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By Dave Robotham

Like all wargamers we end up making lots probably need polystyrene tiles at least
of terrain. This usually ends up being for 25mm thick (we prefer 50mm which we
the magazine or for test games when we either buy in this thickness or stick two
are trying out new rules, or for when we pieces together) and I think a good size for
just feel like a game. We get a lot of emails the tile is 2’ x 2’. To cut your polystyrene to
from people talking about terrain and we size all you really need is a good Stanley
figured we could see if Dave could link the knife, tape measure and something to
two together. draw a straight line against.

The subject of our first article on modular Cut along the line you want for your board,
terrain is the desert, or more accurately making sure the cut is as deep as the
the updating/upgrading of TSS desert Stanley knife will cut. You can then just
terrain tiles and boards using spray paint snap the polystyrene and you will get a
and basic flock… clean break where you have cut.

IN THE BEGINNING Using 50mm will give you enough depth

I started this project with some very basic to work into the tile. The easies way to
TSS desert tiles in hand, which might add undulating ground and other features
well have been basic polystyrene for all is to gouge the polystyrene tiles out with a
the detail they had to them. But before I suitable tool like a knife or even a spoon…!
move on to how to make these TSS tiles All you really need to do is get your basic
look good I figured that as I have made shapes formed into the board.
numerous gaming tiles in the past I would
detail some basic ideas behind starting Next choose a good neutral coloured
from scratch. emulsion (grey or ivory) and cover the
tiles in it. This will seal the polystyrene and
Before you can add paint effects and start to help cover up the beaded effect
flock you need to actually get hold of or carved styrene often has.
make your tiles or board. Most builders’
yards will have plenty of stock of normal Throughout all my terrain making sessions
white polystyrene or if you are lucky you (of which there have been many) I have
might come across the special blue and settled on a very simple way to texture
pink styrene sheets, usually used for floorboards and tiles with flock or sand. For
insulation I think. desert boards I suggest using quite fine
sand, especially if you are going to follow
The blue and pink materials are much some of the techniques used in this
stronger and less prone to denting or article.
crumbling than standard polystyrene, but
the latter is much to come by. You can use texture paint like Artex but
I find often the grain used in the paint
If you are starting from scratch you will can give a very sharp finish and that just

makes me nervous when my lovely painted
figures might scrape across it.

Start by getting good wood glue or PVA

glue. It is important that you do not water
it down or use glue that is too runny. You
have to work quickly for this to work so
don’t dawdle…

Paint your glue onto the entire surface you

will be adding sand to. Make sure the coat
is not very thick and is still wet all over.
Pour all your sand into a pile along one
edge of the tile or board, then lift the board
or tile up on one end and let all the sand These are the tiles I was tasked with
poor down the glue covered board. painting up before I had done anything to
them. They have one flat colour of flock on
This is where you may encounter problems them.
if your glue is too runny or too thick as it
will roll down with the sand and ruin the Start by spraying a constant layer of Earth
smooth effect. Brown into the lower areas of the undulating
ground. Then dapple the entire board with
Use a cloth to collect all the sand or flock Earth Brown. You want to avoid spaying
and you can re-use the excess on further the colour in one place for too long so you
tiles or boards. Let this dry over-night or get a good varied tone across the whole
the best part of a day. You may have to board. At this point it will look strange but
go back over undulating ground while the you still have two layers of paint to go.
glue is still wet by pouring sand into the
indentations and then lifting the board up
to remove the excess.

When done properly this sanding technique

produces a wonderfully smooth finish that
is hard to match if you apply the sand in
patches over time.


The quickest way to get a great finish on
terrain boards is with spray paints. With
two or three colours you can create a
wonderful mottled effect.

Remember when using spray paints to

make sure you are working outside or in a
very well ventilated area. The recesses in the tiles have been sprayed
with Earth Brown. The TSS tiles we used
For the desert tiles I used a three tone had these already made in the surface, but
effect. I used Earth Brown, Desert Yellow it is very easy to gouge out your own ...
and Matt White.
Using Earth Brown to dapple the tiles does
create a very stark contrast but don’t loose
heart as further colours will act as a glaze,
blending it all together nicely.

Finally dust the board with Matt White.

Dusting is an even lighter application than
dappling and you literally want only want a
very wide pattern that will catch the edges
Next use the Desert Yellow and dapple the of any features you have sculpted onto the
board but do not worry about following board.
the same patterns you laid down with the
Earth Brown as you are looking to achieve When used this way you can achieve the
a random effect. Also try to avoid laying same results as a very light drybrush.
down too much paint in one particular area The strength of a well aimed spray can is
as detailed above. often something that is overlooked when
As you can see from the following 2
pictures the Desert Yellow spray paint has At this point, if you want to get playing, the
toned down the stark lines of Earth Brown board is finished. With the dappled colours
and started bringing the overall effect the board will look more varied and more
together. natural than a plain colour or cloth.

As you can see the use of white spray has
just accentuated the undulating ground
and added a more depth to the board and
blended the colours.

I decided to add a couple of final touches
to the boards I was making in the form of
rough stony ground and patches of grass
and bushes.

I scrambled around for bags of flock and

These techniques look good in various
grass and discovered I had very little but a
settings and scales…
quick trip to my local model shop gave me
a great variety of grasses and flocks in all
shades of green and brown.

I then mixed a few of the flocks together to

give three shades, a light green-brown, a
mid green and a dark green. All the shades
had different browns mixed in as well but
the overall colours were still green.

I used a big plastic container to put each

shade in as I was applying it to the board.

A selection of flock and grass… Try to be as random as possible when
applying your flock. It is harder than it
Water down some PVA glue by about 5 looks to make it look random.
parts water to 1 part glue. This watered
down glue will flow much more easily onto For the second and third layers of flock you
the sand or flock you have used on your want to create a gradient effect between
table. Sometimes it may flow too much so colours. If you are using the watered down
watch out. PVA this should be much easier as the glue
will soak through the flock already glued
Paint a random patch of glue onto your down and provide that natural gradient.
board and then sprinkle your flock or grass
mix onto the area covered by the glue.
Make sure all the glue is covered by your

Then simply lift the board up and tip the

excess flock back into your container.
Another method is to use enough flock
that you can paint the patches of glue onto
your entire board and then add the flock
and instead of tipping the board to remove
the flock use a vacuum cleaner but make
sure it has been emptied.

When you have finished you can just empty

the cleaner into a suitable storage device.
Using the watered down PVA you can get
First glue down the lightest shade of flock your different coloured flocks to blend
you want to use, you can lay down quite together.
large patches of this flock as the contrast
between your board and the flock will not For the Final touch I glued down small
be huge at his point. patches of rough gravel around the
undulating ground and then drybrushed

them with bleached bone when they were

Use neat PVA glue as the watered down

mix will not give you enough grip to keep
the gravel in place. Apply the PVA glue
where you want the gravel to go and then
pour the gravel onto the glue. Because
gravel is heavier than flock it is unwise to
try and tip the board to remove the excess

Wait overnight or the best part of the

morning or afternoon for the PVA glue to
set and then remove the excess. Finally
you just use a cloth or mat you can use the
drybrush the gravel with a light ivory
same techniques with spray paint to make
coloured paint.
the battlefield that little bit more varied
and pretty.
Don’t be alarmed if stones come loose
while you are drybrushing them it is best
On the next page we have included some
that the loose gravel is removed now so
larger shots of the desert boards we created
just carry on and remove any loose gravel
along with some grass boards that we
when you have finished.
created during the writing of the January
issue of Wargames Journal. The green tiles
The finished table in all its painted glory
were made for a 10mm game and they
suddenly feels much more “real”.
really do show what you can achieve with
a modicum of effort.

They are much more “modular” than the

desert tiles as they have all the scenery
other than the houses modelled onto
them. Artex was used on the roads and
we used some 10mm dry stone walls as
our hedge rows. We just covered them
in standard green flock and then painted
them with the rest of the table. The trees
were just pressed into the tiles and held
with a dab or PVA glue. These two tables
are very different and demonstrate a happy
medium for gaming: they look the part but
didn’t take forever to make!
You should be able to produce quite a
In the next part of this series we will look
large number of tiles or boards using these
at starting from scratch to assemble a 6’
techniques. In fact you can use the same
x 4’ gaming table. We will also provide a
ideas but just change the type of terrain
couple of scenarios that make use of the
you are making. You can have some great
terrain we show you how to make.
looking tables to put you terrain on even if

A sleepy French village awaits rhe advancing British force - its German occupiers well hidden ...

The harsh desert of North Africa - ready for Rommel’s Afrika Korp or Alexander’s Companion Cavalry