With the release of the Bolt Action: Western Desert campaign book by warlord games, many of our local gaming groups have been focused on North Africa, and I’ve been busy printing off Long Range Desert Group Trucks and Jeeps lately. Of course for a decent game, you need a good looking table, and if you are printing vehciles, then you are set up to print great looking terrain pieces as well.
Sites such as Thingiverse are full of files that are perfect for the Western Desert setting, from stucco style arab and north african mud brick buildings, to palm trees, desert oasis, and all the scatter terrain to go in between. Heres what you’ll need for a versatile desert table.
First you’ll need something to represent the dusty, sandy desert. Now this is something I don’t recommending attempting to print, though you could always consider a modular type system, in which case here are some options:
- Hex Terrain Tiles by grumpusbumpus
The easiest, but not the cheapest way to do this, is with a high quality printed gaming mat, which is what I’ve done personally, purchasing a “BB951 – Battlefield in a Box” gaming mat from Flames of War/Galeforce 9. I love it because at 48″ x 72″ it’s big enough for any game, be it Bolt Action, Flames of War, The 9th Age, 40k or Gorkamorka, and double sided gives twice as much options for battlefields. At close to $100 it isn’t cheap, but it’s a high quality piece that should last for a long time.
If you are on more of a budget, then a quick trip to the craft shop, like Hobby Lobby, Michaels or JOANN should get you colored felt for around $4 a yard. JOANN has antique white, which is perfect for a desert style table and at 72″ wide, should cover a table in a 2 yard length, costing less than $10!
Other desert themed mats include:
- Mats by Mars: Desert Tabletop Wargaming Play Mat ($17)
- Desert Sands Terrain Gaming Mat – Game Matz ($34.95)
- Game mat – Desert | DeepCut Studio (€25.90 to €64.90)
- War Game Mat – 72x48inch – Desert – Battle Mats – Wayland Games (£72.51)
- War Game Mat – 72x48inch – Desert – Micro Art Studio
Or print your own by downloading the files available at Wargame Print.
Hills, Sand Dunes and Wadis
While much of the desert was flat, there were plenty of sand dunes, rocky outcrops and wadis to break up the landscape. The easiest way to make these is how we’ve always made wargaming hills. Cheap pink foam from Home Depot or Lowes is perfect, and one $15 sheet will give you a lifetimes worth of hills. Simply cover with PVA glue and sand, base coat with some 50c tester pots (Home Depot will often sell “mistakes” this way and its a great way to pick up cheap brownish paint, and drybrush with some Apple Barrel craft paint from Walmart (at 50c a tube). You’ll have plenty of hills in one afternoon of cutting, gluing, painting and dry brushing. Of course foam might not be your thing, in which case, you can print your hills and dunes:
- Star Wars Legion Sand Mound Greebles by ricktress
- Modular gaming hills by Terrain4Print
- Modular gaming hills – linear pieces by Terrain4Print
As for rock formations, you could always construct these out of the pink foam offcuts, or bust out Cura and load up some .stls. Thingiverse has plenty of rocky outcrops suitable for a desert setting including:
- Rock formations by Terrain4Print
- Rock Formations (15mm/18mm/28mm scale) by dutchmogul
- Desert-themed Scatter Terrain for 28mm Gaming by rbross
Buildings and Hard Cover
Next up you’ll want to construct some “Arabic” style housing thats often found in desert environments. This can be scratchbuilt from foam card, with the addition of textured paint and 3D printed details, or you could do what I did and print out the whole houses from Kpi1986, listed below. Expect these to take 12-24 hours each to print at a high quality, but it’s worth it. Give them a quick coat of textured paint, and drybrush in varying tones from brown/yellow thought to white and you’ll have a great looking desert village. Thingiverse has these files in both 28mm for Bolt Action or 15mm for Flames of War:
- Small Desert House by Kpi1986
- Small Desert House 2 by Kpi1986
- Desert House 3 by Kpi1986
- Modular Arabic Style Village (Sample) by Terrain4Print
- Modular Arabic Style Village (Full Set) by Terrain4Print::
- 15mm Small Desert House by jonnybrokenbones
- 15mm scale Large Desert House by jonnybrokenbones
- Small arabian houses 1/100 scale by Bogomi67
A desert table wouldn’t be complete without some palm trees. Personally I found it easy to purchase some off ebay for a few dollars from China, but if you want to create your own palm trees, there are even files for these, along with MDF bases for those with access to a laser cutter.
- Palm Tree by Curufin:
- Wargame Forest Basing Micro Armor 6mm to 10mm Scale by YellowSignStudio
Last but not least, there’s the scatter terrain. Whether its walls to make your group of desert buildings into a compound, minefields and barbed wire for those special scenarios in the Western Desert book, or craters after a prepatory bombardment, there are files to print to help fill out your desert table.
- Set of walls in stone – 28mm by Zenlimp
- 6″ x 6″ Minefield Bolt Action by tyrela
- Barbed Wire / stacheldraht by Syzguru11
- Blast Crater Terrain by Rob_Jedi
- Craters for 28mm by jackcrow
And there you have it, pretty much everything you need to make a great Western Desert tabletop, using your 3D printer. Got some files that I missed out? Let us know in the comments.