Demos & Unboxings

Published: August 17, 2022


Tabletop Tavern on a Budget

Tabletop Tavern on a Budget

Stevil—one of our Miniatures Masters—recently built gritty little tabletop tavern for his RPG group. He offered to show us how the magic happens.

I wanted to make a couple of poorly kept and run-down buildings on the cheap for one of my current games—Ravenloft’s Falkovnia, for you curious types. Any crafter will tell you that the biggest element of “on the cheap” is what you already have lying around. In this case, I wanted to make a tabletop tavern.

I had a few empty, corrugated cardboard boxes. It was time to get to work!

Recommended Supplies

  • Corrugated cardboard box (7”x4”x3”)
  • Utility knife
  • Hobby knife
  • PVA/Tacky glue (ex: Elmer’s)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Baking soda
  • Flat wooden coffee stirrers
  • Matchstick
  • Paper

Prepping the Tavern Structure

split image of a hand cutting cardboard with a utility knife, and a cardboard box with two small doorways cut into it
Cut box flaps off and cut holes for both doorways
  • Flatten box and remove any tape
  • Cut flaps off with utility knife
  • Cut front and rear doorways
  • With the hot glue gun, glue flaps inside to reinforce the structure
cardboard box with supports inside
Hot glue the flaps inside the structure to reinforce it
  • Use hobby knife to poke/twist a tiny hole into the front of the tavern where the signpost will go
    • Just big enough to snugly fit a matchstick

Door Frames


  • Cut a piece of cardstock (from the snack/cereal box) that is wider and taller than the front doorway
    • Glue it to the inside of the tavern with tacky glue so it blocks the front doorway
split photo of piece of cardstock blocking a hole cut into a cardboard structure
Use tacky glue to glue the cardstock across the front door opening



  • For each doorway, measure and cut wooden coffee stirrers into three pieces; these will be the sides and top of the door frames
    • Adhere the wooden pieces to the exposed cardboard corrugation with tacky glue; hot glue is too messy here, and the tacky glue will dry faster than PVA glue
closeup of the rear door of a tabletop tavern
Glue the wooden coffee stirrer pieces to the cardboard to form a door frame


      • Use snips to cut away any wood that extends past the bottom of the tavern

Front Door

  • Cut more pieces from coffee stirrers that will become the slats of the door itself
    • Cut them to the height of the doorway
  • Once these slats are cut, smear tacky glue onto the outside of the cardstock
    • Place the door slats onto the cardstock side-by-side until you can’t fit any more
front door construction closeup on the tabletop tavern
Coffee stirrer door slats and two support boards
      • Our goal is a run-down, gritty look, so uneven gaps or crookedness of the slats can help
  • Cut two more lengths of coffee stirrer the width of the doorway
    • Use dots of Zap-A-Gap to glue them horizontally on to the door slats
  • Use a little piece of mini that you have lying around as a doorknob and adhere it with a tiny dot of Zap-A-Gap

Exterior Bracing

  • Trim and adhere coffee stirrers with tacky glue to the flat faces on the outside of the building to create more visual interest
    • Can be clamped until dry if necessary
exterior bracing on the tabletop tavern terrain piece
Use tacky glue to adhere coffee stirrers to the exterior walls to represent bracing

Signpost, Back Doorway, and Roof

  • Insert the matchstick into the signpost hole and—on the inside of the structure—hot glue it in place
closeup of cloth door on back of the tabletop tavern
Wrinkled paper functions as a cloth door covering
  • Tear and crumple a piece of paper, then slightly flatten it out to serve as a cloth covering for the back door
    • Use PVA to glue it on the inside of the back doorway
    • Brush the outside of this piece of paper with PVA


  • For the flat roof, cut another piece of cardstock from the snack/cereal box to the dimensions of the structure
    • Adhere it to the top of the walls with tacky glue
textured roof on the tabletop tavern
Cut cardstock roof and tacky glue it to the tops of the walls

Outside Walls & Roof Textures

Paint colors, brands, textures, and application methods can be substituted here as desired, but this is what I used
    • With a large paintbrush, coat the outside walls of the tavern in PVA glue
    • Sprinkle baking soda all over the wet PVA
      • I paid extra attention to the corner with exposed corrugation since I wanted this area to look in particular disrepair
tabletop tavern comparison between start and finish
Use this inconsistency in the box’s surface to your advantage by making it a heavily worn part of the building
      • Wipe away any excess baking soda that got on your exterior bracing slats
      • This will need to dry overnight
    • After completely dry, brush away excess baking soda with a dry paintbrush
      • You can keep this leftover baking soda to use for your next project to save some cash
    • Use a paintbrush and a stippling method to apply Vallejo Black Lava to the roof
      • Any texture here is fine, but stippling Black Lava provides a look that suggests a roof that would require minimal upkeep from the tavern owner or builder
      • The color isn’t terribly important either because we’ll be painting over it


  • Cut two more pieces of cardstock into identical shapes
    • For ease, the instructions will assume you chose the same shield shape that I did
closeup of the tabletop tavern sign and its hardware
Bend one of the pieces of brass wire into a hook shape, and trim the other into a short stub
  • Cut a short length of brass wire
    • Curl one end of the wire around a brush handle, making the piece into a question mark shape
  • Cut a second, shorter length of wire to be the broken hook
  • If the cardstock you’re using has print on one side, make sure those are the sides you glue together in this next step
  • Sandwiching the brass lengths of wire between the two identical shapes of cardstock, glue the cardstock together with Zap-A-Gap


Paint colors, brands, textures, and application methods can be substituted here as desired, but this is what I used
  • Since terrain can require a lot of paint, I recommend using a paint spray can of any darkish brown/green color and giving the walls a healthy coat
    • This color will be nearly fully covered in future steps and is just to give the following paints something to stick nicely to
    • When that dries, use a cream-colored craft paint to hit the baking soda sections of the exterior walls, as well as the “cloth” covering the back door
  • All the wood gets a coat of Ebony, from Huge Miniatures
front of tabletop tavern with door and exterior bracing
All wooden pieces get colored with a coat of Ebony
  • The roof gets a coat of Brick Red, also by Huge Miniatures
  • The sign and its brass bits get a coat of Army Painter’s Oak Brown
  • Take some water and apply it with a paintbrush to the top half of all the exterior walls
    • Then apply Citadel’s Seraphim Sepia from bottom to top in turn for a nice, messy fade
dark to light wall gradient on the tavern terrain piece
Seraphim Sepia gradient from top to bottom on the exterior walls of the tabletop tavern
    • The “cloth” covering the back door also gets some Seraphim Sepia
  • Apply a heavy dose of Dark Wash, by Huge Miniatures, to the roof, all the wood, and the doorknob
  • Adding spots of Huge Miniatures’ Terracotta and Camel Tan to the brass bits of the sign simulates rust
  • After the exterior walls are completely dry from the water/Sepia fade, add Citadel’s Poxwalker to the very bottom of the exterior walls, quickly using your thumb to smear the top half of it upward to create a quick gradient and smear (see photo above)
finished tavern sign
Camel Tan paint for the beer mug icon and Pale Rose for its highlights
  • When the walls are dry again, drybrush the top half of the walls and the roof with Huge Miniatures’ Pale Rose
  • Camel Tan paint can be used to create text—or a beer mug in our case—on the sign to indicate what type of building it is
    • Once that is dry, give the wooden part of the sign a coat of Huge Miniatures’ Flesh Wash
      • Give the bottom third of the sign a second application
    • When the Flesh Wash is dry, add some Pale Rose accents to the mug
  • A final drybrush on the roof and top third of the building with Citadel’s Grey Seer gives our tavern the final touches it needs


textured roof on the tabletop tavern
A final drybrush on the roof and top third of the walls with Grey Seer

Now our tabletop tavern is ready to hit the table so we can slam back some brews with the party until an adventure breaks out!

Note: Conveniently, the flat roof makes this a modular piece. It would be easy to set another similar building on top of it for a second floor!

steve author photo

The construction of the tabletop tavern and the build steps were done by Steve “Stevil” Lemberg, one of our Miniatures Masters here at Noble Knight Games!

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