Sunday, 13 November 2011

Terrain Thoughts: WarmaHordes Water


It is one of the most important aspects of a wargame, capable of changing the course of a battle quite significantly by its placement, nature, or absence.

Which is why I feel justified in looking at a few types of terrain here. I'll start off with WarmaHordes (since that is what I'm playing right now) but might branch out.

Today is about water.

[There used to be a picture here. I was informed that it was copyrighted, and have removed it. My sincere apologies]

Water in WarmaHordes comes in two flavours: deep and shallow.

Deep water is immensely game changing. So much so that it's probably a good idea to avoid it in pick-up games. Troopers basically die if they end in deep water, and barring special rules, a model can do basically nothing worthwhile, and is more or less defenseless to boot.

So deep water is much like impassable terrain to all but a few models, meaning a small feature of deep water might be workable - but then how often does one come across those? The common offenders are things like lakes, coastlines, and (some) rivers - none of them small.

Yes, it's for Warhammer. So?
Shallow water is much more likely to feature in people's collections. Swamps, pools, small rivers, and so on, are relatively easy to make, unlike a coastal game board.

When it comes to shallow water, we have the interesting phenomenon of different rules in the two systems. Hordes Primal Mk II says "Shallow water is rough terrain". Period. New header, nothing to see here. Warmachine Prime Mk II (I'm going to stop with this Mk II business now; I don't generally refer to the 40k rulebook as 5th edition, except when also referencing previous iterations, so I don't see why I would here. It's mk II, okay?) adds one very important rule: steam engines do not like being submerged in (shallow) water.

Therefore, a Warjack knocked down in shallow water has its engines extinguished, and can do nothing until someone comes to relight it.

Steam engines. They're so sensitive...
And this bit, right there, is the strongest argument against using shallow water in any abundance. It affects half the armies a lot more than the other half. While Warbeasts happily traipse across any such water feature, Warjacks avoid it like cats smelling a bath. 'Cause if they don't they might be made to take a dip.

If this was all there was to it, my verdict would be a simple 'don't use water, unless you want something weird on the board'. It's not all, though. See, there are a bundle of model's rules that trigger off of water features. Amphibious not only lets a model ignore most effects of water, but let them hide in deep water. The Earthborn Dire Troll's Elemental Communion grants it extra DEF if it's near water. The Gatormen also have a few interactions with water.

Yes, crocodiles like water. Anyone surprised?
Which means that we have a situation where models have rules that are entirely nullified if we ban water. And I don't like this, especially when one of those rules (Amphibious) is so prevalent.

So I generally set up one, sort of out-of-the-way, small shallow water feature on every board I play on. I intend on doing this when I play Cryx as well as Trollbloods, regardless of who is on the other side, unless terrain is dictated somehow. I think it's part of having a balanced terrain setup. That way, if one player has happened to bring along things that like water, he can choose to stay close to one of the sides, to benefit from the water, or he can take the more direct route up the centre, and leave the water alone.

Playing with an Earthborn, I have generally chosen the second option.

So that's that on water. Both forests and obstacles have posts in the pipeline, if I can just be bothered to write them.



  1. I tend to find that Warmachine games only really use a 24" strip across the centre of the board, between deployment zones. The radial scenarios might have changed that, but they seem to have been judged as being too different and complicated compared to the old standbys - at least, they have 'round my way. The point being that a terrain feature that's outside that strip may not really contribute all that much, and a water feature that's within that strip will be far, far too potentially unbalancing (in Hordes vs Warmachine matches particularly) for most of the players I know to take the risk...

  2. And therein, of course, lies the problem. On the one hand we have abilities that only trigger on water, on the other we have the potential unbalance caused. We also tend to put most or all of the terrain in no-man's-land, but by putting a water feature well to one side, it is possible to move around, and keep away from.

    And as I'm still fairly new at this, I might eventually change my mind, but for now, I think this is good...

  3. It's difficult to be taken as neutral on the subject as I have become a dedicated Blindwater player. I've encountered the "ban water" sentiment on numerous occasions.

    The most comical was against a player using Venetrax at the time and me with 3 full units of Gatormen. His was the standard line of water being unfair to Warmachine. I pointed out that Dragon Slayer and Undead was unfair to Hordes and Blood Thirst respectively. The reply was that he had paid points for those, ignoring the fact that I paid points for Amphibious and Blood Thirst. This type discussion about points usually goes in my favour allowing a small shallow water template somewhere in the Kill Box zone.

    Terrain rules, specifically type and placement, is definitely one place Privateer Press has a lot of room to improve in, as do most tabletop games and the player base. I've lost count of the number of tournament games I played against gunline IG or SW as Tyranids on a board with at best three small token pieces of terrain that only gave cover.

  4. The blue water splash photograph is copyrighted. I made it on film in the 1980s. I do not recall getting a permission request from you for its use on your website.

    Andrew Davidhazy.