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Terrain
Introduction <> Desert Terrain

Desert Terrain (Auros IX)
As I mentioned in the introduction, what you're going to see here is not meant to be high-quality, “realistic,” or  “artistic.” It's stuff that's good enough for your garage or rec room, something you can slap together fairly quickly and set your beer bottle or can of soda on when you invite the guys over for some brutality. Pretty it ain't, but it is functional, durable, and cheap to make. 

As my pal Pat and I started playing the Blood Deserts of Auros IX Campaign, I started working on some appropriate scenery. In 1988, when Land Raiders first came out, White Dwarf published a number of camouflage schemes for them (of course, this was back when Space Marines were known to use camouflage). Some of the schemes were for alien deserts and had wild combinations to match the terrain. For instance, the cobalt/ammonium wastes of Galen V were supposedly blue and tan and white and gray. As I began to make my desert terrain, I thought back to the descriptions of those alien deserts and decided to make my desert terrain different from the sandy, yellowy-tan, Sahara-like scenes you see in White Dwarf these days. 

Auros IXHere on Earth, most deserts are rocky, not sandy, and if you’ve ever lived in Arizona (as I have) or somewhere similar you know that they are usually not drab, but are actually quite beautiful, albeit a rather stark beauty. With those thoughts in mind, I decided that Auros IX (at right) would be a Mars-like planet with a rocky, blood red soil.

The Boards
A few years ago, my friend John had been kind enough to give me some gaming boards (two 48" x 48" monsters that are very sturdy but VERY heavy) that he had made out of pine. He had covered the boards with this scratchy green paper that is fine for meadows and forests but entirely wrong for deserts! So I went to the local hardware store and bought four wooden boards (medium density fiberboard) for $3.65 each. Not only are these boards lighter, they’re also smaller (each 24" x 48"), so I can customize the size of the gaming area (as we did for Battle #9 of the Blood Deserts of Auros IX Campaign).

I wanted to use textured paint, like the kind you see on some ceilings, but couldn't find any in dark red (can’t imagine why—doesn’t everyone paint their ceiling that color?). I settled for a gallon of red primer ($22—OUCH!) in a deep, almost wine color. I also bought a cheap plastic paint roller and pan (about $4) that I could use to slap this stuff on and then throw away, because I knew that when I was done the roller would be ruined….

I went back home, went down to the beach (I live on an island) and scooped up a few buckets of sand: for free! I went back to my house, spread the boards out over an old patio table in the backyard, and got to work. 

First I primed the boards with a coat of paint without sand. When that was dry, I mixed a bunch of sand with some paint and gave each board section two coats of the glop. Then I slapped a thick coat of paint (no sand) on to seal each section and help level them out a little so figures would have an easier time balancing on the uneven surface. Finally, I sprayed some varnish on to keep the paint (and sand) from rubbing off.

These boards made a quick and halfway decent desert

I suppose I could give each board section a wash of thinned-down Chaos Black and then drybrush on Blood Red and a few other colors (as I’ve done for the individual terrain pieces), but for right now that’s more hassle than it’s worth. On to the terrain pieces themselves!

Hills
A flat board with nothing on it is pretty dull, so the first pieces I started making were hills. I bought several polystyrene disks ($.99 a pop) at a local craft store, shaved down the edges with a knife (didn’t feel like coughing up for a foamcutter), and glued them together with Elmer’s wood glue (about $3 for a big bottle). 

My hills are “stepped” hills that allow figures to stand on each level: doesn’t look natural, but function outweighs form in this case. I slapped on a few coats of red primer and sand (see why I bought a gallon of the paint?), washed it with thinned-down Chaos Black, and drybrushed on Blood Red and the occasional dash of Bubonic Brown or Fiery Orange to represent a vein of minerals. 

In a similar way, I made a bunch of roughly circular bases out of sheets of polystyrene that were leftover packing material from something (I can’t remember what) I ordered a long time ago. I planned to use the bases for a number of other pieces, starting with cacti.

Desert terrainAuros IX cacti
Above: Auros IX desert scenery

Cacti
Here in Maryland (and in many parts of the eastern U.S., I suspect) we have these trees that, in the spring, drop their seeds in spherical, spiky “gumballs” that kind of look like sea urchins and are pretty painful to step on with your bare feet. When they break open, the “gumball” splits into two hemispherical halves: I scooped up about 20 halves, painted them in Goblin Green (watering it down to get in between the spikes), and used Elmer’s to glue them to the hills and bases I had already made. I spray-varnished the cacti to keep the paint from chipping off and to preserve the “gumball” from rotting. 

I  wanted some obviously alien cacti too, so I bought one of those squeaky dog chew toys that’s a ball covered in rubber nubs. Paid all of a dollar for it. I sliced the ball in half, cut out the squeaker, and was pleasantly surprised to find that neither half collapsed under its own weight (if they had collapsed, I would have stuffed them with newspaper). I superglued each half onto a base, painted them Goblin Green, and hid the hole where the squeaker had been by gluing a small rock in front of it. Now I have two “giant cacti,” each of which is taller than a Space Marine. 

Rocks and Boulders
Of course, a rocky desert needs rocks. I scooped up a bunch of rocks of all sizes (again, free) and washed them in thinned-down Chaos Black (to accentuate their texture). Then I drybrushed them based on their original color: Space Wolf Gray, Shadow Gray, Bubonic Brown, Bestial Brown, Chaos White, Fiery Orange, Rotting Flesh, Goblin Green, Scorpion Green, etc. 

Auros IX bouldersIn addition to gluing rocks onto hills and next to cacti, I also wanted to make some boulders that could be used as cover. I made the bases for these boulders out of polystyrene but painted them in gray (mixed with sand) instead of red so I could use these boulders for the meadow/jungle scenery I have planned. I washed the bases in thinned-down Chaos Black, then drybrushed on Space Wolf Gray and Shadow Gray. I stuck the boulders to the bases using two-part epoxy, which is what I used to use back in the bad old days of “Rogue Trader” to glue Dreadnoughts and other all-metal kits together. 

In addition to making several boulder bases, I also took a foot-long piece of thick polystyrene and made it into a large outcropping of rock. It gives figures an excellent line of sight across the battlefield and nicely breaks up the red desert surface.

Oasis
Every desert scene should have an oasis. Mine consists of a styrofoam base, part of a discarded
Star Wars toy, some real rocks, some plastic trees, and static grass. For the water, I used layers of two-part epoxy, which, when it dries, still appears very shiny and “wet.”

Oasis on Auros IX
Above: Orks move in to claim the oasis
Below: Fighting Tigers and Orks converge at the waterhole
An aerial view of the oasis

Water is a precious resource in the desert, and the oasis terrain piece inspired Pat and I to come up with a special scenario for the Auros IX Campaign.

Giant Desert Frogklam
As I began finishing the desert scenery, I indulged myself in something really far out. I imagined that the biggest, baddest critter on Auros IX is a cross between a frog and a giant clam. Prey being hard to come by in the desert, the Frogklam is well-adapted to catching and eating what’s plentiful—Orks—and as the Boyz are not usually known for their mental gymnastics, only a minimum of trickery is needed for the Frogklam to catch a meal. 

The outer shell of the Frogklam is a rough, stony gray that closely resembles the boulders found everywhere on Auros IX. The Frogklam has two weak legs and four clawed, prehensile “arms,” with which it can slowly crawl about, but it usually only moves to reach new feeding grounds. The Frogklam usually lurks around well-traveled areas, hunkered down next to several large boulders. Though the Frogklam has three large, keen eyes on stalks, it mostly relies on touch to detect its prey, inserting several sensory tendrils into the soil and feeling the vibrations of approaching creatures. 

When anything smaller than the Frogklam approaches, the predator opens its gaping, slimy mouth and, in a flash, wraps a sticky, muscular tongue around the victim, which is then dragged into the mouth. If necessary, the Frogklam will use its prehensile claws to help stuff the victim inside. Once inside, the victim is slowly digested by enzymes the Frogklam secretes. The Frogklam consumes skin, hair, and bones, spitting out any indigestible items like weapons or armor.

For proper nutrition, always have something green at dinnerI made the Frogklam by taking two oyster shells I found on the beach (again, free), and supergluing them together to make a “mouth.” I filled the mouth and made the tongue with leftover “green putty” (from Games Workshop) that I had laying around. The arms come from some plastic Genestealer models, the other features (eyes, feet, sensory tendril) come from a rubber “alien” toy from one of my older daughter’s kid meals (maybe from Burger King?). 

I superglued all these features on and started painting. The outer shell was gray, washed with thinned-out Chaos Black (tired of reading that yet?), and drybrushed with Space Wolf Gray and Shadow Gray. I painted the eyes, tendril, and interior of the mouth in Rotting Flesh, and painted the tongue Blood Red (so people would better recognize what it is). I also painted some “veins” on the tongue in blue and painted over them with more Blood Red so they’d look like they were just below the flesh of the tongue. The claws and feet, being outside the Frogklam and low to the ground, were painted Blood Red, drybrushed Fiery Orange, to blend in with the base (natural camouflage). To finish the Frogklam, I filled its mouth with lots of clear, two-part epoxy to make it look very gooey and wet inside.

While I was putting together the Frogklam, I decided to show what the Frogklam likes best for dinner. If you look close, you can see that the monster’s tongue is wrapped around one Ork and is dragging it into its maw while the other two Orks are trying to save him (not that they’re nice guys, it’s just that the Ork being eaten owes the other two some money). While one Ork tries to sever the Frogklam’s tongue with a choppa, the other Ork has fired off his shoota right in its mouth, spraying black ichor everywhere. 

I epoxied the Frogklam and the Orks to the base, next to some other oyster shells I painted like rocks. Not only do the other oyster shells look like slate, but they also work well to “disguise” the Frogklam. 


Orks battle Fighting Tigers on the Blood Deserts of Auros IX
Above: Orks and Marines battle across the Blood Deserts of Auros IX

Introduction <>Desert Terrain

Related Pages
Blood Deserts of Auros IX Campaign
Midnight at the Oasis Scenario
 

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© Copyright Kenton Kilgore, June 2000
 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle