One of things that has most improved my wargaming experience and brought me pleasure in recent years has been using some aesthetically pleasing terrain. When I was young I played with whatever standing in as terrain – pringles tubes, books, bits of cardboard – rarely painted and usually quite visually jarring and immersion breaking.
I cannot stress how much more fun it is to see nicely painted minis battling it out amongst some nice looking terrain. I don’t have room for a proper gaming board in my flat and I don’t play at any stores or clubs currently, so what I really need is modular and scatter terrain. I’m also, truth be told, not terribly fond of constructing and painting terrain – I want to keep it as simple as possible while still looking nice.
With that in mind here’s a review of some terrain boxes I recently purchased with the long term plan of building up a nice martian-esque landscape for playing Heavy Gear Blitz and 15mm Sci-fi
The products are:
All three sets are available in the UK through ebay and various retailers. Prices vary, but the BiaBs tend to be each a bit over £20 and the Hoodoo around £12.
Let’s see some pictures then!
This was the small grey pack of hoodoos. You get six prepainted stacks, five of which you can see here with some 12mm Heavy Gear Blitz models and one 15mm unpainted Protolene soldier for scale.
I actually didn’t realise until I got hold of these that they’re made from bark which has been spiked through with a rod and glued together. They really look the part – I was aware of the technique of using certain types of bark to make slate style rock formations, but I didn’t think they could look this good. Obviously being bark they’re very light (which is good!) and a touch fragile (less so). They might also benefit from being placed on bases, rather than standing on their own, although the bottoms are quite flat. The paintjobs were pretty good – basically just a dark grey with drybrushing two tones of lighter grey, but the contrast is solid and nothing more is needed really. There were a couple of places where the paint had flaked away – you can see one on the leftmost hoodoo, but these are extremely easy to repair.
I think the best thing about these, aside from how nice they look, is that they made me feel confident I could make my own decent looking hoodoos and rock formations if I could find a similar quality bark to work with.
Now these are absolutely fine as is if you’re happy with the colour, but I wanted some rocks for a more martian looking landscape, so I began to repaint them. Here’s my first effort:
This was an easy process – the already painted hoodoos obviously take paint well and I got the effect I was after, even if I ended up with a lower contrast and less striking bit of terrain than the original.
Overall I’d recommend the product if you don’t want to go through the hassle of finding the right bark and painting it to this standard. They really do look very nice.
Battlefield in a Box: Badlands Tors
I had been hearing good things about the Battlefield in a Box series of pre-painted terrain sets and when I saw the badlands variety I knew I had to have some.
Here are the two larger pieces from the Tors set, which contains a total of 5 rocks, with the same 12 and 15mm miniatures for scale and one hoodoo.
These aren’t made from bark, clearly, and they’re much heavier and more substantial. They also have integrated bases with perfectly flat bottoms. I’m not exactly sure what they’re made of, but it’s tough and sturdy – in a couple of places there were tiny gaps in the paint or chips and I could see a sort of white resinlike material underneath. These were easy to cover up.
The prepainting I think is slightly worse than with the hoodoos and is much darker and redder than the boxart suggests – I think they aren’t quite the right colour for what I would consider badlands, but they do still look good and are nice and high contrast. The sculpts are excellent and you get a good variety of shapes, although I am tempted to remove the boulder from the top of the tallest tor and make it a separate piece of terrain. I think this will probably require a saw and some remodelling with green stuff, but should be too bad.
I have to say I’m very happy with this product too and I’ll definitely be getting more of the badlands set.
As with the hoodoos I decided to try repainting some of the pieces to match my martian rock colour scheme and this turned out well – they took paint nicely and the dark recesses make painting high contrast terrain easier.
Because I want my planet surface to be the same colour as the rocks I don’t get the nice contrasting effect the original tor base had, but I think it still looks good. I’ll be repainting the entire batch, but if I weren’t going for a martian landscape I’d definitely have been happy with the pre-painted look, with some small changes.
Battlefield in a Box: Rocky Outcrops
There are actually two gale force nine products called ‘rocky outcrops’ I think this is the more recent one. It includes one piece of terrain which forms an archway which is a bit more interesting than solid rock both in gameplay and aesthetic terms.
5 of the 6 outcrops are pictured here, with 12 and 15mm minis as before, plus one hoodoo for scale.
And here’s a bit more of a close up.You can see the paintjob isn’t bad, though it isn’t quite as nice as those on the hoodoos I think.
The outcrops box also comes with two little bags of flock, pictured here next to a 25mm round base. This is so you can decorate the bases of your rocky outcrops to fit in better with a grassy landscape. This is a nice touch and I’m grateful that it’s optional – the flock isn’t amazing or anything but it’s basically free and I’ll probably use it at some point.
As with the badlands tors these are pretty heavy duty bits of terrain – they didn’t have any unpainted spots and the sculpts are very nice quality and pretty varied while maintaining a consistent look. I like that they fit into more landscapes than the tors do – I could picture them on alien worlds, snowscapes, forests, plains, rocky flats, beaches, you name it.
Once again I thought I’d have a look what they’re like in the martian colour scheme. I don’t feel like this works quite as well as it does with the hoodoos and tors, but it still looks solid and I don’t mind having a variety of rock types on one map (I know it might bother some!)
Same as before – they take paint well and don’t require that much work to change to another colour scheme. If anything they were easier to paint than the tors because they don’t have smooth rounded surfaces – it’s all sharp lines that pick up basic drybrushing well.
I definitely recommend the rocky outcrops – I think they’d look especially nice on a fantasy style wooded copse or grassland with some flock and moss and the like, but they’re pretty versatile. The paintjob also matched the box art far better than with the tors.
Making my own rocks from bark
So having seen how effective the use of bark was in the hoodoos, I decided the next time I saw some I’d pick it up. There’s a children’s playground near one of the bus stops I use, so I picked up a few likely looking chunks from under the swings (it’s commonly used as a safe, soft, outdoor landing material). Here you can see them unpainted next to a hoodoo.
They aren’t quite the same quality of bark as was used for the hoodoos and I suspect won’t look quite as nice painted, but they aren’t that far off and certainly have interesting shapes which pick up contrast well. I primed one with black primer and then painted it in the same martian style I used on the prepainted terrain. It was a bit more of a faff, but it turned out pretty well I think. Here it is next to some unpainted bark.
Finally, here are the pieces of martian scatter terrain I’ve painted so far, set on a martian playing mat (4’x4′) which I’ll do another post about later. I think they look pretty good and with a bit more terrain and some different types – maybe some foliage and light buildings – I should have a nice thematic battlefield to play heavy gear blitz on.