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One Trick to Rule Them All: Amp Up Wargaming with 3D

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

In recent years, 3D modeling technology has made a big impact on the world of tabletop wargaming. With the ability to create highly detailed and customizable 3D models, gamers can now create their own unique armies, terrain, and other gaming accessories. The benefits of using 3D models in tabletop wargaming are numerous, including increased flexibility, better detail and realism, and potential cost savings. In this article, we will explore the world of 3D models in tabletop wargaming, including popular software programs, printing techniques, and future applications of this exciting technology.

Introduction to 3D Models in Tabletop Wargaming

Tabletop wargaming is all about bringing your army to life on the gaming table. One of the most exciting advances in tabletop wargaming technology is the use of 3D models. Now, you can create custom, highly-detailed miniatures for your army, buildings, and terrain all from the comfort of your own computer. With 3D models, the possibilities are endless and the results can be breathtakingly realistic.

What are 3D Models and How are They Used in Tabletop Wargaming?

3D models are digital representations of real-life objects that can be created and manipulated on a computer. In tabletop wargaming, 3D models can be used to create miniatures, terrain, and even entire armies. With 3D modeling software, players can create and customize their own unique miniatures or buildings, or turn existing designs into 3D models. These models can be printed using a 3D printer, or sent to a service that can print the model for you.

Benefits of Using 3D Models in Tabletop Wargaming

The use of 3D models in tabletop wargaming can bring a number of benefits to players. Here are just a few:

Increased Flexibility and Customization

With 3D modeling software, players have complete control over the design of their miniatures or terrain. This means that they can create truly unique models that reflect their own personal style or preferences. Models can be made to order, which means that you won't have to rely on what's available from a miniature manufacturer.

Better Detail and Realism

3D models are made up of many small layers, which means that they can be incredibly detailed. This allows for more realistic models that can be painted to a high level of detail. The high level of detail also means that small details, like armor plate details or insignia, can be more easily represented.

Potential Cost Savings

While the initial cost of purchasing a 3D printer may seem daunting, the use of 3D models can potentially save players money in the long run. Instead of purchasing expensive pre-made miniatures or terrain, players can create their own models at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, players can print models on-demand, which means they won't have to store large inventories of miniatures or terrain pieces.

How to Incorporate 3D Models into Your Tabletop Wargaming Setup

If you're interested in incorporating 3D models into your tabletop wargaming setup, here are some steps to consider:

Choosing the Right 3D Modeling Software

There are many different 3D modeling software options available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some popular options for tabletop wargaming include TinkerCAD, OpenSCAD, Fusion 360, and Blender. Research each option and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Creating 3D Models for Your Gaming Table

Once you have 3D modeling software, you can start creating your own custom miniatures and terrain. Start by creating simple designs and work your way up to more complex models. Look for tutorials or join online communities to learn more about the process.

Integrating 3D Models with Traditional Miniatures

If you already have a collection of traditional miniatures, you may be wondering how to incorporate 3D models into your existing setup. One option is to use 3D models for special characters or units that you want to stand out from the rest of your army. Another option is to use 3D models for terrain or buildings, which can add an extra level of realism to your gaming table.

Popular 3D Modeling Software for Tabletop Wargaming

There are many different 3D modeling software options available, but some are better suited for tabletop wargaming than others. Here are some popular options to consider:


TinkerCAD is a free, web-based 3D modeling software that is easy to use and perfect for beginners. It has a variety of tools and shapes that can be used to create custom models and terrain.


OpenSCAD is a free, open-source 3D modeling software that allows for precise control over the design of your models. It's great for creating complex models or terrain, but requires more technical knowledge than some other options.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a powerful 3D modeling software that is free for personal use. It has a wide range of features and tools that can be used to create detailed models and terrain.


Blender is a free, open-source 3D modeling software that allows for the creation of complex models and terrain. It has a steep learning curve, but is incredibly powerful once you get the hang of it.

Printing 3D Models for Tabletop Wargaming

Tabletop wargaming has taken a giant leap forward thanks to modern technology, and 3D printing has made it even better. With a 3D printer, the possibilities of creating custom models and terrain are endless, allowing gamers to take their games to a whole new level. Before printing, however, choosing the right printer and materials is crucial in order to create high-quality, detailed models.

Choosing the Right 3D Printer

When it comes to selecting a 3D printer for tabletop wargaming, the size and quality of the printer are two of the most important considerations. A printer with a large print bed will allow for larger models and terrain, while choosing a high-quality printer will ensure that the final product has the level of detail required for tabletop miniature gaming. Additionally, knowing what types of materials the printer can use is also important, as this will affect the final appearance and durability of the printed models.

Printing with PLA vs. ABS Materials

When it comes to choosing the type of material to print with, there are two primary options: PLA and ABS. PLA is a biodegradable material made from renewable resources such as cornstarch and sugarcane. It is easy to print with and produces accurate, highly detailed models. ABS, on the other hand, is a petroleum-based material that is more durable and heat-resistant than PLA, making it better suited for creating models that will be handled frequently. Both materials have their benefits, so it's important to choose the one that best fits your needs.

Post-Processing and Finishing Techniques

Once the model has been printed, there are several post-processing and finishing techniques that can be used to enhance its appearance. Sanding and smoothing the model can remove unwanted lines and bumps, while painting the model can make it look more lifelike and unique. Clear coatings and varnishes can be applied to protect the model and add a glossy finish, and decals and other accessories can be added to give the model more character.

Customizing 3D Models for Tabletop Wargaming

One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is the ability to customize models and create unique designs, tailored to individual player's needs and preferences. From kitbashing and converting models to creating entirely new designs, the possibilities for customization are endless.

Kitbashing and Converting Models

Kitbashing and converting models involves taking existing models and modifying them to create unique, original designs. This process involves taking parts from different models and combining them to create a new design or adding and removing details from existing models. This can be a more cost-effective approach than creating entirely new models from scratch.

Creating Your Own Unique Models

For those who want to create entirely new models, 3D modeling software is the key. With software like Blender or Tinkercad, gamers can design and create their own unique models from scratch. Once the model is created, it can be printed using a 3D printer. The ability to create your own models allows for greater creativity and customization in tabletop wargaming.

Future Applications of 3D Modeling in Tabletop Wargaming

Advances in 3D modeling and printing technology mean that the future of tabletop wargaming is exciting and innovative. Here are two potential future applications of 3D modeling in tabletop wargaming.

Improved Integration with Augmented Reality

Augmented reality technology is rapidly advancing and has the potential to revolutionize the way that tabletop wargaming is experienced. By integrating 3D modeling with augmented reality, gamers could see their models come to life in real-time on a digital game board, adding a new level of immersion and engagement to the gaming experience.

Mass Customization and On-Demand Printing

In the future, it's possible that gamers will be able to create and print their own models on-demand, using specialized 3D printing services. This would allow for even greater customization and flexibility, as gamers would be able to print models as they need them, rather than having to rely on pre-packaged sets. Additionally, this could potentially lead to more cost-effective models, as gamers could print specific models rather than buying entire sets just for a few pieces.In conclusion, incorporating 3D models into your tabletop wargaming setup can provide a whole new level of customization and realism to your gaming experience. With numerous software programs and printing techniques available, it's easier than ever to create your own unique models for your gaming table. With the continued advancement of 3D modeling technology, the possibilities for tabletop wargaming are endless. So why not give it a try and see how 3D models can enhance your gaming experience?


Do I need to have any prior experience with 3D modeling to use 3D models in tabletop wargaming?

No, you do not need to have any prior experience with 3D modeling to use 3D models in tabletop wargaming. There are many software programs available that are user-friendly and easy to learn.

What kind of 3D printer do I need to print 3D models for tabletop wargaming?

The type of 3D printer you need depends on the size and complexity of the models you want to print. For smaller models and terrain, a basic desktop 3D printer is sufficient. However, for larger models or terrain, you may need a larger, more advanced printer.

Can I use 3D models in conjunction with traditional miniatures?

Yes, you can use 3D models in conjunction with traditional miniatures. Many gamers enjoy the increased flexibility and customization that 3D models provide, while still using traditional miniatures for their core armies.

Are there any legal issues with using 3D models in tabletop wargaming?

It is important to be aware of copyright and intellectual property laws when using 3D models in tabletop wargaming. Some companies have specific policies regarding the use of their intellectual property, so it's important to research this before using 3D models for commercial purposes.

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