Building a Gaming Table, Berlin 1945.

Painting models and building lists is only a part of the wonderful wargaming hobby we share. Another aspect is the making of suitable terrain pieces and gaming tables. With the release of the Berlin books Battlefront have taken the war far into 1945 and the fighting in and around Berlin. This gave me the energy to make a gaming table for the biannual tournament Polar Bear in Iceland. Last time I made a rural table to picture the fighting on the plains of Ukraine, so this time an Urban table would be fun to have a go at making.


When I start planning a gaming table, I first start on the internet looking at photos of the area, I am imagining the table should represent. Often you will be able to find some reference photos, that can help you get some ideas. I also see if I can find photos of gaming tables, other people have made, to give me an idea of what I want on my table and what I definitely do not want.

Since the theme of the table was going to be Berlin I wanted some terrain features that would make people think Berlin, the minute they saw the table. For me that is the Brandenburger Tor or the Reichstag. So while looking a old ww2 photos of Berlin I found one that I thought could be useful and included both of the iconic buildings.

Aerial photo of Berlin 1945, with the red box where I thought it would make a good table.

From my Stalingrad table, that had the grain elevator, I knew that the Reichstag only could occupy a corner of the table, because if not, it would become way too dominant for the table to be useful in normal Flames of War missions.

In the photo I have made a red square of what I would like my table to represent. This is not the place where the Soviets attacked during the battle for the Reichstag around the 1st of May 1945, but this will make for a more interesting table to look at, as it will allow for City ruins, a park and the boulevard, compared to the the front lawn of the Reichstag all covered in trenches.

From idea to reality.

When making a gaming table there are some things that needs to be taken into consideration.

  • Cost: what do you plan and what are you willing to spend on the table.
  • Playability: can you actually play a game on the table or has it become a diorama.
  • Modular or permanent: Will you be able to reposition the terrain features or are they locked in place?

Let’s look at the costs:

We do not all have unlimited resources to make tables. Buying table ready miniature buildings can often require quite a large amount of money. To take the middle ground between buying 100% ready building and making them 100% from scratch I decided to buy some of BF’s city ruins and 3d print some from WOW-buildings Berlin pack. I also had a look around different internet shops to buy some streetlights and a fence to put around the park area.


As for playability, I find it hard to make a table that makes everyone happy. Some players like lots of terrain, not only because it suits their army, but because they like the challenges it offers. Other players like a more open table or with less disruptive features, like large areas of rubble or woods. My decision of making large part of the table rubble is partly based on the next question, Modular or Permanent.

Modular or Permanent:

I personally prefer the Permanent table as I think it offers a more aesthetically look, but it comes at the cost of not having the same amount of reusability. After a couple of games, it is often very clear to everyone where the best areas are to move through or to occupy for your defence. This leads me back to the playability. I am not too worried about making some areas very different and perhaps game influential as the table tend not to be used for more than 10-20 games before its packed away.

Step 1.

Having looked at the cost, playability and modular capability, it’s time to get the show on the road. I started with a sketch of how I imagine the table to look, but nothing is 100% certain at this stage in the process. I try to always keep an open mind on how things can be done and might be changed to the better. I often chat with friends and fellow gamers and what they think will work and what will not. It can sometimes become hard to see the flaws in your own project when you have spend a relative long time developing it, so feedback and fresh eyes are very important I think.

Sketch of the table.

Step 2: Building it.

With a sketch done I draw it up on 3 sheets of XPS foam. The type I use is 5cm thick and 60cm x 120cm making it perfect for Flames of war tables. Its firm enough on it’s own, so I don’t need to add a frame and at the same time light.

Step 3: Details

For the streets I decided to do cobblestones and to avoid visible lines between premade texture sheets or rollerpins I punched each stone with an old brush, where i removed the bristles and shaped it into a small rectangular. In hind side this was a mad decision as I ended up making more than 30.000 cobblestones. For the sidewalks I sliced 4mm thin stritps of XPS foam and taxtured them using a rolling pin, adding a curbstone also using XPS foam. I also added manholes and drainage holes, that i 3d printed from STL files found on thingiverse.

With the streets and sidewalks done it’s time to add the buildings. I have chosen to go with a mix of 3d printed and Battlefronts city ruins. Here testing and trying is really important for your table. I tried to go for a big chunk of the table as ruins, but at the same time trying not to make too many of the building block line of sight. I therefore leave rather wide gaps in the facades and keep the ruins in the backyards low so there can be seen and shot over them. For adding texture and rubble I use a couple of things. for the piles of rubble I use cut offs of the the foam, plaster and some sand and gravel. I also cut a lot of blocks of cork and foam and sprinkled it all over the rubble areas. I also added a single crather in the streets, but the pictures of the area in 1945 shows that not many of the streets had been hit or at least repaired. For the tramrails I just cut 2 parallel grooves in the foam using a foam-cutter. At this scale the works fine as among all the things going on, on the table, the mind of the viewer will do the work of telling them it’s tram rails.

Step 4: Painting

For the base colour I went with a dark grey and sprayed two coats. Remember you can’t use spraycans on XPS foam as it will melt the foam, so if you don’t have a spray gun, you should use a brush. Just thin your paints no matter what as it’s much easier to apply the paint.

For the sidewalks I used a dark sandy colour, a black/brown wash and a drybrush of light sandy colour. The cobblestone streets was painted, dry brushing with a light grey and finally dry brushed lightly with white. The ground/soil colour in the park, was brown and then dry brushed with a beige colour. The fence is the same as the sidewalks, just with a heavier dry brush of white, with the railings painted black and gold. The pillar tops painted using Prussian blue and a Royal Blue dry brush to mimic slate.

Instead of painting the rubble, I used tile grout. 3 colours mixed together. Dark grey, light grey and brown. This adds lots of life and nuances to the rubble, with very little effort and creates a solid base.

To add some contrast I used a trick I learned from Henri in Finland. crushing some DAS air drying clay in a Mortar will give you a nice variety of debris to spread around the battlefield. It’s also a possibility to buy bricks from model railroad hobby shops, if you have one near you.

In the park I glued some different colours of static grass, keeping it rather green, again to add extra contrast to the whole table to prevent it from just becoming a grey mass.

For the buildings I just used my airbrush, using dark base and a lighter highlight colour tying it all together with a very light drybrush of white on the top half of the buildings. The inspiration for the colours was Marks article on painting the Battlefront City Ruins. The Reichtag and Brandenburger Tor I chose to paint in a light sandstone colour, which might be a bit too light, but it helps make them stand out from the grey streets and rubble and the green copper roof of the side buildings to the Tor also brings a lot of life to the table.

For the final details I printed out some posters from WW2 and glued them to the buildings and attached some streetlamps I bought on the internet.

To help break up the long lines of sights I turned some tanks into wrecks and printed two WW2 trams. These additions really adds a lot to the gameplay so should not be underestimated in the table building process.

Finally I added an edge board of masonite timber plate, painted black and two coats of thinned down PVA glue.

I hope you have enjoyed, reading about my process off making a gaming table and as always you are more than welcome to ask questions and leave a comment. I leave you with some action shot from Polar Bear, taken by Hawkeye from he’s game against Kristian.


4 thoughts on “Building a Gaming Table, Berlin 1945.

  1. Truly amazing! I hope that Battlefront will include awesome fan creations like this in some of their upcoming books (with the creators’ permission, of course). It is inspiring to see this creativity. And thank you for including details on your work process. It really helps beginners like myself.
    Kind regards,

    1. Thank you Jakob,
      I am happy if anything I write can be helpful to other wargamers or inspire people to try themselves. There is no magic behind it, just trail and failure, so the most important thing is to try, try and try again.


  2. Søren another inspiring project, which I can only hope to follow!

    Great the way you created the rubble and I think I will realy use cobblestone rollers as patience, I write with a very small p 😉

    1. Hi Sybren,
      Thank you for reading the article. Yes, I would definetly go with rollers if I had to do it again, so I think you have the long end of the stick there. I hope you get some projects done and share your work to inspire the rest of us.


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