Wargaming Terrain: Build or Buy?

Building wargaming terrain can be quite time consuming.  Buying wargaming terrain is more expensive than it looks.   What’s the best option?

Terrain is not only mandatory for any war game, it is also beautiful.  It creates a whole mood around our models, and makes playing that much more enjoyable.

And when you make the jump and decide to get wargaming terrain, you are faced with a plethora of options, ranging from building everything from scratch to buying everything pre painted.

Let’s break down some of the pros and cons along this spectrum of scenery.

Full DIY

Terrain is almost an entirely different hobby than miniatures.  As such, some people will love to create and paint their own terrain, some will hate it.  It’s one of those things that you have to try for yourself and see how it feels.

There are many perks to the Do It Yourself approach, namely that you are in complete control over what you create.  Want a ruined building that 3 stories on one side and crumbles to one on the left?  You got it!

Surprisingly enough, DIY is not always cheaper than buying, depending on the amount of details and the supplies you are getting.

Of course, if cutting down costs is your main criteria, making your own wargaming terrain is where it’s at.  Foam cutter, a decent hobby knife, hot glue, and some foam are all you really need if we get down to brass tacks.

The biggest downside of the DIY approach is how time consuming it really is.  What you can save in cash, you make up for in time.

3D Printing

3D printing terrain pieces are a happy medium between the buying and the building.  After all, it combines some elements of both.

The cost of 3D printed terrain is interesting, as getting a printer definitely ain’t cheap.  But once you have it, terrain pieces comes down to a couple of dollars at most in PLA.

From there, you are free to either buy STLs that you like, or design your own that will be unique.  This is another case of personal preference in time (designing) over money (buying STLs)

Buying Unpainted Terrain

Don’t want to buy a printer or get bogged down with terrain building?  Buy already made pieces and paint them yourself!

This is my favorite method with wargaming terrain, whether for studio pieces of for running tournaments.

Buying unpainted terrain combines my favorite features in the time versus money spent dilemma.

You get to save time as you don’t have to build from scratch, and you can tailor pieces to your likings with a proper paint job.

Buying Premade Terrain

Already build, ready to be used straight out of the box is the other end of the wargaming terrain spectrum.  If you don’t enjoy the side hobby that is terrain building, or have limited time, this is the option for you.

You can go with a few different options when it comes to ready to go out of the box.

You can buy tournament specific sets, like the World Team Championship pack or the ITC Tournament Terrain.

Alternatively, you can get custom terrain from independent business, much like commission painting studios do for miniatures.

With independent businesses like Table Top Terrain, you can either buy premade tables, or get a custom one truly to your likings.  This is where all the pictures in this post are from.

A lot of tournament organizers are turning to this option, as painting everything from scratch is a insanely time consuming, let alone building that many pieces.

Share your thoughts