Wargame Terrain: Cheap Pipe Terrain

Every good industrial terrain set just is not complete without some big rusty pipeline running through it. So, for my sci fi game I knew that a handful of these pieces would come in handy. If you have ever tried to purchase a set of pipes or even air duct vents for a rooftop, they are ridiculously expensive. So, here is my simple and cheap build to get pretty decent looking pipeline terrain.

What you need:

Cardboard tube

I used a thick space-holder tube that was used as packing support. Most people may not have this handy, but I believe you could replicate the pipe effect with toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls. On their own, they have a pretty wide diameter, but if split them with a blade, you can then roll them tighter to a more fitting size. You can also buff them up by stuffing them with paper towels that have been soaked in PVA glue. Maybe even coat them in mod podge. Or just keep them as they are… that is faster and cheaper and they are easy enough to replace.

Foam (I used pink XPS foam, but you could do this with foamboard – either single thickness or two to three layers if you want them sturdier)

Craft-grating or granny-grating or whatever it is called. You can find it in the sewing craft section of most stores.

Paint: I used a flat red spray primer (to use it up), tan, and gunmetal for the pipe. The foam was grey, tan, black, white.

Wood stain (for weathering, but a brown wash will do as well)

Foamboard (for the connection boxes, again I used thicker foam board not the reddi board)

Hot Glue


What I did


Pipe Terrain 1
Three pipe sections end to end.

To start, cut out a square of foam to serve as a support. Cut out a “U” shape large enough to fit half of the pipe material into. See above photo for reference. Make two of these per pipeline. I glued these one about 1″ from the pipe end. I made mine not perfect squares to represent some wear and tear.

Next, cut out some grating to fit inside the pipe. Hotglue it in place. After priming (see below note) I painted the grating with sponged on gunmetal. The supports I painted grey and dabbed on some tan and black sparingly. I then dry brushed the edges in white. I then applied the wood stain along the bottom and dripping from the pipe.

Pipe Terrain Ends
I didn’t bother making the ends fancy. You can see the hot glue and I did not even do my normal concrete paint quality on the supports. I tried graffiti on the one above, but XPS foam is not as good at taking colored pencils as the paper-coated foam board.

If you are going to spray prime, coat the foam in mod podge so it does not melt. I used up the last of my flat matte red spray primer (see my modular roads post) to prime these all a brownish red. The reason is that it gave me a quick path to a rusty pipe look.

Pipe Terrain Paint Job
This is literally just red primer, very little sponged on tan, and then a 90% sponge of gunmetal. Took about 15 minutes.

So, that is the pipes done.

I was not happy with that though. I wanted these to look like they fed into the roof of a building of into the ground, rather than just stopping mid-air. So, I built a multi-purpose connector.

Pipe Terrain Connector
This is five pieces of foam board to make a box. One side has a hole cut into it to fit the 1″ of pipe before the support. The space between that hole and the open end is the distance from the bottom of the pipe to the table top.

The paint job is super easy: all gunmetal and some staining around both holes.

Pipe Terrain Connector 2
So, the connectors can be used to connect the pie to the ground or you can turn it 90 degrees and use the larger opening to create a turn in your pipeline.
Pipe Terrain End 1
Normal end to a pipeline.
Pipe Terrain End 2
Here the piece allows the pipeline to change direction.
Pipe Terrain Vertical
The connectors used at the end of a building can even allow you to run a vertical pipeline. I only have 12″ pipes, so I had to struggle to set this shot up, but if you use toilet paper rolls for shorter pipes, you could easily pull this off.
Pipe Terrain Group Shot
Here we have pipes of all varieties. One starts on a rooftop, changes direction on another, and runs into a third building (supported by another pipe). A second pipeline runs from one building into another.

I only made four 12″ pipes and two connectors, but you could knock out twice as many in very little time. This pipes add a nice dimension to any gaming table and can provide you with cover, line of sight blocking, or even interesting skill test challenges (if you role play or use a system like Five Parsecs where balancing on a pipe may come into play).

I hope you found this useful! Don’t forget to subscribe if you want an email whenever I knock out a new post.


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