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Monday, August 22, 2016

Battle Systems Terrain Review!!!

MERCS bounding down the street


So last year in September I pitched in for my first Kickstarter, the amazing terrain from Battle Systems with a post apocalyptic theme. I was floored with their City Block and took the plunge almost immediately. Then they revealed the Shanty Town add on and I was in even further. It was a perfect offering for what I've been looking for in terms of modern/futuristic terrain for several games, most notably MERCS, but also for The Walking Dead Kickstarter that should be coming in soon.

My first attempt at a simple building

I eagerly opened the 20lb box for all the cardboard goodness. I was pretty amazed at how much fit into such a small package, there's plenty of terrain just in the core boxes alone. Then there's all the free stuff, the add ons and scatter terrain they fit on almost all the sheets. It's definitely got value, but most importantly it's an easy way to have great looking terrain for any board without the time and skill needed to devote to either scratch-built or unpainted terrain.

More coverage with experimentation

I began by making very simple builds just to see how the various pieces worked. I didn't pop out a good portion of the pieces as I didn't want to have tons of stuff not built and have to rummage around later to find them. There are so many things that add even more realism to the board like furniture scatter terrain, different types of stairs and crates, and even dilapidated walkways. I hardly touched the Shanty Town stuff as I wanted to make more complex buildings and walkways with it.

I opted to try filling out the regular street mat as it seemed to be the easier one to quickly fill out. It doesn't require as many floor tiles as they are printed on the mat, and the squares provided a quick guide toward my build. The greatest part about this mat is that you can build so many different layouts, an incredible testament to the creators' planning. You can make the floor parts into pavement using their roof squares, you can use a floor panel to cover the roads to make bigger interiors, and if you have enough stuff you can make the entire mat as an internal building! I really want to make a cool mansion using the walkways, as an entirely interior MERCS game seems really unique (not to mention other games, like Zombicide or Walking Dead, to make a Resident Evil type of board!).

Full coverage of the 2x2 mat

Here you can see I added quite a bit more stuff, including a wrecked-out building on the bottom left and a small type of outpost at the top. I probably spent a few hours building it at most, but this included opening, studying and popping out the terrain - I anticipate getting very quick at building these in the future.

So much awesome, it's better than anything I could make and much faster

It's like Legos for terrain and it can get dizzying with the amount of options you have. Once you get into it your imagination runs wild with the possibilities. I kept everything fairly standard, but I already see myself making some really cool stuff now that I know how it works all together. 

The fences provide quick ways of LOS blocking while pieces like the Park Bench and Barricades add tons of flavor you don't normally see on a board

I got a total of 3 different mats, a regular City one, a mat that looks like a Desert landscape and one that is a transition between the two. If I include my Deadzone 2x2 mat I can make a 4x4 table if needed and definitely can fit these on my 3x3 mats. The sets go extremely well together, as their different visuals create a lot of interest together while having several qualities shared between the two.

Air Condition Units provide easy cover on roofs while adding in a realistic touch

Although I don't have any pictures of it I did create a house using their Suburban House add on that fits well enough in games like Malifaux as it has a certain aesthetic that can fit in on Western boards (as long as you don't include the garage). I wasn't fond of it when it was first revealed during the project run, but an image of a fully built house on the desert mat had me sold.

This is an incredible build by the creators to show its versatility, the house easily fits into Malifaux

 Waiting almost a full year for this stuff has been agonizing, but regular updates and nearly daily responses to the comments section gave me full confidence on receiving their product. I had already researched their previous Kickstarter projects and saw that they had a great reputation already built. They always had timely updates, responded to almost every individual question and put out their stuff in a timely fashion - something that not many Kickstarters are able to achieve. This time was no exception and arrived within a few weeks of the projected delivery date. Delays are always expected but this one exceeded my expectations.

These stairs are not only impressive visually but provide great function as you can stand miniatures on every step

I may be performing MERCS demos in October and plan on building up a few layouts for them. This stuff makes it easy to transport and build on arrival with some planning. I'm able to transport this stuff in a small container should I need to, and I'm pretty sure I'm able to get more efficient with it in the future.

Cat for scale

One of the main reasons why I love this stuff is how easily you're able to add elevation into your games with it. Elevation is one of those things that gets ignored when building tables, as in a lot of rules sets it may not be elegantly handled and creates issues while playing (I'm looking at you, Malifaux!). However is a lot of modern to futuristic games, notably shooters, elevation is key to creating an interesting game. A simple slight adjustment to floor levels alone creates visual interest, but also can change how you approach movement in a game. Interiors are another point of contention for gaming, but I love going into buildings for shoot outs as it creates a whole different dynamic to how you attack. One minute you're safe, another a model pops out to shoot you point blank range! And with this stuff you're able to access every single level with ease. This was something I found lacking with TerraClips, a similar product I've talked about a while back, where although you're able to create multi level stuff it's not exactly locked in place and stable. This stuff stays in place very well and is very strong, I have full confidence in my models being on the roof.

Cat for lulz

I hardly touched any scatter items that were included as I concentrated on items that added the most bulk on a table. The ones I did build were pretty incredible in their design considering they're all made on two dimensions. I was particularly surprised at items like the dumpsters and the park bench, they help create a more lived in space for such a small item. My only minor issue with the dumpsters and the big crate are that you will have to use glue if you want their lids to stay on, which I'll eventually do. It's not major at all, and some will want to keep the lids off, but for someone like me who's not planning on keeping them that modular will have to add more work into it. For the most part, however, you're not going to need glue at all. The stairs are really snug when put together, something I worried about when I first saw them. The stairs that came with the TerraClips system were a nightmare for me, as their fit was not good at all and kept coming apart while I was building them. These ones not only look better but fit so well that I just leave them in the box without any glue and have full confidence that they will never come apart.

If you're familiar with making card terrain at all then you'll realize that using a marker or pen on the edges will help enhance the look of the terrain significantly. I had purchased some decent artist markers in preparation of the build for this reason. I've mostly used black and brown, with some maroon and blue for some parts. This greatly improves the look and hides the fact that it's all made of cardboard for the most part. A lot of the parts like walls actually match their edges well enough that it's not entirely necessary to use the markers on. I'm sure that you can make them look even better with it, but I didn't find it to be distracting on the walls or lighter pieces of terrain like the AC Units. On some scatter it was completely necessary to elevate the terrain, like the lookout post (not pictured), crate or the park bench. You'll mostly find that on the darker pieces you'll want to use your marker, as the lightly colored card edges will stand out most with those.

Some decent lanes of fire for the FCC House 9

Of course I had to pose some miniatures on this stuff, it just begs for it.

I love this stuff!

Overall I expected this stuff to be the bee's knees, and it did not disappoint. It should be available for retail purchase on their web store by the end of September, I highly recommend getting some yourself if, like me, you find your terrain priorities getting pushed to the back burner due to time and other hobby needs (like thousands of unpainted minis!). They come from the UK, so shipping may be an issue, but it's one of the few times I find it worth the extra price. Soon they'll have another Kickstarter for their Sci-Fi line, I'm sure it will fit in nicely with the Urban sets. Once I build more layouts I'll post more pics!

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