Wednesday, September 03, 2014

GenCon Infinity Gaming Tables

As those of you interested in the game no doubt already know, Infinity made quite a splash at GenCon last month. Their brand new IceStorm starter set sold out before the convention ended, with their limited edition figures going much quicker than even that. They hosted a few seminars, teasing at upcoming releases as well as the general direction the game and its aesthetics will be taking, and all of these things contributed to a general sense that Corvus Belli and Infinity were "getting it," and about to take off to the next level of popularity.

But amidst all of these shinys (and I'll admit I came home with stuff I had no immediate purpose for), what impressed me the most was the quality of the numerous tables set up to run demos, tournaments, and other events throughout the convention. I believe all of the terrain was provided by Warsenal, which, up until GenCon, I had seen as just another producer of yet more flat, uninspiring laser-cut MDF terrain. But I came away really impressed. Whether this is because Warsenal is just that much better at getting compelling designs out of layered MDF, or because all terrain products offered by such producers can look just as good when painted well and used as just another tool in terrain design, I'm unsure (though I'm heavily leaning toward the latter presumption).

These first two tables represent the most basic set-ups I saw, consisting entirely, or nearly entirely, of MDF terrain, and I think the difference in aesthetic appeal is most apparent.  While generally using the same kinds of pieces, the first table, uses a dramatic color scheme to both disguise any "flatness" in the buildings as well as to create a consistent theme across the board.
The second board uses pieces that are just as skillfully airbrushed, but the varied palette makes each building and terrain item appear much more as a one-off piece and so, instead of benefiting from the ability to blend into a cohesive whole, any shortcomings in the design of the buildings is more readily apparent.  Unfortunately, this is what most gaming tables look like.
This third table I see as the next step in the evolution from the pink table, above.  The terrain is still only MDF pieces, but a few additional colors have been brought into the scheme and just as skillfully applied, and, more importantly, the buildings are arranged in a way that tells something of a story.  I think this contributes to the "cohesive whole" suggested above, which in turn provides a character the individual buildings may not have on their own.
Finally we get to this table, which I think is the perfect representation of using these MDF kits as just another tool in creating great looking terrain. Here, by contrasting the buildings against the organic shapes of the rock formations and trees, I think the blockiness of the buildings is actually an asset aesthetically.  The painting and weathering on the buildings doesn't hurt either.
Of course, you could just use MDF kits to build terrain that specifically benefits from squared shapes and minimal relief detail, such as a pre-fab style base like this one.  In fact, this was my favorite board of all those used in the Infinity gaming area.  Not ideal for gaming, I'm sure, the tight corridors, piles of gribblies, and spectacular painting made this a really compelling piece to look at.
Speaking of painting, I'll leave you with a close-up of one of the painted Warsenal pieces. I think there's no question that making these kinds of terrain kits look their best requires a style of painting that forces the perception of texture and detail that isn't actually there. The Warsenal painters seem to excel at this, not only through their use of modulation on flat surfaces and source lighting, but in the use of weathering and hyper-exaggerating highlights.  Look at the white edge hightlighting on this green piece for example.  When skillfully done, this approach goes along way towards transforming these pieces from just simple wooden boxes.

Others in my occasional Infinity gaming group were similarly impressed, so hopefully it's just a matter of time before I'm able to start showing my own attempts to replicate the effects discussed above!