Friday, October 2, 2009

Not Enough Terrain Syndrome or NETS

Disclaimer: the table pictured above as an example has about 30% terrain on it, if you remove two of the forest sections then it would be close to 25%.

I’ve been planing to do this article for a while now, I’d like to thank Magilla over at The Art of 40K War for re-igniting the fire with his excellent post on terrain.

Do you feel that if you lose the first turn you are at a disadvantage?

Are you constantly fielding transports that you never deploy from, because the troops inside will just disappear if they don’t have the armored shell?

Do those Assault troops ever make it into combat or are they shot to pieces before they get to turn two?

Are those long ranged support units shooting you with clear shots to most of your deployment zone, while sitting at the back edge of theirs?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions then your gaming group may be suffering from a severe case of Not Enough Terrain Syndrome or NETS?

Are you sure that you are using the amount of terrain suggested on page 88 of the MRB? The MRB suggest that roughly twenty five percent of the table should be covered in terrain.

Next time you go for a game try filling a quarter of the playing surface with varied terrain pieces. Then spread them out one at a time with your opponent. Then if the table looks like it does any other game you play congratulations you have been adhering to the rules suggested in the MRB.

If it feels like too much terrain then you my friend have a severe case of NETS. Don’t feel bad though because you are not alone. I’d venture to say that 85 percent of tournaments and gaming stores get it wrong all the time. I don’t completely begrudge them for creating this problem, as terrain is expensive to by and time consuming to build.

It still doesn’t change the fact that they are skewing how the game is played. My suggestion is to do what I am doing locally, ask for more terrain on the tables. There are a few ways to accomplish this, first offer to help organize a terrain building day to get more available. Second get the local guys to help out by bringing in a single tables worth of terrain to be used in the events of the day.

Trust me it is worth the effort to get the proper amount of terrain on the table. It helps bring better tactics into the game and it might just convince you to change up your list a little.


  1. I love the tables to have lots of terrain blocking LOS and movement, and I play guard.

    Cityfight is my thing and over the years, I've built quite a bit of cityfight scenery, so much so, that I can cover the entire table. Most of my pieces are built on 12" square cake bases, so I can literally cover the table.

    Most of the time, we play with about 60% coverage, this means lots of building and very narrow streets. It certainly does make for a more tactical and nail biting game.

  2. NETS can be a seriously under-rated issue for a number of armies out there. I can wholly recommend terrain building days as a good and social way to solve the issue!

  3. The locals in my area suffer from this unfortunately. I like lots of terrain myself.

  4. I have lots of terrain - but not yet painted/based/finished variety so yes my name is Siph and I'm a NETS sufferer. I have put Terrain into my project log of things to do to remind me now. Thanks

  5. I personally love terrain….
    …then again, I do play Tyranids as my primary army.

    That being said, one of the first things you will notice when you start using the proper amount of terrain, is that you will begin to see units that are not part of the “net-lists-o-power.”

    Assault troops with Jump Packs, Chosen using infiltrate (not just outflank), Scouts, etc, etc; having the proper amount of terrain makes these troops choices viable as they will not get evaporate from multiple units/vehicles targeting them. Terrain that blocks LOS means that you opponent will not be able to gang up all their firepower on one unit at a time. They will have to split their firepower between several units and/or move to get into a better position.

    Additionally, the increase in terrain means that troops with the stealth rule become very annoying to get rid of, especially if they go to ground.

    The point is this, terrain turns a point and shoot game into what it was suppose to be – a strategy based miniature game. I agree with Jim, give it a try.

  6. As a Tau player, you might expect me to be wholly against a lot of terrain but thats not the case. I am an avid terrain maker and proponent of using the correct amount. And I don't just want terrain around the edges, I want it in the center of the board.

    I find the amount of terrain in tournaments is sorely lacking. Most tournaments barely have any terrain and it changes the game to favor certain types of armies. In fact, the mech craze of 5th edition may simply be an outcome of mass NETS across the country.

  7. I certainly agree that enough terrain is a common problem. But I think there's two factors worth mentioning:
    1.The WAY that 25%+ of terrain is deployed. Even the example board is a little guilty of this. Most of the terrain hugs the edges of the board, where it only benefits a static or ranged player. Excepting that big-ass hill, there's not much to kill long lines of fire. All the rest of the field-center terrain is low hills that do little to block LOS.
    A lot of the terrain is also clumped together to create the long strands of forest at the edges. This is aesthetically pleasing, but doesn't spread the effect of the terrain as much as it would marching diagonally across the table or clumped into copses.

    2. The size of the terrain. Many places I've played, especially high-end competitions with lots of people, use every piece of terrain they have. They scrape the bottom of the barrel and even raid the Fantasy terrain. A low hill and a 4-story ruin will cover the same footprint, but offer drastically different game effects. So while the board may be "25% covered", it's not the same if it's all low hills, fences and scrub.

  8. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Dverning, you are completely right about the table in the pic, it was the only shot of my table I had on the computer. It was not the greatest example for terrain placement.

    On point two, all it takes to fix the situation is helping out the organizer. Like I said offer to help them expand their terrain, or loan them some for the event.

    Some of the guys running a lot of the most successful Flames of War tourneys have players bring a tables worth of terrain if they are inclined. Then the organizer gives a best table award to the player who brought the best table setup.

    Bring this idea up to your organizers. I've seen it in action successfully on the FOW tourney circuit for about three years now.

  9. Gotta go with Dverin ... it's one thing to have good terrain percentages of terrain, it's quite another to have good pieces of tallish terrain.

    My local store is awesome for terrain. The weekends APOC game had two 4x8 boards just full and two 'country' boards full of hills, temples and ruins... The whole effect was awesome and meant that overlooked units like Guard could sneak up on opponents (and get chopped up by Pariahs (who fields pariahs?)

    Cover makes the deployment of 'looser' units more viable, adds variety and creates drama.

    The guard ARE an awesome cities of death army ... but are never played that way.

    However you try facing a proper 'light infantry' division with umpteen heavy bolters and mortars and special 'fire on my target' orders making a mockery of stuff.

    Plus cover makes 'bonus' upgrades like lictors, commissars or Ogryns really really good.