Hey everyone, Reecius here to talk about a topic that comes up from time to time: is it fun or fail to have very different terrain types for a 40k tournament?
Frankie and I were discussing this topic on the last episode of Signals from the Frontline (our podcast, for those who have not heard of it). The gist of the topic is: do you enjoy having wildly different terrain types at an organized event, or do you prefer standardized terrain?
Pros for Variety in terrain set-up:
Well for one, you get what it says on the can: variety! I LOVE a fully themed table with awesome terrain that matches the table…or one of our F.A.T. Mats! Muahaha, had to plug them! But back on topic, this creates really cinematic games that immerse you further into the play experience. I dig it. By not restricting yourself to a terrain template, you get more creative freedom. You also reduce the odds that someone builds their army to maximize efficiency for a specific terrain set-up through list tailoring to that predictable set-up.
A city table, for example, can have more buildings than other types. An Alpine or Field type of terrain set up may have less. This creates unique play experiences wherein players can find themselves playing a dramatically different game than they are used to with a more even distribution of terrain.
From a meta perspective, this also forces players to consider what wildly varying terrain can do to their list. If you have a full blown alpha strike shooting army, then a dense city table may be rough for you as you won’t be able to shoot as much. If you have a nasty assault army, a more open terrain set up may be your nemesis as you will take more shots on the way in to combat. If you have an army that relies on cover save tricks, you may find yourself in rocky waters without area terrain type features to hunker down in.
Cons for variety in terrain set-up:
When you have standardized terrain–assuming it is fairly implemented–then you get predictability in terms of the impact terrain will have on the game. By implementing the right terrain pieces in the right locations on the table, you make movement an important part of the game. By allowing players to hide, you minimize the power of both assault and shooting. You also allow opportunities for creative tactics like setting up ambushes, flank moves, etc.
You also have fewer situations where the terrain may play a large part in dictating the outcome of a game. I can say from experience, when you play a game in which you pull a really tough match on a crummy table, it can feel like you got cheated. The classic example of this is playing vs. a powerful shooting army on a table with very little terrain. You may find yourself getting shot off the table before you had a chance to do anything, which is no fun. While you may be able to appreciate the bigger picture of trying to encourage balanced list building through varied terrain set-ups, if you had your tournament run cut short due to a crummy terrain set-up, you are still likely to have some hard feelings about it.
What do you all feel about this quandary? Vive le variety or would you prefer predictability? Personally while I love a beautiful table, I would rather have consistency in providing a relatively level playing field for gamers to test themselves based on luck and skill as opposed to terrain. That said, you still have room for customization and theme, but for tournament play it should be applied within a framework of standardized parameters.