Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making Rough Ground Wargames Terrain Tutorial

One of the main reasons I've been so taken with this hobby is the visual aspect of miniature games.  The actual figures don't take up very much room on the tabletop battlefield and I think the terrain that makes up the battlefield should receive just as much attention as our figures. I'm on a continuing mission to create better looking terrain for my wargames and I've documented my process for creating some rough terrain in case you'd like to try something similar.  Follow along after the jump.

Materials for Rough Ground Wargames Terrain

First collect your raw materials. Luckily, the ingredients for this project are very inexpensive. You'll need:
  1. Dry mulch or bark from a home improvement store. (I got a lifetime supply for 3 bucks)
  2. Wooden craft disks (for small terrain markers) 
  3. MDF (for larger rough terrain fields)
  4. Craft plaster
  5. Paint (I took samples of Scorched Brown, Bestial Brown, Desert Yellow and Bone White to the home improvement store. They matched the samples and created custom pints of acrylic paint for about the same cost as a bottle of GW or Vallejo paint)
  6. Sand (a bag of play sand available from your home improvement store will last forever)
  7. Flock, static grass (you probably already have this on hand if you base miniatures)
  8. PVA white glue
  9. A 3 year old boy (optional)

Creating Rough Ground Bases

  1. If you decide to make a larger terrain piece, cut your MDF into a base with natural curves. Mine has a vaguely dog bone-kidney bean shape, but anything that doesn't have a regular oval or rectangular shape should work
  2. Glue bits of the mulch bark to the craft disk and MDF bases.
Using optional 3 year old applicator

Applying Plaster to the Rough Ground Terrain

  1. After the white glue has dried, mix up a batch of the craft plaster and apply liberally to each of the bases.
  2. It's ok if some of the plaster oozes off the side of the disk as the natural border it creates will disguise the man made nature of the wooden disk.
  3. Be sure to leave a portion of the mulch bark peeking above the plaster.

Adding Sand Texture to the Rough Ground Terrain

  1. Once the plaster is fully dry (it may take a few days), fill a tub or bag with a liberal amount of sand.
  2. Coat the plaster portions of each terrain piece with white glue and press it into the sand.
  3. Remove, shake excess sand back into the tub and set aside to dry.
So easy a baby could do it!

Painting the Rough Ground Terrain

  1. Wait a day or two for the white glue to fully dry, brushing off any loose sand.
  2. Begin painting each terrain piece. Scorched Brown as the base, followed by a drybrush of Bestial Brown, Desert Yellow and finally Bone White. For the mulch bark that represents larger boulders or outcroppings rising from the earth, give it a coat of dark gray followed by a drybrush if light gray and a final very light drybrush of white.
After applying Scorched Brown, Bestial Brown, Desert Yellow and Bone White
After picking out the rock outcroppings in gray and white.

Adding Foliage to the Rough Ground Terrain

  1. If you are creating rough terrain for a desert or arid region you can probably wrap it up now. Otherwise apply white glue to the edge of each terrain piece as well as in sporatic patches across the surface of the terrain (avoiding placing glue on the gray outcroppings)
  2. I applied a vibrant green flock and static grass to the edges of the terrain pieces that matched my ground cloth. Across the surface of the rough ground I applied a mix of static grass, clump foliage and a few grass tufts.

And that's it! Super easy, super cheap and kids can help. I'm happy with the end result and looking forward to creating more terrain soon.


  1. I just bought a huge MFD board for making terrain so this is timely for me. I like your method. Nice tutorial!

  2. I need to add some rough terrain to my collection. This tutorial was just what I was looking for.

    Thank you.


    1. Glad it was a help Tony! I'd love to see your results when you finish them :)