Terrain For Oil War

When people think of the Middle East, most think of rolling sand dunes like the African Sahara Desert, punctuated by the odd oasis here and there or the small nomad settlement or camps. While this does work for portions of the region, the terrain and infrastructure in the Middle East is quite varied and presents a golden opportunity for players to build a thematic and accurate table to fight their Oil War/Team Yankee-In-The-Middle-East battles on. In this article, I will explore the different types of terrain I encountered in my sojourns to Iraq and how they can be represented on the tabletop, with pictures of the real thing to give players ideas on what fighting in Iraq, Iran, or Lebanon could look like.

The Al Rasheed District Of Baghdad. Spent a lot of time here


One of the first things I will say is that the Middle East is quite a developed region. It was one of the first things that struck me about places like Kuwait, Iraq, and Qatar. The cities are quite large, with paved roads, large buildings, and so on. Doha, the capital of Qatar, reminded me quite a bit of Los Angeles. Baghdad and Mosul in Iraq are also two cities I am very familiar with and are also quite large. However, there are some key flavours that to me gives Arab cities distinct looks. One, in residential areas, EVERY house has a walled courtyard. The streets would be lined with houses, and each one had a wall and a gate. Houses tended to be stone construction and two or three stories as Arab families tended to be large and extended. In commercial districts, shops generally were not stand alone buildings, but one after the other with a roll up mechanics bay style door in a classic “open air” style. A lot of times there would be rooms in the building above the store

Finally, in the neighbourhoods and just about anywhere you can toss a stone you have the Mosques. Arab culture revolves around Islam, and no neighbourhood (or Oil War city table) is complete without one. Mosques can be small and simple, or massive cultural landmarks. Regardless, mosques always feature prominently from their surroundings and should be a centrepiece on your table

The Nabi Younis Mosque in Mosul. We used to patrol around it and call it the Nabi Younis 500


As with any desert civilization, life revolves around the availability of water. In Egypt, you have the Nile, and in Iraq, you have the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. While Iraq is a wholly desert country, the areas around the two rivers is lush and believe it or not, green. Typical around these areas are palm trees, tall reeds and grasses, and if irrigation is around then orchards. Now, when I say tall grass I mean TALL. You can easily hide in it just by squatting down. In central Iraq around Balad and Samarra, a lot of irrigation goes on, with canals and levees criss crossing the area. Think of it as almost akin to Vietnam rice paddies. Naturally, a lot of these sorts of areas are near to towns and cities, so it would make for a good table to blend the two together

Visit the beautiful Tigris! Water, Palm Trees, Bombs……


As we all know, largely populated areas a lot of times have poor districts or slums. This is true in the Middle East as well. In these areas, houses are literal mud huts or a hovel made out of tin and sheet metal. The neighbourhoods are densely packed, with not much room to get a car let alone a tank or armoured vehicle around. For me, I would make it impassable to tracked vehicles (due to the narrowness and also these places had a penchant for ruptured sewer mains to get stuck in) and cross checks for wheeled. Of course, most cities with wars being fought in them wind up as ruins.


So while desert fighting is wholly appropriate for Oil War, the diversity of terrain that exists in the middle east can make for a diverse and challenging table to fight your battles on. From fighting in the river deltas to desperate combat in the slums and ruins, the possibilities are there. Until then, happy gaming!

One thought on “Terrain For Oil War

  1. Good article! Walled properties may be more of the normal especially in urban areas. I see them in France and Mexico.

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