15mm SF terrain: everyday objects and dollar store finds

My recent delves into TOMORROW’S WAR and GRUNTZ SF have made me energized about 15mm SF and I’ve (at long last) started getting some terrain together.  I have the groundcloth all done, that was pretty easy, and some rocky outcroppings.  I envision a semi-hostile world in the late stages of terraforming, so the flora and fauna would be yielding grudgingly to Earth crops about the the time of any military activity.  My envisioned battlefield  is semi-desert, with some agriculture happening on the fringes of settlements.  The buildings in the settlements are mostly made out of discarded shipping containers and and bricks made from native mud.  So every settlement on my imagined planet would have a distinctly ramshackle look– primarily Mediterranean motif with some SF touches here and there.  I have some higher tech buildings (from MBA and Blue Moon) but I see the colonists living in improvised shelters, pre-fab and homemade, years after the initial landings.

As there isn’t a ton of ready made stuff out there I’ve been collecting useful bits and dollar store finds here and there and jury-rigging it for a SF theme.  Here’s a few recent finds:

imageThese funny “pith helmets” are made out of cheap plastic and were found in a dollar store.  Pretty useless for anything except kid’s dress up… or are they?  That ridged oval section really spoke to me in the store, so I said, what the heck, and bought two.  Then I proceeded to slice the rim of the hats off with a regular pair of scissors and trimmed the edge to make it flat, or as flat as possible.  It’s not a very precise cut.  Still, this activity yielded a pair of slightly oval, ridged domes.  They are larger than many of my structures but not as large as the largest of them.  I will use them for pre-fab domes, possible as greenhouses or maybe power collectors of some sort.  I primed them black, then hit them with aluminum colored spray paint and sealer.  Et Voilas!


A long way from a plastic pith helmet, eh? I’m not finished with them by a long shot, but already the domes have a nice SF look to them. Jon at GZG has created a line of SF building fittings for structures to add a lot of science fiction details to basic boxes, which gave me the idea for this. I will put large blast doors on each of them and maybe a pressure hatch up top, just to make them look cool.

Other recent finds were this wooden decorative plant pot and 1 dollar wooden pencil boxes from a craft store. I see the pencil boxes being made over as abandoned shipping containers converted into low-cost dwellings, and the little plant pot will eventually be an elevated gun tower to defend my settlement (with the addition of a little HO ladder sprue up the side, a metallic paint job and lots of rust. Again the GZG building details purchase I just made will go a long way towards selling this idea, and I will post pictures when these are done.


That’s where I am right now with this project. I have a couple of higher end MBA SF structures, a small mosque, and I will probably get a few more Mediterranean themed buildings. My plan for the surrounding settlement is to build a water storage tank, some moisture evaporators and lots of solar panels. More on that as it develops.

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  1. The pith helmet looks nice. I am always concerned the plastic is too thin on those, and that I would end up accidentally crushing it at some point.

  2. I love making terrain out of found objects and often scavenge intriguing bits of things at work to use in games. Rough-textured fiberboard/cardboard packaging makes dandy buildings. It has an organic look to it that works well in SF settings. Trim the edges, hit it with textured spray paint (or leave as is), then glue on doors and windows. Strategically placing some old computer or machine parts around the table gives a SF scenario a “beat up futuristic” look.

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