simple solutions : representing terrain interior

When building wargaming terrain, I often ponder how to create buildings with a playable, accessible and practical interior. In regiment based games, indoor spaces (usually) play a minor role… if any at all. In skirmish size games or TTRPG’s indoor spaces could play a crucial role. When building a single small house, accessing and moving miniatures inside the house can often be solved with a removable roof. Then again, what about multi-storied buildings? …

One idea I had, was actually “borrowed” from top down video games (think early Zelda etc). You know: you run through the open, a forest, a plain… name it. There comes a hut, house or tower and you enter. LOADING SCREEN! You find yourself in a “room” (aka floor) with indicated walls, windows and doors appears where you can move around. The entire area surrounded by black.

terrain interior wargaming inspiration
here is a random pixel art example from the internet … I love the details
credit goes to the artist :

Aside from being a nice pixel art rendition (kudos to the artist), this example shows what I mean: walls are merely indicated, floors, space to put scatter in… an that’s it.
So, my idea was to create an “footprint” of the interior the less accessible wargaming terrain pieces or to indicate several floors in a taller building. Basically, it’d be an abstraction of the interior, a three dimensional floor plan.

I admit, I have no idea how well it turns out and how practical it will be… but in the words of the immortal Cole Porter : “experiment” 🙂

For my prototype, I chose an old project: a barn, I built back in the nineties. It isn’t the prettiest of all buildings, but a favorite of mine. (Pic1)

terrain interior wargaming
(1) A cardboard barn built in the ’90es.

The miniature carpenter at work again…

Material and tools

The terrain piece won’t be used on the actual battlefield, but in an area apart. That meant, I didn‘t need to worry about fine details like basing and so on. Thus I opted to use simple and mostly leftover crafting materials.

As crafting material I chose leftover cardboard of various thickness and balsa wood.

The tools used are the usual:

  • a cutter and scissors
  • a file brush to add texture to the balsa
  • glue (I use PVA glue)
  • a metal ruler


I first measured the surface of the barn and marked them on a sturdy piece of cardboard and cut it out. This would be the base of my terrain interior.
Next, I cut all the the “wood” pieces I needed. Six pillars, several planks for the floor and the bits used to indicate walls.
Before cutting the balsa, I added some extra texture with a file brush. I made sure to do this on both sides. That way I didn’t have to worry about which side is up during assembly. I cut the planks and panels without a ruler, to add some irregularity.
In order to make sure, that I had enough pieces of floor paneling, I laid them out in order and compared them with the footprint. (pic2)


I then proceeded to assemble the entire built (pic2-5).
Before adding the “walls”, I let the floor dry out properly under some weight, hoping to avoid the horrors of the warp. (pic3)
While adding the “walls”, I thought their height (1cm) was not sufficient. So I prepared a whole new set of 2cm long wall bits.
If I’d stick to those dimensions in future builds, this would also allow me to easily indicate windows, since 2cm is my preferred height for the windowsill in 28mm games.
I glued the pillars before adding the wall elements. To reinforce the wall paneling, I had to add a small strip of balsa. (pic4-5)

terrain interior wargaming
(6) The finished structure next to the barn.

Adding some colour…

At the beginning, I followed my usual recipe for painting wood:

  • Basecoat with black mod podge: I applied two thin coats avoiding that the balsa would suck up all the water. Later, the mod podge would insulate the balsa enough for me to paint over it properly.
  • Basecolour with dark brown: carefull not to ruin your free shadows in the recesses between the planks 😉
  • Overbrush with burnt sienna (a yellowish brown): I was pretty thorough with the interior. At the exterior I applied less colour, keeping it dark. After all, I needed it to fit with the original.

Usually I finish with a light dry brush in order to bring all the colours together. But I wanted to differentiate the interior from the exterior of the terrain piece.
For the interior, I used the same technique as with furniture (link). Hoping it’d maintain the warmth, I dry brushed it with a cream colour.
For the exterior, I dry brushed the wood with light grey, dulling down the colors and adding a weathered look. I used the same technique for my dungeon doors (link).

The end product is slightly clearer on the outside, but … yeah… (Pic7)

terrain interior wargaming
(7) The base footprint (1:1) coloured

Size as an abstract notion

Size-wise it works with the barn (and looks a little like a patio O_O ). (Pic7)

However, when placing a miniature in it, it felt too small and cramped. I repeated the entire process, but this time I used a 1:1,5 ratio. Thus the building (as they say) is bigger on the inside than on the outside. (Pic8)

terrain interior wargaming
(8) Footprint with a 1:1,5 ratio. Enough space to move farmer Fred, his farm animals and even add an elevated area.

In future projects, I will probably opt for the larger, disproportionate dimensions. After all, it was meant to be an abstraction of the original terrain piece. Thus favoring playability over proportion.
Also I am slightly tempted to glue it on a slightly larger black base… in order to be closer to the inspiration.

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