Here's what the tables at the NOVA Open 2011 looked like before the Invitational games. As in, nobody had yet moved the terrain pieces on the tables around to accommodate their display boards.
The 40K Tables
This one's pretty reasonable, but too open on the right side.
This one's more marginal.
Better hope I don't get spearhead deploying on the near left.
Now things are starting to get ridiculous. If I'm mech, I'm not just restricted, I can't move anywhere on the near left due to the size of the pieces and the spacing between them.
This was hands-down the worst table layout at the NOVA. People whispered about it during games, as in: "Oh man, I hope I don't have to play on table 8!"
If this one was just spread out a bit more it would be OK.
This one was fine, spacing-wise. But by your 3rd game, you got tired of the symmetrical layout.
I actually played on this one for my 2nd game against the Tau. The terrain was scrunched together much tighter than this, but the judge we asked about it assured us it was correct.
Too open on the right.
This one's fine, apart from the really small gap between the center and far-center pieces.
Why fill in that gap on the near-left with a barrier?
What happened here?
As we descended into the bottom tables, things got much more traditional.
In my opinion, landing platforms should never be used in competitive play. It's just too wonky a model.
Though I may criticize these layouts, I want to emphasize that I understand how much work getting this much terrain together is. John told me that they'd had people promise terrain only to back out at the last minute. While the people who stepped in to fill the gap sometimes did so with aquarium pieces so inappropriate that you literally couldn't place a single model on them. I had one of these on my table in game 5 and my opponent had to place his models off to the side and indicate with dice where the front line of his troops was.
Still though, I think that (like win/loss itself) we need to (as a community) talk about what the ideal terrain layout (or layouts) would be for an event like this. Obviously Mike wanted to achieve certain things with this layout in terms of balancing the scales away from pure mech a bit. But if Adepticon failed to add enough LOS-blocking terrain, then I feel like NOVA went too far the other way in reaction.
But LOS-blocking isn't the only issue. There's also the issue of the symmetry and how it dictated deployment.
Take this layout, which is more or less Adepticon's standard. It has problems, but to me, it's more tactically interesting than always having a big hill in the center. Instead of having to always figure out how to take that hill first, this layout makes me think about which path(s) I want to take to get to the enemy. Which might include that hill, and might not. While the terrain did differ a bit from table to table, I just didn't feel like there were as many choices to make at deployment time during the NOVA. It got too samey as the day wore on.
If we could just combine the two approaches, I think we'd have something special. Or at least less tactically repetitive. As I told Mike, at Adepticon I never felt screwed by the terrain. When I lost I always knew it was my fault. While at the NOVA I lost games to unavoidable terrain tests. Which made it feel much more random.