Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Simple, Fair Method For Terrain Placement: Video and Interview!

One of the things people have a hard time adjusting to in 6th edition is terrain placement, specifically when set up by the players. Now, yes two decent human beings should be able to do it with no problems, but not everyone is always a decent human being (even me). With that being said, Ken Blakely of the Second Founding posted a video explaining a method he pioneered that was a precursor to the current Adepticon Primer method that will be used this year for the GT.

Now, before you turn your nose up or move on, give the video a view and see what they are talking about. Myself and Chuck play with this method in all of our pick-up games, regardless of whether or not the tourney we are practicing for uses terrain placement. Not only do we find this modification fair for both parties, we find it to be a fun way to help set the conditions for your army and that way neither player can blame the board set-up for their win/ loss without pointing the first finger at themselves. Enough of my thoughts though, below is the video, demonstrated by Greg Sparks (American ETC Captain) and Adepticon 2012  Warmaster, Brad Chester.

Now, being a thorough presenter and a long time competitive player, I also wanted to follow up this video with an interview with Ken Blakely himself on how the method came into fruition.

-The Interview-

Q1 (TJ)- Did you receive any feedback prior to the event from players about the Terrain Placement and what were the reactions if any?

A1 (Ken)- When 6th edition was first released, I took a look at the game setup and realized that my 5th edition usual preset terrain was not going to fit the game anymore. I actually like 6th edition and I wanted to come up with a quick, workable solution for tournaments that would maintain as much of the 6th edition feel and designer intent as possible. So I distilled what I refer to as the "game setup phase" down to the key components and typed them up for my first 6th edition tournament. I got a little pre-tournament feedback from Mark, my co-host on the Second Founding, to see if they were easy to understand; but really, that was it. Now the game setup you currently see is not exactly how it was at that first tournament. I initially allowed players to setup terrain anywhere on the table. I got some rather strong negative feedback about that after my first tournament. I also tend to fill 25% of a 6x4 table with a variety of pieces for local tournaments. At AdeptiCon, a specific, easily definable amount was the simpler way to go. The reactions after the first tournament were overall positive, with the exception of allowing terrain to be placed anywhere. I've refined the setup procedure 3 times and each time the reaction has gotten better. Complaints are down, setup time has decreased and terrain related "arguments" have decreased.

Q2 (TJ)- After the event, what was the consensus from the field?

A2 (Ken)- As mentioned in answer 1, the major concerns were over my allowing terrain to be set up anywhere on the table. I originally put that in the setup rules because I thought it would be a fun mini-game within each tournament game to give the players some variety. I quickly realized that a tournament with competitive people is probably not the place for something like that. Game setup quickly became "terrain placement to screw your opponent" rather than "terrain placement to benefit your army". Some people enjoyed it, others hated it. So I changed terrain placement from anywhere to "only in your own table half". That was more fair and kept the "screw your opponent factor" out of the games, which seemed to make them more enjoyable.

Q3 (TJ)- As a player and a TO, what are your personal opinions on the book terrain placement vs the Adepticon Primer placement?

A3 (Ken)- 3. The first thing I will say is that I'm partial to the AdeptiCon game setup method because I had a hand in it. It's nice to see something you created being enjoyed by friends, tournament attendees and some of the best 40K players in the country. The AdeptiCon method is quick, easy, repeatable and fair. It simplifies aspects of tournament game play, makes each game unique (even if played at the same table), helps alleviate potential terrain related arguments and still manages to maintain some 6th edition feel. I like it, but I also enjoy the book method. I like the options in the book (narrative vs. alternating). I'm a fan of telling a story in the games and I actually wish that GW would release things that told you specifically what terrain to use and where to put it for famous battles in the 40K universe. It would be nice to see a GW article on the terrain at Rynn's World or the Battle for Calth.  I also like the random amount of terrain that occurs with the alternating method. Sometimes it's fun to have a densely packed board, other times it's nice to have open space. I like variety in my games. I like changing locals. City fight, desert fight; it's all enjoyable as long as it's different each game.

Q4 (TJ)- Having experienced this method now, would you use it for non-primer events?

A4 (Ken)-  I use the AdeptiCon method for every tournament I run. The only change (as mentioned before) is that I tend to use 25% of the table rather than a set number of pieces. However, that's due to the available terrain at the stores here. AdeptiCon's terrain is much higher quality and is more consistent from piece to piece. Store terrain can be hit or miss on occasion. That's not a knock on the Game Room or Hobby Town, just the truth. Using 25% of the table for local tournaments works out to be roughly the same as using 6 pieces of AdeptiCon terrain. I can't see myself using another setup method for any events I run. My players are familiar with the method, it adds another layer of strategy to the game and their feedback has been positive. The benefits to this method out weigh the negatives for local tournaments at a FLGS or major tournaments like AdeptiCon. This method is here to stay for me, at least until 7th edition drops.

-end interview-

With all that said, I am really going to try to get some of the events in my local area to try this method out. If you are interested in more stuff from the Second Founding, check out their Podcast and their Youtube Channel. They are regularly producing great content and they are one of my regular podcasts that I listen to.

Feedback is always welcome, though I would also suggest sharing it with the Second Founding as well.


  1. I believe I got to watch Ken's terrain placement experiments progress through two team tournaments he hosted.

    The first was 25% in a corner and we took turns placing terrain anywhere on the table with some distance restrictions in place, the next was the only on your own half type setup.

    I really like the system he has in place now, it didn't take long to do and it got rid of alot of the I just placed a giant building 3 inches from your quad cannon shennanagins that the place anywhere seemed to have.

    And it probably doesnt get said enough but thanks to Ken and those who helped him for sacrificing your hobby time to figure these things out.

    1. Yeah, that is true, enough can't be said for working out this solution. You guys could have totally kept it in house or just did what everyone else did and pitch the whole thing out the window. Like I said in the post - this is how we play in my house and in pick-up games I am in.