Humble Beginnings

Around twenty-plus years ago I first started playing Warhammer 40,000 with my friends and some people at a local gaming shop. Since I had already fallen in love with terrain making from a model train kit I got several years previously, I naturally wanted our tables to be filled with unique scenery and prioritized making ruins, hills and bunkers and buildings that you could actually open! The quality was completely basic and laughable by today's professional standards; Bare-painted styrofoam textures, highlighted with pure white paint, flock everywhere, odd designs and poor scale. But it was still something rarely seen outside of magazines.

Now keep in mind that in the early 90's Warhammer 40k was still a pretty new game to some people. It had existed in different incarnations and was only recently gaining ground in the states as the go-to miniature gaming system. Terrain was considered a non-issue, just objects to block sight, and few people played with more than felt circles to represent woods, cardboard boxes, stacked sheets of green-painted insulation foam, handfuls of moss thrown casually onto the table. This was how people played in my local hobbyshops.

So when I first joined a campaign and had my first public game, I packed all my terrain and drew a crowd immediately. You would think there would have been "ooh"ing and "aah"ing and the general celebratory feel that people give now to well-made models and scenery, but what I got more of was odd looks, a few sneers and a lot of laughter. They thought it was "insane" to put so much work into terrain. Most of these players looked at the game like a mechanical set of rules, and terrain was simply obstacles, so a bunker with a removable roof? That was alien technology. Sure it looked good, but how the heck do you even use it? Imperial players got into arguments about what effect a barrage would have on buildings with units inside. People complained that their figures won't fit if they had back-banners, some people said they wouldn't play with it at all. It had never come up before. And when the structures were actually used in games, despite all the negativity towards these new props, guess where everyone RUSHED their units as soon as possible when the game started. The focus of every game became my humble, styrofoam bunkers and gently sloped, rocky hills.

When I saw the effect that these pieces had on the game, I was more hooked than ever. I didn't care that some people hated the idea of terrain being such a major part of the game, I was more enthralled by the fact that it *changed* the game. People stopped saying "I'm moving my units to this object" and started saying "I'm going for that bunker!" It pulled players in, it was a new dynamic and I wanted to see more of it. And now over two decades later, I delight in knowing that we've made a lot of tables far more interesting.

Most of those pieces were made from soft, white syrofoam packaging inserts, floral moss, and cheap cardboard. Materials used by many hobbyists still, but it does not withstand the years very well, and most of those pieces have long since crumbled, however I do have these early pictures I recently dug up, the first of many "eye level" shots that I would see of my work.

We all start somewhere. I'd love to see some "then and now" pictures from some of you guys out there.