Terraining

I was hoping to have the Charnel Throne finished to show you for today, but as you can see I’ve still got a long lot of work to do on the actual throne itself. The dias, with its pile of bones and occasional rotted limbs and torsos (and one foot) is pretty much done at this point with the exception of some bloody handprints and the like, but until I’ve picked out every rib and femur on the chair itself, it’s not finished. Painting up the throne has me thinking about terrain, and its impact on our gaming experiences.

When I started playing tabletop wargames, terrain was a pile of books, a jar of pasta sauce, a torn piece of paper for a forest. That was back in the day when Warhammer was pretty much the only game in town (and was actually called Warhammer Fantasy Battles). I started playing Warmachine at the sadly-no-longer-with-us Hobby Kingdom, in the final months of Mk1. We had all sorts of 3-D terrain, including several building, bridges, rock outcroppings and the like. Forests were often light on actual trees, due to the impracticality of moving models through them.

Over time the hills saw less use as well as players found their top-heavy metal warjacks and other models sliding on the angled slopes, making it difficult to ensure accurate measurement, or worse – toppling on the slopes, chipping paint and bending spears and the like. While we still used 3-D buildings, anything that model might actually have to stand on – a hill, a forest, a water feature – migrated to 2-D representations (such as those offered by Broken Egg)

The 2-D terrain means every measurement can be precise, and there’s no risk of damaging the models you’ve spent so many hours painting. You could even posit that there’s less danger, because if a model topples, there’s a neoprene layer between it and the harder table surface. The flipside is the gaming experience becomes that much less immersive. Your models aren’t moving across bridges, fording streams, bushwhacking through dense foliage – they’re sliding across a flat representation. From a practical standpoint, 2-D terrain is fantastic. From an immersive standpoint, as impractical as they were, I miss the trees.

This leads down another train of thought. If you have X hours that you can commit to hobby time each week, and you have all your armies to paint (because Menoth knows, we all have our piles of shame), how do you commit time to painting up terrain when you have units of infantry that you need to slog through? Following Privateer Press Terrain on Instagram is inspiring as heck, but it’s not easy finding the time you’d need to commit to a 4′ tall Infernal Tower. To make the job a little easier, we’re seeing faction-based structures becoming available.

From Privateer Press, the Trencher Blockhouse, the Shrine of the Lawgiver, and most recently the Well of Orboros. Each is a gorgeous, thematic piece in its own right and usable in our armies, but would also work as a terrain feature on any tabletop. From Games Workshop, each of the Kill Team boxes comes with terrain, from fuel towers to galvanic servo-haulers to barbed venomgorse, and each of the new releases for Age of Sigmar gets a new terrain piece that benefits the army. The Idoneth got their shipwreck, the Gits got their Loonshrine, the Flesh-Eater Courts got the Charnel Throne, so on and so forth.

As I paint up individual bone after individual bone in a grotesquely oversize chair for a deranged vampire and his insane, cannibalistic horde, and keenly aware that there’s a Shrine of the Lawgiver in my basement, I’m looking forward to one day being able to play on a terrain-filled tabletop that will – while being less practical – foster the weaving of the story in my head that breathes life into the game.