Good terrain is in my opinion essential to an enjoyable wargaming experience. In this section I will share a few tutorials and examples related to my own terrain building efforts. All my terrain usually follows two golden rules:
Wargaming terrain isn’t like electric train terrain. Beyond just looking good, wargaming terrain is supposed to be actively used and supported in the game mechanics. A beautiful piece of terrain is entirely useless if models cannot be placed on i.t All my terrain is therefore designed to be accessible for models in all areas that ought to be accessible (e.g. any point on the slope of a passable hill ought to be able to actually hold a model). The degree of required accessibility will vary a bit by game system and scale. Skirmish games can get away with detail and other accessibility obstructing features as long as there are plenty of spots to place a single model. Block based games such as Warhammer on the other hand really require large open placement areas to allow units of often 20 or more models to fit.
Some of the most beautiful gaming boards are static layouts. All or most items on the table are stuck in place and this allows the modeller to create often astonishing detail in each area. While beautiful, those gaming boards have limited functionality. One-off pieces are excellent for special scenarios or as visual center-pieces but ongoing game play requires adjustable terrain. Nobody wants to play over the same battlefield for all eternity. Apart from basing all my terrain individually, this also means that I need to keep my basing scheme consistent in terms of colours and grass/flock usage. My default method for this is to use 1/4″ Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) as the base for all my terrain pieces. I bevel the edges with a scroll saw set to a 60 degree angle and then sand them down in a more irregular pattern with a dremel tool or belt sander. Wear a mask if you do this! MDF dust is not good for your lungs. I then use a coat of Vallejo Pumice Gel mixed with black paint to create the base structure. The base can then be painted and flocked to using my default scheme for models.
Modular Base System
The foundation of my generic terrain setup are grass tiles of different sizes. Rivers are built into these tiles but otherwise everything is plain grass. The tiles come in different sizes (4’x2′, 2’x2′, 2’x1′ and 1’x1′) to allow flexible arrangements for the rivers. The plain grass isn’t very realistic (“golf course look”) but the more realistic alternative of using a sand & tuff foundation makes for a less comfortable playing surface (the grass is soft so picking up dice, pushing models and other such activities are very gentle on models and hands). More information about building the terrain tiles can be found on this page.
Apart from the rivers that are built into the base tiles, nature offers a few key landscaping items: hills, woods and “difficult ground”. Hill are made from high density foam based on MDF and come in a variety of shapes. I also picked up a plastic Games Workshop hill set when I bought the Battle of Five Armies boxed set.
Woods come in two size classes: Big Scale (15mm and above) and Small Scale (10mm and below). The bases are interchangable for both scales and consistent of two layers of MDF. The top layer has 30mm radius holes drilled through them to act as receptors for the 60mm bases of the trees. That prevents tree bases from being visible while still allowing for the removal of indiviual trees during gameplay to make room for models. I also added a few small scale trees on pennies as filler in between the 60mm “group” bases.
Difficult ground can mean many things in the wargaming world. The rocky ground are painted up resin pieces as are the craters. The fields are MDF bases with small segments of a door mat placed into them (the door mat pieces can be removed to create harvested fields as well as allow the placement of models.
Hedges, walls, fences and other linear obstacles are a great way to break up the battlefield. As with the trees, I created a small and large scale variant for most obstacles. The first batch are 28mm walls and hedges:
Roads & Trails
Some of the smaller scale gaming systems make use of roads. I have a set of roads based on rubber (which bends over hills and such) as well as one based on foam. Both systems are modular. They are both designed for 15mm or smaller scales but could pass as a small trail in a 28mm game if needed.