Until Games Workshop released their Cities of Death scenery for Warhammer 40k, many gamers used to scratch build their own urban battle fields. And while I’ve seen lots of different styles urban gaming tables, one type of urban battlefield dominated the tables of sci-fi wargamers around the world. This type was the industrial sector. The reason for this is simple: building factories and refineries with everyday items is easy. In fact, it’s so easy that it is a shame that many people now go to their local gamingstore to buy plastic terrain. I think this because scratch building scenery is a very rewarding part of the wargaming hobby, gives you the opportunity to ‘add’ some personal flavour to your gamingtable and prevents gamingtables from looking ‘same-ish’. Although I have to admit that many scratch build factories can look same-ish as well and that most scenery you can buy in shops or online really looks top notch when assembled and painted.
The best thing about scratch building scenery, is the fact that you can make your project as big or small (or as cheap or expensive) as you want. In my case, I started with a single refinery for my Warhammer 40.000 battles. As I started building this medium sized factory, my project grew in scope. My first factory was in fact nothing more than a couple of Pringles cans that I glued to a wooden base. However, I was not really fond of the simple look of this terrain piece, so I started adding extra detailing to the factory. Eventually decided that it would be pretty awesome to be able to fight battles in an complete industrial district. So in the end, I ended up with a couple of factories and refineries in varying sizes. In addition I made some rubble pieces that I could scatter around the table. All in all, my industrial district grew from one simple factory to a terrain set that could cover a medium sized gaming table, although not yet enough for a full 6×4 foot city fighting table.
Like I said, you can make your scratch build scenery as cheap or expensive as you want. And for me, building on a tiny budget proved to be quite rewarding. Using simple materials like Pringles cans, cardboard, some balsa wood and other things I had laying around really got my creativity flowing. Looking at ordinary, everyday items and thinking of ways to use these in new and exciting ways is really an important part of scratch building scenery. So walking through the supermarket and looking at the packaging of yogurt cans or other ‘beautiful’ presented products got my mind thinking of the possibilities that these products might hold. It might be strange, and my factories might not be as finely detailed as the plastic scenery made by Games Workshop, Mantic Games or other scenery manufacturers, they do have a feel that is unique to my low budget scenery. And I must confess I’m really happy and a bit proud of the factories I have made.
Another huge plus for scratch building terrain, is the possibility you have to keep improving your terrain. As I grew more experienced, got new idea’s, or simply was not happy with the way my project was going, I could simply change or add things to my buildings. In that sense, scratch build scenery is more ‘dynamic’ and flexible. And seeing your scenery go through various stages and getting more beautiful and detailed is really a reward that no premade scenery can evoke. I still have to paint some last bits of my industrial district, and maybe add some extra propaganda paintings on the large flat areas, but this industrial set is really a pleasure to play on. If I only could complete my huge ‘centerpiece’ powerplant that I’m working on, than my industrial facility is ready for some new and exciting battles.