Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tyranid Terrain: Digestion Pool Part 1

My last series on building themed terrain dealt with creating city ruins with basic tools and materials and this next series will follow along with the same premise but this time I elected to build tyranid themed terrain. Why tyranids? Well, way back in 4th edition I attempted to start a tyranid army but that never went far and I ended up selling the meager collection I had started, but my love of tyranid fluff has never stopped. The idea of an unstoppable mass that cannot be reasoned with or negotiated with and that is geared with the simple purpose to consume all matter for the hive fleets is a scary prospect. For with the tyranids it is either kill them all or face utter annihilation.

In this series I want to build terrain that represents the latter stages of a tyranid infestation. By this time much of the resistance would have been wiped out, leaving the planet ready for consumption. At this point the alien spawned vegetation would be in full growth and in the process of breaking down all matter to be consumed by the ripper swarms that will soon erupt and ingest everything in their path. The rippers would then immerse themselves into the digestion pools where all of the biological matter will be reduced to an acidic gruel that will then be sucked up into the awaiting hive fleets in low orbit. So my first project for the tyranid series will be to develop some digestion pools as a test to see what I could do to create something that is totally alien and has an organic quality that none of the other 40k races have.

So with out further delay, lets get started on building some digestion pools.

Materials Needed:
Hard Board
Air Hardening Clay
Ribbed tubing
Plastic Tropical plant

Step 1:
I cut some hard board in an oval/kidney shape that measures anywhere from 9 x 12 inches.

The key I was going for is rounded shapes to help create an organic look. Plus, I wanted a surface that was rather large on the board that will create some difficult/dangerous terrain for models walking through it.

Step 2:
I cut out a chunk of air hardening clay and rolled it out in a long string, around 15-18 inches in length.

I then tested it out on the largest board to make sure that it would fit complete within the shape.

Step 3:
I then laid the rolled clay out on my cutting surface and sliced it in half length-wise so that I had two long sections of clay.

I then laid the strips out on the board, making a shape that mirrored the shape of the board. Then with some water I blended the two ends together to form a solid strip.

 ** Note, when working with air hardening clay it helps to keep a small bowl of water nearby that you can dip your hands or shaping tools into to keep the clay moist enough to shape. Otherwise the clay tends to start hardening quickly.

Step 4: 
Once the clay was in the shape I wanted I took an old tooth brush that had a ribbed handle and pressed it into the moist clay and worked it all around the surface to give it a textured look.

Once that was done I took a large section of ribbed tubing and repeated the process.

Step 5: 
As the main section was drying, I rolled some smaller pieces of clay to represent feeder tendrils coming out of the pools walls.

I simply cut the size and length that I wanted for the tendrils and molded it into the side wall with a clay sculpting tool and some water. I let it set for 10 minutes or so and then with a bamboo skewer I gently poked holes into the tendrils to give is a unique look.


Step 6: 
Not shown but after the clay had hardened over night I was not impressed with the height of the strips and the way that the ribbed surface looked. I found a better piece of ribbed tubing and added another layer of clay over the first and I think this achieved a much better result. Along the top area I poked some more holes with the skewer like I did for the tendrils. That is where the poisoned fronds will be going in later. Here is what it looked like after adding the next layer.


Step 7: 
Not shown. With some fine sand paper I lightly sanded down any rough areas and then I glued the clay down to the board.

Step 8: 
I glued some sand down to the outside border of the pool. Rather than adding sand to the inside edges I thought I would give the microwave glue method that Hyv3 pointed out in this article a try. While it looked organic enough I went ahead and added super glue to it as well and swirled it around.



Next week I will glue in the poisoned fronds and other pieces into the pool and then paint it up. For my paint scheme I want to represent the organic material of the wall in a creamy, bone color to give look like bone or cartilage but I have no idea what color I should paint up the digestion gruel. Do you think a split pea color or maybe a vomit brown look? I want something that will work with the creamy organic colors, the green vegetation and the rust colored soil that I will be painting up. What do you think?


  1. I'd go with the pea green, with variations on color swirling around. Are you going to put a layer of resin in there?

  2. This looks great, I look forward to see the end result. I am sure you have an idea already for the centre, but I used this for make some Lethal terrain and it could work well for these pieces...



  3. Yeah, I am definitely going to be adding some of the extra body parts for the corpse cart sprue but I like some of the effects that IDIC posted in his link.

    @Krad pea green with yellow/brown swirls is where I am leaning towards as well.

  4. I recently had the misfortune to get the stomach flu - during that time I observed that my partially digested meal was more of a yellowish color - with some chunks in there of indeterminate origin - the chunks were dark brown. If that sounds gross, then it has accomplished its goal of looking like partially digested food...

  5. Grubnards this is awesome. I really like the creative use of pipes and textures to get an interesting alien effect. I will be looking forward to this set of tutorials as I am in the process of making my own Tyranid Bastion, and not one that's just had nid bits added to the Imperial variety [though they can be good too]. Here's my Tyranid defence line:


    And I did a reclamation pit based on the White Dwarf tutorial, shame they don't manage to fit those in the magazine anymore:


    Meanwhile Terragenesis has a similar effort to yours but I really like the use of peanut shells for added texture:


    Look forward to the next installment.

  6. @dwez, ahhh yes, I have those issues of White Dwarf from back when the 4th Edition book came out. I also miss the old tutorials that they used to showcase for all three systems as they were full of great ideas.

    Nice job on your terrain and sharing the links here. As with the old White Dwarf issues, I think that anytime people can share their modeling and terrain techniques it helps the whole gaming community evolve.

    Keep us posted on your Bastion project by posting links here or over on our gaming forum: http://thegrandstrategery.proboards.com/index.cgi

  7. If it were me grubs I would make it look like that organic crap in war of the worlds....kinda reddish. but I know nothing about tyranid fluff other than they eat stuff.

  8. Terracotta is a nice tyranid terrain colour ;-)