5 Basing Styles for Tabletop Gaming

With all the worlds imaginable in sci-fi and fantasy, basing allows you to let your creativity loose. Many people prefer minimalist basing so that the attention remains on the miniature. I see a blank page waiting for a story. Here I cover five options requiring varying degrees of effort to set your miniatures in their chosen battle arena.

#1 The Black Sands of Isstvan

Based on the Isstvan Massacre in the Horus Heresy, this method is quick, easy and cheap. Change the black to grey in the guide and it’s also ideal for armies fighting in ruined cities, perhaps in the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war.


What You Need

  • Sand (sharp or coarse)
  • Slate
  • PVA glue
  • Paint

Glue the miniature and slate to the base. Before priming, coat the base with PVA glue and submerge it in sand. Water down more PVA and dab it atop the sand – this ensures the sand adheres and doesn’t crumble when painting. Prime the miniature then paint the slate Mechanicus Standard Grey and the sand black. Wash the slate with Agrax Earthshade followed by a drybrush of Celestra Grey. Drybrush the sand with Vallejo Dark Sand. Add wasteland tufts or other debris to taste. Here, I used pieces of sprue to represent metal frames.

#2 Cracked Earth Wasteland

Some of the technical paints from Games Workshop crack (intentionally) when dry and can be used for dried riverbeds and wastelands.


What You Need

Glue the miniature and any rocks to the base (I used gravel found at the end of my drive) and prime. Make sure to paint the base at this point because your technical paint will crack and show whatever colour is underneath, and also because the technical paint tends to flake off if applied directly to plastic. For larger cracks in the paint, really pile the Martian Ironearth on, and if you’d prefer smaller cracks use less. Vary it across the base for interest. Once dry, paint over the Martian Ironearth with Vallejo Dark Sand, wash with Agrax Earthshade, and drybrush Ushabti Bone.

As an alternative, paint the cracking paint grey, wash with Agrax Earthshade  and drybrush Ulthuan Grey to get the uneven paving of a dungeon floor.


#3 Swamp

A more elaborate scheme for those willing to go the extra mile.


What You Need

Using a 2mm drill bit, drill a hole in the base for the reeds. Glue the miniature to the base before coating the base with PVA glue and submerging it in sand. Using the back of a brush, push the sand to create small craters, ideally keeping the the drilled hole within one. Water down more PVA and dab it atop the sand – this ensures the sand adheres and doesn’t crumble when painting. Paint the base black and heavily drybrush Dryad Bark then Caliban Green, followed by a light drybrush of Ushabti Bone. Glue a clump of reeds in the drilled hole. Dab some PVA on the sand and sprinkle static grass – don’t cover the base, just work in patches. Finally, pour the Vallejo Still Water into the crater. This can cure thinly so apply it in layers.

#4 Snow

All basing needs variety and that is particularly evident when working with snow otherwise it will just look like a white base. Have some rocks or rubble or tufts sticking out.


What You Need

Glue the miniature to the base before coating the base with PVA glue and submerging in sand. Dab watered down PVA on top of the sand. Paint the sand black and drybrush Celestra Grey, followed by Ulthuan Grey. Add a tuft or two before the snow effect – this makes the tufts look frosty when the snow effect is applied. Dab some PVA in patches on the base and sprinkle the snow effect on.

#5 Jungle

Alien worlds, particularly those with hive fleets or Catchans may have extravagant flora, just like the Realm of Life in Age of Sigmar. These can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, depending on how many tufts and the variety of effects you are going for.


What You Need

  • Tufts – use a variety of heights and colours for best effect.
  • Aquarium plants – use eBay or a local pet shop
  • PVA Glue
  • Static grass
  • GW Agrellan Badlands technical paint
  • Paint
  • Choice of undergrowth and shrub basing accessories – Serious Play have an excellent range, otherwise try the Battlefields XP version

Glue the miniature to the base and drill a 2mm hole for any plants you wish to use. Cover the base in Agrellan Badlands paint (except the hole).  When dry, dab PVA glue on top and sprinkle static grass. A cheap way to get the grass to stick up is to flick the underside of the base just after you apply it. With a craft knife, cut small leaves from the aquarium plants and glue them into the drilled hole. Add as many tufts as you like. I also added some meadow flowers here.


There we have a few ways of adding some narrative or immersion to your army. Basing is what you make of it and can be as extravagant or as simple as you like. A rule many people use is, ‘light model dark base, dark model light base.’ On the whole, it’s all down to preference and the story you want to tell.


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