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Subject: Do you make your own terrain and if so... rss

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Robert Trifts
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Yes I used to - and I don't much more anymore. Not that's it's not fun, and not that they aren't useful - simply that I just don't have the time to do it anymore.

I'm certainly not handy by any stretch - but I found it accessible. I think that GW's "How to Make Wargames Terrain" was a quite accessible book for noobs. I got it ten years ago or so. (It's in a revised edition and when I saw it last week in the store - had a price tag that was $40+. Holy CRAP. These guys at GW are shameless THIEVES!)

Anyway, yeah. It's entirely doable - not all that hard to get good looking results and it had its own Zen rewards while beavering away, too. Buying lots of cool new tools and hobbyist things just to make this stuff is also fun as well - at least it is for me. And any hobby that benefits from a light/magnifying glass spring armed thingy and a Dremel has got to be geeky enough to be fun.

One thing I have dabbled with recently is the insta-cardstock variety of this hobby. Take a gander at World Works Games for some amazing stuff with cardstock and a color printer. http://www.worldworksgames.com/store/

Print, cut, score fold, glue; repeat. Get fancy and add foamcore bases and magnetic strips for a magnetic masterboard. Fun community there too.

Really DAMNABLY impressive results from this printed cardstock stuff. Not to be pooh-poohed or underestimated AT ALL. I don't think it was as satisfying as scratch building a church from foamcore, balsa, poly filla and pebbles and cardboard and glue, but DAMN if all this cardstock stuff isn't impressive on the table when its laid out.

Have a look.



And my Fave: the Maiden:


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Hugh G. Rection
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You can get a lot of ideas here:

http://www.terragenesis.co.uk/

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Dave J
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I'd second that. Terragenesis is a fantastic site.
 
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Marco Fuini
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I think simple terrain making is easy. I use and recommend these cheap ingredients:

1) Polystirene (sp?) - easy to cut and shape and stick together.
2) Wood glue - easy to clean
3) PVA/Acrylic paint - easy to clean
4) Sand/stones

Create the basic shapes (buidlings, hills etc) out of the polystirene. Use the wood glue to stick pieces together. Then brush the woodglue over this, then sprinkle sand on top. Let it dry, the paint a base coat over all this. I then select another shade and dry brush* over this, and then add highlights and shadows. An alternative is to apply the glue and cover the shape with the grass like powder that you find at model shops.

*Dry brush (don't wet the brush completely, stroke the brush over the surface lightly to allow the base colour to show through in areas).
 
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Mike Jones
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When working with styrofoam, get a hold of some florist paint. It's spray paint that will work on it.

I'd say trees and rivers are the hardest to make look good.

Buildings are easy, just look in the kitchen and garage for containers and things that 'look' interesting and build around them.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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It's a Zendrum. www.zendrum.com
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Terrain is easy and fun. There is definitely no reason to hesitate.
 
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Jim Ruddy
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Rivers are kind of weird to make as they end up 'higher' than the rest of the playing area. If you go to a model train store you can get stuff to make water, either liquid or little pellets that you melt with a heat gun. Use some cardboard or soft plastic for a base, build up the sides of the river with more cardboard or plastic, then add some plaster / modelling clay to make them realistic looking. Paint the bottom of the river and banks (see below) then add fake water.

If you want deep water, paint the base light at the edges of the river and dark in the middle. If you want it to look shallow, paint darker at the edges and lighter in the middle. If you buy a bag of moss, it may come with little twigs and stuff. Bags of moss are your best friend for swamps, bushes and even trees.

I've never had much luck with making buildings, probably because I usually play historical games. It's easier to make something from the "funky 50th century" than 1943 Ukraine.

When doing trees, you *can* use the plastic ones from the Train Shops but you could also use sticks, twigs etc... to make your own.

If you use the plastic tree's base paint them ink them and dry brush them before gluing the 'stuff' on. Make sure there is enough room on the base for your models. For bases you can use really thick and hard cardboard or a soft plastic. Don't use CD's, they are hard to cut. Don't use corrugated cardboard either. A friend of mine works with sheetmetal and makes all his terrain out of mild steel. He uses magnets to keep them from getting smashed up when he transports them...

You can easily make hills from the kind of Styrofoam you find at a building store and a Styrofoam cutter. This is the high density pink or blue stuff that is put onto walls. Cut the hills out, fix the sides however you want them, paint a base coat with decent brush paint, then flock them.
 
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Philip Reed
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I've used floor tiles (12"x12") as the base for modular terrain. Buy the heavy ones (about $2-$3 each but well worth it).
 
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Kent Reuber
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15mm:

For trees, I just buy Woodland Scenics in bulk, glue steel washers to the base, then add some grass and rocks. I order pre-made hills from http://www.war-zone.com. I usually use JR Miniatures for buildings.

2mm and 6mm:

I use bags of lichen for woods, and think cork for hills, and use Monopoly houses/hotels for buildings.
 
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Eric Jome
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Just go for it. The same goes for painting little men. Sure, your first efforts won't be artistic masterworks. It takes practice and experimentation. But in the end, you'll be building some great stuff with your own hands. How do I know? Because it's easy.

Some tips;

1) There are spray latex paints. These things will not melt extruded polystyrene and other foams. They come in a wide variety of colors and are extremely handy (if sometimes rather expensive).

2) God's gift to home crafters is the hot glue gun, available in small, effective models for pocket change. These things are fantastic for putting things together fast. Remember, be careful because it is very hot and keep an Exacto blade handy after it cools to trim away the strings and beads.

3) Plastic plants! Silk ferns! Your local floral hobby shop is likely to have buckets of these at very modest prices. It's funny how a single frond looks like the whole fern itself - cut, mount, and suddenly steaming jungles are yours to traverse.

4) Basing. Most things look better mounted on a card with some nice material basing it. You know a great way to get some great looking stuff for free? Go out in the alley or parking lot or street and look for a pot hole. In it, you'll find some fine gravel. Take a few handfuls, wash, dry, and sift it and you'll have a great basing material.

5) A very rewarding and entertaining way to make durable buildings is to cast them yourself out of plaster molds. Try Hirst Arts - http://www.hirstarts.com/

Good luck. Don't forget to post pictures for us.
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David Hsu
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I was always partial to hirstarts.com (making plaster buildings via molds) although it is a time consuming process

they have a suggestion for Descent on their site now too:
http://www.hirstarts.com/cavern/descent.html
 
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Marco Fuini
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Space is a problem, so I just place all my stuff in cardboard boxes. As most of my stuff is polystirene, its lightweight - this means you can place it on top of other stuff, it also isnt heavy to carry. If you put it in gently it doesnt get too damagaged and its easy to touch up the paint or glue back bits.
 
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Eric Jome
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mbourgeois wrote:
I've had some good replies for thought and I thank you all for it. Don't stop... I'm going to start trying to make a few things for myself. Nothing fancy but I figure a few stands of trees and maybe a hill or two would be nice. There is a fella in town who is just getting back into working on terrain and has done some lovely work so I might get a few fancy things from him. Keep all your thoughts coming... the more info I get the better chance I have of actually doing something decent.


Hills are a tricky business. There is a particular way to make them that is, in my opinion, best. Buy a large sheet of the thin polytsyrene insulation at your local home DIY store. It's usually pink or blue, about half an inch thick.

At the hobby crafting store, buy a hot wire foam cutter. It looks like a cardboard tube with a U shaped rod on one end. When you put batteries in it, the wire from the tube to the rod heats up and you can cut the foam. Use this tool to cut discs of the foam.

It's important to make stepped hills. This way, models can stand on them. So, cut a large circle. Then, cut a smaller circle. Usually, you want to be able to stack most hills 2 levels, with some hills going 3 or 4 levels. Each step should be wide enough to accomodate the base of most models. Cut the edges ragged and at a nearly vertical angle. Don't forget to do the cutting outside - the fumes of melting plastic are not good for you.

Once you have the pieces, use the spray latex I mentioned earlier. I often paint mine green. Then, I paint the edges black, shading with grey. If I am feeling ambitious, I flock the top with green grass (Woodland Scenics is my fave, just paint on white glue and pour it on).

This system makes the best hills. They look natural, stack well, and are very functional for play.

mbourgeois wrote:
Another terrain related query... how do you store your finished work? Do you bag it... keep it in a fishing box or what? I should keep that in mind I suppose.


Stackable storage bins purchased at Target.

Really, you don't want to make a lot of terrain. Terrain is an accent for a game. You want something that won't take a lot of time or money, is easy to store and transport, has some durability, offers good play options, and looks nice enough on the table.

So, you usually want, for a typical miniatures wargame, about 3 small woods, 2 medium woods, and 1 large woods; 3 small buildings, 2 medium buildings, and 1 large building; 1 small pond, 1 large lake, and enough river pieces to stretch from one side of the table to the other.

You can manage playable obstacles with nothing but colored felt. Buy green for trees, grey for buildings, and blue for water. Sometimes, you can even get stuff with a pattern printed on it. This is extremely cheap and easy to make and store, lasts forever, and is very functional. Unfortunately, it tends to leave you a bit flat.

So, you make your felts right away so you have things to play with and over time, you buy or make things to stand on the felts to dress them up. Often, during the holidays, little trees are available for purchase... wait until the clearance sales after the holidays and buy miniature trees on the cheap. Stand them on the green felts to present a nice visual of the trees. Or, if you are feeling ambitious, you can make trees in the traditional method - wire wrapping of artificial flowers from the craft store (or buy premades at a model railroad shop, but that's $$$ and, honestly, where's the fun in that?) And for buildings? Well, every delicious box of cereal comes complete with the makings for a building - a cardboard box. It's very easy to cut and glue this into cottages or barns or houses or fortresses. Simply spray paint it black when finished and paint it whatever colors you desire. The widening panorama of options gets ever greater as you look around your house and yard for all manner of things that can evolve from discarded yogurt cups into turrets (with some plastic tube from the hobby store) or twigs become a split rail fence.

Speaking of model railroading, of course, there are thousands of great things available directly at your model railroad hobby store. These people have been making detailed, realistic models for decades. They are a great source of information and inspiration. Don't forget to check that out.

Just remember that no one is an expert at first and that making the terrain is supposed to be part of the fun of the hobby. Keep trying, experiment, practice, and you'll be making things your friends will envy.
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Christopher
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Another two sites you might want to check are:

http://www.dwarvenforge.com/store/home.php

http://www.kallistra.co.uk/

The first is for absolutely gorgeous prepainted 3D gaming environments. I don't have any experience with the second company, but they look intriguing.
 
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Rob "Bodhi" Wolff
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My two pieces of advice are already in here, but they're so important that I'll state them again.

Terragenesis and Hirst Arts.

I can't paint miniatures, and I'm not particularly artistic, but between the fantasic ideas on the terragenesis site and the idiot-proof molds on the Hirst Arts site I've learned enough tricks to go from an absolute zero at making terrain to becoming somebody who made the down-payment for their car off (an albeit unique) terrain sale.

The thing that terragenesis teaches you is that every piece of junk, every bottlecap, every cork, every old scrub-brush is a potential piece of terrain aching to get out. You don't have to spend tons of money or days of work to have some really great-looking terrain. There are tons of nifty little projects that spice up your table, often from scraps.

(example: take a 10 cent plastic animal kid's toy, put it on a rectangular base of styrofoam, cover with glue, sprinkle on scrap sawdust, let dry, paint green, drybrush light breen = topiary hedge animal standing on square hedge!) I now have a half dozen topiary animals for my city park for an hour's effort and a dollar cost, and the park looks unique and interesting instead of generic and boring.

As for Hirst Arts ... they are an absolute godsend. If you do anything involving buildings, use these. Your eventual product looks amazing. They are like lego for grownups, and about as difficult to use. If you can build a lego house, you can build Hirst Arts terrain, and it will look amazingly professional.

For Greenery, model train fans are your friends. They've spent decades learning how to make the world look great when made small. I personally like Noch products for their grassmats, but I have a whole collection of various model train greenery products.

... and now you got me excited about terrain again! I feel a project coming on!
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