Pimpcron has been around the block once or twice with terrain. Take his word for it.
Good morning, day, afternoon, or night, you fine people of Earth. There isn’t a day that goes by when people don’t come up to me asking about terrain. They say things like, “Hey you handsome devil, is MDF terrain any good?” or “Can I give you my number in case I have terrain-related questions?”. Sometimes they even say things like, “You know, if we made offspring together, you’d pass down your innate terrain knowledge to them.” It’s all kind of phrased weird, I understand. But that’s how they say it, I write it off as regional dialects.
Anyway, I have owned literally every single type of terrain you can imagine and I can give you all the Pros and Cons of each. I will rank each type of terrain on your typical Scrooge McDuck scale that you see all the time so that you’ll easily be able to tell how expensive this typically is. I will also rate these on the tried-and-true She-Hulk scale of durability and Captain Pike scale of overall good looks. 1 is low, 2 is moderate, 3 is high.
Papercraft is your college buddy: cheap and very accessible, but not much value or substance. Papercraft is where I started in the hobby. It will always hold a dear place in my heart and is possibly the most versatile form of terrain that you can find. Simply print it out, cut it out, and glue or tape it together. Fast, easy, comes in millions of combinations, and incredibly fragile. Great for beginners to the hobby, but not something you want to keep around forever.
MDF is that friend you have that looks great when they’re dressed up for a formal occasion, but only meh otherwise. MDF terrain is probably the best bang for your buck if you are looking for durable, lightweight terrain that is easy to assemble and a good value. The only catch is that some people find it difficult to paint MDF terrain if it has lots of really flat edges. Many manufacturers get around this by etching bricks or damage into the flat sides to make it easy to paint and dry brush.
Resin is your grandfather’s old car. Heavy and durable, but costs a lot to work on. Resin terrain is by the far the most durable if it is solid, and it also has significant weight. It also has great detail built into in most cases, which makes it super easy to paint. The drawback here is the cost. Resin is much more expensive to make terrain out of than other materials, so that increases the price for obvious reasons.
Plastic is like fancy restaurants, great if you can afford it, but otherwise a rich-persons game. Plastic terrain may be the best option overall, with the exception of value. It is lightweight, durable, and is easily assembled, plus it has tons of detail. But buying an entire table’s worth of plastic terrain is going to leave you with only one kidney. You can get a quarter of a table’s worth of MDF terrain for the cost of one plastic kit. But it very easy to use.
Foamcast terrain like, well, if you cast foam in the shape of the terrain. Does that make sense? It probably should. This is a terrain type you don’t see every day. It was popular with GW a long time ago and they made some great sets with this material. It is a weird type of durability. It won’t break when you drop it because of the lightweight, but general use will find paint rubbing off it. Generally speaking, vacu-formed foam terrain is fairly low-cost but they are not very prevalent. Their detail isn’t bad though, but constant usage will have it showing wear quickly.
So in conclusion, Paper is good for a start, MDF is probably the best value, Resin is a good middle ground, Plastic is the best overall detail, Foamcast might be the most average in every category except prevalence. There is no right or wrong answer here, the biggest limit to what terrain you have is probably budget. As a good rule of thumb, if you own a table full of plastic terrain, you’ve finally made it in this world. Congratulations, rich boy.
What is your preferred type of terrain?