Two-Tier Heroclix Map

Part of the appeal of HeroClix, for me, is that you can get away playing with toys without acknowledging you’re playing with toys. “It’s not dolls, I’m rolling dice! This is strategy…SERIOUS BUSINESS!” My life is a lie.

Anyway, the first project I tackled when I was bitten by the HeroClix bug was to build a custom map. That first board was fun, but a random comment from one of my friends—“Can I rip up and throw a manhole cover?”—got me thinking. Why not build a layered battlefield, one with subterranean levels? First step: buy stock in foam core…

The Board

Starting with a pad of graph paper, I kick back on the couch and sketch out what I want the map to look like. It’s based on movement squares, here being 2” x 2” instead of the standard 1 ½” x 1 ½” HeroClix grid. Why? Because I’m lazy. Sheets of foam core (or foam board) are available in a ten-by-fifteen square ratio without having to do any cutting. Good news for me since both halves of the board are twenty-two sheets thick. This board will also run me about forty bucks worth of x-acto blades and band-aids.

I tried to balance the terrain: lots of rooftops for Daredevil and Elektra to make out on and plenty of roads & forest for Foggy Nelson to sit alone and eat sandwiches while watching couples walk by. : (

A 2” x 2” grid is drawn on the top sheet of foam core and that’s used as a cutting guide for every layer beneath. Pits, manholes, raised sidewalks…everything gets cut before the sheets are glued together. A thin layer of Elmer’s between individual sheets—go slow, make sure every piece of foam core lines up—then weights (stacks of books) are put on top before being left to dry overnight. To prevent the weights from denting the board, put a piece of foam scrap on top of the board and place the weights on top of that.

When using foam core to build a board, I’d recommend making it at least three sheets thick (as you can see above, I made the top layer of this board four sheets thick, just to be safe). The thinner your board, the more risk you run of it warping when applying glue or paint.

When the board is glued together I paint all exposed edges of foam core with a light coat of Elmer’s. That’ll protect it from the next two corrosive steps: a coat of speckle paint for texture and spray paint for base colors. Detail work is done by hand with acrylic paint; the whole mess then gets a coat of matte sealant.

Water terrain pretties up the board, but man, no section of map is used less than the aqua fresca. Maybe Tiger Shark peed in the pool? Hey, check it out, I just wrote Tiger Shark fanfic! And it had pee in it!

Anyway, I created the water with hot glue and, while still warm, shaped the surface texture with modeling tools. Some coats of acrylic paint took it home.

This is also where we take out first trip underground…

…the underwater cave is accessible only through the surface water and allows figures to take a dip. The bubbles at the bottom of the pond are hot glue and in an attempt to achieve a feeling of depth I used darkening shades of blue and aqua marine the deeper I went. All underground levels are built two sections high (four inches)  to accommodate both flyers and oversized figs.

House Rule: Figures without a fish icon get a six-sided die set at ‘6’ when they go under the waves. Every round that die counts down and if that figure is still under when it hits zero, the fig takes KO damage. GLUB! GLUB! GLUB!

Who DOESN’T want to put on a cape and chase badguys into a sewer? In addition to the submerged sections of the board, I wanted subterranean dry land for my guys to run around in. One way into the sewers in the discharge pipe (made from a cardboard tube hit with speckle paint)…

…while open manholes and ladders dot the board. The goopy raw sewage–like the water detailed above–is hot glue shaped while warm.


In an effort to make the terrain look somewhat seamless, the trees and telephone poles are all built into the board during the initial gluing stage…

…but a gentle tug and *POP*, they come right out when they take battle damage or when some super strength type yanks ‘em out to use as a weapon. While the “seamless” look is pretty to look at, it sacrifices gameplay variety when the trees are in the same spot every game. If you’re just building a display for your figures, great, fine, make it seamless. But for a board that’s gonna host multiple games, you’re better off making items like trees a self-standing object.

Trees, telephone poles and assorted items can be picked up from any hobby store. I tried finding those that fit into the 2” x 2” theme of the board (items that are two inches high, four inches high, etc.). To make sure they stayed put when plugged in the board, the bases of those items were hot glued to “plugs” of foam core two sheets thick.

Man…Canadians are short. Woop, my bad, he’s just standing in a ditch. When designing the board, I marked where I wanted the hindering terrain to be and cut the ditches–the hindering terrain–at that stage and made ’em three sheets deep.

Like the trees and telephone poles, having patches of hindering terrain built into the board may look pretty, but it sacrifices battlefield variety from game to game. Better to make this stuff some type of self-standing terrain that can change location every time you play.

And now, we pause for a giant f*cking hamburger…


My buddy Doc Schrute helped set up and take all these shots and, a few hours into the shoot, tried to kill me by treating me to dinner. On his urging I got the sandwich pictured above–a “da Hora” burger–and I’ve never had to eat again. Check this: It’s the size of a cantaloupe and dense like a white dwarf star. It’s a big fat burger topped with chicken breast, steak, mozzarella, fried egg, potato sticks, lettuce, bacon, ham, tomatoes, mayo and corn. Get that? CHICKEN BREAST IS A TOPPING! It was tasty, I couldn’t finish it and my heart stopped twice while eating.

A’ight, back to the ‘Clix stuff…


Buildings follow a recipe similar to making the board: map the foam core, cut it, glue it together with hot glue, coat exposed foam core with Elmer’s, a coat of speckle paint, a coat of spray paint, some hand painted detailing and a final coat of sealant. They’re all built at varying degrees of two-inch increments to fit the map grid.

Enough closed walls to create a boxed-in battle field inside the building, but enough doors to allow entry from all sides. BONUS: Plenty of windows for snipers to make mischief.

That fire thingie next to Dr. Doom is a flame wall, part of a larger set of custom barriers I whipped up awhile back. You can check ’em out–along with ice barriers, force fields and a few others–by clicking here. Get a better look at the flight stands the flying figures are using by clicking here.

Indoors are large enough to allow players to get their hands in the mix while an interior ledge allows figures to run around a second level. Cardboard ladders connect all floors (including the roof).

Every section of the wall has a pre-cut section that–thanks to its irregular shape–stays in place until a bit of pressure is applied…

*POP*, super strong mooks can walk through it, energy-type guys can blast through it, etc.

And, well, that’s the poop. This was my second stab at a Heroclix board. Some improvements over my first attempt, other elements–like the static terrain items–I’m not thrilled with. Regardless, lots of good memories on this sucker, especially maneuvering forgotten figures through the sewer and popping up through a manhole to JUMANJI!, catch an enemy unawares. This map led me to build a second two-tier map, one with an interconnected series of underground levels (caverns, sewers, fallout shelter, etc.). You can check that sucker out here.

Before I wrap up, lemme link over to my buddy Splith’s Flickr account where he’s posted some custom D&D terrain I put together for him. It follows the customizable mix-and-match tile system from my first HeroClix board and is built at the 1” x 1” D&D Miniatures scale. He even put together a video tour of it. Madness!


25 Responses

  1. I was looking forward to this beast of a post and it did not disappoint. I gotta say after all these years I am still in awe of your craftsmanship. If you could play as well as you build there would be no stopping you. 🙂

  2. I’m to dice-rolling what Bruno’s ass is to Eminem’s street cred. Victories over me should not count towards anyone’s HeroClix win/loss record.

    Anyway, yeah, while this blog entry was a bear, it was nothing compared to when we took the photos of this AND the original board (first blog post) all in the same day.

    When did that photoshoot end, like two in the morning…? Then I had to drive home, I got lost (JERSEY! *shakes fist*) and ended up stuck in the middle of the Lincoln Tunnel until 3:00am. I wanted to smash the planet.

  3. I got lost in Jersey once. Took a wrong turn and had to drive like 15 miles until got to the next exit so I could turn around. I, too, wanted to smash the planet.

    Thanks for the linkage and thanks again for the D&D terrain!

  4. I had never seen the D&D terrain before so it was a treat to watch that video tour with the cool mood music. I also love all those sword & sorcery figures, especially the water monster and the dude about to be sacrificed!

  5. You actually saw the D&D terrain at my apartment but it wasn’t painted yet, it was just a stack of white foam core. Davis noticed ’em and was fiddling with the tiles last time we all got together to watch me lose at ‘Clix.

    And yeah, that video tour of the D&D terrain is great. I–the guy who struggles to take grainy, occasionally unfocused photos for his blog– applaud Splith and his technical know-how for FILMING a video of a miniature landscape, setting it to music (ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME?!?) and linking it to both his website AND Flickr account while the best I can hope for is not deleting my entire blog every time I post.

    I feel like Khan in ST2 when Kirk hit ‘im with the prefix code.

    ; )

  6. First off: I enjoyed a look at what you’ve done for your HeroClix games. Not just the maps, but the custom ‘Clix as well. I like the tone with which you have written your entries, too — they are fun to read.

    I’ve been using 3D terrain for about six months now. Most of the stuff I’m working with has been from WorldWorks Games. Good stuff and it’s fun to work with, too. I’ve also been working around a “tutorial” (sort of) that one of their designers did that details building a masterboard and using modular sections for the playing field. (“City Planning:”

    I think that some of the things that you’ve come up with for your terrain and gaming are excellent – I’ve wanted to play on a multi-level board for some time and your board has given me a few ideas. I also like the way that you’ve – literally – integrated railroad model accessories into your board; I may incorporate something like that into a new model.


  7. Many thanks for the kind words, Rob. About halfway through the tedious process of building this board I wanted to stack it all into a pile and make a Viking funeral pyre for myself. Side effect of all the paint fumes, I suspect.

    And yeah, I’m always trolling hobby shops, toy stores and craft shops looking to see what I can mod into some type of HeroClix something. ‘Clix is such a weird scale that it’s tough finding items that fit. I’m currently searching for any WWII stuff–tanks, jeeps, etc. I thought I found some that could work (‘Forces of Valor’), but they’re too small. The quest continues!

    Big thumbs up on that link you posted, by the way. I’m always on the lookout for new places to chew the fat with gamers and WWG is one I wasn’t aware of. Thanks for the heads up.

    • I know that “Burn it all!!!” feeling, as well. But, I have to admit: It’s fun not only to play on the boards, but also to see others’ expressions when they walk in and see 3D terrain. You can check out my boards at

      WWG is a great site. And a fun – and relatively easy – way to build the terrain you want. Most of their newer sets (and pretty much ALL of their “Modern” series) has been scaled to 1.5″ to accomodate ‘Clix.

      And, as far as other accessories go, most 1:43 and/or 1:48 scale items are roughly ‘Clix-sized. A friend pointed out that Toys ‘R’ Us carries a line of 1:43 vehicles that are about the right size for use with Hero-/HorrorClix figures. And, if you wanted to go with a sci-fi feel, there’s always the vehicles from HALO ActionClix… which you can usually find for a good price. (I’d recommend for these.)

  8. Yeah, I’ve picked up cars at that scale and–while a little small–they’re close enough so you can’t really tell. That same scale mismatch when applied to big monster vehicles like tanks is a bit more noticeable.

    I’m thinking if I can find an old school plastic “army men” tank (those all-green toys, like from ‘Toy Story’) that it’ll fit the bill. It might need some modding to spruce it up, but it can’t be any worse than when a friend asked me to make a custom Captain Boomerang five years ago. Drawing little boomerangs on a HeroClix figure’s jacket can make a person all Jack-Nicholson-Shining.

    And dude, nice job on your city. My favorite scene is the one with the chain link fence…that’s something I’ve wanted to create for one of my boards but never found a way to make it work. Thumbs up.

    ALSO: I like this pic below because you can see Galactus sneaking his hand in for a quick snack…

    ; )

  9. ROB: “It’s fun not only to play on the boards, but also to see others’ expressions when they walk in and see 3D terrain.”

    We’re 100% on the same page, m’man. I’ve made jokes about my atrocious die rolling skills on this blog, but it’s very much true. Doc Schrute can attest to that. So while I do enjoy playing, I must admit watching the reaction of players seeing a new piece of board, custom figure or “extra” (custom barriers, etc.) is, at times, more fun.

    Though there are exceptions. Like when the aforementioned Doc Schrute saw my Equinox custom (Marvel villain) that I slaved over. His scowl-faced quote when looking him over: “Who the f*ck is this a**hole?”

    He, like Equinox, is a villain.

  10. I love the WorldWorks stuff but it’s a lot easier to just sit around and wait for Pat to build me something. And boy was it worth it!

    I’d love to one day be able to make maps like the ones the D&D miniatures come with or like their Dungeon Tiles. There’s a program called Dunjinni that helps you do that but it’s always run a bit slow for me.

    I took a stab with Photoshop once and made this:
    Spider Room

    It would be interesting to combine the cardstock tiles like WWG has with the terrain that Pat makes. Could provide some extral details to the flat terrain. But I guess it also has to do with style. For HeroClix, the bold colors and thick lines works well for comics.

  11. Cool spider design. I want a rug like that.

    And yeah, combining the 3-D’ness of the game tiles with the detail of the 2-D maps is interesting. That gives me some ideas on how to make…[dramatic pause]…THE KING OF ALL ‘CLIX BOARDS!

    I’m gonna mess around with some tests, see what I can come up with. If any good comes of it I’ll post pics in a later, er…post.

  12. This is absolutely awesome! I don’t have space to make something like this, and even if I did, your 3d work blows mine away.

    Would you be able to take some other shots or help with a layout? I’m considering making a simplified version of this but I can’t grasp the layout from the photos you’ve supplied.

  13. Thanks man. And yeah, storing everything can be a chore at times.

    I’d be happy to lend and hand and offer any advice, but as for posting more pics…I actually gave the board in this photoshoot away to a friend. I don’t have it to take pictures of. Sorry, man.

    I can eyeball specs of it, though:

    It’s two sections of foam core each 28″ long by 20″ wide. Movement squares are 2″ x 2″, so that would break down to 14 sections long by 10 sections wide.

    Each of the two boards is twenty-four sheets of foam core thick; four sections on top and four sections at bottom sandwich sixteen sheets in the middle. Those middle sheets have chambers cut out for underground areas. It was my first attempt at making a layered map so I wasn’t sure how stable it would be. Because of that, I didn’t connect the different underground levels.

    Sewer: 4″ wide (two sections) and runs almost the length of one side of the map (24″, or 12 sections).

    Cavern: 8″ wide (4 sections) and 6″ deep (3 sections). I didn’t go too deep into the board when making the underground layers because I thought it’d be a pain moving figs around in there. There’s also been plenty of games where–during clean up–forgotten figures were discovered tucked away in an underground corner. Ooops.

    Underwater: 10″ wide (5 sections) by 6″ deep (3 sections). Just make sure the water sections above ground line up with underwater below-ground sections. Rules-wise, figures can move from the surface of the water to an underwater section.

    I wanted figures to be able to stand on manholes, so they were shaped too small for figures to fit through. They’re more visual cues than anything else; quarter-sized holes cut through the top four boards.

    Silver: 14″ wide (7 sections) by 10″ long (5 sections) by 8″ tall (4 sections).
    Green: 6″ wide (3 sections) by 6″ long (3 sections) by 8″ tall (4 sections).
    Red: 8″ wide (4 sections) by 6″ long (3 sections) by 10″ tall (5 sections).
    Brown: 8″ wide (4 sections) by 6″ long (3 sections) by 6″ tall (3 sections).

    …did that help fill in the blanks of the map? I’m more than happy to help in any way, so if I missed something, was unclear on a point, whatever, don’t hesitate to ask.

    I actually built a 3-D board after I put this one together, one based on what worked/didn’t work when building this board. I’ll be posting pics of that one down the road a little bit and I’ll do a better job taking photos & detailing specifics.

  14. I was going to post a comment about how I should bring my camcorder over and film you going to town, measuring your different lengths, making sure things are stiff and firm, how you apply various liquids to get the job done, the mess that’s made during the entire process, how crazy it makes you and the glory of the final results.

    But then I thought you might just read into that and it seemed like a bad idea to post.

    Wait, is this gmail or your blog I’m writing in…

  15. Well there goes my street cred.

  16. Or take is as an opportunity to learn how to delete comments 🙂

  17. I don’t know if you’ve been following things on WorldWorksGames’ site over the past few weeks, but they’re about to release a new system tomorrow: TerrainLinx. Takes the modularity of the old system and kicks it up a notch… AND makes it even easier to store when you’re done playing.

    Here’s a link to the item I posted about it (and the original system pre-TerrainLinx release sale) on LiveJournal:

    • ^ Awesome post, m’man, thanks for the heads up.

      The video at the link showing off how TerrainLinx works is great, it really gets across how good the stuff looks and how easy it is to put together.

      Thumbs up.

      • WorldWorks makes very cool stuff but I can’t help but chuckle a bit at the intensity of their videos about paper models.

  18. Do you sell custom 3d heroclix maps if so I would like to purchase one thanks for your time. Devon wolf

    • Hey Mr. Wolf.

      Nope, I don’t sell my stuff. If you’re looking for some cool customs (and a great online community), check out HCRealms. They have message boards with people selling all kinds of groovy customs.

      • Great pictures and boards! I have been working on a 3D board following much of your advice and some tweaking of design with streets and buildings. I found 3 sizes of cardboard houses in Hobby Lobby and use them for my buildings, cutting out the back wall and gluing in a 2×2 piece of foam core around the inner edges to give it a second floor, plus the roof comes off and makes for easy design and play. If I can get pictures I will maybe post them if I can. I’m slowly working on using both sides of my foam core board for map play, but as for now just keep a ground level world without sewers or underwater zones. Anyhow, just wanted to say great job and keep up the great work!

  19. Hey Wymdragn.

    When you have pics of your map, swing by with a link — I’d love to see ’em!

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