Saturday, 16 February 2019

"Adequate" Cheap+Fast 1:300 Terrain with Dieselpunk Tanks

Blog regulars will know I subscribe to the "cheap and nasty" school of painting and terrain - i.e. my theory is it is better to have purpose-built terrain that is made quickly and casually rather than rely on printed paper cutouts, tissue boxes and books under a sheet. Likewise, my painting standard is also pretty poor but I think fielding unpainted or only basecoated minis is a sign of laziness and disrespect for your opponent.  In short: "barely adequate" effort is better than no effort at all.

Here's an example of my terrain for my new dieselpunk tank game  which I whipped up this morning:

French forces approach a stranded landship, intent on capturing it or salvaging it for parts.  

You can see my as-yet-incomplete landship (it's a 1:700 Japanese CV flipped upside down) which obviously needs some turrets and perhaps a control tower (yet to be sourced) and, of course, a paint job.  (My no-unpainted-minis rule does not apply in the privacy of my own solo playtesting sessions!)

From the other direction, Imperial Russian forces have also dispatched a squadron to investigate the stranded landship.

Building the hills took about an hour. With a Stanley knife, I sliced up some of that foam sheeting you get from a camping store (the sort placed under mattresses or tents). I think it cost $10. 

I then coated the top in a mix of water and PVA glue. I sprinkled sand on top (the kids' sandpit comes in handy).

I then sprayed it, using up a $4 can of black spraypaint. Finally, I brushed some el cheapo $2 brown craft paint over the top. 

Whilst it is not amazing, I feel it is very reasonable, for $16 and an hour's effort, and is much better than using paper terrain or books under a sheet or similar.

Russian forces continue to advance on their objective.

As usual, my aim is to show there is a "minimum standard" that is easily achievable, as so much terrain on blogs are amazing masterworks that takes hours and hours for a single piece, that are so detailed that I find them discouraging (I know I can never measure up).  My terrain posts are to encourage the rest of us - the time-poor, money-poor dads who just want to get reasonable-looking stuff on the table, those aiming for adequacy rather than mastery.

A supporting force moves up onto a nearby hill to provide overwatch fire.

The Russians prepare to unload engineers to inspect the landship, but French forces have crested the hill and prepare to engage.

I chose the "flat wedding cake" style layout for my hills to simplify the rules for cover/hulldown/line of sight. It also means the models sit flat on the terrain and don't slide around. 

I may create a matching terrain board (simply a sheet of MDF similarly coated in PVA, sand and painted) to replace the sheet if I have an hour free next weekend.

....Anyway, the kids are clamouring for attention so I'll sign off.  Have fun - and remember, in terrain making there's a broad range between exceptional and awful. There's no shame in inhabiting the "adequate" part of this spectrum.....


  1. I agree with you completely and appreciate your terrain posts!

  2. I'd love to see a post on card vs. dice mechanics in games. I've played dice-based games all my life and was introduced to card use in terribly gimmicky ways but have been seeing more mature use of them in recent games. What is your take on the two approaches and their roles in game design?

    1. I COULD probably do an article on this; I agree cards seem a bit gimmicky - using cards for the sake of it - when it could be duplicated just as easily with dice.

      I see cards being useful in activation in particular, where they can be "played" and managed. Not so much so in damage resolution (a la Malifaux)where I didn't feel they added that much to the game.

  3. Sorry for the late reply. Did the foam warp at all with the paint and glue on one side? Or did you paint both sides to compensate?

    1. As you can see from the 3rd picture, the blue foam is the kind of camping flooring foam. It's pretty heavy and dense and I doubt it will warp (well, it hasn't in a month or so since I posted this)