|One of MAS's awesome looking Wolsung boards at Salute 2012|
Well I guess given some of my biggest articles in terms of hits have been about scenery, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that I'm doing a sermon on scenery eventually, now should it? Don't worry I don't think I'm going to pimp you anymore scenery products... or at least that isn't my primary intention here. No, I want to talk about why scenery and terrain is, or should be important to us all. You see we often 'throw down' with our miniatures and we very rarely think about how our battlefield looks, or how it adds to the ambiance of a game. Sure we might check that it blocks Line of Sight or that there isn't too much cover for one side. But, rarely I think will we as gamers take a step back and say 'does it look good?' By which, I mean is it pretty, does it evoke the atmosphere of the game, is it adding to the visual appeal of wargaming and thus the overall pageantry of the experience? Because lets be honest here about our hobby, part of it's allure is the theatrical aspect of having armies on display, isn't it?
|The awesome looking freebooter's Fate board at Salute 2012|
You see, I wrote an article about how the battlefield or scenery could affect how the game plays out. Of course in many respects that should almost certainly be our first priority as gamers. That the table on which, we are about to enact our battle with toy soldiers, is suitable to the game we're playing. It shouldn't however be our only concern I think. There is a tactile, and a visual element to wargaming that many other hobbies don't quite achieve. I suppose model railways are a close relation in this regard. The mechanics of the set up can be great, but if it looks good it's just so much better. Think about all the really cool tables you've seen in wargames magazines, or on websites and blogs, possibly at trade shows, first and foremost they look good don't they? They make you want to put fully painted armies down on them and play games. There's an artistry to them that I think we can sometimes overlook and ignore. In game play terms you could almost certainly replicate their effectiveness with bland designed geometric shapes, but it's the details that separate out the great tables from the good. They create a miniature world for us to send our little toys to their deaths!
I used to love building scenery with my dad out of plasticard, balsa wood and foam card. We even used loads of household waste... and yeah... the odd empty Pringles tube. I swear that's where I get my love of savoury snacks from, my dad used to 'force' me to eat crisps faster, that's child abuse that is. What us gamers do for our art hey? I even remember making latex moulds for windows and doors so we could cast our own resin pieces. We added these little quirky unique details to our tables, and my dad did a wicked line in wire flocked trees that still look better than many of the off the shelf premium products today. I remember making awesome timber framed Tudor type buildings, Castles and even a Dwarf stronghold cut into the face of a cliff with a brewery and everything! When I say I or we, I mean my dad, he was the true artist, I was just a cack handed gibbon. Happy days indeed. These nice touches brought so much joy to the games I played, that I honestly think it elevated my hobbying experience exponentially. It was so much fun it actually sort of became a hobby in itself. So what the hell happened? Honestly I don't rightly know, but at some point I stopped. Maybe it was the discovery of girls around about the time I hit the age of 13 or 14, or maybe I just became lazy.
To top it all off though Games Workshop started to make decent plastic scenery that I could lug around with me. I'm not knocking Games Workshop here, so before anyone starts sending me death threats hear me out. This was a plus point for me, and still is over all the delicate scratch built terrain my father had produced, and what I personally can produce myself today. In terms of the plastic scenery Games Workshop produce for their own games they are perfectly evocative of their universes and help elevate any games played using them. Not to exceptional levels, but beyond what many happy bodgers might be able to achieve on their own. Not everyone can be talented at scenery building, and this plastic scenery caters wonderfully for that. Sure it does lead to a bit too much homogeneity for my liking, but I can understand its allure and appeal... hell I own a load of it! In the end I just stopped caring or bothering with my own stuff. However, that does leave me with a bit of a problem...
|Honestly an exceptional piece of MDF Scenery|
A few years back I had a horrifying realisation... every game I played was being played on the exact same game board, with the exact same identikit scenery. Sure sometimes people painted theirs differently, but still, it was the same. It had all become bland again. I recently tried making some of my own scenery and learned, to my cost, that the skills I once had when I was younger aren't quite like learning to ride a bike. You do sadly forget them. My cack handed attempts at making scenery were laughable, and also terribly depressing. I'll still stick at it don't you worry about that, I'm not quitter, and I want to get the skills I had as a young teenager back. Because I'm starting to fully appreciate that the look of the gaming boards we play on is another vitally important aspect of our hobby yet again, and that buildings festooned with more skulls than a Hapsburg crypt don't quite go so well thematically with every game I play and own, it certainly jars a bit with Infinity and Heavy Gear Blitz!
|Who wouldn't want to play on scenery this good?|
Luckily though there are plenty of firms out there that can help us along a bit. No doubt you've all seen my reviews of the various HDF laser cut scenery from the likes of Micro Art Studios and Sarissa Precision. I'm still waiting on a big shipment of Sarissa Precision stuff so I can do a series of articles on making an Infinity board for you all. However, there are also other firms out there that provide resin scenery, like Ainsty, Hirst moulds DIY and Antenocitis. Micro Art Studios also produce some pretty cool resin terrain again. There are of course premium scenery producers too like Kobblestone Miniatures and of course the exceptional looking stuff from Tabletop World and Mannor House, both companies produce some scenery I'd consider killing for! What I'm trying to say in a really long winded way is there are companies out there that can help us with pimping our gaming boards now, far more so now than ever before. So why not take advantage of them? Why not give your gaming board a bit of TLC? After all, if you're anything like me you've probably got way too many miniatures to still be painting anyway. Peace out!
Please remember I'm not around at the moment to respond to any questions or points you might have. So could I ask you to be patient and bear with me, I'll get round to it eventually I'm sure. Thanks!