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Author Topic: Terrain as a third player in gaming?  (Read 1506 times)

Offline Grumpy Gnome

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2021, 04:33:17 PM »
Hear, hear Elbows. I quite agree. Well said.
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Offline OSHIROmodels

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2021, 06:02:33 PM »
It is of course each to his/her own but I do love a table with quality terrain (even to the detriment of gameplay itself  lol ).

And yes, I do think of terrain as the ‘third player’ as it does have an impact on gameplay unless of course the table has no terrain (space fighter and naval games).

Would the rules themselves be considered the ‘fourth player’?

Offline fred

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2021, 06:45:38 PM »
Oh I quite agree Silent Invader. I have to admit that it did not cross my mind that folks would take issue with the specifics of the metaphor but I really should have expected it after seeing how my “host” and “guest” player concepts confused some folks.

You have been to TMP before?

I think Elbow’s contrast between chess style games and chaos style games is interesting.

I think I would fit somewhere between - I do like a good looking table, and one where the terrain looks realistic. Wargames hills are really quite odd things, and don’t function like real world hills. I think some of the strangeness of terrain comes about because of the mis-match between figure scale and ground scale, this is especially so in 1:1 representations with large scale figures. We tend to play with small scale figures, and 1 base = 1 unit, so the foot print of the base can get fairly close to the ground scale - but things like roads and hedges become a bit abstract then, which doesn’t look good.

Terrain does have to be playable - for woods and villages we always have a template that is the boundary of the terrain, but allow the trees or houses to be moved around to position the figures - and this is typically with multi-based figures so the area of a base is fairly large. We will also tend to put a few random decorative trees etc on the table that have no in-game effect but just break up the flat areas.

For our fantasy mass battle rules we have come up with some terrain generation tables, mainly to make a bit easier on the host of the game who is always setting up the table - some weeks I’m quite happy to invent a table - other weeks where its all been a bit busy, I’m quite happy to let the dice help me setup the table. We did create the terrain tables to favour a more open space towards the middle of the table, and the principle that if two armies are clashing (and I do mean armies, not skirmishes) then they are likely to have chosen somewhere they can deploy.

For historical games (particularly 20th century ones) being able to access maps and aerial photos really helps with setting up more realistic terrain - and this does break a lot of the typical gaming conventions of table setup - which just shows they are conventions rather than based on reality.

Offline Grumpy Gnome

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2021, 07:33:33 AM »
It is of course each to his/her own but I do love a table with quality terrain (even to the detriment of gameplay itself  lol ).

And yes, I do think of terrain as the ‘third player’ as it does have an impact on gameplay unless of course the table has no terrain (space fighter and naval games).

Would the rules themselves be considered the ‘fourth player’?

Even space and naval game boards can have interactive terrain with game mechanic effects if the players wish. Asteroids. Shallows. Currents. Nebula. That is just off the top of my head.

The rules as a fourth player? Hmm. I had not thought of that. They are certainly important but are they as often overlooked as terrain is? My metaphor was trying to highlight the often overlooked importance of terrain. What exactly did you have in mind?

Fred, I am new to posting on TMP but have lurked there for quite awhile. I find it a difficult forum to navigate and I have not really come to understand the folks there as I do here on LAF.

Using aerial photos and maps to capture realistic terrain is a good point.

Offline Elbows

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2021, 10:10:12 PM »
I always prefer to reference terrain as the third army, more so than the third player.  It's the "other" thing that needs to be purchased, assembled, and painted and slapped on the table with the other two armies. :D



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Offline OSHIROmodels

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2021, 08:13:20 AM »
The rules as a fourth player? Hmm. I had not thought of that. They are certainly important but are they as often overlooked as terrain is? My metaphor was trying to highlight the often overlooked importance of terrain. What exactly did you have in mind?

Only saying that the rules to me quite often aren’t as important as the terrain. As long as the rules play fine then they are secondary to the terrain. When we play we’re quite happy to make stuff up on the fly with regard to terrain effects but it’s not a deal/game breaker.

Offline Patrice

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2021, 09:38:58 AM »
Very interesting answers and thoughts.  :)

Many rules can be imagined for interaction with the terrain, very simple ones can give some life to it depending on the scenario and context. Example that I often use:
— When a game begins (narratively in the early morning) white cotton bits are placed on all streams and valley bottoms. This represents the morning fog and blocks the views. At the beginning of each game turn a meteo die is rolled; when a sun appears, fog is removed.
—When troops or adventurers pass near NPC villagers or townspeople (near a farm or village) a smiley die is rolled. The icon which appears on the die tells how the NPCs will behave towards these visitors (friendly, or hostile, neutral, etc.)

conflict or angst can come up when the two types of players end up playing a game together - either on purpose, or by accident.  Having vastly different expectations and enjoying a game in vastly different ways can lead to uncomfortable games

Certainly. I avoid this as hell. We've understood this with my gaming friends long ago, and most of the time we play different games (with different gaming minds) on neighbouring but different tables and everyone is very happy to meet and chat and to have looks at the development of the game(s) on the other table(s) ...and even more happy not to be mixed in a same game.  :D

Offline Wellington

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2021, 10:11:10 AM »
For the most points I agree with Elbow. Especially with the observation that players more interested in tournament /competitive games don't like terrain.

Years ago there was an interessting article about terrain in games, I think it was in the WSS. The headline was something like "There must be a street on the table". The author made clear that a table has to tell something like a story. There must be a reason why fighting a battle at this spot, therefore you need something like a road, a bridge, a pass or other terrain feature making it reasonable to fight. For my games I try to stick to this rule. But this can also lead to open flat piece of desert.

Most player place there terrain without a thought. Who would fight a pitched battle with a large wood between the two battle lines? Something I see very often on a 6" x 4" table.

So I wouldn't say terrain is the third player, but it is essential to have a proper game.
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Offline mmcv

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2021, 12:40:24 PM »
Enjoying this discussion. I often play solo, so can be somewhat flexible with terrain and try and set up something that would be somewhat realistic. Though I confess my terrain collection is pretty poor so far. I imagine time period and region has a big effect on what terrain is used. For instance, I'm currently working on some Feudal Japanese stuff and the terrain there is heavily mountainous and wooded, meaning many battles were fought in valleys and over rivers and low hills as the only areas you could reasonably form up an army. Whereas if I'm playing a battle in the Crusades, wide open plains were a common choice by both sides with a cavalry emphasis. My general approach has been to set up terrain on the sides with maybe a little in the middle or providing a squeeze point or two. This seems realistic for many periods where they'd look a way to maximise their frontage while making use of terrain for closing up the flanks, so would try and secure a flank against a river or dense wood, but keep the front reasonably open. As you move into more modern conflicts though terrain does become much more essential.

What are people's preferred means of deploying terrain? A simple one player sets up and the other player chooses which side they take (to keep it fair) or random tables for it? I'm thinking about how to improve my own terrain setup to be a bit less predictable, but still maintain some aspect of realisim, so considering going down the route of dividing the table up and using some sort of "random" placement (though likely slightly skewed to avoid weird setups like forests in the middle).

Offline jon_1066

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #24 on: July 21, 2021, 02:06:06 PM »
One obvious choice is to re-fight historical battles.  Either with historical forces or simply morph them into your fantasy/futuristic games.

eg this is the battle of Teugen Hausen


The Austrians are attacking northwards to seize the village at the top of the picture.  The French enter from the road top right and must hold them off.  If the Austrians seize the village they cut off Davouts III corps from the rest of the French army.  The main advantage the Austrians have is in artillery but there is a bloody great wooded ridge with a single road through it hampering their advance as the artillery can't pass through the wood so must use the road. 

That is a historical battle with a large wood between the combatants.  In fact the wood is what makes the battle interesting as it restricts the Austrian fire power thus presenting a tactical problem to the Austrian player - how to take advantage of their early superior numbers and artillery without getting chopped up piecemeal passing along the road.

There is no reason though you couldn't recreate this with dwarves as Austrians and goblins as French.  So the dwarves have lots of cannons and the like but can't get them through the wood except by the road.  The goblins are much lighter equipped but have the advantage when fighting in the wood. 



Offline Wellington

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2021, 02:13:05 PM »
But you have your road!

Nice table

Offline Grumpy Gnome

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2021, 02:17:45 PM »
Only saying that the rules to me quite often aren’t as important as the terrain. As long as the rules play fine then they are secondary to the terrain. When we play we’re quite happy to make stuff up on the fly with regard to terrain effects but it’s not a deal/game breaker.

Great point. Same here.

Offline Elbows

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #27 on: July 22, 2021, 12:25:07 AM »

Certainly. I avoid this as hell. We've understood this with my gaming friends long ago, and most of the time we play different games (with different gaming minds) on neighbouring but different tables and everyone is very happy to meet and chat and to have looks at the development of the game(s) on the other table(s) ...and even more happy not to be mixed in a same game.  :D

Absolutely.  My friends know that I'll gladly set up a table for them to game on - particularly games I don't like or enjoy. I still like my friends even if we have different tastes in games.  I'm more than happy to hang out, referee, and simply observe if they want to play a game I don't invest in, or don't enjoy, etc. 

RE: MCCTV
I prefer tables to deployed as some form of story when possible.  If that story is...a huge cluttered city-scape, that's fine.  I enjoy having "sections" or "challenges" on the table.  Aesthetically I like things on the board edges simply because it makes the table feel like it's part of a larger setting.  If we have a story in mind to drive the terrain - even better.

One of my favourite tables I set up when I was trying to enjoy 40K was a story my buddy and I came up with simply because of the models we had just painted.  He had painted a couple knights he wanted to ally with his Chaos force and I had just built several siege-based vehicles and guns.  We decided on a stronghold of a Knight Household under siege by my army.  We liked the idea of storming a medieval castle, etc...so we added the acid ocean and build up a crazy Knight Household.



So if a story can drive it...definitely let the story drive it.  If there's one thing I try to avoid it's symmetrical tables.  I'd rather adjust forces or deployment areas than build some kind of mirror'ed table where each player has the same stuff.  That can be left for tournaments!
« Last Edit: July 22, 2021, 12:34:07 AM by Elbows »

Offline has.been

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #28 on: July 22, 2021, 07:57:25 AM »
Quote
one thing I try to avoid it's symmetrical tables.
I heartily agree. Battles are NOT symmetrical. The art of war
is being able to look at a Battlefield & sum up the bits to be
used & those to be avoided. Frederick the Great claimed
the ability to do just that (Triumph of the Eye,
 though he showed off & said it in French) :D

Offline jon_1066

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Re: Terrain as a third player in gaming?
« Reply #29 on: July 22, 2021, 01:28:36 PM »
I heartily agree. Battles are NOT symmetrical. The art of war
is being able to look at a Battlefield & sum up the bits to be
used & those to be avoided. Frederick the Great claimed
the ability to do just that (Triumph of the Eye,
 though he showed off & said it in French) :D

Apart from when they are - eg see Tuegen Hausen above.  That is pretty much symmetrical: two valleys separated by a wooded ridge. 

The whole issue of terrain being a problem to place comes from competitive play.  If both players are more interested in playing out the story of a battle then perhaps they should simply agree how the field is to be represented or better yet one player come up with the scenario and allow the other to choose which army to command. 

If the terrain is for competitive play then the best option would be a published scenario or a third party set up the table.  Alternatively in a WH40K type of game allow the defender to set up the terrain but have a disadvantage in troops to reflect the value of the ground they have chosen to fight on.

 

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