The DBA Resource Page

Newbie's Guide

Fashioning a DBA Gameboard

To play DBA, the first piece of "terrain" you'll need is the ground or surface on which to place your elements (i.e., the gameboard). DBA specifies a 24 inch by 24 inch square surface for 15mm scale and a 48 inch by 48 inch square surface for 25mm scale. You may wish to make your gaming surface even larger to accomodate Big Battle DBA or your other gaming interests. There are a number of ways to approach creating your gameboard. Here are some brief notes on each:

  • Painted Tabletop: A simple card table or flat surface such as a ping-pong table with an appropriate colored top (typically green) is sufficient to get started. Just use markers such as yardsticks, string, or weighted objects to mark the boundary lines.

  • Ground Cloth: A heavy wool blanket (e.g., green army surplus), felt or carpet scrap cut to the appropriate size makes a very portable and easily storable gaming board. Just lay it out on the kitchen or card table. This provides a flat playing surface that you can lay terrain on top of. You can also place books or contoured foam/insulation board underneath the blanket/felt to create three-dimensional hills. As an alternative to a cloth or felt ground cloth, you might consider using vinyl uphostery material in a suitable color and pattern. Its virtues are its durability and ease of storage (just roll it up and put it in a tube).

  • Folding Boards: Using foamcore or heavy cardboard and strapping tape, it is relatively easy to build a gameboard that can be folded up for easy storage or transport. Just fashion the board into two or four pieces and use the tape to connect the edges like hinges. If you are using four pieces, make sure to leave one interior edge unhinged. You can paint and even flock the board surface, although the flocking will need to be renewed from time to time as it rubs away due to surface friction between the folded sheets.

  • Modular Terrain Boards: The DBA authors recommend the use of "single integral terrain blocks or grouped 12 inch or 300mm square blocks." This can also be described as modular terrain. Each board possesses different terrain features such as hills, woods, rivers, etc. Four twelve inch-square boards could be arranged in a 2 by 2 grid (for 15mm games) to create dozens of different layouts depending on how the edges are aligned. For each additional terrain board added to the selection pool of available terrain, the number of layout options increases exponentially. By carefully centering the exits of road and river features on the terrain board's edges, it is possible to provide continuous features that run across the resulting gameboard.

    Terrain boards can be constructed of a wide variety of materials, including plywood or particle board (of various thicknesses), insulation/blueboard, ceiling tiles, polystyrene, cardboard, or foamcore. Each material varies in weight, durability, and expense and may require different techniques for working the material into three dimensions. In some cases, you can use shapers and knives to carve the material into hills and gullies. In other cases, you will need to build up layers of material to create the desired topography. Gaps can be filled with wall compound or modellers paste and the board can be painted and then flocked with turf or sand to create the desired surface. The general rule of thumb is that the heavier and more rigid the material, the more durable it will be. However, some material such as cardboard or foamcore is so cheap that gameboards can be manufactured for specific historical battlefields and/or discarded without reservation.

    One issue with modular terrain boards is how to transport them to games, particularly if made of heavy plywood or particle board. David Kuijt has a picture of the carrying case he constructed to serve the purpose.

The following links provide ideas and detailed suggestions on creating your gameboard:

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Last Updated: Dec. 29, 1999

Comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques welcome. Direct them to Chris Brantley at