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Portable Warhammer Army Display

40k Terrain Warhammer Armies Display 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army DisplayIt’s great to have a beautifully painted Warhammer Army when you go to tournaments. Great  Warhammer Armies deserve to be presented superbly. There are all sorts of displays out there – from boxes to coffee trays to picture frames to cork board and much more. Some players even have cabinets on wheels they roll around the tournament.

When I made my Empire Army for the North Star Tournament, I made a great display board that could be broken down into about 8”x12”x20”. It weighed only a few pounds, and easily fit in my suitcase. It was a bit hard to move around the tournament hall – had to move it in two pieces. But, still it suited my army really well. This tutorial reviews how  I went about it. The result is a portable Warhammer scenery suitable for displaying either40k armies and Warhammer Fantasy armies.


Folks who, like me,  fly to their events are somewhat limited on our choices. We need something small enough to transport, but large enough to flatter our Army. It’s got to be rugged enough to survive checked baggage – assuming, of course, you choose to carry your army. And its got to be aesthetically and originally fantastic because, well, that’s what I do for you on 40k Terrain. Pretty challenging, huh?

I wasn’t sure how to make this all happen in a Warhammer scenery project. So, I decided to just wing it. I knew I wanted my display to be jungle like and have at least two levels. I wanted to have some form of tomb structure, or mine, on it, as well.

Given it needed to be light and fit in my suitcase, I got the polystyrene out and my suitcase and started experimenting. I knew I wanted to put the display in a box or two somehow, and so the first thing I did is find boxes that fit in the suitcase. Turns out I could only use one of reasonable size. That done, I knew my form factor and that ruled my design.

Oh, and one other key factor. I had been working on painting a 2200 point Empire Army for about five weeks. I still had more finish work on that – and I was leaving in less than 48 hours for Minneapolis. I had a time schedule worked out for a full day of work: four hours to finish basing miniatures, four hours for four characters, and six hours for the display. Time was truly of the essence — I only had hours before needing to head off to the North Star Warhammer tournament.

Materials and Tools

This is an easy project and the list of tools and materials is minimal. The only things I purchased new for this project was foliage.


  • Boxes for transport
  • Polystyrene (or other support of your choice)
  • Miscellaneous bits from the bits box (I used a tunnel entrance and Hydrocal rocks from a train set I demolished years ago)
  • Permanent markers
  • Vinyl terrain matt (I used Woodland Scenics’)
  • Primer (note that some kinds of spray primer may disolve your polystyrene)
  • PVC (white) glue
  • Tooth picks
  • Paint  – base-, mid-, and highlight-tones (I again used matt finish household acrylic)
  • Materials for ground cover — flock, ground foam, talus, gravel, sand, ground cork, static grass, etc… (again, I use lots of Woodland Scenics’ materials here)
  • Spray adhesive
  • Miscellaneous foliage or other items of interest from the bits box
  • Newspaper


  • Craft knife with long blades
  • Foam cutter (if you’re using polystyrene or similar material)
  • Heatgun (optional)
  • Large brushes (old used ones, preferably)
  • Scissors
  • Wire snips


I knew I was going to have to do this project with multiple pieces. I also knew that I wanted to break up the outline of the two part design a bit. I started by cutting two equal sized bases that fit into the boxes. Then I figured out how much height I had to work with because of the boxes I was using to transport the display. Turned out that I had room for two levels above the base. To break up the two part shape, I designed a hill that had a break away section. This section was long enough to extend over the line between the two base pieces, but also small enough to fit next to the rest of the hill in the box. I got to cutting with the foam cutter and iterated until I had something figured out. The artisitic approach to Warhammer scenery creation!

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 1 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 2 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display

I made sure I could fit one of the bases into the box I had chosen. It fit perfectly! Too perfectly! I couldn’t get it out because of vacuum. So, I patiently worked it out of the box, and then cut two holes in the bottom of the box to make it easier to get out!

The next challenge was figuring out how to work in my tomb structure. I had to play around with this a bit – definitely an improvised approach. Again, it required an iterative approach.

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 3 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army DisplayTo expedite the project, I decided to use commercial terrain matting from Woodland Scenics. Before I assembled my base structure, I needed to size these out. I traced out the basic shapes I needed and cut them with scissors. Then I glued the first level of my polystyrene using white glue and a few tooth picks to give it a bit more integrity. This included the tunnel entrance to the tomb and the surrounding stones. Note that I didn’t, of course, glue the “breakaway” piece. It just kind of tucks in on the back under the hill.

Then I primed my polystyrene.  I did this now so that the area under the breakaway piece and behind the tunnel entrance were painted. The polystyrene didn’t like my primer – had a bit of curling and melting this time. This hasn’t been a problem before, but I used a different brand of polystyrene this time, so maybe that was the problem.

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 4 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 5 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army DisplayNow was time to add the mine (or tomb) entrance and the second level to the structure. Again, I used PVC glue and tooth picks, and was careful to not glue my breakaway piece to anything. Afterwards, I primed this addition. The display was ready now for finishing.


The first step of finishing the Warhammer Army Display was mounting the vinyl terrain matt to the polystyrene. I used 3M Spray adhesive for this. I let that dry for a few minutes, and then put down my base coat of burnt sienna on the rest of the terrain. I was really rushing – much faster than I usually work. I still had wet PVC glue as I painted.  To keep things going, I got out the glue gun to try to speed up drying everything. Even then, however, I had to let it all sit for a bit to dry. I went and worked on my infantry bases for 30 minutes.40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 6 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 7 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army DisplayWhen I came back, it was a bit damp still! But, it was good enough to put the mid tone (kind of a butterscotch color). Since some parts were still damp, I got some nice blending. This dried much faster, of course, and I was able to nearly immediately go to a light tan highlight. The result was nearly sufficient as it was – but not up to 40k Terrain standards! Time to add detail.

I added ground cork for rock and gravel, using white glue again. I usually use talus for this, but didn’t have time to paint and the cork is good enough without paint. Next I used spray adhesive and sprinkled various colors of flock, fine ground foam, and even a bit of sand. I took particular care to hide the edges of the vinyl terrain matt. Remember to have newspaper on hand as you add these elements. In between each texture you add, you can shake the 40k Terrain piece over the newspaper to recover material and then put it back into your bag or container. If you do this, you’ll be surprised how little stuff you use. 40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 8 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display 40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display 9 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display

I added course ground foam using white glue (a glue gun would have been better). Then I let it all dry while I finished my Empire Army. I took a few trees from the pet store (these must be for a herborium) and put my army on it to see how it looked.  As you can see, it was turning out superb.

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display a 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display e 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display

Once it was dry, I made sure it all fit into the space I had designed. It did! And it all fit in my suitcase with sufficient room for a few clothes, my toiletries, and even some odd game stuff.  Time for bed…

40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display b 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display c 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display40k Terrain Portable Warhammer Army Display d 300x225 Portable Warhammer Army Display

The next day, I still had some time left, even after I packed. So, I added foliage that I got from a craft store. This all needed to be removable so I could store it. So, I literally just stuck pieces into the base without glue. This worked very well, and the display remained very portable. (The lead picture shows this finished result.)

Improvements and Lessons Learned

It looks great as it is, and I got great feedback. It really displays my Warhammer Armies well, particularly as it has multiple levels. There are a few things that I need to take the display up a notch further.

1)      It’s a bit hard to move around. I need to come up with an easily transported frame or base to hold it together while I move it. However, this will make it bigger and many of you know how hard it is to move around the tournament hall when matches are about to start.

2)      I need some additional special interest. I think more foliage is in order. Some additional bits – statues, carvings, stone rubble, etc… — will add a lot more depth. And, finally, it’s got to have some water somehow.

3)      It needs an engraved plate or something that displays my name and the name of the Army (Mercenaries of Itza, incidentally).

It was a great project, though, and I was very happy with how it turned out – especially since I had less than five hours and almost no money invested in the display!

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