"I’ve been playing wargames for about two thirds of my life (since I was 9). I started out playing Warhammer 40k back in 2nd Edition. Fortunately, all evidence (as far as I know) of my painting and modelling capabilities from this time has been disposed of. From there I expanded gradually through most of the GW games in circulation – Warhammer Fantasy, Necromunda, GorkaMorka, Epic 40k… More recently, I also expanded into other games – starting with Warmachine & Hordes, moving into Malifaux, Infinity, Flames of War and also many board games. Now I have the problem that I play so many different game systems I have trouble remembering the rules for them if I’ve been playing something else for a while. Anyway, one of the main things all of these games have in common is that they need a board of some sort. Different terrain, yes, but they all need a board of some description…
So, for Christmas this year, my wife bought me a Realm of Battle board. Unfortunately she was unable to surprise me with what it was, since it is rather hard to hide a 2 foot square package in our small flat, and there are not many other things that come in a package which is 2 foot square.
Well, I’ve previously had stalled (or realistically speaking aborted) attempts at creating a modular board of my own, so I was quite pleased to actually be able to skip straight to the fun part - I didn’t really find drilling and sawing bits of wood all that much fun, and I even managed to burn my hand on the battery of my crap electric drill... So, I got myself some cans of black spray and got to work on the boards. Rather than using the GW pack for the board I went to the local craft shop and got myself a handful of acrylic paints in a couple of shades of brown and grey.
Once I’d painted the boards (with only minimal effort on the skulls that appear everywhere) I got onto the bit that really makes it look decent – flocking & other bits of foliage. To start with I just went for patches of green flock (I had some fairly cheap flock knocking about that worked just fine). I was using a little spray pump thingy full of watered down PVA, which did lead me to discover a potential benefit of using cheap flock. If I got the flock really wet with glue, the colour came off the flock, turning it slightly yellowish – with the right amount I could get a bit of colour variation across the table. So, once I’d put my patches of flock down it was time to add bits of clump foliage, small weeds and flowery bits. I’d purchased all these for basing my Flames of War stuff, so the scale might be a little off for 28mm games, but it’s not too bad.
It was only after this was all done that I realised I should probably highlight the skull patches for the odd occasions where they might remain uncovered. I lost enthusiasm for this after the first patch, as you can see in the picture. I may get around to doing the others some time.
Board design & construction:
· Easy to get into use – you could play a game on it straight out of the bag.
· Great detail on the board
· Quick to paint up
· Lots of the detail is skulls. Hundreds of skulls.
· Horrifically expensive
So, next we go onto using the board. First you have to get it to wherever you are taking it. The bag it comes in works just fine – I was a little worried at first that all the bits I stuck onto it would fall off in the bag or the paint would get scratched off, but in the end only a few little scraps came loose (I think the foliage provided some cushioning). The board is a little bit on the heavy side for carrying any further than from a car to inside, so I wouldn’t plan on taking it anywhere on foot. It fits nicely in the boot of my car though, so that’s a positive.
Setting the board up is a simple matter of choosing a layout and putting the panels in the right place with the clips. For my first game on it, I only used a few clips (the table was flat so I wasn’t too concerned about the panels sliding apart too much, but they did once or twice). A word of advice though, put the clips in as you go with the panels – it’s a pain to be lifting the panels and putting clips in once all the panels are in place!
There are effectively 3 types of board you can create with the 6 panels (central hill, a hill on each end or a hill in each corner), so the fact that it is modular doesn’t add a huge amount beyond making it much, much more transportable than as a single piece. Add in a bunch more scenery and you’re laughing. It would be nice if GW released some ‘more interesting’ extra panels (a river set would be nice, or something like a half-hill panel) I might be interested in paying money for them to make full use of the modular nature (carrying round a couple of extra panels to vary up the board a bit more wouldn’t be much of a problem).
As I mentioned, during the game there were a few times when the panels started to slide apart, since they weren’t all clipped together, but that’s not entirely unexpected. One complaint that I’ve seen is the slopes of the hills are prone to have models sliding down – in the game I had on the board, all the flock and foliage seemed to do a good job of preventing that, but given that it was a Flames of War battle (British Armoured Car Company v German Heavy Tank Company) I can’t say for definite that a unit of high elves won’t be skiing down the mountainside! (SUD - I can attest to the board not being terribly friendly to Fantasy armies for just this reason, as the movement trays tend to slip a bit on the hills, or metal models fall out of the front ranks etc.)
· Bag is easily carried using the handles, and is easy to get the panels in and out.
· Provides a far nicer looking board than a mat.
· Modular construction allows some variation, and perhaps in the future there might be some decent extra panels to buy (SUD - Forge World does offer extra city boards, which I assume are interchangeable, but at £280 for four resin (seriously) sections it seems ridiculous to go down that route)?
· Number of potential layouts could be better, but hey it’s still much better than one!
· Clips can be a pain to attach
· Patches of foliage work brilliantly at stopping dice while cocked (more my own fault than anything)
The board is good. Is it £175 of good? No, not really (and if you add in the cost of paints, flocks, glue etc. you are looking closer to £200). It does very little that a £15 gaming mat and a few bits of terrain can’t do, but it does look very pretty. It also has the benefit that you can match your model basing technique to the board, and then you’ll feel really smug and satisfied. It might also guilt you into getting the rest of your army painted up so that it doesn’t look so bad…
So, my recommendation would be – don’t buy one unless you have a plan. Where are you going to use it? Can you store it somewhere convenient? Will you get the chance to play on it regularly?"
SUD - To round thing off, here's the underside of the board, and the clips used to hold it together.
The rear side of one of the flat boards
There are plenty of clips.
The clips go here, but only actually clip on when both boards are in place – otherwise they hang on loosely as shown.
SUD- I can attest to the strength of the boards, having watched one of the mangers at Leicester Games Workshop (Sim was a legend) stand on one.
I hope you've enjoyed the review, as hopefully they'll be more guest posts in the future.