The Joy of Scratch-Building

One of the neat things about miniature wargaming is that it provides countless opportunities to indulge the creative impulse.  One of my favorite pastimes is scratch-building wargaming terrain or buildings for the tabletop out of readily available materials collected at little or no cost.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say.  For wargamers with a scratch-building frame of mind, a trip to a craft store like Michaels, Hobby Lobby or A.C. Moore can be the highlight of your day, especially as you peruse the store aisles and brainstorm how you could repurpose the various items found there.

Like many miniature wargames, De Bellis Antiquitatis allows a multitude of opportunities for such creativity, particularly in the form of scratch-building camps and built-up areas for your game board.  To illustrate the point, here is a DBA camp element I scratch-built after a random purchase at an A.C. Moores.


The initial inspiration was a packet of picket fences for doll houses.  I pondered what to do with them, and was inspired by a You Tube video on constructing wattle and daub walls with timber framing to make a similar fortification in miniature.  The fence bottom was trimmed and mounted to a salvaged piece of building insulation (pink board) roughed up to make it look like a rocky height.  Thin card was PVA-glued to line the back of wooden fence, allowing me to fill the crevices easily with an acrylic wall patching compound.  A rampart was added with wooden coffee stirrers for planks and balsa wood beams. Some paint and flocking, and my wattle and daub style timber fortress/camp comes to life (see front and back), in this instance guarded by an element of Illyrian Auxiliaries.

My point is purely to illustrate how simple scratchbuilding can be, as well as the possible inspirations that the wargamer might glean from a visit to the craft store and/or from sorting through his or her bits box or scrap pile.

Having said that, however, there are those who routinely elevate the art of scratch-building to a much higher level than the camp element featured above.  One such example is the very precise work (detailed down to a working gate) done by Barry Scarlett (aka LewChips) in rendering this Roman timber fort using coffee stirrers, toothpicks and other scraps of wood.


Another scratch-building hero of mine is Paul Potter, who turned a visit to the bead aisle…


into this gorgeous medieval Russian church.


Even this simple, but well-executed design of an Ostrog or Slavic timber fortress done by Roberto Bagna illustrates how the simplest materials (bamboo skewers and balsa wood) can be turned into something extraordinary for your wargame board.

There are too many great eye candy examples for me to feature here…but I hope that what you see encourages you to give scratch-building a try.







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