Of Dwarven Steel and Dragon Flame – Tiny Soldiers Forum Terrain Building Challenge 2016

“The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep.”

Saruman the White

It was in the fateful year 1492 Dalereckoning that I organised a small terrain building challenge in the german speaking Tiny Soldiers forum. Inspired by a recent MDF release and the desire to come up with a better rendition the goal was to build a dwarven mine fit for Moradin!

I shall present the winner of the contest, his well-deserved trophy, and naturally his dwarven mine!

Brethren and sistren fought hard side by side, yet in the end one single survivor emerged victorious from a pile of slain Goblins.

He sported a long, braided beard, a skillfully crafted breastplate adorned with clan runes and on his side in a heavy leather bag hammer and chisel. In his left he held a sizable brush of iron, its tip red with fresh blood, in his right a well crafted dwarven mine, fit for Moradin and deserving of a trophy forged in the fires of Bolvast-Kor.

All hail Richard A. Liebhold (also known as Xena), Moradin chosen and official winner of the contest! The short video below shows you some highlights of the build and the trophy in its flame lit glory!


Effort, sweat and perseverance – the mine


Richard’s mine is true piece of craftsmanship that shows that he has a keen eye for details as well as consideration for the needs of the gaming table. His mine can be used in a variety of gaming system as a camp element or as a generic terrain piece around which a fight may ensue.

The mine features a tall barren tree on the mountain top, space for unit placement, a fully detailed and lit interior and finally a number of small scenes that really bring the piece to life.
The top is cleverly designed, so that entire units can be placed without problem. This can represent fortifications the dwarves built to defend their mine, should any band of Orcs dare to contest the dwarven king’s might.
The dwarves are working hard, reinforcing the mine to dig deeper and deeper, but what will wait for them in the cold darkness?
The most revered of dwarves are laid to rest in open grave sites, perched on the mountain slopes. It is said they can be heard feasting and singing if one listens carefully during stormy nights.
Gold and precious stones are the reward for hard work.

Richard was also so kind to send me some WIP pictures and thus we get an idea how he fashioned the mine and which materials were used. The basis for the mine is, you guessed it, styrofoam. However, instead of using the denser variety (XPS) he uses EPS foam, that is the stuff you get often as protective packaging or void filler.

It all begins with a bit of styrofoam, broken apart, glued together and pre-coloured with grey paint.
Naturally the cables and LEDs need to be placed now, as it would be hard if not impossible to add them when the outer layer is finalised.

Instead of carving the foam Richard uses tissue soaked in PVA. He covers the piece with it in several layers until a convincing rock texture is achieved.

After the first layer the styrofoam texture is still visible.
After several layers are applied the texture resembles more and more a rock face.
Some fine tuning is still necessary. The black circle shows the finished texture, the red circle an area where more layers need to be applied.
Before the whole mountain is closed up it is necessary to finish the interior. These beams will form the backside of the mine when one looks through the front gate. This will achieve the illusion of the tunnel continuing.
Here you can once again see the sandwich technique Richard is using.
The outside is painted and the large tree is placed. Now the interior and the front gate need to be fashioned.

The interior and the front gate are what really sets this piece apart. The large portal is made of wood and cardboard while the inside walls are done using the same tissue technique as above, however, they are also covered with golden glitter. In combination with the LED lighting this achieves a wonderful lustre and a light atmosphere reminiscent of candle light.

Using toothpicks, coffee stirrers, cardboard and other small pieces of wood both sides of the door are built to be combined in the end.
A closing mechanism on the inside is made of wire, a 15mm hoplon and a noticeboard pin. A very inventive use of these elements!
The interior with tissue covered walls and a first layer of dirt on the floor.
Both the portal and the walls are now finished and the miniatures that will work inside the mine are placed.

Richard now added some final touches such as shields, graves and other assorted dwarven paraphernalia and shrubbery to the piece. He uses a variety of natural products, such as star anis, celeriac roots, island moss etc.


The finished piece is a good example for a visually appealing terrain piece that is also fit for gaming use. I think Richard did an excellent job and his trophy is well deserved.

Kuldar dauble – the trophy


Deciding on a trophy was actually harder than I initially thought. While I was first thinking of a miniature painted gold or a 6mm terrain piece featuring a mountain range, I soon discarded these ideas as I wanted something  a bit less niche that would look good to people not familiar with our hobby and clearly communicate that it is a trophy. Accordingly I went for a custom-made medal.



The design is reminiscent of maps found both in the Lord of the Rings books and movies: a stylized pencil drawing of a mountain range with a small path leading up to the gate of a dwarven hold. Above it the name of god-father Moradin rendered in dwarven runes. The design was first hand-drawn, then scanned in and refined in Photoshop and Illustrator. The design was inverted and printed on an anodised aluminium disc to be fitted on the medal. The medal in turn features an engraving on its back.

Medal centre, mountain range,

The contrast between black background and anodised aluminium makes for a modern design, with the motif harking back to the beginnings of Fantasy literature.

Future Terrain Building  Competitions


I really enjoyed organizing this small challenge and found it also quite delightful to design the motif on the medal. It will thus not surprise you that I am already planning another competition that will start in the new year. This time it will not be limited to a single forum, much rather I would like to make it an international terrain building contest. Rules and the theme of the contest will be published in due course.

The first place will naturally receive a medal with a fitting design and, if I can get further support, additional prizes await contestants. I was also thinking of a small registration fee to assure a good turn out of people and to fund prizes.

I would also like to have a proper jury including myself, a non-hobby person and a known terrain maker. This should make the selection process fair and I will aim on maximum transparency.

If you are already interested or have suggestions feel free to comment below. Congratulations to Richard again and keep the flames stoked!



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