'Schild en Vriend' is an old Flemish battlecry, used in the rebellion of the city of Brugge against the French, May 18, 1302. Legend tells that it was used to differentiate between the French-speaking (who could not pronounce 'schild') and Flemish-speaking citizens. Nowadays, historians tell us that it was probably 'Des Gilden Vriend'.
Terrain for wargames
As you must have understood by now, one of the mottoes central in Schild & Vriend's approach to wargaming is Visual appeal is everything. One of the most important factors, probably even the most important one, determining the visual appeal of a wargame (apart from the usually extremely photogenic collection of wargamers gathered around the table, that is (-: ), is the terrain the miniature battles are fought on. Terrain can make or break the visual impact of a wargame, and is in fact a more important factor in this than the miniatures themselves. A game featuring well and cleanly painted miniatures, but painted to a 'wargames' level, played on stunning terrain will have a tremendously larger visual appeal than the same game featuring competition-quality painted miniatures, but fought over a bare tabletop with minimal terrain. Therefore, we always tend to give a lot of attention to our gaming terrain, trying to achieve the visual impact described above. Whether or not we always succeed in this, is another matter of course (-:. On this page, we'll try to give a few pointers on how we approach our terrain.
Before we start, let me point you to Terragenesis, probably the best terrain site on the web. Although primarily aimed towards Warhammer 40K, the sheer amount of terrain and scenery information on this site makes it the nec plus ultra of terrain sites.
OK, now that I've pointed you to the competition, let's start our own discussion on terrain. Allow me to state the first law of terrain building:
Let me explain further: almost anything you can think of can be used in terrain - I have seen used, and used myself, items as far apart in normal use as pan scrubbers and polishing cotton to split peas and (uncooked) macaroni (respectively for hedges, trees, rivets and pipes, if you were wondering). It pays to keep an open mind when looking at things, to the point where I now almost cannot look at things any more without contemplating there possible use as terrain items. One of the places especially suited for this are hardware stores, which are a virtual treasure trove for terrain builders (and, BTW, this proves the first law of hardware stores, namely that hardly anything in them is used for the purpose it was intended - honesty compells me to say that I didn't come up with this one, but a SF writer by the name of Neil Stephenson, in the book 'Zodiac'). So, once again, be creative in scrounging. Next time you pick up something, chances are you might well be able, with a few modifications, to use it as a terrain item.
Now that that's been said, the first question one should ask oneself when preparing to build and/or collect terrain for wargames, is whether you want the terrain to be a fixed terrain, representing a certain battlefield, and that battlefield only, or a flexible terrain, that can be used to represent several different battlefields (real or imaginary).
A fixed layout is in one way the easier option, as you do not have to worry about making sure that the individual components of the terrain can be swapped about or can be combined in different ways. For a fixed terrain, you basically build a scaled down representation of the terrain in question (be it a real battlefield or an imaginary landscape), and that's it. It is - of course - not as easy as that (in fact, there's a whole different hobby built around this - the model railroad hobby), but that's what it comes down to. The advantage of this approach is obviously that you are able to recreate your chosen terrain down to the minutest detail, which is not always possible with flexible terrain. Unfortunately, the disadvantage is that, while you can make a perfect representation of a certain battlefield, it also stops there, as it's very unlikely you'll find another battle in history fought on exactly the same terrain. This is the reason the vast majority of wargamers opt to make their terrain setup flexible to a certain extent, except for the odd special project.
Flexible terrain setups consist of some kind of base surface, on which the individual terrain elements such as hills, roads, vegetation etc. are then placed. In some cases, all or part of the terrain items are fixed permanently to the base surface, but these are constructed in such a way that they can be set up in several different combinations. This last option combines some of the advantages of a fixed and a flexible setup. We'll discuss each of the terrain items separately below. A lot of the techniques described here can of course also be used to build a fixed terrain.
The odd one out
A rather special case as far as scenery goes, are space combat games, as the hills, trees, roads and hedges discussed above are rather thinly spread in space. This type of games has its' own scenery page in our Full Thrust section:
|This page is maintained by Bart Vetters|
Schild en Vriend Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven