Tuesday 24 July 2012

A Dark Deranged Structure: A first wargames table?

The weather is hot.

The sun beats down like a daemonic oven onto the patio around the back of my home. If you leave a miniature out there, freshly undercoated, its takes just over a minute for the paint to dry. Quite unlike the depressing and tedious autumnal crawl as you wait for the latest wash to dry because the wife will not let you use her hairdryer.

I have always said to myself 'when the time comes to build a wargames table it would be prudent to do so on a blazing hot day. For this will ensure that the bloody paint and glue dries up in good time and the damn thing gets finished.' Having seen those guilty lodgers lurking away in many a gamers' rooms, attics or garages (by this I mean the unfinished gaming board) I have always shied away from producing one of my own, especially as the wife is rather strict on 'clutter' around the house.

Of course I have my tiny board, as seen on my battle reports. This was originally constructed by me in an afternoon a few summers ago for small skirmish games. Its seen a lot of action with the Realm of Chaos campaign I have been involved in but as my numbers of painted miniatures increases the size of this board is woefully small. We can do little now but line up our troops and march in a straight line at each other. Not very tactical, I am sure that you'll agree.

So with my copy of 'How to Build Wargames Terrain' on my kindle I have been busy researching the possibilities of updating my gaming surface. At first I thought 'why not just buy a grass mat?' These mainstays of boyhood gaming have their place but I feel that a proper table or board are far more permanent feel and have a 'I'm here to stay' attitude about them.

Of course, being a gamer I dream about having a table like this...

Or even this...

But such things are pipe dreams at the moment, best left for my 40s rather than my 30s; when the children are all grown and the wife has run out of 'jobs' for me to do whenever the prospect of some 'free time' arises.

What is certain is that I DON'T want something like this...

I mean, paint the board brown and splodge on some PVA and scatter static grass around in unnatural and thoroughly unconvincing manner.

No thanks!

I mean it looks like Father Nurgle had a really bad curry one Friday night and pebble dashed the road!

I am certain of a few points though;

1) I want it to be cheap but not cheap looking.

2) The overall finish should match my old school bases for a bit of coherency.

3) It must be sturdy enough to be stored out of the way of the wife's accusing eye but no so heavy that the thing give me a double hernia every time I shift it!

4) I am not fussed about scenery, I'm old school so have envisaged a fairly flat surface. Hills, woods and buildings can be added later.

So then. Have YOU built a games table? What problems did you come across to forewarn me? What advice can you give good old Orlygg about this, his latest undertaking?


  1. Hi!

    At present I am making do with some vinyl textured floor tiles stuck to cork floor tiles. It is stackable and can be shifted without any hassle. Each tile is 12 inches square and once they are put on a table the cork backing stops them from shifting!

    At present I have a 2x3 maximum playing space but hope to bulk it out to 3x4 with the addition of a second lot of tiles which should be ok for small to mid sized battles.

    I do want to get a more complete looking board that will be 4x6 for the classic size of game board as seen in the late 80s and early 90s before GW went for the 4x8 which in my opinion is just too big for most folk to reasonably have in their house and more suited to games clubs.

    I've seen great results with folks using the blue foam for insulation but I would steer clear of excessively rolling and textured terrain as figures tend to start tipping and even worse chipping!

    Cant wait to see what you come up with though!

    All the best!

  2. Hmm, I cut down some old MDF boards so that I've got two pieces measuring 3'x2'. For what I do a 6x4 board is simply too large and storage/transport-wise the smaller pieces are a breeze (I was always chipping the paintwork when moving the larger pieces about). I covered the boards with coarse sand from the beach, sprayed black and then painted/drybrushed patches of brown and grey (so not too dissimilar to that last picture, but nicer!).

    One product I found which is very cool and cheap is 'Javis Rough Terrain Scenery Cover' (snappy, eh?) which are basically sheets of static grass with an adhesive backing – which is activated by water - that can be torn into irregular sheets and stuck down onto your table. It looks very good and saves the hassle (conjunctivas et cetera) of glueing down loads of grass the olde way.

    Other than that Dave King had a very novel approach: '...the soil...is made from used dried tea leaves, pva and acrylic paint.' This reduces damage to toppled minis, which I thought was pretty clever. Anyway: good luck!

  3. Ah yes! I forgot about the brilliant Dave King board idea! His stuff all ties in together perfectly!

    Theres some awesome boards been put together for Freebooters Fate which are built into aged looking picture frames which really suited the small skirmish game. Not ideal for a larger style game though which is a shame!

    All the best!

  4. Bear in mind that anything textured is a pain for pushing models round on.

  5. Dreamfish ahs been making a rather spiffing table lately -


    Love Daves tips for making soft scenery and foam vegetation - very inventive.

    Personally I just chuck a grass mat on a table (mine too is beginning to strain under the weight of lead I occasionally load onto it!) and pepper it with lovely, cheap Amera vacuum formed hills and citadel card buildings.

    I have bigger plans for my Lustrian board and Amazon temple complex...

    ... but I don't quite know what they are yet.

  6. As a kid my Mum had a hideous humbrol acrylics grass green fluffy table cloth. It was however perfect for battles and as my brother inherited it you can even see it on my blog in the last game I played against him. For the cloth solution its perfect.

    When I bought my first house about ten years ago, god no, 12 years ago the first thing I did was buy a great big green cloth (same grass green but not fluffy) 8'x5' to use on my floor. Since then I've progressed to the same cloth on a piece of mdf supported hard board over the dining room table. I can accommodate 8'x5' but it gives a subtle advantage to more mobile and shooty forces. All terrain are either area pieces like hills and buildings or rest on hardboard area definers.
    I do have a couple of cheap paste tables that set up to a great 6'x4' if the dining table is being used. Same cloth to cover it but I have seen dark towels dry brushed to lighter grass colours working really well so am considering that, putting some texture under the bases would look good.

  7. Building a game table can be a daunting task at first. My group of friends have built about 12 tables. We have done everything from a cloth-wrapped table-tennis board to a recessed game surface with custom table legs. My advise is not to go too cheap; as a ratty looking table will more than likely enrage the lady of house every time it is brought out, and you do not want to invest in something that you will regret later on. Take your time and plan out the table that you want, can afford, can store & will want to play on.

    A good gaming surface adds to your hobby experience; so get the best you can afford. ( The table is key to great games; so whether you build or buy, get the best.)

  8. I am looking to build a games table at the moment. Something simple enough for my limited brain to construct but easy enough to store away when not in use. Two 3'x4' boards hinged together for example, with a lip around the edge to keep dice and miniatures on the table. What did you end up doing Orlygg?