Wargame Terrain: Billboards

I have always had this desire for billboards in my games. Perhaps it is that advertising is so prominent in our everyday lives that its absence just makes a tabletop game feel less alive. I also think those ads give you a chance to bring the world of your game to life. Ads show you the elements that matter to the people of your world or at least that those in charge are trying to impose on those reading the ads.

I searched the internet for a cheap billboard option, but everything from MDF to plastic pieces were upwards of $20 for a single billboard that only stood maybe 5″ high. So, I decided to design my own. Originally, I was going to do a very simple one sided billboard that clipped onto a building side. I was going to make the back just some wood beams holding the whole thing up. I was going to make the billboard out of foam board, along with the base, and then the beams would have been coffee stirrers. I would have decorated the base with coffee stirrers for wood planks too.

When I was driving home from work one day, I saw a tall doubled sided billboard that had the billboards angled into a “V” shape. It struck me as a more interesting design than a one-sided board or even a double-sided flat billboard. I was so inspired, that I swung by Hobby Lobby on my way home and picked up four thick 12″ long dowel rods.

The first thing I needed to figure out was how on earth was I going to keep these rods from tipping over. The billboard that I saw was just a pole jutting up from the ground, but I knew that would not work for a terrain piece. I need a base of some sort. The height of the dowel meant that short, simple weighted bases would probably not work. I thought about having the dowel rod come out from the center of some structure that could support it from all sides. I decided to stick with my 6″ x 6″ building structure as a surrounding base. I was not confident that a single 3″ story would work, so I opted for a two-story version.

Originally, these were going to be standard rooftops with a surrounding ledge for cover, but once again I was full of confidence and short on patience. I started building and like the second story staircase before it… I built for a 6″ height. This is fine for the ledge, but when you put internal building supports in for the rooftop at that height you no longer have a ledge.

For about two minutes I pondered how to handle this. I could have ripped out the supports and started all over, but I was running low on foam board. Then I thought about the fact that I do not have a lot of risky locations in my terrain currently. Almost every piece has decent cover, having something with no cover invites an element of risk and reward: do you expose your guy in hopes of getting that elevated flank shot?

I also figured it would be a neat way to link multiple two-story building sections together.

Billboard Terrain Height
Here the billboard base is linking three separate two-story sections.

Up to this point, I have used five pieces of foam board to build a 6″ x 6″ x 6″ structure. I cut a hole in the center of the top piece and hot glued a dowel in it.

I then needed a structure for models to stand on. I had no idea how to create this. I grabbed some popsicle sticks and a hot glue gun and created what you see below.

Billboard Terrain Underside
The jumbo popsicle sticks created the base of the structure. I then added foam board to make a stable surface and some ledges. I also applied grating to floor.

I tried getting this to hold to the dowel with hot glue, but it was a no go. I ended up propping the pieces up with BBQ skewers, which looked super janky.

To form the ladder on the dowel, I just glued on some cut up coffee stirrer bits.

Billboard Terrain Ladder
Easy ladder addition.

Finally, I needed to construct the billboards. I glued two 4″ x 6″ foam board pieces to two jumbo popsicle sticks and connected them around the top of the dowel with some scrap pink XPS foam blocks. Many a hot glue stick gave their lives that day.

Billboard Terrain Inside
I could have spent some more time and used foam board strips inside this to hide the ugly truth of how it is held together, but that was more time than I was interested in spending.

I ran out of jumbo popsicle sticks by the time I got to the fourth billboard. I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

I will mention that I was deliberate in how high I placed my ledges on these billboards. They are exactly the same height as any four-story building I may make in the future. Since I currently have zero, I used my three-story building and multi-level staircase to illustrate.

Billboard Terrain Height 2
Always stick to preset heights if you are working with modular terrain. It will greatly expand what you can pull off.

Painting was easy. Grey on everything. The dowel portion was painted black to break things up. I sponged on tan, black, green, and then grey over all of those to create the concrete texture. I only painted the underside of the billboard structure grey. It will not be seen often. The grating was painted with gunmetal. White dry brush all edges. Finally, I used my wood stain to weather everything and decided to apply it across the entire rooftop surface of the second-story portion. This was done to break up all the grey and also because I had no idea how else to paint the rooftop (I’ll be damned if I was going to make more coffee stirrer wood planks).

Billboard Terrain Paint
I actually spray primed some of these, which is why the grey sponge after the other colors looks very different. This got covered up by graffiti and wood stain.

I then added graffiti to the concrete surfaces. This was really fun as the full 6″ x 6″ surface allowed for larger creations than previous projects had.

The last step was to hunt the internet for some images I could load into Power Point, resize to roughly 4″ x 6″, and print out. I did not realize it at the time, but my black ink cartridge was empty. This made a few of my signs look aged, which was a pretty cool accident.

Billboard Terrain 4 by 6
The lack of black ink made this look even more aged. I just glued these on with a glue stick and applied a layer of mod podge.
Billboard Terrain Graffiti
Another angle to showcase some more graffiti.
Billboard Terrain Clips
Some clip on action at work!
Billboard Terrain WIP
Here is a work in process shot.
Billboard Terrain After
Here they are while the mod podge dried.

That’s all there is to it. I actually quite like these guys. They really add something, especially when placed next to road pieces. It you want a clustered, multi-level battle scene, these pieces have a lot to offer.

I still have a few more terrain posts and then some Five Parsecs games coming up. After that, I may switch to covering some of my painting endeavors. I want to get some more models for my Five Parsecs campaign and get a starting group of Frostgrave folks painted up. Then I will turn my focus to Frostgrave scenario specific terrain.

I backed Core Space a while back (along with Zombicide Invader) to get more sci fi models. Core Space also comes with some amazing Battle Systems terrain. I have been thinking that when it arrives, I may paint up the core crew members and enemies and do a battle report or two on the game and its campaign system.

I decided to expand my blog even further to include a possible third game. But, let’s face it. I think terrain building will dominate this blog overall.

If you like what I do, please sign up on the email list or comment below. Even a short, simple comment gives me some insight into if people enjoyed reading my post or seeing my work.

Until next time, have a great week!

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2 thoughts on “Wargame Terrain: Billboards

  1. Those are some great looking additions! I particularly like the Creature from the Black Lagoon being a Universal horror fan. I’ve always thought, if I had billboards in my city, I’d certainly have a Chuck E Cheese one…One of the classic ones though. I’ll have to utilize this tutorial to make one someday for my zombie apoc games!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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