The Great 40k Terrain Challenge #10: Desert Trench Lines

The Gaffer: It’s hard to believe, but this narrative campaign has been around for nearly seven years.

After a very long hiatus, TheGaffer is back and at it. TheGM and I have played a four-week long Apocalypse battle to get reacquainted with the rules and try out a few new units. Surveying our desert game board, we found we have quite a few terrain pieces, but they’re a mixed bag without an overall integrated look. So, we resolved that this is the year of the desert, and we would build all the terrain we talked about during the “great plague.”

Like many gamers, if we don’t have that just-right terrain piece, we mend a make-do. This was going to be a multi-session battle over a couple of weeks, so we would have plenty of time to make a couple of pieces that have been on the list of things to do. First Up : a sci-fi trench line that did not look like it fell off Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Imperial artillery shelters behind a Medieval World palisade and ditch. Orks were very amused.

The table had two lines of trenches. The GW Wall of Martyrs made up the first line that would absorb the Orky waves. The second was a palisade and ditch out of the dark ages. It is a very nice piece of terrain, but out of place in the 41st Millennium on a desert planet.

Taking a cue form Black Magic Craft and Eric’s Hobby Workshop—two YouTube sites that offer modeling advice—we didn’t use our normal MDF basing but instead constructed bases from foam core board. We used this technique a while back with an Orky Aegis Line, and it came out pretty well.

Elmer’s brand foam core board (yes, from the glue company) is sturdier than the dollar store, no-brand boards. The paper exterior is less likely to separate from the foam when painting and handling. so we used this for the base.

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Granny grating adds some extra detail and texture to the floor of the trench line.

However, dollar store no-name brand foam board has its uses. We used the cheaper stuff for the walls precisely because we wanted to strip the paper off the board, exposing the foam underneath.  The concrete effect on the walls was created by using a balled-up piece of aluminum foil and rolling it over the foam. This gave the foam a pockmarked, uneven look reminiscent of cast concrete.

The inside wall of the trench is vertical, but the front wall is angled at 45 degrees to provide a sloped frontage. A little knife work angled the edge of the sloped wall so that it was flush against the vertical section, hiding the joint.

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Granny grating is a plastic grid sheet material used for a variety of hobby purposes. It costs less than a dollar per square foot.

For the floor of the trench, we used granny grating. Granny grating is a generic term for a plastic grid used in crochet or other crafts involving yarn and thread. It is readily available, and it is quite commonly used in the wargaming community.

Getting the sizing right wasn’t too hard. We measured with a ruler but didn’t worry too much about cutting everything to the perfect size, although we did make sure the edges were clean.

I tried a couple of configurations for the grating. In the end, I decided against a continuous floor of grating. It just looked  more “realistic” to have a hurriedly built look rather than a factory-perfect floor.

 A long while ago, we managed to find ribbed plastic sheets at a gaming  convention flea market.  We’ve used some of it as walkway fencing/armor on sections of wall made from electrical boxes. 


Bunker and fortification walls / raised walkway. Made from ribbed plastic, electrical boxes, Hirst Arts castings and other odds and ends. The bunker is a door bell cover.

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You can see some corrugated plasteel ribs added to the front of the trenches, a move by Imperial guardsmen to toughen the sloped wall of their defenses. The ground cover needs a touch of paint, and a few more details may be added—but it looks good.

To simplify painting, we used  Rustoleum Black Primer, Gray Primer, Satin Oregano (Olive Green), Satin Khaki, and finally Satin Fossil. By our second gaming session, the trenches were largely complete. There was still some detail work to do, but we could see that the new trenches were going to be a good addition to the game table.

This is only the beginning: Some tank traps, bunkers, and tangle wire are in the planning stages. After that, we’re looking at adding some industrial pieces and additional buildings—all designed and built to create an extensive terrain collection that matches in style, color, and theme.

There are more terrain challenges to come.



The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog that documents our hobby adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.

Categories: Terrain

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