Results TBD in about 20 years whether this also means they build something of a love affair with exotic cancers ... but more on that later :)
The sweet terrain crew we have for the NOVA began building tournament terrain with pink foam with our hills last year, the design of which was tackled by Tim Williamson of the Tau of War.
They started as misshappen lumps of pink foam, and turned into some pretty solid looking and functional LOS blocking tournament terrain.
We also commissioned tons of cool figure-8 "footprinted" hills from a local terrain builder, although some were perhaps a bit too large for the centers of tables ...
But these suckers are all built from Pink Foam. That said, our production of foam-based material was largely limited to hills last year ... and this year we had yet another ambitious terrain production project ahead of us, in order to become fully self-sufficient in the terrain department.
One of our big requirements was the production of more partially-los blocking corner pieces, and also some really fancy pants LOS blocking centerpieces of a more "perfect" size and dimension than the Figure 8's we had to ad-hoc into the center of many tables. While my focus on this particular entry is what you can do with Pink Foam, we also have been exploiting the value of foamboard for creating the "base" structure of partial los blocking corner buildings ... and I'll highlight some of that as well in the following set of "in-progress" and "finished example"
Foamboard is available quite affordably from Michael's, and a few creative templates + proper foamboard cutters. Finishing is really where the details are at, and you can help avoid some of the inherent "warp-ability" over time of foamboard by applying proper coatings and finishings, and by building it in a way that doesn't expose it to too much damage.
Onto the pink.
Here are many of the pieces we built at the last terrain day (obviously not painted/textured/etc. yet, but you can see where they are going) ... PS you end up putting on silly faces for photographs like this staffer did, if you inhale too much pink foam smoke.
FYI we base our foam with thin MDF from Home Depot, which we cut/sand to shapes ... the flat edges you see around the foamboard and pink foam pieces' baseplates are power sanded down so that models don't encounter wobbly model syndrome when placed along the edges.
Tools. The most valuable tools for doing intricate things with pink foam are pretty straight forward. I know some folks build their own in this regard, but there are some serious advantages to a proper tool/set of tools.
While you can use a handheld hot wire cutter, it cannot/will not give you precision edges. This is in large part due to the imprecise nature of the tool, and the very thick wire. As a result, the notion of building believable walls and other things with it is a little bit on the difficult side. It's equally difficult to imagine repeating the same shapes reliably with it, so any type of build that would require replication for believability becomes more difficult.
Handheld wire cutters can be GREAT for hills and similar features, b/c the ripply effect they create along the edge of what they cut has a great appearance for "natural" and irregular features.
You can hand cut pink foam to a degree with sharp edges (and it tends to break along score-marks like plasticard), but that can also be time consuming, and can be harder to properly do with thicker pieces ... still problems!
So, after a little trial and error, we wound up with a supply of these suckers:
The Proxxon is WAY cheaper than the Mighty Might, though it has some user friendliness inhibitions that aren't quite there with the Mighty. The Mighty is the best we've used, if you don't mind the $219 up-front cost.
You could also go with this guy:
While nice for things like hills, the wire gauge is much thicker, which causes more roughage along the foam when you cut it. This slows down the cut and generates more smoke, but can be very effective for certain effects and results; it can also be quite a bit more durable over time. This last one is the best price, and certainly way better than a hand cutter; it may not be your FAVORITE for precision edges. We've used it as well and have a couple on hand for project days.
As a general rule, the thinner the wire, the straighter the edge potential and the less smoke generated in the process (aka less cancer in your future).
Aside from that, all you really need is Pink Insulation Foam (available in 8' x 2' sections from the Home Depot, in the $8-15/board range for thicknesses of 3/4" to 2") http://www.homedepot.com/buy/insl-sheating-12-in-x-48-in-x-96-in-20897.html ... manufacturer is Owens Corning.
What we started to learn over time (and many of us knew it already, so once they came on board, instant knowledge!) is how much you could do with the simple addition of common tools. Knives and butane lighters/torches were the two most intriguing when we started to use them.
Also of huge merit in the production process was when one of our guys (pictured looking way too high on pink foam smoke in the above photos) grabbed a butane lighter and started firing at the pink foam with it.
Some other examples of recent productions abound below ...
Suddenly, you start to figure this stuff out. Pink foam is waterproof, takes spray paint better than rumored (unless you spray point blank), takes texture well, and has strong resilience against "bangs" and compression. It's simultaneously super easy to cut, damage, melt, warp, burn, and glue things to or stick things into.
More importantly, it's affordable as a product to start working with, and if you put in the up-front costs for the right tools ... and take some time to practice and get creative, you can really create some interesting material with it that makes awesome and unique terrain for your home table, club tables, or gaming groups.
Those veteran hobbyists out there probably know a million and more ways to do this stuff, and even do it better ... and we're open to those inputs as well :) ... but hopefully this is a little bit of a helper for those who are just getting into the hobby side of things, and who want to give a try to a couple of cool processes we've learned over the 1,000 pieces of terrain we've built for the NOVA.