Return of a Classic: Geo-Hex Battlescape21 Jun 2017 0
Well color me stupid: Geo-Hex Battlescape is back, and has been since late 2014, alive and well, living on eBay. If you recall in last week’s mini-tome I mentioned a paint company that duplicated the old Geo-Hex terrain colors, both grass and desert. Likewise, other terrain makers such as Battlefield Terrain Concepts also produced their wares to match the same look. Yes, it was popular.
So, less than a day after the article was published, an advertisement for Geo-Hex popped up on my Facebook account. Following a few seconds of stark terror wondering how Facebook knew this stuff, I immediately said to myself, “I thought these guys were dead?” Not so much.
With that in mind it struck me that if I wasn’t aware of the firm’s return, likely a lot of other tabletop players weren’t either. I go to all the big conventions in the US and haven’t seen the product sold for years, except in occasional flea markets. I’ve also not seen the terrain listed in any online catalog I frequent, and I frequent quite a lot. Certainly it’s time to get reacquainted.
What is Geo-Hex?
Back in 1986 Kieren P Rohan trademarked a modular terrain product called Geo-Hex Battlescape, something that would become the darling of the miniature wargaming community for years. Then in about 2006 the company disappeared and was not heard of again for eight years. Some pointed to divorce as a reason, but Rohan had a more simple and likely explanation, saying “I took eight years off to go to work at a real day job for good pay and benefits. Now that I have retired, I'm making terrain again, but in a laid back manner.”
The Geo-Hex system is a series of 12 inch hexagonal, expanded polystyrene tiles painted a grassy green or desert brown and flocked with the equivalent of Woodland Scenics grass or desert mix turf. The tiles can come with either roads or streams/rivers etched, painted and textured into the surface at various locations. For BattleTech Sci-Fi aficionados a hex on hex variant is available in that the tiles are overlaid with a light hexagon template blended into the surface for play amongst Kerensky and the Clans. The tiles can be linked together by small, plastic triangular clips that push into slots at each point of the hex, securing everything together. The whole system is geomorphic in that the tiles can be repositioned to produce a wide variety of road and waterway networks. And while a bit bulky, the terrain is very, very light to transport.
That, however, is just the basic package. Also available are half hexes and edges to both hexes and the “pocket” formed where three hexes are linked together. These often have a slope to represent hillsides and valleys, as well as drop-off edging painted to give the impression of a cliff. The idea is to stack the tiles with the bottom layer representing flat ground and the next with slope type edges to suggest hills or high ground. Rounding out the product line are a custom set of formally designed hill tops and slopes to fill in where the tiles might not work as well. In the past there were also some accessories such as terrain blankets using the same color and flocking, but these no longer seem to be available.
Now many amongst you might think “so what,” but remember that tabletop miniature gaming is very much a visual hobby. The game needs to look right to be both serious and fun. However, when you need to deploy trenches, ravines, mountain passes, rivers with steep slopes or cliffs, a flat terrain sheet just doesn’t work. Even now I have a drop dead gorgeous Italian bridge I can NOT use because it traversed a gorge in real life and you now need that real estate the tabletop as well to set it up. Geo-Hex comes to the rescue by allowing the scenario designer to take slope edged terrain tiles and position them on either side of a path intended to be a ravine or trench line, etc. Placing some sort of terrain covering (one gamer I know uses photo negative film cut into strips for streams) in the resulting flat space between the Geo-Hex tiles now gives you the very look you need for the sunken road at Antietam or the railroad cut at Gettysburg.
It should be noted that, BattleTech and road/shallow stream textures excepted, the concept here is not to use the hex tiles as movement regulators or terrain boundaries themselves, but to serve as a base platform for other terrain. This sets Geo-Hex apart from other, similar systems such as the GHQ Terrain Maker product line where their tiles can be both movement regulating and indicate unique terrain (eg, a vineyard hex). Besides these tiles are quite small (four inches) and really meant for micro-armor or other tiny toy soldiers.
Likewise, you could slap a sheet of appropriate material on the board and carve out, paint and texture a lot of this stuff yourself, but this is time consuming and often this means you have a wonderful looking terrain map good for one specific battle, and not one skirmish more. My best bud Bruce Weigle does this for his later 19th Century European battle presentations (I mean, the man was out taking aerial photographs before Google Earth was even a glimmer), but he is a very talented exception. For my money, Geo-Hex is a much better alternative.
Right now, Geo-Hex is only available via an online eBay store and the product line is somewhat limited. However, the Geo-Hex Facebook page indicates more selections are coming and special orders are always welcome. The good news is that price includes postage and the customer feedback is through the roof interstellar with nary an exception, as in five stars across the board. Here is the shopping list for now.
- Geo-Hex Wargame Terrain Gamescape Set Green Flock - $ 125.00 US, 58 pieces to include 24 exes and half hexes, 34 contour shapes, 24 contour locks and a bag of green repair flock. Covers 22 square feet.
- Geo-Hex Gamescape Mountainscape Expander Set Green Flock - $ 55.00, 13 pre-made mountain pieces and 6 half and quarter tiles.
- Geo-Hex Gamescape Riverscape Set - $ 120.00, 17 full hexes and 4 half hexes.
- Geo-Hex Wargame Terrain Gamescape Set Desert Flock - $ 120.00, same contents as Green Flock set above.
- Geo-Hex Gamescape Road Expander Set Desert Flock 1" wide road - $ 120.00, 18 full hexes of which 16 are flocked both sides (roads on the reverse), plus additional slope pieces to include two with roads.
I don’t use Geo-Hex myself, but given the enormous popularity it once had, that well may be a lick on me. Suffice it to say if you are an old user of Geo-Hex, you just found a new happy place. If you are new to the concept and product line, it’s high time you introduce yourself. Highly recommended.