Three Ways to Dress Up Your Tabletop Adventure

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We’re counting down the days  International Tabletop Day 2018, happening this year on April 28th! As we get closer to the big day, we’ll be looking at the gamut of tabletop gaming, from the stories of the games we play to remarkable people who love them. Be sure to join in on the fun on April 28th on our official  ITTD Twitch Stream, hosted by Ivan van Norman and donate to  charity:water, the worthy cause we’re supporting this year.

Nothing is more important in a tabletop adventure than sparking the player’s imagination. The wonder and awe of the fiction relies on a shared vision between participants, often stuck living in their heads and disjointed. When those key story moments arise you want to take that mental vision and light up the tabletop with gorgeous 3D scenery and fantastical set pieces. This touch of spectacle lends an authenticity to the experience that cannot be rivaled.

So, how do we do it? How do we get from the mind to the physical world? These three simple options will have you rolling in no time.


terra tiles

One of the first problems you will encounter is the playing surface. The old method of grabbing some felt certainly works, but it’s unattractive and lifeless. You can go bigger and grab a premade mat, but then you’re stuck with a preconfigured layout and no flexibility. TerraTiles has the solution. These oversized cardboard hexes will cover your dining room table with beautiful landscapes and wonderful vistas.

This product line from RAINN studios is one of the most versatile and practical solutions on the market. Simplicity is of chief importance as the tiles are merely large hexes with terrain printed on them. Imagine Catan but much larger and images suited to warring bands of painted miniatures.

Their modular nature means you can produce a huge number of setups and remain flexible throughout your adventures. The large number of options and the fact that each tile is double-sided means that you can rapidly model a huge range of environments that will suit your needs. Everything from wasteland to snow and all the green in between is modeled with crisp visual appeal.

In addition to time and money, relying on 2D printed terrain means you need much less storage space. You can also then splurge on a couple of key set-pieces, such as a looming volcano or enormous stone statue. It’s all about options and TerraTiles provides plenty.



Sometimes you need a large hulking hill or an ominous set of trees. While you can, of course, find these out in the marketplace, typically for exorbitant prices, with a little bit of muscle and know-how you can get cracking on your own set of scratch built terrain in no time. I promise this is much scarier than it sounds.

Our own Raf Cordero wrote an excellent article detailing the process of crafting a striking set of hills. These require just a small outlay for foam and flock, but you will be surprised at just how quick your skill will develop as confidence naturally emerges. You can also check out Teri Litorco’s article on making cheap hills, craters, river, and fences to dress up your table.

You can get crazier and wild as you gain comfort. I spent an entire summer meticulously fashioning a triple canopy jungle for some Vietnam wargaming. There were times when I wanted to flip my craft table, but much like a painted miniature, the end product is always worth the effort.

When you first enter this brave new world you will make mistakes but you will constantly learn and adjust your approach. Before you know it your basement will be full of spare foam sheets, multiple glue guns, and a shelf full of flock and static grass.



But what about decor? There’s not a single person who played the classic HeroQuest that didn’t lovingly fondle those little bookshelves and tables. There’s just something so ridiculously enticing by 3D interiors and sprucing up a dungeon, building, or cave with some lush aesthetics.

What’s always held this niche back is the lack of an expansive line with a coherent vision. We’ve seen small offerings of a couple of items, but never a full-blown product line with everything from torture racks to summoning portals. TerrainCrate from Mantic Games is solving this problem, and it’s doing so in grand fashion.

TerrainCrate is offered in several sets of varying sizes, each offering numerous furnishings and a number of additional bits for detail. There are diminutive rats, spider webs, and even small books scattered amongst the treasure heaps and altars. There are ladders and benches and sarcophagi, with and without mummies inside.

As soon as you pick up these gorgeous little pieces you immediately want more. When you finally get them down on the table to support a vibrant adventure, well, then you’ll be hooked for life. Much like a well-developed cast of NPCs can really add life and authenticity to your world, an eye-catching collection of interior accoutrement can bring a setting to life in a way words merely can’t.

How have you gone the extra mile to dress up your table? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to  join us on April 28th on Twitch for our  International Tabletop Day stream hosted by Ivan van Norman, and help us support  charity:water to  raise money for a project to get water to a community of people who currently lack access to clean water.


Image Credits: Charlie Theel, Teri Litorco

Editor’s note: Samples of TerrainCrate and TerraTiles were provided by the manufacturer.

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Tabletop Gaming, Miniature Market’s The Review Corner, and co-hosts the gaming podcast  Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter  @CharlieTheel

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