Making Asteroids for Spaceship Games

Boom! Ka-pow!

A variety of vessels docked at a station concealed within an asteroid field

Spaceship games are great! One second it’s all maths and angles and geometry, and the next it’s explosions and making “pew! pew!” noises while finger-gunning at your opponent! And with Osprey’s new A Billion Suns hot off the presses, now’s a great time to be getting into space-based combat.

But when a spaceship game is just ships on the table, well, it’s still great but it can still kind of feel a bit… empty. We’re used to our tables having woods and ruins or ISO containers and wheelie bins. Space, though, is empty. I mean, literally, is you’re being statistical about it. But battles in empty space just… lack something visceral that tabletop games need.

Filling space

Because most tabletop spaceship games, despite being set in the three dimensions of space, abstract this to a two-dimensional playing surface, we can – of course – get away with adding card terrain, like you get in the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. But that almost makes it worse, I think.

What you really want are some nice, evocative, floating rocks! Asteroids are the prototypical spaceship terrain type (we’ll look at planets and moons in a future article).

Last year I wrote a review article, looking at the plastic spaceships grab-bag from Plastic Soldier Company. Since then, I’ve been working on the third game in the Horizon Wars trilogy, Horizon Wars: Infinite Dark, which is, of course, a spaceship game. It’s why I bought the PSC spaceships to start with and it’s why I found myself looking at my lovely Gamemat.eu space mat feeling like something was missing.

And it was how I came to make a set of my own asteroids.

This is Not the Terrain You’re Looking For

Obviously going to be some fortress walls… aren’t they?

I’m sure I’m not alone, as a wargamer, seeing this kind of thing in the box that some new device came in and thinking how perfect it ought to be to turn into terrain. But this overlooks the nature of the packaging itself. Because this is recycled cardboard that’s been reduced to a mush and then pressed into a mould to make this shape. And what that means is that it’s absolutely perfect for making papier-mâché!

So step one is to ignore its alluring form and the siren whisper that says you could just paint it as is. Ignore it, I say! Instead, you will need a plastic contained and a good quantity of PVA, just like this:

Just like this!

And then you will rip your packaging to shreds, cover it with PVA and pour on generous quantities of water until it all looks just like that:

Just like that!

OK, now at this point you need to start thinking about people who share your life. Because this stuff really looks like you dredged it from the sewer and, from this point on, it’s not going to get any better. Luckily, it doesn’t smell and it’s completely harmless. But if you have unexpected guests or your parents come around or your partner doesn’t know what you’re doing… this is the point at which to make sure you tell them, otherwise you’re going to get some weird questions later on.

Because you’re now going to take small handfuls of this stuff and squeeze it into balls. You probably want to have left the mixture for 10-15 minutes but, to be honest, if you’re in a rush it’s not essential as long as it’s all mushed down as shown in the picture.

For asteroids you want round-ish, irregular blobs. They literally couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve finished them, I put them on a sheet of non-stick baking parchment but, again, it’s not essential.

“Hello? Police? My husband has started cataloguing his excrement.”

Seriously, tell people what you’re doing before you get to this point.

Now, the amount of papier-mâché I made was way more than I needed for a decent sized asteroid field, so I decided to do some other stuff with the surplus which I’ll show you at the end.

But with the basic shapes made you can either leave them to dry (it’ll take 2-3 days). You can speed the process up by sticking them in the oven at 150°C for 60 minutes or, for a child-friendly alternative, put them over a radiator. The more water you leave in the shapes once they’re made, the longer they’ll take to dry but, as long as you’re patient, eventually you’ll have these:

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And once you’ve got the basic asteroids you can go ahead and paint them as they are, or you can make some conversions to turn them into space stations. I made a few:

This asteroid uses a little card and a suitable turret from Brigade Models
For this one, I used some left-over parts from an MDF kit and some Brigade Models fleetscale fighters. Dreadnought for scale.

You’ll notice that the finished asteroids can look a bit “hairy” from the card fibres. You can easily get rid of this by applying a coat of PVA glue over the finished asteroid.

Here’s a shot of some finished asteroids:

Drybrushing. What would we do without you?

Oh, and the planet in the background? Well, that uses papier-mâché, too. But, before I go, I told you I had some surplus papier-mâché. So here’s a quick look at what I did with the extra:

If you’d like to know more about Horizon Wars: Infinite Dark or any of the Precinct Omega range of games, you can get sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes news and updates from the Patreon, or follow Precinct Omega on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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