Terrain is what makes the difference between a good game and an ordinary game. Beautifully painted figures on a crap amateur board look far worse than pathetic figures on an attractive board. It’s a fact.
I don’t play big battles in 28mm any more, or any scale (except perhaps sci-fi in 10mm, but that’s another story). I have bought Warhammer Ancients, and Warmaster (even built the armies and then sold them), but I do not play them. If I want the big battles I use the hex and block system spearheaded by GMT. Nor do I play D&D miniatures as there are too many rules. Role playing, for me, is an almost entirely verbal story-telling exercise. I have no time for rules.
What I do play in 28mm is skirmish games, and now I have found I play exclusively using rules from the Song of Blades and Heroes suite from Ganesha Games. These are generic to the point of triviality, but what they do have is just enough variability in the turn structure and just enough softness in the actions available that I can breathe life into a game. It is the cross between role-playing and wargaming that I desire – that D&D minis and SWCMG, or anything in the d20 stable cannot offer.
But what of it?
The guts is that it always comes down to terrain. I use a standard 4′ by 4′ table, more than enough for a game. 12′ by 8′ is just showing off: you never use more than the two or three feet in the middle anyway. I build terrain in preference to painting, but no matter how much I get I always feel that one game looks similar to another. Two pipe dream possibilities present themselves: 1) terrain that is so modular that it can serve in a variety of situations, or 2) terrain that is rich but cheap so it does not matter if it only gets used once. Despite my abhorrence of waste, the second option is aesthetically more pleasing.
D&D minis and SWCMG use the printed battle mats. I like this. I like that many are available free – though printing and mounting is a challenge to the company equipment. What reduces the utility of the official product is that they usually come packed with a whole bunch of rules and crap that have no use to me.
Discovery: Paizo have a product called GameMastery Flip Mats that are a good size – 30″ by 24″ and are not packaged with any other nonsense. A size like that sits perfectly in the usable area of my 4′ by 4′ foot board. Around it can be placed linking terrain such as hills, trees, rivers and roads and just by its presence it focuses the eye to the objective of the game. I love them.
Today I picked up Bandit Outpost: company promo shot attached.
What I would like to know is how to take part in the Paizo subscription for more of these maps here in Australia. The product is known here but try and get copies… oi!