I recently got into the game “Axis & Allies Miniatures.” I love it, but found the stock maps leave a lot to be desired. So after a lot of research I started making my own larger 3D maps for game. Here’s how I did it:
1) Buy an 1/2″x8’x4′ sheet of extruded polystyrene foam at Lowe’s. This is important. Other types of Styrofoam will crumble. Here’s what one looks like:
2) The tools you’ll need: 1 metal straightedge (18″ is better than 12″), 1 box cutter or similar knife, and 1 soldering iron:
3) Pick up a can of Dark Green Satin spray paint to spray the foam board (so you have a more realistic green undercoat beneath your terrain instead of sky blue foam):
4) Make a hexagon template whatever size suits you at this website. I preferred having a larger map. Mine looked like this (I’d recommend cutting out a template that’s more than a single hex because it becomes easier to keep your lines true if you have more points of reference):
Edit: Using the above website I formatted my hexagon template as follows: PDF Document Size > Other > 17 by 11 inches; Minimum border 0.5 inches; Line weight 0.7 inches; Hexagon size 2.5 inches; check the “Add a dot” box; make the “Hexagon Color” black (then print this on cardstock).
5) I cut the 8’x4′ foam sheet into 4 proportional sections (as long as they lined up with the actual game maps and the hexagon template I created).
6) Here is one piece ready to go:
7) Here is how I applied the hex pattern with a regular ink pen:
Note: using a single hex as a pattern took WAY TOO LONG and if I was off by even a degree, my whole map was skewed. Make a template like this one. It will save you time, frustration, and effort.
8) The foam board with a complete hex pattern (including center dots):
9) Use a hot soldering iron and a metal straight edge ruler to carve along the inked hexagon lines. I cut mine around 1/8″ deep. The foam board is only 1/2″ thick, so don’t go too deep or your board will break. And be careful. Soldering irons get hot and can severely burn you. That covers liability right?
10) The foam board with a complete hex pattern after melting with a soldering iron:
11) I had leftover material from 8’x4′ board so I used the extras and my hex template to cut out hills with a box cutter knife. I used the soldering iron along the hex lines (if there were more than one hill attached to each other). Also, if you have water (such as rivers and ponds) on the map you are making, use the soldering iron to create these features. Just melt at a wavy angle.
Here you’ll see a hill (superglued to the base board) and a river melted into the board with a soldering iron:
12) Next I used Scenic Cement and fine grass turf to flock the whole board. I scattered some bushes as well for effect. The snaking green line is the layout for a road. I used a toilet paper tube folded in half twice while the glue was still wet and scraped out a road (Later on, I put down some Hob-e-Tac and fine sand from my kids’ sand box as the road):
13) Next I added trees by super gluing the bases down (they come in a pack of 36 at Hobby Lobby) and marsh hexes (the marsh weeds are a single piece of a corn husk broom, cut and splayed and stuck into the foam). The base marshy areas are painted with brown acrylic paint for a muddy effect:
14) Then I finished the river and marsh with a dark blue acrylic paint. The way I applied the sand was with a table spoon. I used the curved part of the spoon to smooth out the road. Then pick up the whole board and “dump” it to get any excess and or flocking to fall off:
15) For the city hexes (not pictures in this guide) this is the BEST website I found for making paper buildings that actually look really good for this kind of map (scroll down to “Paper Buildings” and print according to your scale).
If you buy things individually from Hobby Lobby and use their 40% coupon you can assemble 4 maps for game play for less than $50. It took me about a month to make 4 at a leisurely pace.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!