Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Urban Combat Scenery: What Do You Think?

Dear Reader,

First of all, a major shout out to our loyal fans who have now pushed us over 18,000 views! :)  Seeing the interest you all are generating in our site keeps us going, so thank you for that, :)  I thought about not doing another scenery post (as I'm badly wanting to get some battle reports in), but as we head into 10 days before the TMAT Grand Tournament, I thought it would help you all (and the other competitors) to see some of my ideas for an urban combat board.  After hours of painting, lots of shuffling things around, and carefully measuring out parameters for how the scenery would work, I came up with a rough sketch that will serve as a guide for how the field could be setup for a tournament game.

For the walkthrough today, Captain Terrek and his troop of Osgiliath Veterans have graciously allowed me to use them for demo purposes, and they will be joined by random members of my Chill of Angmar list (just to spice things up).  I hope that you find this walkthrough helpful for how I'm envisioning the dynamics of the board to work.

Setting: The forces of Good and Evil have been locked in siege combat for weeks.  The final assault is approaching, and victory will be determined within the rubble.  The camera pans back for a wide shot:

And we have what remains of the town!  As you'll notice, I varied the board into a more "open" section (the lower half) and a more "closed" section (the top half), to give outlets for various styles of play, depending on the force.  The five warriors at the bottom also show you the length of the coffee stirrers that you'll see in the post: they are around 5.25" long (almost 5.5").

As you can see, the board does not use all of my terrain pieces.  I've set aside various pieces either for other boards that may want some additional flavor, or in case we believe that the scenery is too sparse, and we would like more walls.  All of the pieces except for the smial could work in this scenario, so we have a lot of options.  The board is setup with the following parameters in play:

  • Scenery is 8" away from the left and right board edges, and 4" away from the top and bottom board edges (which you can see from the tape measure in the first picture)
  • A wide road (at least 4" wide) goes cleanly through the center of the city, giving ease of access for mounts of almost every size (we'll talk about Mumakil in a bit)
  • The bridge is in the center of the map

Other than that, I didn't give myself any parameters in how to plan the city.  For this setup, I decided to create four separate segments of town.  We'll go around and view each part in turn:

1.  The Courtyard
For the courtyard, my theory was to create a space near the gate where horses could be watered, people could gather, and a random statue could look stoicly down on those who did the former two.  The statues are also conveniently posted in five spots in the town: one in each quadrant, and the fifth on the bridge (more on that in a bit).  This is not required, but in case we wanted to do a Domination game here, I have some thoughts on that later.

The courtyard represents one of the most open portions of the battlefield.  The battlements of the barracks look down on the courtyard, and the space would be a terrible place to be caught in a firefight.  The barracks, on the other hand, is quite the contrary.

2.  The Barracks
The barracks represents the hold of strength in the city, and rightly connects to the bridge that leads into the more domesticated part of town.  Within this area, we find rubble from the bombardment (as the bombardment would likely have been the heaviest here), as well as strong fortifications and open archways for ease of access.  I've been thinking about making weapons racks, so we'll see what the next 10 days bring.

The chances for fighting on the battlements, on the ground level, around the rubble, and from the bridge gives this section of the board the most opportunities, and a small chance for fortification against the other sections of the board (if you can seize it).  From below, someone on the battlements easily gets a cover save; almost nowhere receives a cover save from the LOS of the battlements.

Since these guys were in the shot, I thought I'd zoom in on my newest additions to my army: my Orc Trackers.  I had fun painting these guys, though I'm at a loss for ideas on customizing, as they are pretty straightforward poses.

All of the statues in the town, by the way, are 18" apart (more or less; I had to move one because it landed it in a precarious position on some brickwork), which would mean that they would be closer to each other than your normal Domination game if we did it in the town (though, I'd argue, that would actually play well to the strengths of this type of map).  For non-Domination games...this just means that you have statues about 18" apart, :)

3.  The Bridge
Okay, so I know what you're thinking: "Glenstorm...uh...that's the bridge?  You're joking, right?"  Yes, I am - the bridge is still IP, so these coffee stirrers are standing in for me today.  The final bridge will likely be a foam/spackle bridge that will have a ledge jutting out from the side for the statue to stand on (so that he is not in the way).  What I want to spend some time emphasizing in this section, though, is the height, width, and placement of the bridge, and how it can factor into the scenario.

Up top, as you can see, we have options for shooting the poor warriors on the bridge, with some sides being more favorable for protecting your archers.  You can also see the spacing for the bridge: I'm thinking of keeping it for 1 (maybe 2) models tops, primarily because I don't want it to take up over half of the top battlement space overlooking Main Street.  Quite the contrary, I want the bridge to be an option for you to exploit, but not overwhelming both of the scenery pieces that support it.

Underneath, Terrek and his men were kind enough to demonstrate the spacing of the building around Main Street (and, as you can see, he's very brave to do that!).  4" provides room for 4 infantry, as well as 2 40mm bases and 1 25mm base (as evidenced by the orc and minotaurs, who are standing in for cav units).  The height of the buildings is such that mounted units (and trolls and such) should not hit their heads on the bridge, though this is no reason not to exercise caution when you move models under the bridge. :)  This should provide larger blocks of infantry, battalions of cavalry, and all shades of heroes with a good amount of room to maneuver.

What is more, you'll notice that both sides of the terrain pieces are open, like an aqueduct: this allows swarm armies to still employ their strategy, helping to alleviate any advantages that may come from restricted deployment.  Obviously, there are some tactical advantages to marching large hordes of guys down Main, but my intent is to keep it from being overpowering and "unfair" to non-spear and non-pike civs.  Feedback would be wonderful.

My thinking is that if this were used as a domination game, both the units below and on the bridge would count as within 3" of the objective, forcing more combat over the center objective than just fighting over the bridge.  In an Arkenstone game, I figure that the measuring would work similarly.  In a To the Death scenario...I expect generals to do whatever pleases them on, over, and around my bridge, :)

4.  The Marketplace
Not nearly as exciting as the bridge, I know, :)  The bottom left corner of the map will be the old marketplace, which I always envisioned more as a "swap meet"/"flea market"-style area, rather than a hardcore marketplace, so it is more open.  Most of this area has been leveled, with a number of walls and hastily created barriers lying where trade carts used to be.

5.  The Manor
And finally, we have the shattered remains of what used to be the old manor house.  Some of the steps remain, as does the statue that stood near it, but otherwise everything has been washed away in the tide of war.  If I were to throw in the fallen pillars or statue, I would do it here, as it would help to build this scene.  For now, I've kept them off the board, in the name of going for a battered look, not a cluttered look.

You will also notice near the bottom left of the screen a small tower of sorts: this is conveniently large enough for bases to sit on (max two, if you remove the barrel), to provide just enough of a perch for an archer to cover the bottom section of the map, and can also support into about half of the bridge (and naturally all of the battlement on the southern approach to the bridge.  The wall is not so high to provide cover for the archer (unless he's kneeling), hence the barrel.

So, anyway, those are my ideas for an urban board: still room to maneuver phalanxes of infantry and units of cavalry, but more restricted, and with set lanes for archers (rather than a clear field).  Now, if you bring a Mumakil to war here, I'll be honest: you'll likely be stuck primarily in that 8" section on either side of the board.  That said, 24" will cover past the bridge on either side, and there is no cover from the howdah LOS on either side of the board.  This means you likely won't be able to use your trampling ability, but you should still get some work out of your units on the oliphant.  If you're unhappy with that, we can talk about how to rearrange the map...or I'll just be honest: you ought to know better than to try to navigate a mumak in a town, :)

One of the things I like about this map is that it is full of options.  There are innate advantages to heavy armor civs, archer-based civs, horde civs, hero-based civs - you name it, and they can be combined to both assist each other and used against another force if planned correctly.  But those advantages can vary in their effectiveness based on the scenario, giving an extra set of wonder to what will transpire within these battered walls.  I suppose only time will tell.

Until that time, may you remain, as ever,
Watching the stars,


"We watch the skies for the great tides of evil or change that are sometimes marked there." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


  1. that setup looks awesome bro. I can see you've put a lot of work into it. It looks really promising as a board for our tourney. I'm assuming what you have here is a 4'x4' setup?

    you mentioned that a couple of the archer perches give no cover, maybe you could use some of your coffee-stick magic and craft some makeshift "we piled some boards up mid-battle" crenellations on a couple of them to give a little cover? just a thought...

    1. Not a bad idea; I have some pre-made for a smaller fortress I designed ages ago (more like a palisade fort, really), so I may end up cracking those out. I'm also thinking that having some spaces open to the archers below will help those civs that move slower than others, and thus not slant the battle against them because they cannot get to the high ground quickly.

      The board is for a 4'x4' setup; the quadrants can be condensed in case the width of the board is not quite 4' though, which is nice. I'll keep playing around with the configuration to see what we can find, :)

    2. right. I don't mean for them to be fully inclosed, but at least a significant portion of the perches should provide a little cover - from 1-2 directions at least. Otherwise there is little incentive to risk your archers up there as opposed to making use of firing lanes on the ground.

      I also have a couple ruined towers which could be incorporated. There is also the hill if we wanted a nice open archery platform/skirmish area that overlooks the town.

  2. I want to fight there!
    I like it. Urban maps are just the most awesome of all terrain types, in my opinion.