WarMachine – Building Terrain – Part 1 Table and Basics

Warmachine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second Childhood?

One of my childhood passions was war gaming.   I would stay awake entire weekends, making terrain, painting models and gaming with friends.  Maybe a second childhood has occurred or it is simply the acceptance of an addiction, but the bug has bitten me again… pretty hard.  This time I have no intent of straying away.

While I enjoy the aspect of the gaming, I am one of the gamers who believes that the terrain and playing surface are a major part of the game.  I really think it adds to the feel of the game.  I thought I would share how I made some of my props.

General Considerations

This is what we have so far, scattered about our 3x6 foot table.
This is what we have so far, scattered about our 3×6 foot table.

If you are going to start playing tabletop war games, there are several things to consider.  Fist off, how much space do you need?  Warmachine, the game Eric and I are currently playing, recommends that you have a 4 foot by 4 foot playing area.  However, one of the nice things about games of this style is that you can modify things for your purpose.  I did not have any plywood that was 4×4 square, we opted to create a table about 3 x 6 feet.  I took a few fiber pads from pallets and stapled them directly to the plywood.  I prefer a non-solid color playing field, so I sprayed it with two shades of green and some brown spray paint for a mottled looking background.

If you look at the photograph to the right, you can see that we already have made or accumulated a good number of props.

Realism vs. Play-ability

Another thing you must consider when building your props is whether you want it to be more realistic or more functional.  We are leaning toward functional play-ability.  Things to think about include but are not limited to:

  • Can the models stand on your hill or mountain?
  • The weight of the prop, lighter is better.
  • How easy is it going to be to take your entire battle field to a friend’s house?
  • Sturdiness – it has to be able to withstand a model’s weight and the light abuse of dice smashing into it.
  • How well does the scale of your model fit with the scale of your game.

Lumpy’s Economy Method of  Turning Junk into Props

Another thing to consider is your budget.  I am able to play this game because of the grace of my brother and friends who are donating to me most of the models.  I am not in a position to spend much money on gaming.  However, that should not discourage one from gaming, I am building these props on a near zero budget.  Most of the materials came from other people’s trash.

The Table – What You Need to Start

While you don’t need a finished dedicated table, you are certainly going to need something to put your models and props on.  You certainly could, just make due with props on any existing table.  However, I am of the opinion, that you want a table top finished for the game by doing so it is much easier to have epic length games from which you can take a break and leave everything set up.

You can also use a piece of plywood and simply set it over a regular table (or basic carpentry sawhorses).  I already mentioned how I finished our table but you can also smooth and finish the plywood directly or coat the surface with felt. (Pool table felt seems rather popular.)  Regardless, it need not be anything incredibly fancy so long as you make sure it is relatively smooth and level so that your props and models sit nicely on it.

Instructions, Not Photos

I understand that many of you may wish to view photos of these props.  I am not going to post ALL the photos here.  I will post only those I need to make the point. Furthermore, they will be of lower resolution than those I share on sites more geared to host photos.  If you wish to view all my photos on this topic, please feel free to check out my photos on Facebook, Google+, Redgage, and Flickr.

Too Much for One Post

Since this is an ongoing addictions and many of the props are still in progress, I can not cover it all with one post.  However, I have created the category “Gaming” with the sub categories of  “WarMachine” and “props” so that you can find more on this in the future.

 Some Basic Easy-to-Make Terrain Props

Let us start with some simple and basic terrain props for the game WarMachine.  I am going to describe and share how I made a few simple obstacles, barriers and elevations.  Before I get into the props, let me breakdown how I am using some words:

  • Obstacle – You can pass through an obstacle but it will cost you extra movement.  You can not stop on an obstacle.
  • Barriers – You can not pass through or end up on a barrier.  They are impassable and you must go around them.
  • Elevations – When traversing an elevation, you must spend the height of it as movement.  You can stop on an elevation.  In most games, elevation offers some type of advantage.  Specifically to WarMachine, elevations over 1″ give the model a +2 to defense.
  • Line of Sight – (LOS is the most commonly used abbreviation.)  Most obstacles, barriers and elevations impact line of sight.  However, we created one exception.
  • Cover – In terms of the game you are playing, it’s exact impact may vary.  In most cases it offers some type of advantage verses LOS attacks.  It is something that block enemy fire.  It is one better than concealment.
  • Concealment – The soldier’s second choice to cover.  While cover blocks bullets, concealment only hides you.  It interferes with line of sight.  It is an advantage when you come under LOS attack in most games.

Getting Started – Materials and Tools

To build some basic props, you really don’t need much. For materials:

  • Floral Foam or Styrofoam –  Personally I prefer the floral foam.  It is easier to work with and makes less mess when you cut it.  Also be sure and test your material against your spray paint to see if it melts easily.  Also of note, especially regarding floral foam, spray painting the material seems to help reduce the flaking off of the material onto your playing surface.
  • Cardboard
  • Construction Paper
  • Craft Flowers and Plants
  • An old Christmas wreath
  • Spray Paint
  • Wire – I used telephone wire, you can use what you wish but keep in mind your scale
  • Toothpicks, wooden dowel rod
  • Glue – Use common sense to determine what will work.  Adhesive caulking is also nice to have around.

For tools:

  • A Hacksaw Blade – You can wrap duct tape around part of it or you can buy a holder like mine.  You could also use a conventional hacksaw but the “U” shaped holder can get in your way if you are cutting larger pieces of styrofoam.
  • Scissors – for cardboard and paper
  • Wire cutters and plyers
  • Paint brushes

 Project 1 – Fallen Timber or Tree Obstacle


Simple Obstacles

Fallen Timbers
A Fallen Timber Obstacle

Fallen Tree Obstacle
Fallen Tree Obstacle

Likely you can figure out how to make these by looking at the pictures.  For the fallen timber, just glue together the match sticks, tooth picks or cut wood dowels and let them dry.  The fallen tree obstacle is simply wreath material holding a few twigs together.

While many obstacles create a line of site obstructions, players could easily agree that the fallen timbers would not while the fallen tree could.  Likely also to be agreed on, is they would cause some type of movement loss.  When I play the above the timbers cost double movement and the fallen tree simply cost one additional point.

 Project 2 – Fences and Spiked Barriers


Fences and Spiked Hills
Fences and Spiked Hills

Spike Obsacle
Spiked Obstacle

These props are also fairly easy to make:

  • cut your styrofoam or floral foam
  • insert your cut dowel material and remove
  • spray paint the foam (if you do it and then reinsert the dowels when the paint is wet, it acts as an adhesive)
  • when dry, insert any floral material

It is up to the gamers on how they wish to use these props.  My friend and I decided we wanted the spiked obstacles in the WarMachine game so that if a model gets thrown or knocked into it, they have to make a damage roll check.  You could either agree that the fences are impassable or have a movement cost.  I feel most would agree that they function as cover and give the covered models a +4 to defense.

So far, if you construct the props above, you will have something to vary every aspect of the terrain I mentioned other than elevation.  If you wish to add elevation to your game playing, simply cut a hill out of styrofoam.  When doing so, try and keep the slope slight and keep some flat surfaces on it so that you can easily stand your models on it.   Also keep in mind, that it must be higher than 1 inch in order for it to impact the game play.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your tips and tricks below.  Also, be sure and check back, in the future, I will be covering more fences, walls, buildings and hills.

One thought on “WarMachine – Building Terrain – Part 1 Table and Basics

Comments are closed.