Terrain for War Games and Miniature Battles
Have you ever flocked the bases of your miniatures, shaved foam to make an awkward hill or looked at birdhouses at a craft store to gauge the scale?
You probably understand how great scenery can add to a miniature or board wargame.
Scenery has been around for a long time. The Japanese begin their art of miniature landscapes, called Bonkei, in the 6th century.
In the 18th Century, German flat tin soldiers known as Zinnfiguren came on the scene. These were the original “toy soldiers” and they often included flat buildings or other scenery.
Fast forward to modern times. As plastic made mass production of models and wargame miniatures possible, scenery has come along for the ride. With the expert creators of model train terrain and military dioramas providing the training and tools, most miniature war-gamers have made some terrain for play.
The internet has opened up our minds even more. You can only attend so many game cons. Unless you spend your time taking quality photos instead of playing wargames, you will come away with only vague ideas on building new scenery.
The internet allows wargamers around the world to post their best creations and methods for scenery.
Ideas can flow freely. You can read in complete detail how a gamer in Europe uses common kitchen items and some paint to create a 25mm science fiction lunar base. Or find out how to collect small twigs to make an accurate wooden split rail fence for an American Civil War miniature war game.
A new revolution is upon us.
With access to inexpensive 3D printers, cutters and computer files to skin anything, wargamers can now create complex and massive wargame scenery for any board or miniature game.
Many miniature gamers are already creating scenery files for use with modern 3D printers and CNC machines.
What is the next bold step for wargaming scenery? Augmented and virtual reality offer a clue.
Current miniature scenery has some limitations. Hills and terrain must be flat to allow for bases of units to sit on them.
Going inside a building doesn’t lend itself well to the game. You have to place units on top and say they’re in the building.
Scenery can only be so tall and massive to allow players to see across the board to play the game.
These are practical realities that limit game play.
I remember playing a miniature version of Tolkein’s Battle of the Five Armies from the Hobbit at a gaming convention years ago.
The armies looked spectacular, but the Lonely Mountain was more of a Lonely Low Plateau barely taller than dwarf. The City of Dale and the entrance to the Dwarven city were more abstract than real.
As computer hardware gets better and less expensive, there will be new options for wargame scenery via Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR).
But let’s come back to our innocent boardgames.
Imagine playing a wargame where the scenery is dimensionally accurate inside your head. With simple commands, you can zoom in or out of terrain or buildings.
The scenery can be as accurate as you want to make it. Want to play Waterloo or Gettysburg at scale? Create a 3D rendering from historical maps and have a go.
New technology will supplement our best real world efforts at a fraction of the cost. With VR and AR tech, wargamers will no longer have to build custom or modular scenery.
A wargamer will be able to create a battlefield scene from scratch for any genre or scale. I can hardly wait.