May 6, 2015

Quindia Studios Guide to Desert Terrain Boards, Part One

As I mentioned before, I pulled down my old web site. Since then I've had quite a few requests to recycle some of the articles, so over the next few weeks Wednesday will be all about terrain - starting with my desert terrain boards. To make it easy to find them all, I've added a specific Desert Terrain tag so it will be easy to pull them up all at once!

Let's get started! These were designed for my 15mm Flames of War armies, but will work equally well for any scale!

All of the terrain boards I build start life as MDF boards. These take lots of paint and glue without warping. Thedrawback is they are heavy, but as I rarely (read never) travel with them and the storage closet is five feet from my game table, it's not a problem for me. I usually glue a layer of foam on top of the board so I can carve out rivers and such, but decided I didn't need to do that with this project, so I worked directly on the MDF.

The first step was to make a plan. I wanted three modular boards that I could rearrange to make different layouts. I plan to make some loose terrain pieces (a few small hills, an oasis, a village or two) to add further variety.

One of my boards was to be flat so I sat that aside. On the others I want to model a pair of rocky ridges forming a gully between on one and a pair of small hills on the other. This is where the foam came in. I used pink half-inch insulation foam from my local DIY store. After cutting out the shapes with a craft knife, I shaped the sides into gentle slopes with a hot-foam-cutter. Then I took my hills outside and sanded off any remaining sharp edges. I tested the slopes with a metal 28mm model to make sure it would stand without toppling over and when I was satisfied, I glued the hills to my MDF, weighted them with books, and left them to dry overnight.

The next afternoon I started on the gully. The rocks are the most frequently asked about feature of the terrain and they are absolutely the easiest part of the whole thing. They are quite simply pine bark mulch chips, stacked on top of each other and secured via a hot-glue gun. I scattered smaller sections of these "boulders" on the other two boards to tie them all together visually.

Then I used a dry-wall repair compound to hide the joins between the foam and the table and blend in pine bark stacks into the hills behind them. Unfortunately, this had to be left to sit overnight again. The next day, more sanding ensued until the hills blended smoothly into the table.

I glued patches of rough texture in scattered areas (I use coffee grounds - I don't know why, but I have for years) and then covered each board with fine sand. The trick to this is working in sections. I spread wood glue, thinned with a little water, on a patch about 1'x1' and then sprinkle fine sand over the area. Again, I left everything to dry overnight.

Next week we'll paint these boards...


  1. Thanks for posting this series of articles up Clarence, it will come in very handy for me as I'm going to be making some NWF boards that will also be used for Haverlock's operatipons during the Indian Mutiny and the Allahabad Moveable Column. Great stuff and i'm very much looking forward to part two.


  2. Love reading your terrain builds Clarence, looks like I have come back to blogging just in time. I still refer to your Spanish terrain build from a few years back, got the photo's neatly tucked away in a folder on my laptop.