Deadzone Terrain

I’ve been sticking with the terrain theme this week and rocking out with Mantic’s Deadzone plastic building kits. The inspiration for the palette is entirely down to Respawn’s Titanfall game for the XBox, which I make no apologies for being totally addicted to. As soon as I saw the in-game environments the first thought that occurred to me was “these would be fantastic as a Deadzone battlefield”. The whole frontier world colony feel to Titanfall meshes beautifully with the way Mantic have designed the plastic terrain. There is very much a re-purposed shipping crate look to the whole setup which works well not only with how the Deadzone rule mechanics work, but also the backstory. The terrain shown here is made only with what was included* in the Kickstarter and was easily enough to cover an entire 2′ x 2′ game zone. When you see it laid out like this and consider the Kickstarter also included the rubberised printed gaming mat shown, five full faction starters, plus the faction decks, dice, counters and extra characters before any add-ons are factored in, it’s a chunky amount of painting. As a result I’ve been a bit more pragmatic with Deadzone and adopted a much more efficient  painting approach that gets everything onto the table as quickly as possible whilst still achieving a basic standard. What you see here is what I like to refer to as ‘Stage One’: Game Ready. The idea being once I have everything to this stage it’s time to get some games in. The terrain can then go through additional painting stages such as detailing and weathering during downtime between games.

So what are the Stage One basics?

It’s basically a bit of a cheat using different colours of primer, airbrush stencils and brush to achieve a simple, but very fast base standard. This is then immediately weathered using dry-brushing, sponge chipping and a gouache wash. That’s literally all there is to it I promise you. There is no time consuming detailed brush work, no blending and no highlighting. All of those things can be added later along with additional paint effects in later stages should you wish, but for now what you see here is achieved entirely with those basic steps. So let me walk through them in a bit more detail.

All of the pieces were initially primed in a Tamiya light grey. Those I wanted to do as red were then put to one side to be airbrushed (more on that later). The pieces that were left were given an additional coat of GW white primer, but only in patches and as a very light zenithal highlight on upper surfaces. Once dry I used a mix of paper stencils and masking tape to create simple stripes and primitive block shapes. These were then filled in with a Modelmates dark grey spray primer. I then reverted to the airbrush to block paint the other sections in a dark red. Note, I left the interiors primed grey however so that I could return to them at a future stage to create some interior/exterior contrast. Once dry, the red exteriors were dry-brushed with a dark orange before adding more masking tape and stencils to create the white stripes and markings.

The weathering effect on the stripes is achieved using a method similar to salting, only using a hair lacquer. The process is actually very simple. Once you have masked off the area you want as the marking you give it a light coat from a can of firm hold hair spray. Working quickly whilst the lacquer is still wet and tacky sprinkle a few areas with sand and small gravel (or salt crystals). These will stick to the lacquer and create a mask. With the masking in place I then airbrushed the sections with Tamiya white and once dry removed the tape and brushed off the sand to reveal the base colour underneath. If you want to make it even more weathered warm water and a cotton bud can be used to wear away the paint to reveal the colour below as the lacquer remains soluble allowing the white to be removed. At this stage I also added a few letters and numbers here and there using a dry rub lettering similar to Letraset. The rather apt Deadzone and bio-hazard graffiti are also airbrush stencils which came from another Kickstarter by Anarchy HD. A happy coincidence no less. For the grey section I followed exactly the same masking and hairspray approach to add the yellow markings in Model Air Ochre and Iraqi Sand.

The only brushwork was to then block paint the metal frames, vent grills and hand rails as well as a few of the grill sections in dark metal or scaly green.

Finally, the two weathering steps. Firstly I liberally applied Charadon Granite chipping to all of the sections using pieces of torn up sponge. I then painted a thin wash of heavily watered down burnt umber artists gouache over everything and left it to fully dry. This was the only real time consuming task which if I’m being honest I speeded up anyway with the use of a hairdryer. The excess gouache was then wiped away from all of the flat surfaces using a damp cloth leaving behind a nicely weathered and shaded appearance. I love using gouache for terrain because it has such a nice matt finish, but also because it remains soluble meaning you can continue to work it in a similar way you can with oils. Ultimately all of these will be varnished once additional stages have been completed and that will fix the gouache in place permanently. At this stage however it can still be readily handled without any undesirable consequences to hands, miniatures or furniture!

Mantic also included some accessory frames along with the building sprues, which feature items such as storage containers, lights and ladders. Not all of them are included here as I still have a fair few spares which I plan on using on further terrain pieces from other manufacturers. All ultimately to bulk out the Deadzone selection available even further, especially when the Secret Weapon’s Tablescape urban tiles arrive later in the year. Some of them however I have already painted up as scatter terrain using pretty much the same methods detailed above along with a chipping highlight just to help the detail pop a bit more.

I may have a few reservations about just how fully modular Mantic’s new terrain is in a practical sense with the current connector design. However, as permanent sub-assemblies their hard plastic designs are absolutely top notch in my opinion. Not counting assembly time, getting all of the terrain you see here to this standard took a maximum of two relaxed evenings work. I anticipate to take them to the next stage and add a few spot details, the interiors and additional rust and environment weathering should take no more than one or two more evenings at a later point in time. For now however, this Deadzone is game ready and The Plague are waiting. Now all I need to do is paint some Enforcers and we should be ready to start rolling dice.

Hopefully you found this useful. If you have any questions then feel free to fire them into the comments below. Until next time, have a great week.


* For the pedantic or eagle-eyed you may have spotted there ‘is’ one non-Mantic terrain item in the mix. It’s so insignificantly small though I’m not counting it! No prizes if you spot it.


By |2017-09-13T12:31:51+00:00April 8th, 2014|Categories: Mantic Games|Tags: , , |13 Comments


  1. Allan April 9, 2014 at 8:59 am - Reply

    Hi Carl,

    Great work on the terrain. It looks bloody fantastic! (typical Australian understatement).

    I love the reference to Titanfall to which I have also succumbed. It is so good to see terrain that looks like hard sci-fi and could be used for anything due to the lack of skulls and gothic architecture.

    I will have to try your weathering tips. I don’t own an airbrush but I can get the Tamyia Sprays in similar colours.

    You are bang on with Mantic. While I both love and hate some of their figures I cannot escape the fact they are certainly improving.

    The bit that guts me the most as I had to cancel my Deadzone Pledge due to bills. I wish I had been able to keep the Strike Pledge level.

    At least I can order the game now 🙂

    Happy Gaming and keep up the fantastic posts!



    • Carl Woodrow April 9, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Right on the nose as always mate. Definitely don’t need an airbrush to achieve same effect, you will just need a bit more masking as the spray cans won’t be quite as fine a level of control. All of the white sections were done with spray cans so it’s definitely doable.
      Agree about Mantic. I was very unsure about where they were heading at the start and some of the figures are a bit polarising. However, they do seem to be learning from their experiences as each KS rolls out and the quality is getting better and better. So far they have the rare distinction as far as I can see of actually delivering to schedule on every campaign they have run to date. Considering where CMoN are that’s not a record to be sniffed at I reckon.

      Take it easy matey.

  2. 40kterminatus April 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    That terrain look well nice and the uses are endless. I`m thinking Space Hulk.

    • Carl Woodrow April 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks man. I totally agree; can see these frames working really nicely for Space Hulk. Like Allan said in an earlier comment, these have a great hard Sci-Fi look making them amazingly flexible. I could see them being used for all kinds of games from Hulk to Gates of Antares, Necromunda, Sedition Wars. This list goes on. I think Mantic are onto a winner here as these sets have a broad appeal.

  3. James Harrison April 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I think you’ve done a fantastic job with these; they look colourful and appealing, but not garish. I also quite like the utilitarian grey insides actually!

    Whilst I have not played Titanfall, I have played a lot of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer – the sort of terrain setup you have now rather reminds me of the Firebase Dagger map.
    That said, many of the ME3MP maps would be perfect for DZ if you’re looking for more inspiration, and coincidently the size and style of the boxed set DZ game is a close match to ME3MP. ;0)

    Very much looking forward to more DZ posts, and hopefully to some closeups of the factions/models too.
    On that note, I will also say that resin bases are a cheap and effective way of boosting the appearance of the DZ models – Dragonforge’s “Tech Deck” and “Concrete Rubble” ranges and Fenris’ “Ark” bases all immediately spring to mind as great matches. Plus, the number required for a typical KS faction is not too prohibitive.

    I do also agree with the modularity aspect of the terrain though; whilst it is very flexible, it’s just not reasonable to assemble and disassemble it between games. Small permanent modules that can be joined or stacked to give wider variety is a much better approach I think.

    • Carl Woodrow April 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      Cheers James. Mass Effect very much fits with the hard sci-fi look Allan referred to so yes, it does underline why Mantic have a smart product here. I will be doing a closer look at the factions starting with The Plague, no fear there. Just to manage expectations though all of them will be done for efficiency rather than anything special, so if you are looking for anything above tabletop basics they may not fit the bill.

      I think your point about the true modularity of Mantic’s terrain is spot on and although I applaud them for their attempt to make the scenery fully flexible, I agree with you 100% that they are just not quite there yet in its current form. The connectors do not hold the parts that firmly, but are still prone to breaking too easily as well. As semi-permanent sub-assemblies however they are bang on and I think as long as that’s how people view this terrain they should be pretty happy with what Mantic have produced.

  4. Max Von Deadlock April 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Good tip on the Gouache. I shall have to check that out. Really nice work on this terrain, btw. I’ve yet to get to my Deadzone stuff but this has inspired me.

    • Carl Woodrow April 16, 2014 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Thanks man, appreciated. Be interesting to see what use you find for it as you already achieve a very similar smooth pastel transition on your bases from the way you paint anyway. Love the palette of colours you use and the light sourcing.

  5. Jason May 16, 2014 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Love the terrain, very nice. I’m throwing together some DZ terrain this weekend and was curious if you assembled all your terrain before you painted it. It sounded like from the article this was the case. Did you glue any of it together? Or did you leave it unglued so you could open it up later to paint the interiors? I’m trying to figure out how I can get mine on the table fast and come back later and flesh out interiors and details later. Thanks!

    • Carl Woodrow May 16, 2014 at 7:46 am - Reply

      Thanks Jason. Yes, was all assembled before painting and most of the sections shown are permanent sub-assemblies (glued). I found it was the only practical compromise as true 100% modular really doesn’t work in my view.
      Interior wise I didn’t find it an issue as a light grey primer followed by a dusting of white primer to highlight and the gouache wash gave enough interior detail for me. Unless you are aiming to make a diorama I don’t think you will find it an issue.

  6. Mike October 6, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Quick question – did you paint in sub sections or in components? (Just picked up a set tonight & found your blog -trying to google for instructions/suggestions!)

    • Carl Woodrow October 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Sub sections, I just think it’s the best compromise between flexibility and practicality.

      • Mike October 6, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

        cheers, thanks Carl.

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