One thing every gamer needs is lots of good terrain. Nice looking terrain enhances the play experience and plentiful, well placed terrain increases tactical options. This is especially the case for skirmish and small scale games. Games like Mercs, Deadzone, Infinity and others all come alive with good board layouts. Luckily producing good terrain, specifically buildings, is easier than ever.
There are four primary types of materials used to make model buildings: resin, hardfoam (a form of resin), laser cut wood (or plastic) and injection molded plastic. Each material has its advantageous and disadvantages.
- Resin – Probably the most common resin buildings are those produced by Gale Force 9 in their Battlefield in a Box line. These have the advantage of being highly detailed, pre-painted and ready to go right out of the box. They are moderate in weight and slightly fragile. Depending on the scale and environment you are trying to represent the Gothic line or even the historical Flames of War line are useful.
- Hardfoam – The most numerous options for hardfoam buildings and terrain come from Micro Art Studio. Hardfoam is quite detailed and easy to paint. It is also light but somewhat fragile. Its biggest disadvantage is that it is solid so hardfoam buildings almost never have an interior and models cannot be placed under them either. This of course limits their use in certain situations.
- Laser cut – Laser cut wood (plywood, MDF, etc) as well as newer PVC products are perhaps where the gamers’ options have recently really started to increase. Manufacturers have gotten better and better with designs and choice has grown considerably. Laser cut buildings have the advantage of variety in design, detailed accessible interiors and complex layouts. They are also generally quite durable. Their big disadvantages are that they need to be painted well to really look good and often lack sufficient surface detail. The process itself also limits designs to a certain degree. 4Ground really set things on fire with their pre-painted line of buildings. They only have historical buildings at the moment but have announced a sci-fi line is coming soon. Crescent Root Studio has perhaps done even better but so far has no sci-fi options. Manufacturers we particularly like are Warsenal, Underground Lasers, Micro Art Studio, Systema Gaming and Spartan Scenics.
- Injection Molded Plastic – The nirvana of gaming building material is perhaps injection molded plastic. It is relatively cheap, has high detail, is easy to work with and easy paint. It is also light and reasonably durable. Its main disadvantage is basically choice. Until recently Games Workshop had the only really useful line of plastic buildings available, but of course you were stuck with the Gothic look. With the arrival of Mantic’s Deadzone a whole new line of Battlezones were also created. The Battlezone line is comprised of a variety of pieces based on a 3 inch square. Gamers can assemble them in almost infinite ways to create buildings and environments that suit their needs. Certainly future options will help break away from the cube to create even better variety.
Of course even great buildings need to sit on something. Thanks to recent technologies the old grass mat is no longer needed. Certainly gamers can use foam board and other materials to create detailed urban battlefields but far easier, cheaper and more portable options (and more practical for actual gaming) are the new gaming tiles and mats. This was perhaps started in concept by Games Workshop with their Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboards but they never took the line anywhere to its full potential. It took Secret Weapon Miniatures to produce its upcoming Tablescapes line to start to unlock the varied options of plastic molded gaming boards. Tablescapes are one foot square injection molded plastic tiles in a variety of designs. What is great about them is that because they are plastic it is very easy for gamers to glue them together and use regular modeling techniques to create custom sizes that fit their needs. Or one can simply leave them as individual tiles for maximum flexibility.
Of course plastic tiles still have to be painted and stored. An even easier and quicker solution is the new gaming mats produced on the rubberized ‘mouse pad’ material. Probably the first to produce a variety of both 4’x4′ and 4’x6′ mats was Frontline Gaming with their FAT Mat Mega Mats. These give a great looking surface on which to place buildings and terrain but are also flat and smooth for easy gaming. Mantic produces a similar Deadzone mat and now Micro Art Studio probably has the ultimate urban mat with its new District 5 mat. What is unique about District 5 is that it has a geomorphic design so multiple mats can be placed together to create varied urban layouts.
Lastly we should also mention Hawk Wargames’ Cityscape and Ruinscape line of urban tiles. They are designed for 10mm gaming but easily used for 15mm or even in 28mm as sidewalks. The ‘scapes are full-color cardboard tiles you can layout to create varied cityscapes. Keep them loose for variety and flexibility or glue them to board and enhance as needed for an even better look.
There has never been a better time to fight in the city. So go grab some buildings and storm the gates!