Building Little Lands with Burnt Wood – Part 1: The City of the Damned

Like many gamers who have been with Games Workshop since the 90s or earlier, the Specialist Games line holds a special(ist?) place in my heart.  Blood Bowl is a game I have played for many years, having originally bought my copy of the third edition from the clearance section of a Highlands branch of Toymaster in the late 90s.  Inquisitor was another big hit for me, coming just as I was getting into roleplaying games and striking at the confluence of two competing-but-similar interests.  The 54mm miniatures were also a novelty to me.

Other people I know got into Necromunda in a big way, playing in sweeping campaigns that saw the rise and fall and fall and slight rise and then fall again of their gang as they fought to carve out territory for themselves in the Underhive.  These friends were delighted recently with the re-release of their favourite game, as was I with the re-release of Blood Bowl.


The Specialist Game that was big when I first started spending far too much time at the Falkirk branch of GamesWorkshop was Mordheim.  Mordheim was to Warhammer as Necromunda was to Wahammer 40,000.  It captured my interest much more than Necromunda at the time, not only because it was newer, but because it explored a really dark part of the Warhammer world and really appealed to me aesthetically.  The art in the book, the look of the world and the beautiful miniatures all conspired to leave me utterly captivated.


Thing is, I rarely got to play it.  Specialist Games were not widely played at GW stores, even then, and I found it difficult to arrange games with people in advance, so generally folk only had their Warhammer and 40K models with them on a given evening.  At home, I didn’t know many people who played these games and when we did get a game going, it was often much simpler to play Warhammer 40,000 (3rd ed.), a game we all already knew very well.  The terrain needed for a good game was also a barrier.  We played with stacked books, toys and other gubbins, but it was not the same as a city-themed board to explore and fight over.

Well, in regards to the disappointing wargaming terrain of my youth, let me paraphrase Corinthians:

When I was a child, I played like a child, I built like a child, I gamed like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Now, as I age disgracefully, I find myself re-immersed in the hobby and I want to play my miniatures game on nice-looking tables.  I want the full experience.  At the moment, one of the most accessible, affordable and attractive ways to do this is through MDF buildings and terrain.  Simply put, these are model kits of laser-cut MDF of varying qualities that usually take the form of simple (and not-so-simple) buildings.  These would great on a cobbled board or mat.

One company I really like for this is Deep-Cut Studio.  I own two of their PVC mats (wasteland and cobbled) and would happily pick up some of their mousepad-material ones.  The local club also has one of their cloth mats, which I am similarly impressed with.  Here are some of the ideal ones for a ruined medieval city:

Another company that makes fantastic mats in mousepad-material is  Their designs are cool and although they seem to have far more sci-fi designs, they do have some cool fantasy stuff.  Something really interesting about is that some of their mats are actually double-sided, meaning that you can have two very different mats for your various games with few cost and storage implications.  Here are a few of their fantasy offerings:

There are more companies available who make great mats, but these are two that are both within the EU and produce products that I know to be great.  I actually have both a 3×3 mat and a 6×4 board at my disposal, so the question now is where to get the buildings.

Now, Mordheim takes place in a medieval-style city, and there are several companies that produce suitable buildings for this period.  One company that creates some really nice buildings in their English Timber Framed range is Sarissa Precision:

I really love the larger building in this range and would consider then for both Mordheim and Malifaux.  Sarissa is not the cheapest of the ranges, but they make some really nice stuff.

At the other end of the price range is TTCombat.  TTCombat produce insanely inexpensive buildings and I’ve bought several of them!  The buildings that stand out in their Fantasy Realms range are their watchtowers:

These are all really cool, but the thing to remember about Mordheim is that it takes place in the ruins of a great city.  As such, all these pristine buildings, whilst cool, don’t totally fit the theme.

4Ground is a well-established company working in this area and they offer a good range of intact buildings and ruins in their Fabled Realms range.  Although expensive, the thing that sets 4Ground apart from the other companies in this post is that their stuff is all pre-painted.  Some of their buildings are also fantastically intricate.  Expensive, but maybe you get what you pay for on these:

It’s nice stuff, but you do need a terrain-dense board for Mordheim, so the cost might get prohibitive for some.  The question comes down to what you want from your hobby (finished gaming pieces or the hobby experience of painting them yourself) and whether you put more priority on saving your time or saving your money.

A company I’ve only become aware of recently is Red Vectors.  They sell their products through Minibits and produce a range that they specifically market as being good for Mordheim and Frostgrave.  The prices for their Fantasy Range seem really quite reasonable:

Of all of the buildings shown in this post, I feel these probably represent the best balance of cost and quality, but you can’t ignore the quality of the 4Ground stuff.  TTCombat has so many great products, but just don’t yet quite cater to this particular theme/game.

Next time, I’m going to take a look at another board or genre and see what else we can come up with.


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