Saturday, 23 September 2017

Building a Zone Mortalis Board from scratch

Dad Rich and I have played a few games of Zone Mortalis (See Imperial Fists v Flesh Tearers here) over the last 12 months. It is a fun way to play, quick and provides a very different experience from standard 40k.

With regards to a board to play on, he has been sneaky enough to purchase a Zone Mortalis set without his better half knowing and has airbrushed it up to a playable standard fairly quickly!
Rich's Zone Mortalis board
Unfortunately not all of us are lucky enough to be able to afford to get a Forge World board and also, although it looks cool I quite fancied a Zone Mortalis board that would be more unique and varied rather than grey spaceship walls. In fact a dungeon style set of ruins took my fancy so I did a bit of research online and received my inspiration from Machu Picchu with a grey, grassy style. With this in mind I set to work designing and building my own board from scratch...

Step 1 - Planning
Firstly I got Microsoft Excel and the Forge World Page open and worked out what the layout of the 16 tiles I would need would be (Yes that's a 4 x 4 board of 1ft x 1ft tiles!). I created a grid in excel and mapped the tiles out.

Step 2 - Shopping
Next I popped down to B & Q to get some materials.
I purchased 2 blocks of insulation board that were about £3.50 each and a large rectangle of thin MDF that was about £5.
After B & Q I popped into my local craft store and picked up a huge bottle of PVA glue, a bottle of black poster paint, some Spring Grass Javis Flock, some Javis grey gravel chippings and some sand.

Step 3 - Building the bases
Using my excel sheet I cut the wood into 12" squares (I really should have got this done on the big machine at the shop but never thought about it!). Then I sanded the edges down to smooth them out and round them off.

Step 4 - Making the walls
I now got my saw and measured the length and width of the walls on the board. This is quite easy to do as the Zone Mortalis boards are all built on tiles of 2" squares. After working out how many of each length I needed it was time to get sawing.

 I then finished the tops of the walls off by lightly sanding the top edges of the walls.

 Step 5 - Putting the walls on the bases
Next I drew on the bases in pencil the positions that walls needed to be and dry-fitted to check. I then scored the bases under the walls with a stanley knife (to give the glue something to stick to) and glued the foam to the base with PVA.

 Step 6 - Making it look like a ruin
As I was joining foam together I realised that I hadn't taken into account that there would be gaps between the joined walls. After thinking about it I found some polyfilla in my garage and filled the joins between the walls and at the bottom where the foam reached the base.
I then weathered the walls by picking off bits off foam on the sides and corners at random and stuck these bits to the base with PVA to simulate the walls beginning to fall down. I also added some Javis grey stones for some smaller stone accumulation.

Step 7 - Basecoat
At last time to start painting. I mixed some black poster paint with a little water and slapped on 2 coats making sure to cover every bit of the board.

Step 8 - Painting the walls
I then heavily drybrushed the walls and fallen stone with Mechanicus Standard Grey then Dawnstone and finally I drybrushed the very raised areas and edges of stone with a light coat of White Scar.

Step 9 - Finishing and Flocking
Lastly I covered the whole base with PVA and some parts of the wall where there may be a depression and flocked with Javis Spring Green and fine sand. I made sure to create paths with the sand between the walls and also made sure that all of the edges of the base were flocked with sand and not grass so that when all of the tiles are put together thay all match up regardless of what order or orientation they are.

 Step 10 - Learning process
As you can see on the pic below I flocked grass onto the edge of one of my tiles which then didn't match up. Also I used a thicker spread of sand on one tile and have since put more on the left tile to match them up.

As you can see my Zone Mortalis board is slowly taking shape below.

Overall the whole thing has cost very little - approx £30 - the most expensive materials are the flock!!
You literally could design any kind of board here too with a little imagination and its nice to see something a little different from the standard forgeworld board.

If anyone has seen any different Zone Mortalis boards then please let me know, I am always looking for ideas and of course if you have any suggestions then please comment - I am always learning!

All the best for now

James – A blog about Warhammer 40k and the Horus Heresy by four Dads


  1. Wargame model mods maze of the dead is rather cool

  2. I've just checked them out and you are absolutely right, they look very cool. Still a lot of money though.

  3. great idea to make a ruins based version. Using the foam is an very inexpensive way to build up all that terrain and should be fun to play on.
    I built up some tiles on 1x1 boards and the trick with the flock is to never bring it to the edge. create random areas within the square but keep the edges bare. it is much less noticeable that way

  4. Great stuff and a nice tutorial. Looking forward to seeing the finished board.

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