Until, of course, I met my friends at the Minions of the Monster Master. You can also check out more mini modeling at Mik's blog. These guys really turned me onto miniatures and modeling in a big way. Since then, I've tried to incorporate minis and modeling in most of my games.
When I ran my Iron Kingdoms game, because I had played a lot of Warmachine, I had a lot of models of the very things the PCs were fighting in the game. It was nice to be able to pull out a carnivean when they fought one and I even painted up a Karchev for them to fight in the final session. And I had the satisfaction of the "moral victory" of putting the right figures in front of the players most nights. "Hey! You're fighting a helljack! It looks...exactly like that!"
Here are a few things that I did for terrain in Dark Heresy. Later, I'll go into the big terrain pieces that I'm putting together for Rogue Trader.
First up, I highly recommend a generic playing surface. These pieces of cobblestone courtyard have worked for me on a number of occasions. Cobblestone is not entirely out of character for 40k. I really wanted to create a more tech-y battlefield surface, but unfortunately my attempts to make one ended up as a disaster. Anyhow, for me, the generic playing surface is used instead of a battlemat. This particular one was bought at Michaels. We don't use squares to measure out distances, we use the good old-fashioned measuring tape.
Here are two other pieces that have come in handy for me. The first is the Star Wars Galaxy Tile set. These pieces are very tech and very sci-fi. The only problem is that you're never going to represent a very large space with these pieces. If I had a do-over, I would have bought two of these sets.
Finally, here's a Dwarven Forge sci-fi set. This particular set is their Sci-Fi Alpha Expansion Set. I love this set because it's very modular. The grey floor pieces can be a dias or just placed on a battlefield to suggest the setting. The columns can be pieces of machinery, computer banks, etc. The same with the stairs. Another useful tip - the columns can hold pieces of Dungeon Tiles on them to suggest catwalks and walkways. The only problem with the Dwarven Forge set, of course, is that it's rather expensive. The Sci-Fi Alpha Expansion alone costs 49 dollars, not including shipping and handling.
That's all for now. Next time, I'll show off the really cool pieces of terrain I'm working on.