A long while back, I was very apprehensive about the RC providing recommended standard terrain heights for Kings of War. I felt that if they were to do that, then people wouldn’t play around with terrain heights and types and the variation from game to game would diminish in favour of the recommended standards. For the same reason, I was also extremely opposed to the RC providing official map packs, as much as people wanted us to provide them, because people would stop playing anything else.
I believe I was right, on both accounts.
We were discussing this over the weekend at Masters, but for at least a year, if not longer, I haven’t seen any terrain on a Kings of War board that didn’t follow the FAQ recommendations. The overwhelming majority of games that I play are on EpicDwarf map pack layouts.
From time to time we see requests for more advanced terrain rules and the point we agreed on at the weekend was that the current rules actually cover most situations – it’s just that people are afraid to play around with things. The current terrain system is actually a lot more flexible than people give it credit, but if you stick only to the FAQ’s standard types… well you’re going to get bored pretty quickly.
A simple example
This is a set of Dwarf Themed terrain that I constructed for one of my early tournaments. This was for a 4×4 board (it would be very sparse on a 6×4!).
The pillars and walls are fairly obvious – infinity height blocking terrain and obstacles. But what about the rough terrain?
They were height 2 difficult terrain.
When was the last time you saw anything other than height 0 or height 4 difficult terrain?
The pieces being height 2 added a surprising level of depth to the board. With height 0 you can see over the top with all your units, and height 4 you can’t. At height 2 the dynamic changes considerably. Suddenly height 3+ units can see and be seen over the top. A whole new avenue of strategy has opened up with smaller units being able to use it to avoid being charged by other height 1-2 units, and height 3+ units having to take the threat into consideration.
Just from changing the height of difficult terrain to something other than the standard it completely changed how the piece is normally used.
I’ve seen comments from people who have tried out height 1 difficult terrain for cornfields and the line and saying how this non-standard height made a large and interesting tactical difference in gameplay. Well keep playing around with the heights!
A non-standard hill
The hill in this set was largely height 2. Except for the raised area which was height 3. And the mine entrance was impassable. Suddenly this again gave huge tactical considerations just by having something that doesn’t match the FAQ precisely.
Of course this hill wasn’t in the deployment zones but closer to the centre of the board – quite painful if it was in a deployment area!
There is some logistical issues with this for large events. You can’t always guarantee what terrain is available since it will often be provided by the venue and you don’t have time to go around scribbling heights down on bits of paper on each table. I don’t have an easy solution to this. Perhaps a bunch of pre-printed heights and some blutac?
When I was running my initial tournaments, I actually built all the terrain for the events rather than using the store’s supplies. This meant I was able to make a map for each table with the terrain types and heights listed. Sadly this is quite rare. Terrain tokens placed on the board might be the way forwards…
The same applies for Map Packs
You don’t have to play with Epic Dwarf layouts. Try something else. It’ll be more interesting than playing it yet again.
A minor note
One of the players at the masters tournament was unaware that there’s no upper limit to unit or terrain heights. While only 4 heights are listed as examples in the book, there’s nothing to say that these are the only heights or that there’s a limit of height 4.
If you put a dragon (Height 4) on top of a hill (Height 2), it is now Height 6. It’s not limited to 4. This means that you can see over the top of height 4 forests and impassable terrain features.
Please, just play around
I understand that players want more terrain rules but when you look at what’s there, there’s not actually many more types that need to be added (if any…). I think the greatest thing holding terrain back at the moment is the community’s reluctance to use anything other than the recommended heights in the FAQ. Something I feared would happen and I feel has sadly come true.