Painting models is already a time-consuming process. You know what’s equally time-consuming? Making terrain. That’s why I’ve always preferred BattleTech’s hex maps so you don’t have to do anything: just buy the map and you’re ready to go. But dedicated tabletop wargamers just aren’t satisfied with hexagons on a piece of paper (or neoprene if you get those fancy BattleMats). They want the real, miniaturized terrain. A few trees and hills aren’t too big of a task, but a full-fledged urban combat setting takes as much time to make as a whole regiment of ‘Mechs.
You could take the time to create a whole city’s worth of buildings and roads, or you could just buy the HEXTECH Battlefield in a Box: Trinity City set from Thunderhead Studios and Gale Force 9 Games.
According to Thunderhead, the Trinity City buildings all come courtesy of Christopher Wailes. He got the idea a few years ago after his ‘Mech force was “devastated by cheap shots” (ie. long-range firepower) “when the flat hex map provided woefully inadequate buildings for protection.” Sounds like a tactical problem to me. But rather than change those tactics, Wailes vowed to create a dense urban jungle of pre-painted buildings that anyone could readily add to their tabletop games and hex maps. A few years later, Wailes and Thunderhead Studios have given us HEXTECH and these painted models.
Gale Force 9, the makers of HEXTECH, was kind enough to send me an example of Wailes’s work. The Wave 1 box for Trinity City includes two condos, two corporate offices, two Trinity City Police Department precincts, two university buildings, two Trinity Estates, and a single Justice Tower that dwarves the rest of them. Prices range from $30 USD to $40 USD, and each building comes fully painted with a removable felt base that makes these buildings easy to slot onto a hex map or a flat tabletop.
As you can see from the photos, what you see on the box is pretty much exactly what you get in real life. The boxes even have helpful photos that show either a 100% or 90% image of what’s contained inside. There was a ton of bubble wrap that had to be removed, but this just ensured that each building arrived without any knicks or scratches. Be careful with your exacto knife as you extract these buildings from their bubbly prisons.
Each building is made of flex resin and seems extremely sturdy, so I wouldn’t be worried about accidentally breaking one. That said, they’re also pretty heavy, so try not to knock one onto your minis unless you want some realistic battle damage.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an urban combat map handy to showcase how these buildings ought to be used, but I did have a BattleMat to showcase how these hex bases fit. As you can see, the bases have been carefully measured to exactly match the dimensions of BattleTech‘s hexagons. The bases are removable, so you can play without them if you prefer to measure your shots by hand.
I did notice that a few of the bases for these buildings didn’t exactly line up with the shape of the building itself. This certainly didn’t affect gameplay at all, but it did make a few buildings seem a bit wobbly. The handy among you could easily carve out the bases to better match the buildings to solve that particular issue.
The buildings themselves are perfect. They’re all highly detailed with roofs that have little air conditioning boxes and tiny fans for recirculating air inside. The precincts have large hatches for where tiny police hovercars would park, and you can see tiny little steps leading to the Justice Tower’s helipads. There are a few extremely minor painting errors, but nothing that detracts from the overall presentation. (Note: The fans don’t actually move and the hatches don’t actually open. They’re just painted details modeled into the building.)
There’s enough space for pretty much every ‘Mech to jump onto every building, except possibly the Trinity University buildings. If you’re hopping around with a particularly large ‘Mech–like say, the Marauder II–you might not have trouble fitting your 100-ton keister up there. Then again, I’m not sure any building would hold up under an extra 100 tons on the roof.
Overall, the Trinity City box seems like a great addition to any tabletop game that’s looking to add an urban combat setting with absolutely zero painting or assembly required. All you gotta do is get these buildings out of their protective coverings and you’re ready to fight.
You can head over to the HEXTECH site here (courtesy of Gale Force 9 Games) to order your “battlefield in a box.” Most of the buildings come in pairs, except for the Justice Tower which comes alone (it’s the biggest of the bunch). I’ve listed the prices (in USD) and links below for your convenience.
- Justice Tower – $30
- Trinity Estates – $35
- University – $35
- TCPD Precincts – $40
- Corporate Offices – $35
- Condos – $35
And if you were looking for more, Gale Force 9 offers a whole range of HEXTECH buildings and constructs, although they’re not fully painted like the Trinity City boxes. There’s the Trinity City Community Center, luxury condos, office towers, “affordable” apartments (3000 C-bills a month for 200 square feet is a steal!), a corporate plaza, turrets, city streets and highways, and more. There are even city walls and turrets if you fancy your urban environment to be more of a fortress. Keep in mind that these would need to be painted like any other miniature. Head on over to Thunderhead’s site for more.
Initially, I’d just been given HEXTECH’s first wave to review, which is why it might’ve sounded like I was wrapping things up in the earlier paragraph. But it turns out there’s actually more to this HEXTECH thing! After the buildings arrived in the mail, Thunderhead Studios sent me a bunch of terrain pieces called the Trinity City Wave 2, including the Atlean Stepps and Highways. The Steppes are perfect for placing ‘Mechs atop so they can shoot with the high-ground advantage. The tiles are outlined on the flat bits, although the bases are not, so you’ll have to do some eye-balling if you plan to use these Steppes on a hex map. Using these on non-hex maps is easier since the base is designed to look more like terrain than a hexagonally-shaped hill.
The Highways come in a variety of pieces that make creating your own designs easy. You can place several tiles next to each other to create a four-lane highway, or you can have them branch off to create an intricate downtown core. Each piece is textured with bumps so you could theoretically use these on inclined surfaces and still place your units without fear of having them slide around. Because the Highways use the same hex grid base as the Trinity City buildings, it’s easy to slot those buildings right next to the highway pieces to create some really cool urban combat zones.
While the Steppes seemed pretty solid, the Highways are likely a tad more fragile. They do bend a bit, but I’m certain if you bend them too much they’ll break along the convenient hex grid pattern they all come with. Treat these highways with care and be sure to store them where they won’t suffer any torsional forces.
Be careful with the Steppes too! Although they may look solid, they’re actually resin-coated foam. I managed to crack one of them through my own negligence and then tried to repair the cracked resin using superglue. Turns out that superglue actually melts the foam, so now my slight repair job has turned into a somewhat more major repair job. Good thing I’ve got some crafty friends up for a challenge.
As with the Trinity City pieces, head over to HEXTECH’s site for the Wave 2 terrain pieces. The Trinity City Highways comes with ten fully-painted highway pieces that are largely straight, while the Trinity City Highway Intersections comes with ten fully-painted pieces that curve or have intersections in various orientations. The Atlean Steppes box comes with four fully-painted hills of varying sizes.
Once again, I’ll list these new boxes below for your convenience.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.