Porky’s Wild Bore – The area terrain… it just came alive?

There’s always something out there waiting for us. In the House blogrolls.

This past week Stuart S at Dust, Tears & Dice posted a fine piece of terrain – an enclosed plot.

The fences are high enough to make it almost an isolated space, a kind of sub-battlefield, a site for an encounter within an encounter. Having a few similar structures lined up with alleys between them could turn an open table into something more like a set of corridors and rooms.

Terrain like this suggests there’s a lot of overlap between open-tabletop wargaming and both grid-based boardgaming and site-driven tactical roleplaying.

The average tabletop is a relatively compact physical space, especially at scales like 28mm, and especially with ever bigger forces. Could we take inspiration from this kind of sub-division and somehow make one tabletop do more, by representing a range of dispersed areas?

Part of the answer might be found in a post at HERR ZINNLINGS ARBEITSZIMMER, on a narrative map-based campaign that could also be seen as a variation on the tactical roleplaying hexcrawl.

It’s a kind of hybrid of wargaming and roleplaying with ancient Greeks exploring a region held by orcs and their allies, potentially using three rulesets – Hordes of the Things, Warhammer and GURPS. As Herr Zinnling says: “HotT is much more abstract than Warhammer, and GURPS would be best to play out special missions for characters.”

The core idea could be adapted for one-off games in which the tabletop represents a set of scattered areas, keeping the element of the unknown. Here’s one approach in a few simple steps.

1) A simple map is drawn up for the vicinity, with a grid. Each hex, square etc. on the grid is assumed to contain one area on the tabletop. This map acts as a kind of super-tabletop.

2) The tabletop is divided into a number of roughly equal areas, e.g. a 6′ x 4′ table into six areas of 2′ x 2′. Each is assumed to be separate from its neighbours and to lie some distance away geographically, as per the map.

3a) Terrain is placed as usual in each area of the tabletop, as if each area is a mini-tabletop. OR 3b) A random table is made for a specific terrain theme or piece that might be found locally, e.g. six entries (for a roll of 1d6), possibly ‘valley’, ‘pond’, ‘thicket’, ‘wreck’, ‘ruins’ and ‘building’.

4) Each player picks a force as usual, but then divides this force into groups of units and secretly assigns each group to a counter. The number of groups allowed per force could be the number of tabletop areas +/-50%. Each player then places the counters on the map in an agreed deployment zone, ready to start.

5) Each turn, before its normal movement, a counter with no enemy counters in its current area can be moved into an adjacent area on the map. If it is the first counter to enter this area and no terrain was set up (see step 3a), the terrain present is found randomly (see step 3b) and placed as usual. The group represented by the counter is then deployed at one edge of the area. It gets its full turn, movement included. The area is treated as if a mini-tabletop. If an opposing counter enters the area, its group is deployed and acts in the same way. Interactions between groups in the same area proceed as usual.

If you do want to explore the spaces beyond the table edge or the hollows of a vehicle or creature, this is one way to keep track of the discrete locations.

Of course there’s no reason why an approach like this couldn’t work for skirmish games as well, or even space combat, with the groups just being much smaller. Lower model counts might even improve it, not only by taking up less space on the tabletop, but by making it easier to tailor the minis to a given landscape.

Digressing slightly, there were some posts on that kind of variety this week. Von posted a shopping list for an undead warband for Mordheim using minis from from Citadel, Avatars of War, Freebooter Miniatures and Heresy Miniatures. Arlequín looked at gaming a homebrew post-apocalyptic setting with minis from producers like Corvus Belli, Brother Vinni, Statuesque Miniatures and Lead Adventure, as well as Bad Roll for their Punkapocalyptic line.

Meanwhile Gothmog at Sepulchre of Heroes introduced a fan project with a range of ships for Battlefleet Gothic.

Re the Hawking class in particular, it’s worth mentioning the conversion that Gus posted at EPIC ADDICTION a few weeks back, which has another comment from the original creator.

And while we’re on the subject of space combat, there’s naturally a fair bit of criticism about the way space in space combat games tends to get flattened, from 3D to 2D. But maybe this flattening could be seen as another kind of spatial dispersion or tabletop expansion, as if the tabletop represents just one plane in a larger event happening across several planes at different angles. If so, maybe the points at which the planes intersect are the points of crossover, whether deployment zones, entry points for reinforcements or sites for certain effects.

More generally, maybe this flattening also makes sense if the forces involved in the battle are supposed to have evolved on planetary surfaces, or still live on them? They might then still think more in 2D, so that battles naturally thin.

Of course, it makes sense only up to a point. Anyone who could maintain the 3D thinking might well have an advantage, which might encourage it, with those who practise it being more likely to survive and continue using it. Maybe 2D battles are then the early stages in certain histories of space combat in a given setting.

Back on topic though, the potential overlap between wargaming, boardgaming and roleplaying, plenty of mainstream games do blur the edges. There’s Deadzone, Dust Tactics and BattleTech, and Mighty Empires of course, and maybe crawlers like Warhammer Quest using the material from White Dwarf – even D&D if you’re using minis and grids.

If so, maybe gaming is one big ecosystem with the lines only where we draw them, if we draw them at all.

Tl;agttr? O.

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