Terrain building as a book on Kickstarter
Today we look at our blog in a slightly different direction away from boardgames. As with many others, I am mainly stuck in the matter of tabletop terrain or model building with its numerous facets. If you are interested in this topic, you can find numerous tutorials and instructions on the internet on how to get started with terrain building. Most of the time, all you need is some cardboard, a cutter knife and wood glue and the fantasy battle can take place on a real landscape and no longer on the barren tabletop. When searching for tutorials, especially on Youtube, one quickly stumbles across a name: Tabletop Lenny.
His videos on the subject of terrain modeling are probably among the most professional that you can find on Youtube. On the one hand, in terms of the models themselves, but also the way they are staged in the videos. In addition to his Youtube channel, he runs a store on Etsy and is also on Instagram and Facebook with many great pictures of his terrain pieces. Soon the very successful Kickstarter of his book Miniature Terrain Making - Vol. 1 will end. Whether there is still time for a Warhammer battle I could discuss Philipp aka Tabletop Lenny in more detail in an interview.
How should I address you?
Phillip is definitely correct, Lenny is definitely better known. There is quite a funny story behind the name. Back when we were young, we came up with the idea - admittedly not quite soberly - of reviving "Ein Schloss am Wörtersee". Lenny Berger is the main protagonist there. The name then stuck with me and when I started my first blog on the subject of tabletop, the name was fixed for me.
How did you get into the hobby?
That must have been in the mid-90s. I already read a lot of fantasy back then and also played DSA from time to time. One of the first games that included small terrain pieces like a tower was Claymore Saga - I thought that was very cool back then. But that didn't really have anything to do with Tabletop. An friend of mine took me to his hobby cellar at some point. There they played fantasy chess on a ping pong table. On one half of the table 40k was played and on the other half Warhammer Fantasy was played - at that time with metal figures. I found that totally funny, there were already small terrain pieces like fir trees and polystyrene bunkers built on the table.
And how did the leap to model making come about?
When we played back then, there was no one around who really wanted to build terrain. Since I had always had fun building as a child, that was the right moment for me to start. As a student there was also plenty of time. So I started to glue things together like a maniac, mostly with Styrofoam, because Styrodur didn't exist yet. I got the first terrain compendium from the Fantasy Shop in Recklinghausen and was totally fascinated by it and started to build the terrain pieces out of styrofoam and putty. With an old transformer I built my first hot wire cutter.
Are you still playing now, too, or are you building more?
I'm building a lot more, right now also through Corona, but in between the thought of playing more often comes up at the moment. I don't have a real fixed playgroup at the moment.
Do you play regular boardgames?
Not at the moment either, but I used to play board games like Settlers of Catan or Risk. My favorite boardgame is actually Scotland Yard. At the moment we have a small Teamspeak table where we play some stuff like Terraria or Forged Alliance online. Mostly on Saturday evenings, when all the kids are in bed.
How does the Corona situation affect your work?
I still have a store on Etsy and there it had a big impact. Due to the pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service got extremely confused - there were many failures and extreme delays, some of which are still ongoing today. If you don't send the goods with Priority, everything goes by sea and that takes between six and eight weeks. One can only hope that this will slowly improve again. For this reason, I have now set a slightly higher shipping costs for the Kickstarter, but the things then come via air including tracking. A piece of it is probably also the policy with responsible, since with the post office under the last American president extremely much was saved. That was the most direct effect.
Do you often build custom requested terrain pieces?
I did that more intensively for a while, but now actually not at all. This is partly because I have had the plan with the book for a long time and ultimately the terrain pieces are also too valuable to me personally. In addition, I often have to rephotograph things for videos or the book. In addition, the projects such as the jungle game board should also continue to grow. The is still small at the moment, but should eventually grow to 4x4 and ultimately to the 4x6 board size.
Where does the jungle style in many of your terrain pieces come from?
This actually started some time ago with a requested work. I built a pyramid of lizardmen with a small set of jungle objects for a client. This got me more into this theme and then I started building modular terrain pieces for it. Jungle, Pirates/Caribbean and Lizardmen is a very own style in the fantasy world - there is something in almost every system. But at the moment it's not as popular as it used to be.
Do you do social media (2 homepages, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, Patreon) completely on your own?
Ich mache das zusammen mit meiner Frau. Die macht das Grafikdesign, aber das eigentliche Betreiben der Plattformen mache ich selbst. Auch die Videos für Youtube schneide ich selber. Das ist alles schon sehr zeitintensiv, aber man muss natürlich auch die Kanäle bespielen um die Leute zu erreichen.
Now we have then thought about whether one does not make a fancy book about tabletop terrain. I've actually had this thought for a very long time and always wonder why there isn't more on this topic. I was a little disappointed that Games Workshop has cut back on articles about terrain building in the White Dwarfe magazines. The old issues were always full to the brim with articles on the subject, but now, unfortunately, only the kits are discussed, which are then glued to a wooden plate if necessary. I always enjoy leafing through the old issues.
Did you expect the book to be funded quickly (on day one) on Kickstarter?
Of course, we thought about it a lot beforehand and asked other people who could support us. At some point I spoke with Michael from (TWS), from whom I really got a lot of helpful tips - especially on the subject of Kickstarter. I am very grateful to him for that. I had never come into contact with Kickstarter before, but in the meantime I have to say that I am positively surprised. Also by the very grateful community. To come back to the question: we didn't expect it, but of course we hoped that it would go well. Our main goal was first to get the 6000 EUR to be able to make the book at all, because a lot of work has gone into it in advance. We celebrated the first day in any case!
Have you also considered publishing the book in the traditional way?
Not really. Of course, I have little idea about normal laying. I think Kickstarter is the more attractive solution for us, especially when it comes to financing. In the run-up, we have also seen with others that it works well via Kickstarter, such as with Mel (The Terrain Tutor) or Michael (TWS).
How can you imagine working on a book like this. Have you already had parts completely finished in advance?
We have already done some tutorials. And there we have already dealt with some questions, e.g.
- How do you build tutorials?
- How do you take photographs for tutorials?
- Which terrain pieces are suitable for tutorials?
How did the collaboration with Michael (TWS) come about?
We've known each other for a while, but the book brought us back into closer contact. Michael gave us really great support. At some point, the idea came up that we work together a little more intensively and he publishes a small article in our book. I think you can already hint that something from us will soon appear in his book.
Are you already planning the second part - Miniature Terrain Making - Vol. 2?
We are now finishing the first part and then want to make a second part. The fascination is definitely there and if this continues to grow and a whole series is created, I have nothing against it. There are so many possibilities with this topic, you can fill a lot of books with it. Unlike the YouTube world, a book like this has a completely different character; you can pull it off the shelf and leaf through it.
Have you had any problems finding a printing house?
Not really. We have a print shop here on site, which is actually what I would prefer. Of course, we can't go out and get quotes until the end of the Kickstarter campaign. If it continues to go so well, there will be a few more pages added to the book.
Do you have another tip for beginners?
Do what's fun. It's best to start with simple little things - I made rocks first, for example. At the beginning, you shouldn't overtax yourself with a big project like Helm's Deep. You can quickly lose interest. There are also different approaches. One builds because he wants to have something on the table quickly, the other because he simply has fun building models.
Do your models come into play with you?
At the moment, of course, not, but when it goes again the models are also played. Mainly I build the models because of the building process. I could of course also go in the direction of dioramas, but I am fascinated by the modular construction, which makes it possible to assemble different scenarios. At the moment, for example, I have this terrain piece with the dead forest, which can be super combined with other terrain pieces. Of course, this is not possible with a diorama. The models can also be developed further - perhaps a nice showroom with lighting will be created at some point. You could then also play with it. When the whole thing with Corona is over, I would like to have an old men's tabletop round - would be nice, then the Lenny comes back to gaming table.