A few days ago I received the set that I REALLY wanted in the first place - the 81862 30th Anniversary set from 2002.
For some inexplicable reason Marklin only do their starter sets these days - big or small - as German Era I/II or US steamers. Great, if that's you're thing, but not too cool if you want a more recent layout (as I do). Not only was the old set a draw because of the Era IV electric loco and generous rolling stock included (6 cars in total), but the track layout includes 3 electric turnouts and one electric double slip. In comparison to the very much bare bones starter kits like the 81560, this is a LOT more interesting!
I'm still some time away from doing a proper layout... looking at doing a small suitcase layout to hone my skills - it's been a while! - before tackling a larger 600mm by 1500mm (2'x6') custom-cased layout based on the KC Cornish layout at ZTrack, your typical post war German layout. Ideally I'd like to have it completed in time for exhibition next year at our local Model Hobby Expo...
Until then, I needed some way to set up the track properly so I could run the trains... a simple small oval works ok on the table but with points and wires everywhere I really needed to get a board and mount things properly. I ended up getting a 1200mm x 600mm (roughly 4'x2') sheet of MDF, elevated with two chunks of hardwood to keep the wiring off the floor, etc. I didn't have any track nails, so the track is held in place with thin hookup wire, looped over a tie then twisted and secured with tape at the other end. It's not perfect but it stops everything from falling off when moving around the board. Wiring in the power and turnouts took a while but it all works great now and is a lot of fun, even without scenery and structures.