Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Working with Chipboard

Basing with chipboard hex tiles. I ended up spackling the foam hills to cover up the ugly cellular grain.
Ah! Nothing like a game of Mechwarrior to look forward to, to get you making terrain again! I have figured out my terrain-making strategy: before i kept thinking i should design my terrain to fit both 1" square (for Star Wars Minis) and 2" hex (for Mechwarrior) maps and then getting stuck cause the base size and scale is different and whatnot. But it turns out there are a slew of great 1" square grid maps for star wars gaming with lots of features, so it doesn't really need terrain, except for doors because being able to to tell if they are open or not visually helps. Whereas with Mechwarrior, they don't have lots of good 2" hex maps. So it makes sense to just make terrain for them. Here is where chipboard comes in.

If you're going to make terrain, it makes sense to base them in the hex grid you plan to use them on. Before, i used to pick up 2" hex ceramic tiles from home depot or lowes for cheap, but they don't seem to be making them anymore. You can still get them online for about $11-15 for a sheet of them but it's expensive to ship since they're heavy. So i've turned to making my own hex bases with chipboard (which i had a lot left over from making my own WoW minis gameboard).

What's chipboard? Chipboard is to cardboard like particleboard is to wood. It's basically reclaimed cardboard mashed up and glued together. Hence, it's denser/firmer/tougher than cardboard. It's most often used in making board game boards since it's pretty robust. Generally, you can only find it at real art supply stores, like Utretch's and not Michaels or Joannes.
This layout minimizes the number of cuts needed for making hexes, but wastes some material. However, since the chipboard is thick and easy to pick up, these left-over pieces make great markers! Stick a colored label on it or paint and you're good to go.
How to work with it?
Chipboard is known to be difficult to work with, because it's tough material! But it's not too bad. It takes a sharp (sharp!) razor blade/utility knife and 3-4 slices to cut through. If you have a dull razor blade forget it. It's better to use the sharpness of the blade rather than alot of pressure on the knife otherwise you risk loosing control and cutting yourself. I'm thinking about trying to cut it on a band saw or something. Your other option is foamboard, which is easier to cut but not as thin.

Some of my chipboard-based terrain:

my old skateboard wheels with a straw and studded with iron-on rhine stones to look like rivets.  I'm getting pretty good at seeing possible terrain from trash!

600 rhine stones for $2 at walmart! Cheapest rivets ever and easier to work with than mustard seeds!

Here is my completed terrain in action! I used a bit of 50% watered-down PVA glue mixed with sand to give the hills textures. You can see the hills look much better with spackle, spray-painted black, and dry-brushed grey. The skateboard wheels turned into a nice set of tanks also with black undercoat and dry-brushed silver. I really liked how they turned out! =)
The nice thing about using hex tiles to base is that you don't need to actually make your terrain hex-shaped anymore. I could've cut the top of the foam hills any shape i wanted and as long as the base is hexed then you know it's positioning.  I hope you give chipboard a try in your own terrain-making!


Tim said...

Very cool. I love the use of reclaimed skateboard wheels. Any success with casting terrain pieces in resin?

Monkey said...

not yet, been mass producing hexes and testing new games all weekend long....wheee

Alvin Smith said...

Wow great project man!I appreciate the effort you have put to make this amazing design!!Great job done keep it up!!

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