Creating the Battlefield #1 – Planning the terrain

One ambition nearly every wargamer has is to build their own terrain. We all want it to look fabulous and life-like and for it to work with our favourite game scale, that usually being 28mm. Considering I have a passion for 6mm scale (1/285 or 1/300 depending on where you’re from), and that most gaming clubs have oodles of 28mm terrain, I thought I’d create terrain for my 6mm tanks to roam around on! So this series in my blog is dedicated to that endeavour, reviewing techniques and companies, my processes, trials, tribulations and so on.

The Plan
I knew that I wanted a typical playing area of 6”x4” so my initial question was “what do I want to see of my terrain?”. Even though I had the original idea of basing all this in the modern era, I have played a few games of Battletech without the hex boards and really enjoyed it, so I decided to do what I could to keep the boards era-flexible. I figured that most real battles are fought to control something and that they’re rarely arbitrary, so I’d want to model infrastructure such as power plants, bridges, highways, villages, towns etc.  That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s a lot of work and a good ‘ol tank scrap over open fields is still pretty damned fun! So added to the list of what I wanted were your typical rivers, hills, woods, forests etc.

Creating the Battlefield - Planning the terrain - Pic 1
A wonderful mix of rolling hills and a few small villages to fight over

Pros and Cons
After working out what I wanted to see, the next question was “fixed or modular”. Working out the pros and cons of each I figured that a fixed board would look the best and the skills I could use would really make it stand out. However transporting it would be a pain and fighting on the same patch of make-believe earth all the time would get dull fast, not to mention that there’s only so much you can fit onto a 6”x4” board. Modular would work better for the variety I wanted and for transportation but getting it all to line up and look “right” would be the challenge. All things considered, modular won.

Creating the Battlefield - Planning the terrain - Pic 2
Pretty nifty modular board idea here

Material Time
The next consideration was what materials to make the boards out of. A lot of boards are based on wood as it’s common and fairly cheap. On top of that is typically foam of some sort for sculpting the terrain. I didn’t see any reason to depart from this and I knew I could source a good chunk of what I needed through my workplace. I liked the foam idea a lot as I could dig into it and undulate plain areas for a more natural, rolling hills look. So I went for making 1”square boards as I thought it would keep costs down and would help with storage/transport, whilst also adding to the variety of terrain I could lay down.

Through the entire process and beyond I spend A LOT of time researching online or simply admiring other people’s efforts at the likes of Salute. I’ve got a whole raft of images, snippets of “how to’s” and even some really basic sketches of ideas to help as well. With the plan laid out though, the next step was to do some trials to see which worked best.


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