Buildings+Terrain

Dropzone Commander — Terrain Part 1

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District 1 CorporateWe have become big fans of Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames. It is a well balanced game with nice tactical options, interesting scenarios and nicely done models. Certainly part of the game’s appeal is also the terrain. Fighting amongst skyscrapers with dropships weaving about is certainly a novel setting for sci-fi miniatures gaming. Carl Tuttle of the IC’s Podcast famously calls terrain “the third army.” Terrain has a huge impact on a game both from a play standpoint as well as visually.

Hawk Wargames produces their Cityscape and Ruinscape terrain sets as well as a subset of those in their starter set. The sets are full-color, heavy cardstock tiles and buildings. The buildings fold together in minutes. We glue ours but you don’t have to if you want to be able to break them down for easier storage. The tiles are double-sided and can be setup in a massive number of configurations. The sets are relatively cheap so gamers who wish to take a bit more time and effort can also glue the tiles to board and paint/flock them for an even better look.

Hi-Tech City MatBut for those who want an even easier solution there are now the new gaming mats being produced. Most of these are now on the “mouse mat” rubber material but some are on vinyl. Certainly the best mat produced so far is also one done specifically for Dropzone Commander. Frontline Gaming’s Hi-Tech City mat is a very attractive 4’x4′ mat that one can just roll out, put down buildings on and play. It doesn’t have the flexibility of the tiles of course but looks better and doesn’t have the disadvantage of the tiles shifting around or seams. Here is a Frontline Gaming battle report that is interesting itself but also features the mat and the cardstock buildings. Also of note in the video is the ‘traffic’. These are just N-scale cars for model railroading that add a nice touch to the table. Another good mat choice is the new Infinity District 5 mat from Micro Art Studio that, although intended for 28mm, would work very well for Dropzone Commander. Their new Icestorm and Warehouse mats are good options as well.

DzC CityscapeAs nice as the Cityscape buildings are some might want something more glamorous than cardstock on their tables. Well have no fear, 4Ground is now producing their Jesserai 10mm range of buildings for Dropzone Commander. As with all 4Ground products they are pre-painted MDF. They are simply stunning. They have some designs that mimic the Cityscape line but where things really take off is with their unique buildings such as the District 1 Corporate Building and the District 1 Bank. Unlike the cardstock buildings the 4Ground buildings come apart so you can put units inside if you wish or they still have plenty of room on the rooftops. Because the buildings are MDF they have more weight and thus don’t move around or topple as easily as the cardstock buildings. The only downside to the 4Ground buildings, besides the cost, is that they are very tedious to build especially the District XXII buildings. A single District XXII building can easily take 10 hours to put together. Of course considering it is ready to go after assembly and looks great this may not be such a bad tradeoff. Oddly, the more interesting District 1 buildings are a bit easier to assemble. Below we have a few pictures of some of the 4Ground buildings with the Hi-Tech City mat and we think you’ll agree they make a very nice combination. As you can see the 4Ground buildings also mix in well with the Cityscape cardstock buildings.

With the popularity of Dropzone Commander on the rise and even other new 10mm games coming out such as Spartan’s Planetfall we should be seeing even more options for terrain in the future.

Also see Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings.

If you want to see what you can do with some serious time and hobby skills don’t miss Pezzapoo’s Dropzone Commander Modular Table Build: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

[Last Updated: 5FEB15].

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4Ground – Cafe Gondree

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Cafe GondreeFor the D-Day 70th Anniversary 4Ground released a number of new pieces. The famous Café Gondrée from Pegasus Bridge fame was one of them. As usual 4Ground did the pieces in 15mm, 20mm and 28mm. We picked up the 15mm and 28mm models. 4Ground keeps getting better and better with their quality but Café Gondrée must be their finest piece yet. It doesn’t have the level of internal detail that some of their other buildings have but the external detailing is simply amazing at both scales.

Assembly was very easy for both models but very time consuming. It’s probably at least a couple of hours for each one. Much of the detailing is delicate, especially in 15mm, so extra care is needed. There are a couple of minor misfits on the 15mm model that will need a couple of cuts and at least one mistake in the instructions. As usual the pieces come out of the frames with almost no cleanup needed. Also refer to historic photos to get the chimney placements correct.

Below are the two scales together for comparison and the open view of the 28mm model.

Also see our 4Ground Building Review.

Sci-Fi Terrain — Buildings

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Kum GarageOne 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.

Buildings
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.
  • Armored ContainerLaser 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.

Gaming Surface
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.

District 5 MatOf 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!

Deadzone — Now on Kickstarter

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deadzone_largeMantic Games has a new Kickstarter. This time it is for a sci-fi miniature skirmish game with a twist. The game passed its funding goal in just over 30 minutes and blew past $300,000 in funding with 3o days still to go. Designed by Jake Thornton, Deadzone, set in the Warpath universe, is a unique blend of board and miniature game. It is played on a 3″ grid for movement but with 3D terrain. In fact part of the Kickstarter is a whole new line of injection molded plastic terrain pieces that can be used to make custom buildings over which to fight.

The alpha rules are available and they look quite good (Kickstarter supporters now have the full rules PDF and it is very well done). There is also a FAQ. The game is I-Go-U-Go but with special action cards and a nice overwatch mechanic to break up the flow. Movement is simply by 3″ squares but where you move within the square matters. Line of site is also a basic if you can see it you can shoot it. We suspect there is more depth hiding behind the simplicity. How you move your troops and to where in the square will have an effect. How you choose to react and what cards you choose to play and when you play them will matter. Even the game length itself is set by the first player to go through their deck so length will be variable from game to game. All of these simple mechanics should combine to create a tactically challenging game.

EnforcersIn addition to the great plastic terrain, a very nice rubber gaming mat has funded along with a number of new models. While the game is set in the Warpath universe and uses its existing races, all of the sculpts are new for Deadzone. So far they seem to range from good to outstanding. Our favorites are the Enforcers and the Plague.

If you like sci-fi skirmish games at all give Deadzone a look. Also check out Jake’s blog for more information. The Meeples & Miniatures podcast has a nice interview with the designer in Episode 108.

Tablescapes now has a dedicated Deadzone terrain tile set with 1.5″/3″ squares.

The Deadzone Kickstarter closed at $1,216,482. Backers can look forward to a ton of good stuff.

[Updated: 7DEC13]

Tablescapes by Secret Weapon Miniatures

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TablescapesSecret Weapon Miniatures launched a new Kickstarter campaign that has already funded in just its second day. It is for a new product called Tablescapes. Tablescapes is a line of 12 inch plastic terrain tiles that can be locked together to form semi-custom tabletop gaming terrain. Depending on the success of the Kickstarter we will see three or more tile theme sets produced with much more likely to come in the future. Secret Weapon Miniatures is being very receptive to customer suggestions and is doing its best to be accommodating.

We think this basic concept may very well be the future of miniature tabletop terrain. We initially got very excited about the Games Workshop Realm of Battle Gameboards but they seem to have dropped the ball since its initial release and, except for some very expensive Forgworld pieces, have failed to follow up on the initial design.

The basic issue of course is that gamers really do not need general plain terrain and hills out of such a product. Those basics can be useful but what gamers really need are unique 3D terrain features that are difficult to integrate into a standard terrain cloth based table layout. Thus things like trenches, sunken roads, broken ground, rivers and raised roads as well as more specific pieces like urban streets and sci-fi installation layouts are where these sorts of products really shine. Secret Weapon Miniatures is also augmenting the tiles with new resin terrain pieces as well.

Some have questioned the decision to produce 12 inch tiles but we think this was a smart move. The smaller tiles give far greater variety and flexibility to layouts and anyone who wishes to have a larger tile can simply glue together the 12 inch tiles in whatever configuration they wish. Thus one can quickly make 2′ x 2′ tiles, 1′ x 2′, 2’x3′ or whatever. The 12 inch tiles are also cheaper to produce and thus should allow for more options in the future.

We think Tablescapes has a bright future ahead.

4Ground 28mm Buildings — Review

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4GroundWe got sucked into Bolt Action in a big way. But because we had sworn off all 28mm games (pay no attention to our Saga and Dust Warfare gaming…) we didn’t have any buildings for the scale (especially WW2). Thankfully along comes 4Ground with their new line of pre-painted 28mm buildings. They have a WW2 line as well as a few buildings suitable for Saga and much more. They also have undamaged and damaged versions to add some variety to your gaming table.

The 4Ground buildings are all laser cut MDF or, in other words, wood. They come ‘pre-painted’ but this could be considered slightly optimistic. They are painted but in just four colors: off-white/cream, red, blue, gray (and perhaps a brown as a fifth color but it is very close to the natural MDF color so it’s hard to say for sure). The colors are a very simple basic application to the top of each wood frame. Because the edges are not painted once the buildings are assembled there are certainly some un-painted areas showing. But overall they still look pretty good and you could certainly touch-up the exposed bits with paint for a more polished look on the table. The laser cutting process scorches the paint a bit and that then gives the buildings a nice weathered look. Overall they look good but not stunning.

Assembly is very easy. Each building does consist of dozens of pieces, many quite small, but the included instructions are very thorough with both text and photos. Note that some of the assembly photos are actually split showing multiple views of the same piece. This is not immediately evident and can cause a bit of confusion. You assemble the buildings using white glue (we used wood glue and that worked just fine as well). Once you build your first one others will be easy. The destroyed buildings take a good hour and the non-destroyed buildings maybe 30-45 minutes. The construction of the buildings is quite interesting and basically consists of outer walls and inner walls. Each floor assembly is also separate and thus removable during play for placement of and access to figures. The laser cutting is very precise and clean and the parts will drop right out of their frames or just need a good tap. The only downside to this is that each part is labeled on the frame not the part itself so you will need to exercise care during first assembly so as not to get confused over what piece is what. Only the slightest filing or sanding will be needed on each part if anything at all.

Once assembled the buildings are very sturdy and durable and should hold up to even the hardest play. The scale of the buildings is also very good and fit in great with the Warlord 28mm Bolt Action figures and even look fine with the larger 30mm Dust Warfare figures [Note: Depending on your figure poses and basing 28mm figures will fit fine inside or may be too tall to fit and still be able to place the above floor on top. Larger armored figures will certainly have this problem.]. Also the doors and other bits can be assembled open/closed or left off etc adding more variety to each building. Considering the cost, pre-paint and durability of these buildings any gamer should give them a serious look. Recommended.

Also see: Café Gondrée

[Updated: 28FEB14]

Luke’s Bocage — Review

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Luke's BocageIf you are a WW2 miniatures gamer who has ever tried to battle across the fields of Normandy you know you can never have enough bocage. A while back we looked at the Miniature Building Authority Bocage terrain pieces but we needed more. We are huge fans of the WWPD podcast and heard them talk about Luke’s bocage on one of the shows. After hearing about him selling some at a convention we contacted him about getting some for ourselves.

Luke's BocagePlease be aware that Luke makes his bocage on the side for some extra fun and profit not as a fulltime business. Thus we will leave the details of particular pricing/ordering/composition to him as he may need to adjust them based on circumstances. But basically you simply ask Luke for as many feet of bocage as you wish. The more you buy the more corner pieces, paths, and trees he will throw in. The basic straight sections come in 6″ and 12″ lengths. The stuff is very impressive and well made. Its base is of solid backer board and the stones are a very hard material. On top of that he adds nice flock and foliage (what looks very much like Woodland Scenics Bushes material). Luke’s bocage will easily stand up to repeated play and transport and looks great on the table.

Luke's and MBA BocageThe only possible small negative to Luke’s bocage is that it can perhaps be considered a bit short. If you desire the stereotypical tall bocage of around 10-15 feet in height then please be aware Luke’s is closer to 5-8 feet in scale height. Luke likes the look of the rock and prefers his bocage to represent the average thick barriers found across Luke and MBA Bocage TopNormandy rather than specifically the tall bocage. As a result, his bocage will not hide a 15mm tank but will put it hull down. This of course has advantages and disadvantages in actual play. Those who want truly high bocage will be disappointed but the lower height does make tight corridors easy to get at and it is a simple matter to just play the terrain as if it was full height. Additionally, it is easy for one to add more foliage and/or trees to make it higher. Luke may even make it higher for you if you ask him.

All in all Luke’s bocage is great stuff and a great value. If you would like to get some for yourself just contact Luke Melia at Luke [at] whatwouldpattondo [dot] net.

[Updated: 9SEP11]