Archive for the DIY Category

Modular industrial terrain – quick & easy

Posted in 40k, DIY, Inq28, Inquisitor, Terrain with tags , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by krautscientist

I’ve been looking at different options of building some modular terrain for use in games of 40k and Inquisitor for quite some time now. After building a silly amount of cityfight terrain (that eats up an equally silly amount of storage space), I was a little hesitant to undertake the next terrain building spree: I felt that any new terrain had best be very versatile and modular for maximum usefulness. It would also have to be easily storable, so no more cathedrals for the time being…

Then, while shopping for boring stuff at the DIY-superstore, I came across these:




Now I couldn’t even tell you what these things are normally used for – especially not in English. They are used by electricians when working on electrical outlets or something — pardon my spotty knowledge when it comes to electrical installations.

But I instantly realised that these could be really useful for a terrain project: The smaller part seems immediately useful, and you may call me crazy, but the longer piece gave me an almost art deco vibe. Does that make sense?

Anyway, those were super cheap, so I picked them up and got to work:

What I wanted to try with these was to create some simple, highly versatile and modular industrial terrain that could be used for 40k but would be even more useful in games of Necromunda or Inquisitor 28. So I put each of the pieces on a base cut from foamcore and added a couple of bits:



To the small piece, I added a couple of small brass tubes I had lying around as well as some corrugated cardboard, cork chaff and one or two pieces from an old model truck. And behold, the thing was instantly transformed into something looking very …industrial.

I did something similar to the longer piece, adding some bits to give an idea of scale to the whole thing and to make it more interesting visually. Here’s the result:



All of this was really quick and easy work, and I only needed some leftover materials and a couple of bits. I then spraypainted both pieces with brown paint, since I would probably end up going for a rather dusty and dilapidated look amyway.


As usual, the uniform paint helped to tie everything toegther. I think it’s immediately obvious how this could work as a piece of terrain. Here’s a scale shot with an 28mm model:

The other piece got the same treatment. Lo and behold:



And again, with a model:


Granted, one of these alone is fairly unimpressive. But imagine several of those pieces that can be freely rearranged to create all kinds of different setups: You could simulate corridors or a kind of labyrinth. And the fun doesn’t end there: Just build a number of modular walkways to connect the different pieces and add some verticality. Or add some taller buildings for even more variety. These pieces could even be combined with my regular cityfight terrain! And the fact that they are fairly small and robust also makes them rather easy to store — what a relief!

Of course, these pieces will yet have to be properly painted, probably with huge amounts of weathering and rust. I could also add all kinds of security warnings and/or propaganda posters for more authenticity and that particular underhive look.

It probaly won’t surprise you when I tell you that I went back to the store the next day and got a whole bag of those pieces. About 8 Euros gave me enough stuff to fill up quite a lot of space on a normally sized Necromunda/INQ28 table. I’ll keep you updated on the progress!

Sometimes it’s lucky finds like these that makes building your own terrain that much fun! But then, maybe it’s just Karma’s way of paying us back for all the hours we spend sitting hunched over little plastic men. Who knows? In any case, whenever you’re at an DIY-superstore, keep your eyes open for useful stuff like this. It may make your visit to the store just that much more enjoyable 😉

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt.5

Posted in 40k, DIY, Pointless ramblings, Terrain with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by krautscientist

By now, you should know the drill: Building your own terrain is fun and cheap, terrain you built yourself is truly your own, and building your own terrain also makes for a nice change of pace whenever you’re frustrated by another part of the hobby. If you have followed me this far, let me present you with my final – and maybe most important – reason for submerging under heaps of foamcore, cereal boxes and spray paint in order to make your own terrain pieces:

5.) Building terrain is a great outlet for creativity!

I realised a long time ago that creativity and its expression are really crucial to me as a person. Towards thit end, most of the things I do in the tabletop hobby really follow the goal of doing something creative, whether it’s converting models, inventing background stories for them or building suitable pieces of terrain. And it’s true that building terrain lends itself very well to expressing creativity, simply because there are very few boundaries.

I have tried to show you that even your most basic household materials can be used to build your own wargaming terrain, so your own imagination is really the limit here. It’s all about coming up with an idea and seeing it through to its conclusion.

If that sounds a little too sketchy for you, I have an example of course. And a couple of pretty pictures to go with it.

I already mentioned that, some time ago, I had gotten it into my head to build a cathedral as an enormous centrepiece for my 40k battlefields. But before undertaking such a huge project, I wanted to come up with a number of ideas first. I wanted to find some visual elements that would be used to make the building more interesting and would help in actually “selling” the piece of terrain as believable. So I sat down and thought of a number of things I wanted to try out:

  • I wanted to use some kind of statue of a lost heroe of the Imperium, covered in verdigris or patina
  • I wanted to find a way of doing inscriptions to decorate my building will all the gothic and crazy mottoes we all know from the 40k background
  • I wanted to find a recipe for building devotional candles, to be placed around an icon of worship for example

So I gathered a few pieces of leftover foamcore and sat down to build a little test piece, a small devotional shrine. Here it is:


I wanted this to be usable as a piece of terrain in its own right, but it was also a way to try implementing all of the different elements I outlined above. Once again, the main construction was done with foamcore and a leftover cardboard roll.


The statue of a nameless Space Marine hero formed the center of the piece. I used an old 2nd edition Sergeant and added a few bits to make the model look more impressive. Then I experimented with a couple of paints until I found a nice way of representing patina: The model was basecoated with GW Tin Bitz (or Vallejo Tinny Tinn) and then lightly drybrushed with a lighter Bronze Tone. Afterwards, a mix of Vallejo Halcon Turquoise (or GW Hawk Turquoise) and Skull White was liberally dabbed onto the model.

Then I tried to do my own inscriptions, using alphabet noodles as a cheap and readily available resource (an idea I took from Oldschool’s very nice German terrain blog).

I used the noodles to represent one of 40k’s most iconic insriptions. Take a look:


The noodles were very easy to use and just as easily painted. I used the same recipe as for the statue. I also painted some rust stains around the different letters. Oh, and it seems a part of the inscription actually fell off. What a coincidence…

And finally I tried my hand at building some candles. I used small glass beads with a bit of wire in the middle to represent the candlewick. All I had to do was paint them:


I added some splashes of colour to represent the candles slowly melting. Again, this was very easy (if somewhat fiddly) to do and yet made for a pretty convincing result.


Building this concept piece really helped me to nail a look for my bigger buildings (like the cathedral). I learned a lot of useful techniques, even beyond the things I had wanted to try. For example, I used cardboard from a cereal package to make the flagstones – a recipe I have since used on many pieces of terrain.

But that was not really the most important thing. The most important thing was to see this whole project as an outlet for creativity: Thinking of things I wanted to do and then coming up with a cheap and easy way of doing them. And thinking up little elements that would help make my terrain more believable.

It’s true, building twenty identical ruins isn’t a great outlet for creativity — although it’s sometimes just the thing you have to do to get the necessary amount of terrain together. But you can still be creative: Think of a little something that will make each of those ruins stand out. Then think of how to make it work. Then you will truly have made something!

Of course this also goes for assembling terrain kits you buy. You could assemble them to look just like they do on the package. Or you could go the extra mile and use your creativity!


Ans while we’re at it: The actual building of terrain is not the only way to be creative. There are also many things you can do in other mediums to support your terrain. For instance, designing some Imperial propaganda posters for your terrain pieces is a quick and creative way of making your buildings look even more believable. Here’s a couple of posters I did using 40k artwork (It goes without saying that most of this artwork is courtesy of Games Workshop — I own none of it):


This one is based on an old propaganda poster from World War I. I kept the slogan and just added it on top of a picture of the Steel Legion in mid-fight. I used some Photoshop filters to make the image look more stylised and desaturated. There’s also some graffitti, probably added by cultists in order to deface this symbol of the Imperium.


And while we are on the subject of the Imperial Guard: Your terrain just won’t be the same without a generous helping of recruitment posters.


Well, sucks to be them, I guess 😉


Again, this poster was defaced by followers of the ruinous powers (I actually did pristine versions of both posters, too). This one is playing with the fact that most Imperial citizens are probably unaware of the fact that their Emperor is now little more than a corpse…


Ahh, a true classic, this one. Oceanian propaganda appearing courtesy of Mr. George Orwell, ladies and gentlemen.

Posters like these are easily designed using Photoshop, Gimp or similar software. Then you can print them out at different sizes and use them on your terrain for some extra oomph. You can even use this to add some narrative touches, to tie your terrain into an ongoing campaign or your existing 40k force!

Here’s a propaganda poster used by Chaos Cultists I did a while ago:


It’s using the symbol of the Word Bearers’ Piercing Gaze Chapter (my Word Bearers force then. Alas, I have since turned my attention to the World Eaters, as you all know…). The idea was that the Word Bearers had managed to infiltrate a world and begun to announce the planet’s salvation (i.e. their arrival).

Here’s the same design, used as a leaflet to deface an Administratum poster:

It’s little things like these that will not only help in making your terrain better, but will also be a tremendous outlet for your creativity! Just get going, you can start small! And it won’t be long before you’re doing stuff you didn’t even realise you were capable of!

And while my own mediocre attempts may not be enough to convince you, let me just relay you to a true master of the craft: Just take a look at thenickeninja’s blog to see how using propaganda posters adds just the last bit of plausibility to your pieces (and how random pieces of junk can end up as truly spectacular wargaming terrain).

And with that, my small treatise on the joys of building your own wargaming terrain is at an end. I hope that I managed to point out the merits of this increasingly lost art to you. Of course I’ll be posting more of my own terrain projects on this blog over time. And without a doubt, most of them won’t look nearly as spectacular as the stuff published in WD. But I can assure you that all of my stuff will have been fun to build, cheap, a nice change of pace and a great outlet for creativity. And all of it will be my own (except for the original GW artwork of course, I still don’t own any of that stuff 😉 ).

If you want to share your own experiences with building terrain, drop me a comment! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt. 4

Posted in 40k, DIY, Pointless ramblings, Terrain with tags , , , , on June 27, 2012 by krautscientist

As part of my ongoing sermon about why building your own terrain is so great, we already discussed why building your own terrain is fun and cheap and why terrain you built yourself is truly your own. Today I would like to explore yet another angle and show you that…

4.) Building your own terrain makes for a nice change of pace

Before we do that, though, let me make one thing clear: The point of this series is not to dissuade you from buying terrain kits! Far from it! In fact, anything that makes the battlefield look more interesting is cool in my book! As are most of the terrain kits released by GW. You couldn’t really expect to emulate the quality of that stuff without trying really hard — much harder than I am when I am building terrain, in any case.

So all that I am trying to do here is to explore an activity that used to be a cornerstone of the hobby but has somewhat waned in the last years, partly due to the proliferation of (admittedly very nice) premade terrain. It is also something that newcomers to the hobby tend to feel rather dismissive about, probably due to the fact that they tend to have enough on their plates as it is, and the prospect of having to build their own terrain from scratch can be pretty scary. But it doesn’t have to be! It’s easy, and with the recent price hike for some terrain kits and the purported importance of terrain in 6th edition 40k (honni soit, qui mal y pense, and all that), knowing how to build your own terrain has, once more, become pretty useful.

Right, with that one out of my system, let’s get back to the topic at hand:

Like I was saying, building your own terrain makes for a nice change of pace from other hobby activities. The reason for that is that building terrain allows you to paint in much broader strokes. And this goes for the actual painting as well as for everything else!

Say about painting miniatures what you will, but sometimes, it can be a bit of a chore. There are days when the prospect of painting yet another squad of World Eaters doesn’t look too inviting to me and the simple view of my trusty pot of Mechrite Red makes me want to scream. And sometimes, even painting or building an INQ28 model as a distraction just doesn’t cut it. What am I to do then? Easy: I go and build some terrain.

I previously outlined the fact that building terrain can be a very intuitive process. Granted, if you are going for a truly complex project (like a Cathedral, an Imperial city or a whole jungle), some careful planning can go a long way. But sometimes it’s enough to just grab your materials and go with the flow.

Cue exhibit A: Here’s an Imperial base I built using an interestingly shaped piece of styrofoam packaging, some foamcore, a bit of plastic grating and one or two pieces from my bitzbox. I did a small preparatory sketch, but by and large, I really played this one by ear. The fact that the styrofoam piece already looked like some kind of military installation really made things easy for me. I just added a base, a metal floor and a hangar door made from foamcore. Here’s the finished piece:


Building this thing really was a blast. As was the paintjob: When painting terrain, most of the tricks you use when painting your models still apply. You may have to adapt some of them to the slightly different circumstances, but you won’t be sailing totally uncharted seas. Many of the tricks will even work a lot better or be easier to pull off. And you can cut some corners without the whole piece looking completely horrible, something that is considerably harder to pull off with your models.

In this case, I basecoated everything with dark grey structure paint I made myself from black and white acrylic paint, a little glue and some birdsand. Then I used fairly cheap spraypaint from the craft store to lay down the base colours. And finally I added in the details with GW paints. Nice and easy.



This gave me a nice little piece of terrain. At a side length of about 10 inches, it makes for a useful centrepiece on the table in small to medium games of 40k. It’s also quite versatile: It could be used as just a LOS-blocker, as an actual fortified emplacement or even as a bunker of some sorts. I still need to paint some old Space Crusade Tarantulas to serve as optional cannons. Maybe we could play a mission with two armies in a race to take control of the installation, with the first to reach it able to use the base’s weapons to fire at the advancing foe? In any case, this piece of terrain is rather useful when fighting for control of some kind of building during our campaign, since it’s far more fluffy to actually have the prize there on the table instead of just fighting over a green meadow. Shortly afterwards, I even added a modular tower, made from foamcore, to be added to the piece whenever we were playing for control of a communications base, an orbital relais point or something of the like:


All of this took little work and proved to be really relaxing when I was quite fed-up with painting regular models.
Again, this thing certainly doesn’t look as great as a premade set from GW. But it’s very easy to prepare terrain like this as a setpiece for an upcoming event, campaign battle or what have you.

When building terrain, it’s also quite easy to be  productive. Let me present you with exhibit B, some small ruins I built while I waited for the paint to dry on a bigger project. These were made from the same materials as that very project: Just glue together some leftovers, add some small details and you’re done:



These ruins can then easily be painted in a short amount of time to give you smaller pieces of terrain or just some additional decoration for your battlefield. Take a look:



Like I said, all of this can be done using leftover materials and paint from your bigger projects. And you can easily churn out several of these smaller ruins while you are waiting for the paint to dry or glue to set on your bigger buildings. That is really great for people who – like me – have the attention span of a very small bird. No painful waiting for washes to dry without anything worthwile to do in the meantime! Instead, you are losing very little time waiting, and you are constantly getting stuff done which enormously helps motivation. Here’s a look at another little piece I did, using some leftover foamcore, and old 2nd edition plastic Space Marine and the cardboard from a loo roll:


Some basic drybrushing with Skull White makes the Space Marine actually look like a stone statue:

It may be hard to believe, but there was actually a time when these guys were the latest in plastic miniature design…

And even if you botch the job on any of those smaller pieces, it’s just some foamcore and cardboard: You won’t have ruined an expensive kit you bought!

While the previous exhibits demonstrated how building your own terrain is different from painting your models, exhibit C will focus on one of the similarities between both activities: You’ll be getting better over time.

The first ruined buildings I built for 40k were based on a simple template I drew on an A4 sheet. I would build one perfectly intact wall and then cut it apart to get pretty much all the pieces I needed for a ruined building. On my third try, though, I did get a little more adventurous. Here’s the result:



While the walls are still based on the same template, I wanted to add a more interesting interior to the building. So I built the remains of the different floors as well as a central column, still supporting a part of the roof. While this shouldn’t make too much of a change for games of 40k, at least it makes the building more interesting to look at. And the additional floors and interior walkways should make sure that the building gets just that more interesting when used in games of INQ28 or Necromunda:




So while you are building terrain, you will naturally get better at it, and the scope of your projects will benefit from that. You will feel like you are exercising a set of muscles you didn’t even realise you had.  And before long, you will want to try all kinds of crazy stuff — just like when you are getting better at painting!

So there you have it. I’ve said my part. The next time you are frustrated by having to paint the same six colours on a model over and over or whenever the next breakthrough on a model you are currently working on just isn’t happening, go build some terrain! It’ll help relax you. And I assure you, it will make for a nice change of pace.

Do you have your own experiences with building terrain or do you want to add your point of view to this series? I would love to hear from you in the comments section! Next time, I will discuss why building your own terrain is a great outlet for creativity. Until then, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt.3

Posted in 40k, DIY, Pointless ramblings, Terrain with tags , , , , on May 16, 2012 by krautscientist

In this series, I outline the five main reasons why building your own wargaming terrain is great. According to…well, me actually. I already stated that building your own terrain is 1.) fun and 2.) cheap. But there’s more. For instance…

3.) Terrain you built yourself is truly your own

I can almost hear you: Yeah, Captain Obvious, terrain I built myself is my own. DUH! Granted, this one seems like a no-brainer, but hear me out on this! There’s more:

First of all, building your own terrain will give you a profound sense of achievement: It’s something that YOU came up with, YOU built, YOU painted – you get the picture. I had been wary of trying my hand at terrain for years, since I am not a very crafty person. But when I built my first set of cityfight ruins from foamcore, using a simple template I had drawn on an A4 sheet, I felt like the king of the world! Granted, depending on your personality, it might take more than some rickety foamcore buildings to make you feel awesome about yourself, but my point still stands: It’s great if you’re building some terrain out of the box and it checks out alright. To build something completely from scratch (or even better: from things found around the house and in your waste paper bin) just feels that much more gratifying! The sense of achievement also gets stronger once your projects start scaling up. In the beginning, small buildings and structures will feel like huge projects, but before long you will try your hands at cathedrals, spaceports or large fortresses. And you’ll succeed! The feeling of creating something from nothing is one of the greatest rewards for building your own terrain, and it’s something that is truly your own!

The second reason DIY terrain is truly your own is that your creativity is really the only limit here. Let’s face it, even the most fantastic readymade terrain is restricted in some way, either because the parts only allow for so much freedom or because you’ll have to buy lots and lots of kits in order to truly build what you have envisioned. Not so with DIY terrain: It’s your project, so you’re calling the shots! Of course it helps that most of the materials are readily available, but here’s the important thing: Instead of saying “Wow, that’s a great kit! Let’s see how I can put it together!” you can say “I have a fantastic idea. Let’s see how I can make it work!”

And finally, terrain you built yourself can be perfectly adapted to your gaming needs or to that of your group. Need an awesome setpiece for your next narrative battle? You can build it! Need a huge cathedral as a stage for your campaign finale? Go for it! Just need a couple of buildings and smaller barricades to block the line of sight and make battles more interesting? You can do that too! So it’s really easy to sit down with a couple of buddies, think about what you want your table to be like and then get going. And all of it will fit your needs and conform to your ideas.

All of it will truly be yours.

Now that was an awful lot of theory, wasn’t it? So let’s apply all of it to a real project, shall we? Our case study will be a small piece of terrain cousin Andy and I recently built . There’s a bit of terrain-building frenzy going on that the FLGS right now, and one of the projects is a set of Ork terrain. So we decided to build a small Ork outpost to teach ourselves how to built suitably orky terrain as well as to have a proof of concept for what we wanted the terrain for the table to look like. The look of Ork terrain has been suitably defined by many, many people, so to mockup a couple of ideas is really no rocket science at this point.

Here’s an initial sketch I did:

Sice we really couldn’t be sure whether anyone would actually like our piece, we decided to build it with materials as readily (and cheaply) available as possible to keep the cost low. So I gathered together lots and lots of leftovers and junk I had carefully collected and we got going. Here’s what we came up with:





The part making up the center of the piece is a package that came with a stack of CDRs. It makes for a nice basic structure. It could be some kind of Imperial fuel tank taken over and modified by the Orks. We put it on a base cut from foamcore. Then we added all kinds of orky “modifications”: Armour plates shaped like teeth (cut from plasticard), sheets of corrugated metal (cut from, well, corrugated cardboard), a rickety watch tower (constructed from leftover sprue and balsa) and a couple of sharpened stakes (again made from leftover sprue). In the end, we added a generous helping of cork to the base in order to make it look like sand and rubble.

All of this stuff was readily available from my persoanl terrain-building hoard as well as from everyday household items. The only slightly exclusive part was a small brass pipe we glued to the side of the tank, and I found that one in our tool shed — like I said, building terrain is cheap!

Deciding on our gameplan, cutting out all the pieces and glueing everything together took about three hours all in all. That seems like a relatively long time for such a small project, however you should keep in mind that we basically had to start from zero. In addition to that, once we got going, we could probably have done five of those pieces at the same time with just a little more work , had we wanted to.

Then I went and basecoated everything with spray paint from the craft store. As was to be expected, the basecoat really helped to tie all the different pieces together. Here’s what it looked like after basecoating:



I think it really reads as a piece of Ork terrain alright! And with four or five people, a box of leftover junk and a couple of small modifications, you could probably churn out a whole table full of interesting pieces like this in just one afternoon.

While this certainly wasn’t a groundbreaking project, we were filled with a sense of pride at our achievement. We had managed to come up with a plan, see it through to its completion and really nail the required look in the process. Now it only remains to be seen what the people at the FLGS think. Oh, and the thing still has to be painted, of course. But we’ll put that off until a paint scheme for the Ork table has been decided upon.

For the sake of completeness, here’s a scale shot with one of my ancient Ork boyz:

And that concludes my little discourse on why terrain you built yourself is truly your own. Let me say in closing that building this little piece was so much fun that I feel slightly tempted to start an Ork army. Before I can go through with that, that let’s quickly change the subject: A new INQ28 model is coming this Friday. Yay!

Until then, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

Reasons why you should build your own terrain, pt. 2

Posted in 40k, DIY, Terrain, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 4, 2012 by krautscientist

Last time, we talked about the fun to be had by building your own terrain. This time, we’ll look at the second argument for going DIY:

2.) Building your own terrain is cheap.

Well, perhaps that’s talking a bit too generally. Let’s rather say: Building your own terrain is as cheap as you want it to be. Let’s have a look at the piece of terrain pictured above: It’s another one of my earlier works and a true classic. It’s also fairly unimaginative, but come on: Space Marine monuments are a true staple of 40k gaming tables all over the world, right?

So, what did it cost me to build this? I used a bit of foamcore for the base, as well as the pillar’s plinth and capital. The floor tiles were made thin cardboard I got from a cereal box. The pillar itself was made from a cardboard roll that came with a pack of paper towels. The shell casings are small glass beads. The Space Marine on top (2nd ed. in the house, y’all!) and at the base came from my bitz box. Everything was basecoated with self-made texture paint and spraypainted with paint from the craft store. I then painted select parts with Citadel paints.

A first attempt at painting verdigris, courtesy of cousin Andy

Oh, the irony...

Looking at it now, those are some freaking HUGE shell casings...

The whole thing cannot have cost more than 2-3 Euros, bits excepted. Granted, it looks nowhere near as awesome or detailed as the stuff GW produces, but it’s quite alright for a testpiece. The great thing is that the cost will not go through the roof with greater projects: The most expensive part is probably the foamcore, and even that is fairly cheap. And many of the things you buy for your own terrain projects will last you for a long time, while other ingredients can be had for practically nothing (sand, cardboard, packaging materials of all shapes and sizes, interesting bits of styrofoam). To wit, I built a huge cathedral out of the same materials, and it probably cost me about 25 Euros tops. Here’s a teaser picture:

Rest assured that we'll be going over this in detail sooner or later...

So, even if your DIY terrain doesn’t look as spiffy as GW’s stuff, it’s far easier to get a lot of it ready for less money. And you can build stuff that would be atrociously expensive when using GW terrain. And that’s not even counting the option to mix your own stuff with parts from the GW kits.

Still, I said at the start that building your own terrain can be as cheap as you want it to be. This means that if you really want to go for it, you own projects can get pretty expensive too: Need special plants from the aquarium store? They usually carry a hefty price tag. Certain building materials can also be more expensive than foamcore and cardboard. So a part of the task is to keep a grip on the cost of your projects and to make the most of materials that come for free. But once you’ve started, that’s a big part of the fun!

In the next installment of this ongoing series, we will learn that terrain you built yourself is truly your own in more than one way. Until then, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!