While I quite enjoy playing Warhammer Fantasy, one thing that I often do not enjoy is using mystical, magical terrain in our games.
I totally get that the Warhammer world is a fantasy setting, so why wouldn’t there be Bane Stones and Wizards Towers and Anvil Hills all over the place? It’s thematic, it makes sense, and it adds extra fantasy elements to the game. And yet I regularly find myself hoping not to roll up special terrain, and even more often I try to convince my opponent to just play mundane, non-magical terrain.
And don’t get me wrong, Games Workshop terrain is absolutely beautiful! I would love to own the entire collection of Warhammer scenery. Even the tallest, most extravagant and unusable-in-a-mass-battles-game structures are so appealing to me.
I think one of the problems for me is that I just don’t get to play the game enough, and I switch between armies regularly, so I would rather focus on remembering my army’s rules and getting good with them than try to work around statues that shoot my units and forests that give my opponent Poison Attacks. You know what I mean? Maybe if I played the game once a week, every week, I would want to add the extra elements. As it is, the games I usually play take a couple hours MORE than they should because we’re constantly looking up new and forgotten rules, both for our armies and the game itself. Familiarity and regular play would definitely chop the time down, but I and my usual opponents don’t have the luxury of being able to play that often.
Another problem for me, and I know this is a lot more of a personal quirk than anything, is that even when we roll up and play a random scenario, to me it’s just a basic scenario. Other than Watchtower, and even with Watchtower actually, the game comes down to beating the opponent enough to get more VP than he does. It’s not like with some skirmish scenarios we play where you have to get across the board and deliver a message (as in Malifaux) or pick up some weapons and carry them back home (as in Dark Age). I personally think that the nature of skirmish games make these kinds of ‘complex’ scenarios not only fun, but necessary. But with a mass-battle game, I feel that the game we play is just one small battle in a larger war, and that the ‘goal’ is outside of the session. Sort of like we are playing a campaign. But not. Although I wish we did. Do you get it? Like, yeah, we’re playing Battle for the Pass, simple. But in the meta-game, the thematic story behind the battle is that my Ogres are a scouting force trying to get through this narrow pass to spy on the Lizardmen encampment on the other side, and those Lizards have sent a defensive party to try and stop me. Ooh! Look at the narrative! Just like a skirmish game! But when we actually do play, we don’t think about this. We just randomly roll up a scenario and randomly place terrain and then get to the action. And for me, this makes me just want to fight a regular battle with as little terrain as possible, and the terrain we do have let’s just make it regular and mundane, with no special rules.
Maybe I should be playing Napoleonic or Ancients games instead?
Or maybe I need to convince the guys to play a campaign, so that there is some fluff and reason why we’re fighting beyond, “Are you free tonight? Yeah? Me too! Let’s play Warhammer!”
Or maybe we need to start using more advanced scenarios, like the ones in the big hardcover version of the rulebook. When all those awesome new Skaven models were released the White Dwarf at the time had a battle report of this Skaven army attacking an Empire town. I forget the details, but I know it’s in the rulebook and the attacking army has to destroy the defenders’ buildings. Cool! It’s scenarios like those that I think do great with magical terrain, not the regular old face-off battles that we usually fight.
Well, the good news is that there should be a campaign starting in the coming months at Meeplemart, as soon as that group finishes its 40k campaign. These are not guys that I usually play, but it’s possible that I can rope my regular gaming buds into the campaign with me, so that not only can we play this great game more regularly AND with purpose, but we can add some variety into our games that we don’t currently get to see, playing the same guys and armies every time.
What good timing this is, as I go forth with my Ogres of the Bloodstone Tribe and hopefully (for sure this time!) finally get a fully painted and much-loved Warhammer army on the table.
How about you? How do you feel about terrain in Warhammer or in other games? Mundane or Magical, which do you prefer?
Thanks for reading.
*Images are copyright of Games Workshop.