Legion is my first (and will likely be my only) foray into wargaming. As such it was the first time I ever needed to purchase or build any terrain for little plastic men (or women, or aliens, or space orcs or whatever) to fight over. As a life long consumer of goods geared towards those who are terrible at sports, I had of course seen wargaming played before, usually peripherally as a pitched battle of Warhammer being run on the table next to where Haral the Dwarven Cleric was casting Cure Light Wounds and swinging his mace around like there was piñata in need of busting. It never appealed to me, and in my 20s the investment looked too daunting to consider regardless.
As for terrain - DnD growing up never amounted to more than a sheet of vinyl and an erasable marker, where dungeons and castles were scrawled crudely along predefined grid lines. If we were feeling fancy we broke out the good terrain - flat cardboard tiles with real pictures on them. That’s when you knew your DnD game had arrived.
I got into playing Legion late. My local shop, The Perky Nerd, had a good number of people who went in at launch, but burdened by previous assumptions of what wargaming was I passed. Assemble AND paint? Having played and enjoyed X-Wing and Armada, I wanted pre-painted miniatures or nothing. So I played other things, or often nothing all, until early July. Stopping by TPN on a Saturday, there was a game going on in the back. I watched for a while. I asked some questions. I got interested.
I didn’t pick the game up that day. Somehow, I waited a whole week. I had a 2 year old and a busy job, so I still had trouble seeing myself as someone who would every have the time to sit down at night at paint faces on a 2” plastic rebel trooper. Each day that week I found myself watching learn to play videos on YouTube, or browsing the current releases on Fantasy Flight’s website. Each day I caught myself wanting to stop by TPN after work to pick the game up. The following Saturday I stopped by again. I watched another game. I asked more questions. And when the game was over my willpower shattered. I picked up a core set, an extra AT-RT and speederbike expansion, a Citadel base paint set, an assortment of recommended brushes and some glue.
After that, I pretty much lost my mind.
Starting from zero, I dove in head first. I am middle age with more disposable income than common sense, so I had the luxury to get into the game seriously straight away. Once I had played a handful of Legion games and had the basic rules worked out, I decided I wanted to try my hand at building a themed table. Painting stormtroopers for two weeks had been educational, but not really what I would call fun. I have almost no artistic ability, but I have always been decent with craft work, and so working on tabletop terrain seemed way more entertaining that figure painting would ever be.
Like any obsessive, I spent a lot of the first week in google searches, facebook posts, blogs and forums collecting things I liked. I knew I wanted a battlefield table - crashed ships, wrecked walls, and blasted apart barricades. TPN already had a pretty good Tatooine and Endor setup, so I wanted to try something new. As an obsessive player of Star Wars Galaxies from 2003-2005, I had always fancied the non canonical elements of Star Wars over what was featured directly in the movies.
So I gathered pictures of other people’s work which I liked, details about scale and sizing, the basics of materials and what sorts of tools I would need (most of which I already owned, which helped). Armed with all this knowledge and no practical experience, I of course starting making wild and unregulated purchases of anything I found which struck me. I’ll go more into specifics of what I purchases, what I learned and what I regret in later postings, but suffice to say I learned a good amount quickly about what was going to work and what was not - both due to the items themselves and my own limitations.
So to the title of this post. Why would anyone want to ready an occasional write up about sloppy terrain construction from a non-artist who is doing this for the first time? Well, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And, in the process, figures some useful things out. I have seen lots of blogs and tutorials online offering terrain advice and tutorials which make everything look easy while being low in detail — In five easy steps you too can build a perfect rock outcropping! Just draw the rest of the fucking owl! I wanted to post pictures of broken, splotchy mountains, and crudely rendered buildings to as a learning exercise - to take a step back, look at what worked and what did not, and make it better next time. Is this helps no one else, that fine. Writing it down will help me if nothing else. And if the lessons learned do help other people, then all the better.
Now let’s go make a mess!