Archive for the ‘Terrain Features’ Category

Terrain Binge

Posted: March 8, 2016 in Terrain Features, Uncategorized

I recently made up a number of terrain features to add to my games. I find it so much more satisfying to have some nice-looking terrain pieces in a game, and they are fun to make.

First up are two small pieces of broken or rough terrain. These are both roughly 6″ by 3″ and are based on thin sheets of plywood which have been cut to shape and sanded down. One of the pieces has a small pool of water made with Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. The rocks and wood were found in a field and I just left them their natural colors. I posed some 28mm figures next to them to give them some scale, but you could easily use this for any other scale.


Next up is a small pond made the same way, using the Woodland Scenics water. I’ve found that it looks best when you pour 2 or 3 layers on it, but you have to be patient because each layer takes many hours to dry. I really went nuts with this stuff, creating a bunch of river sections and going through nearly the entire bottle. The river is not quite finished yet, so I’ll include some photos in a later post.


Next are some farm fields. I made all of these using a hot glue gun to lay down the rows, then covered the entire field with a layer of sand. The enclosed field with a stone border was made by gluing pebbles together. The one with the wattle fence came from Renedra.

Next up is the forest. I don’t know about you, but when I see a piece of felt on the table with three trees on it, I have a hard time imagining that it represents a forest. I wanted to have something that indicated the density of forest while still allowing the players to easily move their units through it. Here’s what I came up with.

First, I created the base of the forest. This is a large piece of thin plywood that was 12″ x 12″ and then cut to shape and sanded. On this, I  put a layer of flocking (red flocking to represent dead leaves, then a layer of forest debris and underbrush). I was careful to make the flocking relatively light on the areas where the trees would be so as not to impede their placement. Around these areas I put some thicker brush, rocks, and fallen logs. When the stands of trees are placed, this debris will act as a kind of border and will (hopefully) add to the sense of density for the forest.

The trees were made with wooden dowels of various thickness, over which I made the “bark” with the hot glue gun, and then attached clumps of foliage from Woodland Scenics. The trees were then attached to four stands. Two of the stands were roughly 6″ x 6″ and the other two were about half that. The large stands got 6 trees each and the smaller ones got 3. The stands, in turn, got the same underbrush treatment as the base.

The result of this is that you can set the forest base down and set the tree stands on them. When troops move through, you simply remove tree stands. They also make nice scatter terrain on their own. I’m thinking of making at least 4 of these forest sections so that I cover a fairly large area.


And last but not least, I have a herd of cattle, which is not really terrain, of course, but is a part of the landscape. I plan to use these for cattle raid scenarios as objectives. The cattle and herdsman are all from Gripping Beast.

Cattle Herd



To go along with my growing Dark Age forces, I decided to make a “town” terrain feature for the boys to fight over. But I thought that if I made it look like a small section of a full-sized town, it would just look too unrealistic. Towns are big, sprawling things and you’d need at least a full table for it to make sense visually. But I thought a single homestead would make more sense on the table and still convey that this is “urban” terrain.

I consider this a kind of first draft of a terrain piece. I’m looking at it and seeing things I’d like to improve. So, I still may make some changes or additions to it.

I started with a piece of thin plywood that measured 24″ x 12″, and I sanded down the edges so they wouldn’t appear so obvious when set up on the table. I glued down the outer wall, which is made from two packs of Renendra picket fences. I tried to set it up in such a way that I could comfortably place my infantry units along the edges to defend it. Then I painted it and added ground cover. The two structures are resin dark age buildings by Gripping Beast. I placed them both on their own bases so that I can remove them when troops occupy the terrain feature.







To the Barricades!

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Terrain Features, Uncategorized

Just a quick post to show a terrain feature I painted. This resin barricade, which I bought from Ainsty Casting, is good for a wide range of periods, from medieval to 20th Century.

Not too long after watching “The Book of Eli” and “I Am Legend” in the same week, I came up with this crazy notion to make myself a table of urban terrain for my 28mm skirmishes. Not a piece of terrain, but a whole table full. You see, infantry skirmishes work best in dense terrain, and so I figure, what’s denser than a city? Unfortunately, most wargame tables have huge expanses of open terrain, with maybe a few buildings scattered around. I wanted to avoid that. On top of that, I wanted to go with rubbled buildings. They can serve for WWII through modern battles, science fiction battles, or post-apocalypse.

And I’ll admit, I was influenced in this decision by a couple of products I came across. First by Amera Plastic’s stuff. My local game store, Great Hall Games, had gotten a whole pile of Amera stuff, and I rashly bought several pieces of wrecked buildings. The second commercial influence on my decision was Zuzzy’s new Wounded City mat. I had one of Zuzzy’s other mats already and I had to have this one too. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, I swear I’m not getting paid by any of these people for the free advertising. I’m just a sucker for cool toys.)

But cities are laid out in a somewhat regular pattern, with blocks in a more or less even sequence. The Amera buildings were not whole structures but rather fragments of shattered buildings. I wanted to be able to plunk down complete blocks – sidewalk and all – and leave the Zuzzy mat visible as the street. Clearly, I was going to have to expand upon the building fragments in order to create whole blocks.

I started out by buying 9 square plywood tiles measuring 12″ x 12″ and 1/8″ thick. These would serve as the bases for the city blocks, and would be able to cover a 4′ x 4′ table (which I figured would be plenty of room for an urban skirmish). I then assembled the Amera plastic buildings and glued each of them down onto a plywood tile, trying to leave 1″ on each edge. This extra inch would be the sidewalk. But there was still a lot of area on the tile that was uncovered, so I built walls from black foam board and other materials. Battle damage was cut into the foam board with a very sharp Exacto knife. I found that if you try it with a blade that is a little dull, it just tears the paper and doesn’t look good.

Here is one of the city blocks prior to any real painting. I’ve just sprayed it with a coat of gray primer:

To get the rubble, I  mixed two bags of stuff. The first bag is just standard sand and gravel using several sizes together:

The second bag has all the big chunks. It’s mostly thin sheets of cork board (bought at Office Depot), but I added a few other things, such as chopped-up plastic I-beams and tubing, bits of wire, and pieces of mesh:

I also came up with a system for applying the rubble. First, I spread a liberal amount of wood glue (works a lot better than craft glue and is much more durable) All over the floors, and a little bit on the sidewalks. Then, I shook out about a fistful from the “big chunks” mix, and let that fall randomly into the glue. Then, I poured even more glue down, partially on the big chunks, but not completely covering them. I also tried to get a pretty good layer in all the corners wear the walls meet the floors. Now here’s where it gets kinda messy. I take a handful of the “sand and gravel” mix and pour it over any glue that’s showing. A lot of sand and gravel falls off at this point, so I found it’s a good idea to have something underneath to catch it.Finally, I cut slits in some of the “broken” sections of the foam board walls and floors and pushed a few irregular pieces of mesh in and glued it to simulate re-bar sticking out of the shattered concrete slabs.

After this all dries, it’s ready to be painted. I start by spraying the whole thing with gray primer, as in the photo above . This kind of eats away at the exposed center of some of the foam board, which you can kind of see in the photos, but I thought that actually enhanced the appearance of the rubble. I then gave the whole piece a dark wash of black and brown and let it dry. This will make the rubble and gravel stand out sharp relief. After this dries, I dry brush the whole thing with a lighter color. Rather than white or light gray, which really doesn’t look like concrete. I used something with a yellowish tint. Look at some real concrete out in the sunlight and you’ll see what I mean. The paint I used was an acrylic from a craft store, and the color is called “sandstone”.

When dry brushing the walls, I found that it’s ok to have vertical streaks. It just adds to the impression of a trashed out building. For the broken edges of the concrete and the battle damage, I whitened the sandstone color and dabbed it on the edges. I then painted a few details, such as doors and window frames. I also painted all of the I-beams and exposed mesh to look rusty. I also painted some of the walls a different color than concrete, for a little variety. Finally, I drew the sidewalks in with a black sharpie. I debated for a while whether I should cut grooves into the plywood to depict the sidewalks and eventually decided that they look fine drawn in with a pen and it only took a fraction of the time. And I didn’t really measure the lines too strictly, but just eyeballed them, figuring the rubble would hide any lack of uniformity.

Here is what two of the completed buldings look like. This first building is one that I’m calling “The Bank”, because the arched facade resembles the front of a bank I’ve seen locally:

And here’s the second building:

With some of the future buildings, I want to add more details to make them interesting. Maybe some wrecked office furniture or bits of broken glass (simulated, of course), some graffiti. One thing I’d really like to find are small, raised letters, so I could make signs above doors, and things like that. If anyone has any idea where I could find or make something like that, I would appreciate any suggestions. I’ll post more of this project in the future as I complete it.

This has probably occurred to hundreds of wargamers in the past, but it just occurred to me now so I’m going to claim this as my own brilliant idea. Did you ever buy a small building, such as a tent,  outhouse or storage shack, and then realize it is too tiny to be a useful terrain feature for your figures? Even though it’s the right scale, it’s just too small to place your troops inside it. You could put it down on the table for aesthetic appeal alone, but that just seems a waste, doesn’t it? You want your terrain features to be more than just a pretty but useless piece of clutter on the table, don’t you? You want terrain features to have an impact on the course of the battle.

One thing you can do is to make that tiny building a part of a larger terrain piece, rather than being a feature all by itself. I did this by taking several smallish buildings and attaching them to a larger base and adding a few additional terrain features to it. The end result, in game terms, is a building that your troops can use for cover. When they occupy the base itself, they are considered to be *in* building terrain. This really works best with rules that treat buildings as somewhat abstract concepts, rather than rules that are more explicit as to the exact layout of the building. In my case, I wanted to make terrain pieces to use with Red Actions rules. In those rules, it doesn’t matter what a building looks like, it’s just a generic *building* that can hold up to 4 stands. So, I cut several pieces of matteboard big enough to hold 4 stands worth of infantry. I then attached the buildings, some other small terrain features, and some groundwork. Suddenly, all those pretty but useless little pieces of terrain (the shacks, the well, the water trough) all come together to make coherent, practical objects.