Wargaming Tradecraft: Random Terrain Placement


Random Terrain Placement

As my buddy Hex plays Nids and I play Eldar, this as you can imagine leads to greatly differing tactics on the battlefield. (Not just our own, but for the others we game with as well) As such, we've developed a system for randomly deploying terrain. Due to the randomness of both terrain placement and type, your battles will end up with more or less table coverage. This will end up favouring different armies and tactics from game to game.

These rules have been tweaked here and there, and you're welcome to do the same. Usually we'll set the table up once per session (day) rather than before each game. (multiple times a day) If you feel like taking the time between games to generate the field again, go right ahead.

Quick Overview

  • Split up the table - 6 or 4 sections depending on table size.
  • Roll a die and scatter it 2D6" from the center point of each section.
  • Place 0-2 more dice to fill any large gaps.
  • Replace dice with terrain, slightly angled to the center by their roll.
    1. Large Buildings and Structures
    2. Bunkers / Small Buildings
    3. Walls
    4. Walls
    5. Ruins
    6. Area
      - Scatter a bunch of markers from the center point.


We play on an 8 foot by 4 foot table.

 We tried various layouts and have decided that splitting it into six parts works for us.

In each section, we place a marker (dice) roughly in the center.
On a smaller table, 4 quarters might be better than sixths.

Each of these markers gets scattered 2D6 inches, stopping at table edges.
On a smaller table, you could scatter D6 inches, though random is good.

We sometimes end up with a gap on the left and/or right half of the table, near the center and will usually place extra markers to fill them.
These are optional and will depend on the size of the table and how close your first markers are.

Roll a D6 (a normal die) for each marker, replacing the marker with the die.

Replace each marker with a piece of terrain. Face the terrain to the opposite side of the table, angled slightly towards the center. Terrain is placed according to the numbers on the dice and what you have available in your terrain collection:
  1. Buildings and Structures
      • Large, tall and intact items that take up a chunk of the field.
    • Buildings
        • Houses, Stores, Towers, crashed ships, etc
      • as per page 78 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
      • Large buildings designed for models to enter like transports, treating windows as fire points. Each window is roughly large enough for two models to fire out of.
      • You should define the following, which should be kept the same from game to game:
        • Armour Value
          • 9 - corrugated steel / fencing, 10 - log cabin, 11 - brick, 12 - concrete, 13 - reinforced, 14 - bastion.
        • Access Points
          • Doors, broken windows, etc.
        • Transport Capacity
          • How many models can fit inside. (Some models like Terminators count as 2.)
    • Structures
        • Hills, canyons, oil refineries, bases, etc.
      • Impassible terrain or open-topped buildings that cannot be entered like transports but can be walked on wherever models fit. They must have ladders/stairs/etc for models to traverse levels.
      • These could also be buildings that units can't enter and instead use doors as points to access other levels or the roof.
  2. Bunkers
      • Small to medium sized intact buildings or reinforced firing lines, usually one floor in height with a single entrance
    • These are fortified emplacements usually just big enough to fit a single fire-team.
    • Treat them as providing a 3+ cover save to the occupying unit or as smaller versions of normal Buildings from #1 with a high armour value.
  3. Walls, Wire, Fences, Sandbags, Statues, Rivers, etc.
  4. Walls, Wire, Fences, Sandbags, Statues, Rivers, etc.
    • Objects of various sizes that block or obscure line of sight and provide cover to infantry, monstrous creatures and/or vehicles.
    • These will be difficult, dangerous or impassible terrain.
  5. Ruins (destroyed buildings, broken temples, abandoned dig sites, etc)
    • as per page 82 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
    • Wrecked single or multi level areas that units can only stand where you can fit them.
    • Follow normal rules for Ruins and are difficult terrain.
    • The entire ruin is treated as being covered in rubble. This confers a 4+ cover save to models even in the open, areas that look intact, aren't (windows can be used as doors and inner walls can be moved through) and rubble can be climbed to other levels.
  6. Area Terrain (Forests, boulders, craters, etc)
    • Create your area terrain using either 4th or 5th ed rules. The difference is 5th ed area terrain can be seen through using true line of sight, while 4th ed area terrain allows for thicker terrain that blocks sight.
      Either way, scatter markers from the original to create your area. For 5th ed, use more markers or spread them out evenly.
    • 5th edition
      page 22 of the Warhammer 40k 5th ed Rulebook
        • Boulders spread around for models to dodge between. Ancient relics like Eastern Island heads jutting from the ground.
      • All true line of sight with markers that models must weave their way through and if you can see them, you can shoot them.
      • Difficult terrain where applicable. (Walking over roots from a tree or a walking between 2 trees on a single marker)
      • Models in the terrain gain a 4+ save and units shot at through more than 2" of area terrain gain a 4+ cover save. (obscured sight)
    • 4th edition
      page 21 of the Warhammer 40k 4th ed Rulebook
        • Trees marking the outline of a forest to trudge through. Piles of dirt marking the outside of a crater that models crawl through.
      • Draw a border to represent the area of terrain making it easier to fit models inside.
      • Difficult Terrain, blocks line of sight, height of the markers defines height of the area.
      • Models within 6" of the border are in cover but can be seen and can shoot out.
      • Models deeper than 6" are out of line of sight. (the area terrain is dense)

As you can see, this roughly ends up as 25% coverage, which is what's recommended.

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