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Archive of the Idea of the Week: Terrain

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* Myan Pyramid

* Industrial Outbuildings

* Modular Building Interiors

* Junkyard

* Vicious Plants

* Large Villa

* Christmas Ornament Conversions


This is a nice easy piece of terrain that shows what you can do if you just put in a little time. The steps for making the ruined cars are very easy to follow, and with a little elbow grease, you can have as big a junkyard as you want.

Car Molds

The big "secret" for this piece is making lots of wrecked cars. The technique is simple. Find a car or two of a reasonable size for your minis. Wrap the car in aluminum foil. Two layers. Pull the molded piece of foil off the car. Repeat.

Aluminum Foil? Really?

Yes, really, but not just that. After you make the molds and distort them as you see fit, you should hit them with a base coat of spray adhesive, then a coat of primer. This will make them a bit more rigid. But we're not done yet. Next you need a coat of colored paint (and possibly a nice dirty brown wash for grime) and a layer of spray sealant (We used matte sealant since these aren't shiny, new cars). Now the wreck should be fairly rigid. However, to make it stand up to regular gaming use, we also strengthen them with some foam blocks and supports underneath.

You may also notice the blocks of cars that have gone through the compressor. These are made when we pull off a foil mold, and it just mushes up or tears.

Concrete Slabs

It is important to base your piles of cars, because the center of gravity is too high, otherwise. As soon as the first figure gets placed in a corner, the whole thing will fall over. Fortuntately, this is a junkyard. We took some foamcore, roughed up the edges, and painted it grey. That should do nicely.

Rinse and Repeat

After a few iterations, you should have a nice junkpile going. Since we are using foil molds for the cars, it is very easy to get different looking wrecks with a little stretch and smush before the painting and blocking.


You need some miscelanea in a junkyard. We've thrown in a few bottlecap barrels, the pieces of an old airplane model that got broken (see ... it really is a junkyard!) and a corrugated tin shack in the back. The shack is just carboard around one of the car bases. Roof option. Well, you've seen enough of the junkyard ... now git!

No, you go water the plants!

A question was posted on TMP about the feasability of using some GW pieces to make vicious plants. We took that as a challenge, or task, or excuse to buy more minis and waste time painting them.

This may be more primitive, but it was just as fun and actually turned out well enough for us to want to show it around. Very simple, these are just the GW torsos mentioned in the TMP post smooshed to old HeroClix figure bases with Crayola Model Magic clay, then painted up.

I always put some adhesive on what I want the clay to stick to. It dries soft, but firm enough, but it doesn't adhere. After sticking the torso in the muck, I used a pencil to open up a hole in the middle, then tamped the outside back against the tentacles. My original thought was to put giant flourescent colored flower petals around the outside of the business end of the predatory plants, but that just wasn't working. So instead, I just popped a few pieces of floral wire in the clay to add some additional biological miscelanea to the pieces.

Painting these guys up was also a happy experiment. Normally, I prime figures with Krylon indoor-outdoor paint in a color that I want to be an undertone of the whole piece. About halfway through, I ran out of the green I was using. So I went back to grab black as a catchall primer coat. Well, I saw the metallic blue there, and though it would be nicely related to green, so I went with that instead. The mix of the two colors turned out so nice, I decided just to spray paint the pieces in toto. All it took was a splurtz of red in the centers then a dusting of khaki from far away to give these guys a nice look. I went ahead and finished them with a double coat of clear sealant. When you apply (Krylon?) spray sealant too thick, it becomes like a translucent white haze over the piece. This usually ruins figures, but sometimes it can be used to even out and neutralize a piece. I think it ended up with a decent effect.

I only did a minimal bit of painting after the spraypaint. The tips of the tentacles got Apple Barrel flourescent yellow paint. This stuff is horrible for regular painting, since, no matter what I put under it as a base or primer, it doesn't adhere well and barely covers after multiple coats. That, however, makes it really good for making a dayglo color flim like coat. Like, say, pollen?

At the Hoard of Bits price, this was $10 of parts for nine figures. That's a little above my regular "one buck a figure" limit for being cheap. If I had stayed with 3 torsos per plant, it would have hit right at one dollar. But I think having the three "big" ones with four tentacles was worth it.

A Quaint Little Villa

Here is a nice little craft kit. Pretty simple to make, and pretty easy to find on sale at your FLCS. I saw a stack of them on sale for a buck a piece, but realized that the scale of the buildling wouldn't work for 28mm minis. Then I realized that it really didn't matter what the printed design was, or what the scale was intended to be. More important than what it was is what it could be. That is obivously a deep, philosophical point as it uses the past, present, and future tenst of the state of being verb all in one sentence. :)

Well, this wasn't much of a stretch. Pretty much just make it and paint it. By adding a balsa wood door, I impose a scale on the building that matches what I want. Not bad for a quick filler building. A more ambitious person might fill in the gaps and cracks with caulk or spackle before painting, to give a nicer more uniform appearance.

This is the first variant I came up with. Just pull the two pieces apart. Now you have a little cottage and a tower. The tower seemed to need a little more, so I added a ledge between the two (remember, my scale, not the piece's scale) floors. You can also see a little texturing on the roof, which I did by putting some self adhesive foam shapes on to a wood block. Again, primitive yet functional. And the roof patterns look much better from a more natural gaming angle.

This one requried a little cutting of the roof to get the tower at the other end, but all in all, it was pretty simple and makes a nice variant.

The obivous follow up to two towers on one cottage is two cottages on one tower. Especially when you have an extra cottage left over from the last one.

And, of course, anything worth doing, is worth overdoing. This one required a small piece of thin cardboard to bridge across the two towers. There's also a lot of white space you could use if you were making a more detailed building rather than a generic space filler.

Lastly, doubling up shouldn't be limited to whole pieces. here you see some additional examples of simple texturing (I have a couple other ones, too, like brick and dots). For some reason, these guys also got hardware on the doors ... just a little puff paint (that liquid latex for decorating t-shirts found in your FLCS).

So, what do you do with them? Well, here's a little Medieval village layout. Fantasy in theme because of the peanut butter jar lid/cd/miscelaneous miniature fountain in the town square. You may notice a non-villa piece in there ... a dollar birdhouse from the FLCS.

A slight change of scene and some different statuary allows this to be a mid to late 20th century Eastern European building. It's amazing how a little self adhesive foam star turns these all american green army men into dirty pinko commies. Also a couple rounded tower like birdhouses.

White marble statues and some printed paper on 6"x6" wood blocks transforms the timbre of the villas yet again. I suppose the imposing "my building is bigger than yours" helps, too. Great Hall? Church? Patron's Manor? Nope. Just a "stable" birdhouse, this time weighing in at $5.00!

Oh, I almost forgot. The stable roof pieces (and door) are hinged, presumably to fill it with birdseed. Also nice for stationing snipers.

So, here's the whole outlay, in a rather dense layout over a 4'x4' area. I usually use this for a 4'x6' field, or even a 4'x8' or 5'x10' with a few hedges, trees and statues thrown in for good measure. The coolest thing is if you count 'em up that's $28, ignoring glue, paint, and a couple of scraps for doors'n'such.

This article isn't to advocate against nice, detailed terrain pieces. I have many of those as well. And paper buildings. There are a couple of very nicely done series of print and fold buildings in my inventory as well. These don't look nearly as nice as those, but markedly nicer than flat paper template cut outs. And being balsa wood, they are pretty light and reasonably durable.

I keep telling myself I am going to go back and spackle the gaps or put hardware on all the doors (the stable door was just flat originally). Then someone knocks one off the table on to the floor. I swear, slap some "cow glue" on 'er and think ... maybe later.