I’ve seen the future of wargames terrain

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Recently my wife told me that she had just found out that a colleague’s partner was into wargaming and making his own scenery.  This of course piqued my interest, so I contacted him and arranged a visit.  Arriving in his workshop, I found to my surprise that Matt Barker wasn’t scratch-building scenic items in the traditional manner, but was designing 3D files and marketing them through his website printablescenery.com, a branch under his parent company Catalyst Creative.

Matt had plenty of printed out and painted examples of his terrain to show me, which took my breath away.  They included a variety buildings and structures for fantasy, future and historic genres.

castle

You buy a Printable Scenery file from the printablescenery.com website, print it at home if you’ve got a 3D printer (or use a 3D print service), paint the resulting print, and you end up with another excellent piece for your gaming table.  You can print out and paint any number of items, and put them together to form really impressive scenery, such as the above fantasy castle.

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Watching the ‘MakerBot’ 3D printer in action was fascinating.  A filament of plastic ‘wire’ unwinds from a drum and is fed into a print head, which zips backwards and forwards (just like a paper printer’s head).  The head squeezes out the molten plastic filament, gradually building up layer after layer to form the structure from the bottom up.

Where there are big overhangs, the printer produces supports (like ‘sprues’) to hold them up during the printing process, which have to be cut away afterwards – you can see some of these in the arches in the above picture.

It is quite time-consuming to print out an item, but worth the wait.  As Matt told me, you press the ‘Print’ button, go to bed, and the next morning there’s a new model house waiting for you!

cottage

The real skill with 3D printing is the initial design work to create the file.  The designer needs to have both an artistic eye and the technical knowledge.  Matt and his team luckily have this ability through their experience in the TV industry.

I was really impressed with the design of the fantasy buildings.  To me, they have captured the quaint and quirky look of Terry Pratchett’s ‘DiscWorld’, though they would also fit in well with the more black and morbid look of Warhammer.  

The buildings are made up of modular pieces, so all sorts of variations are possible, as with the fortified cottage above. One of the advantages of 3D printing over more traditional mass production is that it’s easier for the designer to make any number of variations to a basic design, so that the modular elements can all look slightly different.

bendy wall

I especially liked a deceptively simple piece: bendy walls.  How often do we see wargames tales where everything is lined up straight and square?  But in real-life, nature has few straight lines, so fences often follow curving contours.  Printable Scenery’s curved fences come in short lengths that you can put together in any combination.  There are pieces with different radii, so you can even build circles within each other.

warhammer-bridge

All in all, I think this is a very exciting concept.  OK, not that many people have 3D printers yet.  But Matt reckons we’re at a similar stage to where normal paper printing was a decade or so ago, when only a few houses had dot-matix printers.  So, just like with paper printing, it won’t be many years before 3D printers will become normal in most homes.

Matt and I talked about an idea for his next range of 3D printable scenery.  I’ll keep quiet for now about what this range will be until it is confirmed, but suffice to say it’ll fill a current gap in the historic gaming scene, and will also work well for fantasy and pulp fiction too.  You’ll just have to wait and see – all will be revealed in due course!

I’ll just leave you with this parting shot of Matt’s gaming table, showing off some of his printable structures.   You can visit Matt’s printablescenery.com website if you would like to know more.

tabletop

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5 Comments

Filed under Terrain

5 responses to “I’ve seen the future of wargames terrain

  1. I agree Roly, there is huge potential for our hobby here. I have been keeping an eye on this for some time. With 3D printers now edging down below $NZ700, it is looking pretty good. I have even downloaded the software and started basic modelling – if only there were more hours in the day.

  2. I agree that this is the way that the hobby is going, however one of the greatest satisfactions I have in the hobby is making/building my own terrain.

    I think these pieces are great – and very well made. I just can’t see me buying any as I would consider it a let down.

    The problem is that with 3D and lazer cut building becoming the norm. I may be a dinosaur.

    Tony

  3. It does look fascinating, I’d like to pop along for a look.

  4. A weeny bit off track ….

    Wargaming is a multifaceted hobby for me. The playing is only part of it – the research (the history of campaigns, battles, units, uniforms etc), collection of figures, terrain & rules(!) are all part of it. And though I do not paint all of my own stuff being one of the worlds least speedy and dedicated painters I do enjoy a little painting.

    If I were to order a war-games figure and receive a file for that figure from which I printed out a painted figure complete I’m not sure that I would get the same joy from it. And would I be able to insert my own customisations for that figure?

    I wonder of the future that brings cheap 3D printers will also bring cheap 3D scanning as a precursor to that 3D printing. Pirating will be a snitch and what will that do to creative endeavour I wonder.

    A brave new world that could lead me to future shock perhaps.

    Salute
    von Peter himself

  5. Pingback: 3D-printed Maori pa pallisades | DRESSING THE LINES

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