As a preface, this is mostly just a rambling attempt at emptying my head of thoughts so I can actually get some sleep.
I spent the first few years of my wargaming career playing Warhammer 40,000 with Lego proxies and Lego terrain. My parents were fairly strict about money (ingraining miserly spending habits that I’m now thankful for now) and I just couldn’t convince them that $600 was a reasonable sum of money to spend on a hobby. It was huge when I got my first box of minis to paint but it never occurred to me at that time that TERRAIN was something that I needed to worry about or even something that could be bought. When it finally dawned on me, I cut some rough buildings out of foam core and glued some old aquarium plants to them (if anyone doubts the power of foam core, Captain Spud has done some incredible things with it here and here).
Since then I’ve dabbled with making terrain (some of which caught the attention of my FLGS owner who commissioned me to finish some of the other pieces he had sitting around the store). Most of those projects were larger, more ambitious and never got beyond the structure itself (in my inexperience I assumed that scale was not something to be worried about). I’m on another terrain kick inspired by some other talented people in the wargaming community and surprise access to 3-D printers. One of the things that I’ve always wanted and envied is a highly modular wargaming environment. A flexible tabletop coupled with flexible terrain. One idea I had a few years ago was a table that had removable square foot tiles. These tiles could have different terrain modeled on them, allowing for easy modification of the battlefield (similar to this system by McEagle) but building a table is a lot of work and expensive time-wise. More recently I tripped across a concept that fused modular tiles with typical terrain pieces (ComboSmite and PennyArcade both had articles on this sort of terrain).
I think in an ideal world, I would want to have a terrain system that integrates the 2×2′ cut-out tiles with an extremely modular set of buildings (ala Captain Spud). I’ve started to sketch out some preliminary designs for buildings that should tile together without much an issue, store flat while not in use and have a series of interchangeable parts which would allow for custom buildings every game. I think this can be achieved via a series of interlocking walls of different sizes that tile properly (I use tile in this case in the sense of pixel art, having a repeating pattern that builds to a larger, cohesive whole). If I’ve done the math correctly, I should have a 2″ segment that represents the smallest building unit I need to account for (as any larger building could just be build from multiples of that smallest unit). I should have some test panels printed soon. The challenge I’m currently facing is that the roof of each building dictates it’s shape.
If everything goes well (knock on wood), my last challenge will be making stairs/things that are compatible without being overly restrictive or useless (such as a bridge that couldn’t fit large based models). That’s all for the moment. Cheers!