Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tiles, tiles, tiles! Making gaming tiles out of cardboard and styrofoam

For quite some time I wanted to make myself a gaming table at home.
Initially I planned on using big styrofoam desks that would form a 3x3, 3x4 table.
However, the wife was not pleased (too big!), so I had to look elsewhere.
Gaming mats are the buzzword lately, however - they wrap, you need to have a big enough table and they are bit boring. Plus they are 2-D!

In the end I got this terrific idea to build a customizable gaming area using 1"x " tiles made from cardboard and thin styrofoam. The logic is to have a very variable system, that would allow me to play on anything from 2x2 to 2x3, 3x3, 3x4.. you get the idea. A system that would fit on our dining table and I could easily take it to my FLGS - the tiles need to be on the flat side.

All painted and ready to play!

Onto the actual tiles - 3mm cardboard followed by approximately 5mm styrofoam - glued together with PVA glue. Once the glue has been applied put a lot of books on top of it to prevent warping. It will happen anyway, but the good thing is, you can easily fix it - just be careful and don't break it.

Now the fun part begins - I wanted city terrain, which means pavements - Initially I was thinking about using DM Scotty's stamping method, but then again, this wouldn't be proper 3-D. So I opted for carving the individual stones into styrofoam.
First I draw all the stones using a ballpoint pen, followed by carving the stones using one of the sculpting tools. If I pressed the pen a bit more, I could probably do it all at once, but I do like to draw it all first, correct mistakes and carve later (measure twice, cut once). The system for drawing the stones? Try to be chaotic! I'm trying to mix the orientation of the stones often - having all of them in one direction seems a bit boring. It usually takes me an hour, hour and a half to draw and then carve the stones - but this is something you want to do while watching telly, being on an endless confcall - it does take a while!

Work in progress

Detail of the stones - you want to mix it up!

Once cut, take some cheap black paint, big brush and paint it all black. You want your paint to be thin, as you want it to go into the cracks. Once dry mix some gray and start drybrushing. It took me 3 or 4 layers to get to a result I liked - it's better to start with a dark gray and then gradually lighten it, until you end up with pretty much pure white - this will be the lightest drybrush.

And done!

You can remove an occasional stone here and there to give the tiles a rougher look, you can use a wire brush to add a bit of rough look to the styrene, however the drybrushing alone will do that for you later on.

My plan is to have at least 6 of these with just the pavement, then some more with part pavement/part mud/rocks/earth and maybe some water - thinking about harbourside.

Good. Of course I haven't tested it properly, but the paint appears to stick really well (cheap acrylics), moving figures around is nice and easy (they don't stick to it, no wraps they would fall over), any minor warps can be easily fixed and tiles connect well to each other - well they lay next to each other, so if your table is flat, so will they.
Also dice roll pretty well on the surface as well.


  1. Very nice, will try as well. Would 2 or 3mm mdf or foamcore work as well? Perhaps warp less?

    1. Thanks! I don't think there's a reason why it shouldn't work, but I do think the warping is mainly due to the cardboard getting a bit wet from the glue. then again, the warp is minimal and easily fixed.

  2. Very nice work.I will start follow your creative work.Very inspireing.Keep up the good work.