Scattered terrain – using it on the battlefield

I have talked about how area terrain before on the blog and how they are kind of underused but should really be a regular part of the battlefield. In some ways it has the same problem as Scattered terrain – it is not used as much (much because the amazing paper terrain). And has a lot of potential. But as area terrain has pretty solid and sensible rules in the rulebook, scattered terrain does not.

I wanted to explain my view on scattered terrain. What it is, how the rules can be for them and how they could be utilized. As I write this I also realize that my view on scattered terrain is still in development and hope to come to a conclusion at the end.

It is worth checking them out from a top as well.

I know, I know. The bases above are not really scattered terrain. It is parts of Mega Mike’s from Orbital bombardment nicely done UCM army but it gives a good impression of how the battlefield should look. There are small features everywhere and I think that the paper terrain alone does not give the correct impression of the battlefield.

My view on Scattered terrain

Scattered terrain comes in many forms. The rulebook gives some hints to it with Small features (like lamps, signs and single car wrecks e t c), Insubstantial features (an overgrown area for instance) and plain Solid features. Scattered terrain are in my head a mix of all this. They can block LOS according to their real appearance (true line of sight that is) and can be harder to move through. Or not. This is still kind of dependent on the actual terrain piece.

If we take a look in the rulebook we have some basic rules for terrain in general. Passable, Tough and Impassable for how hard it is to move through/over terrain. And then we have Blocks line of sight, Body cover and Soft cover. Combining these rules to make scattered terrain should be possible.

The issue for me is how one defines scattered terrain. The picture below for instance:


Here the terrain blocks LOS but one could argue that it really doesn’t block LOS. In the future, vehicles should be able to know that an enemy is behind a truck and some pipes so saying that you can’t see another model on the other side isn’t really sensible. Also one could argue that anti tank shots can punch through it rather easily. That means for some terrain the easy way (blocks LOS) might not work for the best. Some abstraction is needed.

What is scattered terrain

Scattered terrain can be overgrown trucks on a parking lot, it can for instance be lumber stacked on top of each other, some rubble or perhaps pavement that have risen and been pressed together when a mine have exploded e t c. In most ways I feel that Hawk’s rules are quite sensible and possible to use. But some modifications are needed for it to work a little better.

Scattered terrain are the pieces that really makes the battlefield comes to life. It adds a lot of character and makes the game much more visually stunning that just makes it a whole lot more fun. In the latest Orbital Bombardment podcast they discussed their scattered terrain and variation in terrain they had at Critical location 2017. This is really impressive as tournament organizers have most likely it very easy to hold a tournament with the paper terrain alone. It is fast and super cheap to get tables together but it lacks a lot of the character needed to make the game more fun.

How the rules could be

Again this is about how the feature looks. But I do have an image of it. Some of the following ideas are taken from Jens when we have played with scattered terrain;

Generally the main idea is that scattered terrain gives soft and or body cover. It is impassable for skimmers and is tough going for vehicles except walkers that can walk over (if the terrain is low enough). My basic idea is that things like walls that are solid pieces are blocking line of sight and smaller things “grouped together” like several cars are soft cover. If you notice this is very close to the “Insubstantial area feature” rules. But I do not think it need an restriction on thickness. It also becomes kind of mute as scattered terrain is intended to be small based areas. Also, I don’t think it should be an area effect.

You could go entirely with the Insubstantial area terrain rules. If you think of a base with several cars as Scattered terrain one could easily consider that a tank can shut down and “hide” from dropships in other rubble. So it could work. In fact that might be the easiest way to do it. One of the most important things here is that Soft cover is for both aircrafts and tanks and then the tanks can also get hull down for a +4 cover. Soft cover and hull down stacks which makes soft cover a interesting rule. But not considering a scattered terrain piece as a insubstantial feature do mean that dropships does not get soft cover when the shooter are on the terrain piece.

But I think the rules should be:

  1. Tough going for tanks. Impassable for skimmers and normal rules for Walkers.
  2. It doesn’t block LOS but gives Body and Soft cover if target is covered at least 50% from the shooter.
  3. Scattered terrain can stop a dropship to land.
  4. If the terrain piece consists of a single piece of cover (like a wall or a large pipe seen from the long side or a container) it is considered to be a small feature instead.
  5. They are indestructible. This is of course up for debate. Having them DP 5 and armour 5 could be an idea but requires book keeping. But it is consistent with Hawk’s idea for terrain being a part of the battlefield. As a matter of fact. Scrap indestructible. They have DP 5 and armour 5!

Since I’m discussing this with myself (if only I had real friends instead) I feel more and more that the insubstantial area terrain feature is highly possible but I do think that scattered terrain need to be a little more “real” representation of the piece.

The UCM took a turn to enter and then deployed.

The main difference I want is that if you place a model on top of a terrain piece you can not claim cover (which you could if it had been a insubstantial area terrain piece).

I would love to see an addition to the Articulated-rule where it works like this: if the attacker can see over the terrain piece with the articulated rule (if the tank had been standing next to the terrain piece) and is closer than the target to the scattered terrain piece the target does not receive soft cover. A small rule that I find interesting to add. I think Hawk had it in mind from the start.

How they could be utilized

I have several suggestions on this matter. Since the mission you are going to play more stipulate how the buildings should be placed the scatter terrain can be utilized in a different way.

  1. My first idea was that each player can place the terrain pieces half each but then one player might suffer much worse. Remember skimmers can’t move over them? So the Thunderstorm might have a continuously bad day.
  2. My main idea is of course that a tournament organizer place the terrain and people shut up. Simple and effective and how it is generally played anyway.
  3. The third idea is kind of interesting. An organizer set up the terrain and then the player that has the first turn choose a scattered terrain piece and move it 6″ with not part of the terrain piece moving over 6″. Then the other player do the same until all terrain pieces have been moved. They do not have to be moved (so a terrain piece that a player does not wish to be moved by the opponent can be chosen and then not moved at all). Thus the first player get a little more advantage than the standard “it sucks going first” that is usually in DZC. It is kind of fast I think. And gives some tactical element as well.

I like the third part but think that the second is the best.