Ever since I was a kid, playing second edition 40k on the loungeroom floor, I was always obsessed with setting up a “cool” battlefield to play on. I used to scrap together every egg carton, chunk of polystyrene, and tin can to make the fiercest battlegrounds for me and my mates to play across.
For me, having a good-looking, themed set of terrain brought my games to life and made them way more memorable. My collection of terrain was just like a collection of miniatures, though it usually got a bit more bashed around.
Fast forward 25 years and I still love setting up a cool battlefield to play across, but the terrain itself has changed dramatically.
3D printing technology has taken the miniature wargaming world to new depths with a huge variety of miniatures and terrain that you can print at home. Myself a lifelong wargamer, have had one for the past 3 years, and have it running pretty much constantly.
When we talk about 3D printers there are two main types; FDM (plastic) and SLA (resin). In this article I’ll mostly be talking about FDM printing, as that’s what I’ve used most and what I think you get better value out of.
Both types require a bit of learning to get the best out of them. It can be tricky at first, but there are many great 3d printing communities on social media and 3D printing websites that are very helpful. It makes what can seem like a daunting task, very easy.
One thing I love about 3d printing is the ability to customize exactly what you want for your collection. You aren’t limited to the components that come in a box. You can print as many of each part from a piece as you like! It’s a kitbasher’s dream! Not to mention, FDM is very easy to convert. You can heat it and bend it easily (with some safety precautions in mind), chop it and reglue to your heart’s content.
It’s also easy, with the click of a button to scale 3D-printed terrain down for small-scale wargames.
There’s a wide variety of terrain out there, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, fantasy, historical, and just about anything else you could think of! Here's some of my favourite terrain I've worked on
3d Printed Terrain is also fantastic for RPGs. Like many over the last few years I've become a DM and being able to print off terrain between sessions is great!
Bases are another good use for the 3D printer. There are heaps of sculpted bases you can purchase and print out, or even design your own! For me, it’s also handy having spare bases around for model props when painting components, or for the odd rescue project! Not a problem with a 3D printer.
A little tip for those of you with 3D printers already. When I’ve got just a little bit of filament left on the roll, I keep a batch of plain 10X25mm or 32mm bases on file to print off the leftover filament with. You can never have too many spares!
This brings me to the contentious point for many about 3D printing. Copyright infringement and piracy.
If you’re using a 3rd party design of miniatures for a game, make sure you clear it with your opponent and/or TO at organized events. The same as you would with scratch-built models and heavy conversions. Importantl, ensure you get your STLs from a legal licensee of those files. Most STL-producing companies are small businesses, and having their files pirated for free can ruin them.
The best STL companies are also audience driven. So, when a new campaign of models is being run, customers can suggest what pieces are made. STL files can also be updated, so customer suggestions and feedback can improve the product drastically faster than with other models.
If you’re interested, check out some 3D printer retailers online, there are many great brands to choose from. I have an Ender 5 Pro which is a reliable, mid-range printer.
For STLs, something like a late pledge Kickstarter campaign contains upwards of 50 or so different models and will keep you busy for around 6 months’ worth of printing and painting.
I hope you found this interesting and are inspired to give 3D printing a go. If you've got any 3D printing-related questions or comments, get in touch!
Copyright images above used with permission from www.printablescenery.com