Military Miniature

Book Review – “Terrain Essentials: A Book About Making Wargaming Terrain”

By Mel Bose

Photography by Dave Taylor, Phil Gallagher, and Lee Hughes

Illustrations by Phil Gallagher, Dave Taylor, and John Brader

Published by Dave Taylor Miniatures

5 out of 5 Stars

There has been a lot of spilled ink over the subject of building wargaming terrain over the years. And if you are a historical miniatures gamer, you need terrain. I own several books on the subject myself, and many of them have been of varying uses. But when I heard Mel Bose of Terrain Tutor fame was writing a book on Kickstarter, I had to back it. So I did, and it has since been released to much acclaim – myself included.

The book is 192 pages in a hardback dead tree format (I got the PDF version as it is searchable, and I can bring the Fire tablet to my workbench!). While it is currently only available to Kickstarter backers, the word is it will soon retail for $45 through Warlord Games. 

What is in it?

For starters, there’s a ton of information, which is neatly organized into ten chapters covering everything from what materials and tools you’ll need, how to make the bases for your terrain projects, making ground and grass, rocks, hills, trees, bushes, and even water and snow! There is even help with the myriad of building kits out there! 

I was impressed with how well the book was laid out, with useful color-coded tips and lavish, quality illustrations throughout. The project how-tos were clear, easy to follow, and, again, beautifully illustrated, which is the usual high standard we get from Mr. Bose on his YouTube channel (which I recommend to every wargamer. It’s chock full of ideas and projects!)


The advice is practical, and most important, safety-minded. All of us on the miniatures side of the hobby have our “construction horror stories” about nearly maiming or killing ourselves building some project or another. Mr. Bose has done well to give experienced terrain builders and novices this heads-up to prevent, in many cases, preventable accidents. (Mine was superglue in the eye!) 

He has even taken the time to explain concepts in the hobby, such as how we approach paint ratios often seen in painting guides and the lengths and units of measure. It is a bit of chrome but appreciated none the less. 

I like that he dedicated an entire chapter to PLANNING! I cannot stress enough how any project in this hobby should be planned first. I know with my RCW plan, for example, it is really making it easy for me to determine how to pursue the project. Building terrain, with the need to balance potential needs of building a landscape that looks good on the table, that can stand up to use, and is just plain able to be played with (How many gamers have owned or still own game buildings you cannot put troops in, for example?). His use of a triangle and then going into detail of where various projects fall on the spectrum is, to me, one of this book’s triumphs.

He also goes into talking about reference material, especially if you are doing work involving historical subjects. If you are going to build La Haye Saint for Waterloo, for example, opening some books with maps and physical dimensions, not to mention some information on what it looked like in June of 1815 are to me, essential. 

I will admit, his talking you through how to sketch out your project is appreciated, but I think I’d rather use Visio myself, as my artistic ability with a sketchpad is a bit…lacking. I do love his idea of using cardboard mockups though. I think in a couple of my projects, I probably should have used them, but happily, my cork ruins did well enough. 

He even goes into the best posture to work at one’s bench and avoiding back pain or other discomforts. This book really does have it all. Yep, color me floored. 

Out of all the chapters, I found the urban-related ones the best. But all the book is chock full of ideas and techniques I simply cannot wait to try. This book is the terrain book the hobby has been waiting for, and it has got tons of good advice not for just terrain, but the miniatures hobby in general. 

What I especially like about Mel is that he has not just written the book, but he’s set up a Facebook group to discuss it and help readers out. I think this was one of the better, if not the best, miniature wargaming release in 2020. And with COVID stalking the land, there has been a lot of good releases. I suspect we have all had time on our hands. If you did not back the Kickstarter, watch the Warlord Games page for when this book goes into general release!

I promise you, you will not be sorry. 

At SJR Research, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse SJR Research’s service on our site at SJR Research.

(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)

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