Terrain for Balin

Crafty fun

tools wargaming

Battle in Balin's Tomb from Games Workshop is not just an excellent introduction to wargaming, it's also a fun game. And, I'm afraid, it's something of a frustrating product. But with the magic of arts, crafts, and a few choice purchases, I managed to bring my Balin's Tomb board to life. Here's what I did.

Missing elements

The miniatures in the box are fun because they're all your favourite characters from Lord of the Rings, but they're also the worst Citadel molding I've ever seen. And the scatter terrain that's built into the game mechanics is just not included. There are black squares on the board meant to represent pillars and sarcophagi, but the corresponding objects aren't in the box. The least Games Workshop could have done was include some cheap interlocking cardboard structures, but they don't even do that.

To be fair, the game is sold as a board game, not a wargame, and it's very board gamey to just draw stuff on the board. Experienced board gamers understand illustrated barriers. But I'm treating the game as a wargame, partly because that's what it is and partly because I also use the setting for other game systems. Turns out, the 3d printed scatter terrain I bought a few months ago is a perfect match.

Statues and tombs

The dwarf statues fit exactly over their squares, and so do the tombs.

Sarcophagi and pillars for Balin's tomb.

Trap doors and wells

In addition to pillars and tombs that obstruct movement, there's a well and some trap doors that goblins sometimes emerge out of. There's no rule for it, but I play such that if a player token is standing on a trap door, then a goblin can't come out of it. I want this to be discoverable by players, and I find that the illustrations on the board tend to get sublimated. I think part of the reason for this is that there are both elements that aren't in-game on it. The round counter, for instance, is obviously not in-world, so you ignore it. Even on the main part of the board, though, there are things you can't interact with, like discarded shields and swords. They're just decoration, so the trap doors tend to get lost in the [maybe too dim] visual clutter. So I built some trap door covers out of popsicle sticks. They won't win any modeling awards and, yes I really need a sander, but they do draw attention to the fact that there are trap doors here.

Illustrated and physical trap doors.

There's also no rule for what happens if a fool of a Took throws a stone down the well.

Illustrated well.

Still, I wanted a physical well on the board, so I built one out of sprue "bricks":

Physical well.

Physical gaming

Tabletop gaming is flexible, and that's one of the many things I love about it. I don't think all game boards need to be 3d, but for Battle in Balin's Tomb it just feels right to have tiny physical terrain for the tiny physical models. It brings the game to life, and evokes the feel of the book and the look of the movie. It doesn't effect the game, as such, and yet it kind of does. Definitely one of those things you don't miss when it's not there, but enjoy having around when it is.

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