Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Terrain Boards Pt 1 - Getting started


So you've spent a tonne of time painting an army, hundreds of dollars of miniatures that have been painted and are resplendent with detail. It stands to reason that you should have a lovely battlefield upon which to wage a holy war or a bloodthirsty onslaught. Terrain and games boards are underrated, they really add detail and interest - you've spent so long building and painting a host, it makes sense that they get to play on a sweet battlefield.

There are many methods available to make terrain suitable for tabletop gaming which, depending upon the application, can be great to look at but not easy to work with, or good to work on and look at but very expensive and inflexible. With this in mind the method proposed in this tutorial is based around price, flexibility, simplicity and good aesthetic.

What you'll need

The great thing about this method is the average price, depending on how much you want to spend you can have each game board for around $10. The examples shown in this tutorial were cheap as chips and look great (in my humble opinion). Anyway, back to what you'll need:

PVA Glue (don't buy PVA from specialist suppliers, get the stuff from your local hardware store [they're exactly the same])
Chipboard sheets (the size depends on what you want, the ones used in this tutorial [900 x 450 x 12mm {3' x 1.5' x 1/2"}] are available from most hardware stores pre cut and can be arranged together to make larger boards easily)
A larger, used paintbrush
Plaster or Filler (cheap wood filler is great, tough, fast setting and easily mouldable)
Rocks and/or Gravel
Lots of Cardboard (different thicknesses are handy)
Newspaper (put it under boards you're working on to protect furniture and floors from glue, plaster, paint and the inevitable crud that comes with terrain making)
Stanley/Modelling Knife and Scissors(kitchen shears are the best)
Undercoat spray paint (make sure it's matt spray, not gloss)
Flock, polystyrene, static grass, barrels, walls, barricades or anything else you'd like to add

Getting started

First of all you should have a good work area that isn't in the way and try to make sure it has good circulation (all the different things you'll be using tend to smell when they dry, it's always good to have fresh air when working with glues/paints/solvents etc.). You'll also need somewhere outside that you can spray undercoat each of the boards and you'll need to leave them there to dry.

Once you've set up your work area you can get started. There are a few things you should keep in mind when making your boards -

Storage - How and where are you going to store them? Do you have enough room?

Size - How big do you want them to be, how many will you have, what configurations might you use?

- This relates to storage and strength, if you make tall boards they'll be hard to stack on smaller/tighter shelves. Taller terrain will also break more easily, so its better to make tall terrain items separately (this also aids in flexibility re: desired placement on the battlefield).

Tightness of terrain
- How close do you want difficult ground to be together? Too close and it could makes bigger games difficult, for my boards I've put them mostly in the corners and have limited them to one terrain item per board (this means you can turn them around to make central areas with lots of terrain, evenly dispersed terrain items or a wide plain/valley for bigger pitched battles).

- Boards tend to go together in themed sets, i.e. one particular style of terrain and colour scheme for each set of boards. With this in mind you should choose what style you want before you begin and perhaps try making a small terrain item (a hill, rocky cairn etc.) in said style to see if you like it. The ones in this tutorial are old, bluish, stony battlegrounds with tufts of life clinging to what little arable soil there is. You could do something similar or completely different - lush green pastures with hedgerows, a marsh with rushes and waterlife, snowy drifts criss crossed with lava streams, the mortar scarred remains of a distant planet, a barren desert...the only limit is your imagination.

When you've get everything you need and a place to work you can start Part 2 and begin putting it all together.

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