40k: Unified Skirmish Terrain Theory

I've been playing a fair bit of Kill Team recently. Everyone has opinions on strategy and tactics but nobody really seems to know what to do with terrain. I've seen all kinds of setups. Some worked, some produced very short or extremely one-sided games.

-Produce interesting, dynamic games.

-Force players to make meaningful choices.

This article isn't about positioning terrain to guarantee a win. It's all about setting up a board to produce a fun game for everyone involved.


1. Don't put terrain on the outer edge of the board.
Not sure where I got this image. It's a nice board overall but the stuff around the edges is just decoration.

Not sure where I got this one either. The buildings in red are in deployment areas. The models in them will just sit there all game sniping away.
You want to encourage movement. Putting terrain in a ring around the edge of the board and then leaving the middle empty makes for short and boring games. Teams deploy in the best buildings available and blast each other to bits. Anything foolish enough to wander into the empty middle can be targeted by anyone.

Tall terrain on the outer edge of the board also means you'll spend all game leaning over and trying not to snag a sleeve on a parapet. The official GamesWorkshop boards can trick you into putting buildings along "roads". Not the best plan.

2. The best positions require movement to reach.

Image provided by Ramanan S. The red soup can tower has two snipers on it. The poor models in white can hide in the green areas, but the snipers can hit any other part of the board.
If you can deploy a sniper (any model with a long-ranged high-powered weapon) in a spot where they can see the entire board, they can very easily control the entire game. It should take a turn or two of movement (and not shooting) to reach a position where the model can fire at two or more quarters of the board.

3. Place objectives carefully.
It's surprisingly hard to find images of objective placement, so here's an example of good placement I set up. There are multiple ways to get to the objective.
Objective markers are ubiquitous in skirmish games. Try to put them in locations that will drive conflict. Objectives in the open are difficult to hold; no cover means no protection. Objectives protected by walls on 3 sides are too easy to hold; all attacks will come from one direction. I like putting objectives on the second level of buildings or in areas with two different approach lanes.

I recommend using the objectives rules from the 2018 Nova tournament (PDF) for Kill Team. They create much more dynamic and close games.

Terrain Plan

Ok, this might be a bit difficult to follow but bear with me.

Top left: It's a skirmish board. The white areas have no line-of-sight-blocking terrain in them. The mid grey areas are places where one-story terrain should go. The dark grey square in the middle is for two-story terrain or higher.

Top right: Here's a potential layout. The light grey areas represent the back side of buildings.

Bottom left. The board divided into quadrants. In most games you'd deploy either in opposite quadrants or opposite board edges.

Bottom right: The board with examples of good objective placement. Corners are good. Objective  1 is out in the open, but there are no better locations in that quadrant. It's OK to have one or two objectives out in the open, just not all of them.

Guideline: Gap -> Ring of Buildings -> Gap -> Taller Central Building

Example Board

I set this up a earlier today. The outer edges of the board are empty. All the two-story terrain (and all the best firing positions) are near the middle of the board. The objectives are accessible in several different ways. One objective marker is on the upper level; I could put marker (1) up there too to drive a bit more conflict, but it's already a fairly powerful position to hold. Moving models in the centre of the board will be tricky but not impossible. There's a completely open side to the catwalks.


  1. I betcha there’s a lot of guys who do wargames who would help you gain insight... not that me saying this helps you

  2. These are good guidelines