I've been thinking this for a while now, and the thread "Too Much Terrain?" is what got me posting this. I'd like to discuss how do you put together a good terrain board.
My main premises are:
1) Board should be partially designed. I find "each player places a piece" somewhat poor, as each player tries to place terrain to cater his playstyle. Plus, if you really want to make a fancy terrain board, some features of it should be fixed.
2) Board should be partially random, enough so that each game is a bit different. You could always throw 3d6 scatter dice for where to place each piece, but that can lead to clumps of terrain etc., being a bit too random.
This has led to me thinking about a semi-random/semi-designed terrain board system. First, you might have one or two central pieces of terrain in key locations, to make sure the board is balanced enough. After those assigned 1-2 terrain pieces, there might be 6-7 pieces of terrain designed as "random terrain", 11 location markers on the board numbered 2-12, and before each game you roll 2d6 for each terrain piece and place it on the marker, until all terrain pieces are placed.
This gives you possibility to plan some features on the board, for example a hill that has 1-2 terrain markers. You also know where most of the clear terrain is, so you can roughly design fire lanes etc. to be as balanced as possible. Also, this allows you to change the terrain piece type/size as needed, to make the board more balanced. In other words, this should bring some design + some randomness on the board.