January 10, 2012

Hills, what are they?

Before I start making my hill as the first terrain project of the New Year I wanted to understand what a hill is. At least in game terms. I know what a hill is from slogging my way up a good few recently. However in games they are something completely different. It can take me a good hour or so to get to the top of a decent hill, thats not really the same thing as in wargames. So first lets look at some rules for hills and see if they tell us much.

In Warmachine a hill is discussed and defined in two short paragraphs. Basically it informs us to decide if it is a hill or an obstacle, this depending on the slope form. It also then tells us that all a hill does is provide elevation for models on them. They may be rought terrain also based on the ground cover.Elevation gives a bonus to defence as long as you are an inch higher than the attacker. It also helps with LOS. So a very basic definition.

In Warhammer Hills are given another short description. They are mentioned at least as being strategically important objectives. Again they don't hinder movement but they provide a bonus of +1 combat resolution for defenders that are uphill of attackers. Other than this there is no major discussion on hills. There are some special hills such as a scree slope and an Anvil of Vaul. These are worthy of their own discussions so I won't cover them here.

Another favourite game of mine is Warmaster Ancients and hills are also present there. Only one paragraph this time. Hills here don't impose any movement penalties as long as the slopes are not steep or rugged. Interestingly and I guess due to the scale, mountains are mentioned in this ruleset too. Only skirmishers can climb them and other than this models entering them are destroyed.

40k doesn't discuss hills at all that I could see. So basically hills don't impede movement and offer some form of bonus to defenders/occupiers. So rules don't really effect the form much. Most hills we see on the table are stepped. This is in someways better for gaming but I have often had problems still. Getting a squad of individuals onto it is fine but getting a large regiment onto it is a pain. Also in games like Warmachine balancing a top heavy 'jack onto one of these steps is difficult. So why don't people use sloped hills? Well these aren't ideal either as the slopes are too steep. It proves easier to get a regiment onto them but individuals are often precariously balanced. Hit the table and they start rolling off. So what is the happy medium? Is there one?

Well having thought about it a little I think one of the main problems is the fact that we call them hills. Really when you think about a hill its is pretty huge. Much higher than is represented in a gaming piece. It also covers much more of an area. If you really wanted to represent a hill you would probably begin with a minimum foor print of 4' x 4'. So instead of hill we should consider a different name. I have tried to figure out what a low 'bump' in the ground could be called and many names are somewhat suitable; mound, escarpment, hillock or knoll. None of them are perfect either with hillock being the most likely one we should use. Knoll sounds nice too so thats the one I will go for. So I want to make a knoll! How am I going to do that? I don't want steps as it breaks up the natural visual aspect of a battlefield. So it is going to be sloped. There are some excellent tutorials online. The best I have seen is here from 3t studios. I have bought some plasticard as a basing material just to add strength to the polystrene I will use. It has a foot print of about 2' x 1' so perfect for what I want. I can build up a decent but not overly high slope. To help with that I think I will put a cliff face on one side. That allows me to slope up to that rather than having to go back down once I reach the center of the piece. It also give the hill a bit more of an effect in during the game as part of it will be basically impassable terrain.

So once I get finished with the Beastmen targets for this month I can get busy with the knoll. I am looking forward to it.


  1. I like the levels on a hill because, although sometimes heavy models might have difficulty balancing, it adds a little more tactical depth since in Warmachine/Hordes the rule is that if a model cannot be placed in a location without falling over, then it cannot be there, so it makes it more interesting in the game when a heavy can't be 1/2 on a hill and half dangling off of it to try to get to a hard-to-reach model.

  2. Yeah but thats not particuarly realistic is it? The terrain should add to the gameplay not dictate it. Rules like that you mentioned is a reason I want to pay a lot of attention to what I am making over the coming months.

    I also want it to look as natural as possible so thats why I ruled out the steps. The Battlefield in a Box range make nice stepped hills and I think those are what I would go for if I wanted this type of hill.

  3. "The terrain should add to the gameplay not dictate it."

    Adding 'you can't do that so you'll have to try something else' is sort of what terrain does in Warmachine though, surely?

    Quibbling aside, it's an inordinate relief to me that someone else has the same feelings on the term 'hill' that I do. I built mine to sit on the edges of my 4'x4' table and represent the absolute lowest slopes of a large hill, or a curved rise and fall in the ground that doesn't really qualify.


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