These two things are in many ways opposites, and a proper balance between the two must be achieved for good terrain. Everyone has their own opinion on where that balance point should be. We here at 18Charlie generally lean more towards the practical side of the spectrum than the realism side since we make terrain intended to be used in games. Wherever possible we try to strike a balance between the two, but we often find ourselves changing our initial (and often more ‘realistic’) designs drastically to fit the tabletop.
To make these latest set of buildings we had to make a lot of modifications to the design to make them more game play friendly. Since they were intended to be used as Tau buildings they were originally supposed to have domes on top. Unfortunately domes are very hard to play with since models tend to fall off of them. Consequently we went with a much more flattened (and therefor more blocky looking) design style. In the interests of uniformity we have carried the blocky look into the balconies as well. This gives the structures a more coherent appearance, but does greatly lessen the Tauishness of them.
The structure on the left represents the more realistic approach to the problem with a domed top on the building. The one on the right is the more playable version of the same structure with the dome flattened out for maximum playing surfaces. This provides a space large enough for vehicles to be placed on the roof without having them fall off.
We have additionally chosen to make the parapets of the structures very wide. This allows us to place models on the parapet itself, which allows for some more flexibility within the game. Playing games on a table with very large structures creates multiple levels of play and the ability to move from the roof of one building to the roof of the next becomes very important. This has a lot to do with building placement, but having wide flat parapets makes it much easier to place models too.
Ultimately whoever is making a piece of terrain must decide for themselves where that proper balance point is for them and the way they play games. No matter what you choose to do some will love it and some will hate it!