Since I am not currently running a game, I have been thinking about the next campaign that I will run. While I am still at the beginning phase of planning (as in I am still deciding the genre: fantasy, sci-fi, superhero, horror, or pulp), I do know that I want to include some fantastic scenery and terrain.
Thus, I have reconnoitered the internet in pursuit of the finest terrain, scenery, structures, and tutorials that the web has to offer. I thought I would share my list of resources (just like my previous lists) with the community. Some of the best scenery is sourced from companies that cater to the wargaming crowd, while I find most of the cardstock is marketed to the roleplayers. If any readers know of some cool places I missed, pipe up in the comments!
Cast Scenery & Terrain
I am not for sure there is a standard definition for these terms, but I distinguish terrain as the actual landforms carved or molded from/into the base material. These would include the major and minor terrain features, from a military perspective. Major features include: Hill, Ridge, Valley, Saddle, and Depression. While minor features include: Draw, Spur and Cliff. Terrain also includes bodies of water. Roads are also usually incorporated into the terrain. I view scenery as any structures, debris, vegetation, or man-mad/free-standing objects. This section covers retailers that sell cast or carved items.
Kobblestone Miniatures – I previously credited the above awesome diorama to another company, well I want to set the record straight. The oriental village above was created by Kobblestone Miniatures from Canada. Their website is packed with stuff of the same caliber work; I urge everyone to check out their gallery!
Dwarven Forge – There is always a crowd around the Dwarven Forge booth at GenCon, at the awe is well deserved. Dwarven Forge makes some of the best dungeon sets on the market. They are all hand painted and very detailed. I’d give some body parts for some of these sets (I don’t need them anymore anyways…).
Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture – I drool over their cast-your-own molds at GenCon every year, and every year I kick myself in the ass for not purchasing a bunch of molds. Probably the most cost efficient cast/carved scenery, since you can make as much as you want (and if you use plaster of paris, it is cheap). Well, the molds do wear out after prolonged use… but still.
Red Dragon Terrain – Rob uses the high quality molds from Hirst Arts to create buildings for his custom scenic terrains. So if you like Hirst Arts but cringe at the idea of having to cast hundreds of bricks and pieces and then assemble them, then Red Dragon Terrain is for you.
Armorcast – These guys mass produce a lot of battlefield scenery, many terrain retailers re-sell their products. Armorcast makes high quality scenery and terrain for various genres (fantasy, historical, and sci-fi).
Games Workshop – These guys make fantastic scenery to decorate the field for their Warhammer wargames.
Ziterdes – This German company has a line called Dunkelstadt (which I believe translates to Dark City) that just looks freakin’ superb.
Manorhouse – An Italian workshop that built the intense dual-layered scene pictured below. I don’t know how practical it is, but it reeks of cool and detail work.
Baueda Wargames – Bauda have some nice accessories for various genres, including some nice WWII stuff as well as an Ancients (Hoppidus) line.
The Miniature Building Authority – I am pretty sure this is another strong GenCon attendee. They have several very nice lines including a fantasy and sci-fi line and one of my favorites, the EuroVillage.
Antenociti’s Workshop – Antenociti has a few really nice small stuff for scenery like barrels, treasure chests, gun placements, doors and windows.
Miniature World Maker – They have a nice selection of 25mm structures like towers and huts that could find a home in your world.
Fantascene – I really like their Dracula’s Crypt and their Gothic line, though it seems like I’ve seen it somewhere else…
TerraScenic – TS is a vendor for Pegasus Scenery, which has some nice looking cathedrals (but I am unsure as to the scale). But the best stuff TS offers is really their range of modeling tools.
Scenic Express – These guy probably target the model railroad market, but they have some excellent supplies for scratch-building your own custom terrain.
Wargames-Scenery – It looks like these guys currently have a clearance sale. Unfortunately, it is because are closing their doors. I especially like their blacksmith foundry that could be part of any middle-ages/fantasy town.
TerrainScapes – These guys have a mixture of their own custom molds as well as using and modifying high-quality Hirst Arts stuff.
Zuzzy Miniatures – Zuzzy has a three original lines: The Despoiled Reaches, The Ruined Land, and Verdant Fields. Each line is manufactured to build a specific atmosphere. The Despoiled Reaches are truly frillin’ wicked!
War-Game-Terrain – WGT offers up custom built terrain and scenery. I find their site difficult to navigate, but if he definitely has some skill.
Art of War – AoW has some nice look desert (Arabic) themed structures as well as several other products, but their claim to fame is the fantastic Helm’s Deep reproduction from the Lord of the Rings.
Ultimate Table Top Terrain – Markets the Griffon Miniatures Wargaming Terrain System based on pre-made hex tiles.
Cardstock environments are usually created by purchasing, downloading, or creating images that can be printed out onto cardstock (heavy weight) paper and then folded and/or glued together to form buildings, dungeons, and other features. Cardstock is a quick and cheap method of providing solid environments that can spectacular pieces in their own right, and you don’t have to be too worried about ruining them, cause its fairly cheap to print another! This section covers retailers and sites that sell or provide free downloads.
RPGNow – I’ve linked to the 3D Terrain/Buildings tag on RPGNow’s site. I’ll also link to RPGNow product page of any of the other companies’ products if there is one available.
World Works Games – Probably THE premiere cardstock terrain company. These guys’ work pretty much sets the bar for me. They have a lot of lines to choose from that cover the popular genres. Definitely check out their site!
Fat Dragon Games – The obese wyrm has an excellent selection of cardstock dungeons and terrain, not to mention a 3D spacecraft that looks like a cross between the Firefly class Serenity and the Defiant (Defiant class) from Star Trek. Fat Dragon Games also has a storefront on RPGNow for the EZ-Dungeon & the EZ Terrain lines.
Microtactix – MTX has an impressive array of cardstock buildings for sci-fi, historical, and fantasy games. They are famous for their “Dirt Cheap” and “Budget Battlefield” lines. Microtactix has a storefront at RPGNow.
Stones Edges – Stones has a couple of very nice looking dungeons. From what I have heard, the people behind Stones Edges actually joined World Works Games, which I think speaks a lot for the quality. Stones Edges also has a storefront at RPGNow.
Hotz Stuff – Eric Hotz has created a bunch of cardstock scenery for Wild West and Roman settings. I think I might buy the gallows accessory and place it in every town as a reminder to my players of what happens to the unruly! Hotz has a storefront at RPGNow too.
Dave’s Games – Dave has a ton of free cardstock structures made for Warhammer Fantasy, but I am sure they could be easily repurposed.
Unknown Forum Post – I don’t know who these belong too, or if they are breaking someone’s copyright, but they are free and available here.
Wizards of the Coast – Hey, Wizards does do some things right. A while back they released these fold-up paper models for free!
Archi Kit – Some very nice FREE medieval/Renaissance style buildings.
Free Paper Models – A ton of free paper models of real, historical, and fantasy buildings.
Cast/Carved Terrain Tutorials
The last time I did some research on building my own terrain (which was about 6 years ago when Privateer Press launched Warmachine), there seemed to be a lot more tutorials out there. Maybe I’m have looked hard or long enough, but here are some of the better tutorials I found.
What really seems to be missing is technique. Though I have provided links to books at the end of the section that should hopefully shed light on the subject. I highly recommend the Osprey books.
Table Top Terrain – This guy has some excellent tutorials on making your own molds so you can mass produce your own (or others’, for personal use) creations.
Mini Wargaming – Has several posts on making your own scenery, uncluding stuff for Warhammer 40k.
Basement Battle Scenery – Has a nice pictorial on creating rocky terrain.
Ultimate Table Top Terrain – U3T has some tutorials on how to make your own hex tile terrain.
War-Game Terrain – This site has video tutorials on how to create your own terrain.
Fire & Smoke – Here is an excellent pictorial concerning fire and smoke.
Maff0 Models – Maffo has a tutorial on creating a bunker as well as a unique looking rock formation.
Ryan Skow – Ryan has a few tutorials to offer, including one on how to make a thatched roof.
Colonial Era Wargames – Has some cool scenery how-tos, such as what materials make good-looking water.
NetTerrain – While I didn’t come across any tutorials here, they do have a gallery of cool scenery to get you inspired.
TerraGenesis – This forum is dedicated to creating fantastic scenery and terrain on a budget for a long time (since 1997),.
How to Make Wargames Terrain – Published by Games Workshop, this book 128 of instruction on scenery and terrain.
Making Terrain & Buildings for Historical Wargames – This book covers groundwork, landscape features and buildings that are realistic and detailed.
Terrain Modelling – Published by Osprey, this book is an excellent guide to fabricating realistic terrain.
Advanced Terrain Modelling – The second part of Osprey’s terrain series offers some unique techniques to bring scenery to life.
Wargame Terrain Videos – Here is a link to a Google Video search on wargame terrain.
A lot of planning actually goes into the process of making your own cardstock environments, especially when you get more complex than squares and rectangles. You need to be able to visualize in three dimensions how something will come together, and spatial thinking is a difficult task for most people.
I didn’t want to get too much into making simple tiles, because there are tons of awesome photoshop tutorials out there that focus on textures (which is the primary ingredient in tiles, the other being grids). Unfortunately, there is squat out there in web (that I found) in regards to cardstock terrain and scenery.
World Works Games – These guys have some fantastic videos regarding the assembly and finish of their cardstock models. They also offer a free download.
Profantasy: Dioramas Pro – I haven’t tried it, but this software is supposed to make the creation of cardstock buildings easy. You design it and it figures out the rest.
Miniatures & Terrain Article Series
If you need some miniatures to use on your kick-ass terrain or looking to improve your miniature hobby skills (like painting or basing), check out my other articles:
- Heroic Sized Minis Database (25mm-28mm)
- Non-Heroic Scale Minis Database
- Level-up Your Miniature Hobby Skills (painting & modeling resources)
Again, if you know of anything good that I have missed, please let me know in the comments.