Our Background:
We are three guys in Boston interested in all kinds of games, and in this case miniature based wargames.
We are fascinated by technology and a question in our minds was "How can we innovate wargaming terrain and table design to make a more immersive and interactive gaming experience?"

Our answer to this is what we call 'Augmented Terrain'.

Meeting Penny Arcade at PAX EAST:
For PAX East in March 2011 we built a dock table for Warmachine called 'Clockwork Cove' that included smoke effects, RGB LED lighting in buildings and terrain, LED searchlight pieces, with RFID cards & scanner to trigger all of these effects using an Arduino Microcontroller in a central building. In our group we have collectively over 15 years of model making experience, so it also fit into an aesthetically pleasing Steampunk Harbor theme very well.

When Penny Arcade Mike saw the display, he asked how he can go about commissioning a project for his gaming group. 
After some discussions, the plan was to build a table, ship it out to Seattle in August, then fly out to PAX Prime with the terrain to complete the delivery. This is the story of how we built (and delivered) it.

Project Requirements:
Modular Board: 2' x 2' squares that can be reoriented and rearranged for many combinations
Modular Terrain Height: They wanted a way to change the terrain height. We came up with an approach not tried before in wargaming.
Corvis-Themed: Mike's gaming group was playing through a Privateer Press RPG set in a city called Corvis. They liked the theming and used this was the compass for art direction. Corvis is at the junction of three rivers and used to be a farming city. It is famous for a large University and has been at the center of many conflicts when different armies occupy the territory. Over time the city has fallen into great disrepair and depression, especially since the wet, unstable ground has allowed many buildings to become unstable and slowly sink into the ground. There is a vast underground network of tunnels and chambers of the old city.
Lights: We knew we wanted to include LEDs in the terrain  and buildings, in a modular way so that each feature can operate independently of the table configuration for the scenario.

Even if the undercity was not a playable part of the board it needed to have the feeling that something was lurking under the streets
We wanted to create a sense of depth. Although the playable surface can be flat, we wanted to add a 3D effect. We found images which were representative of the look and feel of Corvis. These guided many of our decisions.

Concept Generation:
We started by sketching and brainstorming. We made scale index cards with the terrain drawn on it to see how it works when they are shuffled and rearranged. After we came up with the terrain inserts idea we made a Solidworks CAD assembly. 

Dont forget that your local gaming store is still one of the best places to present and discuss ideas. Carry around a small notepad in case you ever get an inspired idea and dont feel silly about considering the 'wrong idea' because you never know when that thought process may lead to the 'right idea'.

Extra Links:
Mike was so happy with how the table turned out that he posted a feature on the Penny Arcade Homepage.
Also feel free to check out our facebook page
For information on what other members of the warmachine community thought check out our thread on Privateer Press

Step 1: Base Table Board Quarters

The base design is centered around floorboards. These are pressed cardboard with some wood pattern coating

These are relatively inexpensive, extremely stiff and do not warp. They are also very light, easy to cut with a circular saw, and very thin.

MDF (medium density fiberboard) is a common material people use but is not any cheaper, extremely heavy, the dust from cutting can be cancerous to inhale, and the porous nature of the material means that if it gets wet it will cultivate mold. Simply put, the floorboards are a great balance of all of these requirements.

Tools Used:
Power Drill (preferably 2)
Circular Saw
Power Sander

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Bio: We are three guys in Boston interested in all kinds of games, and in this case miniature based wargames. We are fascinated by technology and ... More »
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