Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homemade Terrain

How many of you are making homemade terrain these days?

I started playing tabletop games well before the days of Cities of Death plastic ruined building kits. Back in the early days of my 40k and tabletop career, we had to make our own terrain. The only store-bought pieces were trees and grass mats from model railroad sets. To match it, we'd base all of our miniatures, from the darkest chaos lord to the mightiest Space Marine on lush green grass. No grim dark here, only perpetual springtime! (White Dwarf letter? Remember it? Bonus points if you do). 

To make buildings and ruins, we'd collect actual trash as our main construction materials; old styrofoam packing material, cardboard, bottle caps, etc. In fact, the dumpster is where you would go to find terrain, not the Games Workshop Online Store. At one point Games Workshop started releasing terrain kits, like model trees, hills, even card-buildings. These were all horribly over-priced in our eyes and we stuck to our home endeavors. Why purchase terrain when we could build it ourselves from free materials?

A couple weeks ago, I told Mike Brandt I'd help him get started in making terrain for the NOVA Open. I sent him a list of materials to purchase and showed him the basics of building hills from foam. About a week later, Mike had a terrain factory in full production. His team build over 100 hills in less than 10 hours or so.  One of the guys showed up with left over foamcore he found in his office at work, so I showed them how to make ruins with that material. From what I have heard from Mike of late, is the NOVA Open is going to be unlike a lot of tournaments in that, it is going to have sufficient terrain on every table. Near uniform in its layout and amount of coverage, the NOVA Open will provide for a level playing field for everyone, at every table. This is all due to lots of hard work from Mike and his terrain-team, which includes, I'd like to add, a hard-working pregnant woman, whose due-date is the first day of the Open!!! (now that is dedication)

So lately I have been keeping an eye out for any material I could use to make a new terrain set for my own tabletop games. I've decided on a theme; District 9. I want to create a terrain set that includes a slum, strewn with debris, footpaths, shacks, contrasted by tank-traps and barricades, watch towers and sentry guns; the homes of an impoverished alien population, oppressed, contained and monitored by a sophisticated military force. Below are the humble beginnings of such a table; the shacks. 

I found blocks of styrofoam to form the structure of the buildings and then I just glued on different textures. I found a huge supply of corrugated cardboard in our recycle area of our office building, and this is great texture that makes it look like corrugated iron sheets you'll see on real-life shacks in shanty-towns across the globe. Pop-cycle sticks, broken up, provide me with wooden planks used when the corrugated iron is missing. Wood-filler is slathered on in some places, to give the look of concrete ways or plaster. I was also given a whole bunch of resin miscasts from Ramshackle games that included a bunch of doors and ladders that add to the variety of textures. 

I've still got a long way to go. I want to have at least 10 shacks like this, preferably 20 or more. I've just got to keep an eye out for materials in dumpsters around town. This set won't be extremely functional for 40k, or at least todays incarnation of it (with each army running 12 chimeras or razorbacks) but that's my intention. It is meant for skirmish level games like Infinity or Necromunda. However, that doesn't mean we couldn't have some amazing 40k games with them. Imagine a group of Space Marines having to dismount their vehicles, because they don't fit in the narrow alley-ways of the Kroot slum, only to find themselves attacked by a nimble Tau Crisis Suit, darting about among the shacks. For Infinity, I can imagine a small Pan O strike force, hunting down Combined Army Shas'vaasti aliens in bitter fighting from shack to shack. Oh the possibilities!

But that's what homemade terrain is about, making your own world. Think outside the plastic kit, build something new and original. Essentially what I am doing is re-creating a movie-set and that's a great place to start in building a terrain-set. Maybe you really liked Return of the Jedi. Now imagine a terrain set based off of the Battle for Endor. Large redwood trees, underbrush, hills and natural elements, made complete with a military fort from the future. What about the Terminator movies? Crappy movies story-wise, excluding the first one, but you can't argue that their sets weren't amazing. Remember the last scene of Terminator 2? Now imagine a 40k battle taking place inside a huge industrial factory! The list goes on. 

Got any homemade terrain? I want to see it. Drop me a comment with a link! Artists need inspiration from other artists!


lehcyfer said...

Great Ork shacks :)

DimmyK said...

Yes I do but not very good and I have some more coming up scheduled some time next week. Not very amazing what I have atm but it is homemade

Part 1:

Part 2:

Old Shatter Hands said...

Dimmy, I just left a comment on your site but somehow it didn't load...hmmm.

DimmyK said...

It did load don't worry, I got it :) thanks for the advice and kind words

Pete W said...

Nice work OSH. The shacks look great and I can't wait to see a whole table geared up for skirmishes through a shanty town.

Glad to see the Ramshackle bits worked out as well :-)


Pete said...

Lovely work. I'm intermittently engaged on a trench board these days, and I quite agree with your philosophy!

Chuckles said...

I remember that letter to White Dwarf!

Oh, how we laughed and laughed!

How does the Emperor get all that yard space mowed?