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Modular Urban Board Project Log 7: All Roads Lead to Foam

Roads present terrain makers with a series of challenges and compromises. In today's post, I'm going to talk about how I made some road sections for my ongoing modular 40K cityfight board, and which compromises I made.

Regular readers may feel like it's been a while since I last produced any of the board sections for this project, and they'd be right - to the tune of several years! This is a project I'm getting back into after resolving my indecision over how to paint the Sanctum Administratus. But at last, I've got something I always felt was lacking from my terrain collection ever since I got into wargaming in the 90s: roads. They're boring, they're ubiquitous, and you really feel the lack of them.

At last, roads.

Design decisions

As soon as you actually think about producing some roads, you run into some conundrums. They should be modular, right? But how modular? As soon as you introduce curves, T-junctions and road markings, you limit the ways they might join together and go flush against the edges of the board.

Road markings, drainage grates, and other such touches really bring it to life, and I've done absolutely none of those. You also have to deal with corners. No one puts sharp right angles on roads, and for good reason, and yet my roads have the sharpest of 90° corners.


It wasn't laziness, but a desire for maximal flexibility. Without road markings, drains, manhole covers et cetera, while you do get a much more bland look, you don't have to think about placement, and you can even use bigger areas of road as more industrial-looking spaces.

The paving sections I already have are on 5mm Foamex board (you can read about Foamex and how I prepared it in the first post from this project). For the road sections, I'm doing these on 3mm Foamex so that there's a slight step down onto the road. To help distinguish them beyond merely being a different colour, I decided to make each section four times the size of the regular paving. There's an argument for doing them in rectangular sections to echo the aesthetic of the Legions Imperialis boards Games Workshop sell, and I do think rectangles would probably look better, but with squares you don't have to think about directions or consistency when laying out the battlefield, so I think this is just more user-friendly.

How it's done

Cut guidelines into the Foamex
For the 5mm thick paving slabs, these lines are cut to be the same dimensions as Sanctum Administratus/Sector Mechanicus floor tiles. For the road, the sections are twice as big. Ultimately you could cut these lines to whatever size you like.

You're not cutting deeply here, you just need to score the surface so you know where to carve later.

Cut into road sections
I have two 2'x2' sections of 3mm Foamex, and today's output is the first of those sections, so I need to do all this again, but here's how I cut up this first one:

You can see above that I cut some diagonal sections so that roads on non-urban boards can go at a 45° angle, like so:

Happily they can still function as square sections when extra coverage is needed.

Distressing the surface texture
Start by slicing guidelines for cracked sections, and then, you'll want to carve a camber to the various edges. You don't have to be precise. If anything, imprecision helps age up the surface. Using a craft knife, carve a very thin (max 1mm) 45° bevel into the edges of every section edge and guideline. Since you're just cutting tiny bevels, there should be no risk of going all the way through!

Next you'll want to cut nicks and chips away from the edges at random, again with your craft knife.

After that, take a hard round object - I used the handle of a large screwdriver - and press it firmly into the surface at random to create some height variance on the surface.

Finally, take a rock - I use a lump of quartz - and bash it at random into the surface to create little nicks and dents. Here's how it looks at the end of that process:

The road sections were primed with Colour Forge Hyrax Brown. Vallejo Game Color Earth was then drybrushed in random patches to create tonal variation:

After priming and stage one

After that, slowly and carefully drybrush the Army Painter's Filthy Cape or a similarly light brown that leans toward yellow/brown rather than blue. The exact grey shouldn't matter too much, since the brown primer and yellow-brown underlayer should help warm up the tone.

You need to be patient with the grey drybrush; with so little texture for the brush to connect with, the levels of paint on the bristles must be controlled very carefully to prevent streaks. The more patient you are, the more even your coverage will be. As you can see, I was only moderately patient.

What next?

At this point I'm only a few paving sections off a 4'x4' board, so before I produce more buildings I really do think another section of beige tiling, then the final road section, are what the terrain doctor requires. Hopefully it will be months rather than years before I finish them.


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