(About a week and a half ago I re-posted "A Simple Campaign Format" from a couple of years ago. Today I'm re-posting a "companion post" about terrain selection. This is intended to work in conjunction with the Campaign Format if you don't have your own terrain ideas. I hope that you find it useful.)
Friday, November 03, 2006Terrain Selection Concept --
One of the great challenges of tabletop gaming is to fight on interesting terrain. However, most "terrain selection rules" tend to either be completely random or allow far too much "gamesmanship".
Today I'm going to suggest a system that should allow for both interesting and varied terrains AND provide a way for players to have a choice in selecting where they'll fight.
Okay, some of you will recognize the germ of this idea coming from a science fiction novel by Piers Anthony. I admit it. You're right. I'm borrowing the concept . . . from "Split Infinity" (if memory serves) . . . of course he wasn't using it to select tabletop terrain, but the concept comes from his novel.
Let's take the simplest situation . . . there are only two of you. First, collect the various terrain pieces that you have available between you. You probably have various sizes of hills and woods. Generally you've got some buildings and strips of material that you use for roads and rivers. You might even have some bridges and some fencing.
The above step is so that you both know what you have available.
Discus between yourselves as to what you feel the minimum and maximum number of terrain selections you'd like for your battles. This will, of course, depend in part upon the size of your table and the size of terrain pieces which you have access to.
Where I am on Vancouver Island, we're gaming in 25mm on 4' x 8' tables. For the examples I'm presenting here, I've decided to use from three to eight pieces of terrain per table.
Okay, to start, get some blank index cards. Larger is better, so look for the 4" x 6" or 5" x 8" cards (which can usually be found for a very reasonable price at discount or office supply stores).
Now, since our tables are 4x8, I will cut down a couple dozen index cards so that they are the proper relationship (in this case, twice as wide as high). Each player will get a dozen cards. Each is to then diagram two different tabletops for each of the six "numbers" (i.e., three pieces, four pieces, . . . eight pieces). Note that roads (and there always must be at least one present) do NOT count for the number of terrain pieces (nor does "open space").
Now for any number of terrain pieces, one should be fairly even (not symetrical -- it just should give a relatively fair shot for each side) and one should definitely favor one side of the table but you should remember that you might end up playing the weaker tableside -- so keep that in mind.
Here is an example of a terrain diagram. It has six terrain pieces (remember, the road network doesn't count) -- 2 hills, 1 knoll, 2 light woods and a town. (Note -- my rules differentiate between light and heavy woods -- yours might not).
Anyway, each of the two gamers would create his dozen diagrams. These would then be shuffled together (be sure to "twist" some of them around so that there's no consisant "north" and "south" to the diagrams).
Now you should have 24 potential tabletop terrain diagrams (four each with three through eight pieces of terrain exclusive of roads). Note, if you have three players, you'll have 36 index cards; if four gamers, 48 cards.
After shuffling, deal four cards to the two opposing C-in-Cs. They will each get to discard one of them to the bottom of the deck. Then, the other three should be placed down in a 3x3 grid as you see from the diagram. (Note -- it doesn't matter who designed the card . . . it might be one of yours or it might be one of your opponent's designs).
Place them face down, remembering that the defender will be playing the "north" side; and the invader (attacker), the "south" side (which doesn't mean that that is the role they will play on the tabletop -- this is for selecting terrain).
The two C-in-Cs should carefully place their three cards face down . . . making sure that they have the "orientation" they want correctly set. Also be sure that cards are turned over from side to side so as not to change the "north" orientation.
Now, thee cards from the "master deck" should be placed in the other three places. At this point, all of the cards are turned over. This will result in something like the third diagram -- with nine potential tabletops.
(Remember, if you "click" on the diagram, you will get a better look at it).
The "invader" selects which of the three terrain columns (A, B or C) he chooses as his path. The 'defender" selects which terrain line (X, Y or Z) he'll choose to meet his opponent on. Where the two paths intersect is the tabletop which will be used. These will be recorded secretly.
Each column and each line includes one setup which YOU selected and one which your opponent selected and one randomly selected.
This is the fun part. Since line and column selections are "hidden" until both are selected, you have a chance to "outsmart" your opponent. Which path do you think your opponent will select? Does he like lots of terrain? or little terrain? Which path is most dangerous to you? Will your opponent figure out what you're going to avoid? Taking all of this into consideration, which path should you choose to get the best terrain possible?
Use whatever tabletop is cross-referenced. After the battle, the winner of the fight gets to name the battlefield . . . and that index card is removed from the pool of potential tabletlops. Once you get too low, just draw up more tabletops and mix them in with the remaining cards in the pool.
Sure, this is a "rock / paper / scissors" type of thing . . . but it's fun and just as in the child's game, a clever general might be able to outwit his opponent.