Friday, December 26, 2014

Plast Craft Games: Malifaux terrain review

In a quest to find good terrain for Malifaux, I decided to give Plast Craft Games a try.

In a hobby that is focussed around building, converting, and painting model soldiers, it is easy to forgo putting as much effort into creating equally evocative terrain for them to battle over.  But, just like playing with painted models, having them on a carefully constructed gameboard elevates a game immensely.  Thankfully, a wealth of companies have sprung up to produce attractive looking terrain that is easy to assemble, without requiring a huge amount of time investment to get it playable.  For example, Mantic games released a line of buildings that they created for Deadzone that is excellent for most science fiction games. The kits are fairly easy to assemble and largely modular.  There has also been a rise in laser-cut, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) terrain, like Tectonic Craft Studios and Sarissa Precision.  While the material is often very nice, in my experience, it is somewhat hard to work with, particularly if the pieces are not cut out properly.  Recently, I found that Plast Craft Games makes a line of similar terrain that is made out of pre-cut PVC plastic, a medium that promised to be much easier to work with.

I had been vaguely aware of Plast Craft Games due to their line of Infinity terrain, but became extremely interested when I discovered that they had begun making terrain for Malifaux.  I ended up getting the graveyard and downtown walkway sets, to see how they compared to MDF terrain and bolster my sparse fantasy terrain collection.  Each came in a small cardboard box crammed full of sheets of pre-cut PVC.  When hearing that the terrain was made from PVC, I thought of the thick white plastic material used to make pipes.  Instead, the terrain is made from a formulation that is less rigid than the aforementioned pipes, and feels a little like a denser form of foamcore.  I was slightly disappointed in this at first, but after working with it for a little I think it is better for it.  It is much lighter, and far easier to cut and modify then it would have been if it were a hard plastic.  Initially, things can be a bit bewildering, pulling out sheet after sheet of cut PVC, with no included instructions to guide you.  There is a Quick Response (QR) code on the back of the box which brings up their website with pdf documents of the instruction manuals, however.  Although none of the pieces are physically numbered, the instructions clearly show the contents of the box pictorially, and have numbers listed there to aid assembly.

Although the boxes that the terrain comes in are quite small, each kit has a surprising number of parts.

The actual assembly is fairly quick; I was able to put together the graveyard chapel in a dedicated evening (a couple hours).  Most of the pieces popped right out of their respective sheets, something I cannot say about the MDF that I have worked with.  Conveniently, any pieces that are difficult to remove can easily be fixed by taking an x-acto knife and scoring the area that is causing trouble.  If this issue comes up with MDF, it can be very difficult to remove the pieces because you are cutting wood rather than foam/plastic, leading to more broken pieces.  Being able to use the same x-acto knife you are using for your models on the terrain is very convenient.

Each piece is quite well-detailed, although some of it is slightly shallow and ill-defined.

Another nice feature of PVC, unlike MDF, is that you can assemble it using the same glue that you use for your models.  I used a combination of Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and Krazy glue to put the terrain together.  I would dry fit the pieces together, and then add thin cement, allowing the glue to wick into the seams, drying within a minute.  Super glue also works well, although you need to be careful when using it because it cures PVC instantly.  This fact was particularly helpful when assembling the curved sides of the chapel.  The side pieces are straight, requiring you to apply pressure to get them to bend slightly, giving the building its bowed shape.  While the thin cement would work to glue these pieces together, the longer drying time would necessitate holding them together for a prolonged period of time to ensure that they would not slowly start to come apart.  Just adding a small amount of superglue in a few places along the wall pieces fastened them together instantly, maintaining their unique shape.  Afterwards, I was then able to add some thin cement to strengthen the bond.

The finished chapel, ready to be the site of much blood-shed!

The terrain is quite well-detailed, from the stone blocks making up the crypt walls to bas-relief carvings on the tomb stones.  These details are a little shallow, however, but this really does not reduce the visual impact of the models.  Interestingly, although the terrain was made to be used for Malifaux, the scale is a little off, with everything looking oversized.  I think this was intentional, however, to make it easier to use in-game, providing pieces of terrain that block line of sight and make determining whether models are in cover easier.  I played a few short games with the terrain, and it was a joy to use.  Even without a lot of other pieces, it set the tone for the games, adding to the Victorian horror elements of the game.  The terrain is large enough to make a significant impact on the games played with it, making them more meaningful.

Among the tombstones,  time slows as a punk zombie brandishes his damascus steel, intent on finding purchase in the spectral hide of the Nothing Beast.

All told, I am very pleased with Plast Craft’s PVC terrain.  Without a significant investment of time or money, I was able to create some very functional, thematic terrain for my games of Malifaux.  And although it has a lot of similarities to MDF terrain, it is light and significantly easier to work with.  Being able to use all of the same tools that you use for your models to assemble the terrain is a great boon, allowing you to assemble it quickly and get back to playing games or working on models again.  So if you are looking for terrain to augment your games of Malifaux, I would encourage you to give Plast Craft a try!

-Eric Wier


  1. Looking good. Thanks for the review. Although I doubt it will be meaningful for a 40k player the scenery could work with a diorama project for WH Fantasy.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review! I have been enjoying the terrain, although I agree it is probably not as useful for people who strictly play 40k. Plast Craft Games does make some sci-fi terrain for infinity, which might work. Although for me, honestly any terrain is good terrain :)