Taking a break from the usual figures and rules that we cover, the folks at Army Painter have sent a set of terrain building gear our way. This box is €90 ($110 US) – the price you’d pay for a high-quality boxed game – so our expectations are high. Will it provide a one-stop-shop collection of materials, tools, paints, and guides to build terrain for roleplaying or skirmish fun?
The text below is a transcript of the video, for those who prefer to read rather than watch.
Enter the foam zone!
The box is certainly packed with stuff! Taking things in a logical order, let’s start with the sheets of XPS foam that take up much of the space. These, once you’ve applied your terrain building skills (which this pack promises to teach you) will make up the core of your terrain. There are two sizes of sheets – 20cm x 30cm and 30cm x 40cm – all 11mm thick and the foam is of good quality. It is the high-density stuff you want for terrain making, rather than the cheap stuff that comes as packing material and goes everywhere the moment you start to cut it.
A handy guide
To change these sheets into a dungeon world you’ll need to add texture, do some trimming, and then paint things to create a fine-looking dungeon area. That’s what the great How to build Dungeons & Caverns book guides us through. This softback, 24-page book is a nicely laid out, easy to follow, inspiring guide that will get your terrain making juices flowing. You can see the passion behind this release on every page; the guides are easy to follow thanks to QR code accessible videos. These take you through the process of making the different scenic items in the guide and are both inspiring and useful, especially for beginners.
Tooling your terrain
With sheets in hand, we look to the tools in the box. There’s a mixture to shape and trim the foam with: a 30cm steel ruler, sandpaper, a scenery knife, and a hot wire cutter. You’ll need some C-cell batteries to get that hot wire cutter running; this means that the set doesn’t quite contain ‘everything you need to get started’ as the box claims. We suspect that including batteries would have made for a shipping nightmare around the world so fully understand why they aren’t included, but we do feel it would have been good to mention the need for them on the box somewhere.
It would have been awesome if the steel ruler was exactly an inch across too. The book suggests marking your boards with 1-inch squares; a ruler of exactly that width would have made the job easier. You can only fit slightly awkward 7- and three-quarter squares on the width and 11- and three-quarter squares on the length of the smaller foam boards. We’d have loved boards that allowed an easy 8 x 12 squares on them. We’re being picky here but it would have made for better options overall.
To fix the foam together there’s 75ml of XPS Foam Sculpting Glue and while we’re not exactly sure if this is particularly different to PVA glue it does come out of the bottle in a well-controlled way thanks to a fine nozzle. It does the job of fixing the foam bits together or fixing some of the scenery sand (included) to your constructions, too.
Spray straight away
So far, while this stuff’s all really nice, there’s nothing truly notable, but the 300ml Dungeons & Subterrain primer rattle can that is included, is worth talking about. The combination of a rattle can and foam terrain is not one that we’d usually advise – the propellants and paint types in most rattle cans have an unfortunate habit of melting foam quite drastically. The Dungeons & Subterrain primer contains a non-toxic, water-based paint that can be used over foam, and that’s fantastic for quick terrain work – we can get straight to painting our constructions without having to seal the foam with a coat of protective PVA glue first.
The colour of the spray included matches Hardened Carapace from the Army Painter Warpaints series. This makes it the perfect colour to undercoat the grim darkness of underground terrain. If you want different colours there are other individual cans, available for €10 ($12 US), to match Necromancer Cloak (Ruins & Cliffs), Crypt Wraith (Wilderness & Woodland), Gorgon Hide (Snow & Tundra), and Desert Yellow (Desert & Arid Wastes).
The Dungeons & Subterrain spray can that is included in this set will give your terrain a great base to start painting on and we are big fans of these new rattle can primers. Just make sure you don’t use them on your figures, they are intentionally heavy duty and will do your models no favours, removing a lot of detail.
Painting the details
Seven 18ml GameMaster paints and two 50ml GameMaster Base paints are included in colours chosen to create most of the finishes that are shown in the How to guide. The larger paints are a grey that will do well on dungeon tiles and walls and a warm brown for caverns. It makes total sense that these are bigger pots – you’ll be brushing them over much of your terrain to start things off.
To do that initial paint application there’s a large drybrush – a thick-handled, comfy to use, flat drybrush with a soft bristle feel. It will be familiar to anyone who has used makeup powder brushes in their scenery painting before. The paints go on well and have a good consistency as long as you give them a good shake.
Once you’ve got that base of colour in place it’s time for details, for which you’ll use the medium drybrush (in the same shape as the large) or a wash brush, which is a good quality standard point large brush.
The paints here are all designed to fit the guides and be obvious. Dungeon Highlights and Cavern Highlights do exactly what they say on the bottle, acting as the next step in finishing off the detail over your Bases. Cavern Effects and Dungeon Effects will act as a final pop on corners and details. Brink Black is provided for any lining you might want to do and can be applied to the edges of your dungeon tiles to make them really pop on the table. Grotto Slime is there to create acid pools and other details, which are covered in the guide and videos. The final pot is Subterrain Wash, used to add some depth to your dry brushed parts.
Rounding things up
77 Dungeon Tufts are included to add a nice finish. We got a hard plastic tomb, ladder, trapdoor, and lever as a little bonus in our set but we’re not sure if that will be the same for every retail box as they aren’t listed as a part of the contents.
This is a great set that’s clearly had a lot of thought put into it. The newer you are to terrain building the more you’ll get from it – that’s true of the gear included (which established builders will have at least some of) and the advice included, but even old veterans like us enjoyed turfing through the contents and having a play.