How To Create Your Own Campaign - Part 2

Last week, I spoke of the planning stage for your campaign. This week its time to go over the campaign map.

A campaign map is something I would highly recommend for a host of reasons:

Offers a mini-game that adds another tactical dimension to your 40k games.
A visual tool to represent what’s happening in your campaign - who’s where, who’s doing well, what resources or places of significance everyone holds etc.
Adds to the narrative.

So the main purpose of this article is to give you some tips on how to construct a campaign map that’s cheap and easy. By all means add stages to this to make the map even better (and I’ll talk about a few of these ways) but the priority will be to show you how to build a really easy map that will hopefully encourage some of you who have never attempted a campaign to give it a try.

What you will need

  • Base of thin wood or very thick card (4mm plus) that’s at least 12x12 inches
  • 1 sheet of regular A4 card
  • Toothpicks
  • Sand
  • PVA glue
  • Old/cheap brush
  • Paint
  • Gloss varnish/‘Ardcoat
  • Pencil and compass
  • Your bits box


The wood or card is the base of your map. If your going for wood, make sure it has a clear surface that will take pencil markings. If it’s card, make sure it’s not too thin else it will warp and curl over time. The first stage is to mark out the planet onto the base. Set your compass to 5.5 inches, and use it to create a perfect 11 inch circle.

Within this circle, you will then be looking to add 19 different territories. Each territory will be a hexagon (a 6 sided shape), so that territories will fit seamlessly together and divide a round planet pretty equally.

To draw your hexagons, you have 2 options. Do what I did, and spend 45 minutes failing to remember anything useful I learnt in Maths in order to draw a perfect, equal set of hexagons, or swallow your pride and look up this guide.

When drawing your hexagon, you want it to measure 2 inches edge to edge. I drew my hexagon onto a separate piece of card, then used this as a template and drew around it to create the 19 territories on the map. At the widest point of your map, you want 5 hexagons running across in a row. Then fit 4 hexagons above and below in a row, followed by a final row of 3 at the top and bottom. You should end up with something like this:

With your map plotted out, cut up some toothpicks (or anything similar) and glue them in place along the edges of each hexagon as seen above to create borders. This will keep your territories visible when you come to basing and painting. Don’t worry if 1 toothpick ends up a tiny bit longer than another, once it’s based it won’t be that noticeable.

Now at this point you want to leave the borders to dry, and I really mean leave it! I built my map over a few days, leaving the PVA glue to dry overnight. If you jump the gun then you’ll end up having parts falling off and a map that’s a mess. This applies to all PVA glue drying stages.

When dry, squirt some PVA glue into a few territories and use an old/cheap brush to spread it around, being careful not to get any on the toothpicks (if you do, just wipe it off with a damp cloth). Then scatter some sand (or whatever you like to base with) into each territory so that the entire hexagon is covered. Repeat this process until the whole map is covered, including the very edges of the circle outside the territories so the whole planet is based.

If you want to add some variety to your map, you can experiment here too. For instance, trim some polystyrene and glue it in place before you apply the sand for some simple hills and mountains. You could also leave certain sections free from sand to create rivers and coastlines later on. If you’re creating a number of maps for a large campaign, some variety here will go a long way.

Once the sand is completely dry, you can start adding different features to your map to represent buildings and places of interest. The best advice I can give here is to get creative. Have a rifle through your bits box and pull out whatever you can find. Here are some examples:

Used plastic sprues - all those borders that the parts were attached to. If you trim a load of them really small, they work as generic buildings no problem
Cool looking gun barrels such as Disintegrator Cannon ends as power plant silos
Burner end of a flamer can be missile silos when side on
A bumper off an old Land Speeder as Manufactorums/Factories
Houses and hotels from a Monopoly set as a Hive City
Plasma pistol with a bit of sand to create an arm from a submerged Titan
Ornate parts from an icon or banner (Chaos symbols, an Imperial Aquila etc) and a bit of sand to create the ruins of a site of significance
Flat surface such as card as a runway for an airfield or space port. I would recommend a few layers of varnish/‘Ardcoat to stop it bending or tearing

These are just a few examples, but the sky really is the limit. I can’t tell you exactly what to do because everyone’s bits box is different, but there is always a bunch of stuff that’s great to use. Don’t be afraid to cut up your bits either. Trimming up a flamer would give you a cannister for a fuel dump, burner end for a missile silo, and a barrel for a power plant…

A few notes; I glued my features in place, but if you would prefer the option of moving them around for future campaigns, feel free to glue them onto a tile or base to fit in each territory. Also, you don’t have to glue something on every territory! A plain territory is perfectly ok to battle on! In the next article, I’ll discuss the rules for different features like Manufactorums, power plants, airfields etc, so use that as a guide when you come to buildings your features. Finally, don't worry massively about the scale of the buildings. The map isn't really supposed to be a photograph or accurate representation of the planet. Instead, imagine it as an interactive feature on your general's data slate that highlights important features on the planet's surface.

With everything based and your features in place, you’ll be here:


After leaving this to dry (remember, overnight!), it’s on to painting. Now you can put as much effort into this as you like, detailing all the different parts of the cities and features, but I kept mine really simple so I could get gaming with it. To keep cost down, you could use different paint rather than the standard model acrylics. I went to a DIY store and picked up a bunch of wall paint testers and used these. They are thicker, so you will lose detail on the buildings etc, but for sand they work fine. Start with a base colour, thinking about the type of terrain and planet your fighting on. The usual earthy brown, sand, snow etc. Slap it on everywhere, bar the actual features in a territory like buildings etc.

Then you're onto the cities and buildings. I painted them and all and the ground surrounding them in a medium grey. Again, be generous with this. Paint the area around your buildings in the same grey as it would represent streets and smaller buildings, and as the city gradually disappears into a rural type environment.

Finally, the drybrushing stage. Choose a lighter grey and drybrush your buildings. Then choose a lighter earth colour from your original brown/sand/snow colour and drybrush EVERYTHING bar the actual buildings themselves. You want good paint coverage on your toothpick borders in particular as this will frame each territory really well. Drybrush this colour over your grey ground around your buildings too, as the snow/sand/earth would cover here, but it still shows the urban grey underneath.

If you're going for a typical fertile planet, use PVA glue and flock as you would on your base to create the grasslands and greenery. For the rest of the base wood/card that isn’t covered by the planet, just use black.

With that, the map is finished. Really simple, fast paint job that serves its purpose. By all means pay more attention to the paint job if you wish. You could use some of the water effects available from companies such as Vallejo to create the rivers and sea mentioned earlier. You could also create dense jungles and forests with Lichen and other similar foliage. If you have any spare wood/card that isn’t covered by the planet, why not add a small moon or space station that consists of 1-3 hexagon territories? Or you could add a key for the map and a score area to keep track of who’s winning.

Here’s the finished example of an Armageddon Desert type map I made.

Finally, you’ll want to create some army specific claim markers to keep track of each player’s captured territory. Again, these are really simple and cheap. Get some thick card and cut out a load of half an inch squares. Coat them in the base colour of your army. Once the paint has dried, take a secondary colour and paint your army’s motif or initial(s). Alternatively you could use transfers from the 40k transfer sheets. Once it’s all dry, use some gloss varnish or ‘Ardcoat to reinforce the card. Apply numerous layers; the more you do, the stronger it is. If your playing a 2 player campaign, paint the opposing player’s design on the reverse. That way, if a territory changes hands, you simply flip it over.

Here are some really simple examples I made for a 2 player campaign. A for Alpha Legion, N for Nihilakh Necrons.

With that, everything is built! You’ve got all the physical tools you need to run a campaign. Come back next week and I’ll discuss the rules required for a campaign to work, and to be a ton of fun.

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