Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Instant Terrain

After years spent collecting and painting miniatures, I have few terrain pieces.  This hasn't been much of an issue for me.  However, recently I've discovered a few things.  Models look better when photographed in a setting.  I've also discovered solo games like Nuts! or Isildur's Bane.  Terrain is needed to make that more interesting.  So how do I build a collection of terrain pieces both quickly and inexpensively? 

The answer is paper terrain.  Card stock models fit the bill perfectly.  The cost is quite low, assembly is quick, and storage is simple.

I started poking around the internet to find some card stock / paper modeling resources.  I found a variety of free models, a lot of them amazingly good for a free model!  These models also looked good on the table.  At the end of this post I'll put up all the links I found useful. But there is one site I've found that is just great for war gaming needs.  Check out Dave's Games for some excellent models.

Dave has a few free models to check out, with the coach house being the best.  This is a layered PDF file.  That means you can make the house look like brick, stone, stucco, or some other textures. You can add or remove doors and windows.  The chimney position can be changed, and the dormer is optional.  There are several other options as well.  So for one free model, you can get a three or four buildings out of it.  Check it out.  Here are some shots of the coach house and the hovel models.
So these represent my first attempts at assembly.  I really screwed up the roof on the small house (the hovel model).  The coach house model looks much better.  You can see these are sized for 28mm models.  However, you can apparently scale the printing for different sizes.  So if I wanted 15mm terrain for Flames of War, I can print at 50% reduction.  My only problem is Adobe Reader doesn't have a scaling option that I can find.  But you might have it on your printer.

I was so enthused about this, that I purchased the ruins bundle, which gives a bunch of ruin models that look fantastic.  Here are some shots of a ruined foundation, just right for WWII or 40K games.

Again, I'm just learning things.  So my cuts are a little sloppy and I didn't get things to match up perfectly.  But practice will make perfect.  So I'm saving those multi-storied building ruins for last.

So, I know that a fully modeled, 3D piece is beautiful and an art form unto itself.  There really is no substitute.  If you pick up a paper model and hold it up to your face, you'll be unimpressed.  I get it.  But for gaming purposes, how often do you do that?  You just note that the building obstructs LOS or slows movement or presents some other challenge.  A paper terrain piece can do that and look great in the process.

Finally, cost is something I've heard a lot about especially printer ink.  So, let's do some quick math on this.  I'll just throw all costs together and not even break it down to a "per model" basis.  Here's what it takes all told:
  • Ream of 110# card stock $18
  • Full ink cartridge $30
  • Glue stick $2
  • Xacto knife $5
  • "Ruins" bundle (16 models) $30
  • Grand total $85
Of course this is totally overstating the cost, as I didn't use even 1/4 of the paper and my ink cartridge is still half full.  But for the same price, you can get one or two equivalent sized 3D models from GW.  You would still have to factor in paint and paint brushes into the cost, too.  And you can't endlessly print these models like you can with paper!  Bottom line: Even if you go through two ink cartridges, you are probably still financially ahead.

So get moving on your instant terrain!  Here are some links to get you started.

Dave's Games  as I mentioned is a great, low cost resource.
Paper has some interesting 15mm stuff
World Works is the grand-daddy of paper eye candy, though more for RPG or small skirmish games.
Wizards of the Coast has some awesome looking terrain for free.  This stuff looks great, especially the covered bridge!  Don't miss this.
Model Train has software that will let you design your own stuff.  Looks very interesting!
Cardboard Warriors is a forum about all things paper model.  I've just found this site, and it looks promising.

Also, if you've come this far and didn't ditch my post, here's proof I still plan to use 3D terrain.  I've finally, after 3-4 years of procrastination, painted my GW modular gaming hill.  And my cat approves!


Tim Kulinski said...

Nice man, only suggestion I would offer is to use black foam core for the ruins. You glue the printed material to the foam core and then cut out. This will give you some depth on the walls instead of looking so thin.

But nice work man.

Mike G. said...

Jerry, those came out nice.

Jerry said...

Thanks guys! I've thought about mounting to the black foam core, especially for the bigger pieces.

Drunken Samurai said...

I like it. I have always wanted to do card terrain as thee are some really cool options out there. I might have to check some of this out.

Ken Moore said...

"My only problem is Adobe Reader doesn't have a scaling option that I can find."

However, the Foxit PDF Reader allows you to print at any percent.