Wednesday 15 April 2020

Stars of the Games Shed: Best Value Terrain and Miniatures

After looking at my probably-will-never-complete projects, I was considering my most used, most bang-for-buck miniatures and terrain. What are the stars of my man cave - miniatures and terrain that were the best used and the best value. There are two clear winners, and you may be surprised at what they are.

My most-used terrain is a bunch of pine boards, cut in 5, 10, 20 and 30cm sections and sprayed grey.

I was inspired by how my daughter's toy blocks spread all over the floor yet packed into a little box. I use this wooden block setup almost every time I playtest.  Besides caves and dungeons, it has been a research facility, has been arranged into city blocks. It has been a drowned city, Mordhiem... It has served in 28mm, 15mm, and even 1:300 and smaller scales as spacecraft comb asteroid caves a la Descent.

 Here is is the bunkers under Gibralter, and Tommies are clearing out Nazi zombies in 1948...

Here it is underground caves as hunter-killer antigrav gunships battle for the Hollow Earth.

Here it serves as Area 51, as US soldiers fight an alien artifact.

Here it is merely serving as a testbed for my Middlehiem skirmish rules.

It cost $13 and two hours with a bench saw and a spray can.

It's so basic, yet so versatile. It is the most basic of terrain, barely a step above the "cover books with a sheet" - its low effort - and this is coming from someone who specializes in low-effort terrain. Yet I use it so much. Looking at it, I have been thinking of ways to modify it.  Instead of pine boards, what about foam strips? I could texture it and make it more cave-like and organic - but I'd lose some versatility.  Have not used it for multi-level games - how could I adapt the design?


There is another clear winner.  These EM4 plastic starfighters have served as super-cavitating sub fighters, as micro-drones flying amongst blades of grass, and currently do service as PT-boat sized gunships/assault landers.  They have starred in about ten sets of homebrew rules as well as their original game Silent Death, and have playtested games like Jovian Chronicles, Renegade Legion, 5150 Fighter Command among others.

They've gotten use at least 5-6 times a year for the last 10 years.

Here they are gunships escorting 1:600 tanks on the moon against alien life in my latest game Gunship Vector.

This time they serve as fighter submarines defending an undersea refinery.

Even today they are $6 (3 pounds) for a dozen, including bases - 50c each!   Easily the best bang for my buck miniatures, ever. 

So... the most used miniatures and terrain in my shed cost under $20 combined, and both sport a single grey basecoat. *Shrugs*

Do you have any minis or terrain that just get so much use you can claim them as your MVP?


  1. Wallpaper. That's what I'm thinking for your maze. A nice, visually pleasing, discreet design in nice, pleasing, unobtrusive colors. Something abstract too. Not realistic at all, and it wouldn't actually represent anything, but it would be, you know, nice & pleasant to look at. If you like the grey you're already there, I just don't.

    1. Oh I don't LIKE it at all. It's ugly and so low effort, as terrain it barely rates above tissue boxes and books under a sheet. I just use it a lot - waaaay more than I intended when I did it half-jokingly based on my daughters blocks. It's just so convenient. I'm considering doing it in foam or something so I can attach texture or something. You're right - some sort of geometric but vague pattern might be good.

  2. Hmmmm... doing this in a slightly more complex way might be a great idea! But adding anything might break that very generic effect your terrain provides. To steal or not to steal... ;)

  3. I think the grey painted blocks lock just fine for maximum versatility. Dungeons to delve? Check. Space ship corridors? Check. Interior of a modern building? Check. Plus, all those edges, corners, and hallways make for a good tactical variety.

    1. That's pretty much exactly why they get so much use.

      It's easy to toss out a table full of terrain, and it's immune to damage.

    2. Following your example, I took several boxes of various sizes, resealed them, then sprayed them grey. I then hit them with granite texture spray. A bunch of non- descript terrain for Supers, to sci-fi, to horror. Thanks for the support nspiration!

    3. Yes, it is far from charming but very useful. Even now they are serving as playtest corridors for my new 15mm sci fi "demon possession" rules which I finally decided to turn into a playable beta.

  4. Cardboard and Amazon boxes. It's usually a race between me and the wife that results in the stuff being tucked away for my future use or it going into the recycling. During lockdown I've made 2d scenery for remote Skype games with my son, tokens galore, a version of the dungeonquest boardgame, scenery, custom size storage boxes. I'll be the first to say that it's not pretty to look at, but it lies flat for storage and if I wanted to spend the time and energy I could colour and texture. Found the 40k tanks and dreadnought I made more than 20 years ago the other week. Ugly and out of scale but they still did the job on the table. Completely a matter of visual taste but works for me. I went through a phase of scooping up the packaging from the kids toys when they were small. Painted up the weirdest looking to make scifi bunkers etc.