To the green 2nd edition hills and beyond!

So, if you ever read an old White Dwarf report on a battle, you will have noticed that the worlds of 40k often contain really stunty green hills… no matter where you go! These are as hard to miss as the red thorny cactii. Oddly in later editions both the green hills and the cactii seem to have gone out of vogue. I can’t imagine why. 😀

Now let us dwell a little with the past and get all rose tinted before we start looking into the nitty gritty. Give it 10 seconds…. good… there we are! If you can’t get it going, just look at this image:

White Dwarf: Blood Angels | Whittlesey 40k
2nd ed. Blood Angels rummaging around in their natural habitat of green rolling staircase type hills as so commonly seen throughout the thousands of planets featured in the 40k universe.

While in the old days hill crafting was a venerated discipline, and every gaming studio worth its salt would employ at least one hill technician or high ground engineer, today the craft is nearly lost. Since the construction was so common back then, today’s sources, from a wargames archaeological stand point, are scarce. Please bear with me when I present the following reconstructions. I claim neither historical accuracy or accurate methods, but have tried to the best of my ability to stick to the little source material I have.

I decided to root my efforts in the cheapest possible basic material: white polystyrene insulation boards. These horrible things that litter everywhere when you work with them, were since supplanted by high-tech stuff like pink XPS foam and so on. We shall have none of that here!

To start things off I cut out a couple of bases from some 5 mm MDF with a jigsaw. I made the bases a size that would allow them to fit in an IKEA Pappis box (A4 size, see Fig. 6 right image)). I briefly sanded the edges afterwards to make them a little more visually pleasing. Then I cut a template from paper and made it 10 mm narrower than the base (Fig. 1 left image). Next, I took the templates to the insulation boards (Fig. 1 middle image). These are 20 mm insulation boards, for the record. I tried out 10 mm too, but it looks wrong. After drawing the circumference, I cut out the base shape, angling my knife at roughly 45 °. (Fig. 1 right image)

Fig. 1: A paper template is fitted to a MDF base (left image). The template is used to cut out a piece of polystyrene (middle image). At all times the knife should be angled to create the sides of the hill (right image).

With the base of the hill constructed I wanted to add a second layer. To save materials I decided to use the “inners” of the base to construct the second layer. Again I made a small template and drew on the base layer (Fig. 2 top left image). Then, again angling the knife, I cut out the middle of the hill. (Fig. 2, top right image). Having angled the cut, I could now neatly place the cut-out as a lid on the baser (Fig. 2 bottom image).

Fig. 2: The second layer of the hill is created by cutting out the middle. Again a template is made (make sure to leave ample space for model placement) and drawn on the base layer (top left image). Angling the knife, the shape is then cut out (top right image). Lastly the cut-out is fitted on the base layer like a lid (bottom image).

After having cut out the hills and making the second layer I dry-fitted the pieces and checked that a model with a 25 mm base could actually be placed on the various plateaus. After this the pieces were glued together with caulk and then sanded to remove the obvious sharp knife cut edges. (Fig.3)

Fig. 3: After dry-fitting and glue the layers are sanded to remove the sharp edges resulting from cutting. Don’t mind if you lose a bit of styrene along the way.

To give the styrofoam a hard surface I opted for tile adhesive (Fig. 4 top left image). I often resort to this in terrain construction. It is a nice material since it can be sanded and even thin layers get quite sturdy. It is also very finely grained, so easy to paint. It is however, also a little harsh, contains cobalt and so on, so I use gloves (Fig. 4 top right image), and try to avoid any dusting and sand outside. By far the best way to smear the hills in, is by the hands, so the gloves are essential. Once covered in adhesive I let the hills rest in the sun (Fig. 4 bottom image).

Fig. 4: To give the hills some strength, a layer of tile adhesive is added. The adhesive is mixing in a small plastic box (top left image). The best way to apply it afterwards is by smearing it on with your hands. Use gloves! (top right image). Once the hills have been covered in adhesive let them sit in the sun till dry (bottom image).

Once the tile adhesive has dried it is time for the finishing touches. First off, the hills need to be sanded again to remove the streaks seen (Fig. 4 bottom image). This is done outside in the open. The result is a quite smooth surface ready for a lick of paint (Fig. 5 top image). I then proceed with some cheap green wall paint as a base colour (Fig. 5 bottom left image). After a bit of drying again, the hills are then painted with PVA glue (or similar) and covered in Jarvis Fine Turf.* (Fig. 5 bottom right image).

Fig. 5: Now that the adhesive has dried, we sand it down to remove any visible streaks (top image). A base colour of green wall paint is then liberally applied (bottom left image). Lastly the hills are covered in PVA glue followed by Jarvis Fine Turf *(bottom right image).

This is basically it folks. Dead easy! I hope you feel empowered and capable by now.

Fig. 6: The finished hills (left top image). Orks and Imperial Guard in a good scuffle over the green hills (left bottom image). The hills fit neatly in a IKEA pappis box for storage (right image).

I did go back and redo the base edge of the hills, and added a both of sand for the final results shown in the opening of this post. You could easy add a bit of shrubberies or trees to the hills as well, if you’re into that sort of thing. I kept mine simple, to allow me to use them in any setting of 2nd ed. 40k.

*A note on the Jarvis flock – I found that after applying it, I wanted to fix it with watered down PVA glue… but – this resulted in the colour starting to bleed out of the flock. Probably the best idea is to not do this, and instead keep more flock handy and reapply if the hills get too worn over time. Any suggestions on how to handle this are mightily welcome.


  1. Looking great and straight out of a 2nd edition battle report as usual! I would love to play a game on your table because I think it would fit the picture of a game I always imagined in my head when reading WD as a teenager.

    Liked by 1 person


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