Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ten Mil Terrain Wrap-up

After an unexpected month-long delay, caused by the mad race to CaptainCon, I thought I'd post my final thoughts on the ten millimeter terrain products I have been trying out. Although there are a few other options to look at, perhaps most notably N-scale railroad scenery, I think the three I have explored here provide a pretty good cross-section of the options on the market.

The above photo shows the tables we set up for the DropZone Commander tournament at CaptainCon. Our setup showcased a mix of Hawk, Blotz and 4Ground terrain options, as well as a little bit of home-made scenery, bodged together by yours truly. (More on that in a future post) Also featured, although not reviewed, were a set of 10mm urban F.A.T. Mats, from Frontline Games.

So, now that I have worked with all three brands, and used quite a few on actual gaming tables, what do I think of them? Read on for a comparative summary of my thoughts.

Of the options presented here, I have purchased and assembled more 4Ground terrain than any of the others. 4Grounds MDF buildings are very detailed, and look absolutely beautiful on the table. For me, personally, I also really liked the fact that they came pre-painted, which simplified the decision-making and finishing process. Once each piece is fully glued together, it is ready to go.

The down sides to 4Ground is that all the detail bits are very fiddly, and adding them consumes much of the time you otherwise save on painting. 4Ground is also a little short on larger buildings. Most of their offerings focus on little structures, with a roughly 3"x3" footprint, which can be an issue for some games.

Blotz terrain proved very fast and easy to assemble, but was not quite as idiot-proof as most of the 4Ground structures. There were some cases where the orientation of a part was not obvious, and could be placed incorrectly. Blotz terrain is also noticeably less detailed than the 4Ground offerings, which makes them less beautiful on the table unless you add a lot of post-assembly finishing work.

Blotz offers many more sizes and footprints of buildings for the 10mm scale than 4Ground, including some very large options which can look quite impressive on the table. Blotz also offers damaged versions of many of their buildings, further expanding your options for a rich and varied tablescape. For my own purposes, I found painting Blotz pieces more onerous than pushing through the detailed assembly of the 4Ground pieces. Even though the Blotz terrain is appreciably cheaper,  I do not like it quite as much. Experienced terrain painters may find that they feel otherwise.

Hawk Scenario Packs
Hawk's small range of scenario terrain pieces are very simple to assemble, and, from the samples I have seen, are extremely well engineered and cast. Unlike the other two manufacturers, Hawks' premium terrain pieces are made in resin, rather than MDF, which is a very different beast to work with. At the time of this writing, Hawk only has a few kits on the market, leaving relatively few options for building a whole table's worth of scenery.

Once assembled, and primed, I found that the Hawk pieces were amazingly simple to paint. The design of each piece allows for surprisingly beautiful results with very quick base coat + wash techniques. For the bunker complex, I added some extra detailing, but the total work to assemble and paint each bunker was quite small.

Hawk Cardstock
Hawk's Ruinscape terrain pack (and the previous Cityscape equivalent) is a very different beast than the other options presented here. The box retails for about the same cost as a single medium-sized MDF or Resin building, but contains a complete "battlefield in a box".  Each pack comes with 20 card  stock buildings, in 5 different sizes and shapes. Each building comes pre-printed with a detailed, full-color "paint" scheme, and can be folded into a ready-to-use shape in a matter of minutes.

The Hawk buildings look nice on the table, but are obviously flatter, and less detailed than the quality resin or MDF alternatives. The positive side of that fact is that the Hawk buildings pack up very efficiently. Built as-is, they can be stacked and nested together very compactly. For my own copies, I added a foam core base to reinforce the structure, but they still packed very nicely into a rectangular box, with no danger that detail bits might break off in transit. There really isn't any question that these buildings are the best option in terms of value for the money.

Comparative Ratings
I rated each option on a 1-5 scale, in each of six criteria, with five being the best possible score. The six criteria are, in order:

Appearance: At the end of the day, how good does each item look on the table?

Selection/Modularity: How much variation can you get out of this product? How repetitive would it look if you filled up an entire table with it?

Time to Table: How much time does it take to go from opening the package to getting a piece game-ready?

Simplicity: How easy is it to prepare each piece, and how easy is it to do it correctly on the first try?

Transport Readiness: How easily can a set of these pieces be packed and carried to a convention or game store, and how likely are they to break on the way?

Value: Given all of the above, how much value does each option provide for its price?

4Ground (MDF)Blotz (MDF)Hawk Scenario Packs (Resin)Hawk (Card Stock)
Time to Table***************
Transport Readiness*************

At the end of the day, my winners are 4Ground, for a stunning premium table, and Hawk's card stock for a good, fast terrain option. Both of the others are quite good, and I would recommend checking them out, but were not quite a match for my personal needs.

If you missed the past installments, you can go back and read them here:

Hawk Wargames

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say up-front that I did not try out any of hawk's resin building parts, or building kits. I have looked at them in the Hawk online store, and they look absolutely stunning, but the cost of the resin kits, combined with overseas shipping is prohibitive, and has, so far, kept me away.

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