Dot Deployment – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Terrain, and how to deploy it, is the eternal question every wargamer is going to try to solve, and never actually get right.

In KOW, we have Epic Dwarf Map Packs, and the old fashioned, each player gets to share placing the terrain anywhere on the table approach. The South has been doing things differently, and from the recent Masters, each region has gotten to have a taste of Dot Deployment.

Dot Deployment is a more rigid form of player placed terrain. On the table will be a random assortment of dots and the players job is to place terrain over top of the dots. You roll off, and the winner gets to place any piece of terrain somewhere on the table where it completely covers 1 dot. There’s a couple minor rules, both players have to agree to allow hills in the deployment zones and no piece of terrain can touch another piece of terrain. Once all the terrain has been placed, each player gets an obstacle/fence to place anywhere on the table, as long as it is touching a piece of terrain or at least 3″ away from any piece of terrain.

An example of the dots spread out somewhat randomly, 8 dots for 8 pieces of terrain (Dots are much smaller irl, but program doesn’t make small counters easy)

The Good

What Dot Deployment does, at least ostensibly, is remove the situation where the player walks up to a table, and knows they’ve lost the game before it starts. This is supposed to be accomplished by both players influencing where roughly 50% of the terrain gets to be placed. I say ostensibly, because a player will still lose, either by no dot being in the center, or losing the roll for 1st drop, and the key middle point being the opposite of what you need.

Now you might be asking why I put that in the good category? Because what dot deployment will do is shape the lists at an event, and I think at some level, that’s something to be desired by T.O.’s running event. What it also does, is forces players to understand what they want their list to be doing. I think it helps the better players; those who know what they’re looking for in any scenario.

In dot deployment, alternative movement and height are kings. What I mean by alternative movement is armies with surge, strider, pathfinder. They will see more success, since they can setup their special rules to work on their own turns. I don’t think it’s a big surprise to see Chris James’ super elite, shambling, undead have such success in such an environment, where he can hide all his flying shamblers behind hills and forests that he got to place himself.

And an example terrain layout, not exactly correct to the dots in the first picture, but hill’s are gonna always be out of deployment zones, and notice 1 fence covering the gap between the flat and forest, the other off in the corner to not be used.

Giants, and their like, benefit greatly from either getting to ignore the hills, that will almost always be in the middle, or give you a punch you might not otherwise have, with forests that will usually be in playable zones. Lastly, Height 3 units are extremely good in an event that ensures hills go in the middle.

My own Nightstalkers benefited greatly, since my only units smaller than height 3 also shamble; ensuring my speed elements always work, no matter the terrain.

The Bad

Negative play experience is extremely easy to accomplish. One table at masters had 4 pieces of impassible terrain, and if you played a horde style army, you were almost certainly going to lose, because half or more of the table is zoned off from your hordes. This is even worse if you play an army with 25mm infantry.

So, any TO that wants to run this system has to make sure they keep at the least consistent numbers of terrain. At Siege of Augusta every table had 3 hills, some had 4, and there were only 4 dots outside deployment zones, which trivialized the whole process, since players could only choose where the forests and such went in deployment zones. This also made playing elves particularly frustrating, since every table I played was always bad for me. I’m sure no one really is sad about that, but Dot Deployment can definitely make events worse, or unenjoyable for armies.

Terrain setup with oversized pieces and an extra hill, in this example if I was the elf player I go flat first, they go forest behind the flat and I now have to deploy hills in the middle or buildings/rocks/forest in the deployment zones. This is what I saw a lot of at siege of augusta, fences again placed to cover a lane and out of the way.

The Ugly

The tables themselves are often hideous. You very often get ugly tables with fences in odd looking spots, or my personal favorite, tucked in a corner because I didn’t want one on the table. This might not be an issue for all players, but plenty of more hobby focused won’t appreciate how the tables will come out looking.

I also included this in the good section, but if Dot Deployment is played as a standard, it will shape your meta pretty drastically. I think it’s a good thing for TO’s to want to emphasize players adjusting armies to new scenarios/special units/terrain deployment. But I don’t think it’s that good of a thing to have a set standard that will do that. If you dislike chariot spam, dot deployment will likely only make that more popular.

In Conclusion

Dot Deployment is a perfectly valid method of terrain placement. I think it encourages a higher level of play, however at the expense of potential negative play experiences, and a worse visual experience. Any TO running it should pay close attention to where the dots are being placed, as well as the size, and amount of terrain the event is going to be using. Larger events, that have to borrow terrain to fill their tables might want to avoid this system entirely.

Overall, I don’t suggest any region making it the standard for their events, obviously if the TO’s and players all like it, run what works for you, but I think playing Dot Deployment shapes the meta in a way that hurts some armies, and encourages specific lists too much. Instead, I suggest mixing terrain placement methods.

About Joey Greek

Hi I'm a player in the Mid-Atlantic, an avid traveller and gt attendee. One of the admins of the salamander Facebook page and Mike Rossi's favorite list analyst!

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One Comment on “Dot Deployment – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. Cheers for the write-up dude. I really loathe the Competitive Terrain Phase that develops when players alternate terrain drops – this was particularly bad in WHFB if you played with mystical nonsense candyland hellscape rules, and still plagues AOS – and likewise don’t enjoy the pressure of setting up a table myself when the other player tells me they don’t care, absolving themselves of any guilt if and when terrain becomes an issue later. Because they should and do care, terrain is a huge part of miniwargaming but is very rarely handled well RAW.

    In KOW we’re blessed to have the Epic Dwarf maps, which have really been a gods send to get terrain set up quickly and equanimously and get the game moving. Pregenerated terrain is IMO the best (and fastest) answer to tournament terrain as well. I don’t need or want tables to be mirrored – asymmetrical terrain placement makes the deployment roll more meaningful and provides an avenue for the non-numerical strengths of some armies to shine, plus helps mitigate the dreaded standoff / low score game.

    I haven’t had the pleasure of playing dot deployment, but between your article here, batrep commentary (Visible Riley in particular), and my experience with plenty of years of negotiating the Terrain Phase in WHFB, I can’t say I’m excited to.

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