Monday, April 23, 2012

INLG terrain boards: Cheap, DIY, and you're done in an hour.

My favorite wargaming blog is Irrational Number Line Games. They're funny, out-of-the-box, and their games are ridiculous.

In the midst of a hobby that beckons only fat wallets, INLG teaches how to make scifi terrain  from candy boxes; Cyclops monsters from discount action figures; and hordes of Cthulhoid monsters from plastic dinosaurs and Model Magic clay.

In addition to being low cost, their tutorials are also quick -- a couple of hours and you're done. There's nothing quite like getting minis or terrain ready in a single afternoon: its satisfaction without any of the dread of tedium.

The studio was closed for a week for the Sri Lankan New Year, and I used this time to get back to some neglected projects and start some new ones. INLG had just come out with an awesome tutorial on making a lava board, so I decided I'd start there.

Terrain has always been a challenge for me, and it's the same questions we all face:

- Where do I store all this?
- How do I store it safely?
- Can this not take up so much freaking space?

The INLG tutorial is for a small, stackable, terrain square, which addresses these three questions. What really impressed me though, was that it suggested how to quickly bang out lots of low cost, easy to stamp out, easily varied, terrain boards.

First, I cut out a 12x12 inch board. You can't get cork out here, instead you need to buy either plywood or plastic sheets from hardware stores. The materials are cheap, but they insist you buy them in 4x8 foot boards. Customer service being what it is in Sri Lanka, they will not cut these for you either, you'll have to lug them around on your own. I should have got a picture of the sheet we strapped down to the tuk tuk, and very nearly sailed off every time the driver accelerated.

Please forgive the Blackberry-quality photos for most of this:

Next, I needed to create the lava effect. For this I got hold of a couple of cans of spray paint, just some yellow and red.

I sprayed the whole sheet in red, then gave it a varied dusting of the yellow. The nice thing about using spray paints is that it gives you a nice, almost airbrush sort of look and feel. It's also ridiculously quick and easy to work with. 

Next, I needed the little islands of hardened lava. I mixed regular wood glue with some unsifted construction sand, and a bit of black paint. 

Foul-looking, isn't it?

I applied the glue-dirt, and left it to dry in the sun.

I rather liked it. In a later hobby article, I'll talk about how I did some boulders to go along with the board (not much of a wargaming board if there are no obstructions to lines of sight).

The board does demand some minis matched to it. I might use some left over Everblight monsters painted up to match the look and feel, or some bloodletters if we have any lying around. With some 15mm cultist minis and some more terrain pieces (altars, ancient ruins), I've got a cursed city that some plucky investigators or greedy tomb raiders will visit.

As mentioned before, the INLG tutorial suggested a pattern that I could use to make other types of board. I went ahead and then made a beach / sea sort of board to go with the 15mm pirates and ninjas we did earlier.

Another 12x12 inch board, this time with some dark and some light blue spray paint. 

Paint sprayed. Always put the darker color down first, and apply the lighter color sparingly. This creates a natural-looking highlight. 

For the terrain I went for a beach sand look. On execution, I think a dark, rich, jungle earth look would have worked better (no beach on Earth looks like the one I built. But, to be fair, no other beach on Earth is a battleground between pirates and ninjas).

Drybrush in a color one or two tones lighter, and you're done.


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