Introduction: Mini Island Gaming Terrain

Picture of Mini Island Gaming Terrain

For those that play the Pirates CCG by Wizkids Games you know how ugly the plain flat cardboard islands are. This will show you how to make some 3D ones out of some simple materials.
Also a good basis for making Warhammer and other gaming terrains

Step 1: Supplies

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I used things I had around the house for the most part.
Styrofoam insulation board (Only because it is very fine grained and is easy to work with)
Plain Clay Cat Litter (unscented or any "extra" additives)
Sawdust (everything has a use) or if you want to buy static grass for model railroads.
Toothpicks (round ones are better)
Thin cardboard or card stock
Foamcore Board
White Glue (like Elmers)
Paints: Black, Gray, White, Green, Blue, Yellow other colors are optional.
Paint Brushes

Step 2: Sub Assemblies

Picture of Sub Assemblies

The design of your islands are pretty much up to you but there are some basic parts you can use to make a wide variety of designs

I make this out of the foamcore board, cutting the edges down to a beach like profile.

Made from chunks of insulation board either cut to shape or chipped away with your fingernail or other tools.

Made from the toothpicks and sawdust layered on the top or small strips of paper for leaves.

Chunks of insulation board cut to shape then roofs made from card stock. Windows and doors painted on. Chimney may also be added using foam board or toothpics

Anything not covered in the above, like a shipwreck, treasure chest, mermaid.

Step 3: Base Construction

Picture of Base Construction

Using the Foamcore Board cut out an irregular shape for the island. Then taking your knife CAREFULLY cut at an angle around the edge to give it a sloping cross section for the beach area (leave straight if you plan on putting a rock right on the edge.)
Trim more if desired for smoother slopes and edges

Step 4: Adding Main Rock)s)

Picture of Adding Main Rock)s)

Take a chunk of your insulation board and break off a section that looks rocklike. Sculpt it more by pulling small pieces off with your fingernail or carving with the knife.
Glue to the foam board where it looks best.

Step 5: Adding Small Rocks

Picture of Adding Small Rocks

Now to add the small rocks (clay litter).These can be placed anywhere but I prefer to put them around the base of the large rock and sometimes running near the beach.
Add a generous amount of white glue to your target area, sprinkle liberally with rocks, gently press them into the glue and let dry.
Shake off excess.

Step 6: The Stuff That Gets Everywhere!

Picture of The Stuff That Gets Everywhere!

Sand for the beach. Do the same way you did the small rocks, apply glue, pour on sand, let dry and shake off the extra.

Step 7: Base Coat

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Now that the base is completely dry you need a base coat of paint. I find it's best to take a toothpick and press it in the bottom up into the biggest rock to make a holding handle.
Now coat the entire top side with black paint. Yes I said black.

Step 8: Drying Time Is Here (on to Other Things for a Bit)

Picture of Drying Time Is Here (on to Other Things for a Bit)

While the paint dries you might as well take time and make some of the extras you are to add to the island(s).

Start by taking a small piece of foam and making a box shape with a pointy top, not very big, up to 3/8" long I'd say.
Next use a strip of paper that fits over the pointy top of the box, trim so it has a small overhang on the box. Glue together, add a chimney from a small strip of foam or toothpick if you like.
Let dry then paint side/roof any color you want then paint on doors and windows. I prefer to make my houses white with an orange/red roof to give it a tropical feel.

There are 2 kinds I'll work on here, simple bushy leaf type and palm trees.
Leafed trees are just a section of toothpick whittled down for the trunk with a small ball of paper glues to the top then coated with clue and dipped in static grass (or your home made stuff). I sometimes add a dark wash over these so they look a different shade then the ground.
Palm trees are a little harder. Using a small piece of wire wrap some thread around it, going from one end to the other. This simulates the bark. Paint palm tree brown. Now paint some paper a green palm tree leaf color, after it dries cut little tapered strips from it. Give them a slight curl with your fingers. Superglue might be better for this since it dries faster. Add a few around the top pointing down, work your way up and around with more leaves. Give the trunk a wash of dark to bring out the texture.

Dark Wash: This is a thinned paint that will settle into the deep areas of a model.

Step 9: Dry Brushing

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This step is what takes the most practice.

You will need a stiff brush and several shades of the colors you want to use.
Starting with the ground, a nice dark brown. To dry brush you need to get some paint on your brush but not a lot. Stiff bristles work best since they don't bend over onto the work. Put some paint on the brush then wipe it across some scrap cardboard or similar. This will leave enough paint on the brush to just get the upper surfaces of the base. Now before it dries go over the base with light strokes, I like to go in circles. Keep doing this till you have most of the black covered, just showing in the deepest areas. Repeat with a dark gray on the rocks.

Now onto the lighter color, do the same as before but with a lighter touch so you can still see the black and the first color.

Last coat is white, this is a very light touch just hitting the highest points on the rocks and ground.

Step 10: Greenery

Picture of Greenery

Grass is the next step, applied just like the rocks and sand by putting glue down and sprinkling the grass over it. You can do small patches up the rocks too, making them not so dead looking. If you want you can add some painted (brown) string up the rocks to simulate vines, adding green for leaves at intervals.
All I did this time was the bottom grassy.

Step 11: El Finito!

Picture of El Finito!

All that is left is adding your trees and buildings. Just glue them where they look good and you should have some nice looking islands for your Pirate (or other) Games!

Don't forget to sign and date them on the bottom.


JenniferH214 (author)2016-05-27

made it

nnygamer (author)JenniferH2142016-06-17

Do you have any pictures of your creation to share?

JenniferH214 (author)2016-05-27

fun to make

Jetpack5 (author)2012-06-08

Very well done! I'll have to give this a try!

ilpug (author)2011-06-24

this is very well done, but a finishing touch could be to make waves from clear water resin. 10/10.

Wolfinlied (author)2010-06-12

ahhh i love you and i love this game. I have almost the set of i think 6 different box sets thats how much i love it. (including the all rare skeletal jack sparrow and ghosted black pearl) i will totally be trying this!! brilliant idea!

nnygamer (author)Wolfinlied2010-06-18

Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I haven't played the game in some time. I started getting them when it first came out and bought quite a few then but I couldn't afford any of the newer sets as they came out too fast. I wish I had at least gotten the Santa one, I thought it was cool. I hope the instructable is clear enough and you use your imagination and make some great islands (and post them here!)

Wolfinlied (author)nnygamer2010-06-28

dude, i have a couple of the santa one if your interested in buying one. Just message me let me know i might be able to sort something thru ebay or whatever. Either way let me know!

Wolfinlied (author)Wolfinlied2010-06-28

sorry to double post, just some info on the card: White Beard Holiday Promotional Ships. Includes Captain Whitebeard and the Sleigh ship which has the Joysides Attack. This ship cannot be shot at, and she cannot sink. She begins the game fully loaded with treasure from her controller's collection. Her base move becomes 6L when she has no available cargo capacity. Its a very very VERY hard card to come across.

nnygamer (author)Wolfinlied2010-07-04

Thanks for the offer but I haven't played in years and right now the furture is quite uncertain. I'll let you know in a few months, off to the hospital in a few weeks.

elkalpin (author)2010-02-02

Great intractable!! I'm working on one right now!

skiedra (author)2009-12-18

OmG, this is so awesome. I really like the idea of "make stuff from what you've got".  And this method opens infinite possibilities.

wenpherd (author)2009-11-03

you take very nice macro pictures, oh and of coarse nice tut good job.

nnygamer (author)wenpherd2009-11-03

Thanks on both compliments, only problem is the camera I used died last year and I haven't gotten a replacement. It was a Fujifilm Finepix 2800Z that I got free because it was damaged, I fixed it but something electronic went up on it about a year later.

carthorse (author)2008-02-20

This was made by my son using similar methods. Rocks are chipped bark, as used to suppress weeds outside supermarkets etc.

teorible (author)carthorse2008-12-29

That bark looks awesome. Thanks for sharing. I'd have never thought of that on my own.

nnygamer (author)carthorse2008-02-21

That looks great, the bark gives some really nice natural shapes and saves a lot of effort.

teorible (author)2008-12-29

Great stuff. That palm tree is perhaps the coolest tree I've seen recently. Very impressive. You may want to use the macro setting (usually the little flower icon activates it) on the smaller blurry pics, but otherwise... for old hats like me this was great. I'm doing larger scale, but lots of great ideas that will bridge easily.

firefletcher (author)2008-02-20

probably the best instructable i have ever seen! suck a good idea !!! I am going to make one all in one where everything is connected on one board but i really need to know how to make the ships. any ideas?? really easy plus rating favourited. please show me som ephotos if u make a ship. maybe a possible instructable? thanks.

T-K (author)firefletcher2008-10-31

You mean 'sucH a good idea', yeah?

nnygamer (author)firefletcher2008-02-21

Thanks! The ships are not something I made, they are a game put out by Wizkids and I found mine online (ebay) and at Walmart, the hobby shops used to carry them around here but they seem to be pushing Magic and Warhammer. I probably could do a ship like the Wizkids Pirates one but it would be more of a computer drawn and printed. To make one from scratch I'd carve a foam hull, toothpick masts and cardstock sails. Painting is what would really give it a wooden look, using some of the ways I did for the islands.

Dragon Maze (author)nnygamer2008-09-27

You can also find great paper models online for the ships, just look under "Papercraft". My store here in NH still does a lot with Pirates, seems odd that yours is dropping the ball; it's a great impulse buy item, as the boosters are dirt cheap! If you are ever in NH, come trade ships with us! :)

skaldedgrifon (author)2008-08-16

This is a neat howto. I like the technique, low-cost, and creativity angle. Thanks for sharing.

inquisitive (author)2008-02-16

Very impressive. I have made miniature scenery for Dept 56 and Nativity scenes and know much of a difference a bit of glue, odd bits, and creativity and make to a presentation. You inspire me.

nnygamer (author)inquisitive2008-02-18

Thanks. I make all kinds of miniatures, a lot of them out of whatever I have handy. I did 4 mini Matrix style ships out of what most people would call garbage. Very rarely do I go out and buy materials, most is just leftover stuff I never throw away. (I'm a pack rat.)

inquisitive (author)nnygamer2008-02-18

Pack Rats Unite! I come from a long line of pack rats, my friends laugh when I pick up odd containers and bits of things to see what else it could become. I made campfires, trees, and display pedestals out of moss, rock, twigs, and broken marbles for store displays and people kept picking up the display pieces to purchase. I hope your ible gets even more people excited to maybe create from the mundane into something magnificent.

nnygamer (author)inquisitive2008-02-20

Problem with being a pack rat is finding a place to store it all and remembering where you put what. Right now my desk where I usually work is clutter with too much stuff so I've been using a lapboard while sitting on the couch.

inquisitive (author)nnygamer2008-02-20

I hear that...I just had to pull out the chopping board to put something down. The mantra my friend gives me about being a pack rat is "I just don't want you to die in a box of feathers!" she knew someone who was a hoarder and fell in a box of feathers and suffocated. So let's all purge a little for self survival or create then sell/give/donate while we can! LOL By the way, I think this game board would be phenomenal constructed on a large shadowbox to give depth to the water and ships. Could be hung when not in use?

nnygamer (author)inquisitive2008-02-21

Box of feathers LOL I'd keep them in zip locks if I had a lot of them. I tried getting rid of stuff but that one time I threw something out I found a use for it the next week. Most of my stuff is stored in postal shipping boxes. Nice uniform size and easy to stack. The game board is a good idea, nice rounded corner one would probably be best. To make the islands stick I'd use some blue tack (or sticky tack) stuff.

Doctor What (author)2008-02-16

I don't play the Pirates CCG, in fact, I've never even heard of that game. But I love your creativity, and your amazing design from simple supplies. This would be great for all of the school projects that I have to do. It'll give great detail to projects that people usually just use playdoh on. Hell, I might even just do this for the fun of it. This is one of the most creative craft projects I have seen, not to mention the amazing results. Kudos to you. (favorites) (+)

nnygamer (author)Doctor What2008-02-18

The game came out in May of 2003 I think, with new sets coming out every 3-4 months. Although I haven't gotten any new ones or even played in a while it's a fun game. It would be a good basis for school projects, even teaching a bit of recycling stuff that some would throw away. Thanks for the favorite, sometimes the simplest things have the best result.

Doctor What (author)nnygamer2008-02-18

Thank you for the great instructable. I can't wait for your future projects.

nnygamer (author)Doctor What2008-02-19

I'm not sure I can top this one very soon.

Doctor What (author)nnygamer2008-02-20

I'm sure you can.

Have confidence!

nnygamer (author)Doctor What2008-02-20

Actually I was thinking of doing a modular dungeon. Halls, rooms and stuff for gaming. Made to be broken down and easily stored. Id' be using a lot of the same skills here but some new ones for doing textures.

Doctor What (author)nnygamer2008-02-20

Sounds great!

robac (author)2008-02-18

i'm a big fan of Pirates! and i've been looking for tutorial like this for ages! thanks man, i'm going to make my own islands soon

nnygamer (author)robac2008-02-18

I had done a similar tutorial on my yahoo group a long time ago. It doesn't get much activity but it was a good start. There are a few others islands there that will help inspire you too

robac (author)nnygamer2008-02-18

thanks :) any idea on how to make fog, reef or sargasso sea?

nnygamer (author)robac2008-02-18

I'd use the game ones as a base, maybe strip off the printed area so glue will take hold or a thick piece of cardboard like a notebook back. I'd paint them a blue and swirl in a little white while it was wet. For the fog I'd glue some puffs of cotton or polyfil. Reefs I'd glue down some lines kitty litter and paint. The Sargasso Sea I'd do similar but just glue down green sawdust.

nnygamer (author)nnygamer2008-02-18

Something like this that I just whipped up:

robac (author)nnygamer2008-02-18

it looks great ;o btw - is GW's black spray good for a base coat?

nnygamer (author)robac2008-02-19

I don't use spray paint often and when I do I go for whatever is cheapest. GW usually has good stuff but the price scares me. All the stuff I've done lately is just brushed on, it's easier to get into the little nooks and crannies then trying to spray at all angles.

(for those who don't know GW is Games Workshop )

dvdkdb (author)2008-02-18

That's pretty cool! I might try this, just for the heck of it.

nnygamer (author)dvdkdb2008-02-19

Thanks, give it a try and see what other uses you can find for the techniques I've used.

dvdkdb (author)2008-02-19

How do you get get green sawdust?

nnygamer (author)dvdkdb2008-02-19

I knew I forgot something, it's just sawdust mixed with green paint. I took a small bowl of sawdust and poured some watered down paint into it ( about 1 part water to 2 parts paint) and then mixed by hand until it was pretty uniform in color. I didn't get much paint on me either from that. I let it dry then put it in an old spice container for later use.

Wasagi (author)2008-02-18

That's amazing! I need to get some more paint, Great instuctable '+1 rating'

nnygamer (author)Wasagi2008-02-18

Good thing about this is it doesn't use a lot of paint, just the black. I've had some old paint given to me, just have to work around the chunks in it! Usually by the time you get one section dry brushed the last one is dry. Thanks for the rating!

chuckr44 (author)2008-02-18

Wow. My son would want me to play this a lot last year. I didn't know anyone else who liked the game.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an artist who using just about anything in my art projects, a type of recycling. I haven't posted in a while because ... More »
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