As tournament players are well aware of, attending a GT sized event demands a large assortment of accouterments.  A (hopefully painted) collection of miniatures being the most obvious, while other items such as a first-aid superglue kit being more easily forgotten.  To me, one of the largest and most important tournament aids is a display board.

Display boards serve several purposes.  For starters, they allow a player to quickly transport an army from table to table as pairings are made.  Once a game is underway, display boards can serve as a kind of “home base” for dead or reserve units to wait, thus avoiding having your models spread around the margins of the gaming area.  Lastly, a display board provides an optimized viewing area for your collection.  Obviously, these three elements are essential parts of presenting yourself as a respectable tournament player.  From initial impressions (sprinting back and forth between tables with fistfuls of grots), in-game model management (“All of these terminators on this objective are dead, I just have nowhere to put them”), and between-round viewing (Has anyone seen my Baneblade?), you do not want to come across as a fool.

When it comes to obtaining a display board, there are several options.  The first display board I ever had was a very basic tray that I purchased from Ikea for about $8.  I unscrewed the wooden frame, flipped the laminated panel over, rolled on some textured paint, and re-built the wooden frame around it.  Lastly, I painted the board to match the style of the bases I had been creating at the time.  This tray was a decent size, matched my army, and had handles for easy movement.  You can actually see a picture of a similar Ikea tray being used in the GW design studios, in a photo on page 288 of the BRB.  While this tray is cheap and easy to modify for our purposes, the finished product is far more utilitarian than beautiful.  Here it is, sporting my ancient Tyranid army:

My next display board was purchased from Battle Foam.  Called the X-Board, this plastic-cast board can easily be disassembled for travel, and came with a small plateau for a minor “multi-level” effect.  I added Vraksian garbage and bits to this board, and painted it to match my Vraksian Militia army.  I also went to a trophy shop, and spent $12 to have a small engraved placard made to adorn the front of the display.  While certainly a step up from my Ikea board, this tray also has some shortcomings.  The terrain options on the board itself were somewhat sparse (which makes sense for something intended to be universal and mobile), but again the size of the board made it a bit too tight to add a whole lot of detail or flair.  The board itself is not very large, and fitting a 2k point IG list on it became an exercise in Tetris:

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Old Shatter Hands’ army and display board at the Conflict GT.  This display board had it all:  diorama level detail, space to lay out units comfortable, and possibly my favorite component, negative space around the army itself.  In my opinion, the open areas around the collection served to better situate the models in the environment.  Take a look:

Unfortunately, this board was a bit on the large size, made from a framed cork board of I believe almost 2′ x 3′ that had been coated in wood glue.  While I love the effect of the piece, that size is somewhat impractical for the confines of a busy convention hall.  There was a guy at Conflict who had an IG display board of, no joke, 6′ x 2′, and that seemed like a sure-fire way to end the day in traction.

It is also worth considering just how to decorate a display board.  In the photos of Old Shatter Hands’ display that I linked above, you can see a variety of terrain pieces that help tell a story.  Clearly built to reference the film District 9, the scratch-built cargo containers and concrete barricades turn the army movement tray into a world totally separate from the table on which he is playing.  Including a few themed terrain pieces can help tie things together as well.  Here is a photo of the display board of Jorge Ruiz’s Blood Templars (courtesy of Black Matt‘s photography):

You can see that the Aquila, combined with the ruined walls, create a unifying theme.  This is a great way to bolster the visual impact of an army.

So what to make of all of this?  Well, I think it is clear that the detail and environmental elements of Old Shatter Hands’ work, combined with a tray of a thoughtful size, could be a good target.  It is clear that this goal can be reached through a variety of materials and means, as well.  Sean Nayden has a beautiful display board made from carved foam, representing the lava flows and volcanic rock that his Salamanders call home.  While I never actually saw photos, I once heard of a Lizardman army display board that included a waterfall, and dry ice for a fog effect.  I even once heard of a Space Wolf Long Fang spam army that included a fondue pot, to add to the level of cheese.  Ok, I made that last part up.

Regardless of how you approach this element of tournament preparation, I think it is simply a component of your army worth considering.  Weather you purchase a board, sculpt one from foam, or build it from a framed cork board, with a bit of thought you can truly enhance your army’s aesthetic at a tournament.  Or at least just keep your models from spilling everywhere.  My newest project requires a custom display board, and my mind is swimming with possibilities.  That said, I have a table saw and a 2’x3′ cork board to destroy…

As always, I appreciate your feedback and input.  If you have a solution not discussed in the article, please share it in the comments section.