Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Red Planet board

Ever since I switched to 15mm, I've been fighting battles over the same collection of desert terrain. I needed a change! Inspired by Mark's previous post and Martin's gallery, I decided to try a "red planet" terrain set of my own. This project was simple and quite inexpensive - and only took a weekend to complete. While the steps here were specific for my red planet, you could easily apply different colors and flocking methods to make any type of terrain you like.

First I needed material for the project. I wanted to start small - 24" x 24" is fine for skirmishes, or small battles with a couple squads and a vehicle or two. So I picked up a piece of 5/8" sanded plywood cut to that size. And to make the red planet I chose two colors of $1 craft paint (a base and a highlight) and two bags of Woodland Scenics flock (their fine scale works well as 15mm ground

A little experimenting with the flock led me to a blend of two parts red ore to one part black cinder. This is actually a pretty dark blend... not a true Mars but definitely something out of this world.

As with my previous desert and snow tables, I started with a test hill. I have a pile of assorted styrofoam packing sheets from furniture boxes... enough so I could cover a 24x24 table and not have to buy anything extra. So I sat down with the ol' Wonder Cutter and went to work. The first hill was simple, textured, and looked like it would work.

So I painted it. Two coats of the darker red covered it completely, and a quick drybrush with the orange brought out the carved texture. Then I brushed a 50/50 white glue/water mix and sprinkled on the flock. When flocking I let it dry for about an hour then gently go back over the whole area with the 50/50 mix. If you dab it on just right it will look like the flock is covered with milk, but not floating around. This dries to a nice solid finish that doesn't flake. Here is the result, with a GZG shanty and a Kremlin Cyberian Commando for comparison

The results were okay, but still a bit unsatisfying. I sat down to work on some taller spires, like these at TerraGenesis. When working on these I realized that the texture on my earlier hill was perpendicular to normal erosion! So I turned the ol' Wonder Cutter sideways and produced these:

I thought these were a major improvements over my first hill, and I was eager to finish them. Same formula as before... two coats of the darker red and a quick and easy drybrush with the orange.

My camera didn't catch the contrast, but the orange drybrushing does stand out well from the red. I may still go back over them with a black wash to add a bit more depth, but I'm pretty satisfied with the results.

In between coats of the hills I finished the table itself. I did use a primer on the plywood before I started painting - this helps to seal the plywood and prevents your first coat of paint from soaking in. I didn't use any drybrushing on the table - just painted it red, flocked, and sealed. I applied the sealant with a dollar-store spray bottle rather than a brush, and gave it two extra coats. Right now it's solid enough that I could reverse it and make a two-sided board. The table took longer to make just because of the extra coats of glue needing to dry, but was still a very simple process. If you want to do this project at home, I'd say paint and flock the table first, then add the sealant coats while you work on hills, spires, crags, or whatever else you're including.

All that remained was to flock and seal the rest of the hills. Since the hills would need to dry overnight I had to leave them aside... but the test hill and the spires were ready now! I set out the table, deployed a quick mining settlement (combination of GZG shanties and BWS Startown Slums), scattered the finished terrain bits, and had a battlefield ready to play a quick game of FUBAR!

So... who wants to see the report from that battle?



  1. This is what i call a great start for the further exploit's of the Dropship Horizon, a very cool little terrain tutorial with loads of pic's and the promise of a battle report too, you are setting the bar to a high standard and spoiling us.... :)

  2. Not only that but in one fell swoop you've solved the aesthetic issue I've always had with hot wire cutter hills! Something has always niggled at me with them but I've never been sure what it is... Nice one! The second hill and the rock piles look great!


  3. Thanks for the mention. Great article, I'm just starting a red planet project so this couldn't have come at a better time.

    Regards - Russ J. (Kremlin Miniatures)

  4. Where did you found that 24" x 24" Plywood? I've been trying to find something like this for ages! How much did it cost to you?

  5. Bring on that report!

    Very good tutorial. I have one question: You mention sealing the flock on the board, do you mean varnishing by that? I usually scatter the flock and let it dry overnight. Sometimes add some paint or drybrush a bit, but I don't quite understand "sealing"?

  6. Andy it is kind of like spraying grass flock with Scenic Cement or Aerosol Glues after you have glued it down.I never saw the need to do this, because I always added a good bit of Elmer's Glue to my base paint, and flocked in small patches so the grass stayed on fine for me.

  7. For Talus/Grit/Sand Flock I recommend using 1/2 or 1 for 1 Glue/Paint, then you can do a Glue/Wash over it to keep it down solid.

  8. The blue of the houses is a great contrast with the reds and browns of the planet. Very inspiring.

    Just started my 15mm adventure and loving it here.

  9. Yup, I'm looking forward to seeing that battle report all right. Table looks great by the way. I love the orange soil effect.

  10. Nice writeup and it looks very doable (and really nice at the same time). Kudos, now get a batrep up yo!

  11. @Brother Joseph
    I understand now. I tried it a couple of times with and without extra glue (or sealant, my english is improving word by word lol) on top, but as you point out the flock stays on good without so no need in my opinion.

  12. Thanks for the kind words everyone. This was a great weekend project for me, and I hope it inspires the same from others.

    @Rich - Don't feel bad... I've made the mistake of cutting my hills "the wrong direction" for about 16 years now!

    @Russ - once I get the rest of your Cyberians painted I'll post a gallery. I love their armor. To me they scream "hostile environment" troopers, so in my world they will be derived from mining suits.

    @Andy and Brother Joseph - I should have mentioned that part of the process. When I flock I do these steps:
    1) Brush on 50/50 white glue/water
    2) Scatter the flock
    3) Let it dry about an hour... just enough to hold the flock into place
    4) Carefully dab more 50/50 white glue/water over the entire area. If done correctly it will look like a thin layer of milk is sitting on top of the flock, but none of it is floating around
    5) Let it dry overnight

    That's it. No extra products like cement or spray sealant... just white glue and water. I do the same on my troop bases.

  13. It really does look good! I was just about to follow this little guide and make a board of my own, but at the last minute I changed my mind and ordered a 3' by 3' Zuzzy mat. Thought I might as well prepare to make a different kind of red planet tutorial. Hehe!

  14. That's awesome! I need to get a board done I suppose, I tend to use felt or sheets as my "base" terrain...

    Looks great and I'd love to see the figures and AAR!


  15. The final glue wash is key for flocked boards... You lose some of the "fuzzy" feel if you do a couple of coats of glue, but it gets nice and solid. Most of my terrain building was for gaming stores- we could hardly ever use foam for terrain, as little kids would pick at it, so we did a lot with wood, MDF, and plastic and resin kits.

  16. This tutorial has reminded me I need to replace my enormous wooden 8'x4' plywood table with some folding ones like you have. Going to be expensive, but at least I can make some more room down here when they're not deployed!


  17. Would love to see the BR! Also...where did you get those buildings? Or are they homemade?

  18. @Cheomesh Exactly what I thought! And that's the beauty with 15mm; you can get away with much smaller gaming boards.

    @benjamin_starkey The larger ones are the second wave of Startown Slums from while the small boxy buildings are GZG's colonial shacks. Great mix of buildings!

  19. Thanks, MArtin! I have some ordering to do!

  20. Hi,
    Great to see the nice table... What exactly is ol' Wonder Cutter??? is it one of the GW Wire Cutters?? or a homemade version?

  21. Hi, what exactly is ol' Wonder Cutter?