Building a Battlefield: Part 1

Hi everyone and welcome to a new terrain feature following me as I make a Black Templars themed Chapter Keep table.

As a somewhat obsessed maker of terrain I’ve built a lot of cool tables over the years.  Making themed boards that both look really cool and are still functional to play on is something I hope I’ve gotten pretty decent at doing (I have over 20 different themed boards of terrain made now).  So when I told Alex that I wanted to document my journey on the latest crazy terrain adventure he was more than happy to let me do it here.  I hope to impart some of my knowledge along the way but also to maybe inspire you to have a go at something crazy as well!  I’m more than happy to share some other finished boards too so you can get some other ideas:

But back to the Black Templar Keep!

This particular table has been some years in the making as I’ve collected the bits for this with no real plan on what I wanted to do with them.  A lot of it has been out of production so as and when bits would come up I’d buy them and throw them on the pile. When you are a terrain maker you never know when something will be useful!

During one of the many Covid lockdowns we’ve been through I read the most excellent Helsreach novel again and that filled me with fire and brimstone and made me want to make a Black Templars army to crush all the xenos scum! As I read more about them I really started to like the back story they had on their never ending Crusades. One thing that stuck in my mind was how they make a Chapter Keep on all the worlds they conquer. A seed was planted….

It’s a bit of a curse at times but I really do constantly think about tables and terrain. Inspiration can take hold at any time and I have boxes and boxes of stuff in my garage awaiting the lightning bolt to hit. Whilst going through the boxes looking for something else (which I didn’t find, sods law) I rediscovered the box full of fortifications and BOOM. Lightning meet Seed!

Building a Battlefield P1 - Parts

Here was the making of that Chapter Keep so I dragged it all out and surveyed what I had.  As you can see from the picture I had a bit more than I thought that’s for sure and some of the bigger bits are now crazy prices so I’m glad I had those already.  It’s a bit of a hodgepodge of old and new but I’ve picked up Bastions in some very sorry states for not a lot in the past so you have to keep your eyes open for things.  A lot of stuff can be given new life if you have the time to restore it and Ebay watching can grab some bargains!  You can also get lucky on joblots from Buy & Sell pages but models from this set are getting more pricey for sure.

The first job was building/fixing everything so once I had everything assembled I set to trying to work out what I wanted it to look like.  Art is not my strong point but I do find rough sketches help to visualise a board.  Then once I have a rough sketch I start to layout the terrain on a board and have a game on it to see how it feels.  The first layout didn’t really work out as well as I hoped and felt more like the front line of a battle rather than a Keep.  Me and my opponent had a good chat about it as feedback is critical at this stage to make sure you are on the right path.  Cool boards aren’t very useful if you can’t have a fair game on them after all.

So back to the drawing board I went and rejigged everything around until it ended in a more traditional Castle type shape that you can see below.  The landing pad was actually added to the pile after the first game as we said the middle needed something.  I’m a sucker for making terrain that hints on larger things happening underground so the landing pad will form the basis of that in this board.

Building a Battlefield P1 - Layout

Once you have the layout at a point you like you can start to think about the overall look you want.  I will say at this stage I will start to look at the gaming mats available and start to pair one up to the idea I have in my mind.  This isn’t critical to the process but for me a mat finishes a board.  It’s like the cherry on top so to speak and having a mat themed to your board just elevates the whole piece up another notch. 

So visually I wanted this to be on a Green planet so have opted to base this on a nice simple meadow grass game mat.  The idea was this is a planet that has been reclaimed for the Emperor and has been part of the Imperium for some time now.  So the Keep is still functional as it has been maintained by the Chapter Serfs and Servitors but time has allowed nature to start to set in again.  So there will be vines, mosses and general plant growth with trees having slowly regrown in areas around the site which have been allowed to get fairly substantial in places. 

Paint will be flaking and I suppose the general condition would be described as distressed but functional. It’s seen better days but will still do a job if it’s needed to as it were. Think an old Church building I guess. The grass in the grounds is still being cut and the Buildings being maintained but it looks old. That’s the vision anyway!

You can also now start to think about any changes that will add to the wow factor.  For me height always adds this so whilst looking at the new layout I decided I wanted to raise some of the buildings up.  Really I wanted some of the Bastions to look like they are sat up on carved out rock foundations.  The Templars seeing the area as having good strategic potential and then working the land to make it so.  The Landing pad will be raised a little higher again and have ramps up either side so on ground level we get some line of sight blocking but you can still move around it as well.

I’m a great user of spray foam but this time for consistency in height I plan to use foam board that I will cut out to fit the shapes of what I raise up (as you can see I’ve started with the landing pad above).  It’s a tough and versatile material and really allows you to work it to shapes.  Be mindful that aerosol will dissolve foam somewhat (and make some nasty fumes so be careful) so always coat the foam in something to provide a barrier if you plan to use spray cans.

So that’s the plan of attack all laid out for you and a good place to pause the first article I think. Part 2 I will cover the Landing Pad build in depth for you and I’ll give you some hints and tips to getting a good looking and durable rock effect.

See you soon! 


What sort of terrain do you usually play with? Do you have a gaming board you’ve made yourself at home? Let us know in the comments.

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