Step by step guide to building a cheap and dead-simple - but still awesome! - Batman Miniature Game gaming board, using only simple tools and materials such as cardboard, MDF, PVA glue and some wooden sticks.
Question: are you a part of a Batman Miniature Game community?
It’s a great place to get inspiration to play the game on a daily basis. The place to be is the Arkham City Limits Facebook Group (check it out here if you don’t know it yet), which holds some insanely talented painters and scenery builders.
The down side to all that awesomeness, which you may recognize, is that not-so-awesome painters and terrain builders (such as myself) often actually get discouraged by seeing all that awesomeness!
Familiar? Well, fear not.
In this article I’ll explain how YOU too can make a dead-simple (but awesome!) Batman Miniature Game gaming board.
And still have it look awesome enough to wow your gaming buddies.
Curious why I’m so confident in making that statement?
Let me tell you a bit about myself.
When it comes to building terrain or gaming boards:
- Cutting or drawing in a straight line is out of the question. Seriously, I’m the guy that measures 4 times and still gets it wrong in the end.
- I will always make a mess when gluing stuff. I will make spots and basically ruin any chances of making a slick looking board.
- I just don’t have the freaking patience to be meticulous about everything. Which means in that in my impatience I (literally) cut corners.
Oh, and one more thing: until recently, buying expensive pre-cast gaming tiles was out of the question, too. And even so, I could get them right now… but I just prefer building something myself.
In any case: we’ll be building on the cheap in this article!
One final note: this guide is not meant to be taken 100% literal. It’s supposed to give you pointers and make you go like: “Oh right, I could do it like that.”
Because otherwise (if you’re like me) you’ll be obsessing over not getting the exact same materials I’m using – don’t do that, just use what you’ve got.
Anyway: let’s get to building!
Step 1: get something to build on
The Batman Miniature Game, as you probably know, is played on a 90x90cm surface. While I’ve played fun games on 60x60cm, I still prefer the larger surface. So we’ll go with that (but the principles apply to 60x60cm just as well).
I went with a 8mm thick sheet of MDF wood from the local hardware store. Set me back about €8 or so (might have been less, I had it lying around in the basement from a Malifaux project I never took to finishing).
Now, if you want the short, short version of this guide right now… just grab a bottle of PVA glue (or wood glue, as we call it here in the Netherlands), mix it up with a bit of water and just coat the entire board in it.
Next, grab some really fine sand (the stuff they use in sandboxes, not the coarse variety used when putting tiles in your yard or something) and gently sprinkle that across.
Let it dry, then get a can of spraypaint (I’d say dark gray, but black is often cheaper where I come from), spray it. Grab a paintbrush, drybrush the crap out of that sucker.
You’re done. Seriously.
Perfectly good board.
HOWEVER if you want things to be a wee bit more interesting, read on. 🙂
I wanted to go “urban” and so I decided to have streets on my board.
Step 2: draw your plan onto the board
Get a nice fat marker and simply draw your plan onto the board. Nothing is final at this stage, so have at it.
I do advise simplicity. I have a single T-section on my board, leaving me with three streets. That’s enough, since you still need enough sidewalk space to put buildings on. So don’t go around putting streets everywhere.
A tip from the crew in the Facebook group: if you’re going for streets, try drawing them with an angle. That way, you won’t get any straight firing lanes down the board. In the BMG, games often start along a table edge and that can make for some uninteresting games as the two crews simply stroll down the straight street towards each other.
(It’s a cool Mexican standoff scenario, though).
You’ll see how I drew the streets at an angle in a moment (I seem to have misplaced my pic of this stage, my apologies! Don’t worry, you’ll see soon enough…).
Step 3: grab some cardboard to create raised areas
Next we want to raise the non-street areas, so it’ll look like the streets lie deeper. A bit of texture sets your board apart from some of the gaming mats out there (many of which look amazing, but I just texture…).
Since you’ve drawn out the board layout on your wooden surface (right?), you now know which areas are NOT roads. Cut cardboard down to size (I used 2mm thick cardboard by the way: and that’s a guesstimate, I used a box that came with our flatscreen TV – use whatever seems nice and flat and not too thick).
Here’s how that looked for me at this point:
You’ll notice I’m using some wooden sticks to create a curb effect. I used some square cocktail sticks and chopped them up. Lining these up with the cardboard covers the ugly cardboard sides (it’s compressed paper, after all) and, as mentioned, makes for a nice curb effect.
Also notice the amount of scribbling on the base layer. This 90x90cm board was originally intended to become a Malifaux board, but I gave up that game before ever attempting the actual board.
Here’s how the board looked with the sticks tacked on:
Step 4: add some sidewalk texture
Again, as above, you could just smack on some sand for texture and paint it up. Perfectly good board.
I’m gonna go on a little bit, however: I wanted the edges of my raised areas to look like sidewalks. So I took out a pen and simply drew a pattern on the cardboard (using a ruler). Because the pen will press the cardboard down where it touches, the result is what looks like concrete tiles:
Step 5: add texture across the board (literally!)
Alright, time to make those flat surfaces look a little more interesting. Though in hindsight, I must admit that, unless I had found a way to apply the sand more evenly, I would have just created texture with paint.
I mixed up water with wood glue (PVA) and sand and applied that directly to the board. Yes, it will wrinkle the cardboard, but it does dry up straight again: and it places where didn’t… well, it’s texture and doesn’t look half bad!
Step 6: paint it!
Once the glue is dry, it’s tme to slap some paint into that sucker.
I used three sprays in order to do this: except for the darker grey they were cheap ones from the local 1 euro store (they cost like 2,99). The dark grey one is from Model Mate, which is actually fairly expensive, but would save me the time to paint a large area in the color I wanted (which was dark grey!).
Here’s how it looked after spraying:
Before you ask: I didn’t go around masking stuff with tape. Too much effort! I did keep a spare piece of cardboard next to whatever area I was spraying to “kind of” mask anyway.
I kind of liked something of a blend from the lighter sidewalks into the darker concrete areas, which is something you can easily achieve by, well, simply spraying on the sidewalk (since it comes in bursts!).
After this I went to town with a couple of things:
I painted the roads in a dark grey that was almost black. I find pure black to be a bit unrealistic, really dark grey is a better color for concrete. It also allows you correct the parts where you sprayed light grey onto the black (I told you, I wasn’t really masking ;)).
Then I made everything dirty. I mixed brown and black and grey and threw in a ton of water. The result was a really mucky wash that I applied to the entire board.
It’s possible that the sidewalks need to shaping up after this: I carefully redid them with a light grey color, making sure to leave the lines between the “tiles” in the washing color.
Once it dried, I took a DRY, crap brush and drybrushed all the texture in a lighter shade than the ground color. So I picked out the sidewalks with (practically) white, light grey on the concrete, dark grey on the roads.
Again, at this point… you can walk away with a perfectly good board.
But I wanted more, so decided to paint crossings and lines and stuff onto the roads.
Doing that was relatively easy (but don’t make my mistake: I first carved out a line in cardboard and used it as a template… that looked like crap so I had to paint it over).
Basically it took a steady hand and easy strokes, but I drew lines along the sides of the roads. I used white, but nothing too dry, and applied it in several stages.
I simply corrected any mistakes with the darker grey paint where needed.
Then I dirtied the striping up a but again with my wash.
This is the result:
Just to show you how it can look, a couple more pics:
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments or on the Facebook page.
Hope you enjoyed reading and DO POST YOUR OWN BOARDS!!