Monday, May 11, 2015

Planetfall Terrain! A Closer Look

A typical table at the FLGS
SeerK here once again.  I had a request from Spartan Community Forum member Ryjak, to talk about terrain in Planetfall. That is terrain interaction and some examples of the terrain coverage on the tables when our group is playing.  Terrain has been one of the big concerns for Planetfall. with everybody learning the system and feeling out the game it has been hard to gauge how much terrain is appropriate.

There has been quite a bit of debate and opinions given on the forums and on the Facebook groups.  The group at Evolution Games in Lansing, my group, has been playing with about 55%-65% table coverage.  We have found this to be an appropriate amount of coverage.  Some groups have been playing with less though. We had thought terrain was going to have an affect on game length and it does to a point.  After I got some confirmation from Spartan Alex that games should average about 3 turns, we realized we weren't playing wrong and the game really is that brutal.

Coverage is only part of the equation though.  The composition of the terrain is what I think we have been struggling with and what a majority of people are having a hard time with.  Our first instinct was to have lots of LOS blocking terrain.  having a very dense city .  The theory behind it was that limiting lanes of fire and the ability to line up shots with an entire unit would make the game more tactical and lesson the brutality of the combined fire.  In turn this would lengthen the game in regard to the number of turns played.  Game length did not really increase, especially with new Helix releases.  Terrain that had formerly been blocking line of sight now did nothing.  Leviathans and Artillery were making a mockery of LOS blocking terrain.

Example Table at Slayer Games in the U.K.
A suggestion by Dan Bird of Slayer Games got me thinking.  He had suggested that we use less dense terrain and went for more elevated terrain, IE tall buildings and such. Mainly he said to do away with the hex hills we have been using to get more coverage. From the picture he posted it looked as if they had more of a 30%-40% coverage on the table.    They had some impressive tables over at Slayer Games. The terrain looks awesome and I really want to get my hands on the sky scrapers they have. If I am ever over in the U.K. it is on my to visit list. The Terrain composition is different.  Notice they have several elevated class building as well as some larger structures.  Density is not the same as the tables we are using.  I have tried only once before a table with less dense terrain.

The failed attempt at less dense terrain.
I squared the Spiders off against our FLGS manager and biggest supporter, Larry.  He brought his Aquans and I decided to set up a table with less dense terrain than we usually used.  This went very badly for my Relthoza. it allowed the Aquans to basically lay waste to my army before it even got into effective range.  I think the key error here though was not the terrain density, but rather as suggested before the type of terrain being used.  As you can see we only had a few building and a big pyramid on the table.  The table lacked large elevated elements.  The structures them selves were also small.  I think the rel key to the terrain is a combination of having a decent density with elevated terrain and bigger buildings.  The ability to hide leviathans and whole squadrons of vehicles really changes your strategy when you are both on the offensive and on the defensive.

I think for my next game I am going to use quite a few elevated terrain elements and bigger buildings and try a 35-45 % coverage. Basically I am going to try and copy the table example Dan used in our discussion.  Game length seems to be only marginally effected by the terrain except in the case of a very sparsely populated table.  The examples I have put on here are on 6x4 tables.  We have not experimented with a 4x4 or 8x4 space yet.  We are probably going to try out smaller games on a 4x4 to try out some of the ideas and basic concepts for tournament play.  Terrain, quantity and logistics, is at the fore front of our discussions about Planetfall in a tournament environment.

Well thats my two cents on terrain for now.  We will be doing a segment sometime soon on Firebase Delta covering terrain and such.  We will also be delving into the armies of Planetfall in the next couple weeks.  Stay tuned!.

You may have noticed the Michigan GT logo up at the top of the page.  The Waygate will be running Firestorm Armada Events as well as demos of Planetfall, and possibly Halo Fleet Battles, at the 2015 Michigan GT in our home town of Lansing, MI stay tuned to the blog and the Michigan GT website for details and news!

Until next time crush the Alliance and as always...........



  1. Thanks for this posting, SeerK, from my request. I've always felt terrain is an often overlooked aspect of mini-wargaming, so I appreciate seeing your thoughts and game photos. I was hoping to see more on the LOS system Planetfall uses (as it reminds me of the Battletech hex system with three hex height sizes) and how easy/hard it is to use... Especially when determining the size class for a given terrain piece.

    I was surprised to see your tables (with hex terrain!) and the percentages you posted. I couldn't see how you were arriving at that until I realized you're counting the topography as terrain. For me, hills and valleys are not terrain, it's the trees and buildings that count as terrain. Try this approach in one of your games, and let us know how it goes.

  2. Fantastic article, just planning on delving into Planetfall on a 4x4 home board and have been looking at stuff to buy for the scenery collection! Look forward to future articles!

  3. You are welcome Mike.

    As we get into the game more I will go over LOS more in depth. It is almost true line of site, but buidlings and elements have classifications like the units. Armored units block other units and light units. elevated units and flying units can see pretty much everything. elevated units can be locked by other elevated units or elements. as long as you can draw a line that is uninterupted from one part of a base to another you can see it.

  4. We have been treating the hills that are 2 levels high as armored elements. I think we are going to be trying to use more buildings and dial back the coverage as I said. I think it will make things more enjoyable. Determining size class for the terrain has been challenging and I think a "less is more" way of thinking may be the way to go.

  5. Good to see Sorylians and Relthoza armies being played.