on Nov 6, 2017
Critical Hits: Easy, low cost alternative to traditional terrain options; portable and storable; printed-on scenery.
Critical Misses: The sci-fi-ish set is split between three terrain types, not enough frame pieces, accessories set is a bust if you already have terrain objects.
Let's face it. Terrain can be a major hassle. But you've got to have it if you want to play tabletop miniatures games. I come from the 1980s, when the notion of a particularly complex terrain table was a piece of plywood spray painted green with a couple of buildings made from the Styrofoam packing your boom box came in. And then there were the big, fixed terrain tables with railroad scenery on them like what you might find at a game shop. These days, most folks use much more sensible vinyl mats with loose, movable buildings, rocks and other features. But that can all still be expensive, time consuming, and difficult to both store and transport.
I'm always on the lookout for alternatives for my Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar games, so when I saw TerraTiles by RAINN Studios I wanted to check them out. These are large cardboard hex tiles with scenery features painted on them that you can arrange in any way you see fit. Think Settlers of Catan tiles, but much larger and without any wood production despite the images of trees on some of them. One box of 66 double-sided tiles is enough to roughly cover a 4' x 6' area, and you can also use them to create gaming terrain of irregular sizes and shapes as you see fit.
The printed-on rocks, roads, rivers and trees can be used as line-of-sight blocking terrain, cover, difficult terrain or whatever you want- but be aware that you may have to adapt the rules you are playing with to accommodate the printed features. There's no need to use any actual 3D terrain pieces, but I've found that I still prefer to use some when I play with my TerraTiles. Being able to directly eyeball physical cover and LOS is a key element of miniatures gaming, but the TerraTiles system wants you to do these things like you might in a board game.
But the trade-off here is that TerraTiles are imminently portable, easy to set up, and easy to pack up and store. I've got something like two shelves worth of terrain pieces and game mats; one box of TerraTiles takes up about 1/5 of one of those shelves. This is a convenience product that may not necessarily replace your game mats and ruined building corners, but it may give you another option for when you want to play a pickup game or take a game to a friend's place that may not have any gaming supplies.
There are four sets in the TerraTiles line right now. The Misty Moorlands and its supplemental Paths, Coasts and Rivers sets are your typical grassland/plains/forest/hills sort of terrain, and these are great for anything ranging from a 2k point Age of Sigmar to a Frostgrave skirmish to an RPG campaign. The supplement set doubles the amount of green and blue space terrain, and you can even make islands, full rivers and other water features as you like. This pair is quite versatile, although it isn't very Grimdark - if you catch my meaning there.
Caverns, Tundra and Wastelands is the set I really prefer, but I have issues with it. With the green terrain sets, you get a ton of options and lots of extras to help ensure you can do what you need with it. But this set tries to squeeze three terrain types into one box and the result is that you never seem to have quite enough tiles. The Wastelands side of the tiles gives you a darker, alien landscape whereas Tundra is white and snowy. These are not exactly compatible at all. And then you've also got a third terrain type, the dungeon-like caverns that you can even use as a sort of Zone Mortalis section of an over world map if you'd like. The main issue I have is that I'd like to have a box of each of these terrain types rather than sacrifice some pieces of one type to have pieces of another available for my building pleasure. And there is not a supplemental box for any of these types, which means buying a second box is the only option to make the most of these terrain types. In fact, I would advise most buyers to choose either the Misty Moorlands and its supplement or two boxes of the Caverns, Tundra and Wastelands set. But there again, it depends on what you are trying to do with this stuff. if you aren't trying to lay out a 4' x 8' board for this weekend's 40k Apocalypse game and instead are looking at a 3' by 3' skirmish, my grievances are more or less invalid. These sets are very reasonably priced so regardless of what you do, this is one of the best values in terrain out there right now.
There is also a fourth set in the range, but I'm not very enthusiastic about it. The Battle Pack works with all of the above sets and provides a smattering of punchboard stand-ups for you to use on your TerraTiles. The problem is that these 2.5D pieces look sort of lame and out of scale. It's a low cost option so I don't want to come down too hard on it, but I felt like this set was completely non-essential but I also own a lot of terrain so it felt superfluous. But there again, this is a full terrain set that fits in a box and can easily be moved around and stored- not showcase modelling pieces. There is a lot to be said for those qualities, to be sure- let alone that this under-$20 gives you plenty of LOS blockers and other objects.
I've really enjoyed TerraTiles and I'd love to see RAINN Studios do more like this. I thought it was somewhat ironic that shortly after I started using these that Games Workshop came up with their own modular cardboard terrain solution, the Moon Base Kasius set. But those big, square tiles are less flexible and way more expensive than the TerraTiles alternative. So I'd count myself as a fan, and I'd recommend that those looking for a simple, easy, and relatively no-fuss terrain solution for any RPG, wargame or miniatures game check these out.