Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Urban Battle Boards

Any miniatures-based tabletop game needs somewhere for those battles to be fought. This blog post is intended to describe how I built my own urban battle boards, particularly for use in Pulp City games, but the principles can be applied to any urban setting, or easily adapted I feel to historic or sci-fi gaming.

Above: gaming/battle boards, miniatures, scenery, tokens and elbow are all Pulp Citizen's own.

Now the most important disclaimer - I can't claim credit for this idea. Rather, that belongs to Larkin Vain, another Pulp City fan and Herald and a Moderator on the Pulp City message boards. His thread (here) and that of Hjelmen, another board member (thread here), are what inspired me.

The basic materials are:
- plywood sheets (12" x 12"; 6mm thickness); picture 2
- cork sheets (12" x 12"; 5mm thickness); also picture 2
- PVA glue and glue stick
- thin card (160-200 gsm)
- Rustoleum Textured - spray paint (Aged Iron)
- paints (I used Vallejo Neutral Gray and Light Gray with some browns added for washes for the lighter parts; German Grey for the darker areas)
- Ready Grass vinyl mat

Step 1
Decide how many tiles to make, and roughly what configurations of public squares (raised to pavement/sidewalk height), straights, t-junctions, crossroads and corners you want. I drew the placement of lines for pavement/sidewalk edges (cork cut to size) - see picture 3. In doing so, I made certain the width of all inner road sections was the same, a uniform 6" since the ply boards varied in size but up to 1/4" to 1/2". Cork was glued to ply with PVA.

For public squares at pavement/sidewalk height, cork was simply glued straight onto ply (picture 4). Careful use of the cork across the various boards means you will need less sheets of that than the ply. I would advise making more boards than needed for usual gaming just for variety.

Step 2
To give some basic surface detailing beyond that of the textured paint, I used the thin card to create a vaguely paved effect. I wasn't worried about scaling here, just that it 'feel' right, since at the end of the day the minis are the focus, not the battle boards. There was a gap of approximately 1-3mm between pieces of card.

It is possible to create a more scale-appropriate effect if desired, time permitting of course! The card was glued to corked areas with glue stick, but PVA should work also. I left an exposed edge where the 'kerb' is of about 5mm. The public squares just used 4 larger pieces of card, with a slightly larger gap. Both the public squares and the pavement/sidewalk areas have card running up to the outer edges.

Step 3
The boards were all spray undercoated outside (needing good weather, of course) with Rustoleum. I haven't used this stuff before, but bear in mind:
- it needs a lot longer to dry than acrylic model undercoats
- it took 1 can to undercoat approximately 6-8 boards

The finish is tough and rough, just what is needed. I wasn't too worried about complete coverage, especially on the cork, as with the cork it has a rough texture also.

Step 4
The raised areas (pavement/sidewalk and public squares were painted first with Neutral Grey, then some occasional washes of Neutral Grey with various browns, then some light dry brushing with Light Grey).

The public squares probably got more attention in the form of washes since there is less surface and colour variation, but you don't need to go overboard since terrain is going to be placed on top anyway.

Step 5
The roads were then finished with German Grey. At this time I haven't added road markings, but I may do so later.

Step 6
I also created some park areas using a plastic-backed static grass sheeting (I used Ready Grass vinyl mat - see right). To make these I just constructed a board with ply and cork, and then added the sheeting, gluing it in place with PVA after roughing up the back (plastic side) with sandpaper.


  1. So simple and yet look so cool mate! :)
    Need a pic. with all of them together and minis!

  2. Thanks.

    I'll try and assemble an 'action shot' to add to the post, or to another post. The first picture gives some of the boards 'in-game'.

    Credit must go to Larkin Vain and Hjelmen from the PC message board - check out the links at the start of the post to their threads.


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