Contact and Deployment
Here we use Chainmail’s Terrain Selection rules (10) to get an idea of the lay of the land. The commander with the higher score on the contact dice first draws and places a number of terrain cards, one at a time, equal to the difference in the unmodified contact dice. In case of a tie on the contact dice, use the unmodified dice rolls to decide first draw. Still a tie, dice for it. After the first, each commander in turn draws and places one card until each commander has drawn four cards.
Note that, with a good throw, the contact dice winner may draw and place four or more cards in the first turn. In that case, the opponent then draws and places four cards one at a time. When the contact dice winner draws and places three or fewer cards in the first turn, he or she takes subsequent turns up to a maximum of four cards. Then the opponent draws and places the remainder of his or her cards.
For now, we don’t model terrain. We avoid spending time to make terrain when we aren’t sure yet if the battle will take place. It is this general lay of the land that serves as input to commanders in their decision to engage or evade.
Chainmail’s Terrain Selection Clarification
How eight (or even 20) three-by-five-inch index cards yields terrain on a four-by-eight-foot table mystifies. Perhaps a line or two of explanation is omitted from the rules. Perhaps not, but it makes more sense if we add that the position and orientation of an index card, as laid by a player, indicates the terrain type in that area—not just the card’s space—on the battlefield.
We model the battlefield based on the cards, scaling up the indicated terrain to fill the space in a logical if not natural way. For example, the marsh card in the middle of the table between a hill card and a river card some distance to either side becomes a marshy area, limited by a hill rising up on one side and a river running through the other. The river continues through the upper part of the marsh to the second river card, placed in an opposite corner. And so on.
Only hills are specified to be “variously shaped.”1 This implies the shape is to be transferred to the battlefield. It stands to reason that the card’s orientation is also respected.
We might be tempted to draw the other terrain cards in particular shapes as well. Straight rivers occur in nature as well as on the wargames table. In play, we discover that the watercourse, while it might run through two cards, is dictated by high and low terrain. We might at least give way to the orientation of the card. Flowing from the first card, the river bends into the second.
Further, as the text instructs, “Terrain is placed anywhere on the table.” It isn’t clear whether the “eight blanks” are considered terrain and meant to be placed on the table, or whether the blank-drawing player is simply deprived of a turn. My table is half the size and my cards two-by-four inches. In first essays, I find that, though there is some power in placing clear between other features, playing the blanks may limit the freedom to shape the terrain.
1 Aside, the four basic hill shapes I came up with resemble an egg, a bean, a guitar, and a painter’s palette.