Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Creating City Terrain: Rubble

In my last few articles on creating city terrain I walked through the steps of making city ruins using Styrofoam, pink foam, shale, and other odds and ends. Well, after making the main ruins you should have amassed quite a pile of left over small chunks of foam littering your work space. Hopefully you did not throw them out as I am going to show you how you can use those pieces of foam to create rubble terrain pieces. I like to use rubble in my city fight boards because it helps flesh out the visualization that you are really battling it out in a city landscape.

 For example, take a look at this display board with some city ruins.

Nice terrain but the space between the buildings are empty.
Ok, it has ruined buildings for your models to move through and fight over but the streets and alleyways are all clear of obstruction. Now take a look at the same ruins but with sections of rubble strewn through the streets and alleyways.

Now there are some obstructions.
 Not only does that make your tabletop look a bit more realistic but now you've added an entirely new element to your game. You can elect to have the rubble provide a 5+ cover save, become difficult terrain and provide BLoS for troops and vehicles. So lets get started.

Items needed for this project:
Particle Board
Left over pink styrofoam
Pieces of sprue
Shale (or wood chips)
Wood Glue
Wedding cake pillars
Random bits

Step 1:
Take a piece of particle board and quickly sketch out some random shapes for the bases. Since these are supposed to be small mounds of rubble I tend to make them in odd shapes and no bigger than 4x4 inches. Just for variety I made a couple a bit longer but nothing larger than 6 inches long. Very carefully cut the shapes out with a jigsaw then sand the edges down lightly so they are smooth.

Step 2:
Take random chunks of foam and start cutting them down to represent fallen walls, sections of supports, or whatever to make it appear that the rubble came crashing down from high up onto the street below. Take the time to get creative with your cuts. Use a thin razor blade or your exacto knife and cut like dings and cracks into the foam.

Use random shapes and sizes.
Add nicks and cuts to the foam to represent broken concrete.

One effects I like to do is the jagged, stairway look. Take a piece of foam and carefully slice in anywhere from 1/2" to 1" in the foam.

Slice gently into the foam, not your fingers.
 Now, don't pull the razor blade out, rather flick it up so that the foam slice breaks off, leaving a jagged edge and then a drop down level.

Flip up the foam with the razor blade.

You should have a step-down level now.
Now do another slice below the area you just cut, but at a different angle and not as far in. See how it is creating the jagged, layered look?

Add another level but cut in a different direction.
Multi-step cuts.
Feel free to practice this until you get the hang of it.

Another effect is to cut your foam at an angle to that all of the pieces are not all vertical or horizontal. Adding slanted or lopsided foam pieces adds to the realism of the rubble. Usually I just take a rectangular or square shape and make about a 35-45 degree cut to one of the corners.


Step 3:
Once you have enough foam pieces of varying sizes and shapes, arrange them on the cutout bases to get an idea of how it will look before you glue them down. At this point feel free to add in random bits from your box or other elements. For example, I picked up a packet of wedding cake pillars at Michaels Craft store but you can get them from places like JoAnne Fabrics as well for less than 10 dollars. In this pieces I cut one of the pillars in half with and hand saw and then took my dremel tool to the edges to give it a broken look. On the top half of this pillar I glued an old plastic chess piece to the top to make it look like an old statue had fallen over. You can use a space marine model or a guardsman if you wanted it to fit in with a particular them. Then I added these pieces to the foam layout.

Step 4:
Once you have the pieces arranged and looking the way you want, glue them to the board and let dry.  Again, I usually let them sit overnight as I tend to do most of my hobby related work in the evenings. At this point you can also add in pieces of modeling sprue to represent twisted beams of metal sticking out of the building walls.


Step 5:
Now I am going to glue on pieces of shale like I did in the city ruins article so I won't go into detail on that here. If you missed that article then click here. Once the glue has set, shake off any excess pieces of shale and then glue on the sand, just as I showed in the city ruins article. again, let the glue set and dry, then shake off any excess sand. 
Add shale or wood chips for realism.

Coat jagged or rough edges with sand.

Step 6: 
Prior to painting I will add a coat of watered down glue as a sealant over the foam and sand.

Step 7: 
Paint using the same method as I outlined in the city ruins article. Once done you are ready to use your rubble terrain pieces with your city ruins.


Here you can see some shots of a table without rubble and then the same setup with rubble. 

Road way free of rubble?

Not anymore!

Give that rhino a cover save.

Hope it does not become immobilized.

Now that looks much better!

Total time in working on the rubble pieces... around 3-4 hours, not counting the glue drying time. These are a perfect little side project that can enhance the look and feel of your board regardless if you are using your own city ruins made out of foam or GW's plastic ruins. So what are your thoughts on using pieces like these on your gaming boards? Do you like adding elements to your games that can effect vehicle movement, movement and charge distance rolls, and cover saves or do you prefer a more straight forward approach to playing your games?

Next week I'll be posting an 8,000 point battle report that I played this past weekend. Ahriman vs Mordrak, the ultimate fight of Good vs Evil. Who will win? Be here next Tuesday to see the battle the Inquisition does not want you to know about... the Incident on Nadine Prime.


  1. gotta admit I got a little chub waitin to see that battle report after that little cover-up act.

    terrain looks great and easy to make grubnards.

  2. Excellent article! Cant wait to see the batrep between you and paul i bet it was a blast.

    1. @sinister: It was a great game and it was very close up until the end. Plenty of good food and beer was on hand as well and it made for an enjoyable day. Looking forward to playing more one-off games at larger point levels, especially playing two adversaries like Grey Knights and Chaos.

    2. We could always do a battle of the xenos? 3k-4k nids vs eldar/tau or my eldar vs your chaos/deamons

  3. Wow those ruins look outstanding - looking forward to the report as well, and would love to see how you got those cool effects on the pics.