Check Out the Lay of the Land With ‘Terra Tiles’

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Last week saw the release of the new YouTube Channel, Agents of Sigmar; a GeekDad backed venture. I set up with a friend to record some tabletop battle reports. We’ve now reconvened to record episode two, and this time, we test drove a new terrain idea from Rainn Studios. Our board was made up of Terra Tiles.

Terra Tiles are a fabulous riff on the classic wargamer staple, the hex-tile. Large, double-sided, with beautiful and realistic illustrations, they provide a flexible, storable tabletop. A box of Terra Tiles measures 9″ X 8″, is 6″ high, and easy to store in a cupboard. Inside you’ll find 60 double-sided tiles, allowing you myriad terrain options. Two boxes are available, “Misty Moorlands” and “Coasts and Rivers”. They feature classic tabletop battlefield features such as roads, mud tracks, and rivers (both sets have some river sections). There are also forests, rocky outcrops, some ruins, and a whole lot more.

Terra Tiles
A section of ‘Terra Tiles’ tabletop before our figures were placed. Photo: Robin Brooks

The tiles all tessellate perfectly. Creating road networks is simple. They all connect through the center of the tile. The only barrier to finding the piece you want is that, in amongst 120 double-sided tiles, finding a single design can be like finding a needle in a haystack. No matter how hard I tried to keep the tiles in the orientation I wanted, I always managed to put at least one down, and then struggle to find it again!

This is far more a problem with me than the Terra Tiles, which provide an excellent alternative to a bulky mat that can be awkward to store. Better yet, for roughly the same price as a battle mat, you can buy a box of Terra Tiles, and vary your playing surface each  time you play.

One concern I had about the tiles is that they might slip all over the table, especially if knocked. I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen, but it’s easy to take steps to avoid it. For our game of Age of Sigmar  we used sticky tack around the perimeter tiles but left the ones in the middle loose. This outer frame held everything place with no problems for the entire four hour game.

terra-tiles-full-set-up
The full Misty Moorlands tile set up. Photo: Rainn Studios

We placed the tiles directly on my wooden dining room table because I wanted to record the game for Agents of Sigmar and I didn’t think my vinyl, fruit patterned, tablecloth would add much to the viewer experience. The table is much smoother than the tablecloth, and also not covered in 10 years of accumulated child-tack, so the sticky tack was definitely necessary to stop things moving about. (I should point out that we do clean the tablecloth – but you have kids, you know what I mean.)

The previous weekend, we hosted our son’s birthday sleepover, during which we played X-Wing. Rather than use my standard black cloth, I thought it would be fun to use the coastal tiles to recreate the scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when the X-Wings come in over the water. On the vinyl cloth, the tiles lasted the entire game, with minimal slippage. This was with four gallumphing 11-year-olds playing, so a pretty robust test.

For our Age of Sigmar game, I spent about twenty minutes choosing the tiles, then packed them away in the order I wanted to use them. Unpacking them on the day of the game took about ten minutes, with another ten to stick the perimeter down. So set up time is longer than unrolling your mat and putting it on the table, but I guess that’s the trade-off for increased flexibility.

A nice little extra are a few two-part cardboard trees, which come in the boxes. Whilst not quite a realistic as model trees, they did a great job at adding some depth to the board. The sets do come with a couple of walls/fences too, but these are too small to be of use in a Warhammer game.

One final bonus to the Terra Tiles is how much my children have enjoyed them. The have all spent time building their own landscapes and examining the ways in which the tiles tessellate. My four year has been using them as giant puzzle pieces, and they are tactile and robust enough to be perfect for that. This added feature would be impossible with a single piece mat. Terra Tiles really fire the imagination and set off discussions about world creation.

Whilst two boxes is more than enough to field countless battles, I’m interested to see what the team will do next. You can already take the aesthetics of your table to the next level with some “elevation risers,” which add a whole new dimension to your battlefields. What next? Well, if I had a wish-list, star fields for X-Wing and other games set in space would seem like a great choice but I’d love to see mountain passes, town plans, and dungeons too.

I’m very impressed with Terra Tiles – they are a well engineered and well thought out alternative to a standard tabletop mat. When the tiles are placed together they forge an evocative playing surface that adds to any game. Once your game is over, they can be quickly taken down, and easily stored, ready for your next epic miniature battle.

Disclosure: I received two boxes of Terra Tiles in order to write this review. The tiles are available from the Rainn Studios website priced $59 for the Misty Moorlands and $64 for the Coasts and Rivers.

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