World Building: Relicblade Terrain

Ancient Aqueducts 

Ancient Aqueducts 

Relicblade: Adventure Battle Game offers two unique qualities that make building terrain extra fun. First, as a small scale skirmish game it can be played on areas as small as 2'x2'. Second, the game puts an emphasis on adventure. Instead of needing vast battle fields for armies to traverse, characters run around in ancient tombs and ruined castles.

In tabletop battle games there has always been a conflict between dynamic terrain features and playability. Players find that forests are better without trees, buildings are a waste of space, and even simple hills are cause for cursing. Some Warmachine players have recently transitioned into using completely 2d terrain for these very reasons.

I have always wanted an excuse to build extremely dynamic terrain, but filling a 6'x4' table and having friends opt out of playing with those features have been major barriers. Relicblade terrain doesn't need to accommodate whole regiments of soldiers, so stairs, battlements, and bridges are all fair game. Mordheim terrain should work really well too. Mordheim has to be one of my all-time favorite games. (I bet if you're interested in Relicblade you probably loved it too) Enough Talk! Let's build some terrain.

To start you should probably do some sketches of the build you have in mind. In Relicblade players deploy in opposite corners, and the player that deploys first can choose from any of the four corners. Take a moment to consider how characters will get around, and how battles could play out. If you've played video games with "deathmatch" maps you can probably imagine what I'm talking about. Consider how infinite games of Team-Fortress, Halo, or League of Legends can play out different ways on the same map. There should be more than one exciting choke point to keep things fresh. I'm sure there is a ton of theory behind level design you can look up on ye olde internets.

You'll also need to buy some Foamular along with materials for the board. I won't go into extreme detail about the exact material you should buy, suffice to say I made six or more trips to the hardware store to build the table I'm showing here. Get a hot glue gun, snap blade, paints, glue, sand, et cetera!

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First, I used a 2'x3' piece of poplar plywood with some 1x2 pine. You can easily use hardboard for the top but you should add extra supports to prevent warping. I had poplar on hand. There are great tutorials online about building cradled panels. A cradled panel will be a lot lighter weight than most Gaming Tables I've seen, plus you can hang it on your wall as art and for storage. Also, I'm using a 2'x3' board to make a 2'x2' play area with 6" of space on each end so players have space for their cards, dice, beer, and tokens. 

This stage is really exciting and frustrating! You need to take your imagination and give it shape. Start by blocking in the main forms like hills, cliffs, and walls. Before you glue it down make sure things make some sense. For this table I'm going to fill the moat with lava, so it's really important that all four table corners can get into the castle without being forced to risk falling in lave. For this map specifically you can take the long way into the castle, or risk jumping from rock to rock to get there faster. Once you feel ok, just start gluing stuff together. You can also start using a dull pencil to draw details like stonework into the foam. Use your knife collection to cut, break, and shape the foam into your image. It's a good idea to keep some figures on hand to make sure bases fit on walkways and can stand on stairs. 

Since I'm making a lava moat I used latex caulk to create a textured layer. I looked at photos of lava to imitate the way magma flows a little bit. Once the build was complete I primed the board. NOTE: DON'T SPRAY PAINT YOUR FOAM CREATION! The aerosol will melt the foam. Once I covered all the foam in a primer I was able to spray paint it.

Next I used Utrecht heavy body acrylic paints to start adding color to the terrain. I used Payne's Gray for the lava rock and scorched castle. Payne's Gray has a blue hue to it, so I like to use it more than a black. The blue hue is a complimentary color to the orange of the lave, so the choice is obvious. Right!?

Painting the lava was the most advanced part. I started with a white base then worked my way into redder hues. I just tried to imitate lava a bit. Real lava doesn't settle into castle moats, so there is a bit of imagination in there too.

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I put some eyelet screws and a wire on the back of the panel so I can hang it on my wall. I stuck it up in my studio between an original Hannah Jacobs painting and a unicorn by my daughter.

The opportunity to create small 2'x2' game boards in any fantasy setting is pretty exciting to me. I haven't decided for sure, but I think I want to make an underground board next. I'll experiment with a central tomb or ritual area with tunnels and doors throughout. Who knows! Anything is possible.

As always, Thanks for checking this out. I hope Relicblade inspires you to make the board you've always dreamt about, but never got around to.

Your Friend,

Sean Sutter