BATTLETECH 3D Terrain Concept

BATTLETECH 3D Terrain – Concept

At Fantasy Bazaar, my all-time favorite hobby store, back in the 1990s, I remember people playing on a homemade BATTLETECH board with 3D terrain. At the time, I was somewhat intrigued by that game but never took the leap to go up to the people playing the game to find out more about it. My interests at that time were centered more around Magic the Gathering, Dragonlance, and painting Fantasy miniatures.

Fast forward to today. I only discovered BATTLETECH sometime in 2017 when I bought the Introductory Box Set at a discount price in a shop in Germany. I immediately knew, upon opening the box, that this game was for me!

Having studied and played by the rules, beyond the included Quick Start Rules, BATTLETECH has become one of my favorites. I just love playing it. And yes, I also love playing on hex grids! And that’s exactly what needs to be fixed, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something very “wargamy” about playing on these gridded maps, and they look quite fantastic in all honesty. The issue I have is purely a personal one. I want my games to be visually pleasing.

BATTLETECH out of the box.

The cool thing about the game is that you don’t need much to start playing BATTLETECH. You can use proxies, such as tokens or standees, to represent your ‘Mechs which you can move around on a paper map sheet with the terrain printed on. Since everything’s gridded, you don’t need any rulers. A couple of 6-sided dice is enough. From a playability, budget, and portability standpoint, this is hands down the best way to represent terrain in BATTLETECH. The current starter boxes such as the Beginner Box and the Game of Armored Combat box contain everything you’ll need to play the game out of the box. As I said, that’s great!

Battletech 2D Terrain
A Wolverine hiding from a Griffin.

My take on BATTLETECH terrain

If, however, you’re like me, and coming from traditional miniature-wargaming, rather than board games, “realistic” terrain is just as important as the game itself and painted miniatures.

Inspiration first!

Prior to planning my terrain pieces, I needed some inspiration. Thus, I browsed quite extensively through Pinterest, google, and YouTube. Sometimes, I found some great looking terrain pieces here and there. More often than not, I came across these plastic and 3D printed hexagonal tiles, which was not what I had in mind with my BATTLETECH terrain. My idea is to take the more traditional crafting route using foam an cardboard and other materials.

Playability vs. Immersion

The abstract representation of terrain in hexagons is the most convenient and quick way to play. But, to really immerse yourself in the battlefield, 3D terrain adds that, well, 3rd dimension to your miniature world.

All of my terrain needs to be modular and flexible, meaning generic. At least to a certain extent. I plan my terrain pieces in a way they can be used in combination with BATTLETECH 2D terrain.

I am a huge fan of hexagonal playing grids. Hence, clearly marked out hex grids are firmly rooted within my design choices.

Crafting Terrain for BATTLETECH

That’s what I decided in January this year to be my main hobby project for 2024.

In short, here’s a list of terrain pieces:

As I’m progressing throughout the year, I’ll publish the corresponding tutorials one by on on our blog and link them on this page.


My 1st 3D terrain pieces for BATTLETECH

To me, this terrain poses the most challenges in a way that I want this BATTLETECH terrain feature to be as modular and flexible as possible. That’s why I’ll tackle this first! I want the trees to be used on a regular map sheet, on which woods are defined directly on paper, be it with text or a drawing. But, I also need my trees to work on a blank mapsheet or on my planned gaming board. For this, I’ll need some sort of bases in colors or textures to differentiate the two kinds of woods. I’ll use my existing map sheets to define the quantity and configuration of the tiles: ranging from 1 to 4 hexes maximum.  Both should be used together or separately. I also use different colors and shapes for light and heavy woods, respectively.


BATTLETECH 3D Terrain Hills

I had enough leftover high-density XPS foam and decided to use it for BATTLETECH hills. This foam will allow for fine rock textures on the sides. The height of 2 cm to me is just about right for hills. I’ll have to experiment with textures in foam prior to producing lots and lots of hills. The  top should be covered in a mix of sand and fine, not too bright, turf. As mentioned earlier, I want the hex lines to be visible in the end.


At this stage, I’ll have enough different terrain elements to populate an entire hex board. I might make two halves and double-sided: grasslands and desert, the two classic BATTLETECH landscapes to play on. Or something in between like a kind of savanna terrain.


I’ll start with lakes and other small – to medium-sized bodies of water. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of modularity here. The idea is to cut out some “clusters” of hexes out of some (non warping) sheet material, paint it “blue-green-brown-ish,” and coat the whole thing in gloss varnish. Deeper water should also be darkened accordingly. Maybe I’ll add some markings to define the depth on each hex.

Rough terrain

Rough terrain should be pretty straightforward: glue some small stones and sand to a hex base.


For the roads, I thought I’d go with lots of straight sections of different length and some connecting single-hex tiles to create crossings, bends, and curves. In any case, I’ll stick to a width fitting on 1 hex tile or 1 hexagon edge length.


Battletech 3D Terrain Buildings
I 3D-printed 1 building

In my mind, I envisage most buildings quite generic. Some key buildings may be more detailed. I might also 3D print these. Other than that, I plan to use foam blocks with greeblies glued on. I already printed one and built some from scratch in the past for our games of Horizon Wars.

Optional terrain

Optionally, in the future, I might add some more terrain features, such as fire markers, toxic pools, etc.

That’s it for my take on BATTLETECH 3D Terrain. For now. The first tutorial will cover woods.

Stay tuned!