Terrain can really add to your gaming experience. Terrain is any building, structure, hills, or any sort of item that creates your battlefield.
Terrain features can do many things to enhance a game from becoming an objective in the game to providing cover for units. Terrain can be used to further create the 3D experience of miniature wargaming.
Terrain can take shape in many forms. You can purchase pre-made terrain or you can make it yourself. There are simple ways to make terrain and there are more time consuming methods, which can yield pleasant eye-catching results. You can use just about anything to make terrain.
I'll give you some suggestions and you can make use of them in any manner. You may even find a combination that appeals to your pocketbook and gaming needs.
There are several methods to purchasing terrain. You can purchase battle maps drawn out on cloth ready to go. They may even have hex grids drawn on them. I like to refer to these as ground cloths. These run for about 20-30 dollars. I haven't priced them lately so they may be a bit more. Most of the ones I've seen have been drawn out to play Battle Tech. If you don't have to have the hexes drawn out, I'd recommend making one yourself, which is easy to do. I'll explain that in the making terrain section.
These are dry erase maps that Chessex sells. They are the simplest and you can draw on them but I think if you're wanting the true 3D affect these would only be good for certain types of games.
One of the most modular and easy to work with terrain systems is Geo-Hex. This is a pretty expensive system but I have found it is very easy to work with and repair. You have the full ground and hill pieces.
I really like this system. It is repairable. It is pretty durable. The only draw back is the expense involved. I started with Geo-Hex when it was first introduced and while I've not picked up any more pieces I have seen where they've added a few things that I don't have.
I'll add a section on repairing Geo-Hex to my terrain section.
There is a large selection of buildings on the market. From castles to huts, they come in scales to play with various scales including 15mm and 25mm figures. They are generally made out of a form of Resin or other materials and you can clean them up and paint them up yourself. I'll provide instructions for working with this sort of terrain later on.
to go terrain:
This is the stuff that is ready to go and painted. I generally prefer to look this stuff over before purchasing it. Generally, this can range from completely painted and scratch built to someone purchasing a completed piece and painting it. These tend to cost a bit more than the ones you paint yourself.
and other scenic pieces:
You can pick these up at almost any train shop as well as other retail places. The N gauge fit the 15mm figures and the HO gauge fit the 25mm figures they can be mixed as the trees tend to be measured by inches. Some of the other pieces are the same way.
Making terrain is probably one of the cheaper methods to use. It really depends on how much work you want to put into it.
First, you should get a box to store your supplies. Look at different things you are about to toss into the trash. You can actually recycle some of your household trash to use for your gaming needs. Put that with scissors, glue and paint and you can come up with some nice stuff.
The rest of your materials can come from craft supplies. Some of these craft supplies can be a bit expensive but keep in mind the majority of the time you may be making more than one for the money it could cost to buy one completed piece.
This is perhaps one of the simplest things to do, and can be fairly inexpensive to expensive depending on what you prefer.
Go to some place that sells fabric. Many stores like Walmart to specialty sewing shops can sell you this.
The first thing you need to do is check width. Material comes in 42", 48", 60" and sometimes 72" widths. Since you pay by the yard, you want to make sure the width you get will cover the tabletop so you only have to measure the length. The best width to buy, is the 60" width since it covers the table top and will still leave about 6" hanging over on each side. This way you will only need one piece that is 5 feet wide and cut to the length of your table.
The best materials are usually cotton or cotton polyblend. Avoid pure polyester. The cotton tends to fold well and you can wash this in cold water to get rid of soda stains. You want a material that does not pick up lint because if it does it will collect the flocking off your bases and carpet fuzz. The big thing is being able to wash this material.
You also have wool (US army blanket type) or flannel that are very popular because they add a grainy texture. If you are playing a game that has formation of figures remember the flannel type fabric has fuzz that grabs the edges of your figure. It looks good but keep this in mind.
You also have vinyl, which is a bit more expensive, but not much. This depends on the grade you purchase. This is excellent for representing water or ground cloth. It is textured and the figure bases slide well on it. Plus you can wash stains off with a rag. The drawback if you mark on the vinyl and fold/roll it up with the vinyl surface touching to store can cause the markings to peel off and stick to other parts of the mat it came into contact with. Creases will stay in this so you do not want to fold it. You want to get a roll to roll it onto or just roll it up. Thicker is better to use, but this stuff tends to get heavier the thicker you go. Keep in mind how much you will have to carry it around because if you buy the thickest you may be looking about 2lbs per foot. (Note: this material also makes an excellent drop cloth for your painting table especially if you get the padded.)
Since most of the time you will be looking for 8' long pieces or smaller you can pick up good deals on the remnant table. This is the table where they generally store the last part of a bolt or roll of fabric.
Also while there, see if they have any empty rolls for the fabrics that come on rolls. You can roll your ground cloth onto the roll or possibly use it in your terrain making.