Scenery Review: Optimized Tournament Table Deal by Shark Mounted Lasers

Scenery Reviews

Shark it good

ChecklistSharkMountedLasers

EDIT 09/16
Dexter of Shark Mounted Lasers amicably replied in the comments, and noted that his Optimized Table Set design was updated to rectify the transparency problem discussed below.  I’ll leave the rest of the article intact as a warning to any products similar to this old set, whose designs are too open for normal Infinity play.


I have seen Shark Mounted Lasers on more tables and more battle reports than I would imagine.  And I’ll say why up front—I don’t think this stuff is good.  In fact, I think it’s bad.

That’s more or less how your sets turn out on the table.  Not bad, right?

Just normal buildings, right?  Your basic building has the following elements:  a couple door holes, a bunch of windows, a few hexagons, and maybe a ladder or two.  Why is this bad?

Hobby games are an investment.  Most of us are on a bit of a budget.  So you want those hard-earned dollars and hand-out euros to go to good use.  Therefore I think Shark Mounted Lasers is not the product you want, and there’s a crucial reason why.  Listen to this vent from Certs of the WaywardWarcor:


So, the other meta, and sometimes I feel much of the overall US meta, institutes “into, out of, but not through” building LoF house rule as if it were indeed an ingrained part of the actual ruleset. Whereas I only ever dip to it when the terrain being used really necessitates it, but since I mostly use my own terrain, that’s rarely ever an issue.
As a terrain builder, this is where the use of the house rule peeves me.
It’s my impression that many “notable” MDF terrain companies design their products with the use of the house rule in mind, as if it were the standard rather than an exception. To use US examples, Shark Mounted Lasers and Underground Lasers terrain warrants this, and even Warsenal staff mentioned using the house rule with their Comanche terrain (their table stood out at NOVA as being very open LoF because I didn’t use the house rule for my event since NOVA’s DIY terrain had been designed to be usable without it).
Black Maria Designs is a new start-up from our neighboring meta that’s also making MDF terrain designed with that house rule in mind. Where that becomes a sensitive issue for me is that he plans to donate terrain to NOVA. Because he’ll be an official sponsor at that point, NOVA will require me to place his terrain front and center, which subsequently requires me to add the house rule to NOVA as well to preserve the integrity of the tables.
Obviously, I am not the happiest about. I almost wish I had the capital laying around to start up my own company, design some terrain, and donate it to NOVA as well just to counter this development. But, that’s probably a sign I’m strangling NOVA with my doting. And, I’ll concede that my group is looking to be in the very small minority now, so it is likely best just to add the house rule and accommodate the majority anyways.
(Sigh, that’s part of the problem with being a TO tied to an event that’s required to be as “successful” as possible. When paying for various expenses, including flying Bostria to the event, the minimum requirement for an event’s “success” gets raised well above a relaxing afternoon where at least a few friends showing up and play a few games.)
Still, that does grind my gears as a terrain builder because I think it’s a bit of a cheap cop out by those professionals to design their MDF terrain as such rather than aim to come up with interesting and functional products that do fall within the actual terrain rules as is.
This next part I’ll preface by claiming it’s entirely just speculation, hearsay, and opinion on my part alone.
My strong feelings on this subject do happen to be fueled by a previous discussion on it with Gutier, who turned out to also be quite adamant in his disdain for how popular the house rule has become, even among his playtesters. Something to the effect of, ‘if I wanted players to use it, I would’ve included it in the rules’, a quote you might enjoy for the legitimacy of Intent.
Unfortunately, he knows as well there’s a difference between the Infinity that was his ideal and the monster it actually becomes once in the hands of those players ‘who know better’. I do wonder if, to some extent, he feels that same sense of helplessness over the terrain made by CB’s partners as I do with NOVA. Though in his case, both his livelihood and original creation are involved, whereas I’m simply a volunteer.

TL;DR  A lot of people play “shoot in or out, but not through, buildings”.  But this is not the rule, and Corvus Belli’s designers don’t want it to be the rule of Infinity.

The problem is not Infinity’s rules here.  The problem is shitty, empty, low-quality terrain.

I wish I had photos to show you of some glorious terrain we used to have.  A player took the Micro Art Studios set, and filled the buildings with really attractive stuff.  But it wasn’t just attractive—he explicitly decorated the interior of buildings so that people would want to explore their insides, and so that people couldn’t just shoot through them.  You can always shoot through Shark Mounted Lasers sets.

20151030_233836

This building is purple.

There just isn’t much good to say about this terrain.  There is little tactical pizzazz.  The windows gape open in parallel funnels.  The decoration is weak at best, and downright lazy at the honest worst.

One of the main reasons you need to buy Infinity terrain is to prevent players from easily shooting from one side to the other.  Shark Mounted Lasers terrain ensures that, should you be following the rules, your snipers will have no trouble shooting across the board in every game.  I’ll say that again:  you buy Infinity terrain to obstruct Line of Fire, but this terrain just gives Line of Fire.

I recommend you avoid this set.  Invest your hobby money carefully, decisively.  Pick up attractive individual sets like Warsenal’s Kum Garage or MAS’s District-5 series.  Even Bandua’s boring-ass “Q” buildings are a better choice, designed for and delivering practical gameplay scenery for your game nights.

A much stronger investment.  Better for your game, and easier on your eyes.

The only people to whom I would recommend Shark Mounted Lasers are tournament organizers or big parties new to Infinity, as the set is appropriately named.  It’s good for those who need a lot of terrain fast, and don’t mind these shortcuts to fill their table.  Now, we personally have used the Shark Mounted Lasers set a lot over the years…

SharkMountedLasersZombiePlay

This was a community-made “zombie horde” game we played last Halloween.  I’ll have to find it again, it was pretty fun.  RIP, Swarm Grenades.

…but we used a lot of random shit over the years.  These days, I and my friends Brian and Chris (TDT) bring a shit-ton of our own terrain to our store, which is far preferable to play on, and far more attractive to pass by. Nobody’s griped about SML—it was very kind of other Chris (Tam) to donate it—but I think the above reasons stated have subconsciously steered us away from using the SML boxes.

I will say, the SML terrain—being made of MDF—is easier to repair than Plast Craft or homebrewed foam core stuff, but as a product to spend ~$200 on, it is a poor choice.  You’re putting down good money.  Get a good product.  Or pool and save your money, and get a worthwhile set.  Other companies are putting out high-quality work, taking lots of effort to make both attractive designs and tactically functional levels.  You shouldn’t be taken in by a flashy name and herd purchasing habits.

I suppose the only other way I could recommend the “optimized” Shark Mounted Lasers set is if you actively plan to add interior walls to these excruciatingly basic structures.


QUALITY

No.  This looks like a good deal, but it isn’t.  It leaves your table’s lines of fire wide open, and will force you to either play a game of snipers, or play house rules.

Artichokes1


AESTHETICS

Boring at best, lazy at worst.  The only thing I like about these buildings is the window shape.  It was the only thing that received any kind of thought beyond “BOX” as the concept.  With a bit of effort, the set could be spruced and pretty, but it’s better to buy a building someone already put effort into.

Artichokes1


ASSEMBLY

This is the only truly excellent thing I can say about SML’s “Optimized Tournament Table Deal” set.  Having had to rebuild the buildings many times during game nights, I can say that they are very easy and intuitive to assemble.  If you’ve slam-bought SML terrain for an big event or game night, you and your girlfriend should be able to assemble the whole set in less than a couple hours.

Artichokes5


If you can find this stuff at a screaming good deal, or are willing to tweak it to make it more Infinity-friendly, then do it up.  Otherwise stay away.

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5 thoughts on “Scenery Review: Optimized Tournament Table Deal by Shark Mounted Lasers

  1. I can confirm. Locals uses that house rule and there’s plenty of window and door covered terrain.

    Though I do what I can to not retain the rule in my mental book since I travel out of town to play and there they let you pop a guy in a doorway from another doorway.

    Also I struggle to justify costs for any terrain, but damn do I cave and buy up.

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    1. Yeah, lots of people use the houserule. While I am sure I would feel badly if someone from SML read my scathing remarks here, I have to say, many problems in Infinity matchups and rules are caused by poor table arrangements. I just can’t recommend SML as-is, given the other kinds of scenery I have seen.

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  2. Damn, the gall of that quote about Sean and Black Maria. Totally forgot I wrote that, but I do still think it’s a valid concern. I guess we’ll finally see what happens with NOVA next week. I think he plans to only supply two of his own tables. Doesn’t look like there’s much terrain on his webstore but there’s still speculation possible on releases at/after his event at NOVA and available options if he did take over as Lead TO next year. He could easily put a lot of his terrain on all those tables as the TO, especially considering NOVA is in the position that it doesn’t need to ask for terrain from outside sources if it doesn’t want to. That’s how I’d do it at least.
    In general, I’m surprised more companies don’t try to jockey for tablespace at events with high exposure like NOVA or Adepticon. If their terrain is actually good, then putting it on display at a highly visible tournament where it can be seen, photographed, and demo’d by numerous potential customers playing their games on it. IMO, that also makes their associated prizes that much more relevant and enticing.
    On the other hand, I suppose why bother. Some chance at free advertising with one of the participants bringing terrain from that company anyways, and that it won’t be set up as a negative experience. But I’d still say donating a table is a better guarantee of being represented with a good table.
    Besides, not like it’s necessary to donate a new set of terrain each year – well, unless they want to replace an old table, which could then be used as a big prize after its last event.

    This week, I’ve been crazy struggling with writing an article similar to that quote but about prize support. Monetary value vs “worthwhile” value for the participants, wondering what the sponsors’ selection process is for some items that they send, figuring out what type of awards/distribution process should be used to help get the each prize to the the participant it best fits with, and even questioning why prize support seems to matter so much at all.
    Probably best to just wait until after NOVA anyways.

    Anyways, that SML terrain set. The big LoF house rule issue aside, I don’t think it’s too too bad for $160 (guessing that the “sale” is actually just permanent pricing), at least in regards to table coverage. But… yeah, I would say the “optimized” set could use more variety, like partial cover, walls, shipping container-sized objects, and maybe a tower or two. Then again, I have seen tournament tables used by these groups in the past that are pretty much just buildings anyways. I’d say direct competition with this set would be Black Sheep’s $130 Icestorm-style table, if not just actual Icestorm paper terrain for $40. I don’t mind paper, but several participants did complain about it last year.
    I do wonder how much extra it costs a company to etch in extra texture details onto the MDF that makes up their terrain. I’m guessing laser time adds up over time with wear and tear, but I’ve always assumed the primary cost for each kit is just the quantity of MDF used.

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  3. Dexter here from SML! Just wanted to chime in and note I completely agree with the commentary provided above.
    I find the “in-not-through” terrain mechanic fairly frustrating as it has limited battlefields across the world, and my terrain set hasn’t helped. Considering the price point, the deal is generally picked up by tournament organizers and people beginning the game, and sets up some bad habits from the get go.
    When I first hodge-podged together the set years ago, I was working out of a maker-space who had a laser I could use, and my primary objective was to inexpensively provide terrain to the game. I had just handmade 20 tables for a large event, and I vowed that I’d never sacrifice a summer to making foamcore buildings. The terrain environment has changed, and now not only are there more terrain companies out in the wild, and they all cater to a variety of budgets, but for the most part, they all fall sunder to the problems my early designs did.

    That being said, about a year ago, I went about modifying the set just a little bit to make the set more playable without “in-through” rules. The set you reviewed is the older design, and was ripe with windows and firing lanes. I’ve reduced that considerably, and modified some of the etching to differentiate the table just a little. At the end of the day though, SML makes inexpensive boxes with doors. That’s all they are and all they’re claiming to be. Simple to assemble, and relatively durable.

    If your budget and time allows, I’d for sure go with another set from my friends at Warsenal, CustomMeeple, Burn-in-Designs, Zen Terrain or even #shamelessplug my new terrain company Hexagon Mill as they’ve heard the cries of the community asking for better design and more playable tables.

    Thanks for your review! I’ll take it into consideration on next generation developments!
    Dexter

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    1. Hello, Dexter!

      Thank you for the very courteous comment. As I said to Theostratus up there, I would feel poorly to know that a content creator is reading harsh words from me here. But, it’s consumers’ money here, so I could not in good conscience recommend the set without also recommending players heavily modify the interior, due to the aforementioned Line of Sight issues. However, I did not realize you have updated the set. I’ll add a header note to this article that this review applies to your design has been updated.

      Hexagon Mill is your company? The design experience certainly shows. No horseshit, I was *this close* to ordering the Anime Base starter. It looks extremely playable and attractive. The choice was down to your Anime Base, or a Systema bundle, but Systema was on sale with free shipping, so that was that.

      Congrats on the new product line, I hope this business extension does at least as well as the SML set has done.
      Dawson

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