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From terrain models to map tiles (and view to a few map tile sets)

There's a few words I'd like to share with you about using 3d-terrain and/or maps/tiles - what to use and why, and share my experiences about some maps and tiles I've used. And while I love modelling and creating cool terrain setups in my games, I've been moving towards using map tiles in my games instead of 3d props, and there's several reasons for that, which I'm going to tell you more about below. I've also added a few review-ish about tiles/terrains on this post.

The issue with 3d models

While they may look spectacular, 3d models are clumsy to handle and setup, prone to breaking and difficult to hide if you don't want to spoil your players. Moving fragile terrains to other gaming locations is almost impossible - I could grab a box or two with me, but then I would have quite a limited set of terrains and props in case of players deciding to go somewhere I'm not planning to. And as I'm also carrying my collection of miniatures (or selected subset) as well as books and other materials, I would have a huge amount of stuff to carry. Also, preselecting terrains would be loss of time and away from game preparation time, which I don't have too much these days.

Owning a huge collection

I have one box of winter terrains, one large of forest terrains, hills and river, one with caves, one with tiled walls, plus a box of small bits. In addition, I have a bunch of buildings on a shelf, few of them having open back and internal shelves, acting as small prop storage. That's for fantasy gaming.

Terrain models as decorationFor Cyberpunk, I have a bunch of buildings, cars, trains etc and a Worldsworks games streets -set (buildings working as storage), and for Star Wars I have some dunes, exotic plants, Lambda shuttle, interior props and, well, you get the idea - I have a huge amount of terrain props, many of which can be used in several types of games, like alien terrain works also as faerie realm terrain. Anyway, being able to use all these effectively is quite troublesome, as carrying them elsewhere is near impossible and at home there's little hands around the table ready to grab anything they can reach before it's bedtime.

It's a bit sad if you have 3d terrains don't get much use anymore, but many of the work as cool decorations anyway - as you can see from a shot from our living room!

Mixed use

But there's no reason 3d props shouldn't be used with 2d maps/tiles. It's ages since I first used them together, wanting to have an easy map on the table but wanted to change a ready map a bit - an underground cavern with a river become a city under siege with a few extra props. A scifi set I'm writing more about below is actually using this mechanic, combining 3d props with flat tiles.

Fantasy terrains

D&D dungeon tiles city in useI've bought myself Wizards' City & Wilderness terrain tile sets (on the right), which are very nice - I'm going to use them as base for most of my (fantasy) terrain setups. I'm in process of creating tiles of my own, and looking also for ready additional options. One piece I was curious about was APG paper tiles: Tourney, which was almost free ($0.70 on sale!) I was a bit hesitant as I saw no samples of the item, but for that price bought it anyway - if for nothing else, then to give other curious people a view to what to get.

APG paper tiles: Tourney

APG paper tiles: TourneyThe set contains tents, grass, fences (ones separating tournament particpants) benches for the audience and a bunch of small items, mainly barrels and boxes. Tents are quite nice, I don't know if I'll use tournament field in my games, but there's a lot of use for tents anyway, whether for military camp, festival or marketplace.

Some items had a bit unfinished feel; large grass area has a dark line on it and it lacks a bit more than 1mm from width; Not too much, but when creating terrain setups it can create annoying small gaps. Nevertheless, for it's price this is quite nice packet to get - you can see a bit of it's contents on the right.

Btw, the sale I mentioned ends this saturday IIRC.

Stuff for scifi

Star tiles by E-Z dungeons, manufacturer's pictureI'm also currently running a Star Wars game. I have a bunch of Star Wars miniatures maps but they are somewhat limited, and it's a trouble to fold them open one by one to find a suitable map. I was looking at an optimal solution, and found one - flat maps with a few 3d elements looks quite good in this concept, and allows using existing 3d props with the maps. 

Star tiles by E-Z dungeons, sheets and few pieces put quickly togetherI created some items for sample, and the 3d props felt really well designed and it was pleasure to put them together. The terrain tiles have a really nice feel, I really like how they look - I just hope I would have printed them a bit more glossy paper, as the white may become quite dirty quite soon, even if it now looks really good.

The above terrain is created from Fat Dragon Starship Tiles, set 1

Another tempting alternative for scifi terrain is Armada Invictus, which brings Galactica to my mind. The packet has a number of different tiles, from lounges to elevators to engine rooms, which makes it quite tempting option.

New manufacturers to follow

Browsing through sales I noticed a few manufacturers I started to follow:

Lord Zsezse Works has some really cool stuff, unfortunately they are not on sale for now. 

Forever people has some good stuff; I like especially Dungeon entrances, and Room Starter set is almost free! 

Sailship models

As I'm planning to start a fantasy campaign focused a lot on seas, I've been looking at ship models; there's very little free options, but for a few bucks there's a few options at DTRPG/RpgNOW:

Pirate ship from Lord Zsezse is quite cool, although not on sale like the rest I'm listing here.

E-Z tiles merchant ship is a good and cheap basic ship.

Scrying eye games have a bunch of ship tiles (currently all on sale), as well as 

A viking/galley -like ship from AdventureAWeek

Ps. while I have streets of Mayhem set for moden games, Streets of Legend seem to be even cooler: . A cheaper option (on sale) is Street level from DramaScape


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Oh, one more note about Fat

Submitted by Shaper and Maker on

Oh, one more note about Fat Dragon tiles. While I love their size, they give some challenges to Non-US users - to those that use A4 printers instead of letter. I was using a printer that has quite small margins, but those tiles were still cut off a few mm. Not much, and using light grey marker on the border fixes the issue a lot. Just something I wanted to inform you about.

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