Scratch Building on a Budget

Jeremey takes us through building terrain from things just laying around.

For a while now I’ve been determined to build up (no pun intended) my collection of terrain features and some table top dressing. But I wasn’t able to just throw lots of money at all those nice resin or plastic terrain sets, and so I looked at the materials I had around me.

The Swamp
First up was a swamp, I’ve never actually owned a piece of swamp terrain but often see other gamers with a single round piece of cloth or card to act as a swamp.

I wanted to do something a little different to just one large swamp and so built a selection of smaller pieces that could be pushed together to form a large swamp or break up providing paths through the swamp.

The swamp pieces were made from a piece of backing board from an old flat pack chest of draws. It’s like a thinner version of hardboard and easy to cut. I painted the pieces in a swampy green colour and stuck bits of real wood branches to it. A bit of flock was added and then to get that wet looked I used clear PVA glue. it took a couple of layers but ended up looking the part.

Total cost for the swamp was the price of a bit of flock, bit of glue and bit of paint. In other words pretty cheap.

Stone Walls
Battlefields have to have walls, if for no other reason than to justify the half dozen pages in most wargame rules dedicated to how to move your troops over them.

For these again I used the backing board and stuck to it some polystyrene pieces. However it wasn’t your standard white polystyrene this was a special grey insulating styrene that was a bit stronger and had a larger better formed structure that looked like a pile of stones. I didn’t know such existed until my neighbour had some building work done and let me have some of the off cuts. They were very easy to paint and fitting for this project, free.

Signs of Past Battles
As well as actual terrain pieces I also wanted to create some scenery to break up the blank spaces you often get on the battlefield but do not affect the game.

I found in the bits box a few old sprues of Games Workshop plastic skeletons and thought having some remnants of a past battle.

I cut some small pieces from the backing board and simply stuck various body parts down. In quite a few cases I cut the underside so that it would lay flat to the base and in some cases used the part of the model I’d sliced off back on the base. A bit of flock and the odd grass tuff and I had a half dozen pieces to add a bit of character to the battlefield.

Forest Hall
On a wander through some local woods I came across an unusual piece of bark that had fallen off a tree (quite a long time ago given the state of it), and I immediately thought it would make a good roof for some primitive dwelling.

I brought it home and using some other sticks I’d collected I built a forest hall by sticking the bark and sticks together with the hot glue gun. A little bit of flock and the hall was complete. I might return to this and add some furs or other decoration to the entrance.

Lastly I just used some of the collected bits of old wood from the forest floor to make additional dressing pieces to the battlefield.

I made two tree stump pieces and two large ancient trees that would work as objective markers or some other scenario goal in games. You can also see the size of the forest hall in the above picture.

Building all of this terrain was exceptionally easy and as pointed out cost next to nothing to get on the battlefield.