Blighted Nyss Hunting Village Pt. 1: Natural Features
by Phil "ForcedPerfect" Duple
A barren land of rock and snow with very little life to show save a few trees clumped together as if for strength. Behold, the land of the Nyss...
Let's face it. There's no Legion of Everblight stuff on the Terrainthralls site. None of us play Legion armies, and no one has really felt the need to build stuff for them. The email messages kept coming in asking for more Legion goodies, and we kept not doing anything.
I started out just wanting to make a little hunting lodge or something. That went to a cluster of buildings. That, in turn, became a village. A village needs a board to go on, and that board needs to match the village's colors and scenery aesthetics.
You get the idea
So what started as a nice little project became building a whole table from scratch. This falls neatly into the "kill the whole flock with one bazooka" realm of scenery building—We've had people asking about how to build tables from scratch with beginner-level techniques, how to make basic scenery elements, and how to use inexpensive materials to make pretty much anything. This tutorial covers all that ground.
When I build a complete table, I start from the ground up. Since this is a project set in the blighted North, I expected some snowy earth to form my foundation, but I like to double check with the fluff for detail inspiration. You can't beat the IKWG and IKCG for fluff reference, so I checked it out
The Iron Kingdoms World Guide sayeth the following about the Nyss lands: "Craggy, mountainous tundra; rugged stony plateaus; sparse trees, mostly shrubs, lichen, mosses, grasses...year around snow and ice."
Okay, we can do that. So we need to effectively create a rocky, snowy tundra landscape. The good news: This is super-easy to do with the cheapest of materials. In fact, you may have a lot of this stuff laying around already. I only had to buy some glue and some bits for this project.
Some Forsaken spines and Carniveran spikes (from the Privateer Press online store)
4'x4' slab of insulation foam (as well as some scrap)
Cereal box (crispy hexagons ftw)
Some pre-fab pine trees (or happily make your own)
Step 1: Getting Started
First off, lay out your 4'x4' slab of foam and paint it all a warm brown (or whatever you want your base soil color to be). (1A)
Then coat the whole thing patchily with a 2:1 mix of woodglue and water. As soon as you get the glue on (and don't be afraid to pool it up in places), throw a heap of kitty litter on top. To simulate the brush and moss descried in the IKWG, I mixed in a bunch of dried-up lichen and gross flock that had seen too many glue drips in my figure basing bowl. This is a great way to make sure you're using up all of your old materials around the house rather than just tossing them.
On kitty litter: I just used this stuff because I wanted some gravel and didn't want to go outside, but it's amazing! It cakes up on the watered-down glue and makes a cement-like base that looks great when it gets painted. I know I'm not the first one to do this, but I regret not having tried it sooner. Give it a try if you have cats! (1B)
After you let everything dry, give the whole mess a watered-down painting with your medium brown again. Let it all dry, and hit the non-graveled areas with a few progressively lighter drybrushes of medium and light browns. Don't worry too much about how nice these areas look, as they'll be mostly covered with snow. But some will show through in places, so it's nice to cover your bases now instead of trying to paint brown around snow later. (1C)
The rocky areas should get drybrushed with progressively lighter shades of gray and tan to bring out the edges.
Part 2: The Trees
Okay, that's done. Now, we're going to make a few "sparse tree" areas. There are a host of DIY tree-making tutorials out there, but I needed to same some time on this one, so I bought some pre-fab trees from a nice old lady at my local train hobby store. She makes the best trees I've ever seen, her trees are to scale for wargaming (ever notice how all the trees that get used in games seem to be about a foot taller than your models, or is that just me?), and she sells them super cheap if you buy some of her train stuff. I cannot help but think there is a lady like this in every train store everywhere. GO VISIT HER.
Anyway, I read on the Privateer Press forums a while back that some people were using old CDs as bases for forest templates. I love using trees in games! They look awesome, they're a great terrain feature rules wise, and they're pretty easy to make. But I always go overboard when I make tree bases, and clutter them with too many. I restrained myself this time and tried to go for a more "representative" approach, just putting one tree on each base and letting the base delineate the forest edge, rather than the trees themselves. This works both for playability and with the "sparse" description in the IKWG.
To make the bases, I simply drilled two holes in each base and wound the wire the trees are made of through the holes to get them to stand up straight (2A). The spindle holes were taped over, and the CDs were painted with glue and graveled with litter. The bases were then painted in the same manner as the board (2B).
Part 3: The Snowjob
I love making snow scenery. I love snow. Winter and I get along great, and it's fun to represent it on a tabletop. My snow mixture is as follows:
ForcedPerfect's Snow Mix
1 part water
2 parts Aleen's Tacky Glue
Add Woodland Scenics soft flake snow flock, stirring until a cake frosting texture is reached (3A).
Once you have a snow mixture put together, stipple it onto the non-rocky areas (and overlap it onto the rocky parts a bit as well). You're going for a gloppy, really raised relief surface here, as the mixture will settle a lot as it dries, so exaggerating the relief now will make a more subtly interesting surface later (3B).
Part 4: Natural Beauty
Look at that. This is already a perfectly playable table, with a few basic terrain features and a unified, cohesive look—all accomplished with simple techniques and inexpensive items, all easily done by even a first-time scenery builder (4A & 4B).
Alright, I've just demonstrated that you can build a table out of scrap foam and kitty litter. No excuses, go get building! I'll meet you back here for part two called "Will Build To Suit!"