Stratified ice terrain – 50 shades of blue

Winter is upon us. A valid excuse to invest some time into my favorite game, Frostgrave.
A while back, more by accident than intent, I made a small piece of frozen wargaming terrain that reminded me of stratified ice. Intrigued by the look of it, I thought this could be a nice addition to the “natural” terrain features of my frosty wargaming terrain collection.
As per usual, I aim to achieve my goal with readily available material, as little material as possible and an easy way.
I might add, that I am fully aware, that ice does not necessarily look and behave like my attempt at reproducing nature 😀

Part I : Conception and assembling

1. Materials and tools used:

  • a thermocutter (you can do without but I highly recommend it and it will speed up your crafting process)
  • an aluminum foil ball : to add structure
  • a cutter or exacto-knife
  • glue (PVA glue or all purpose glue)
  • styrofoam ; at least 5cm thick

SAFETY ADVICE : wear a mask and/or use the thermocutter in a well aired space. This project involves a great deal of melting styrofoam and fumes. Safety first 🙂

2. Initial idea and mental guidelines

The ice-structures I had in mind are meant to be used together with my other terrain. Recently I started to build stackable terrain pieces and create multilevel terrain. My go-to hight for 28mm games is 5cm. That in mind, I cut some leftover pieces of styrofoam to the desired thickness. (pic.1)
Do not forget to slice of the outer layer of your styrofoam sheet. Paint does not stick well on it.

3. Ice-crafting 🙂

I cut out the rough shape of the ice block by moving it “freehand” along the hot wire. While cutting the main shape, I tilted the styrofoam randomly up, down, left and right (pic.2). From the beginning on, I wanted to have a jagged look on the sides of the ice.

Now comes the tedious part.

Using the thermocutter, I cut the big block into randomly thick slices of “ice layer”. Similar to cutting bread or salami :).

BE AWARE : from this point on, you have to pay attention not to mix the slices and keep them in the right order.

I then stacked the slices together, but not flush. Holding the stack firmly, I gave it another pass at the hot wire adding some more “randomness”. I kept moving the stack in a random motion and carefully shaved of more bits of styrofoam. (pic.3.)
When you are done, you want to have a piece with a lot of bends, cracks, nooks and so on, that will add depth to your ice 🙂
In certain areas, I cut of a little more from the middle and upper layers, indicating a stairlike area. The space is sufficient for a regular 25mm base to fit. (pic.3. / lower right area)

gluing the stratified ice together
pic.3. slices of ice, ready to be assembled

Before gluing all the slices together, I added some texture to all the flat horizontal surfaces with my trusted ball of aluminum foil. (pic.4.)

I finally glued all the slices together. Pay attention not to glue the different slices flush together. I deliberately moved and tilted the different pieces, giving it a more chaotic and less artificial look.
Let it dry properly. I was hasty with my test piece and regretted it deeply while painting. (pic.5)

Part II : a frozen paint job

1. Colours used

  • Mod podge mixed with black colour (you may also mix black with PVA glue)
  • Blue (I used ultra-marine… praise to the God-Emperor)
  • Turquoise (in my opinion the most ghastly colour in existence)
  • White

2. Base colours

Before proceeding with the actual paint job, the entire piece gets a thorough undercoat with a mixture of black colour and mod podge. It serves both as an undercoat and the mod podge will protect the styrofoam.
Try to undercoat everything properly, especially in the recess areas, which might not be covered with paint during the following steps. I use pink styrofoam and the blasted pink colour can be seen from space, if I miss a spot.

The actual base colour will be blue. Make sure to cover every exposed and outer area properly. I had to apply two, sometimes three coats, in order to get a nice and sufficiently even blue cover. The black undercoat in the recesses will indicate shadows. (pic.6)

(I forgot to take a picture of the black base coat… apologies. But I suppose you get the idea 🙂 )

base colour for ice wargaming terrain
pic.6. The blue actually hurts my eyes 😀

3. Brush-orama

I start with a thick overbrush of Turquoise, making sure all the flat areas are thoroughly covered.
From here on, I overbrush several layers of turquoise mixed with with. I add more white to every layer. The process is repeated until I am fully satisfied. I did not wait for the different layers to dry before applying the next, letting the layers blend with each other. Take note, that I do not overbrush with pure white. (pic.7-9)
Once the last layer of turquoise/white is dry, I apply a white drybrush using a large make-up brush. I made sure, to emphasize the edges of the different “ice layers”. (pic.10)

Final thoughts

It might seem as a very tiresome and tedious process, but I managed to produce several pieces of varying sizes quickly. (pic.11) I spent a late afternoon building everything and let it dry over night. The following day, I painted all the pieces between a late breakfast and aperitif 🙂
Letting things dry took up most of the time.

stratified ice wargaming terrain stacked
pic.11. The final result… Ruby the archer travels through frozen wasteland around old Felstad.

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