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Thread: Building Terrain On A Budget

  1. #1
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    Building Terrain On A Budget

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    I've built some pretty pathetic terrain in my day. I emphasis pathetic because it was built with dirt cheap materials that just didn't last all that long. For those of you who have built terrain before, with your budget in mind, please share some tips and recommendations of the trade.

    Personally you can never have enough clay. I order the stuff online in powder format, mix in the water at my house, and mass build horrible looking trees, hills, buildings, etc... It cost me about $30 to do this but it provided me with gallons of moldable clay.

    Poster board, the thick kind, is about $3-$4 for a 2'x4' sheet. With the right tool, I had a homeade hex cutter (like a cookie cutter for dough), and a hammer I was able to mass produce hexes. I would get several hundred individual hexes from a single sheet. I would stack them for different elevations. These with my clay made for some pretty horrible looking, but super functional terrain. Good stuff

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    A really good material, fairly inexpensive, but works well for terrain is Owens Corning foam insulation. This stuff is made differently than the white foam you get in Michaels. Instead of being made up of little beads, it's a solid foam. So when you cut it instead of it turning into this beaded mess, it keeps a smoother edge and can also be sanded.

    Many model railroad builders use this because it keeps a good shape and is light weight. It's most often used in building insulation and can be purchased at most building centers. The only problem with it is they don't carry it in the south! So the only way I can get it is to either travel north where they do sell it and drive it home, or get it shipped in. Which by the way, makes it a little more expensive than I want to pay.

    So you might want to look into that assuming you can get it easily enough.
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    That sounds pretty sweet! Definitely might look into that. I plan to have my entire BattleTech/GURPS campaign using real 3D terrain, preferably higher quality than I've been able to afford in the past. I recently looked into resin casting and other ways of creating mini's and building structures but mixing chemicals and things like kilns, special ovens, and other fire hazardous "hardening" apparatus just aren't possible right now. Neither is mass collecting mini's. Even on eBay the price for a large collection makes my budget cry.

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    Insulation foam is a great tool. It cuts even better with a hot knife. I use what ever is at hand. I am currently building a caravel (ship) from balsa.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    Growing up to be the wargamer that I am, I really wish I spent more time on school projects that required dioramas. My skills would be 733T yo!

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    "Foamcore" should be available in the south at any major box hardware store (Hell Depot, Lowes). Right now it's about $10 for a 4'X8' sheet, about 1" thick. Stuff is wicked durable. Make sure to coat it with a nonaerosal primer or glue before using ANY TYPE of spray material cuz that stuff will melt.

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    Once you start to build terrain, everything you lay your hands on becomes a possibility to put on the tabletop. You will throw NOTHING out. Seriously. Recycling means something entirely different to the terrain builder. If this milk carton can't be magically remanifested as a guard tower, it can be technologically transformed into a power converter for another game. Good times, good times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ffclubhero View Post
    Once you start to build terrain, everything you lay your hands on becomes a possibility to put on the tabletop. You will throw NOTHING out. Seriously. Recycling means something entirely different to the terrain builder. If this milk carton can't be magically remanifested as a guard tower, it can be technologically transformed into a power converter for another game. Good times, good times.
    Well said. I've created numerous buildings and landscapes with nothing more than popsicle sticks and cheap markers for color.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ffclubhero View Post
    "Foamcore" should be available in the south at any major box hardware store (Hell Depot, Lowes). Right now it's about $10 for a 4'X8' sheet, about 1" thick. Stuff is wicked durable. Make sure to coat it with a nonaerosal primer or glue before using ANY TYPE of spray material cuz that stuff will melt.
    Yeah, foamcore is available, but it's not the same as Owen's pink insulation foam! I do use foamcore by the way, you just have to be careful not to get it too wet the paper/cardstock on either side of the foam will warp and change the shape of your piece!
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    Foamcore, as I define it, is the pink, heavy duty insulation sheets. It's just a problem in wording between us, indeed, what I speak of has no paper sheet cover. I've seen the stuff you speak of at Hell Depot, but in VA it's white with silver paper (definetly not what you want, BTW!).

    As far as experience goes, taking your time is more important then experience. Plus, with all the online resources, experience can be gotten second-hand and for FREE. I highly recommend Games Workshop for this, they have terrain articles out the wazoo, in addition to mini painting articles. If you follow any of their directions, even half-arsed, the results will be amazing....
    Last edited by ffclubhero; 02-04-2008 at 06:56 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ffclubhero View Post
    Foamcore, as I define it, is the pink, heavy duty insulation sheets. It's just a problem in wording between us, indeed, what I speak of has no paper sheet cover. I've seen the stuff you speak of at Hell Depot, but in VA it's white with silver paper (definetly not what you want, BTW!).
    I can get the foamcore you're talking about down here, but they have to ship it in from other stores further north, so I get to pay shipping as well as the cost of the stuff, so it just drives the price up more! LOL!
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    "Styrofoam packing spacers". The futuristic gamer's friend.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    If what you are looking for is cheap and light weight, try cardboard and spackling.

    Some of you may have seen the photos I posted http://www.penandpapergames.com/foru...ead.php?t=5689

    Mostly I just cut the shape out of corragated cardboard, beveling the edges and filling them up with the spackling. Sometimes I will add a few more glueing them on the diagonal to give more rigidity. Then I sand it all down a bit to get rid of the lines the spackling gets as it is put down. When all is dry I will paint the bottom to aid in sealing the pieces. Then later I will add trees and rocks, and finally I will paint the top green and immeadiatly add the pile of flock over the paint.

    Some of my pieces are six or seven years old. they are starting to fade a bit and showing some wear and tear from the handling they do get. Recently I learned to spray them with a matte finish or watered down glue to keep the flocking from wearing off.

    For Colorado the pieces are remarkablely durable, don't know how the 287% humidity of the Northwest would affect it. One friend uses the linoleum tiles and I am starting to use hard board as a base for some items which should work for underwater use. One could also use the damaged ceiling tiles though they are quite heavy.

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    I've just "discovered" what any of us who drink good beer should know already-- the better the beer, the better the case the brewery packs it in. Thicker cardboard and cheap spray paint means instant ancient city of obsidian, glistening darkly in the quadruple suns of a far away world....
    Last edited by ffclubhero; 07-15-2008 at 11:56 AM. Reason: spelling error

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    Quote Originally Posted by ffclubhero View Post
    I've just "discovered" what any of us who drink good beer should know already-- the better the beer, the better the case the brewery packs it in. Thicker cardboard and cheap spray paint means instant ancient city of obsidian, glistening darkly in the quadruple suns of a far away world....
    Raw cardboard and vast amounts of CA. The kind of cardboard that they put behind shirts. You soak that in CA and you get a fiberous plastic that is very strong.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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