TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2021, Part 11: Building a Practice Table, then Losing on it

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my ongoing (mis)adventures in the journey toward competitive respectability. It’s been a long road so far, with three GTs on the books and one more scheduled event to go – though now I’m starting to eyeball LVO next year as the culmination to this story. More on that in a future article, probably.

With New Orleans done, I’m left with seven weeks until Austin and I’d already squandered one of those “recovering from New Orleans” like some kind of scrub bitch. So it was time to pick myself up, pull my Death Guard out of their traveling case, and get in another game. But I wanted to up my practice game if I was going to do this. It was time to build some new terrain.

The terrain layout at the US GW Open in New Orleans

Building a Games Workshop US Open Table

Up until now I’d been practicing on what was a reasonable facsimile of the terrain at the GW US Open events. But after playing at the event, it was clear that these tables were not as accurate as I’d have liked, and had a few major differences from the GW terrain that made them less than ideal for practice. For one, my ruins tended to be too tall – I favor large L-shaped buildings for blocking line of sight to bigger units – and for another, I didn’t have the same massive, square bases to work with. So I decided to go ahead and recreate the table layout from the GHO so I’d have a proper practice table.

The GW terrain layout isn’t my favorite – I think it needs taller ruins to hide bigger models – but it’s pretty good, and gives melee units the ability to approach out of sight on most maps. The ruins are large and do a decent job preventing long sight lines most of the time, and you have to make some careful decisions about placement.

A box of unassembled ruins, ready to eat up a weekend.

Breaking Down the Project

There are basically four aspects to this build:

  • The bases
  • The four large ruins
  • The two medium ruins
  • The four pieces of dense terrain

The ruins – all of the terrain – are built from official GW terrain. That means that replicating them will be easy but also pretty expensive. I’ll come back to that later. The bases are also non-trivial, since I need to figure out how to create solid large bases without gluing the terrain down on them – the terrain has different configurations on the bases for day 1 and day 2, and so I need to be able to adjust and move the terrain around on the bases. That means that adhesive-backed vinyl floor tiles – my usual go-to – are out.

Building the Ruins

You can use two Sanctum Administratii to build four identical L-shaped ruins. Try and put the most open windows on the short sides.

At the bare minimum, here’s what you need to build this terrain:

  • Two Sanctum Administratus kits
  • Two Sub Cloister and Storage Fane kits

Those will get you two of the four big ruins, half of the other two, and both of the medium size ruins sorted. To complete the other two ruins you’re going to need either another two Storage Fanes or two Ferratonic Furnaces topped with Alchemite Stacks. You can put whatever on the four small dense terrain pieces; GW likes to use thermal conduits, Thermic Plasma Regulators, Haemotrope Reactors, and the Nurgle terrain – both the Feculent Gnarlmaw and the Miasmic Malignifier. 

If you’re keeping track at home, that means that doing this from scratch – if you didn’t own any of this terrain already – is going to cost you about $460, and that’s if you buy two battlefield expansion boxes instead of the last two Storage Fanes – but the upside is that’ll also get you the pipes and other debris you need to do the dense terrain features.

The good news on my end is that I already had one battlefield expansion and one Sanctum Administratum at home, plus some ferratonic incinerators and Haemotrope reactors, so I only had to buy one more Administratum and one Storage Fane to get everything I needed for the terrain.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Over the last weekend I hastily assembled all of the terrain I’d picked up, plus another furnace I had the parts for sitting around. There’s nothing too crazy about these – just assemble them to the basic box specs. The only thing you need to really be mindful of are the Sanctum Administratii – you’ll have parts left over on these. Try to put the closed walls on the front. At the GW US Open these are treated as completely opaque, and also they put little plastic pieces over them to actually close them off, but most of these started falling off late in the event.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Painting the Ruins

Once I had them all done, I went ahead and primed them – I started by coating the interior walls and bottom halves with Chaos Black, then I primed the tops of the upper floors of the Storage Fanes with Leadbelcher, making sure to get in the recesses, and finally I primed them with Mephiston Red. This would ensure a decent color fade on the buildings before I even got started, and would mean that the pipes inside the floors would look metal. Most of my existing terrain is gray, so this was a good chance to branch out a bit and do something more colorful.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

After that it was time to paint these bastards. I settled on a pretty simple strategy for painting them that would let me breeze through while still giving them ample color:

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. Paint the most prominent pipes and grates with Leadbelcher. Get some of the wires and exposed pieces of rebar, but I’m not trying to hit everything -just the big bits and something on every face.
  2. Paint the metal plates and Window grates with Balthasar Gold. Again, I don’t need to get everything here but just enough to add a third color.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. On the Sanctums, paint the floors with Karak Stone.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. Wash the whole thing with Agrax Earthshade. Use more on the lower parts of the model.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. Weathering – I painted the bottom third of the ruins (or so) with Typhus Corrosion, making sure to hit any spots where I messed up and went outside the lines, and also hitting all of the parts painted with leadbelcher. Then I hit the copper plates with Nihilakh Oxide.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. On the Sanctums, I did a quick second pass with Karak Stone to give the floors more of a patina look.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

  1. Drybrushing. I take a large drybrush and put a tiny dot of Mephiston Red into a lot of Reaper Polished Bone (any light bone shade will do) to give it a sliiiiight pink tint, then I drybrush that over the model, using more near the tops. This is the last step, and basically finishes the whole thing. By the end a single building could be done in an hour, maybe less.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

On the other ruins I add an additional detail wrinkle of doing the Mechanicus logos – Paint half of these with Corvus Black and the other half with Reaper Ghost White before doing weathering and drybrushing.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The smaller walls are just more of the same, and go even faster.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Ditto the furnace, though I started by painting the interior metal parts of this one before coming back and retouching the red spots.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The furnaces took a little more time, but are basically using the same process. I painted one of them years ago and used this as an excuse to finally paint the second.

Creating the Bases

There are three different base sizes I needed for the terrain:

  • Four 12″x12″ plates – these are the large plates the ruins go on.
  • Two 10″x5″ plates for the medium ruins
  • Four 4″x6″ plates for the dense terrain

I decided I wanted something that wasn’t clear plexiglass for these – I’m very much not a fan of the plexiglass; I think it looks bad and it slides around a lot and the terrain slides around on it, plus it can be difficult to see where the terrain is at a glance. I’ve had Warhammer Fantasy Movement Tray kits sitting around for a while that I picked up on ebay. These make wonderful terrain bases, since they’re plastic and tiled. I decided to use those for the smaller plates, but as they’re 8″8″ in size, they weren’t quite big enough to make 12×12 work.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fortunately for those I had Necromunda tiles I’d painted up recently. I’ll cover painting those up in a future article but the general idea is: Prime with Leadbelcher, paint the area you want the paint on black, mask off the yellow, paint that, then wash the whole thing in Agrax Earthshade, sponge/brush on a bunch of Typhus Corrosion, then drybrush parts of it with Ryza Rust.

These made great 12″x12″ bases and were easy to paint and replicate the scheme. For the smaller plates, I used the WHFB base plates, cutting and gluing them as needed. To give them some extra support, I used thin sheets of styrene under the 5″x10″ ones.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

They’re sturdy enough for what I need them for, and this gave me all the bases I needed.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Painting them went pretty quick, in part because it was late in the week and I just needed to be done. I will likely come back and touch these up later but for now I just couldn’t be bothered. They’re primed with Leadbelcher, then washed in Agrax Earthshade and painted with Typhus Corrosion, then drybrushed with Ryza Rust. in the future I’ll come back and use Nuln Oil/Agrax to add little spills, Blood for the Blood God to add spatter, and I may glue a couple of tiny details to them, like skulls or whatever. For now they’re done, though.

The Table

I finished the table just in time for my practice game, which was pretty cool. Above are the standard layouts I used, and how the table looks when you have it in either configuration. A note on the big ruins: There are basically three configurations these come in when you’re building them, and you have some options if you don’t have a pair of furnaces to use.

Sanctum + Furnace

Sanctum + Fane

Double fane

Any one of these works, and the GW terrain doesn’t always have four identical sets. Just remember when you push two Storage Fane ruins together that any gap on the first floor is meant to be covered/opaque – you can’t shoot through those first floor ruins, and you should be pushing them together.


The Practice Game

OK, with the new table’s worth of terrain complete, it was time to get in a practice game. I set up a game against Rob, a local Houston player who’s pretty good – Rob recently finished 10th with his Salamanders at Warzone Houston. Rob wanted to get in some tournament practice for Austin and I was happy to oblige.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

My List

Before we dive in, we should do a quick recap of the list I was bringing. It’s the same list I took to New Orleans, and will likely be the same list I take to Austin, just for continuity’s sake. I’m pretty comfortable with it, but it’s got some weaknesses. The biggest strength of the list is that I don’t have to paint any more models to run it.

My Death Guard - Click to Expand

+++ Death Guard Battalion Detachment (-3 CP, 2,000 points) +++

Plague Company: The Inexorable
Extra Relic (-1 CP)

Extra WL Trait (-1 CP)

HQ: Death Guard Chaos Lord w/Power Sword, Bolt Pistol, WARLORD: Ferric Blight, RELIC: Plaguebringer
HQ: Malignant plaguecaster, POWERS: Miasma of Pestilence, Curse of the Leper

TP: Plague marines x5: Flail, Champion: Bolter and Plague Knife
TP: Plague marines x5: Flail, Champion: Bolter and Plague Knife
TP: Poxwalkers x10
TP: Poxwalkers x10

EL: Blightlord Terminators x10: 2x flail, 2x reaper autocannon + Combi-bolter, 5x axe + combi-bolter, Champion: Combi-bolter + Bubotic Axe, Plague Skull of Glothila (-1 CP)
EL: Deathshroud Terminators x3
EL: Foul Blightspawn: Relic: Revolting stench-vats, Plaguechosen: Arch-Contaminator
EL: Biologus Putrifier
EL: Tallyman, Relic: Tollkeeper

HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon
HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon

FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Fleshmower
FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Heavy Blight Launcher

DT: Chaos Rhino

+++ 2,000 points, 9 CP +++


As always, the plan is to use the Blightlords as a kind of Deathstar with character support, walk them forward and hold the middle of the table and make opponents regret coming to them. The other half of the force can do similar nasty things, but how I split them and use them will depend on the mission, objectives placement, and terrain layout.

Rob’s List

Rob's List - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Salamanders) [101 PL, 2,000pts, 9CP] ++

+ Configuration [12CP] +

**Chapter Selector**: Salamanders

Battle Size [12CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points)  [12CP]

Detachment Command Cost

+ Stratagems [-1CP] +

Relics of the Chapter [-1CP]: Number of Extra Relics [-1CP]

+ HQ [14 PL, 255pts, -2CP] +

Captain on Bike [8 PL, 145pts, -1CP]: Anvil of Strength, Astartes Chainsword, Chapter Command:  Chapter Master [2 PL, 40pts], Frag & Krak grenades, Master-crafted boltgun [5pts], Rites of War, Stratagem: Exemplar of the Promethean Creed [-1CP], Teeth of Terra, Twin boltgun, Warlord

Primaris Chaplain [6 PL, 110pts, -1CP]: 2. Catechism of Fire, 5. Recitation of Focus, Absolver Bolt pistol, Chapter Command:  Master of Sanctity [1 PL, 25pts], Crozius arcanum, Frag & Krak grenades, Litany of Hate, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP], Wise Orator

+ Troops [16 PL, 320pts] +

Infiltrator Squad [6 PL, 120pts]
. 4x Infiltrator [96pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Marksman bolt carbine
. Infiltrator Sergeant [24pts]: Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, Marksman bolt carbine

Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 100pts]: Auto Bolt Rifle
. 4x Intercessor [80pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades
. Intercessor Sergeant [20pts]: Astartes Chainsword, Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades

Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 100pts]: Auto Bolt Rifle
. 4x Intercessor [80pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades
. Intercessor Sergeant [20pts]: Astartes Chainsword, Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades

+ Elites [41 PL, 775pts] +

Aggressor Squad [6 PL, 120pts]: 2x Flamestorm Gauntlets, 2x Aggressor [80pts], Aggressor Sergeant [40pts]

Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 140pts]
. 3x Bladeguard Veteran [105pts]: 3x Frag & Krak grenades, 3x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 3x Master-crafted power sword, 3x Storm Shield
. Bladeguard Veteran Sergeant [35pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, Heavy Bolt Pistol, Master-crafted power sword, Storm Shield

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus Rocket Pod [5pts], Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon [5pts], Redemptor Fist

Redemptor Dreadnought [9 PL, 185pts]: 2x Fragstorm Grenade Launchers, Icarus Rocket Pod [5pts], Macro Plasma Incinerator, Onslaught Gatling Cannon [5pts], Redemptor Fist

Vanguard Veteran Squad [7 PL, 145pts]: Jump Pack [1 PL, 15pts]
. Vanguard Veteran [27pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, Lightning Claw [3pts], Storm shield [5pts]
. Vanguard Veteran [27pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, Lightning Claw [3pts], Storm shield [5pts]
. Vanguard Veteran [27pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, Lightning Claw [3pts], Storm shield [5pts]
. Vanguard Veteran [27pts]: Frag & Krak grenades, Lightning Claw [3pts], Storm shield [5pts]
. Vanguard Veteran Sergeant [22pts]: Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, Lightning Claw [3pts]

+ Fast Attack [16 PL, 380pts] +

Attack Bike Squad [6 PL, 180pts]
. Attack Bike [2 PL, 60pts]: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, Multi-melta [10pts], Twin boltgun
. Attack Bike [2 PL, 60pts]: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, Multi-melta [10pts], Twin boltgun
. Attack Bike [2 PL, 60pts]: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades, Multi-melta [10pts], Twin boltgun

Suppressor Squad [5 PL, 100pts]
. 2x Suppressor: 2x Accelerator autocannon, 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Suppressor Sergeant: Accelerator autocannon, Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades

Suppressor Squad [5 PL, 100pts]
. 2x Suppressor: 2x Accelerator autocannon, 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Suppressor Sergeant: Accelerator autocannon, Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades

+ Heavy Support [14 PL, 270pts] +

Eradicator Squad [7 PL, 135pts]: Melta rifle
. 2x Eradicator [90pts]: 2x Bolt pistol
. Eradicator Sgt [45pts]: Bolt pistol

Eradicator Squad [7 PL, 135pts]: Melta rifle
. 2x Eradicator [90pts]: 2x Bolt pistol
. Eradicator Sgt [45pts]: Bolt pistol

++ Total: [101 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++



Rob’s running Salamanders with a frightening amount of melta. Those Eradicator squads will be a serious pain in my ass if they ever get close to my units, and he’ll put one of them in Strategic Reserves, just in case. The MM Attack Bikes are also nasty and the Redemptors can put out some stupid firepower as well. I need to hit those melta units hard early on with my PBCs and take them out of the game. The upside is that with no Apothecary I don’t have to worry about models coming back.

My Secondaries

  • Grind Them Down
  • Spread the Sickness
  • Stranglehold

Rob’s Secondaries

  • Assassination
  • Stranglehold
  • Raise the Banners

This is a six-objective map with two home markers, so I think I can score 9 pretty easily with Spread this game. I’m not sure about running To the Last with this much melta out, so I opt for Grind instead, and that ends up being a mistake. Stranglehold is another one I think I can maanage, given I just need to hold 3 and keep clearing one, which is doable if I can stay ahead on unit counts. Rob takes Assassination, which is usually a mistake unless I’m getting blown out and need to spread out my characters, with Banners and Stranglehold – he hopes to do the same as me.

Deployment before turn 1. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob gets the First Turn. That’s not great. I deploy mostly conservatively but I get a bit too aggressive with my Rhino, hoping that -1 to hit in Dense terrain will help it get through. It’s not a great target and I do want to draw Rob out so I can charge him with a fleshmower, but if I lose 2-3 units that’ll keep me from getting Grind on round 1.


That’s pretty much what happens; The Bike multi-meltas roll out and with all their buffs score 6 wounds on the Rhino, killing it, while I lose another from inside to shooting from the Redemptor. I manage to keep a few marines, but start turn 1 down 2 on Grind. I’m able to make up some of that on my turn by pushing forward with my Bloat-drones. I kill the bikes using all the shooting on the PBCs and heavy blight launcher and wipe out Rob’s Infiltrators with my Fleshmower, while charging his Eliminators to keep them out of combat.

he Bloat drones doing their thing on Turn 1 while the Plague Marines score me Stranglehold. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Turn 1 didn’t go amazing for me and my dice would run cold all game – I failed a hilarious number of 2+ saves with the blightlords on turn 2, losing 5 of them to AP0 and AP1 weapons while I was in cover, and my PBCs whiffed most things all game. Man, the PBCs are absolute fire when they even get average rolls but when they’re off my whole game plan is fucked. They were off this game, constantly whiffing with entropy cannons, rolling 1s on their mortar shots, or rolling 6s then missing with 4-5 shots. This kept me from being able to really address some of Rob’s bigger targets and his Eliminators would cause me trouble all game. To add insult to injury, he rolled boxcars on a long-bomb charge with his Redemptor on my Heavy Blight Launcher after I fired off Ferric Miasma to give it -2 to charge distances and force an 11″ charge. It keeps happening!

Rob’s Aggressors make their move. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Despite losing half my blightlords on the right side, they were still able to wipe out Rob’s Bladeguard Veterans so I could hold that objective, though his units kept rolling saves to keep one wounded model on the table in key positions. On my turn in round 3 I managed to get off some decent charges with my Deathshrouds against one of Rob’s Redemptors and killed it, only to have it explode and kill a Deathshroud and put wounds on the rest of my characters nearby. I hate those fucking dreadnoughts so much. His Vanguard vets also proved rather tenacious, clinging to life at the worst times and managing to avoid taking more than 2 mortal wounds from my unit of poxwalkers. Not great!

By round 4 it was clear I didn’t have the gas to keep going and Rob had more than enough to make my life difficult and prevent me from closing the scoring gap. The final score was 97-54 and I’m surprised I was able to keep it that close. Losing the Rhino turn 1 was a big blow and I likely should have just gone for TTL since i could keep the PBCs hidden all game and screened and it’d have forced him to adddress the blightlords more directly. Beyond that, I’m not so sure what I could have done here – the PBCs did very little after turn 1 and they only managed to take out the attack bikes working together and with help from the Bloat-drone. That meant dealing with a lot more melta than I wanted. A tough loss, and one I’ll have to think more about.

Result: 54-97, Loss

Overall Rob was fun to play against. He’s a good player and I learned once again to not play aggressively at all with my deployment if I don’t want to eat shit going second. I can get away with it sometimes but not when there’s this much melta flying around. I’m not going to retool the list yet but it’s good to have another game in the books and it was good to finally have the right setup for my practice games.

Next Time: More Practice

There will be at least one more update before Austin, probably with more practice games. Follow along as I attempt to get better at playing this stupid list. And in the meantime if you have any questions or feedback drop us a note in the comments below or shoot us an email at