Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Delays blamed on Pontiac.

No, I am not dead. Nor have I forgotten about my beloved audience. But there are times in a man's life when he must build custom car models. I call these times 'the bits between building terrain, painting miniatures and building SF models'. And now is one of those times.
I'm currently building a 1962 Pontiac Catalina and ignoring the Ork Dropship I promised. And then I intend to build a 1951 Chevy convertible as a taxi and ignore the Ork Dropship I pomised. After that I'll get back to the dropship. Probably.

Anyway, while you are waiting (presumably tearing your hair out and gnashing your teeth), you can have a read of this extract from the infamous book I am sort of writting about terrain, in which I put forth the argument for making your own terrain and casting aside such childish things as piles of old text books standing in for hills.


Duke John sat his mighty destrier at the head of his army, surrounded by his noble knights, all gazing grimly across the flat, brownish field at the cackling hordes of evil goblins spilling across their border. The Duke's men at arms and archers stood ready, fingering their mighty weapons, ready for the coming battle. Everyman had sworn stern and terrible oaths to defend the great ancestral shoebox from the foes currently appearing over the stacks of tatty old textbooks.


Doesn't sound right, does it? Well, this is pretty much what any wargame would be without proper terrain. It never makes sense to me that so many people are willing to spend so much time developing an awesome army, painting it up, taking it to tournaments and games clubs, notching up victories and grudges, and yet don’t care that their games all take place on their kitchen table with a Shoebox standing in for a castle and some old books for hills. Don't your games deserve to be better than this? Doesn't Duke John, defender of the realm deserve at least a small fort to defend against rampaging goblins? Or maybe a bijoux hovel at the very least?

Terrain makes a huge difference to any wargame, not just a visual difference but a tactical difference (or a strategic difference depending on the scope of the game). In real life armies have to overcome obstacles to get to grips with the foe. Numerous battles have been won by skilfully using the features of the battlefield against the enemy.

So would you rather play out fairly dull and repetitive games on any old tabletop, or would you rather play something more challenging and much more visually appealing using some easily, and cheaply made terrain?

A lot of people never make terrain at all, and seem happy to play on a bare table. I've never understood this attitude.

Could it be that terrain is hard to build? Hardly, I built my first hut at twelve – actually before I even played my first game – so even a child can do it (or a hippo for that matter!)

Could it be that terrain is expensive? Well, that all depends – if you buy it, then yes, it will be expensive, but if you make it it's very cheap. Most terrain can be built from cheap materials, and in some cases, waste materials like cardboard boxes and polystyrene packing.

Could it be that it's time consuming? Well again, this all depends on you. Sure, a fully detailed and totally accurate model of Krak de Chevalier will take a while, but on the other hand, you can build yourself a respectable fantasy village in a weekend!

Could it be that people don't like terrain? Well, everyone at my games club gets excited when I bring in some new terrain, and sometimes it's a bit of a contest to see who gets to use it in a game first. In my experience, everyone who can get their hands on terrain will use it.

I'm not sure here, but I think it's because most gamers are more concerned with their army than the field of play on which it is used. Gaming magazines tend to be full of articles on tactics, army composition, newly released forces, cunning new schemes from games companies to get your money out of you and lots of lavish pictures of awesome stuff, but very rarely contain articles on terrain. Most people seem to prefer to spend their time developing themselves an awesome looking army, which can take on anything up to God himself and still win to building a hill.

So really, there isn't any reason why you shouldn't make yourself some terrain. It's not hard, not expensive, not time consuming and it's oh so very rewarding. And dammit, even a hippo can do it!

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