been and more than likely never will be, yet I don’t think the new terrain rules fit in with the tournament crowd. They want a straight fight over a battlefield and to see who comes out on top using competitively built armies. There are enough spells and magic items out there to counter or survive without stumbling into a stream and suddenly finding your expensive unit of elite troops has just got splattered due to some bad dice rolling. I know that these inclusions in the rules doesn’t mean that you have to use them, but it does give an insight into the minds of the games developers. If these rules are included and from that you assume that you are being encouraged to use them, does that mean that Warhammer is not being developed with tournament players in mind? They are certainly a very vocal bunch, especially on the matter of whether their army got borked by the changes in the new rules. If GW are trying to create a game that represents the world as much as the inhabitants of it then are they trying to take us down the route of narrative games and moving away from the “gamer vs gamer who plays better” principles that have existed since I have been into the hobby (almost 20 years). Are future tournaments going to be more around having fun with others that you haven’t faced before rather than trying to come out on top as the only incentive?

I just think we won’t see many tournaments using these terrain rules. It’ll certainly slow down the games as you have to stop for certain features to do their thing. How do you feel about the new terrain rules?

Conventions in Gaming – Terrain


Sun Tzu in his critically acclaimed, nobel peace prize winning, magnum opus “The Art of War” espouses that the greatest of Generals use terrain to their advantage in order to win battles and by doing this it is possible to win a battle against a more numerous enemy. We’ve all seem movies or documentaries from the ancient world whereby Phalanxes line up opposite each other and then go at it, but even in battles of yore such as the famed Thermopylae terrain was used to great effect to reduce the impact that the Persians outnumbered the Greek forces opposing them.

So it is with our tabletop games, whereas there are those armies that would love to have a battlefield devoid of any terrain in order to have charge/fire lanes available to them it is not only unrealistic but actually takes a lot of fun out of the game. Even games like Uncharted Seas which take place on the oceans are not devoid of terrain, an island or peninsula can dramatically alter the ebb and flow of a game as well as increasing the number of strategic options available to a General. How you utilise the terrain in order to provide cover or interrupt line of sight can have a large impact on how emerges the victor once the dust of combat has settled.

However, just as good terrain placement can produce an interesting and fun game, so the opposite is also true, a game with bad terrain placement can actually decide a battle before the first turn starts and can mean that one side, if not both, end up playing something that is dull and boring. Something along the lines of you’d rather spend the time you just played by volunteering to be the patient for a Dental student’s first root canal and they’ve run out of anaesthetic. I’d like to give specific proof of this for a game I had around three years ago that still sticks in my memory for all the wrong reasons. OK, this wasn’t a typical game, but still, things could have gone better. It was around the time when Hordes was coming up for release. We already had some stuff for Warmachine in our gaming circle and decided to take a two Warpack starters from Hordes up against one appropriately sized force from Warmachine. So it was that me trying out Legion alongside Trolls went up against a sizeable Khador force. I can’t remember the details behind how we went about setting up the terrain but I remember that our Khadoran opponent just placed a line of building that separated the battlefield in two halves with a small gap in the centre. We were playing a caster kill game and I know that I wasn’t happy when I saw the terrain, it very favourably suited the Khador stuff and I know that I should have said, “no, we can’t play like this, the game will be purely dictated by how that terrain is placed to the detriment of the game.” However, I held my tongue and we played the game, and yup, we got spanked. Not because we were bad players but because the terrain was that horrible the game ran exactly how I knew it would and nothing we could do compensated for that. I know that real life battles aren’t always fought over ideal terrain, one side normally has an advantage, but we’re not talking real combat here, we are talking about a game that is supposed to be fun for all players, this wasn’t.

Therefore, whenever I set up terrain before a game, or when I setup during a game opposite my opponent I always try and make the placement fair for both sides. I actually have pretty good luck in ending up on the side of the battlefield that I want but still, I don’t want the odds stacked in my favour before the first dice has been rolled. In Warhammer 40,000 I like a decent amount of cover to protect my Orks approach (to be honest though there are enough bodies in those units to provide a kind of cover all their own) while Servitob’s Space Marines love nice open fields where they can see and shoot anything approaching them. A balance between the two provides us both with options in how we deploy and move our forces and advantages that we can exploit in bringing the armies to bear.

Games like Warmachine and Hordes also have spells and actions that allow you to create your own terrain, this is when you can obviously try to stack those odds in your favour, but these things don’t tend to stick around the entire game and are therefore carefully balanced. Usually you also have things to counter those kinds of abilities in some flavour.

We use terrain to give variety to the otherwise bland tables we fight across, they add colour and extra options that we need to factor into our plans. They also add to the fun of the game and if you are the one that uses the terrain to your advantage, so much the better. Just as Sun Tzu taught that terrain use is a major aspect of battles, so it should be with us, whether home-made or bought from a store using terrain to spice up the fields or setup specific venues is a great way to keep the hobby fresh and interesting. I’ve been fortunate enough to have bought a lot of terrain recently. The new stuff that Games Workshop is producing is of really good quality and I have a 64 litre storage box full of the stuff with more on the assembly line. As the possibility of a Planetstrike 40k game looms for Saturday I will tonight be putting the finishing touches to my Skyshield Landing Platform, I then have a Bastion to assembled that I want to convert with all manner of Orkiness. It’s having little things like this that helps to motivate me while playing. Terrain is something I feel I can never have enough of (that and Ork Boyz) and I am always willing to fork out some green on pieces I like the look of. We should never take our terrain for granted, nor see it as a necessary evil. Properly used terrain is as much a part of the game as the models in our army and in fact, if you really plan out your battles, terrain is another unit in your army if used correctly, in most cases though it won’t deep strike and lay waste to stuff!

Hopefully the next time you stare across a war torn battlefield, before or after a game, you can have a new found appreciation for those hills, craters, fences, ruins or whatever you have. Things would be a lot more boring without them.