Tuesday, August 30, 2016

MDF Terrain (Two Good Looks)

All right Game Fans, today we’re going to take a closer look at one of the two major types of scenery you’ll find for your tabletop wargaming (or Role-playing) needs.  Today we’re going to focus on MDF terrain kits.  Now I'm sure two questions just popped into your mind.  First “What the hell is MDF?”  We’ll get to that in a minute.  Secondly, “What’s the other major kind of scenery?”  The other primary type of terrain you’ll find are plastic kits that need to be assembled like the models for your Wargame.  
    Quick Recap:
    The two primary kinds of terrain you’ll find on the market are sorted by the material they’re made from, Plastic and MDF.  Plastic terrain kits are going to look like any other model you would use for a game and will need to be assembled the same way.  MDF (Which is medium density fiberboard) is a wood product used by compressing wood fibers and then binding them together with resins to create a complete board.  Medium Density Fiberboard has experienced a reimagining in the minds of a lot of hobbyists since they started using it to make scenery for games.  
    There are a lot of manufacturers who are making MDF terrain kits, and today we’re going to take a look at two of our favorites around the office.  First up, Multiverse Gaming has a wide array of terrain kits for the interested gamer.  Second, we’ll go over Sarissa Precision Ltd. and the terrain kits they offer.  Both of these companies are European, so they are going to take a while to ship overseas to the U.S., so plan your orders accordingly.  

Section 1: Multiverse Gaming
    Multiverse Gaming offers two distinct product lines (terrain scaled for games at the 15mm scale, and their larger, more populous 28-35mm scaled terrain kits), base inserts, and a hobby glass product that will allow the discerning modeller to put actual windows into his constructions.  This is a wonderful array of terrain options for the gamer, but let’s take a closer look at the the larger scale kits and explore some of the options you have with them.  
    If you’re looking for modern urban terrain, Multiverse gets very close to the modern aesthetic with the Dark City line of terrain kits.  With a nod to the turn of the 20th century, the Dark City features a range of impressive scenery choices, and expandable building choices to add a certain amount of height to your table.  Two features make this a good suggestion for me.  
    First, the buildings come apart very easily for transport, but that means that you can actually play inside the larger terrain kits (like the Olympus building).  In addition to being the centerpiece of a modern terrain table, it also is a setting of its own.  
Secondly, the furniture and other accessory options allow you to tailor the scene to your specific taste as a gamer.  If you want to recreate a turn of the century photo you saw of a major urban center like New York City, you have almost all of the parts you’d need for that (cars not included).  By making conscious choices about what you want your environment to feel like, you can affect how your game plays.  
    The other range, Tombstone, transports your gaming table back to the American Old West.  It currently has four building options (including the Undertaker’s Office) to make your game feel a little wilder, and a little dirtier.  It also includes scenic pieces like wagons and stage coaches and a gallows to hang your combatants to death (or maybe they’ll be back).  
    Like most MDF kits, these come in flat sheets that you’ll need to cut the pieces out of.  Assembly is easy on the tool kit, as you’ll need a sharp hobby knife to clear the components from their frames, a file to smooth out uneven edges, and some PVA (Go Elmer’s) glue to hold everything together.  For the person who’s looking for that specific early Americana feel, Multiverse does an excellent job of providing touchstones for two distinct historical eras.  
    The base inserts are designed to give your model a more grounded feel by adding more texture and detail to their base.  If you’re looking for a wood textured floor, Multiverse has you covered.  The 15mm scale wargaming terrain has a more sci fi feel, and is capable of handling most of your scifi needs (i don’t see a range of alien bug terrain, yet.).
From a gamer’s standpoint, there’s a lot of work that you can do with either one of these terrain lines, depending on the game you are setting up for.  If you’re looking for a modern urban zone, the Dark City line has you covered.  The modularity of the terrain kits means you can reconfigure your battlefield without having to break out the power tools, and flexibility gives options.  The Tombstone line (and i hope it has more pieces coming) can cover a lot of niches for terrain including the old west, but it also gives you options for unusual terrain in a different niche.  If you’re running away from a zombie horde, or scavenging through the ruins of Post Apocalyptic America, an old ghost town kind of has that right feel for it.  

Sarissa Precison takes a different approach, and goes for a breadth of terrain themes that i would say is staggering.  I could spend weeks covering Sarissa’s product line and still not show you everything, so i am going to show my favorites and the things that i think everybody might want to have around for their terrain table. Also, take a look at their catalog, and i am sure you’ll find something to add to your terrain selection.
Retro-Americana is a fantastic terrain set that can fill a lot of niches in a tabletop game.  Refighting a communist invasion of America?  Post Apocalyptic suburbia?  Zombies wrecking your neightborhood?  This range has options for a ton of different systems, and it has a swimming pool and a playground, I can’t think of a way to beat that.
The Railways set has an equal amount of options to it, representing both the railroads and the cars that travel them.  If you’ve got a hankering for 28mm scale trains as a battlefield, Railways gives you a lot of options.  You can also build your own train set (though they aren’t going to move).  
    They also offer movement trays for a variety of games, bases for other systems and a host of other options.  They also do custom work, so you can get your own display boards for your army.  Sarissa is a serious operation that should be able to meet just about any need you have for the terrain market.  
The historical variety that they offer gives you dozens of stylistic choices that will fill a table with terrain.  All that you really need to do is decide what theme you are aiming for and take a swing at finding the parts.  My favorite crazy idea is to pick up a piece or two from each historic era and mash them up like a time travelling battlefield. 
Sarissa gives the budding gamer options for adding terrain to their table without breaking the bank.  You can find some heavy duty kits that will cost you a fair amount of money, but you can just as likely find a swimming pool, or a playground that will decorate your table without costing you an arm/leg/kidney. 

Now those are just two of the many companies that are producing MDF terrain kits, and they are by no means exhaustive.  Check the internet and see who else is out there producing kits that you’re looking for.  Chances are, you can find someone who makes it.

That’s our first look at MDF Terrain, we’ll cover some more in the coming weeks including a closer look at the ones we think are fantastic.  

Game on, Game Fans

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