Pre-painted Wargaming Terrain Made in the U.S.A.
Posted by

Creating ZAIBATSU Or….
Cyberpunk Kits, BSS Goals, and an overly-complicated analysis of our thought process to turn on a laser.
By Connor Erickstad

We’re a young company. While we’ve been making terrain for around 5 years now, the whole laser-cut, pre-painted, and (somewhat) mass-produced kits have only been around for about a year. Ben and I (Connor) had been working together for quite a while before we decided to start Black Site Studios and dive headfirst into a life of burned MDF and shrink wrap. Part of reasoning for starting our own company was that we wanted to be in control of the whole process. We wanted to have the ability to make decisions and follow through with them. This included everything from the initial creative side of things to the pricing models used to sell them. While we could talk about this learning process for hours (and sometimes we do – don’t ask questions at any cons unless you have a bit a time), the recent release of our Zaibastu line lends itself for a specific talking point.

Some early inspiration images for the range
Some early inspiration images for the range

When we decide to commit and produce a new line, there’s a ton of reasons why that specific genre or style may have come to rest in our design folders. As Ben mentioned in a previous post, often this is just because we’re playing a game and want to add our own flair and style to the terrain our models are standing on. Sometimes our interests dictate the terrain though. Growing up, I read hard sci-fi and cyberpunk books, watched any movie with a robot or android in it, and built more spaceships out of Lego than I can ever hope to remember. From the initial start of BSS, we talked about designing our own take on the mega-corporations and the world of tomorrow.

Problem is, Infinity is the biggest market share when it comes to futuristic sci-fi 28mm tabletop games. And the terrain that many companies have made for Infinity is, well, made for Infinity. The game itself has evolved a meta mandated by the rules and available terrain to a point where the market is saturated. We didn’t want to start with cyberpunk, because so many other companies have done it so well already. Eventually we decided on a few other routes to help build our foundation in a more controlled, predictable manner.


Initial design work for the DL inc. building

But now its 2019.
We can start expanding and exploring all sorts of genres while still supporting our more popular lines of terrain. We finally have a chance to add to the worlds we grew up reading about and watching flash by on our TV screens, even if they are a niche within a niche. While we’re for sure using our terrain for Infinity, we designed it with all sci-fi and cyberpunk games in mind. We designed it with its own backstory and narrative on hopes to capture some of that mystic that hooked us when we were kids. And teenagers. And last week. (Honestly, my passion for sci-fi just grows stronger every year- the current reality is a bit disappointing when I don’t see replicants as a part of my daily 2019 life.)


As we sketched and brainstormed designs, the stories began to write themselves. Certain styles of building were reminiscent of models we had made before. Certain blurbs in a kit’s description would lend itself to an ominous future. At the end of the day, Dyer Logistics and the Promised Salvation Church more or less forced themselves into this new line.

We know that in the tabletop world, the hierarchy is rules, models, and terrain. Our company is built on a niche within a niche. Zaibatsu or War Zone Arabia is just adding another niche on top of it all; further isolating the models to a specific genre. But for us, we pursue the narrative of not only our models, but the worlds they’re fighting over. We love when a failed dice roll means a model meets an untimely (and hilarious) end. We love terrain that allows a story to unfold in a cinematic fashion.

At our core, we’re in this business to create the opportunity for stories and unpredictable outcomes. We want to add to the genres we love in whatever small way we can. We want to give that small group of us that loves terrain just as much as anything else in this hobby the type of product that can be built and thrown on a table, looking great right out of the box.

This is all the theory at least. At the end of the day, we just push a button and turn a laser on. In a surprising turn of events, my hopes for a machine-overlord infested sci-fi future came about in our shop at least. I’ve never been more a slave to a machine than I am to these dang lasers.

One Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *