Saturday, June 21, 2008

Building a Necromunda Terrain Board: Part 4

In this installment we'll get the bulk of the painting finished up. After that, it's on to details and finishing touches (probably in further blog posts). These steps move much faster than the construction. Which is good, because construction was a bit of a ball-buster.

Some notes on Paint:

Paint is important. Maybe the most important part of the board.

The colors you choose are going to be tied into (and, perhaps, affecting) the pallets of your models and terrain. The colors are going to take your game board from a bunch of multicolored card squares on a piece of wood, to a bad-ass concrete wasteland.

The type of paint you choose is going to affect things like overall cost, time spent waiting for drying and overall durability of the finished product.

Paint Type:

Before we can choose colors, we need to discuss types of paint. If you've ever painted a miniature before, you're well aware that those little acrylic model paints are the way to go. They're fast drying, come in lots of colors/effects and are relatively cheap. You're probably most familiar with them as well.

However, we're talking about painting 16 square feet of gaming table. A little ounce-and-a-half paint pot isn't going to cut it. Hell, 10 of the little guys won't be enough. All of the qualities that make your regular mini paint great for miniatures are terrible for a gaming board. Primarily, the small size of the jars coupled with the 'fragile'* nature of the paint make it terrible for a high traffic play area.

*By fragile, I mean that since you are ideally working with very thin coat of paint, the paint will rub off if you don't dull coat you models. Since we're building a large surface that is meant to be played on, it will see much more 'handling' and general wear and tear than any model could ever reasonably expect to see.

For our purposes, we need a paint that us both cheaper than model paint, drys quickly and is durable. We need latex paint. It fits all those qualifications and comes in a dizzying array of colors.

Color Selection:

You have a few options here. They all involve going to a hardware store.

Option A: go to the premixed paint aisle and select colors from whats comes ready to go in can. This is very cheap, but you have very limited color selection. The only thing worth getting here is a solid flat black.

Option B: Go to the paint sample area and select some colors from the various chits. The hardware store will mix thees up to order and you have a ton of options. Often times, you can come pretty close to matching a favorite model paint color.

Option C: Often times, the hardware store will have a color matching service. If you have some colors of model paint you absolutely love or need to use, bring in a dry sample of the color and the hardware store can match it.

I went for option B. I needed some rich brown or green grays and non of my model paints fit the bill. It's also much easier to get colors from a pre-existing pallet. I choose 3 warmish grays from the Behr line that I am quite happy with (this is important since custom paint is non-returnable). 10 bucks a quart was bit more than I wanted to spend, but hey, thats how it is. Fun factoid: An equivalent amount of Citadel paint would have about 700+ dollars. Yikes.

I got my three grays based on a base coat and two highlights plan. I'd base coat over the black primer with the darkest gray, do a heavy highlight with the middle color and then a lighter highlight with the lightest color. there would also be a black wash in thrown in as well to add depth.

Another note: latex paint comes in a variety of finishes as well (matte, flat, gloss, etc). Get whatever suites your needs. I got a flat finish to help with the concrete effect I wanted.

I got way more paint than I needed, but considering I plan on using it for basing my models and for painting all the terrain I intend to make, its a pretty good deal.

Working With Latex Paint:

Is pretty easy. It washes up with water and drys fairly fast (you only need to wait about 2-ish hours between coats). Just make sure you give the can a good shake or stir before using it (just like any paint). I big brush and a drop cloth are also handy. We have 16 square feet of surface to cover. A two inch brush will be quite handy, if not a bit more messy.

Well, that was way more time spent on paint than I wanted. And with no pictures. More to come.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Building a Necromunda Terrain Board: Part 3

In this installment, we finish all of the construction and move on to painting. We also see how many times I switch back and forth between "I built this" and "we are building this (together).

Final Details - "Sanding"

The last bit of actual construction that needs to be done is the sanding. Not the sanding we did before, but different sanding involving actual sand and some glue rather than sand glued to paper.

Sanding is what I call the act of gluing sand to areas of the board. I glued sand to the crater surfaces and in a few choice spots around the rest of the board to break up the monotony of the tiling.

All you will need for this step is sand, wood glue, some old brushes and a place you can be messy.

First thing's first, put down a drop cloth unless you're doing this step outside. Sand gets everywhere.

In a small open container you don;t mind potentially ruining, mix some wood glue with some water. I have no idea what my mix percentages were, but I usually started at half and half and then added more glue to get to a consistency I liked. A key thing here, is make sure your container doesn't have a hole in it. I used an old spray can lid. It had a hole. Good thing I had a drop cloth.

The general idea with this is to brush on some glue in a spot you like, cover it with a small mound of sand and then repeat the process until you feel like you have enough sandy areas. It's a good idea to tamp it down a little to get the glue to stick.

Some notes before we move on: Let the sand sit for a bit before you start removing the excess to endure that some sort of bond has been achieved. Additionally, don't add too many large sand deposits in the middle of nowhere. I mainly focused on the craters, covering up mistakes on the edges of tiles, and around some of the vents and such. If and when you add sand to the middle of the tile, try to keep the layer thin and in an organic kinda shape.

Once you've finished gluing the sand down, dump the excess of the board and blow on each little deposit to get the rest of the excess. It's a good idea to test the glue's hold on the sand once everything is dry. If too much of the sand is too easy to flake off, its a good idea to mix up another batch of the water/glue mix and put a layer of it on top of the sand deposits.

In the above picture you can kinda see the areas I focused on for the sand. As an alternative or addition to some of the sand, you could mix some sand in with the latex paint and then paint on rough patches. A little more prep work, but a pretty cool effect. The sand patches ended up looking pretty good, but were not exactly what I had intended.

Finally, be sure to try and recycle as much sand as possible if that's a factor. I just lifted and moved the tarp around until all the sand was bunched up on one end and then funneled it back into the container.


All of the construction is now done, so its time to move onto painting. Before we get to the latex paint, its a good idea to prime the surface we want to paint. I used a simple can of flat black interior/exterior spray paint. Priming the surface in a dark color does a number of things.
  • Creates a flat and more uniform color for the latex paint to go over.
  • Creates a better surface for paint to adhere to.
  • Helps seal the card stock against moisture (from the latex paint)
I don't know how many of those points are real or imagined, but if nothing else, creating a flat, uniform color to cover up my brightly colored card and the wood was enough for me.

You only really need to get one coat of paint on the board for this step to be over. You're just looking for a general blackness to cover up all the original colors and provide a good solid base coat for the latex paint to go on. That being said, don't worry too much about the quality of this step. the latex paint will cover up all the mistakes you might make.

Some notes: When setting up for this, go outside and put down a tarp (if need be). Spray paint has an extreme potential for messy and also smells bad. Ventalation is good. Its also a good idea to elevate the boards so they don't get stuck to anything. I used some old soda boxes.

Once you get the base coat done and let it dry, we're ready for the real painting work.

Continues in the next installment

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Building a Necromunda Terrain Board: Part 2

All right, we have a bunch of supplies that we've gone to 3+ store to get and spent more money than we hoped on paint. Now what?

Note: I ended up with a 2x2 section that was about an eighth of an inch too long. I ignored that. Its not a big deal and would be almost impossible to get rid of it.

Well my dear boy (or girl), we get started.

Basic Preparation

First things first, we need to prep the MDF boards. First, pull of the bar code stickers if you have any. The edges of the MDF were a bit rough looking for my tastes, so I decided to sand them for easier painting later as well as an overall better aesthetic. I had purchased a pack of sand paper with multiple grits (hope I included this in the supply list). Start with the rougher sand paper and work you're way down to the finer stuff. Just sand enough to spruce up the edges. Try not to round off the corners.

Creating the Concrete Tile Effect

Having looked through the Warhammer 40,000 city fight book as well as a few general searches for game boards and Necromunda terrain, I decided I wanted a kind of interlocking concrete slab effect. This was actually pretty easy to do, though the single most time consuming portion of the project.
The basic idea is/was to create a series of geometric shapes using only right angles and then glue them down with a 1/16 inch gap between. Its actually desirable to have more than just rectangles as well as varying the distance between them in order to create a more visually interesting board. I started marking out some shapes on the card stock and cut them out whenever I needed the next one.
It's important to not get all crazy and up an entire sheet of the card at once. The idea is to break up overly long straight lines, so I took a more organic approach and only cut out a few shapes at a time. Its also a good idea to start at a corner to ensure that you glue the shapes down parallel to the edges of the board.
As you may or may not be able to see from the picture, the wood glue got everywhere. It took a long time to dry and, as I later found out, created some bubbling once I painted it. Do yourself a favor here and use super glue.

It helped me a ton to place the shape where I wanted it and then trace along the edges with a pencil to mark where it would go on the board. A good strong line of glue around the edges and a some glue in the center (kind of a wide hash mark pattern or curly cues are good) and then place the shape on the board. I found that having a paper towel handy to wipe away the excess was very helpful. It also had the added effect of sealing the edges of the card.

Note: I made sure all of the edge tiles were flush with the MDF. I felt that the gap around the edge of the board was ugly. But this is your call.

Another Note: you will go through a lot of superglue for this stage of construction. Do yourself a favor and buy the cheap stuff.

Creating Vents

You can just tile the entire board with the card stock or you can add metal plates, vents, craters or other such gewgaws along the way to create yet more visually interest on the board. I found it best to do these as I go rather than at the end. That way you don't forget to leave space for them and get a much better feel for where the next one should go.

Vents are a bit more complicated, so I'll start here first. Once you pick you spot, take some measurements and cut some lengths of the plastic strips you have to create a frame. I recommend a thinner plastic because you're going to have two layers of the stuff and you don't want it to ride too high over the rest of the tiles. Next, cut a section of the wire mesh to fit in the frame (with no overlap). You can try gluing it down now, but it's hard and unnecessary. Next, measure and cut strips to create a second frame that is slightly smaller than the first. Glue these pieces on top of the first. This is the easy way to make sure the mesh gets locked down. Next cut some lengths of plastic rod to create rivits and glue 'em down.

Don't worry too much about making the rivets uniform hight or cutting the frams at 45 degree angles. There's going to be a lot of paint on this (which will forgive many mistakes) and, its Necromunda. The underhive is not a clean and pristine place. Alternatively, you could make more of a grate by using lengths of rod rather than the mesh.

Creating Plates

These are much easier to make. Its as simple as cutting a rectangle of plastic and gluing it down like the card stock. Add rivits and you're done. I also recommend distressing the surface of the plate in some way to make it look more weathered. I used a wood carfing tool to cut gouges in mine.

Creating Craters

Craters are also easy, but are spread out over a few steps of the entire board making process. For now, draw an explody hole on one of the tiles (preferably one that's not glued down) and cut it out. Glue this tile down.
Now, using some sort of gouging tool (I had a few cheap-o wood carvers from many moons ago that I used), start digging out the crater. Remember to create a bowl-ish depression and to not dig too deep. I also added some plastic rodes as bent up rebar, peices of heavyier plastic as exploded chunks as well as some bits of plastic/card stock around the crater as more debris.
Other Stuff

You can also add other random features to your board. I had a manwhole, a set of bay doors and some kind of sewer access. Anything that looks interesting and industrial. Just remember to keep it fairly short and smallish. You're eventually going to have terrain on the board as well as miniatures. Don't create board features that draw too much attention to themselves or will act as obstructions to game play and/or terrain setup.

Finished With Tiling

There we've done one. Now do 3 more. I found that watching TV while doing this helped out a lot. It slowed me down a bit, but drew my attention away from the fact that it took 2-3 hours per section to get the tile laid down.

Additionally, make sure you trim any excess from the tiles on the edges. Anything hanging off the edge is bad.

Continues in part 3.

Building a Necromunda (or Cityfight) Terrain Board: Part 1

Hello and welcome to season 2 of Laubersheimer Industries. For Part two of a rare double post, I present my step by step instructions for building a modular gaming board for use with Necromunda or Cityfight.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
  • You will need money. While this wasn't overly expensive to make, it wasn't cheap. By the time it was all said and done, I spent about 90 bux. Some of that was on tools and things I thought I needed (but didn't). If you have anything on the list, it may be cheaper.
  • You will need time and a space you can be messy in. Construction took me about a week (+/- a day) and required drop cloths.
The General Idea

Necromunda, much like Warmachine is generally played on a 4' x 4' table. This is about a two thirds (square footage wise) of the standard 6' x 4' Warhammer table. While Necromunda is played on a considerably smaller surface, it is still much larger than you think. Making, maintaining and storing a 4x4 or bigger gaming surface would be a nightmare.

To this end, many people create what are called modular gaming tables. Generally speaking, the total surface area will be composed of not one giant slab, but rather several smaller sections. This provides a number of benefits:
  • Smaller pieces means smaller storage area.
  • Smaller pieces are less prone to warping
  • Smaller pieces can actually be packed up and brought to a friend's house.
  • Smaller pieces allow for certain terrain features to be built into the surface, thus creating module.
  • Smaller pieces are easier to make and replace if need be
Unfortunately, there are downsides, fist, being that there are clearly visible dividing lines between sections, while its not ugly, it draws attention to the face that you are playing a game as well as providing for a grid of know distances. If you have the room, by all means, build a full fledged gaming table. But, if you're like most people, you don't have the luxury of constructing a 6x4 table in the basement.

MDF or Insulating Foam?

A key question that you will need to answer straight away. They both advantages and disadvantages.

MDF (medium density Fiberboard): Not to be confused with plywood. It has a smooth surface and is pretty tough. A gaming board made out of this will be much more resistant to damage and can take much more abuse during construction (i.e: it can be sprayed directly with all spraypaint). However, it is heavy and more expensive than foam. I only got the half inch thick stuff and I still felt like I needed to but a protective pad on the underside to protect furniture. If you get this stuff, make sure you get the guys at the Hardware store to cut it for you.

Insulation Foam: Usually in pink or blue. It is cheap, light (though this can cause problems with shifting during game play) and easy to work with. It is also readily available - MDF can be hard to find. However, it is not very damage resistant and even a heavy pair of dice will dent it if rolled to hard. Also, since it is foam, you cannot use super glue or spraypaint directly on the foam. Another note: cutting foam is a bitch. It dulls knifes like crazy. You could get a foam cutter, but those cost money and aren't the easiest things in the world to cut a straight line with. On a plus, you have a lot more foam for less money to make more sections than you need, thus giving you more options. Overall foam is a very good option and the one most people take

I ended up choosing MDF. I wanted the durability and the weight (so it wouldn't shift around during a game). Money wasn't a real problem and most of what I wanted to do couldn't easily be done on foam. I only got 1/2 (foam users often use 2 inch) inch as a comprimise for weight and cost.


Right off the bat, you will need to collect the materials you will need to construct this. First, this saves you a million trips to the store and, thusly, doesn't interrupt your work flow. Here's another delightful bulleted list.
  • Enough MDF to make 4 2x2 sections. My local Home Depot sold 2x4 sheets. I had them cut each one in half.
  • Sand paper to clean up the edges of the MDF.
  • Heavy card stock to make the conctrete slabs that this table has. I ended up in a stationary section buying 1x1 sheets of pretty good card stock. Note from the past: get lightrer colors so you can see you pencil marks. I payed about 1 buck for each sheet to get the thickness I wanted. If you can find cheaper card stock, by all means go for it. 17 bucks on cardstock was about 7 more bucks than I wanted to spend.
  • Plastic strips,sheets and rods. These can be found at most good hobby stores. Sheet and strip styrene, as they're called, were used to make all kinds of vents and plates to liven up the. table. The rods were cut in small, very small sections to make rivets.
  • Wireform mesh to make vents. Found at art stores. This could be replaced with any thin grate or vent looking stuff you can find. However, it double as chainlink fence for other projects.
  • Super glue lue,and lots of it. I think I went through something like 15-18 of those little tubes. I initially thought that wood glue wood be the thing to affix numerous squares of the card stock to the MDF, I was wrong. It took forever to dry, was overly messy and caused some bubbling in the card stock. I glued down a mere two squares before I went over to super glue. Much faster and much stronger. though not less messy.
  • Black Spraypaint. I used this as a base coat once everything was assembled, but before I did anything with the latex paint. Its just like painting anything else. Prime the surface, then paint. I got two cans and only needed one.
  • 3 quarts of latex paint. Each quart was a different color. There was a base, and then two highlights. You can do more or less, but you will need, at minimum, two colors to create any ind of depth or visually interest. This was actually very fun to pick out. Just go to the hardware store and check out color samples (the ready made paint is largely useless for this purpose). Make sure you get a flat finish. More on paint later.
  • 1 small can of flat black latex paint. This is for edging and washes.
  • Various paintbrushes. I got a 2 inch, 1 inch and half inch.
  • Clear coat. This is the important coat of paint that you can't see but protects all your hard work. Plan on doing two coats per section and get 2+ cans.
  • Carpet Grippy tape. Sticky on one side only. I used this to further limit the ability of the gaming board to slide around and protect tables.
  • Wood glue, for gluing down sand.
  • Sand. To look like small ruble, general dirt and for craters.

You will also need an Exacto knife, a good metal ruler - preferably one with a cork backing, a cutting board, paper towels, a pencil with a good point, drop cloths, some kind of gouging tool and a t-square couldn't hurt either. Hopefully I didn't forget anything.

Continues in part 2.