A Simple Guide to making Wargame Terrain


First stage


Materials used:

  • – CD (base)
  • – Polystyrene
  • – Blocks made using Hirst Arts Moulds and dental plaster
  • – PVA craft glue

 Tools used:

  • – Craft Knife
  • – Felt Tip Pen


The first stage is the simplest but also has a huge impact on the finished piece.

  1. To begin with, cut the polystyrene (using the craft knife) to the shape of the base (outline the CD on the polystyrene using the felt tip pen). 
  2. Glue the polystyrene to the CD using PVA craft glue.
  3. Place the terrain (in this case blocks cast using dental plaster) on the polystyrene dry at first until you are happy with the design. The blocks are then fixed in place using PVA craft glue.



For more information on using Hirst Arts moulds see their website –

 Second stage


Materials used:

  • – Cork (from wine bottles)
  • – Various grades of Talus/gravel (I use mostly Woodland Scenics products)
  • – Fine sand
  • – Scenic Cement (made using PVA glue diluted with water)
  • – PVA craft glue


Tools used:

  • – Craft Knife
  • – Water sprayer
  • – Long necked pliers
  • – Sharp modeling tool
  • – Sanding block


The second stage is where we start to make the terrain look real.

  1.  Using the craft knife, I trimmed the edges of the polystyrene to give a more natural curve to the base. Use a sanding block (or similar) to smooth the trimmed edges.
  2.  The long necked pliers are used to chip and gouge the blocks to make the terrain look weathered and old.
  3.  The sharp modeling tool is used to carve cracks into the plaster blocks.
  4.  Next the cork boulders are glued into place using PVA glue. These bits of cork are made from old wine bottle corks. I use the long neck pliers to pull the corks apart and then the craft knife is used to give the corks a flat bottom.
  5.  The whole base is then covered with a generous layer of PVA glue. I also dab a bit of the PVA glue onto the tops of some of the blocks using an old paint brush (PVA will rinse out in water).
  6.  Starting with the coarse talus first, I sprinkle the area nearest the terrain ruins. This is to depict the larger bits of masonry that have fallen off the walls.
  7.  I then make a mix of sand and fine talus and cover the rest of the base and the areas that I dabbed on the tops of the blocks.
  8.  Once this is all dry, I spray the whole piece with Scenic Cement. This is an extra layer of glue to hold the sand/talus in place. It also helps to seal the polystyrene for the next stage of construction. I make my own scenic cement using PVA glue and water. Remember to rinse the sprayer out thoroughly with plain water straight away when finished. PVA glue will dry in the sprayer and block it up.


Third stage

Materials (Games Workshop paints) used:

  • – Matt black (I used a spray can)
  • – Graveyard Earth
  • – Shadow Grey
  • – Codex Grey
  • – Bleached Bone
  • – Skull White


Tools used:

  • – Old paint brush
  • – Kitchen paper towel



The third stage is where we start to add some colour.

  1.  First, I sprayed the entire piece using a can of matt black paint. It is very important that the polystyrene has been sealed before this happens. The propellants in spray paint can eat away the polystyrene and ruin the base. You could also paint the base by hand.
  2.  Using the Graveyard Earth, I gave the ground a generous coating of paint.
  3.  Moving onto the ruins, I applied a heavy dry brush of Shadow Grey. Dry brushing is a technique whereby most of the paint is wiped off the brush (I use kitchen paper towels) before painting. This leaves recessed areas black and helps to depict shadows and give some contrast.
  4.  Next, I do a slightly lighter dry brush using Codex Grey. I also dry brush some of the larger talus/gravel around the ruins with Codex Grey.
  5.  After the Codex Grey is dry, the entire piece (ground and ruins) is dry brushed using Bleached Bone. This gives highlights to the ground and continues to add detail to the ruin walls.
  6.  Lastly, a very light dry brush using Skull White is applied to the ruins.



Final stage

Materials used:

  • – Woodland Scenics Stone Gray
  • – Woodland Scenics Raw Umber
  • – Woodland Scenics Burnt Umber
  • – Woodland Scenics Green Undercoat
  • – PVA Craft Glue
  • – Leaf litter (from Antenociti’s Workshop and Heki)
  • – Tufts of grass (from Noch)
  • – Woodland Scenics fine Turf
  • – Woodland Scenics Fine Leaf Foliage (Dead Foliage)
  • – Woodland Scenics Foliage Clusters (light and Medium green)
  • – Antenociti’s Spring mix (flock)
  • – Scenic cement
  • – Wattyl Matt Estapol furniture varnish
  • – Testors Dullcote
  • – Super glue
  • – Human hair


Tools used:

  • – Wooden skewer
  • – Water sprayer
  • – Scissors



The fourth stage is where we start to bring the terrain to life.


  1. Firstly, the ground is washed using the Woodland Scenics Raw Umber and Burnt Umber. The Ruins are washed using the Woodland Scenics Stone Gray. Once dry, the ruins are dabbed with the Woodland Scenics Green Undercoat in the recesses to simulate moss.
  2.  Woodland Scenics Fine Turf is lightly sprinkled over the ground followed by the leaf litter. The whole piece is then sprayed with scenic cement to hold the turf and leaf litter in place.
  3.  Several tufts of grass (Noch Tufts) are fixed into place using PVA glue once the scenic cement is dry.
  4.  A few clumps of Woodland Scenics Foliage and Fine Leaf Foliage are glued into place using PVA. A trail of PVA is placed on the ruins and then sprinkled with the Spring Mix flock.
  5.  The long dead sprouts of grass are made using human hair. Twist a few strands of hair together and then dab a small amount of super glue in the middle. Wait for the super glue to dry then cut through the middle of the super glue. This will leave you with 2 small tufts of dead grass held together with the super glue at the base. Trim them with scissors if needed. To fix them to the terrain, simply push a small wooden skewer into the polystyrene. Place a drop of PVA in the hole and then push the hair in.
  6.  Once this is all dry, give the whole piece another spray using scenic cement. Lastly, spray with the Wattyl Matt Estapol for protection and the Testors Dullcote to give a more natural finish.


A Christmas present for my wife.

I made this present as a suprise for my wife. I’ve meant to do this for her for several years but finally got round to it in December 2010.

  • I got the statue of the mother and her child from Thomarillion.
  • The praying woman was bought off Ebay.
  • The brickwork is all made using Hirst Arts moulds.
  • The tree and vegetation were all made using Woodland Scenics bits and pieces.
  • The base is an MDF heart.


A few terrain features I made for my local game club.

I really enjoy attending Tabletop Gamers Association bur there is one small issue with the venue…
The airconditioning doesn’t work! Living in Western Australia is fantastic but it can sometimes get really hot (up to 40*C).

I came up with an idea to raise some money to get it fixed. The guys that run the club (Cam and Adam) covered my costs and I made some multifunctional terrain that they could sell to pay for the repairs. Here’s what I came up with.

An altar to Chaos.


Gothic ruins.


A watchtower.

All were made using Hirst Arts moulds (along with polystyrene, 3mm MDF, PVA glue, acrylic paint and various Woodland Scenics products. A lot of the rock faces on the Watchtower were made using tree bark.


Tom, Burt and Bill from The Hobbit.

I bought these statues from Thomarillion a few years ago. Sadly it seems that these statues are no longer available from Thomarillion.

 Late in 2010, I finally got round to building this memorable scen fromThe Hobbit. I used MDF for the base and Woodland Scenics for the trees/vegetation.




  1. Carlo says:


    What a great site.

    Do you do commissions on Terrain pieces at all?



    • onyx says:

      Thanks for the kind words Carlo.
      Unfortunately, I don’t do commission work at the moment.


      • Matt says:

        This is not the right place to ask this at all but couldnt find any alternative to get in contact with you!! On the diorama you made “A Fortress of Gondor, Dol Amroth… & Mordor.” and also the “Helms Deep” diorama. What HA mould did you use to make the gates??

        Thanks in advance for any help,


      • onyx says:

        I made the gates using balsa wood.

  2. Petrie says:


    I think I speak for everyone who has visited your site when I say WOW!

    You really are, on the terrain, painting and modelling front, an inspiration; and I hope you know that, keep up the good work (especially the LOTR terrain, it’s brilliant)

    Quick question though: you would not happen to remember the Hirst kits you used on the LOTR Unsung Heroes tournament terrain would you? I saw some of them and was looking for a similar collection to add to my already overlarge terrain cabinet.



    • onyx says:

      Hi Petrie,

      Thanks for the kind words!
      Let’s see if I can get this right…

      – Ruined watchtower of Gondor = Turret Mold #61, Prison Tower Mold #60 & Gothic Dungeon Accessories Mold #41
      – The Elven archway = Tomb Mold #56, Gothic Roof Mold #235, Clay Tile Roof Mold #230
      – Amon Sul (Weathertop) = Ruined Tower Mold #65, Basic Block Mold #40
      – The ruined building from Rohan = Fieldstone Basic Block Mold #701
      – The Harad border fort = Sand Blasted Pyramid Mold #92, Egyptian Basic Block Mold #95, Fieldstone Bridge Mold #74
      – The broken tower = Ruined Tower Mold #65
      – The remains of an evil tower = Octagon Tower Mold #63, Prison Tower Mold #60, Basic Block Mold #40, Gothic Dungeon Accessories Mold #41
      – The 1st crumbling building = Fieldstone Basic Block Mold #701, Fieldstone Wall Mold #70, Flagstone Floor Tile Mold #260
      – The 2nd crumbling building = Basic Block Mold #40, Ruined Tower Mold #65, Prison Tower Mold #60, Gothic Additional Accessories Mold #44, Clay Tile Roof Mold #230
      – Amon Hen = Prison Tower Mold #60, Ruined Tower Mold #65, Floor Tiles Various Sizes Mold #201, Bridge Mold #53
      – Ancient ruins = Prison Tower Mold #60, Bell Tower Mold #55
      – Barrow Down’s tomb = Bell Tower Mold #55

      Hope that helps,

      • Petrie says:

        Thanks so much, I’m from Queensland, by the way, hahaha, it’s nice to know there are other Australian gamers putting things out there

  3. Jaime Lara says:

    Hello. Wonderful website and spectacular armies. I recently purchased rules and have some unpainted armies. I love this awesome game. I was wondering if you would be interested in selling some of your armies to me. Please e-mail me if you are interested.

    Kind regards

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi, I was admiring your work and was thinking of possibly building my own terrain when i happened upon your helms deep model and was wondering if you had a possible block count for the finished piece. I was either planning on buying the molds or maybe just buying the blocks from various sellers. I know you posted an image of the blocks before hand but i was just wondering if you kept a record of the number of blocks you used from each mold since it may be cheaper to buy the made blocks in bulk rather than purchase the molds themselves.

    Thank you for your time and the amazing/inspirational pictures of your work.

    • onyx says:

      I’ve been asked this question a few times over the years! Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a count of how many blocks I used. The picture of the blocks drying is nowhere near all the blocks I used.
      Sorry I can’t be more help.

  5. reagsy says:

    Hey Steve,

    Just thought I’d drop you a quick line to see if you’re up for any commission work this year?

    Cheers mate

    • onyx says:

      G’day mate,

      Thanks for the question but I’m taking a break from commission work to try and get some of my own projects finished.


  6. Brian says:

    Love your Epic-scale terrain! What did you use for the little wall pieces with the blue-tiled roofs, as seen in your Ruined Building section? (they can be seen to the right of a close up of the ruined cathedral)?

    It seems that JR Miniatures not longer carries the arch or Cathedral – any other suggestions for where to find something similar?

    Just for an FYI, the tank factory you have a picture of is a Forge World OOP piece. There is one for sale on ebay right now, with 2 days left on the sale – the current price is $677.

    Again, all of your work is superb! You set a very high bar to aspire to.
    Thanks for sharing your talent!

    • onyx says:


      The walls you mentioned are from Armorcast.

      I don’t know any other suppliers of the arch. Keep an eye out for 15mm WWII terrain and hopefully you’ll find something soon.

      Sadly I know very well that the FW Tank Factory is OOP but it doesn’t belong to me (we borrowed it last year for the campaign and tournament). I also know that some people will pay silly prices for these things!


      • Brian says:

        Thank you for your help in locating those small wall pieces!

        I did not mean to imply you didn’t know what the FW tank factory was – I typed that badly. I just meant to leave an FYI about the very high price one was currently going for on ebay.

        I have identified or located (thank you for sharing the stores where you got a lot of these pieces!) almost every piece of terrain in your pictures (even found that 15mm Italian arch – shipment on its way) except for two pieces.

        In the picture labeled “city fight 2”, where did you find the large, half-ruined dome? The walls around it appear to be the standard GW plastic ruined wall pieces.

        And in the same picture, just over the scout titan and back towards the right a bit, is a small building with a blue roof and what looks to be pillars on one side. What model is that and where did you find it?

        Again, thank you for all your help. I’ll have to send you some pics of my battle board when it is all done, if you are interested.

  7. Chris says:

    You sir are simply amazing. The best LotR terrain maker I’ve seen, your work is incredible detailed and amazing. I’m planning on making my first board ever and your work is a huge inspiration. Keep up the good work!

  8. Tony Harwood says:

    Fantastic tutorial, thank you for posting it.


  9. Demelza says:

    Your work is really incredible, and i would love to be able to do things like this. What i was wondering, is wether you could show us how to do it very basically- say few molds, not very big and basic tools. I am 16 and really love crafting my own houses. I am a crazy LOTR fan and when i realised you cant buy scenery hobby kits for LOTR, i was quite upset. It would be really great if you could do a walk through for beginners with only basic materials.
    Thanks a lot, and great job. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: