While classic Battletech is designed around being played on completely flat maps, I’ve always enjoyed myself more when I get to play on a nice 3d surface. Much like playing with painted models, it makes for a more complete experience. Up until now, Battletech terrain was something you’d need to 3d print, but recently Gale Force 9 have partnered with Thunderhead Studio to expand their battlefield in a box line of pre-painted terrain with Hextech, a line of buildings designed for either classic or alpha strike gameplay (or any other 6mm-ish game). GF9 have sent us free review copies of the current line of buildings, and I’m looking at how they stand on their own and as compared to printing your own.
These buildings are cast resin and quite heavy. It doesn’t feel like your typical 3d printer resin that’s incredibly brittle – these would make a fine substitute for the old metal dreadnought in a sock if you need an improvised weapon. Most of the building sets include two buildings, each in a different color scheme. One’s grey with tan accents, and the other is tan with grey accents. It looks to me like after the initial color was painted they were drybrushed with a highlight, details picked out in the accent color, then windows were painted in. While not particularly high effort, it still looks great and is cohesive on the table. If you want to make them pop a little more, a quick coat of gloss varnish across the windows will add a lot for minimal time investment.
Each building comes with a removable hex base. The base is slightly flexible, and the bottom of the building itself is felted. Neither is sliding around accidentally on a standard neoprene mat. The size lines up very nicely with Catalyst neoprene or paper mapsheets.
The big thing I love about these is that they’re designed to be extremely playable. Unlike nearly every other piece of Battletech terrain I’ve seen available, all the top surfaces are designed so that a mech on a hex base will sit nicely, and they’re subtly marked out to show where each hex is.
They’re also designed around Battletech’s terrain level system, with 1″ increments between different parts so you can always tell how tall something is.
The removable base is the one spot I’m less that completely satisfied. While they’re certainly good enough, they are different than what’s used in the Hextech line of printable terrain. Something I love in that system is that each piece has a pyramid cut out of the bottom that corresponds with a base of the appropriate size – so any 3-hex buildings would have the same size cutout, and any 4-hex buildings would have a cutout sized slightly differently. This keeps the buildings nicely aligned on the base, while also allowing you to swap out different buildings of the same size.
In practice, for most people, this isn’t going to matter – you’ve got an equal number of bases and buildings, and just place them as needed. I, however, have been crazy and built an entire board with glued down bases, which means I can’t freely swap buildings between these and ones I’d printed previously. Not a substantial issue, but it feels strange to me that these ended up different, and I’m disappointed I’ll need to figure out a different way to include them in my setup (or, more realistically, I’ll design a second board that includes them).
Overall, I think these are great. The one caveat is that they aren’t completely compatible with existing printed collections, but for the vast vast majority of people who haven’t built a permanent city already these are durable, good looking, and very very playable buildings. With most of the 2-packs retailing for $35 it can end up fairly expensive to build out a dense city, but when compared to the amount of time it would take me to print and paint my own buildings to comparable quality it doesn’t feel that bad at all. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what releases in the future.