Hey everyone, happy new year!
Over the holidays I embarked on a little terrain project that was a bit more free and abstract than typical Brutal Cities kits. I usually try to make Brutal Cities terrain easy to make and paint, and convenient for shipping and production. Since I was going to have a game of Necromunda with some friends and my partner, I wanted to do a quick and fun project to have some terrain for the game. By combining MDF terrain with foam and other materials, you can create something that is a bit more organic and hands on, or freeform.
My Venator necromunda gang so far, featuring miniatures from Warbound Indie Wargame.
These rusty metal plate structure are inspired by the forms and geometry often seen in deconstructivist architecture. I won’t go into detail here, but you could say that Deconstructivism broadly is a development of postmodernist architecture that breaks apart construction elements such as columns, walls etc and subverts established ideas of modernism and postmodernist architecture. It often results in a chaotic form. In the post-apocalyptic setting you can imagine it’s scraps from a crashed spaceship repurposed by the ash waste denizens. I suspect deconstructivist architecture has influenced a bunch of computer games and art set in post-apocalyptic worlds. So I think it will really suit your sci-fi table!
So, it's a palette cleanser project, and the looseness of the terrain made for a really enjoyable tabletop project. The sort of project you go - Yeah! that bit looks cool there, l’ll just do it and move forward! I don’t need to justify this to anyone! I don’t need to think too hard and plan too much, just design by intuition!
I also feel a bit like that when painting or making natural scenery projects. By the way, if you did want to pick up any natural scenery, we stock woodland scenics products and glues. You can read the scenery guide blog post here.
Ash Waste modular terrain design concept
So the main idea is to create a bunch of modular MDF components that can anchor into blue foam. Why foam you ask? Rigid foam insulation is commonly used in the hobby and in set design for making terrain and scenery. I looked all around for suppliers as the place I last bought it now stocks a much less dense insulation product, that everyone hates. High density XPS is much better for terrain, as you can sand, carve, sculpt it readily. Just make sure you have a sharp blade!
Kit of Components
You can think of this project as less of a ready to build MDF terrain kit like most of our other products, and more as a kit of parts you can adapt to your own ideas and needs. I'd love some feedback on this concept and if you can see this being useful for your games. Here are the parts so far:
Foam Anchors -
Barbed MDF anchors that you will insert into the XPS foam base. I thought some type of barbs would be useful to stop the MDF connector from coming out easily. This way you might not need glue, but this is preliminary and I’ll be developing this idea further and refine the parts, as well as adding more.
Little circles on the ends of the MDF foam anchors allow you to position the MDF planes or sails (let’s call them sails) in different angles and configurations.
MDF Sails -
Trapezoid shapes with slots that you can use to position them in a variety of ways. By using them with the round connectors, or the round parts at the end of the foam anchors you can angle them in chaotic ways.
A great benefit to this type of geometry and form is that it can be scale agnostic. If you don't have any pieces that are obviously doors or furniture made for humans, you could equally use it for 28mm games, 15mm games, battletech or other scales. You can see here how flexible the kits could be using different shapes and these round joint components.
Steven has created a reactor looking terrain piece.
Some MDF flat surface you can stand your miniatures on (or not, depending on what you want to do with it!) Good to block LOS.
Frame with integrated barbed anchors -
This is an angled frame that can plug into the XPS foam, You can then attach the sails or decks if you like to provide cover or shelter.
More parts coming soon!
Building the XPS foam rock spire base
Back to the build story. To get the first sketch design going I needed to create a rock spire from foam. My friend Stephen lent me a hot wire cutter which I haven’t used for years. He has a great hobby Instagram by the way, you should give him a follow here!
After I cut the basic shape with a wire cutter I used a knife to create cracks and break up the geometry of the rock further to get a bit more realism.
You can use PVA glue to make the rock spire but I just used a hot glue gun so it would dry faster.
I made some little indentations so that the rocks would be as flush as possible and dry quickly. I used some toothpicks to help align the rocks.
Once I built up the rock stack, I experimented with different compositions to get something unique but still similar to the concept sketch. I inserted the barbed MDF anchors into small holes in the XPS foam. You should glue it in place once the desired position is chosen.
Trying out the terrain in a game of Necromunda
You can play with the pieces and find something you like to create a cool sculptural form. I settled on stepping back pieces to create a layering which looks really cool in different lighting as the steps in the planes cast shadows. I actually dry fitted some pieces together then found out it looked better upside down – but to keep it useful for games I made sure miniatures could stand on the flat deck.
Once I decided on the position of the MDF structure I then used the knife to refine and cut away some of the rocks, so that the structure was closer and could spike into the foam.
Painting the Ash Waste Terrain
I sealed the rocks with some dark grey acrylic paint and after a couple of layers used some light grey spraypaint. Here I'm adding some window cleaner to reduce the surface tension and make a brown wash for the base. I dusted the grey rocks with white by gently pressing on the spray can to add speckles of white and create a nice texture. I then drybrushed the rocks with light grey
Some old suede effects paint was used for a large foam wall, which is kind of cool for concrete. You can get this textured paint from hardware stores. A couple coats of that made this piece of foam look decent enough! I wanted this piece to break up line of sight for games and allow me to use it for a base to attach these MDF anchors and forms.
I wanted some brown or reddish primer for the MDF so that if the seal and topcoat gets rubbed off the brown primer will emulate rusty steel.
For the first time I tried some matte medium and some cheap acrylic paints with my airbrush. It worked out well, the cheap art shop acrylics are often too glossy for hobby purposes so the matte medium is really handy.
I thought the paint was thicker than miniature paint so I thinned it and used some flow improver. Building up some layers of rusty brown and then orange, I focused the orange around the edges of the engraved plates.
I had to make a few more cuts in the foam to get the MDF structure closer to the rock spire, as I wanted to paint the MDF part and the foam rock spire separately.
Details - adding cables to the MDF metal panels
You can see that there are some round holes for placing cables. To break up the form of the terrain and make it less obvious that it’s made from MDF I have been recycling some old broken electronic cables. I also used some green garden wire to create a conduit that snakes up the rock spire. As mentioned, you can keep the kits loose enough in detail so that the kit is still flexible for different game scales.
A 15mm tank explores the wasteland and strange alien architecture. You can view this terrain model in 3D Augmented Reality (scroll pas the first products)
Another benefit of these abstract forms is that since it’s not obvious what they are, you can angle them in different ways. This wall and platform provides cover to your units, and you can use the stairs or ladders to climb up, but if you put the wall flat on the ground it could be a shade or shelter structure in a wasteland.
I really like the way these metal plates wrap around the rocks here, it’s almost like a sail. You can see how flexible these round joints are for making interesting shapes. I thought it was easier to paint separately. Once you are happy with your paint job then you can position and glue the terrain to the foam base. Again these designs were very quick so I’ll be working on more pieces soon.
Post-Apoc/Ash Waste scifi terrain release date
I expect this terrain will be launched on the Brutal Cities store in April - I was hoping for sooner but I've been busy with orders and admin. I think an MDF base structure that blocks LOS would be useful. This makes it easier if you you can’t find local foam suppliers or don’t want to use foam terrain as a base. Having some holes for attaching connector/anchor pieces would be very useful and practical and make it easy for you to attach the other sail-like parts.
I will also develop some hooks to allow you to use these sails with other MDF terrain buildings you probably already have. Adding this type of architecture to ruins or other buildings could readily simulate alien structures for example.
If this has been enticing for your hobby brain, please sign up to the email list here so you’ll be notified when these kits are released. And you can let me know if there’s anything specific you would want for this terrain release! - Just send an email or message me on social media (links on page footer).
I’m really looking forward to playing some more games using these kits. They work well thematically for any sort of post apocalyptic or sci-fi games. I brought the table to the recent Infinity tournament at Cancon earlier in January and had some great feedback from the players, and tried it out myself. I also managed to play on Rob’s Fadelight table in a tournament setting against a very friendly opponent who ran a white banner Yu Jing list.
Yours truly with the fantastic Infinity TO's at Cancon - Rob's fadelight table is behind me.
After making this ash waste terrain and playing Necromunda for the first time, it actually prompted me to repaint my old steel legion army. The base board that I have updated a bit with some woodland scenics flock and static grass was initially an ash waste table! The colours were picked to match my steel legion minis and tanks. The old 40k Armageddon terrain tables in White Dwarf or the codexes were always desert. But it didn’t make sense to me, as ash is usually great for fertiliser. So I added some dry looking static grass to still keep a post apocalyptic wasteland terrain look but allow the table to be more flexible. You just have to add more trees and it’s perfect for the exclusion zone for games of Zona Alfa, or add some buildings and it could easily be a ruined city.
Playing a game of Infinity on the ash waste/post-apocalyptic table.
Perhaps at one point I should design some MDF terrain tiles? Or maybe a concrete hardstand area. I think at the table base level, adding some concrete areas would soften the contrast between the natural and built environment, and make the table look a lot more realistic. It would be easy to use it for different scales and engraving some damage would look great. You could then use it to simulate an airport tarmac or military base.
I think adding some Savlar Chem dogs to the Imperial Guard force (sorry, played since 3rd ed!) will be my next hobby project, perfect for using in both Necromunda and 40k ash waste themed lists.
Thanks for reading. I hope your 2023 is off to a great start and you’re feeling motivated and inspired to just get painting!
A sniper provides security to a research outpost in the ruins of the old city, now a barren wasteland.
For the next video and blog post, I plan to finally finish my oil paint tutorial.
Have a good one,