The 3 Best Terrain Building Secrets

Here are some of this things I wish I new before I started building a crap load of terrain.

Fresh off the Terrain Building Day at the store, here are the best 3 practices for you to rock at setting up your own own terrain party!

1- Bros before…  The Sisterhood of… Friendship is Mag…  The more the merrier!

While terrain building certainly is something you can do alone while drinking beer in the shed, I’ve found that’s is a great community builder tool.

Wether it’s just you and a couple of friends pounding beers and terrain alike, or like our LGS you get 10 degenerates to help, it’s much easier to keep your eyes on the prize with a group.

You can also get a lot more done.

Case A:  The Squad.  Obvious downside is that Kevin will be invited.  Upside is, you can work on each other’s beatslab and in little to no time, everyone has a decent setup comes game night.  Or focus on getting a couple tables for that friend with a huge basement where you all go play.

Case B:  Getting the community involved, wether it’s at your own store, or your FLGS, solidifies gaming groups.  It gets a bunch of hobbyists together that might’ve never met before, people tend to treat terrain a lot more carefully when they took part in building it.

The best approach to get a group together, IMO, is with food and/or beer.  Offering to get pizza or having a BBQ and getting everyone hot dogs is not the most expensive and pleases everyone.

2- Manage Expectations

It’s easy to get carried away.  Let’s not.

Some adendum to Lifehack #1:  More is not always the merrier.  Unless you have unlimited space, terrain and supplies, getting more than 2-3 person per table is wasted energy and manpower.

In the same spirit:

If you’re having buddies over or trying the group thing, try to have tasks or projects for various hobby skills.  Put your very own Kevin on sand duty; it’s easy enough.  Don’t let beginners next to shaker cans or cutting foam pieces they can ruin.

Also, try getting everyone up to speed on the goal of the terrain building sesh.  If you want to bang out as many tables together, no one should be spending 1 hour painting a hill.

If you want to build complex terrain like a board for Shadow War Arageddon, everyone need to be on the same page.

3- Cost Cutting

This is the most important point.  It’s incredibly easy to get carried away and spending a fortune on boards.  It’s also incredibly easy to cut cost if you know where to look.  And where to look is right here.

I’ve broken down most areas of terrain buildings and tools into where you can save some money.  The dollar store is your best friend here, and when it’s possible, I’ve included a couple of amazon links for even better deals.

Most of the terrain materials and supplies  can be bought as generic brand items and costs 50 to 90% less than the hobby specific kind

In a lot of cases, you are looking at money versus time, and it’s a choice you have to make:  How much time can you save versus how much money you want to spend.


You have a lot of options here.  The cheapest is MDF boards cut in 2 or 3 sections that you will flock and paint.  If you are on a budget, if you are making a lot of tables or if you want everything to fit, this is probably your best bet.

Other options are gaming mats, like the famous or Fat Mats, or the more expensive but incredibly more detailed Realm of Battles GW boards and Secret Weapon Minis’ Tablescape.

Mats come with the bonus that they require 0 hobby work.  Roll ’em out and they are ready!  The money/time trade looks like this: 70-ish dollars for 0 build time for mats, 3 dollars for 30 minutes build time for MDF boards )


Hills are very common in most games, and are the easiest to do.  You will need insulation foam and a foam cutter, and you can get them in the shape you want in a color and flock that matches your board (because you’re painting it the same…)  Foam is a pretty dope terrain material, and if you plan on using it, you 100% want to buy a foam cutter.

GOCHANGE 3 in 1 Foam Cutter

Regardless if you buy this model or not, always get one with a cord, never ever buy a battery-powered one; they are the devil.


Ruins is another area were the money/time is worth considering.

Premade ruins and forests, painted or not, are pretty detailed and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Or, for ruins, you can get foam, foamcore or thick cardboard and for forests, cheap flock, metal rods and plaster and make your own.

I find that it takes too much time to have really good looking ruins and trees versus buying the premade ones and painting them to match my table.

Now we enter into the bulk of the savings, with tools.  Every single tool mentioned here is awesome at terrain, and is always worth getting cheap equivalents rather than the hobby specific variant.

Hot glue

If you are to buy only one thing, get a hot glue gun and some glue sticks.  This is the best tool for terrain.  It’s incredibly cheap, comes in large quantity and sticks anything to anything – including foam, which is tricky to work with.

Mini Hot Melt Glue Gun with 30pcs Glue Sticks

You really don’t need a fancier model than this, however, do get some glue sticks to go with it.

Dollar store paints

There’s the Americana brand of paint that is usually something like $1 for a pot bigger than the hobby ones.  It’s no good for models, but perfect for the large surfaces of terrain.

I couldn’t find an amazon deal that matches a dollar store price tag.  If you shop around locally and can’t find anything, get in tough and I will hook you up with something deece.

The spray gun

Badger Basic Spray Gun Set

I’ve went over this beast more than a few times already and every single time it features the word terrain in multiple instances.

Disposable brushes

Along with the cheap paint, this is the area that buying non-hobby specific saves you an insane ammount of money.  You want brushes that are dedicated to terrain and that will take a beating.  Large surfaces, glue, rocks, these brush is meant to be almost cheap enough to be one-use only.  With little care, like rinsing them from the faucet when you are done, you can get a lot of days worth of hobbying like a savage with them, which makes them that much more valuable.

Artist Brushes – SODIAL(R)Pack of 6 Art Brown Nylon Paint Brushes for Acrylic

This deal is a 6 pack for less than 4 dollars, and it’s around that price point you are looking for.  You can find similar deals at the dollar store usually, but if you have next day delivery with prime, why bother putting on pants.

Household items

Obviously this doesn’t come with links, but collecting household items to turn them into terrain is another great place to save.

For the store’s terrain, we collected cans for a month or so and turned them into large tanks.  You can do the same with any canned food, and coffee tins.

Straws, cocktail sticks, plastic shot glasses and solo cups all can be put to good use.

If you have some more secrets, share them in the comments below!

Until next time,
No excuses, hobby like a champion!

Share your thoughts