Monday, December 30, 2013

Deadzone (Mantic) Modular Terrain Review

The assembled Deadzone terrain looks good at first glance.
In my last Deadzone unboxing post, I talked about how the modular terrain included in the box was a primary motivator in my decision to purchase the game, due to its ability to be used in a wide variety of miniature games that I currently play.  When I wrote that post I had not yet tried to assemble any of the terrain.  Over the last few days I was able to assemble the majority of what came in the box, only stopping when I ran out of connecting pieces.  I ran into quite a few snags along the way, and wanted to let everyone know about them in hopes it improves other peoples’ experience with the terrain or allows new buyers to be more informed of what they are getting themselves into.

When opening the box, I was rather overwhelmed by the sheer number of terrain sprues. With so many pieces, it was difficult to visualize what I could actually make. After looking at the back of the box, I decided that I would start by just trying to make what was pictured there. They had a nice variety of buildings, towers, and walkways, all of which would be good for games of Deadzone and would familiarize me with their assembly.  As I started cutting out pieces and assembling them, I quickly realized there were not enough pieces to make the terrain displayed on the box.  There are only enough wall panels to make about two thirds of what is on the box.  Worse than this, however, is that they give you far too few of the pieces for connecting the panels together.  There are so few in fact, that you cannot even fully assemble all of the terrain they give you.   Because they give you so few connectors, you are forced to use them sparingly, resulting in terrain that is less sturdy.  The connectors are also prone to breaking when you try to use them; this is especially bad when taking the terrain apart.

If you are not very careful when assembling or disassembling the terrain you can easily break connectors like this. 
The videos Mantic produced about the terrain are a bit misleading, suggesting that it is very easy to construct, fitting together easily and allowing the disassembly and reassembly of the pieces in a multitude of ways.  In most cases, the connecting pieces are so difficult to insert that you need a pliers or other tool with a flat surface to apply more consistent pressure to fit the pieces in with brute force.  However, after assembling my first tower I discovered that trying to force in connectors that were difficult was not wise, even with the help of a pliers.  In this case, if you do force them in, and they do not break (which is unlikely), they tend to not create flush seals between the adjacent pieces.  I found that if the connectors did not snap in relatively easily, it was best to file/cut them down carefully until they did.  In addition to cutting down the connectors themselves,you should also remove any excessive moldlines in the connector slots in the walls themselves.  Furthermore, I discovered that if I was having trouble attaching the connectors on one side, sometimes if I just flipped the piece over and tried to attach the connector on the opposite side, they went in much easier.

If you force connectors into place that have not been trimmed down, it can result in unsightly seams like this one.
Unfortunately, the connectors’  tendency to break makes disassembling the terrain a risky business and, in my mind, not worth it.  If more connectors were provided, I could see arguing for disassembling the terrain between sessions and creating what you need/want for each battle.  But with so few, there is a good chance that you will just break the connectors and not be able to assemble the few pieces you have.  Because of this, I resolved to simply keep together the three buildings that I assembled from the contents of the Deadzone box.

All of the Deadzone terrain I was able to assemble with the provided connector pieces.
To help someone who is attempting to assemble the Deadzone Terrain for the first time, I put together a step by step guide of how I go about the process:

Steps to assembling terrain:

1. Decide what you want to make and remove the pieces.

2. Determine the best position for the connector pieces (since they are limited in quantity), often one per side of a wall, using the opposite position on the other side of the wall for added stability.

3. Attempt to snap in connector using your fingers; if they do not snap in easily sometimes flipping over the piece and trying the other side helps.

4. If the connectors do not go in easily, trim away any excessive moldlines in the holes where the connectors fit, in addition to carefully trimming some plastic away from the connector tabs themselves.  This should allow you to snap the pieces in.

  • Any tool with a flat metal surface is helpful for applying a more consistent force to the  connector, assisting in snapping a difficult connector into place.
  • It is better to trim a connector down a bit, rather than force it into place, as they can break or bend

5. If you wish to take the terrain apart, carefully wiggling the relevant pieces back and forth slightly eventually gets the pieces apart.  You can also use a needle nose pliers or small screwdriver to pop the connectors out by apply pressure to the little nub of the connector inset into the relevant wall piece.

Having put together the terrain, I was quickly able to put the terrain to good use, trying out the Deadzone rules firsthand.
Having assembled all of the buildings I have connectors for, I can say I am happy with the pieces I was able to make, they are sturdy and functional and look quite nice.  The process was quite frustrating however, resulting in many broken pieces and angry words before I determined an effective way to work with the terrain.  Overall, if I was asked if Mantic delivered on their promise of making modular terrain, I would say no.  It is too difficult to assemble and prone to break, especially when trying to take it apart to make something new.  If you are fine with the fact that it is better to just assemble the terrain and keep it as it is, I think you will be happy with it, however.  It does provide relatively inexpensive buildings for a skirmish game that look nice at a glance which are sturdy enough for regular use.  Just so long as you don’t expect to be blown away by their quality, you will probably be satisfied.

-Eric Wier


  1. Thank you for this! I am a bit of a terrain-o-holic, and had been considering the Kickstarter for that reason. Now, I'm glad I didn't.

    I probably will pick up a set or two, but at least I know what I'm getting in for, and won't be disappointed.

    1. I am glad the post helped! If you like terrain, getting a little of it is probably worth it. But it does take a little while to get it together in a way that looks good. But waiting until you can just buy the terrain by itself would probably be better.

    2. Wow, wish I read this yesterday before I bought and built this. I think there are half the connectors needed and they are far too fragile and poor quality plastic. Some missing parts and slight miscasts on the miniatures in my box too.

    3. Sorry to hear about your experience. I was certainly disappointed in the quality and the lack of connectors, which made everything that much more challenging. I hope you were able to make something useful out of it in the end. Apart from the hassle to get it together, I have really enjoyed using what I did assemble in games of Deadzone and Malifaux.

    4. Did you get 1 or 2 sprues of connectors? I think you are supposed to get 2, but I've seen other folks with strike team packages only get one.

    5. I was only given 1 sprue. Two would have been much better, with enough to assemble everything in the box and likely have some extra. Hopefully they start to add an additional one to all the future boxes.