Insider 2-01-2011

Just a few weeks ago I posted a list of the materials to stockpile for today's blog. For quick reference, here it is again:

The inspiration for this piece came from curling stones. I imagined the trolls stacking these round, flat stones inscribed with runes around the perimeters. The stone piles would mark the boundaries of the trollkin territories or serve as "batteries" charged with spiritual energy that could be drawn upon by nearby warlocks.

For game purposes, the waystones could be used to represent objectives. You could apply house rules to give the stones a more direct affect on the battlefield. Perhaps the stones begin the game charged with D6 fury points that can be leached by a warlock in control range of the stones. Maybe Trollblood warlocks can place fury on the stones (similar to Krielstone Bearer's Fury Vault rule) to be used at a later time. Or maybe the waystones could simply provide a command bonus for Trollblood units within a certain range. The options are only limited by your imagination.


Wooden toy wheels
Stone Scribe Eldar Scroll Bundle
1/8" hardboard, 1/8" styrene card, or 1/8" foam core
Wood filler putty
Formula P3 Super Glue
Construction Adhesive
Dremel® tool

Basing Terrain

Before I get into the terrain project itself, I'd like to talk a little about terrain aesthetics and basing terrain pieces.

When building terrain for your battlefield you always need to consider the playability and believability of the piece. How will models move in and around the terrain? Are the walls appropriately sized to realistically provide cover but still allow small-based models to see and aim their weapons over them? Are the windows and doors appropriately scaled for a 30-mm man-sized model? Are the walkways large enough to accommodate a 30-mm bases or larger bases if warjacks are intended to move through the area?

Moreover, how the terrain looks on the table is an important factor. As hobby games, WARMACHINE and HORDES are about setting up a visually appealing environment for the miniatures to do battle. The tabletop terrain deserves as much effort and attention as the models. Durability is especially a concern because the terrain will need to endure a little more wear and tear and can't always be stored neatly in a foam tray.

Just as you would pin the arms of a delicate model to ensure it holds up under the rigors of gameplay, care should be taken when building terrain so it will not be easily damaged when moved, stored, when models are placed on it, or when dice roll into it.

So what does all this have to do with basing terrain? The base of a terrain piece can cause problems if it's overly thick or obtrusive. It can create a linear barrier on the battlefield, making it difficult for models to stand on the terrain or impeding movement outright.

I try to avoid basing terrain unless it is absolutely necessary. Buildings, for example, are better served with unbased, flat bottoms. They will blend into the table surface more smoothly and can be used for any number of environments without affecting the visual aesthetic.

Having a base doesn't add anything to this building. The models tip on the edge, and the piece will only look good on a matching grass table.

This building has no base, so it will fit anywhere and doesn't impact the table aesthetic or interfere with model placement.


Hardboard is my personal favorite and what I'll be using for most of these projects. I use 1/8˝-thick board for most pieces. On really large pieces, ¼˝ provides a little more stability. While the hardboard will provide a sturdy, damage resistant base, it can be difficult to work with. A jigsaw or band saw is the best way to cut it, and a small handheld belt sander is my preference for beveling the edges. Most hardware stores carry hardboard in 2' x 4' sheets and the material is relatively inexpensive.

Pros: Hard edges, resists damage, no warping, thin, inexpensive.
Cons: Hard to cut and sand edges, power tools required.

Foam Core

Available in nearly every store's arts and crafts department, foam core is the cheapest option and the easiest to work with. You can cut it and bevel the edge with a knife, and it holds up pretty well. The exposed foam along the beveled edge should be covered with masking tape to protect the foam from aerosol sprays and to add a little extra stability. On pieces measuring twelve inches or larger, foam core runs the risk of warping since it's essentially cardboard and foam; the edges won't hold up under excessive abuse.

Pros: Easy to find, inexpensive, easy to cut and shape.
Cons: The cut edge and revealed foam can be an issue when painting, warps on large pieces, soft edges subject to damage.

Styrene Card

Styrene (plastic) card is great for small projects. You'll need to find a specialty hobby shop that carries carry it. The ideal thickness is 1/16˝; at that size, the edge doesn't need much beveling. You will definitely want to rough up the surface with sandpaper because the card is nonporous and the glue might crack off the surface once dry. It's a little flimsy for large projects, and it can be pretty pricey (something like ten dollars for two small sheets).

Pros: Easy to work with, no warping, thin.
Cons: You don't get a lot for the money, too flimsy for large pieces, nonporous so glue might crack off.

Insulation Foam

Insulation foam is my least favorite material to use as a base for scenery pieces. It's thick and unwieldy and should only be used if the terrain is intentionally incorporated into a hill or rock formation of some kind. Just make sure there's plenty of area on the hilltop around the main piece to accommodate models and that the passable and impassable areas are clearly defined. Insulation foam is also the weakest of the building materials, and the thinner it is the more likely it will chip or break. Nothing looks worse on a beautifully modeled tabletop than exposed pink foam.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to cut, no warping.
Cons: Easily damaged, impedes model placement and movement around the terrain.

Building the Waystones

I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted the stacked waystones to look like. My initial choice for the stones themselves was to use the round wooden wheels from a Tinker Toy set. After searching every toy store in the area, and dropping thirty bucks, I finally found some. Upon opening the pack, the round wheels turned out to be way too big—three inches in diameter! (I remember them being smaller when I was a kid.)

Fortunately, I'd kept the receipt. After returning the Tinker Toys, a quick trip to the craft store netted me some small wooden wheels that were one inch in diameter. Less than two dollars for a pack of four! These wheels and the Stone Scribe Eldar Scroll Bundle are the main components in this project.

Preparing the Components

The smooth wooden wheels need to be given a stone texture, and this can be achieved by pressing the wheels against a rough surface. A cinderblock, brick, or concrete sidewalk works best.

Now it's time to add the runes that will bring the stones to life. There are a few different methods that can be used. If you have the patience, the runes can be painted onto the surface during the final stages. However, that requires multiple layers of shading and highlighting to create the appearance of inscribed runes, not to mention a lot of precision with a brush.

I figured my time would be better spent inscribing the runes with a Dremel® tool and then painting them with one or two controlled washes.


Well, as fate would have it, these wooden wheels are particularly hard, and inscribing directly into them proved to be too difficult. I wasn't able to control the rotary tip and draw convincing runes into the wood. Part of building terrain is solving problems, so spots on the stone will need to be drilled out and filled to create "soft spots" that can be easily inscribed.

Mark the position of the runes by drawing an eight-pointed star on the surface, like the points of a compass. Next, mark each spot around the perimeter of the stone. The eight points are only to ensure the runes are evenly spaced around the stone. Their placement doesn't have to be terribly precise; there's no need for protractors and rulers here.

Once the spots are marked, use a pointed sculpting tool or pin vise to make a starting hole. (If your wooden wheels are already soft enough, you can skip ahead to the engraving.)

Use a large drill bit to make a divot on each spot marked around the side of the stone. I used a 3/16˝ bit and a power drill to speed up the work (and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome for another day). Watch your fingers when using power tools. Don't press too hard against the drill, or you might slip and drill your hand by mistake.

Once all the holes are drilled use wood filler putty to fill them in.

The wood filler will take about an hour to dry. Once the wood filler is dry, scrape off the excess with a hobby knife to get a uniform surface.

So, all of that added a couple hours to the project, but now we're ready to carve out the runes. Using a high-speed Dremel® tool and a bit with a fine point, engrave the runes into the spots filled with wood putty. Forces of HORDES: Trollbloods contains plenty of illustrations that can be used for reference.

Here you can see all the parts prepared and laid out. I built three pieces: two standing stone columns and one that has been knocked over. The Elder Stone Scribe Scroll bundles add a bit of detail to the bases. I'm using three of them, and I decided to throw Hoarkuk Doomshaper's Parchment in as well. The ruined waystone will be set up like a torn and discarded scroll. The bases are cut from hardboard with beveled edges (as described above).

These techniques aren't limited to building Trollkin waystones. Using similar parts and found objects you could build a Protectorate shrine, adorned with scrolls and Menofixes. The Circle Orboros utilizes large, engraved stone markers and altars. Every battlefield can benefit from small faction-specific terrain pieces. What's great about small scenery like this is that you can fit a few pieces into your miniatures case to make your army's deployment area look more like its home turf.

Assembling the Components

Assembling the parts is pretty straightforward. To ensure stability and to fill any hollows in the underside of the wheel, place a dab of construction adhesive in the center. Then, apply a ring of super glue around the perimeter.

Stick the stone to the base and make sure it is secure before stacking the other stone on top of it. Super glue the scroll bundles and other metal parts directly to the base, leaving a little glue around the components.

Before the super glue on the base is dry, sprinkle some sand over it. Sanding around the parts helps secure them to the base and allows you to apply wood glue on the majority of the base and avoid getting any on the stones or scrolls.

Before this glue and sand dries, use a sharpened wood pencil to remove any stray sand that might have stuck to the detailed areas of the parts. I recommend a wood pencil because the point can always be re-sharpened, and you don't want to gunk up your tools with super glue.

Next, it is time to add the remaining stones. Use construction adhesive and super glue, as above, to attach them. Keep the glue under control so it doesn't seep out from between the stones. If it does, use a pencil point to scrape away the excess.

The stones on the bottom don't need their central hole filled, but the one that goes on top will need to be filled and textured. Use wood filler putty and the stone-pressing technique to match the texture on the side before gluing the stone in place.

All of the toppled stones need their surfaces filled and textured. Doomshaper's parchment gets glued in place, and super glue is used to attach the stones and sand underneath them.

Apply wood glue over the bare areas of the base and add sand. Here are the waystones completely assembled and ready to prime and paint.

Painting the Waystones

I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing the painting because it's pretty basic: lots of drybrushing and a few washes. The technique I chose for the runes worked out very well, and I'll cover that here as well as the colors I used for the stones and ground.

Working over a black primer undercoat, drybrush the stones first. Begin with straight Ironhull Grey, giving good coverage, and then drybrush with Bastion Grey. Mix 50/50 Bastion Grey and Menoth White Base for the next layer of lighter drybrushing. The final highlights should be lightly drybrushed with straight Menoth White Highlight on the tops of the stones.

With the stone drybrushing finished, mix up a brown wash and apply it to a few patches. Keep it very thin and don't overdo it. Once this is finished, it is time to tackle the runes.

Thin Morrow White with Formula P3 Mixing Medium and brush this liberally into the runes. Before the paint dries, quickly wipe your dry finger over the surface. This will pull the paint off the raised areas, leaving the white in the recesses of the runes. Do this for all of the runes, and by the time you finish, the first runes should be dry and ready for the next step.

Mix 50/50 Arcane Blue and Mixing Medium and paint this into the white areas of one of the runes and then quickly wipe your brush off and use it to pull out some of the color at the center. The dried brush hairs will wick up the paint like a sponge, and you will be left with a blue edge with some white showing through. This is a pretty simple technique, and it shouldn't take too long to knock out all the runes in this fashion.

Drybrush the ground to match your gaming table and add some static grass. The colors I've used for the ground are Bloodstone, Moldy Ochre, and Menoth White Highlight. Once the ground is finished, paint the scrolls and added parts with the same techniques you would if they were on a model.

Conclusion & Contest

And there you have it: simple but effective Trollkin waystones for your battlefield!

As was announced in the Privateer Press Insider, there's a contest associated with these terrain blogs. Build your own waystones, boundary markers, or totems using similar techniques. Send in pictures of your finished creations to, and whichever one I like the best will win the original terrain piece I built for this blog.

Photos of the contest entries are due by February 28th. The winner will be announced the week following the entry deadline.

Entries don't have to be exact recreations of the terrain in the blog but should be along the same lines. The idea is to inspire you to make your own terrain that will suit your gaming board aesthetics and faction themes. Readers can enter as part of a group or as individuals. However, there's only one prize, so if a group wins, the terrain prize will be sent to the group to become part of their collection.

Next Time

Coming up, I'll be building an Iron Kingdoms-themed house. It will focus on techniques like making stone chimneys, using textured styrene card, and making rivets easy.

In my previous Insider blog, I discussed some common parts to use in terrain construction. Here are the parts I'll be incorporating into the house next time:

x1 Behemoth Stacks

x2 Deathjack Chimney #1

x1 Thunderhead Piston

'Til next time!