There are two basic types of hills in wargaming, flat or stepped hills and tapered hills. Flat hills are simply flat raised areas while tapered hills are sloped. There are positives and negatives to both varieties. Flat hills clearly mark where a hill starts and stops in-game and models on top aren’t in danger of tipping over. Unfortunately any models that are half on the hill have to be balanced on the edge. Tapered hills don’t have this specific issue but models are more likely to fall over if top heavy and it can be difficult to see the border of the hill. Tapered hills do look more natural and realistic though.
In this tutorial we’re sticking to a flat hill, simply because it’s much easier to make.
We’ll be using 25mm styrofoam, MDF and polyfilla (spackle for you Americans). We’re also going to be using THE BOULDER.
1. Find THE BOULDER
Go grab a big stone from the garden. One with plenty of texture and preferably with some sharp points on it. Wash it to get the dirt off. Here’s what I’m using:
2. Basic shape
Draw and cut out the basic shape from 25mm styrofoam using a long, retractable knife. Like MDF, cut a basic boxy shape first, then start to trim it down afterwards. I made my hill about 12″x7″ altogether.
You can throw away the pieces of styrofoam you cut off for the detailed shape, but save that big remaining chunk for another project.
Cut out a series of triangular grooves along the outside of the foam. These will help shape the rocky edges of the hill. Vary the size and spacing of the grooves randomly.
Next, bevel the edges much like we do for the mdf bases, by holding the retractable knife at an angle. Again, give variation to it by varying the angle and amount of bevelling you do.
You can make some interesting ledges by pushing the knife blade in horizontally, then twisting the blade until a piece of the styrofoam snaps off:
Don’t do this to all the rocks, but do it to a few to give some height variation to them.
6. Stoney texture
Now it’s time for THE BOULDER.
Grab the stone you got in step 1 and start mashing it into the rocks. The stone will imprint on the styrofoam and, while it’s not a perfect casting of the texture, will really help to give it a rocky texture. Push the stone in until the styrofoam actually starts to crack from the pressure – and those cracks are a good thing!
You don’t need to texture the top of the hill, just the rocky areas. Use the sharp points of THE BOULDER to get right into those v shaped grooves we made.
7. Basing up
So far for terrain we’ve been making the base first and then building the terrain on top. This time we’ve made the terrain first and now need to make the base. While styrofoam is tough and hard wearing, you’ve probably noticed that it’s easy to dent the foam, so it still needs basing for extra protection.
Place the hill on top of some MDF, draw around it leaving a 10-20mm border, then cut out the base as normal.
Once done, stick the hill down onto the MDF using wood glue or unthinned PVA (preferably wood glue). Make sure to spread the glue out so that the styrofoam is pressed down onto the MDF as much as possible.
8. Fill’er up
Next we want to blend the hill into the base a little bit more. There’s likely a few cracks and gaps between the styrofoam and the MDF and these make it look like the hill is resting on top of the ground rather than being part of the landscape.
You can do this part while the wood glue is drying (and it’s recommended to save waiting for both steps to dry).
Grab your polyfilla, load some up on your finger and go around the edge of the hill, filling in the gap and making a slight taper so that the hill blends into the base.
And that’s it for building the hill. From here texture it as normal with sand and grit, leaving the styrofoam rocks bare. It looks great if you put clumps of stones around the bottom of the hill and leave the top relatively flat. Remember to seal as always, including putting PVA over the bare styrofoam.
As always, put it to one side to dry, ready for the next piece.