By Rob "Matrix" Hawkins

Tutorial Date 11/19/06

I wanted to have a battlefield with a modeled surface that would be able to accommodate modular features and be arranged in different configurations. I’ve also wanted to do a city-themed board for quite some time, and the battle for the Protectorate city of Sul seemed like the perfect opportunity. In this tutorial, we’ll tackle the base boards for the city streets.


Techniques Used:
Craters, Sandbags, Trenches


three 2’x4’ sections of 2" thick pink foam insulate

textured wallpaper

Liquid Nails (for paneling, wood & foam molding)

latex gloves (for working with the Liquid Nails)

Elmer’s wood glue

Woodland Scenics Talus or small pebbles


Avis Epoxy Sculpt

fabric band-aids

A selection of basswood strips

super glue and the usual tools (box cutter, x-acto blade, clippers, steel ruler, potato chips, etc.)




The foam insulate comes in 8’x2’sheets. You’ll need to cut these in half to get four 2’x4’ sections. They also have a tounge & groove edge; remove the "tounge" by slicing it off with a retractable box cutter. (Hint: unless you own a truck that can fit an 8’ board in the back, you’ll want to bring your tape measure, steel ruler and a box cutter to the hardware store. If you cut the boards at the store, you’ll be able to fit them into the back seat of a car. As satisfying as the loud CRACK may sound, don’t snap them in half, or you’ll wind up with uneven sections.)


WARMACHINE is played on a 4’ 4’ playing area, but I plan to use this for other games as well, so I’m using three of the 2’x4’ boards. Two of them will be plain with a few craters, and one will have a trench network cut into the street. (Cygnarians have no respect for the holy land!) The boards will fit together to create any number of 4’x4’ or 6’x4’ battlefield layouts.


It took a lot of digging, but I found a really great wallpaper that perfectly resembles a flagstone surface. It cost about 40 bucks for a 7’x5’ roll, and I’ve been holding onto it for about 5 years, but it’s time has finally come!



Trim the textured paper to fit each of the 3 boards (you want them to be about 2-3 inches larger to allow a bit of overlap). In a well ventilated area, spread some Liquid Nails on the board, and roll out the wallpaper. Roll and glue about 8" at a time, smoothing out any bumps in the wallpaper. Lay a bead of Liquid Nails along the edges of the board so that it squishes out a bit as you press the paper down. This will form a nice seal along the edge and keep the paper from peeling up.




Stack the tables upside down and let the Liquid Nails dry overnight. Placing some books or your figure cases on top will make sure the wall paper stays firmly in place. Paint a coating of wood glue along the sides of the board. This will reinforce the foam sides and further affix the wallpaper. Once this is dry, you can use a retractable box cutter to slice off the excess wallpaper…



…leaving a clean edge that will match up with the other board sections.



While the textured paper alone is a fine base for a city board (and if you’re not that adventurous, you could stop here and just add modular buildings), we’re going to spice these up a bit with craters and trenches! The 2" foam, is resistant to warping, and allows you to cut recessed features into it.


Use a marker to draw out your craters and trench locations. Just remember-- the more "built-in" features you add, the less room you’ll have for modular buildings. I put two craters on two of the boards, leaving most of the area open for scenery, and on the third, a lot more craters and two trench lines.






Where you have marked the craters, carefully slice through the wall paper, and peel up the circle, exposing the foam below.




Gouge out a crater pit. Cutting at an angle with a box cutter and then using a spoon to remove chunks of foam is pretty effective. Alternatively, if you have a heat gun, you can use it to melt a crater into the foam. (and it’s a lot faster!)




Apply a generous bead of Liquid nails around the rim, and put a dab at the bottom of the crater. Do one crater at a time, because the Liquid Nails tends to get a "skin" on it once it has sat for a few minutes, making it harder to stick pebbles into. Oh, and put on some latex gloves and open the windows-- This stuff is sticky (and toxic)!




Press some Woodland Scenics Talus or pebbles into the Liquid Nails around the rim, and put a few pebbles at the bottom of the crater.




Next, smooth out the Liquid Nails with your finger, blending it into the table surface.




By the time you get to the final crater, the Liquid Nails on the first one should be dry enough for this next step. Carefully paint some wood glue around and inside the crater. Use an irregular pattern, and take care not to get any glue on the top of the pebbles; you don’t want the larger rocks to be covered with sand.




Sprinkle a generous amount of sand over the wood glue and allow it to dry thoroughly.




Shake off the excess sand, leaving you with a beautiful crater! (Hint: The combination of Liquid Nails, with wood glue around the edges should secure the pebbles, but when it’s all dry, give some of the larger ones a wiggle. If they pop off, just superglue them back in place. Better for them to come off and get fixed now, rather than during a game!)




One final detail: Since the craters are blasted into the flagstone streets, there should be a few chunks of broken flagstone. Cut out a few pieces of thick cardboard, and super glue them around the debris. Add a bit more sand (brown ballast in the picture) to partially bury the broken flagstones.






Cutting out the trenches takes a lot more work than the craters. (It was easily the least fun part of this project.) Cut away a bit more of the wallpaper than you did for the craters; the trenches will have more sand around the edges. When gouging out the foam, take care not to cut too deep, as you don’t want to punch through the bottom of your board. The trench should be wide enough to accommodate a large base model, or two small based models.


The bottom of the trench will be pretty rough, but you can smooth it out with some Liquid Nails.





Glue sand around the edges and in the bottom of the trench. To build the firing platform, use Liquid Nails to glue a row of support beams along the bottom of the trench. I’m using ı" square basswood. (Hint: it helps to keep some models on hand for sizing reference. Make sure the firing platform will hold a model, and allow another model to stand on the ground behind it. The top of the trench should be at about chest level, and firing models (like Long Gunners) should have room for their rifles to clear the top.)




Using super glue, affix thinner planks on top of the support beams. I’m using ı" strips. All the wood here is basswood. I find it to be sturdier than balsa, and resistant to damage.




Once the platform is constructed, start on the support wall (You’ll notice that the placement of the wood is a bit imprecise in spots; this is to create the ramshackle look of a hastily constructed defense line that’s seen some wear and tear during the months of battle.)


Build the support walls by using Liquid Nails to attach Ω’’ planks to the foam. Over these, super glue some vertical support struts. In the corners of the platform, you can also superglue some sand and ballast. (Notice in the picture, that the flagstones have been precisely trimmed away. Wood glue and sand will fill in this patch to give the appearance of the street tiles having been torn up prior to digging the trench.




For the damaged section of the trench, you’ll need to build a crater in the front half, and glue broken planking around the blast point, where the firing platform has shattered.




Now for the fun part: adding the sandbags. Avis Epoxy Sculpt is a two-part modeling compound. Prepare enough of the epoxy to create sandbags for your trenches. Start by making small rectangles and attaching them to a piece of plastic card. With a fabric band-aid, gently roll your finger across the tops of the sandbags before they get too dry. The impression from the band-aid will leave a pattern resembling burlap on the putty sandbags.




Let the putty stand for a few minutes. It will firm up, but still remain pliable. Use a long retractable box cutter to carefully slice the sandbags off of the plastic card. Roll an x-acto blade along each side of the sandbag to score a seam into it. (Note that you’re not slicing into the putty, but pressing the blade into it.)


With the seams added, press the sandbag into place along the trench line, and roll your band-aid across the top to replenish any of the texture that may have been lost from handling the putty. The final touch is achieved by poking the corners with a sharp sculpting tool to create divots in the seam.





At the damaged trench section, add some stray sandbags, and tear them open at one end. These have been ripped apart by the explosion that left the crater!




Once the Epoxy sandbags are dry, give them a tug. If any come loose, superglue them back into place. Also glue some sand into and spilling out of the broken open sandbags.



Build up some details like the steps with any stray wood scraps left over.


This tutorial will be continued next time…