Portable Tabletop Walls


In the eternal struggle between quality of set-pieces on the gaming board, and the amount of shit I’m willing to drag to the gaming shop (or virginal basement dwelling), it has often been my instinct to err on the side of portability. In prior posts I’ve talked about constructing compact buildings for ease of transportation. Some weeks ago I got the notion to scratch-build walls to match the “nesting houses”, in a way that would both conserve space and blend in with the paint scheme.

So today I present to you my adventures with foamcore, lacquer, and refrigerator pranks.

Step 1) Cut & Glue Walls

First off I measured out walls that would fit both my battle-box, and my needs at the gaming table. I settled on six 5-inch long walls, six 3-inch long walls, and six 1-inch walls (for obstacles)


A note about foam-core: as a building material it’s extremely lightweight, and will fly off the table at high-velocity if a gnat farts anywhere near it. Also, a single sheet of foam-core is too narrow for my use, coming in at around half a centimeter thick. For this project I glued two matching tiles together for each wall (using white glue) and stood them on end.

Step 2) Lacquer


To lend some weight to the walls, and to give them a flat base to stand on, I used  a two-part pourable lacquer. If you ever eat at a greasy spoon diner and notice the wood tables are covered in a thick, clear material, sometimes with little trinkets trapped under the protective layer, in all likelihood this is the lacquer they’re using. It’s cheap. It’s safe to eat off of. And it will soak into the foam, allowing us to stand the foam-core tiles on end once it dries.

Mix the two pour-on chemicals together (in equal parts) in a disposable container. Stir thoroughly, and pour over a flat surface covered with Saran Wrap.


Next, dip your wall segments in the lacquer. I let mine sit in the mixture for about 10 minutes before I fished them out, to let the foam soak in the compound. The pour-on lacquer dries overnight, so I had plenty of time.


To stabilize the bases I set the still-wet tiles on cardstock, and let them dry till morning.

Also, once the excess lacquer dried, I was left with a flexible clear plastic that retained its “wet” look. One could save this amorphous puddle of clear, hardened gel to use as a pond or a sheet of ice during an RPG game. I chose to layer it over my roommate’s food in the refrigerator, making it look like a jar of whateverthefuck had cracked open, leaking an ungodly, possible sentient blob over his precious foodstores.


In my defense the two-part lacquer is completely sanitary. Probably.

Step 3) Cut and Carve

Next we liberate the tiles from the cardstock, cutting narrow, slightly rounded bases along each wall (like feet) giving them added stability. The lower section of the foam tile has hardened and gained some much-needed weight, and the cardstock itself has taken on a plastic consistency. Very useful.


Carve the walls as you see fit. You could Aztec designs into the tiles, or cut false steel panels and bulkheads. Or, if you have a boring imagination like me, you can cut stone facades into the panels. I used an exacto knife to score the fake brick, and a wax-carver to indent the foam.


Fist-pumping motions are optional at this point.

Step 4) Paint

For depth and to highlight the creases in the stone, I went with the old trusty black-wash, which is 50/50 black acrylic paint and warm water, mixed in a squeeze bottle and applied with a broad brush. This layer of acrylic will also protect the foam when it comes time to spray-paint the walls with clear coat, since most aerosols will melt unprotected foam.


As with the stone buildings in my prior post, I sponged a few shades of grey onto the brick (less than 50 shades, though. Definitely less than 50). This was also done in acrylic and watered down lightly, since the foam was still absorbing quite a bit of moisture.


Before the final layer of dark grey, I sealed the edges of my tiles with white glue. In retrospect I could have done this at a much earlier stage. Say, the gluing stage. But in the end this didn’t effect the final product too much.


That’s not glue…

After the walls had dried I used a spray-on protective clear coat. I went with a matte finish from the hardware store, which will look dull when it cures.


In the end I’m left with enough walls to set up small to medium dungeons. When stacked together they take up less than 5 by 5 inches in my box. They’re also lightweight, scaled to 32mm miniature height, and will blend in with the exterior stone facades of the nesting houses.


Pictured: Reenactment of the Shawshank scene between Andy Dufresne and Bogs.


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