Modular hex terrain

During the past year I’ve been working on a hexagonal terrain system for a 6 mm cold war setting. The idea is to have a flexible system with which to represent a generic 1980s European environment, eg. the classic haunts we all know and love, like Fulda and the North German plain. In this post I thought I’d share my process for making this terrain, since I’m pretty happy with it myself.

hex_play.jpg

Workflow

I start off by cutting 3 cm thick construction styrofoam into a bunch of hexes using a wooden template. By tracing the template outline with a carpet knife I get pretty neat hexes. I bought the template at a crafts store (its advertised purpose was decorative wood engraving). They are 5 cm to the edge, giving each finished hexagon a diameter of 10 cm. I think it’s a pretty practical size for 6 mm gaming. GHQ also sells precut styrofoam, albeit using some byzantine US measurement system. It also gets expensive fast, especially if you don’t live in the US.

I cut the bottom corners off of each hex as well, to compensate for my sloppy vertical cutting angle (if the side of the hex slopes outwards, it wont tesselate properly with other hexes). Then I cover the hex with fine grained plaster. The plaster masks the otherwise quite visible ‘cells’ in the styrofoam and creates a more realistic texture. Then I draw areas for colouring with a marker pen, and paint over the dried plaster.

corner_cutting_hex.jpg
I cut the lower edge of each hex to assure good tesselation.
plaster_vs_cells_hex.jpg
The plaster gives texture and covers the cells of the styrofoam.
velcro_hex.jpg
Adhesive velcro strip under each hex to keep it in place.

Next up, I flock vegetation and gravel areas using stuff I got from a model train shop. The flock is attached with PVA glue mixed with water, which is brushed on. After that I add details like trees or hedges. Z-scale model train vegetation work pretty well for 6 mm scale. The final touch is a strip of adhesive velcro on the bottom of the hex. When you combine this with a blanket on your gaming table, it makes sure the hexes don’t slip around, keeping the board nice and tight.

model_train_tree.jpg
Z-Scale evergreen from my local model train shop.
model_train_flock.jpg
Model train flock, medium grain. Good for making custom trees or hedges.
hex_layout_fields.jpg
An assortment of hexes using different grains and colours of flock, as well as Z-scale trees and trees made by myself. The farm houses are elaborated on later on in this post.
orchard.jpg
These orchard trees are made by myself using steel wire, “green stuff” modelling putty, and medium grained flock.

Hex and the city

Apart from roads and vegetation I’ve also bought a ton of houses from Paper Terrains to create built up areas. Although they are modelled on WW 2 era French villages, with red roofs I reckon they can pass as a German village around Rostock if you squint.

To create the village sections, I’ve started by playing around with different layouts on unpainted hexes. When I find a layout I’m happy with I use a pen to mark the desired positions of the houses on the dry plaster. Then I glue steel wire to the internal corners of each house using PVA glue. When the glue is dry it’s just a matter of pushing the house into position through the plaster and styrofoam, after coating the mounting wires in PVA glue.

paper_terrain_mounting_detail.jpg
The mounting wires are pieces of steel wire glued into the corners of each building. When it’s dry you just push it through the plaster into the styrofoam. Sorry about my ugly nails.
small_farm.jpg
Detail of a finished farmhouse hex, with gravel and flock.
hex_layout_on_blanket.jpg
Multihexagon village. The hexes stay in place on the fleece blanket thanks to the velcro.

village_closeup.jpg

Finally, I ordered a couple of larger resin buildings from Novus design studio. The only one I’ve completed at the moment is the oil refinery. I’ve painted it and attached it to a multi-hexagon base by supergluing metal wire to its underside. Although I’m not sure if Northern Germany had a lot of oil refineries in the 80’s, it makes for a nice generic factory complex to use as an objective or centerpiece.

unpainted_novus_design_factory.jpg
Unpainted Novus Design factory. It’s resin and fresh from the packaging, so haven’t cleaned it up from casting yet.
oil_refinery_full.jpg
Oil refinery from Novus Design.
refinery_detail_1.jpg
Detail of oil refinery from Novus Design.
refinery_detail_2.jpg
Detail of oil refinery from Novus Design.

That about sums it up. I’m overall happy with the results so far, and I’m finding it fun to think up new concepts for expanding the terrain. I really like how you can quickly put together both a very small play area, and larger ones, and at the same time make sure they look good and fit together in a reasonable way.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and thank you for your time.

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