Sunday, 27 November 2011

Paper or Plastic?

By Gravitas   Posted at  05:16   terrain 2 comments

There's a wide range of wargames scenery available out there, a large majority of which is unpainted plastic or resin in a "future gothic"* or "generic fantasy" style. But sometimes that just don't cut it.

I'm pretty sure I used to live in this part of London.

Sometimes you need a dirty near-future setting where people call each other "choomba" in gritty voices, and claim that they never asked to be turned into totally awesome cyborg killing machines. Sometimes you don't have the room, time or storage space for gigantic, multi-part, flock covered terrain monstrostities.

This seems legit.
Time to grab those snips and get to papercrafting.

Papercraft terrain can be quick, effective, and relatively cheap - especially if you have access to a high quality color printer. Even if you don't, the cost to print out a few color A4 sheets is still cheaper than buying a plastic kit and paints. Plus, it can also be easier to store and transport.

Hapag-Lloyd survived surprisingly far into the future.

An increasing number of companies are offering papercraft terrain and prop download, the largest (and in my opinion, best) of which is World Works Games. As well as their pre-fabricated (and expensive) "TerraClips", they offer a huge range of pay-to-download sets in a variety of styles - modern, turn-of-the-century occult, fantasy/medieval, future etc.

I own two of these sets, the future-industrial Streets of Titan, and the what-it-says-on-the-tin Mars Station. Both include modular templates for buildings, floorplans, and a number of props such as freestanding walls and computer terminals, all fully colored and textured, with detailed assembly instructions.

Someone's gonna get shot.
While the textures and buildings are good, I find I get the most use out of the props and street furniture, as well as their vehicle range. They're easy to make, perfectly in scale, and immediately add color and detail to a battlefield, as well as adding much-needed cover (games of Infinity need a LOT of terrain).

Herbie, 2185.
Daves Games has a similar range, with more of an emphasis on traditional fantasy. Their sci-fi stuff is excellent, we make use of the Watch Station and Observation Tower, which are less modular than the World Works stuff but otherwise fit perfectly.

All along the watch station~
My favourite way to do quick papercraft terrain doesn't involve the pre-fab stuff. In fact, it's more like wallpapering than papercraft, and the steps are as follows;
  1. Find a small cardboard box of roughly the right size for a small 28mm building.
  2. Glue it shut. If needed, add some bits of cardboard or smaller boxes for internal support.
  3. Measure the dimensions of its sides/top.
  4. Create photoshop files of the correct dimensions for each side and the top. You don't need one for the bottom. Make sure you set the DPI to something print worthy (300 is always good, but you can turn it down to 72 if you don't mind a little pixelation)
  5. Drag appropriate wall textures into the file(s). Add posters, graffiti and the like. I used textures from Left 4 Dead, as well as from the WorldWorks packs.
  6. Flatten the files and paste them into a new A4-sized file. Add tabs to edges so they can be more easily glued to the box. Try to minimize the amount of printing you have to do by fitting as many wall sections onto a page as possible (while remaining inside the printable area)
  7. Print out the textures, cut them out and glue them to the box.
  8. Obscure any visible box bits with a marker (or some paint but we're trying to avoid that). Once the glue is dry, it's good to go!

Wall templates......and the finished product. (Sorry I can't give you the full res templates)
The same technique can be used to make quick silos out of cans, just measure the length and circumference, print out a rectangular section and glue it on (you many need to prepare the surface of the can by roughening it with some steel wool first).

We practically ARE the military.

I left the tops plain metal because the emphasis was on speed and convienience, but you could easily make top cone sections using the same process. Of course, if you're hardcore** like me, you'll also want to spruce up the game table itself.

Board yet?

This was the first ground section I made, an 11x16" sheet of 5mm black foamcore with Streets of Titan textures. To attach it to neighbouring boards, I cut 1-inch squares into the edges, then made 1x2" connector tabs. Unfortuately, I was not able to use spray-mount to glue down the texture layer, so the foamcore on some boards were distorted as the PVA dried, even though I made sure the glue layers were as thin as possible.

When everything is put together, it makes for an impressive and fun gaming table. While papercraft terrainpieces won't last as long as plastic and resin, they're sturdy enough for regular gaming, and trivial to replace. Definitely worth a look!

* Usually described as "Perfect for games of Schmarhammer Schmortythousand OH GOD GET THOSE LAWYERS AWAY FROM ME"
** Stupid


  1. fantastic photos - and some great tips! Nice to see use of the props and vehicles - a lot of people just print walls and floors, but forget the coolness of all the additional clutter!

  2. My aim this year is to see if I can use this technique that Gravitas posted for a bunch of fantasy/steampunk stuff for Warmachine.


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