Like I said in my blogpost on roads, most players use ‘functional’ scenery when we play war games. In other words, terrain that offers tactical possibilities like line of sight blocking, cover bonuses or strategic vantage points for shooting troops. But at the same time, we want a gaming table that looks good. A nice looking gaming table is more immersive afterall and it adds to the ‘feeling’ of really playing a battle instead of moving plastic soldiers around the dining table. Because of this, I like to pay some extra attention to scenery and the way my gaming tables look.
For wargames in a sci-fi or contemporary setting, impact craters of artillery or meteors are almost a must have. Not only do they look good, and if you are really into a living battle field you could even add some craters after the impact of a huge cannon, they also offer benefits to your troops because impact craters offer some nice cover. This is why I bought the moonscape terrain made by Games Workshop some time ago.
At first, the moonscape terrain seemed like a great deal. You get five fairly large craters to decorate your gaming table. And all this gaming goodness came at a price that seemed, by GW standards, rather good value. That was, until I opened the bag in which the craters came… Instead of the high quality plastic that Games Workshop normally use for their models and scenery, the moonscape is made of a much thinner and less sturdy plastic. In addition, the craters are slightly warped, and therefore do not lay totally flat on the table. This not only looks ugly, but top heavy models can easily fall over because of the movement you have when placing models in the craters. I even discovered that one of the craters was ‘cracked’. So what once looked like a good deal, might not have been such a good deal in the end.
The problems I encountered with the moonscape set, were even more pronounced in a crater set that Games Workshop released a couple of years later. The positive thing was that the sculpting on this new set was way cooler. Like the moonscape, the new set also featured five large terrain pieces. But unlike the moonscape which only had craters, this set had two crashed spaceships, a meteor rain, a volcanic rift and a piece with multiple small craters. In other words, in thematic sense this newer set of craters drooled with fluffiness.
The problems with the quality assurance were more severe though. Most pieces showed some wrapping around the edges, making them unstable and ugly on the gaming table. But the worst part was that a few pieces showed large cracks running from the side all the way to the top of the crater. Something needed to be done…
Luckily, I almost always attach my scenery to a wooden base. Not only makes this the scenery more sturdy, it also offers some modelling opportunities to ‘integrate’ my scenery with my gaming table. What is a shame though, is that GW forces you to base these craters as the edges have no texture at all, and the wrapping and cracking of the scenery demands a sturdy foundation to avoid any further damage. In addition, some greenstuff is needed to fill the cracks and make the craters look like craters instead of low quality plastic toys.
This experience raises a question though, because what happened to GW’s high quality and affordable scenery? In the days long gone by, GW even offered a complete crashed Imperial Guard (uh, Astra Militarum) spaceship. A downed spaceship made of five, sturdy, high quality and finely detailed plastic pieces. And best of all, it came of ‘free’ with the Warhammer 40,000 starterset! Unlike the newer crater sets, now out of production, these pieces showed no signs of bending, cracking or denting. And in terms of fluffiness, we can hardly argue about the coolness of a crashed Imperial airplane/spaceship. So please Games Workshop, when you release an affordable scenery set in the future, keep an eye on the quality, because even though the craters look rather cool I came out of this experience with a nasty, sour aftertaste…