Zone Mortalis board

In case you weren’t aware already, I am a very big fan of Necromunda. I’m a huge fan of the lore, and I really enjoy the overall aesthetic of the game. I also really like the rules, no matter how complicated I sometimes feel they can be. However, one of the biggest draws for me is the look of a game. I’m not just talking about the models in isolation here, but there’s something just wonderful about seeing a table set up for a game of Necromunda, with the classic multi-layered zone mortalis being a particular favourite.

Now, you may also be aware that I have an ungodly amount of miniatures in my collection, including literal boxes full of terrain. It’s often something that I’ve thought of as a distinct luxury, as I don’t actually host any games at my place, due to the lack of suitable space. However, when I’ve got the Sector Mechanicus stuff out, or indeed the Zone Mortalis pieces, it all just looks so superb, and I can’t help but feel excited for playing within the 40k universe.

However, I’ve recently been feeling like my Zone Mortalis stuff in particular has been a bit of a drain, because of the fact that it’s too modular. It can sometimes be a mini-game in itself trying to put all of the pieces together into an actual board to play on. To that end, I’ve been keen to try to explore set-ups, thinking about ways in which I can combine the pieces that I have to create awesome-looking game boards.

The terrain that I have is not really a massive collection; it’s just one Dark Uprising set, one Hive War set, and just a few bits (mainly stairs) from a platforms & stairs box. On a 3×2 board layout, it often looks quite spare, but on a 2×2 board it has interestingly struck me as being too much! I had initially hoped that the 2×2 would force a little more vertical movement, but whether it’s the way in which I’ve built the platforms or something, I have been struck by how bland the set-up has turned out!

Zone Mortalis

To start with, I’ve gone high with all the platform elements, creating a bit of a look-out tower as the stairs keep going up. It’s certainly interesting, but having everything in one place like this does seem to have resulted in the rest of the board being very flat, somehow.

Zone Mortalis

I think a big problem that I’ve given myself here is the big staircase piece. In many ways it dominates the battlefield, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. If I had a big, multi-tiered board, then it would perhaps have made a little more sense, but unfortunately my desire to recreate something that I’ve seen in the source books has led to having a piece of terrain that is actually quite useless!

Zone Mortalis

At least the barricades have been able to lend a bit to making the rest of the board more sectioned in this configuration, and I don’t lose too much for not having enough walls, etc!

I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on the big staircase, though, as it does sometimes play an interesting part to the proceedings! However, you can see again in the above shots, having the big piece does lead to a bit of an imbalance across the table, with the interesting stuff on one end and the rest of it being a bit flat and boring.

Interestingly, when you look back at the photos linked at the top of this post, with the Gang Stronghold on the table, things look a whole lot more balanced overall.

Zone Mortalis

The second configuration that I’ve tried is this, with the vertical element much more confined to just one elevation off the board. There are a couple of “tower” elements of course, but in the main I’m only looking at the ground floor and up one level. To be honest, I think I much prefer this one as it has much more of an area to it, and it doesn’t feel like quite so much a gimmick to have that sort of slim tower thing going on as in the first one. It had enough open space, but also it has a lot of confined areas to make the board feel more like a zone mortalis thing.

Zone Mortalis

Something that I think I worry too much about is the logic of the terrain, as in here I keep looking at it thinking, why bother with all those blast doors if the platform just allows fighters to walk up and over the wall? But I suppose the principle concern when setting up a battlefield is to make things interesting to fight over…

I do have most of the platform elements from the platforms & staircases kit left over, and something that I’ve been quite keen to do recently is make a kind of bridge walkway piece, which I think could look interesting if used to create a space to move on an upper level, rather than just the first floor. I don’t really think anything lower than the second floor would have the same effect, but this does circle back to the idea of needing a plan in mind for how some terrain elements would normally work. It’s all well and good having so much modularity, of course, but I think there does need to be some thought given to how it all goes together, rather than spending ages before a game trying to figure things out!

So I’m kinda thinking there could be two principle stair/platform sections, then each one goes up another level, and they are joined at the second floor by a bridge walkway. Potentially…

Zone Mortalis

This was one of the first attempts I made to create a layout with everything after I had first constructed the big staircase piece, and it looks a bit silly to see it now, with that odd tower in the middle there! I don’t know what I was trying to do there, beyond perhaps just using all the pieces! It’s interesting, though, to see the double-height wall, which is something that I haven’t really done a lot of. I think it’s possible that I would do more of that if I were intentionally building a table, and was aiming for a whole other floor to the board. For the more regular games, though, it’s not really something I imagine I’ll be doing a lot.

Zone Mortalis

I think this really does show the main issue that arises from that staircase, though, in that it just doesn’t really go anywhere. The upper level ends too abruptly, really, so I’m left wondering if I should look into creating something more to that, to give the structure a point? Or would that just be doubling-down when I should instead look at doing something else?

Maybe the staircase could be used in a blend of Zone Mortalis and Sector Mechanicus, as it would be about half the height of those large structures, and so could feasibly lead onto the gantries there? Hm, some more thought needed, I think…

Of course, it’s not all about creating cramped corridors, either, as I need at least one big open space for my Underhive Market! I started to build this kit earlier in the week, after having it for Christmas a few years back, and I still can’t quite believe it’s actually a thing! Black Friday sales have nothing on the retail wars of the Underhive, I’m sure!!

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