S AY THE WORD “GAMING” AND MOST
people these days will think of the first-person shooting and role playing that takes
place on a computer screen. Or maybe a family
board game. But to a relatively small and dedicated
cadre of players, “gaming” brings to mind a rich and
diverse skill set and activities including carpentry,
painting, sculpting, mold-making and casting, scale
modeling, and environmental simulation. This is the
realm of the tabletop miniature wargamer.
There are tabletop wargames based in many
genres, but the most common are historical, fantasy, or science fiction. The process for making
terrain boards and pieces is basically the same
across the genres, but in this article, I’ll talk about
sci-fi terrain — the type with which I’ve had a lot
of personal experience.
spend dozens of hours constructing — sometimes
to nearly museum display quality — are not just for
ambiance and the cool factor. They also provide
much-welcomed cover when your ground forces
need a place to duck behind, or your sniper team
needs high points in which to nest.
Terrain for Beginners
Getting started in miniature wargaming can be an
expensive and time-consuming proposition. Like
paper-and-pencil role-playing games and map-based
wargames, the rules can be very intimidating to
newcomers. There are lots of hit, wound, and save
tables to memorize, terrain and other dice modifiers to understand, special rules to remember. On
top of that, miniatures mean toy soldiers: dozens,
even hundreds, of little plastic and metal soldiers to
buy, assemble, paint, and base.
What Is Tabletop Miniature Wargaming? Once all of that’s done, the last thing you want to
Before we talk about the terrain making, we need to do before playing is to spend months more build-understand what the terrain is for. The mechanics ing a terrain board and scratch-building dozens of
of each tabletop wargame are different, but play buildings, barricades, rubble piles, and the like.
basically boils down to “fire and movement”: mov- Luckily, you can get away with some pretty
ing your toy soldiers ... er ... troops into position groovy-looking terrain made from little more than
(how far you can move is determined by dice rolls kitchen trash. The trick is developing a terrain build-and measured with a tape) and firing your weapons er’s eye. Look carefully at what goes into your trash
at your opponent’s models (determined by dice can. Any metal can, turned over, can become a stor-rolls and the rules for the weapons depicted on the age tank of some sort. A bunch of them together
model). Nearly all tabletop wargames are WYSIWYG can serve as a fuel depot, a worthy objective for a
(What You See Is What You Get), so the models game. A cut-up egg carton becomes a field of alien
must actually show the weapons and defenses they gestation pods. The plastic dividers in boxes of
are using in play (e.g., you can’t have a model holding cookies, crackers, and candy, flipped over, can serve
a projectile weapon and claim that it’s a plasma as futuristic army barracks, power stations, com-pistol). Terrain (woods, swamps, mountains) becomes mand bunkers, and anything else your imagination
very important because it affects movement rates can dream up.
and “line of sight” rules. So, the buildings that gamers Of course, none of this stuff is going to look very
80 Make: Volume 08