Cost vs Density- 40k Table Builder’s Dilemma

By Jack Stover | October 3rd, 2013 | Categories: Editorial, jstove, Warhammer 40k

Hey internet, it’s Jstove here, reminding you that I’m still alive.

It’s ok, I know you don’t care.

But there’s important things to discuss.

First, for reference, check out this article Reece over at Frontline recently had up on BoLS.

Now, even better, let’s go back to a month ago when he FORETOLD THE FUTURE.

Why am I posting this stuff now? Well, because I agree with it completely, I always did, and so does everyone I regularly play with.

Personally, I’m willing to believe that 40k 6e is a balanced game… Ok wait, let’s not be so generous- I’m willing to believe that 40k desperately wants to try to be a balanced game. It just seems like for us to get there, we have to take Reece’s advice and start dumping more stuff on our tables. That I’m in total agreement with.

Now if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t bother writing it, so go ahead and make it official- I’m drinking the kool-aid on the “more LOS blocking terrain is better” crowd.

Of course, this brings us back to competitive 40k’s biggest demon- Setting the tables.

So I want to discuss this idea with everyone, the 40k internet meta-sphere, and talk about the tables in a way we talk about building our armies. It’s pretty normal for us all to go hard-nerd style over our army lists and tweak the living crap out of everything to get the most possible flying robot pastries, biker chapter masters, and flying invulnerable demon shark-fish out of our lists, so how about we take this extreme efficiency-over-all attitude back to the garage and use it on the table, not just on the army?

I want to explore an idea I call Cost vs Density.

Cost vs Density means exactly what it sounds like- How much stuff you’re putting on the table, versus how much it costs you to do it- And we’re not talking about points, we’re talking about money. We’re talking strictly to competitive event organizers and players who have a direct correlation between the quality of their tables and the thickness of their wallets.

Ideally, for competitive 40k (and fun 40k too, because LOS blocking terrain improves the quality of all games, not just competitive ones) we should be looking at maximizing the amount of stuff on the table for the most efficient investment.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about the elephant in the room right now, and that’s GW’s own plastic terrain.

Let’s be realistic here friends, it sucks. It doesn’t block anything because its full of windows and holes, and it has made us all lazy. We’ve become complacent with the readily available product and its made us forget that terrain can actually be cheap and effective, and actually make the table interesting.

Now, that’s not to say its not pretty and it doesn’t look cool as hell, but when we’re talking about furnishing dozens of tables for an indy GT, it pays to have a little more spartan approach. Even if you happen to have a retail account with GW and are getting product at a warehouse rate, the Cost vs Density equation on the GW terrain is abysmal. It’s just losing all over. It’s literally hemorrhaging bullets and dead models from all the LOS you can trace through it.
When you buy GW terrain, you’re really just buying a tau player a markerlight.

Now, let’s look at something on the opposite side of the spectrum, something that hits the Cost vs Density equation right where we want it- Dirt cheap with lots of game changing potential to block LOS and make competitors think.

Oh hey, remember that link to Reece’s beer can refinery tanks? Let’s post that again.

These things are pretty much perfect, and let’s be honest, there’s only one way to play a fun game of 40k, and its definitely not sober. You were going to drink all that beer anyways, so let’s turn those empties into terrain! You already bought all the aluminum cans, and we can the terrain piece as big or small as we want by gluing together multiple cans or stacking them on top of each other, and the whole thing is just a can of silver spray paint away from looking like the crappy industrial lot across the street from your friendly neighborhood crack house.

The Cost vs Density on these models are exponential. We get as much table density as we desire for pennies on the inch with a can of spray paint.

Now, let’s extrapolate this idea to its logical conclusion. Empty beer cans already look like industrial chemical tanks, so why not expand on that idea and build a whole refinery? Its a great way to theme a table, and it allows us to go nuts on cool stuff like pipes, scaffolding, big weird buildings, smoke stacks, and blinking lights. That’s pretty much 40k in a nut shell after you apply a gratuitous sprinkling of skulls.

So follow me on this for a moment, because I want to propose another brilliant addition to Reece’s high Cost vs Density beer tanks.

This is Homer’s Bucket from Home Depot. Its 3 dollars for a 5 gallon bucket.

Here’s what we can do with it.

-Flip it over, paint it silver, throw it on the table. Its a giant chemical tank.
-Cut it in half right down the middle with a band saw, paint it silver, its 2 giant aluminum aircraft hangars.
-Cut it in half right across the 2 gallon mark, flip it over, paint it silver, and now you’ve got 2 reasonably tall chemical vats.

Really, its just a giant fat 3 dollar cylinder you can cover with metal paint. It’s not difficult. Most industrial equipment you drive past in your car while you’re going down the freeway is giant metal cylinders, so why would it be any different 37,000 years into the future?

Now I’m sure some of you thinking,

“JStove, do you really expect me to play on a table made of chopped up buckets and empty beer cans? Are you drunk?”

To which I have 3 snarky answers for you.

1) Well obviously I’m drunk, I made all that beer can terrain, right?
2) You still have to paint it and put work into it, I didn’t say it was easy, just that it was cheap. It doesn’t have to look cheap.
3) Most importantly, if you’ve never played a game of 40k where your primary terrain wasn’t beer cans, stacks of paperback books and VHS tapes, you haven’t been playing 40k very long and I used to walk uphill both ways in the snow and land speeders were made of deodorant bottles.

That’s it guys, i’m outta here, BUT checkout my other fun and exciting articles by clicking this link right HERE. -Jstove

About the Author: Jack Stover

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