Sunday, June 15, 2008

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.

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