Legion Terrain Crashed Fighters

Legion Terrain on Etsy makes some amazing scenery specifically for Star Wars Legion. It’s sized well, designed well and as a bonus for lazy people like me, can be ordered pre-painted. The selection now includes some really killer looking set pieces, and more keep getting added.

What caught my eye initially was a series of crashed fighters spotlighted on the Etsy page. After finishing my first crashed x-wing terrain project, I wanted to try something tighter and with more useable cover options. I ordered all three options, painted. They arrived in about a week, packed well and looking really good right out of the box.I honestly could have used them with no more work and would have been super happy, but I wanted to try to push myself to try something new with these pieces.

I started by taking a 1.5’ x 3’ sheet of 1/8” plywood as my base. All the tutorials I had read suggesting using MDF boards for bases, but I had found a few sheets of this plywood cheap at the Orchard Hardware near my work and liked how light and firm it was. In the end it worked out really well without adding a lot of weight to the final product.

I laid all three out on the plywood sheet in a rough semblance on what I wanted them to look like when mounted, then drew a rough oval around each ship, allowing enough space around for the minis to stand and move through. I spent a fair amount of time on this layout before marking the boards up as I wanted to know that the final product could serve as more than just an impediment to forward movement. I wanted the troops to be about to move through the broken parts of the ship, as well as use it for cover from multiple sides.

A cut and sanded base, with the pencil markings for where the ship would be placed.

A cut and sanded base, with the pencil markings for where the ship would be placed.

Once I had marked where the ships should glue down and the outline of base, I cut each out with a jigsaw. I then followed up with a sanding bit on a dremel to round the edges of each board down. This helped the base look more naturally sloped up, rather than having just a hard edge all around.

The next step was priming the wood. I primed one coat in black automotive primer, which goes on heavy and thick. When I primed wood in the past using the Citadel or Army Painter primer, the wood soaked up the paint and needing three or four coats to look even. With a coat of automative paint its well covered in one go. I let that dry for a few hours, then primed a second coat of Army Painter leather brown primer on top of that. This did take two coats, with an hour or so of drying between. In the end it was an uneven dark brown, with mottled darker patched here and there.

And before you ask, yes this did obscure the pencil markings for where I wanted to place the ships. Lesson learned.

I opted next to glue the models down on their respective bases. I smeared an ample amount of PVA glue on all parts of the model which would touch the base, set the individual parts on the base, and held them in place for a minute or so to let it begin to set. PVA dries really slow and will slide with gravity, so I had to be careful to leave each base on a flat service undisturbed for about 24 hours while it dried completely. One of the ships was on towel which was bunched on one side just slightly, and when I checked back 30 minutes later the ship had slipped about half an inch off its mark. Oops.

Once all the ships had dried onto the base, I added a few assorted rocks to each base. I used Woodland Scenics river rocks because they were mostly flat. This would give the base some variant terrain without blocking movement. A mini could stand on one these rocks with no problem. It offered the option to impose some optional difficult terrain on the base, and most importantly would help the base blend with the battlemat I planed to use it on. These rocks were glued down with the same PVA glue as the ships and allowed to dry almost the same amount of time.

NextI took the PVA glue and an old drybrush (one I had already ruined) to brush a thin layer of glue across the surface of the board, careful to get glue close to but not on the ships. I then drizzled a very small amount of playground sand on top, turning it over as soon as I was done dropping the sand to in turn knock sand off. This had the effect of losing about 70% of the sand I had dropped, keeping just the stuff which was in the thickest glue, or which was in the most direct contact with the base. I had learned on a previous project that if you dumped the sand and let it dry, ALL the sand would stick and it would look way too thick on the model for anything but a desert base. The sand needed another 24 hours before I felt it was dry enough to continue work.

I now had a ship on a brown-black base with a thin layer of light tan sand grit. The sand good OK, but my board was going to be more of a dusty battlefield, not a dry desert. So I opted to do one more texture layer before I started painting the base. I used Stirland Battlemire to give all the bases a more rough dirt look. This not only made the texture for natural and uneven, but also ensured the sand I had glued down was colored to match the rest of the base. I let the mud texture dry a day before doing anything else. I was worried it would come right off when I painted over it, but most of it held really well without the need for any overcoat.

All three ships on their base, with rocks, sand and mud texture.

All three ships on their base, with rocks, sand and mud texture.

A closer look at the X-Wing on its base, with the sand and Stirland Battlemire mud texture present.

A closer look at the X-Wing on its base, with the sand and Stirland Battlemire mud texture present.

The next steps were to get the final colors on the base. Re-examing all the ships, I opted at this point split the look. For one of the crashed tie fighters I decided to do a thick, wet mud look, This would match the crashed X-wing I had created previously, and I could use both on a swamp table I had plans for. The remaining tie fighter and x-wing would be prepped to match the battlefield mat I already owned.

I painted the muddy tie fighter first since it would be fast, and I already basically knew what to do. I started by painting yet another texture layer on the base. This time I used Vallejo Black Mud, which goes on thick and dark, and looks slightly wet even when it dries. This still kills your brushes, but looks amazing.

While I let that layer dry, I re-painted the rocks. They were a dusty khaki-tan out of the box, so I re-painted them in Army Painter uniform gray, then drybrushed increasingly lighter shades of gray (created by mixing in small but increasing amounts of white) on top of that to bring out the ridges and contours of the rocks. I finished with a very light brushed on pass of Commando Green to make the rock look slightly moss tinged.

That done I did a few more spots of the black mud to thicken it up in placed, then let all that dry.

Next was the flocking and turf. I used Woodland Scenics scenery cement in a spray bottle to splritz uneven patches of glue on each base, then sprinkled some green fine turf over the glue. Like with the sand, I shook and blew off ALL excess immediately. Some of the glue had hit the ship models - i was careful wipe off most of what had landed on the models, but I did leave the turf which was attached low on the ships where they met the base. This I thought looked pretty natural. I let that dry for a few minutes then did a second pass of the same thing with coarse turf. This pass I used less glue and sprayed it more sparingly. The coarse turf looks thicker and I did not want this to overwhelm the base. I let both of these dry about an hour, then did a second pass over everything with the scenic cement spray. This glue dries hard and clear, so the grass is set firmly on the board while looking its usual color.

Once the grass was all dry, I started pouring and painting on liberal amounts of Vallejo Still Water. This stuff is amazing. It dries on hard and smooth, but looks wet. Pools of it will dry to look like pools of water, and painted onto an object the object will appear wet. I painted this onto all of the rocks and on all of the base where there was no grass. I then poured it out into the spaces between the winds and the rocks to make it look like muddy water had set into a puddle.

Final of the Tie crashed in the mud.

Final of the Tie crashed in the mud.

With this last coat also dry, I was happy with how the Tie Fighter crashed in the mud looked, and went back to my other ships. The remaining tie and the x-wing were meant to go on a battlefield mat which had a more rocky arid look. The first thing I did was a light layer of additional texture using the Vallejo European Mud. This was a lighter brown than the black mud I used on the previous tie, and looked less wet when dry.

Like with the mud tie, I drybrushed the rocks while the mud texture dried a bit. I used the same paints with the exception that I did not add the light green as a final layer. Once the that was done, I did some drubrushing of a few light tan and pale green colors on top of the textured base to lighten it up and vary the coloring. I chose the colors based on how they looked compared to the colors on my game mat.

The step at this point was the flocking. I used spray on scenic cement and a fine burnt grass turf in a shaker to layer the grass on with a semi-random pattern, like patchy grass with dirt or rock showing through underneath. Like with the muddy tie, I poured then immediately blew off all excess.

That was it for these two. I might take a second look later with more experienced eyes, but the models look good on the game mat, and provide a look I am pretty happy with.

X-wing final.

X-wing final.

Alternate Tie Fighter final.

Alternate Tie Fighter final.

Fisher-Price® My First Terrain Project

I’m going to start with a quick write up of my first two terrain projects. I worked on both in parallel and was doing both before I had any idea I should be taking pictures or documenting the process. All to say that my memory of the work is imperfect so this will be an incomplete picture,

X-Wing Crashed in the Mud

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When I first got the itch to build Legion terrain, I started doing research on stuff I liked, and very quickly found my eyes outpacing my watch - meaning getting big ideas and moving on them without properly allocating time and planning on any one given project. I ended up with a lot of parts and no roadmap. One such part was a Poe Dameron X-wing toy I found which was of good scale and size for Legion, and honestly just looked really cool.

I had this vision of a crashed x-wing on the table, its nose buried in the ground and broken parts scattered around. I opted to start on this project as soon as the model arrived, and without any real sketching or planning. Herein lies my first a biggest mistake. Good terrain is thought out and planned. You dont start cutting a glueing based on a vague idea of an end product. As such, it took three iterations to get this piece usable, and even after all that it is unlikely it will come out too often.

The first step was distressing the ship. This should have been done after I knew better how it would sit, but kitbashing sounded like too much fun to wait. I cut off one wing, burned and bent anything that stuck out too far, then melted and sanded down the paint all over the model so it looked battle and crash scarred. Despite the poor planning I was really happy with how this processed ended up. The toy came with a little pilot. I wanted to keep him as a dead pilot in the ship, so I cut his back with an x-acto knife and melted his legs so I could position him slumped over in the cockpit.

Next I picked up some 2” styrofoam to rest the ship in. Here is where I started to go wrong with the build. 2” was WAY too tall for what I wanted, and required I cut a massive amount off the top. Moreover, I did not yet know the difference between styrofoam and extruded/insulation foam, and the styrofoam I picked up was not idea for using in terrain. The little beads broke off in unappealing patterns, and left the surface looking pocked in an unnatural way.

I wanted the ship to sit in the foam, like it had crashed and stuck into the ground. Again, without much planning, I started cutting and melting the foam block so that it had a ship-shaped depression. This was largely done by laying a hot soldering iron down on the foam so that it melted down. This smelled terrible, ruined the (admittedly cheap) soldering iron and probably gave me cancer, but it did leave a fairly good impression that the ship could rest in. The long streaks left by the iron also looked like the ground being rent as the ship skidded to a stop, so that came out better than it could have. I finished this step by using a foam cutting wire to slice the block around the ship impression into a rounded hill.

I primed the foam block with Army Painter leather brown primer. Just as I was warned would happen, the the primer melted the foam a little when sprayed on. THis meant there was always some amount of white showing through. I had read suggestions of primers which could be used on foam without melting it, but I have yet to find any of these primers for sale anywhere. Two heavy coats and one light spray got enough of it to pass muster.

I thought at this point I was pretty well done, so I got a hot glue gun, and glued the ship into the foam base. The hot glue made a huge mess and was hard to control, which left big globs of glue on the ship, the base, and piled out of the impression the ship sat in. It did dry firm - too firm as it turned out. The ship’s wings pulled the sides of the foam base up slightly, meaning the piece would not sit flat on the table.

So the next step was to cut a base out of MDF board and glue the ship and foam onto that. This required a log of messy weighting to get the bent foam to sit on the board flat while the glue dried for ~24 hours. I piled bricks all over it like a real artist.

Once that dried it would once again sit flat. Now I needed to make it look like mud, not a brown styrofoam and wood. The first trick I tried was texture. Sand glued onto the base was a popular option I had seen online, so I walked down to the local playground and picked up a cup of sand. Next mistake: I sprayed glue all over the base and the foam, and got some on the model as well. I poured the sand across all of, then left it to dry without knocking any of the sand off. I assume that some of the sand would dry and some would not, and a fair amount would fall off when it was dry. I was wrong. Almost all of the sand dried onto the piece, making it look buried in sand.

Next came painting. At this point the piece was coming into its final form, but still looked terrible. I started with a dark brown paint over all of the base, foam and sand to get it uniform. I then painted a little bit of Stirland Mud over the largest flat areas. to give it some texture. I let that dry, then went back over almost all of the base with Vallejo Thick Black Mud. This make a huge difference in the look. Before the overabundance of sand made the model look too gritty for what I wanted, but once the mud pain was mixed in it looked more natural, like a muddy hill. I went back after it had dried a little and pushed big globs of the mud texture down into the foam recession, where it did not line up with the ship model. This made it look much more grounded (even if it did waste a lot of the paint texture). I was sloppy with this process on purpose so that splatters of the mud would get onto the ship.

This mud paint took about a day to dry well enough. Once it was dry, I did a thin coat of still water over all the base and foam to make it look wet. That dried for another day, then I added my flocking. I painted PVA glue on the wood base very thick, and pressed a fair amount of coarse burnt grass into that area. I then sprayed a lighter coat of glue on the foam and sprinkled more of the burnt grass texture onto there. In hindsight I should have used a richer, more verdant color for the flocking, but this worked pretty well.

Once the glue had dried I shook / brushed off any which was loose, then did my last coat of still water. This round mostly consisted of pouring, not brushing. I poured thick pools of it into the rivets where the ship had ripped up the earth, like water had settled into these divots. I did some extra as well on the foam in ridges where water could have settled.

With this done, I was pretty happy with it. My concerns with the piece are largely with how useful it will be, not with how it was created. Units can’t really stand on it firmly, so it will mostly be a blocking piece rather than something the units can use or interact with.

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High Ground

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My next piece was basic terrain with no model or 3D printed items on it. All of the games I had played up until that point had been pretty flat - buildings or scatter terrain but nothing taller than height 1. I liked the idea of variable height terrain to switch the game up. I wanted introduce items which needed climb/clamber to get on top of, but which would then provide a height benefit to the units.

I watched a number of tutorials online and found a few which seemed to show terrain I liked the idea of. I built an idea in my head of what I wanted - a two tiered hill units could use to get varied height as needed for line of sight, which would also provide some extra cover options. I had planned to put some sort of emplacement at the highest point that units who took the hill could use as heavy cover for an added benefit, forcing the opponent to flank around behind the hill to take them out efficiently.

What I ended up with was a piece I call “Stupid Hill”. My plans never got sketched out, and I just build things as I went along without thinking about the final product, so I ended up with something mostly useless.

My first mistake was material. I did not yet know the different between styrofoam and extruded insulation foam. I’ll do a better write up of the difference later, but for now I’ll say this was the wrong choice. It cut cleanly, but as soon as I started trying to give it texture by cutting into it, it feel apart. It also absorbed the paint in weird ways, which meant I could never quite get all the original white painted over.

I drew out roughly want I wanted (again, without thinking it all the way through) and cut out three pieces - a larger bottom and two smaller tops. I then re-cut all around the bottom part to make it more angled, like a hill sloping up. This means the top two parts to the hill also needed to be cut with the same angle so it would like up with the lower block. The back and forth cutting to get the top and bottom to line up correctly ate a lot of foam off the blocks. When it was done I had a nice match on the slope, but the tops of the hill were way too small anymore for a full trooper unit to stand on, much less a full unit and a barricade emplacement.

I glued the top two blocks to the lower block with PVA glue (twice, as the first pass I used household elmer’s school glue, and it never stuck firmly). Once they were glues firmly together I attempted to go all round the hill with a knife and scrape away chunks to give it a more rocky, uneven surface. As I mentioned above, the little foam pebbled just tore out in uneven chunks, so I abandoned this process quickly.

The base it sat on was 1/8” plywood, cut with a jigsaw and sanded down all around the edges with a Dremel sanding bit. I glued the hill to the base (with the correct glue this time) and let that dry for about 24 hours.

The next pass was a base primer. As I mentioned above, I could not find any primer recommended for foam, so I just used flat black Army Painter primer. As before, it melted the styrofoam. Worse this time in fact, due to the primer getting into the areas I had tried to roughen up. It would go on thick, then melt the foam as it dried. After 4 coats the wood base was too thick and the hill still had white spots showing all over. I opted to give up on that and just try to fill in the worst of the white spots while doing the drybrushing.

The tutorial I found online recommended a black primer undercoat, then drybrushing on lighter grays over time to make it look like rock. It looked really good in the pictures on that site, but never quite worked for me here. First off, it really needed a heavier first coat of gray. That tutorial made it sound like all the coats were just lightly applied. Without a good gray base, the black undercoat never went away. In the end, I had what looked like a volcanic hill covered in ash. No way was this going to match my table.

So I scrapped it and went back to the primer. This time I sprayed the whole thing Army Painter Leather Brown. I did the same drybrushing as before with lighter tans and browns. This time, because the undercoat was already a color in line with what I wanted my final to look like, it came out closer to what I had in mind color wise. Texture wise it was still a mess - the drybrushing only added highlights to the weird styrofoam holes to accentuate the mistake.

The next step was to add some texture to the hill. I first glued Woodland Scenics river rocks down on the part of the base which extended past the hill, to provide difficult terrain for units approaching this way. These went on well, but never looked like what I though it should look like. The more realistic looking plaster rocks only served to make the crappy styrofoam rock look faker.

Next I wanted to add sand to the hill tops and between the rocks on the base. Rather than use playground sand, I took a handful of gritty sand from my neighbors front lawn. It was full of little rocks and debris, which made the hill look rougher. I spread a heavy coat of PVA on the flat parts of the hill and between the rocks on the base, and spread this stuff on there liberally. I looked cool, but when I went back to paint this it knocked a lot of it off.

With the texture all glued in place and painted to match the rest of the base and hill, I did the flocking. I sprayed Scenic Cement onto the flat tops of the hill and in between the rocks on the base (basically the same places I had put the sand) and pressed a good amount of the coarse burnt grass flock into the glue. Once this was dry it was done.

The coloring and texture were not terrible. Had I build this from the correct foam it would possibly have looked really cool. The biggest issue here is use. The tops of the hills were just too small in the final product to field full units, and it was not tall enough to merit climbing or clambering up. Like the x-wing, it seems all this would server as would be a blocker to LOS or movement rather than something the units would really use.

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stupid_hill_closeup
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