5 Tricks to Build Warhammer 40K Terrain

From building gaming club tables to hosting tournaments, here are some things I wish I knew when I started making Warhammer 40k terrain…

Building terrain is almost a different hobby than building models.  Some people love it, some people view it as a necessary evil.  Whatever the case may be, you need terrain to play.

Here are some of my secrets to make Warhammer 40K terrain a breeze!

5 Tricks to Build Warhammer 40K Terrain

There are other helpful guides on the specific supplies and techniques you can use for terrain.

The tricks shown here are more about the big picture stuff that you need to consider before you start applying these techniques.  Or before you spend your money on supplies and terrain.

1- Style

The first thing you have to do is pick a style, or a theme if you will.

This is first for two reasons.  First, you probably have an idea of what you want to play on.  A forgotten temple, a broken city, a molten field… the possibilities are endless.  Second, this is the building blocks of everything else.

In doubt, pick a theme for your board that fits with the bases and style of your army.  Take home field advantage to the tabletop level.

2- Style

Style again?  Not quite the same.

I don’t mean a theme, like ‘lava’ or ‘snow’, but a style of terrain pieces from a playing standpoint.

Warhammer 40k terrain comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do games.  So instead of building pieces haphazardly left and right, look at tournament layouts, and pick a style that you like from those.

Then build pieces in a similar fashion.  Obviously, I don’t mean exactly those pieces, it’s YOUR Warhammer 40k terrain afterall.

For example, in the Games Workshop Open tournaments, all tables feature terrain on bases.  If that’s a style you like, build all your pieces on similar bases.

There is no better or worse format, everyone has a favorite.  But picking a style will simplify the process of which pieces of terrain you build.

3- The Buddy System

Build everything in pairs.  Not necessarily identical, but make sure you make an even number of similar terrain.

Most tournament terrain is already this way to some extend, so you should have no problem fitting this with your plan from the previous trick.

The main reason is to create a somewhat fair board for both players.  If you only have one very large ruin, unless it’s placed in the dead center of the board, it will make the game unfair (more unfair than Warhammer 40k already is anyway *mic drop*)

The buddy system is there to balance the hobby side of terrain with the game side.  You want beautiful but you also want fun and practical.

4- Divide or Conquer

This is another long term strategy to think about.  After you’re done with the 1st table, you are facing two options with all future terrain.   Do you upgrade the terrain you already have with more pieces, or do you build an entirely new table, perhaps with a totally different theme?

Both options have pros and cons, and I think it’s great to think about what you want to do in this regard before you start, as it will affect what you buy and how you do things.

An advantage of having a large collection of Warhammer 40K terrain in one style is that you have a lot more versatility with your table.  You play with the same ‘core’ pieces, but change some pieces every other game.

It’s also a great way to upgrade slowly over time.  You have a table, and you had crates.  Well, you can play with the crates now and the rest of the table you already had.  This is something that you won’t be able to do if your tables are all different – where you need the ‘full’ table ready and operational before you get to use it.

Having multiple tables is great because you can get more people involved if you have the space.  It also offers a break from painting the same things.  Trust me, after you paint a snow themed table, painting lava-themed terrain is a welcome change.

I’ve done both options in the past.  I can safely say that I prefer to have ‘set’ tables and just build different tables and different styles, rather than the mixing and matching offered with a single themed collection.

5- Storage

This is the main thing I wish I thought of before launching myself into terrain building frenzy.  Think of the storage beforehand.

The choice you make in the previous point about your Warhammer 40k terrain collection will also affect the best storage options.

For collections, large shelves are best.  It allows you to quickly swap in and out pieces.  Overpacking everything is not the way to go if you can avoid it.

I’m a big fan of these heavy duty units, I’ve bought 4-5 from the store and studio over the years,

If instead you want to go the multiple table route, bankers box are my go to.

I get the large ones, which are normally a little too big for a single table.  This means I don’t have to compromise on the terrain I want to make to make it fit.

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