C.D. Business


I am currently playtesting a Ganesha bug-hunt game called “Swatters”.  Unlike the majority of Ganeshas games Swatters is squad rather than skirmish based.  Squads and various terrain and objective elements in Swatters are defined by a “Cohesion Distance”, conveniently represented by an old compact disc.

As can be seen by the ugliness of the shiny CDs used in the first days playtesting I needed to make a number of old CDs look a little less shiny and ugly and to try to match them to my Zuzzy mat gaming surface.

In excruciating detail, interspersed with reasons why I did the things that I did, this is how I did it.


Firstly I sanded the shiny side of thirty CDs with coarse sandpaper, to give the paint/glue something to grip to.  I didnt bother taking photos of that stage.

I then mixed up a batch of black paint (I used black gesso as I had some around and gesso is designed to give additional tooth to paint anyway), ready mixed filler and PVA/white glue.  This mix was then painted all over the sanded side of the discs.  I then sprinkled two different kinds of flock and some granulated cork onto the wet paint/glue mix in patches.  I then left the lot to dry overnight.

Keen eyed observers will have already noticed that I didnt cover up the holes in the CDs.  I didnt bother for a number of reasons:

  • Its an awkward and time consuming job.
  • I did something similar using tape many years ago and the tape started to lift halfway through, which was an epic pain in the ass that I did not want to repeat.
  • It can be hard to cover the holes without leaving a trace of the method used behind that inevitably shows up in an irritating fashion when painting later.
  • The hole in the middle makes the discs much easier to hold while being worked on.
  • The hole will always be easily covered up by a miniature during play.
  • I plan to use the hole to store the CDs when finished.


The following evening I thinned the paint/glue/filler mix that I had already made with water and applied it liberally to the flocked areas.  This was in order to both colour the flock and to seal it so that it doesnt fall off when used.

At this time I also sprinkled another grade of flock kindly donated by COM onto the balder parts of the CDs.  This flock was fine enough to absorb the paint/glue/filler mix as I applied it, so it didnt need to be sealed again afterwards.

Even though I usually base my figures with sand from a local beach, I wanted to use flock on these bases.  The primary use for the bases is to work as movement trays for miniatures and as such miniatures are likely to fall over on them from time to time.  I wanted to ensure that the textured bases were relatively soft and less likely to chip the miniatures than sand.

I used to have a gaming table covered in sand at one point and it regularly caused miniatures to chip.  It also caused bleeding knuckles from picking up dice.  Although the idea of a room full of nerds playing so hard that our fingers bled is kind of funny (and reminiscent of Bryan Adams lyrics), it was mainly a pain in the ass.  So flock this time then.

I let the flocked and sealed CDs sitting on the table to dry overnight again.


The first step the following evening was to break out the foam paint roller (visible top left above) and to roll the base paint colour that I use for my terrain bases and for my wasteland Zuzzy mat onto the CDs.  It was important not to have too much paint on the roller at this point as it was an overbrush effect that leaves dark paint in the recesses that I was going for.

I considered adding some other colours in patches beneath (like how I approached painting the Zuzzy mat last year) before I got the roller out, but decided that at best it would be effort that wouldnt be seen (as the discs would be covered in miniatures during games) and that at worst it might actually make the neutrally coloured bases a bit gaudy and therefore potentially detract from miniatures put on them.  So I didnt  do that.

If gluing junk and fluff to CDs and painting them has a fun bit, then this stage is it.  I was pleased to see how the broken ground effect that I was going for was working out and unifying the colour makes that sort of thing visible.

I then mixed some white into the colour and rolled that onto the discs, but using a lighter touch than the previous layer so that it would work as a highlight.  Lastly I mixed a mid grey with black and white and added some of the base brown to it and brushed some of the rougher areas in that colour to make it look like scree or similar.

The finished CDs can be seen in the first picture in this post.


Clockwise from top: Bugs, a minefield, Sin Eaters Chaos Space Marines, a bug spawn point/objective.

Many people use CDs as bases for terrain.  CDs are pretty much impossible to warp and they are very cheap/free.  Regardless, I was put off using CDs as bases until now because of their uniform, perfect circle footprints, which I find visually jarring.


Clockwise from top: Swooping Hawk Eldar, a campsite, an Ork mob, some Mega City Judges.

Despite my reservations I couldnt help but plonk down some various small terrain pieces on a few of my finished CD Swatters bases to see if they helped to delineate a minefield or campsite or whatever, which of course they did.  So the CDs will likely have more uses than just as movement trays in games of Swatters.


Clockwise from top: a human sacrifice, a load of things that can explode, some dead people who have escaped from hospital and a unit of ratmen from space, ratmaning it up.

Large terrain pieces that are lovingly modeled onto their bases/CDs are nice to look at but difficult to store and often hard to actually game with.  Therefore I tend to make small terrain pieces that I clump together to represent a woods or a ruin or whatever.

This approach works adequately, although it is handier if the area represented by giant mushrooms/unexploded bombs/an interdimensional vortex is represented physically in some way.  So thats another use for these thirty CDs.


Clockwise from top: skeleton robots, Eldar Guardians, zombie spawn points conveniently located near butane cylinders and gas cans, squat space dwarf forgefathers.

The sand that I have used to base miniatures for a few years now is chosen to be neutral, so that it looks passable primarily on my urban and wastelands terrain sets.  As you can see above the sand isnt a perfect match for the CDs or the mat, but its not very jarring either.  Its an acceptable compromise, although its a bit extreme on large areas like the zombie spawn points above.


Clockwise from top: some jungle, some cacti, some fungus and an area that belches forth unspeakable horror.

A final issue that I have with terrain pieces regards storage.  I am lucky enough to have quite a bit of space assigned to my hobby stuff, but I still need to make sure that the things that I make can be stored reasonably well.   One of the reasons that I didnt cover up the holes in the CDs is so that they could be returned to the spindle that they were supplied on.


Very tidy.  Unlike this meandering, huge blog post.


16 Responses

  1. Thank you. I went through he same stages, more or less, when I flocked my CDs and miniCDs for Swatters and OGAM. I find them handy and the fact that they are (roughly) one Medium stick across means they can be used for lots of things in Ganesha Games. The mythology gme Of Gods and Mortals I have written for Osprey Publishing (due in October 2013) uses CDs for open order troops as well, although rarely a player will need more than two. Harder than Steel, my squad level SF game, will also use CDs for squad moves, overwatch, and blast effects.


  2. Thanks for the feedback Andrea.

    I am particularly interested in Harder Than Steel. A lot of ex-40k players like me have been waiting for a Ganesha sci-fi rule set. I assume that there is a skirmish level sci-fi game planned at some stage too, similar to the Swatters skirmish set, right?

    Gods and Mortals sounds very nice (and the cover art is great), but I try to stick to sci-fi these days. Apart from 10mm fantasy that is 🙂

    I am looking forward to getting some more Swatters played over the weekend.


    • the Swatters skirmish depends on how Swatters sell. Harder than steel will be for SF what SBH is for fantasy — a generic skirmish system.


      • A dedicated Swatters skirmish would be great. Hopefully sales of squad based Swatters will justify the skirmish games production.

        A lot of fantasy miniature collections were reinvigorated by SoBH. If Harder Than Steel can do the same for sci-fi collections then I am sure that it will sell well.


  3. CD indeedy… turned out great! You’ve been very productive lately! I’m jealous. I’ve merely been ill with the flu. =( On the up-side, me and the mrs have been watching The Big Bang Theory from episode 1 forward.


    • Hi Mattias. I find that being hobby busy (rather than “work busy”) helps my humour, something needed even more than usual at this time of year. So I have been throwing myself into my geek stuff slightly more than usual in the interests of mental well being. My Dreadball team took me way longer than I had intended though: I had hoped to have two teams painted by now..

      I enjoyed doing messy “big brush” work on the CDs rather than the fiddly detail “small brush” work that I usually do, so I am considering tackling a couple of other terrain pieces next week. Assuming that I dont start painting more bugs or Rogue Trooper or more skelebots or my Maraduer Dreadball team or robot dogs etc etc.

      Thanks for the feedback.


  4. That’s great! As you’ll no doubt have noticed, I’m very much into CD terrain. If you’re looking for some quick, easy table filler, you could do worse than buy this set from Fenris and glue four or five pieces of them per CD. I used these for my ruined city terrain, I’ll try to get a post made on them.

    Great looking CD in this post, and the spindle storage is a stroke of genius!


    • I love Fenris. Everythign that I have bought from them has been great quality. That pack that you linked to and the associated brickwork pack are a nice cheap way to get some ground cover.

      I am looking forward to seeing a few articles from you Mikko. I want to see your Zuzzy mat as well as your ruined city stuff. I also want to see your not-EM4/Copplestone Terminators review to see if I really need to pick up some of those. So get on it 😉

      The spindle thing worked well and being able to store the tents/mines/spawn points/whatever in small compartmentalised boxes cuts down on storage space. Im obsessed with storage 🙂

      It occurred to me that a very convenient method of storing CD terrain with the elements glued on would be to leaving the hole in the middle of the CD and keep all of the elements of the terrain piece within the footprint and shorter than the internal height of the spindle. If you could get enough spindles from somewhere (offices must throw out vast quantities of the things) then it would make for a cool shelf of terrain “jars”.

      I wont be doing it – I will stick with the loose elements placed as required – but I am sure that it would work. It would be a great way to store your jungle CD terrain.

      Thanks for the feedback.


  5. Clever spindle storage.

    ‘Harder than Steel’ sounds very cool.


    • Thanks Barks!

      Harder Than Steel should be a great opportunity to get a whole load of my older, currently unused figures back on that table as well as an excuse to prepare some new forces. No downside 🙂


  6. […] C.D. Business […]


  7. Very good tutorial. I wouldn’t have done it with sand and glue either (is that proper english ? Forgive me, I’m french : nobody’s perfect. 😉 ).
    I chose the textured spray paint technique instead of flock, because I had some left from a previous terrain project, plus I have a garden and it was a beautiful day outside.
    I didn’t bother with sanding “the shiny side of [twenty] CDs” and neither did I cared much about being careful while spraying those. I’ll see how it turns out later.
    Blog post here (first stage, in french) : http://poussefigs.canalblog.com/archives/2013/04/24/27002003.html (nothing much to see yet).


    • Thanks Archiviste Dragontigre, Im glad that you liked it. “I wouldnt have done it with sand and glue either” is perfectly good English.

      The textured spray paint approach to texturing the CDs sounds very promising. I am looking forward to seeing some more photos.

      Thanks for the feedback.


      • Here you are :

        You probably won’t get the colors quite right because of the lighting and the settings of that new camera that I don’t know how to use properly yet.

        But the idea is of course martian soil. Orange-red and rocky.

        Thanks for the inspiration and the motivation.

        Now I need more bugs, and 15 miners (after years of waiting in a box, my GW Necromunda Ratskins may at last be painted).

        Don’t hold your breath though…


        • My Ratskins (the entirety of the original range IIRC) have been sprayed black and sitting in a box for a similar period. Some day…

          Your CDs look great 🙂


  8. […] into holes drilled in the brown plastic bases from Renedra.  Three of these fit on each of the CD bases that I prepped last year.  They can be moved to allow miniatures to be placed “in” the […]


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