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Monthly discussion [mar. '16]: Terrain, part 1
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    Monthly discussion [mar. '16]: Terrain, part 1


    There is far too much to discuss regarding terrain so I will dive right into everything I know about how to best acquire, prepare, and set up terrain for the game of Dark Age.

    Since the topic of this article is so vast, it will be split into two parts:
    Part One: (This Part) Will focus on how best to select the amount of terrain and types for an optimal game of Dark Age.
    Part Two: Will get more into the artistic and thematic aspects of terrain as well as how to best utilize terrain to interact with game mechanics, avoid rule issues, and create a fair game for all.

    Part 1: Table Terrain Preparation and Set-up

    The "Quick" Method
    "25% of the board covered in terrain is ideal and when done evenly will not impede bigger models from moving. This is roughly the equivalent of 24 CD-sized terrain pieces." -Tim Korklewski, 2015

    For those of you who are looking for the absolute least amount of preparation and want to dive into a game of Dark Age as fast as possible, follow these quick and basic Terrain steps.

    1. A game of Dark Age is played on a 4'x4' Table. Section off this amount of space and additionally section off one of the 2'x2' corners.
    2. Place terrain of any type into the 2'x2' space until the corner is mostly or completely covered by terrain.
    3. For optimal results, follow these guidelines when placing terrain:
    a. 10-20% of the terrain should be "Impassible" (No more than...), or terrain that no model can move through.
    b. 30% "Light Cover." Rubble, bushes, or trees; terrain that create a -2 penalty for ranged attacks.
    c. 30% "Dangerous" and/or "Rough" terrain. Some sort of debris or hazard, "Rough" causes a -2" total movement to models moving through it and "Dangerous" causes a PW:4 hit.
    d. 50% "Heavy Cover." Buildings, boulders, thick walls, "Heavy Cover" creates a -4 penalty for ranged.
    *Note: The 30% overlap accounts for the fact that terrain will often count for multiple categories. The most common examples of this is that "Impassible" terrain often also counts as "Heavy Cover" and many times a model can hide inside "Rough" terrain and receive a "Light Cover" bonus.
    4. Once selected, take the terrain and spread it out on the 4'x4' table. About 80% of terrain should be kept outside of a player's deployment zone. Another important rule is to roll off to decide who plays on which side of the board; hopefully knowing this most players will try and set up what they consider to be fair and even terrain.

    Customizable Dark Age Terrain Set Up
    "I'd like to try a game once without any terrain. You know. You select your models, I select my models and we just go at it." -Tyler Seymour, 2013

    If you really want to go in depth on terrain selection, I'll go into more detail. Utilizing some techniques, you can label your own terrain, customize each game, and eventually change and optimize it to find what works best for you.

    Roll up your sleeves because this gets into a lot of numbers and detail!

    The best way for me to talk about terrain universally is to convert it to a point system. Every terrain item could be given a number of points, points that essentially represent how much of an impact they make to the area of the board. Ultimately, the more points of terrain you use, the more congested and restricted the board should feel and visa versa.

    If We Convert Square Inches to "Points" in a 1 for 1 System
    Dark Age Terrain Recommendation: ~575 points
    Never's Terrain Recommendation: ~450 points

    Let's say then that you'd like to label your own terrain ahead of time or at least would like to get a feel for how many points each terrain piece is. Here is a quick breakdown by terrain type.

    A wall is a terrain piece is some form of a line, straight or curved but usually thin, that allows a model of same size or larger to move through, but may not end its move on, this piece.

    A Wall's Point Value is equal to its length in inches. In the unlikely event that a wall is wider than 1", multiple the points by a wall's width in inches.
    Ex: 3" Rock Wall = 3 Points

    Square or Rectangular Pieces
    Another easy one, multiple the width times the length to get the total number of points.
    Ex: Building Ruins, 3"H x 5"L x 4"W = 20 points

    Circular Terrain
    This can be broken down by a chart. Again, round to a nearest-inch radius or eyeball it using one of the Dark Age blast Templates.

    1" radius = 3 points
    2" radius = 15 points
    3" radius = 30 points
    (In the unrecommended/unlikely event that you have circular terrain larger than a 3" radius...)
    4" = 50 points
    5" = 80 points

    A lot of terrain pieces fall into the category of what I would refer to as "dynamic" pieces. Often this is a single piece board with multiple, different pieces glued to the surface.

    For this, first calculate the total number of points using either the Rectangle or Circle method. Then, use your best judgement in classifying the elements above.
    Ex. A 5" x 10" Western-themed piece is about 80% covered. About 20% is "Impassible, Heavy Cover" Teepees, 50% is "Rough" rocky ground, and 10% is "Light Cover" Cactus plants.
    Total Possible Points: 50
    Terrain Points: 40
    Impassible: 10*
    Heavy Cover: 10
    Rough: 25
    Light: 5

    This method may take a bit of work, thought and preparation but thinking about everything based on points should allow us to start discussing terrain on the same page and allow for more in depth conversations.

    Take Terrain Types For Example
    Let's say we stick to Dark Age Rules' recommendation of ~575 points (approximately 25%).
    That might mean an ideal mix could be:
    150 light cover
    300 heavy cover
    150 dangerous and/or rough
    50-100 points impassible
    (again, overlap accounted for by terrain that fill more than one category)

    450 points worth of cover may be unfairly balanced against ranged lists; 150 points of Rough/Dangerous may feel like too few. Each can be adjusted quickly based on increasing or decreasing the points and reevaluating.

    This also allows us to easily share with others what we find to work best.

    Going back to my own personal recommendation for example, I find the following works pretty well:
    450 points of terrain
    50-100 points impassible
    125 light cover
    250 heavy cover
    125 dangerous and/or rough

    Regardless of what terrain you have available or what it looks like, you can select, convert to points, and play the game based on the points I recommend and the experience should be roughly the same.

    Diagram 1: Black Lines="Impassible", Blue Lines= "Medium Wall", "Heavy Cover"
    Green Area=Areas of Power, Red Area=Kill Zone, Red Arrow=Flank Routes[/I]

    Terrain Placement
    "We should probably stop taking half of the terrain off the board when we switch from Infinity to Dark Age." -Bobby Limoggio, 2014

    Once you have the total Points of all the terrain types you want in a game assembled, now you need a fair method to place them on the board. Again, there are two general ways to do this; a fast way and a dynamic way.

    Simple Placement:
    Mirror or Photographic Terrain Placement

    80% of the games I play, I use this method of placing terrain. Quite simply if you divide the board in half horizontally, copy the terrain on one half of the board over to the other. This doesn't have to be exact but for example if there is a 15 point "Heavy Cover" terrain feature halfway from the deployment zone to mid-table on one end, do so on the other end.

    For a "Mirrored" result, line up these similar features directly across from one another. What might look better, however, is Photographic" placement, or similar elements copied but flipped, left to right, on each opposing side of the board.

    Dynamic Placement:
    Dynamic anything is just a fancy way to say "more complex" but for some people this means being able to create a battlefield that looks the way they want it to look while still being usable and fair. For those people, let's follow some basic step-by-step suggestions.

    1. Terrain Purpose. Terrain does two main things. First, it restricts movement. Second, it provides cover against attacks. It's important to really think about this fact, that any terrain you place will do one or the other or both. So moving on, the question, quite simply, is where on the board is it best to do these things?

    2. Deployment Zones. As a rule, most terrain should NOT go inside or directly in front of any deployment zones. Very little of the game of Dark Age is played here which means terrain is unlikely to provide any benefit (IE cover) here. So IF you place terrain in these areas, know that A): it is most likely going to be for the purpose of restricting movement or slowing down that side and B): Both sides should have equal deployment zone impairments, to promote fairness.
    *Note:Take into consideration two more things. 1) That even less of Dark Age is played in the 1'x1' corners, basically only in the 33% Scenarios when players deploy here do these areas matter. So any terrain placed here will likely be wasted. 2) Some terrain is mostly ignored by certain factions. The Core have a lot of models that ignore Rough Terrain, Air caste can "jump" over many obstacles, etc. So keep this in mind; even though you might think you set up obstacles fairly in front of each deployment zone, one faction may be able to skip these features.

    3. Creating Areas of Conflict. With the remaining board to cover, there are three main areas you are looking to create (more detail will be added on these in "Part 2"). 1) Areas of Power, 2) Vulnerable Areas or "Kill Zones" and 3) Areas of Flanking.

    Using Diagram 1 above as an example, you can see how each area might interact with another. Impassible walls and/or cover will create areas (colored in green) where models can sit in relative safety. If an enemy needs to pass in front of these areas (colored in dotted red), the power-area models can either attack with ranged at an advantage or else jump from their cover into melee when they wish. The weakness of these positions (colored with a red arrow) are the flanking pathways; quick ways to reach an Area of Power without disadvantage.
    *Note: It's again good to think of fairness in setting up these areas. Take the Diagram 1 example again. Set up in the middle of the table, this area might favor "gunline" lists more than "melee" lists, however off to one of the sides this may prove an ideal area to place an objective and still remain fair to both types of lists.

    4. Placing Fair Pathways: Warning! Math! There is a little trick to ensuring fair placement of movement-restricting terrain for both sides. Create 9 points on the board: one in the middle of each of the four 1'x1' corners, the middle of the four 1'x1' areas in between and one in the absolute center of the table.

    Now once terrain is on the board, imagine each of the 3 points on a player's side connected to the 3 points in the middle with invisible lines for a total of 9 lines. If you were to draw these lines, make them bend around "Impassible" terrain or any terrain that is Large or bigger. If you were to measure and add up the total length off all 9 lines and then add 2" for each Rough Terrain a line runs through, would the total lengths for both players be roughly the same?

    5. Cover. Cover, on the other hand, can be more of a "feel" than a science. Heavy cover will already partially be placed with any of the Impassible or Large-Gigantic pieces you select to create the pathways mentioned above so we won't talk about these.

    For other, smaller bits of heavy cover, walls, and the occasional "Light Cover" I have only one suggestion to try: try placing any remaining cover pieces either in the open space roughly halfway between other pieces of terrain, or at one of the corners. A mix of these two (utilizing the above "point" system as a guide for how much to place in total) has always worked well for me.

    6. Rough and Dangerous Terrain. This is another example of something that can be added rather quickly. Going again with the Diagram 1 example as well as the topic of creating fair pathways, these types of terrains can be used to make certain routes faster to travel, and certain routes slower (or dangerous).

    Perhaps you want to penalize traffic down the middle in favor of players taking the sideline routes to encourage more flanking. Maybe you want the kill zones to be especially slow, thus making the "Areas of Power" around them that much more powerful. Or place rough terrain in an area of power itself creating a powerful area, but at a cost. Otherwise, you could create areas that reward or penalize certain objective placements.

    I guess if I was going to add commentary on what to do with "Rough" and "Dangerous" Terrain (besides, again, warning to be fair) I would say: Include them! These are the terrain types I see the least in Dark Age games but they can sometimes make the most influence in gameplay behavior and, because of this, create some of the more interesting game situations.

    Corresponding Facebook Post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1837...6553860708805/
    Last edited by Never Knows Best; 02-28-2016 at 05:49 AM.

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