As i grind my way through model after model, i occasionally turn my imagination to building large, derelict buildings for my games. Zone Mortalis was inspiring and i'm planning to incorporate it into my 'spaceship' gaming table plan, but i'm talking things like bastions of the imperium, craftworld edifices or hive-ship buildings. Modular fortresses to add some close and intense urban warfare to games.
Has anyone had experience building such things? I'd like advice on modurising it, balancing aesthetics with functionality, and making it playable in.
Over to you, blue leader/s.
I have designed two such tables and assisted in building one. I also got a little experience from constructing a LOTR Helm Deep scale table for GW miniatures - interestingly the most insightful of all my terrain projects. My thoughts are below:
- Tile size. Never build an individual component that is too large to move or store
(unless you want it in your lounge/garage forever). This happened to me on attempt number 1. Breaking the table into 1'x1', 2'x2' or 2'x4' etc panels means your can store it easily at home and transport without needing a truck. For the large LOTR table I used three COTS sheets of polystyrene (I think it was 2'x4') as the size guide as I could fit one flat across the back of a standard sedan.
If there are components that are particularly tall consider making them detachable (eg. spires, hive towers etc).
I LOVE using magnets. To keep my table really customisable I like to magnetise my 'normal terrain' (Bastions, aegis etc) so I can add it to its table tile but also have access to it for 'normal games' or taking to a friends place. As an example I designed an urban structure around a fortress of redemption. Instead of building it into the mdf table tile (in this case 2'x2') I built the tile but magnetised the fortress so It could be taken off and used normally in other games. The mdf table tile was also made so still usable without the fortress on it - but I made a little magnetised fountain to take over the centre of the square I made around the fortress. Magnets are also good for the comment above for removable pieces.
- Design things to be movable.
For assembly of the zone mortalis structure I recommend having the walls in sections that can be moved around the tile, or doors that can slide in/out. This increase variability and if you don't like the impact the terrain will have on a particular game you can move things eg. wider zone mortalis for terminators, narrower for inf.
- Make things accessible.
Ensure all corridors/tight spaces are wide enough for the desired model type + a few mm for comfort to move them around. Be aware that if you are making the surrounding structures tall, ensure the corridor/road etc is wide enough for you to get your hand all the way down to the table base (sounds silly but I have built a section for a board where the road was wide enough for models but not the intended owner's hand). Also remember that you don't want to add too much extra when doing measurements as it opens the access to models not indented for the area eg: tank in a wide foot corridor...
- More elevated --> more open.
Keep elevated terrain open-topped (or with removable roofs/floors) so you can get models into the walk ways etc (I find battle damage a great excuse for open areas on the 3rd/4th floor of a structure). This adds dimension to the table and cool firing angles. This also looks great for themed pieces: eg. The fortifications loom over a cleared area/fire lane but has sustained considerable damage to its face from the assaulting force trying to remove/suppress the defenders.
- More basic --> more options.
The plainer the base and more generic the modules, the more customisable the table will be. This is a no brainer but I tend to get carried away with amazing designs to realise any other configuration of the modules would defeat the purpose of my other tenants (particularly functionality). Consider mocking up the modules and then playing around with their position on the board to see if something is too specific/niche to be usable in another area.
I find having around 1/3 of the board as close urban/zone mortalis more than enough. I have found using a short end of the table as the close urban/zone mortalis best for gameplay and looks the best. It gives variety for different deployment types *vice down the long edge) and you can access the tight areas without having to lead across the table. I can't find a pic of my own work but here is a good example of what I am talking about:
Integrating tall features onto open spaces builds the sense of 'big/grand' that I get when reading about imperial structures such as hive cities. You can still fill it with smaller things (aegis lines etc) but minimising the 'gradual urban sprawl' effect going into open areas makes for better looking tables [sprawl can go towards the inside instead!]
I tend to theme my terrain in accordance with its 40k intent eg: Administratum should be on a main road with grand views (part of the 'big/grand' thing again) rather than on the edge of town next to the sewage pond...
- Battle damage.
Using my interest in tactics, I also tend to weather and degrade my terrain as part of the planning. I will imagine the scene as it would have been prior to any fighting, plan my attack and then determine what damage would have been caused. Eg: Damage a wall as if a LR has driven through it with a dozer blade; put the destroyed rhino on a 'blind corner' surrounded by ordinance damage from the ambush it received; destroy the top corner of a building that would have been used as an OP/sniper position; pile the dead guard (yes...lots of dead!) in front of the dead ground they just failed to assault out of. etc etc I'd also add I like to then add another layer, with imagining what would have been done after the initial damage - reinforcement of structures? sandbagging? establishment of a field CP? [You may remember the piece I did for you ages ago with this idea in mind!]
Would be great to see your updates are your concepts start to take form! Back to you RED1!