Holiday Terrain Features

Michael O. Varhola

A source for gaming models and accessories that gamers should be aware of is craft stores in general-and craft stores during post-holiday sales in particular. In the days following Christmas, such stores are eager to dump seasonal stock to make room on their shelves for incoming product, and gamers can benefit as a result. 

Over the years, I have picked up lots of such models, and some of my most prized acquisitions have included bags of 25mm/30mm snow-covered pine trees, buildings of various sorts, and other useful terrain features, all at a fraction of their regular prices. Venues we have gotten good deals at include Michaels craft stores, Hobby Lobby, and even Kmart. 
One of the best deals we have gotten was on a purchase of four ceramic buildings at a Michaels craft store from its own "Bethlehem Village" collection (alternately referred to as "Fig Village" pieces on their packaging). These normally retail for $9.99 apiece, but we managed to pick them for just $2.99 apiece! A mere $12 for four models that can serve, alone or with other models, as the basis of a village, ruined fortress, or any number of other things is a deal we were unable to pass up. (Details on the Fig Village House with Stairs, shown above, include usefulness as a multi-level gaming prop and a fountain with a lion-faced spout. It is shown here with some of our own Orcs of the Triple D eath for perspective.)
These models are eminently suitable for use as generic village buildings, especially those that might be found in a desert environment or as part of a ruin, for a wide variety of roleplaying or tabletop miniatures gaming. My own preference is for the d20/Dungeons & Dragons system, and an examination of these models evoked all sorts of ideas for Hide, Search, Spot, Knowledge, and other skill checks that can be used in conjunction with them during the course of a gaming session. Indeed, lots of nice little details make them especially suitable for fantasy role-playing games, including baskets of fruit, jugs in a variety of sizes, windows with pulled-back curtains, plants, baskets, rugs, trees, broken-out and intact windows, and bas relief trim on some of the walls. There are even holes and a skylight in the roof of the one of the buildings. 
Just as important as these model's nice features is that they do not have any of the holiday details-such as wreaths, candy-canes, snow, or the like-that would make them unsuitable as general gaming props.
Also, three of buildings appear to have been constructed around the remains of 15-foot-square towers, making them ideal for use as the remains of a small, four-towered keep. One of them even has a gate attached to it that can be assumed to have been the original entrance to such a fortification. 
Naturally, these buildings can also perform double duty as part of Christmas or Easter displays, in accordance with their original intent. 
A potential downside of these buildings is their ceramic construction, which makes them a bit more delicate than many gaming props. I discovered the hard way that picking them up by any of their thinner pieces is likely to break them. I also learned, however, that they are easily repaired with a bit of household glue.
I was not able to find any of these items on the Michaels website, presumably because of their seasonal nature, and so do not know if there are actually more than four in the series. If there are, however, you can be sure I will pick them up-either once they are re-released for the holiday season or after they go on sale following it. And they are just one example of the great gaming props you can find at craft stores and get good deals on at the end of the holiday season!
Pictured here is the Fig Village House with Breezeway. It is shown on a Chessex Megamat with 1-inch squares.
The Fig Village House with Large Tree can serve as an ideal dwelling for an alchemist, healer, or other spellcaster. It is occupied at present, however, by some of our Orcs of the Triple Death.
This Fig Village Inn with Archway, shown here, is one of the nicest pieces in the collection and can serve as a versatile gaming prop.
(Three of these buildings appear to have been constructed around the remains of 15-foot-square towers, making them ideal for use as the remains of a small, four-towered keep. They are shown here on a Chessex Megamat with 1-inch squares for scale.)