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TerrainFest 2023: Week 1 – How do you plan for a board build or Terrain Item?

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  phaidknott 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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    TerrainFest 2023: Week 1 – How do you plan for a board build or Terrain Item?

    I thought as part of TerrianFest 2023 for Oct I would post a series of questions or points to the board as a community point to discuss. Aspects that come up as part my project or points that I see in other peoples project. Hopefully perhaps others can join in and raise points.

    The purpose at least for me to gain more knowledge and ideas from the shared community.

    The first question is how do you plan for a board build or even a terrain item if building it from scratch.?

    This came to me from my own project which is based in a city. I had an idea for locations one of which is a guards stronghold. When I started the project it was flood of questions, how big should it be, what should it look like, what buildings or items would be around the guard stronghold, what purpose in game would it have?

    In games even if we are not aware of it some degree of planning goes into it. We often pick a theme, we are going to make a jungle board we are unlikely to start picking up pine trees to place on to the board. I dont think anyone just randomly puts items down on the board.

    So I am curious how do people plan for a board, do you do detailed designs head of time, make it up as you go along, spend hours researching history. Do you have any tips for planning or key resources you use ?


    Cult of Games Member

    Depends always on the scale of the project and how much detail I want in it. I still have a lot of work to for my modular-hex-terrain piece I started ages ago. But for TerrainFest it’s a rather straight forward thing:

    • buy the MDF kit (done)
    • read assembly instructions (in progress)
    • assemble, prep and paint

    That’s basically it. I tend to overthink things and get nothing done. So “just winging it” normally works best for me 8)


    Cult of Games Member

    I tend to find I get inspiration from sometimes really random things and from there my imagination just goes off on tangents.  As an example, my kids have a game that involves a moving maze, for some reason it got me thinking about those horror houses you get these days where live actors chase you around a house whilst dressed as chainsaw-wielding lunatics and the like and that got me thinking of I could turn that game of searching for treasure in a moving hedge maze into something more sinister.  That in turn got me thinking of movies like Silent Hill, which then led me down the path of maybe a supernatural setting etc.

    So, I don’t tend to do much research or planning I just normally get a little spark and then my imagination runs away with itself.  I do find though that my builds tend to grow to something larger than I first imagined as once I start getting ideas, I want to incorporate them somehow.

    When it comes to settings, I want it to have the right feel.  I don’t like the idea of random walls on a table just for the hell of it.  What would they have been there for, would they have been part of a garden if so, where is the house that the garden was for, if it was part of a defences, where were the defenders stationed, and how did they get there?  That kind of thing.

    The same goes for hills and trees.  Why do you need a hill on each side of the table?  If there are also defences on the table, why are they not on the hill which would make an obvious defendable place?

    Shipping containers, why are they scattered all over urban boards?  how did they get there?  Why not use abandoned vehicles instead?  I have never been in a city where shipping containers are scattered everywhere.   Maybe have an overturned transport vehicle and have the shipping containers having fallen off that.  Or base the game on a huge ship conveying shipping containers.

    I guess for me it’s trying to make it look a little bit believable rather than a random mix of terrain that looks out of place.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by  hutch. Reason: spelling

    Cult of Games Member

    The random runaway ideas usually happen to me when I have no chance of writing things down. In the shower, on the bike. Once I can take notes most of it is gone again. Very frustrating.

    Believable is a nice thing for “real” games but in games that are fully fantasy/sci fi I feel you can just get away with anything. (well no shipping containers at Camelot obviously XD)


    Cult of Games Member

    I always have a starting point in my head before I sit down to flesh it out.

    Once the idea is strong enough not to ignore……


    I grab a fresh notebook and begin writing about my idea.

    What I hope to accomplish, why I want to do it, how I’m going to budget it and when I’m planning to finish it.

    Time it will take, (best guess based on building glues used, drying times, ect ect).

    After that I sit the notebook down and read it again at least 24 hours later.

    This helps me avoid impulsive “hair-brained” starts that may lead to unattainable results.  At the very least I might see steps, costs, time management issues that I did not think of the first time through.

    After that and if I still think it’s a good idea I will begin fleshing out the details.

    Drawing sketches of the top down view.  Thumbnails are the way to go.  Draw many and don’t let yourself spend more that ten minutes on each sketch.  Try different approaches and flipping the composition this way and that.

    Again, I let this sit for 24hours and come back to it.  I then pick a design and run with it.

    Adding in any details that were just generalized or maybe forgotten earlier.

    Research any architecture that your looking to do that you don’t already have down in your head.  Print outs or digital pics and a tv screen in your work area to display the pictures on.  Color choices and textures……ect ect.

    This done it’s time to go shopping for the needed supplies if not already on hand.

    Once parts are gathered then it’s time to block out the time to work on it.  If you have a significant other in your life let them know your plans for the project so you can actually work uninterrupted.  There’s nothing worse then starting and then they fly into the room and want you to join them in a trip to the coffee shop on a random “LETS SPONTANEOUSLY go have some unplanned fun”.  But you’ve just mixed 15 minute epoxy and need to get this part right or it’s “GAME OVER MAN”.  Wasted money and all the previous time spent.


    I’m sure I’m leaving something out of my process but this is it in a nut shell for the most part.


    If I’ve read the question wrong and this is not what you were asking about then …… please ignore my ramblings.  Its late here and I’m off to bed soon.




    Cult of Games Member

    Been looking at these…..


    TerraFormers – Sally 4th – 28mm Miniatures (


    Now they ARE a bit pricey, but I see them as an investment for many games (plus they do a 2’x2′ board). And they are a seemingly good way of doing trenches that actually look right (rather than appearing ABOVE ground level). They look like they would be perfect for doing games like Sludge and the new Doggerbank battlefields. The MDF edges will protect the polystyrene sheets and stop the edges from fraying (a problem I had with the TSS boards Green Tiles – Total System Scenic)


    The TSS boards DO last okay(ish), but storage can be a problem and you have to buy them flocked (so you can’t make your own “muddy” battlefields unless you are willing to carve the flocked layer off the tiles…which is a bother). My last set lasted a good decade, but they are now showing their age and lots of white “holes” and chips are the board edges.


    So perhaps I’m looking at a mix of 2 foot and 1 foot (for the special terrain features) square tiles, I’ve been sitting on the fence for a few years now procrastinating getting them. So perhaps this event might prove to be the proverbial “boot up the arse” to get things rolling 😀

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