Fort Hommet bunker entrance
Creative Commons License photo credit: fw190a8

One of the fun things for me in building wargames scenery is the sheer variety of things you can make. I mean, the usual suspects in the wargame terrain field are hills, rocky outcrops, walls / fences / hedges, water features and of course buildings suitable for the period / world your gaming system represents. However, many of these things can look rather formulaic, so where do you go when you want to find inspiration for a terrain piece? In this post I thought I'd have a look at things you can use to fire your imagination when thinking of what your next terrain piece for your gaming board will be.

For many of us the answer is our imaginations, backed up in the case of games like Warhammer fantasy and Warhammer 40K by the army book or codex representing the faction we play. For Flames of War players, there are hundreds of books, films, documentaries available that cover WW2 in detail – packed with pictures of real battle fields with real terrain, buildings etc. that you can aim to emulate in your games. I'd also suggest getting out in the real world – and looking at it through scenery makers eyes when you are out and about. For instance, if you are a WW2 wargames player, or even Warhammer 40K player and live in the UK or Europe, there are still many many WW2 vintage pill boxes and bunkers dotting the landscape. Keeping a digital camera or camera phone with you when you are out and about to snap pictures for later inspiration is a great idea. What shape is the bunker? What colour, how does it sit in the landscape – all these things taken from the real world can make your wargames scenery projects look that bit more 'real'. There are some amazing bunkers on the Channel islands between the UK and France that survived the war unscathed – I think the tall naval artillery spotting towers may feature in my terrain as a Warhammer 40K world bunker at some point.

If you play a system set in a particular period, look in the real world for buildings from that period or refer to history books for ideas. If you are a Warhammer fantasy or Mordheim player, what about looking for medieval period buildings or pre-renaissance buildings for ideas. If you live in Europe there are many half timbered houses left (look at Lavenham in Suffolk in the UK for example) that are relatively untouched. Just looking at one or two of these soon gives you the idea that they weren't regular, straight lined structures like we see today, but more organic – and warped now by age. There are also may castles left across Europe. How do they look – what is the aged stone like? If they are ruined, how do the broken walls look – ruins always make good scenery pieces for wargames. Many of these places you can visit. In the UK for example, there are museums like the Weald and Downland open air museum that has a collection of historic buildings and elsewhere also even recreated
Iron Age and Celtic settlements.

Modern buildings and industrial plants can give inspiration for Sci-Fi based wargames systems – what about the old golf ball radar domes at Fylingdales in the UK for example – or even more so the truncated pyramid that is the current ballistic missile warning system radar? (Just watch out for what is permitted when taking photos of military installations). Giant radio telescopes or satellite earth stations (like BT's Goonhilly Down) in the UK may provide ideas for deep space communications arrays.

Look also at landscapes, how do hills and cliffs actually look? What are copses of trees like? Field systems and hedge rows? Rivers and ponds– bet most of those you look at are not even remotely blue in colour like you see so often in wargames scenery versions. Most rivers are green / brown / grey in colour – with the exception of one or two that are actually blue!

The real world can be a constant source of inspiration and ideas if you start looking at it with wargame scenery makers eyes. One final tip – if you can't get out and about much to see these things for yourself, Flickr is your friend. Easily searchable, it is a vast database of scenery making ideas. Google image search is also great. I might return to this in a future post, but for now – get out there and get looking for great wargames scenery ideas.


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