Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt.1

What you see above is the first piece of terrain I ever built for Warhammer 40k. Well, no, that’s not true actually. The first piece I ever built was a burned out barracks that I made from some GW styrofoam packaging in the mid 90s. But that one got lost somewhere along the way and never saw the tabletop anyway, so let’s stick with the one above as my first. By now, you have probably realised that this is going to be a post about the joys of DIY terrain.

To be honest, for a long time I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of building my own terrain. And with the slew of awesome plastic terrain kits released by GW, why should you have to build your own in the first place? Just buy an Imperial sector, put it together, slap some paint on and be done with it. And yet. And still…

Don’t get me wrong: Those kits are fantastic! And I’ll probably be getting some of that stuff sooner rather than later. But when I first got into the hobby during the 90s, what really fascinated me was the DIY terrain used by GW in their official publications. I always felt that to own terrain only half as awesome as that was one of the wargamer’s ultimate goals in life. Sure, you could play with books and soda cans for placeholders, but to build my own jungle, my own destroyed imperial city, was a dream for me. Alas, my meagre abilities never amounted to much in this field, so I stuck to using the readymade cardboard buildings that came with the starter box of Warhammer Fantasy and some large pieces of cork.

It was only when I got back into the hobby that I really felt the need to build some terrain. I was putting all this effort into converting and painting my models, after all. So the thought of plunking them down on a barren kitchen table just didn’t cut it for me any longer. Hence the generator shed you can see above as my humble first step.

It was fairly easy as well: Just glue some cardboard packaging that came with a wine bottle around a styrofoam block, add an old Necromunda bulkhead and an engine block from an old truck model kit. Spray the entire thing with cheap spray paint. Add a poster for some 40k flavour (and notice the typo when it’s already to late *sigh*). Granted, it’s not the most awesome piece of terrain in the world by a long stretch. But it left me with a hunger for more. Since then, I’ve built quite a collection of cityfight terrain, and I frankly cannot wait til it’s warm enough outside to work on the terrace again and get the next project underway.

But the question remains: Why should you build your own terrain instead of buying the awesome GW stuff? In this ongoing series of arguments for the awesomness of DIY terrain, let me give you five reasons for building your own:

1.)    It’s fun
2.)    It’s cheap
3.)    It’s truly your own
4.)    It makes for a nice change of pace
5.)    It’s a great outlet for creativity

Allow me to elaborate:

1. Building your own terrain is fun

This may be a matter of opinion, of course, but for me, building terrain is really something that pulls you in quickly. And I say that as somebody who is really not much of a craftsperson to begin with. Still, building terrain has the potential of being just as satisfying as working on your army. In some cases, especially when I’m on a roll, I even have to stop myself lest I build so much that I run out of storage space.

But it’s not only the act of building and creating itself: It’s how building terrain invites thinking outside the box. After a short while, you realise that almost anything can serve as ingredients for your terrain projects. It starts with simpe household articles, but soon you’ll find yourself looking for interestingly shaped packaging materials, special deals at your craftstore and seasonal decoration items. An interestingly textured wallpaper can become the sidewalk of an imperial city. A set of plastic plants originally intented as Easter decorations can turn into a deadly jungle. And your collection of empty Pringles cans can finally serve a function as the spires of a Mechanicus Forge World.

But the fun doesn’t stop there: Using your DIY terrain for your games feels truly satisfying, since you’ve managed to bring the world around your little plastic soldiers to life. And if your stuff looks reasonaly cool, it’ll invite all kinds of positive feedback, and who doesn’t like that?

To wind up this first argument for the awesomness of DIY terrain, let me show you another one of my early projects. I’ll call it “the classic”:

We’ll have a closer look at this piece and at what went into its creation in the next installment on this series. Next time: Building your own terrain is cheap.

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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One Response to “Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt.1”

  1. […] now, you should know the drill: Building your own terrain is fun and cheap, terrain you built yourself is truly your own, and building your own terrain also makes […]

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