Wednesday, May 8, 2013

There's Foam in That Thar Hill!

Inspired by an article on the rarely-if-ever-updated TerraGenesis, I decided to make a hill out of a scrap of open-cell furniture foam left over from an aborted attempt at building my own figure carrying cases (I now use divided plastic boxes - once i accepted the reality that I don't travel with my figures it was a no-brainer to ditch the foam).

First I hacked the shape using a pair of scissors and then painted the whole thing with CeramCoat Dark Brown. I had gotten a bad bottle which I finally abandoned all attempts at using, but had yet to throw away, and figured this was as good a use as any. It pretty much kicked the bottle.

Painting foam < > Easy.

I used a large brush, itself made of foam, to "push" the paint into the furniture foam.

I then dry brushed with another unused color  in my pile, Americana Cocoa. I think i bought it as a potential color for my WWII Japanese, but ended up using Folk Art's Rusty Pipe instead. In any case, I found I couldn't actually dry brush the foam and instead painted it on where I wanted it.

Since the foam absorbs paint, there was no worry it'd go on too heavily.

What appears to be coarse texture, by the way, is the foam itself. Which you can see better here:

Of course, a brown step-hill looks kind of like a mesa of some sort. I couldn't decide how I wanted to handle the top - painting it the color of my game board seemed logical, except, the table is decidedly "old school" in color and the hill leans a bit more towards the "model train" approach ("leans", not "is").

I dug out some felt, traced the top of the hill, trimmed it up a bit and voila!

*EDIT: The felt is not permanently affixed.  Thus, I can use the hill in multiple environments.

Here's some troops up on the hill:

It's unlikely this hill would see use in GNW-era battles but you never know.
I am rather pleased with the result, although the hill cover, for when I want it to represent a grassy hill, might better work if I simply painted a piece of felt with the same paint as my tabletop.

My favorite part is that it can be squashed to no ill effect. 

I can fold, bend, twist and otherwise contort the hill without fear of damage, meaning that storage of several foam hills in a space smaller than required for the same number of rigid hills is a good possibility.

It's also available in 3" and 4" thicknesses, which would work quite well with my 1/32 WWII games.

That said, for my horse and musket games, I'd really like the hills to have a clean cut edge - the rocky look is fine for WWII / Sci-Fi / Colonial but not what I am aiming for with my GNW project. I intend to pick up some more foam to see if using a knife gives the desired look.


  1. Your hills look great, though I'm not a huge fan of the cliff look to hills. Unless your battles take place in the US Southwest or in northern Mexico, they look odd. But that is just me.

    I suggest a pair of long, sharp scissors like Fiskars to round off the edges of the hills.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the scissors suggestion!Hopefully they'll help me cut a smooth edge and possibly more of a slope than a step. I do like step hills for an "old school" look to things, but without the rocky appearance.

      I agree with you about the cliff look. It'll work for my sci-fi games, and for the Pacific Theater perhaps, so the effort wasn't wasted. But it isn't my preference.