Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tutorial: Modular Gaming Board - Part 1

A while ago I decided to bid farewell to my old plain green gaming boards. Probably I'll keep them as emergency reserve but actually I want to build a nice set of modular tiles. Over the last months I tried different techniques, colours and material and finally I'm satisfied with the first tile I finished:
The first tile of the new gaming board.
Hopefully some of you are interested in how I made the tile. On the other hand I need a mnemonic to remember the colours I used. Therefore I present you a tutorial for a durable, modular, light-weight gaming board:

1st Step: Preparations
Of course we need the material first:
- Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) as baseplate (in my case pieces of 50cm x 50cm, 10mm thick)
- Styrofoam (in my case 20mm thick)
- Some strips of wood to enforce the edges
- Wood glue
- Painters' filler
- Sand
- Paint

2nd Step: Cutting work
First of all you have to cut all pieces to the right size. Fortunately our hardware store offers a cutting service so I had the baseplates cut to 50cm x 50cm right away when I bought them.

Afterwards I cut the strips for the edges with a mitre-box saw and serrated them to 45° at the ends to make nice angels.
The old and loyal saw.
Lat but not least I cut the styrofoam  into pieces of 48cm x 48cm to fit into the frame. I used the same technique I described here.

After this step we have all parts of the structural work ready.
The styrofoam plate and the wooden edges prepared and ready for glueing.

3rd Step: Glueing things
Next step is rather easy. Just put all the prepared parts together. I used white carpenter's glue for everything and it seems to adhere very well.
Ready for terrain shaping.
4th Step: Terrain shaping
On some tiles I wanted to have some terrain features, especially some hills or brims. To achieve that I used a hot wire cutter and removed anything that didn't like the shape I wanted. However with the next pieces I'll change my cutting tactics a bit because it's rather uncomfortable to reach the center. Maybe I'll try to tool more of the styrofoam before glueing it onto the MDF board.
Prepared tile and the hot wire cutter.
5th Step: Filling the gaps
To finish the forming it's essential to fill all gaps between the wooden frame and the styrofoam core. I used a cheap acryllic paste from a painters' store. Although it's goldishly coloured it was the cheapest. Anyway the colour doesn't matter but it should be a smooth paste without grains in it.
The gaps filled with gold...
6th Step: Sanding
After several years with plain boards with grass matts I decided to make the new board rougher. So I wanted to use some medium coarse-grained sand to cover the surface of the boards and then paint it in brownish and greyish coulours. I used slightly thinned wood glue to stick the sand to the styrofoam.
The partly covered tile.
After the glue had dryed for about a day I covered it with a thin layer of severely thinned wood glue to strengthen the surface against wear of friction.

Well that was part one of my step-by-step report of my new gaming board. Next week I want to prepare some more pieces and paint them. At this opportunity I'll try to make to WIP shots of the painting process and let you know which colours I used.

Additionally I'm working on some smaller terrain pieces: A 20mm Normandy house, some trees and some LED illuminated fire markers. I hope to be able to present some results this weekend.


  1. Looks like the start of great tutorial. Thanks for sharing Monty!

    1. Thanks Jason.

      Next time I'll present some weird mixtures of brown, black and white paints to get a nice brownish board. Actually there's no other way for me to remember the formulas... ;-)


  2. Very interesting and very your blog, I'll come back!

  3. looking forward to seeing this progress as I am starting one soon too. For the grass areas will you just be glueing on static grass? Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing. The board looks great.