Up until a few years ago I had all the terrain I needed for just about any game I would want to play. Then I sold it all, so now I have to rebuild my terrain collection if I want my games to look good on the table. Fortunately, I still have a table - two 2' by 4' pieces of 2" foam hinged together with an old battlemat and painted brown on the other side.
I decided to work on a few hills, including a couple that can be placed along the edges and corners of the board, some rock spires, some forest bases, a few hedges, a modular river, and some miscellaneous pieces. I also want to build some pieces to represent some of the unusual and hazardous terrain described in the Fanticide rulebook.
|Some basic supplies|
I already had a few supplies on hand. I have plenty of MDF board for bases, some extruded polystyrene foam board, some aquarium plants, plenty of balsa wood and basswood, sand, gravel, flock, scatter, static grass, glue, pine bark chips, and other bits and pieces. Last weekend I picked up a bunch of model trees I found at the dollar store, some green scrub pads, some plaster cloth, and a bunch of plastic skulls and plastic skeleton hands. I got the last two because they were on sale and they look like they'll make for some great weird terrain bits. I also had a bag of quartz crystal points that I've been saving for a special project that I decided to dig out and use.
I started by cutting out a bunch of bases from MDF. I used a table saw to make the rough cuts and a band saw to trim the pieces to shape. Unfortunately, the band saw broke before I could finish trimming the bases, so I need to get it fixed before I can do all of the pieces I have planned.
I beveled the edges of the bases I got trimmed with a Dremel tool with a coarse rotary sanding bit. I didn't bevel them too deeply, since I don't really care too much about precision movement. If a model doesn't balance on the edge of a piece of terrain, I just move it off until it sits right.
I started with the hills. I cut some of the foam board to fit a few of the bases and glued them in place. One of the hills is a simple round hill. One is going to be a stepped hill with a steep scree slope on one end. The other is going to be a rocky hill with a foam core, one sloping side, and a few sides of rough rock. I set aside the other two hill bases to work on later.
|Starting the hills|
For the round hill, I cut two pieces of foam into roughly circular shapes, one smaller than the other and glued them onto the base with white glue.
|Base foam for the round hill|
|Round hill trimmed into shape|
For the long, two-step hill, I cut a couple of ovals out of foam and glued them into place on the base to form a step.
|Oval hill glued in place|
I trimmed the slopes of the steps and the scree slope using the utility knife. For the scree slope, I cut the side almost straight down, but left thin shelves of foam that I can use to settle sand and gravel on to make the scree slope. Some of the shelves will be obscured by the plaster cloth, but they should give better traction for the scree.
|The scree side of the oval hill|
When I am trimming foam hills into shape, I cut off the foam in thin slivers rather than trying to cut off too much at one time. Invariably, I am left with a ton of thin foam scraps. I normally keep a small hand broom and dustpan on hand to clean up as I go. Otherwise the table gets crowded and cluttered very quickly.
|Foam scraps clutter the table quickly|
|The core of the rocky hill in place|
I trimmed the foam on one side into a rough slope and cut off the corners to make some room for the bark chips that I am going to use to build up the cliffs.
|The slope on the rocky hill|
To build up the cliff faces, I used pine bark nuggets. The layers in the bark look a lot like sedimentary stone, and the surface has a nice rough texture that paints very well to simulate rock. You can find these around the neighborhood or just grab a bag at the local DIY store. I got a full bag here for about $5 US. I sorted through the bag to find the pieces that I liked and dumped the smallest scraps into the mulch around one of the trees outside my building. I laid out the bark chips and let them dry for a few days, and then collected them into a big plastic tub. The smaller pieces I tossed into a couple of large zip-top bags.
To build the cliffs, I glued the bark in layers around the core. I worked from one edge of the cliff around the piece to the other end, tucking in pieces to make the cliffs as solid as possible. Then I set the piece aside to let the glue dry.
|Slope side of the rocky hill|
|Cliff side of the rocky hill|
To build the rock spires, I just piled pine bark onto some 5" round bases, building up the layers the same way that I did the cliff. Because most layers took two or more pieces laid side by side, I filled the center gaps between the pieces with spackling compound.
|Two rock spires built|
|Detail on the side of a rock spire|
I cut and edged a bunch of small bases to use with the crystals. I had an extra one trimmed, so I decided to put together a hedge base. I started with the base and piece of green plastic scouring pad.
I cut the scouring pad into strips of varying widths. I tried to cut them so that there was a lot of variety in sizes of the pieces. I glued them into an irregular clump and glued the clump to the base. Once the glue dries, I'll trim the edges of the clump into shape, rounding corners and breaking up the longer lines on the piece.
|Scouring pad hedge clump|
CrystalsOne of the kinds of hostile terrain described in the Fanticide rulebook is Shrieker Crystals. These are huge crystals that hum and cause squads that activate close to them to take a Sanity test or go insane for the rest of the game. The first time I read the description of these, I remembered the quartz points I have had tucked away in my terrain bits for the last fifteen years or so. This was the perfect time to get them out and on the table!
I started by testing the stability of each piece of crystal on the bases. One small piece fit perfectly and stood well with no propping at all. I glued that piece to the base and set it aside to dry. I propped two of the small pieces in place with pieces of pine bark, glued them in place and set them aside to dry as well. The pine bark will provide a little extra detail on the base.
|Two small crystals propped in place with pine bark.|
For the larger pieces, I wanted them to be growing out of the side of small scree hills. I glued the crystals in place on the base and then added small blocks of foam around them.
|Large crystals with foam block frames|
I trimmed the foam to make small slopes around the crystals. With the slopes trimmed, I set the pieces aside to dry while I prepared the materials to apply the plaster cloth.
|Large crystals with trimmed foam slopes|
I got a small package of Art Minds Plaster Wrap at the craft store. I like to use plaster cloth to cover my hills because it creates a hard surface layer that protects the foam. I can use a wet brush to smooth the plaster after I apply the cloth that will also seal the foam so that I can paint it with spray paints and primers.
I grabbed a bowl of warm water and a cheap coarse paint brush. I cut the plaster cloth into small strips. Most of the strips were about 1-1/2" by 4". The smaller strips are about 1/2" by 2".
|Plastering materials ready|
I started plastering the larger crystals. I used the large pieces of plaster cloth to cover over the foam and the edges of the crystals. Besides sealing the foam, this will help to hold the crystals in place and give a good surface for glue and sand to adhere to when I texture the bases. I dipped each piece of plaster cloth in the water, wiped off some of the excess water, and smoothed it in place on the model. Then I dipped the brush in the water, blotted it on a paper towel, and smoothed the plaster to make sure that it filled all the holes in the cloth and covered all the foam. For tight corners on the model, I also used the brush to push the cloth in place and shape the edges.
|The foam covered with plaster cloth|
There were a few cavities under the crystals. I pushed small wads of paper towel into the cavities and then sealed over them with the small pieces of plaster cloth.
|Cavity under one of the crystals|
|The cavity filled with paper towel and sealed|
|Big hole by the largest crystal|
I filled the gap with paper towel and covered it with the plaster cloth. Then I covered the rest of the foam.
|The large crystal plastered in place|
I glued a piece of pine bark under one edge of the large crystal. I used the plaster cloth to build around the bark and fill the rest of the space under the crystal.
|Some pine bark detail under the big crystal|
For the small crystals, I cut thin strips of plaster cloth and ringed the base of the crystal. For the ones propped in place with pine bark, I worked around the bark like I did on the largest crystal.
|A small crystal plastered|
With the crystals plastered and drying, I applied plaster cloth over the tops of the round hill and the stepped hill. I set all of the plastered pieces aside to dry overnight. Tomorrow I'll texture them with sand and gravel and get them ready to prime and paint.
While I was working on these models, I noticed that my glue bottle was getting messier than normal. When I checked the tip, I found that the plastic had torn over years of abuse to the point that the tip was barely holding on! In fact it came off as I was checking it out. Apparently, the tip of an Elmer's glue bottle will only hold together for about fifteen years of heavy modeling work.
|The sad fate of a veteran|
Altogether, I put together quite a bit of terrain in a short period of time today. I got two hills, two rock spires, and five crystal pieces to the point that I just need to add sand and gravel and they will be ready to paint. The hedge needs a bit of trimming and texturing on the base. The rocky hill will need plastering tomorrow and then texturing the day after. Not bad for an afternoon!
|Three hills, two rock spires, and a hedge|
|Five crystal pieces|