I've been involved with building models, painting miniatures, making terrain, and playing minis games for decades. I read a few of the forums online (very occasionally), follow a few groups on Facebook, and subscribe to several people's blogs and videos. One of the common things that comes up is the habit that gamers have of buying too much. Gamers in general tend to buy more than they use, but miniatures gamers tend to be legendary in this respect. There seems to be a common idea that minis gamers are almost expected to buy everything that strikes their fancy, regardless of whether they will paint or use it anytime soon. Stories of mountains of unpainted lead piled in the basement corner or stacked away in tubs are common in our hobby.
I am definitely no exception, but I have been trying to curb my purchasing and focus on getting what I own painted. I am also focusing specifically on games that I want to play and plan to play soon. The Fanticide models jumped to the top of the painting list because I wanted them painted to play some games now. After I finish the Liberi, I'll finish off my zombies and zombie hunters so I can play some All Things Zombie. And so on. Eventually, so the plan goes, I'll have everything painted and be using them to play games.
Terrain is just as easy to horde, but most gamers I know don't have the same fixation with it as they do minis. Those people that I know that have lots of terrain tend to be the host for their friends that play minis games. And most of them build up a basic set of terrain and use it over and over.
That is the goal with the terrain that I am currently building. I want to have a good set of terrain that covers all the basics I will need for the games I play. Since my main focus right now is Fanticide, I am focusing on some basic wilderness terrain that works with those figures. I want to have several pieces of each major terrain type and a few special pieces. The special pieces may or may not be usable with any of my other figures or games, but I want all of the core pieces to be useful with anything in the same scale.
The next consideration is the amount of space I need to fill. My main gaming board is a couple of 2 foot by 4 foot pieces of 2"-thick foam hinged together with a battle mat. I built it specifically so that I would have a compact table that I could fold for storage. Since my table isn't that big, I don't need many pieces to break it up for most games. Instead of having a lot of terrain, I need a few representative pieces of each type.
With that in mind, here's what I am working on:
Forest and hedges - These are great for breaking lines of sight and providing cover. They also fit the Fae. I want to put together several forest bases with trees that are based separately. That way I have the most flexibility for using them in a game, and I can alter them later just by buying and basing some different trees. I'll do some different sizes of forest bases to give plenty of variety. I'll also build a few bases of hedges. I'll keep these fairly small. That way they break lines of sight and block movement without taking a ton of table space. (10-12 pieces)
Rivers and water - I want to have enough modular river pieces that I stretch a stream across the board with a fork. That means about 8 linear feet of river. If I break the pieces into pieces about 8-12" long with some different turns and curves, I can rearrange the pieces to get some different configurations without having to make too many. (10-12 pieces)
Ruins - It's always a good idea to have a few ruins pieces in the terrain box. I'm not planning to have too many of these to start, since most of my battles at the moment are taking place in the wilds of Nowhere. Eventually, I'll build some, though. (6-8 pieces)
Themed terrain - This category includes all of the terrain I have planned to work with a specific army or warband. For instance, I am planning to do some buildings to go with my Saxons. I'll be building some basic fortifications, supply points, and other bits to go with some of my sci-fi minis. All of these specific kinds of pieces will have limited use, depending on whether or not the army they're built for is on the table. I don't plan to have a lot of these because they aren't as generally useful, but a few pieces for an army can really make things look good on the table. (3-4 pieces per army)
If I tried to put all of the terrain I plan to build on the table at once, I wouldn't have any room for models at all. The idea is to have a basic variety of terrain so that I can swap things in and out and create different battlefields. Having more than you need to fill the board gives you some options and keeps you from continuously playing the same games over and over. I will have enough terrain to fill a couple of medium plastic tubs, and that should be enough for me to lay out a good battlefield for what I play.
How about you? How much terrain do you need? What are the pieces that you need to have a good mix for your games?