Home Forums Terrain and Scenery Have you updated your “visual look” over the years?

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    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    Last weekend we had an interesting post-game discussion:

    “How often do we update the visual look of our games?”

    The question relates to the visual style of scenery and miniatures. If you look at photographs of wargames played in the 70s, 80s, 90s, … then you see differences in how the gaming tables look. Most notable scenery has changed. Hills are no longer coarse styrofoam shapes; houses are no longer crude cardboard ‘boxes’, trees become more sophisticated, terrain mats have evolved due to printing technology etc. But also the visual style of figures have changes over the years.

    I started miniature wargaming in the late 80s, and some of my scenery collections and figures still date from that period, although I have always regularly “upgraded”. But e.g. I still use gaming mats that are mono-colored (plain brown for desert, plain white for snow, … ). So the “age” of my wargaming table is showing.

    Of course, one can always say “it doesn’t matter”, and rightly so. Luckily, there’s not a wargaming police to check whether each of us is “up to date”. But on the other hand, one wants to be “up to date”. Compare it to sports: it would be a funny sight if someone would show up with a tennis racket from the 70s or any other old-fashioned sports equipment.

    So, how does everyone deal with this? Is your collection slowly ageing? Or do you update regularly and is that an important driver for your wargaming purchases?

    Avatar photoMike

    I started gaming about 35 years ago and did so for about 5 years.
    Then I stopped.
    When I came back about 15 years ago I had none of my original stuff.
    What I have painted since returning is all the same style and look.

    I suspect I would like to think I would update as my techniques improved, but in truth, not sure I could be bothered.

    Avatar photo6mmwargaming

    Definitely the visual aspect of a game is very important, and not just the figures, but the scenery too. I still see a lot of well painted armies on sub par terrain, but it is improving.

    I’ve only got a few pieces from when I started 35 odd years ago – a few 25mm Grenadier figures with only a few with the original paint jobs. Most of my scenery have been redone and the only original pieces are some 6mm twisted wire trees and 6mm ruined buildings made out of cardboard (which i still like). Other older stuff has been sold off with a few pieces stripped and repainted.

    My 6mm Wargaming site https://6mm.wargaming.info

    Avatar photoirishserb

    My first WWII games with 1/72 plastics used paperback books to “build” terrain on the table with a few model railroad trees, circa 1980.  By 1982, that had evolved to smooth contour foam hills on a sheet of felt.  In 1987 I made the move to modular foam terrain, and by 1989, the methodology was pretty much evolved into what I still use today.

    My skills have evolved a little, but a picture of my table from 1989-1990 wouldn’t look much different from today.  For a while, I was probably a little ahead of the curve, now a bit behind.

    I often consider making things a little more realistic, but that would mean updating over 700 square feet of modular terrain.  Instead, now I actually probably often produce items a little inferior to say 20 years ago, as 40-plus years later,  it is always a race against time and just getting it onto the table vs. having 30-40 years of gaming ahead of me.

    Avatar photoThe Red Hobbit

    This is a great question!  I started wargaming a bit over 20 years ago, but back then if it wasn’t at a game shop that meant all the scenery was scavenged from around the house.  I still enjoy that kind of scenery now and then but over the years I’ve enjoyed collecting nicer looking set pieces.  As you mentioned over time your terrain may look dated or out of place with newer pieces, I can certainly agree with that.  I don’t go out of my way to update my terrain but when I do build new terrain, print it or purchase it I do try to make sure it will match with some existing items I have.

    As for war gaming mats, I started off with monocolor ones but I greatly prefer the more modernized ones nowadays as long as they don’t overdo it with the design.

    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    Oh for sure everything on my table has evolved.  Started with just green and tan plastic army men and crumpled bath towels, then unpainted figures and whatever for terrain, then started painting and actually making terrain (but still a bare table until I bought a cheap green blanket).

    …and then I started to earn Adult Money.  That changed everything, not only with the quality of swag I was able to purchase but also in making the hobby time more valuable and thus the output more carefully considered and constructed.  Nowadays I do not see and paint as well as I used to, but I do try to make an effort, and so my tabletop is lightyears ahead of what it was 20 or even 10 years ago.  (also helps that my playmates contribute some good stuff as well!)

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoShaun Travers

    I started in the 1980s using 1/72 WW2 plastic soldiers and vehicles.  The terrain was railway model buildings and trees.  Rivers and roads were cut out of cardboard or similar. I did make some hedges and walls about 25 years ago that are OK but could do with improvement. The table was covered with a cloth and hills were made placing stuff under the cloth.  I still have and use all the buildings and have expanded how many I have.  Still usually a cloth mat with stuff udnerneath for hills.   But I have gone for better trees and roads and rivers.  So my table looks a lot like in did in the 80s but with a lot more variety and some refinement here and there 🙂

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Yes- in 1980’s I was probably the only guy HERE using model train ‘accessories’- trees/ hedges/ grasses and the ubiquitous lichen. Thats because I had a foot in both camps. (25mm BTW).

    I’ve updated replaced those symbolic hedge rows with more strength and based on cardboard, flocked and painted bases, regular sized outfit 20mm x 120mm about 3 metres worth. Roads have been felt, brown; tree/ woods on bases of 3 irregular shapes, on top of much large felt medium green pieces [up to about 500mm in one dimension], large irregular and also painted with shading colours for the second tier trees to stand upon and be moved about as necessary. Some are 150mm tall conifers while others are 100-75mm. The old ‘orchard’  style trees are affixed to large rectangular bases sans borders.

    Likewise I bought several metres of blue felt, since also slighly coloured edges to blend in, for 100mm wide river and 35mm winde ‘streams’ of all shaps and angles.

    The good old WWII stone walls (who made them escapes me) got a refresh back in the 90’s, incurred a little scruff and scrub, and plonked on painted/ scenic bases like the hedges; two section IIRC are 8″ or 200mm.

    Awaiting refurb are very old card houses (I use a few resin and other railway plastic buildings) that maybe need to be fully based for reliable handling.

    Maybe its not perfect, but with additions of random flock, updated lichen and specialist pieces- swampy ground, well coloured bridges and fences (again railway accessories) etc. it does wonders.

    Sadly I don’t see the effort being made in ordinary 15mm or smaller scales, very bizarre as they are ‘made’ for scenic enhancements.
    cheers dave

    PS- A recent example in use:-

    Avatar photoian pillay

    Like many above, I’ve been playing with my (ever expanding) toy solider collection for 35 plus years now. I started off with books for hills and pan scoure pads for hedges, with a basic green base board and a few model railway trees.
    Recently I rationalised a lot of my collection and have gone 6mm, so i decided to make some specific game boards for OHW that has dedicated Scenery made for it. All a little bit stylised but looks great. Even made multi layer foam core hills. I’ve certainly update my visual look on the table but I certainly have gone a little be retro on the last project. I guess I miss some of my early gaming nostalgia.

    Tally-Ho! Check out my blog at…..

    Avatar photoMike

    I was probably the only guy HERE using model train ‘accessories’- trees/ hedges/ grasses and the ubiquitous lichen

    Can confirm not the case  😛


    I guess I miss some of my early gaming nostalgia.


    Avatar photoMartinR

    My terrain now is incomparably better than when I started out in the early 1970s. Funnily enough railway scenery was a staple then, and I’ve still got some railway scenery stuff.

    Ive still got a fair bit of my original stuff, the older figures and vehicles get tarted up if/when they get rebased. A lot of my old 20mm and 6mm stuff has been completely repainted using more modern techniques.

    Ive just been tarting up my old Heroics 6mm Napoleonics from the mid 70s, but they just needed some highlighting and extra details adding.

    Figures from the turn of the millennium (mainly 15mm) are generally OK and I’ve not done much with them, although I touched up my SCW stuff a few years ago. I had a load of 6mm armour I did for Spearhead back in the late 90s which has been steadily upgraded too.

    So the answer to the OP is yes, but not in a very systematic way.


    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoOotKust

    I was probably the only guy HERE using model train ‘accessories’- trees/ hedges/ grasses and the ubiquitous lichen

    Can confirm not the case 😛

    SO you know others in New Zealand at the time then???

    Avatar photoMike

    Ah. My bad, I thought you meant here not there.


    Avatar photoTony S

    Sometimes I look at my old figures, especially hand painted standards, or heraldry on shields or surcoats…

    …and think how that hell did I ever do that much detail!?

    I also remember reading about a very early Featherstone game involving some commandos conducting a raid on a German occupied French town.  The town consisted entirely of shoeboxes.  Not painted or anything.  Just the boxes.

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