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Monday, 10 November 2014

Making a Modular Multi-Level Gaming Table

On the Spartan Games Community there was some talk about the table that was used for the Planetfall game at Claymore earlier this year. This features areas where the terrain dips below the surface of the other tiles, and people were speculating exactly how this was done. I want to show you the basic principles of this as it's actually much easier than many might think!

So, the modular tiles used at Claymore are 2' x 2', based on a simple wooden frame about 7cm deep. These are topped with boards in the majority of cases, but some are sculpted in negative.

To make a table like this is surprisingly easy - first you need some wood, I used eight pieces of 1.8m x 70mm x 17mm (about 6' x 2.5" x 2/3"), which cost around £20. The first thing to do with this is measure 2' lengths - we'll need 12 of these in total for six 2' squares.

Make sure you mark the side to cut on here, as you want them to be as accurate as possible.

I used a jigsaw as I wanted the edges to be as clean as I could get them, but feel free to use whatever means you have.

Now for the other two sides of each square, we need to take the thickness of the wood into account or the squares won't end up as squares....

So I subtracted 1.5" from the 2' total width and measured out these lengths too;

Next step is to pre-drill the holes in the long sections.

Once this is all done, its time to start joining the sections together. Here you can either pre-drill the holes into the ends, or you can just go straight ahead and screw them in. Whichever you do, make sure the sections are at 90 degrees (or as close as you're able to get them).

Once all four sides are connected, it's time to put the board on top. I used hardboard, which is under £6 for a 2' by 4' sheet. With these dimensions, all that's needed is to cut it in half.

To attach to the frame, first put a bead of glue around the top of the frame.

Then pop the frame onto the hardboard. If you want to put the hardboard onto the frame, that's fine too - I tried it both ways and there's no difference with either way.

If you put the frame on the hardboard, you now have to invert the whole assembly. Then the board needs to be fixed whilst the glue dries. Make sure the hardboard is flush with the end and secure a single corner using a panel pin.

No you'll see how straight you made your frame! If it's perfect, the hardboard will align nicely with all the edges. if it doesn't, now is your chance to pull it into shape and secure at the far corner with another pin.

Once square, you can go ahead and add more panel pins to ensure the board is firmly attached - I used three per side plus the corner pins. Now you should have a nice, strong but relatively light baseboard almost 3" high.

You just have to repeat that five more times and you're done!....except I only based the next three of my frames, and left two open. This is because I want to use the open frames to build terrain below the frame level.

Here are four of the frames all laid out....

And again, with one of the "open" frames that will be built down...

This was easy to do, and doesn't take long at all - to create four closed and two open squares took me 2 hours from scratch (including all the measuring etc), and cost just over £30 - not bad for a modular 6' x 4' table. Next time I'll look at detailing and dressing the table, and building down into those open frames. I hope this has inspired some of you out there to try something similar, and I'll see you next time!