Everything on Display

One of the things that is apparently very American with miniature wargaming is the use of display boards. Apparently these haven't really been a 'thing' over in the UK, until some of the bigger (as in status, not girth) UK players made the trip across the Atlantic puddle and saw what some of us yanks have been doing.

So what is a display board, and why should you make one for your army?

Well it is, obviously, a board on which to display your army.  More than just a tray, it is built and painted to enhance your army, or at least to match the basing for your army.  Some of these can be extremely elaborate becoming major components themselves, others are quite simple and basic.

Not only does a display board help your army to look better during appearance judging (and some judges (myself included) even give points toward the best painting / best appearance award if you have a display board and if it matches your army.  But not only does it enhance the look, it can also make it easier to move your army from table to table during a tournament.  It should (hopefully) have enough room to not only display your models, but also to hold your rule books, dice, tape measure etc as well.  This way you can just pick up the board and move to your new table each round, instead of making multiple trips.

I think they are important enough that when I run an escalation league, I always give additional build points for people to make a display board for their army.

Since this is not an official part of the army, there are no rules behind it.  Back in the day, GW used to specify that your display board could not be larger than 2'x2'.  This is a reasonable restriction, as making it bigger can make it much more difficult to carry and move.  However they never set a restriction on height, and I have seen some displays that sit 3' or more above the table - and others that are on carts and may be over 4' tall from the ground up.

Yes, I'm guilty of that myself
My drunk dwarfs had the most elaborate display of any of my armies.  It depicted a mountain brewery, with brewing tanks and even a fresh water supply (well fresh at the top of the waterfall - maybe not so much in the pool at the bottom where a slayer was swimming with a beer :-) ).  But to top it off, I built a full working beer tap with a keg on ice underneath, so could serve fresh, cold, home brewed beer right from the display.
The army on display
Beer Tap
Ok, so maybe I was trying to bribe my way for general's choice votes (didn't work, never actually won with the beer tap).  But it was still a lot of fun, and many people still remember it.
It actually works!
You can see much more details on how I built the whole display at an old post here.

But a display board does not have to be anywhere near that elaborate.  In fact I often just start with a 2'x2' piece of plywood from Home Depot, or even just a large enough piece of MDF (though not as strong and it can warp).  Sand the edges, and then base and paint it the same way you do your army and your are done.  Adding a frame is simple - pick up some corner molding, cut it to size and glue it on to make the frame.

Just a piece of plywood
This is simply plywood, with sand, paint and a couple different types of static grass / flock on it.
Another idea to get a nicely framed display board is to go to you local discount store and buy a cheap picture frame of the appropriate size, and a same size piece of 1/4" mdf.  Then replace the clear plexiglass (cheap frames don't come with glass) with your mdf - then paint and texture it as above.

My son Jon did this for the Adepticon team tournament this year - which helped us to win best appearance at it.
This could actually work to play The Walking Dead on as well
But again, let me emphasize, these do not have to be elaborate.  My youngest son built a very simple one for his Tomb Kings army (and he may be getting back into wargaming, in which case he can use it for Empire of Dust).
Frame then glue sand on it to match his bases
A couple of years ago I FINALLY made a display board for my Abyssal Dwarfs for Nashcon.  It is done the exact same way as my bases, only bigger.

For my Orc & Goblin army Da Beech Boyz, I covered half the board with sand and the other half with Valejo water effects, and glued a piece of plastic coral in the corner.  This matched my basing, as units were either in the water or on the beach (except for the Arachnarok spider, which was a giant lobster coming out of the water.
Da Beech Boyz
My first real display board was for the United Greenskin Postal Service, and was designed to look like a mailbox from the side, and a post office from the front.  This one actually had to be cut down, as it was originally 30" wide - there was a parking lot on the right hand side for the chariots and wolf riders - but it was too large to take to the Columbus GT (way back when), so I had to cut it down.
Worked for both versions of the army
My son ends up making his board a bit more utilitarian.  He still plays a lot of D&D and Pathfinder, and often uses miniatures for these.  He makes a lot of his display boards so that you can remove elements to use them as terrain for his role playing sessions.  Below is his orc & goblin display board - but you will notice the empty space in the middle - that is where he had a swamp that he has taken and used for role playing (or at least he didn't leave it at the house with the rest of the board :-) ).
Jon's display board
Display boards can also be used for multiple armies, if the basing is the same.  So when I did The Grateful Undead I just made a simple board to represent an outdoor concert.  It was simply a pre-cut piece of 1/4" MDF (18" x 24") with sand, painted and static grass.
Basic display board
In order to make it a bit more interesting, I constructed a stage and scaffolding (with posters on it).  I would put an old ipod behind the stage hooked up to small batter powered speakers and actually play Grateful Dead music (and the ipod displayed the album covers) before tournaments and during the paint judging.
Stage is a little worn, and two of the microphone stands are now missing
A few years later, my buddy Bill Robertson (he created warscore - a great tournament scoring software package and website that I can't recommend highly enough) and I did the Adepticon WFB Team Tournament a few times - and we brought Chaos Warriors and Ogres, and themed them after the old Mordheim Carnival of Chaos.  A few ice cream tubs, some striped fabric that my wife sewed together and pictures I found on the internet made tents, and then round push pins worked for the light bulbs in the sign.  But underneath it all was that same display board, just rotated 90 degrees.

But that isn't all.  When I was first brought my Drunk Dwarfs to Adepticon, I wanted to save the beer and big display for the championship tournament.  I was going to use a subset of the army for the 1000 pt "How You Use It", but needed something for the display.  So I turned over that same piece of MDF (which was the smooth side), spray painted it black, then glued Woodland Scenics soft flake snow on it ( the same that I used for basing my dwarfs).  While the beer didn't win at the big tournament, this little display helped me to win Tourney's Choice Appearance.

The versatility of a simple display board
Display boards aren't only for large mass battle games, they can enhance the look of any miniatures. My son Jon made an awesome display for his 'Rebs' Dreadball team, using Mantic's Battlezones terrain and PoweredPlay L.E.D.s. He has a small tub int the back for dice and a compartment to hide the battery and wires.  He also used some of the terrain from Dreadball Xtreme, including the goal which he also lit up.

A truly awesome board.
So for only a few dollars and a little time and effort, you can step up your display with a custom display board as well.

Because it is all fun and games . . .


  1. Those dwarves were yours! I remember seeing a picture of that somewhere at random and they still have my vote for best display board of all time! Your beard shall forever be unrivaled!


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