Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Modular Board

This is the largest project I have undertaken yet. The idea was to create a board to enter into a prize competition at a local gaming convention called ReCon held by the Minnesota Miniature Gaming Association. We missed the July deadline but managed to get the board done for ReCon in October. The board was now part of the "Farewell to 40K Tour," celebrating the release of 4th edition.

The board is based on 1 3/4 styrofoam glued to 1/2 plywood with Liquid Nails. The board is divided into 2 4' x 4' sections. More descriptions of the various aspects of the project are below.

The wall sections are 2" thick blue styrofoam with seperate buttresses glued into place. Each wall section is 6" wide and 8" tall. The doors are simply foamcore with bamboo skewers as hinges. The front bunkers are also foamcore construction. The tank traps are plaster casts of ice cube trays. The barbed wire is wire fencing twisted together; the posts simply chopsticks. Other battlefield items are battlefield accessory bits, dollar store figurines smashed to pieces, model railroad trees and copper fittings as barrels.

In the background can be seen the canyon and the top of the castle gate. The canyon was made by building up and interior skeleton with foam offcuts and then glueing bark chips to the outside with cheap caulking. The castle is a Cinderella Dream Castle I picked up at a garage sale for 10 cents. More railroad trees top the canyon.

Here is a back view of the board and castle with some old- school Khorne Berzerkers hanging out. Some slight modifications were made to the castle...

Two of the towers were removed and the holes in the floor filled in so figures could stand in them. The pillars were replaced with wedding cake pillars, and dollar store cherubs were added to various locations. The balcony was also lined with plactic skull rings. An imerial eagle pin was added to the front above the drawbridge.

The trenches were cut into the foam base. Balsa strips were cut from a large sheet for a rough look and glued into place. Matchsticks were used to build the walls.

The barrels (left side of picture) are copper plumbing fittings with end caps cut from card. Caps were made by punching card disks with a leather punch.

The tank traps were cast from a square ice cube tray in plaster of paris. they were glued into place and then distressed with a knife and a Dremel.

The barbed wire was made by cutting lengths of wire fencing so it was a wire with pointy cross pieces coming off of it (kinda looks like this HHHHHH) The lengths were then folded in half to decrease the spacing between "teeth" and then the wires were twisted together to cause the "teeth" to stick out in random directions.

There is also the sliding door and busted pieces from a floppy disk as battlefield debris.

Here is a shot of the space between the gates. There are more plaster tank traps, with some dollar store figurines as statues. The ruin is made from plastic ruins exactly as the Ruined Corner was.

The doors for the second gate are decorated with more cherubs and skull rings.

The trench-section of the board is covered with coarse sand drybrushed from black to brown to tan. The road is fine terrarium sand painted black and drybrushed grey. The other stone and concrete pieces are drybrushed with various stages of grays and white. The castle was drybrushed from black to white. The treches were drybrushed from black to dark brown to burnt sienna to tan.

The remaining areas were covered with various grades and mixtures of flock.

This picture is of the space between the castle and second gate. The angels are simply dollar store items glued to wedding cake pillars.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I started off by cutting the bases out of corrugated cardboard. I then used tape to cover the edges and hide the corrugation.

I then decided on what I wanted on each of my minefields. I decided that my minefields would be sodded over with grass to better hide the mines. As far as details were concerned I decided to create the following 5 minefields:

The mines themselves were made by stacking 2 game chips on top of each other and using a round piece of sprue as the trigger. One company suggests using shields from their fantasy models, but these chips were smooth and about the same size at their shields, and a lot cheaper, too!

The blasted statue is a dollar-store figure I got in bulk on ebay. I just broke it apart with a pliers and glued it into place.

The fence was created by glueing down lengths of chopsticks for the posts, then using some wire fencing material for the fence.

After everything was glued into place, I used a watered down solution of PVA glue to stick some sand onto the minefields to represent areas where grass wasn't growing or had been blasted away. I just used a brush to apply the PVA to different areas, and sprinkled sand onto the glue.

I always let the glue dry BEFORE tapping the excess sand or flock off of a piece. It seems to let the sand/flock soak up more glue and covers better.

Once the sand was dry, the pieces were primed with a black undercoat. The mines and fences were drybrushed silver, the statue was drybrushed with a dark grey working into a white, and the fenceposts and exposed earth were drybrushed from a dark brown to a tan color.

After painting, a mix of PVA/water was brushed onto the minefield bases and then the bases were covered in flock, just like with the sand. In order to cover the mines well, two layers of flock were applied. Once the last layer of flock was dried, a final coat of PVA mix was applied to the minefields. This turned the flock rock-hard and keeps the flock from falling off during gameplay.

Light Up Teleporter

This piece was inspired by the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Necrons. We were going to use it as the ultimate objective in a campaign we planned. We got the entire campaign set up, my friend rigged it to his favor and no one showed up. It was great.

This teleporter was built from the top of an X-Men playset and the following items:

3/4" expanded styrofoam
Cardboard for the base
Fine and Coarse flock
Plastic ferns

I cannot find a picture of this playset, but it was the hand and torch of the statue of liberty. In place of the flame there was this device on top.  If anyone can find a picture I would appreciate the help.

The piece is based on a 12" x12" piece of corrugated cardboard (not my usual double thick stuff either!) Masking tape was still used to hide the corrugations, however. The X-Men playset was the Statue of Liberty torch with the three arm mechanism on it. I've never seen the movie so I have no idea what it's supposed to do, but the toy lit up and spun around. For about 5 minutes, anyway. Then it broke. The playset was dissasembled, the wires for the lighting were maintained and a little rewiring was required to get the three- armed mechanism to work outside of the playset.

The styrofoam was cut into squares to form the pyramid, and a hole was cut in the top two layers to accomodate the teleporter aka three- armed mechanism. A hole was bored through the other layers and a notch was cut out of the bottom layer to accomodate the wiring and on/off "switch" for the teleporter.

A piece of foamcore was cut into a circle and engraved with a symbol using a blunt pencil. It was then pressed into the bottom of the teleporter.

I then taped off the lights in the teleporter and base coated the styrofoam pyramid black. I then spray primed the entire piece black. The teleporter was lightly drybrushed silver and the pyramid was drybrushed dark grey up to white. The base was painted green. The symbol was repainted black and green was carefully poured into the groove of the symbol.

Course flock was glued on with PVA to look like creeping jungle growth and the base was flocked with fine green flock. Some plastic ferns were glued on with PVA, but most fell off. That's ok, they looked like they were dieing compared to the other foilage on the piece.

The switch is just a straight piece of wire that is pushed into a loop of wire to complete the circuit and make the teleporter light up. I ran this thing for 3 hours solid one day and the batteries are still holding up.

Lemax Collection Mill Stream

This steam was purchased at a DIY store after Christmas time. The set consists of two Mill Stream sets and one Mill Stream Fork set. The weeks following Christmas and Halloween are a great time to pick this stuff up for next to nothing. As the store I went to was already picked through, I had to bite it and get this stuff for only 70% off before it was gone. Click pictures for a larger view.

The Mill Stream set claims to come with 11(!) pieces. Six of those are little, snow- covered pine trees, two are end caps for the stream and only three are acually river pieces; two straights and one bend. The fork comes with 10 pieces; 6 trees, three caps and 1 fork piece. They are cast in a hard resin or plastic and are fairly heavy and durable. Each piece also has little felt pads on the bottom so they don't scratch or damage your gaming board (or whatever.) Each piece is about 1/2" thick and when all three sets are combined together they stretch just over 4 feet.

Unfortunatly it came with a snow finish. That had to go.

These shots are the pieces before painting. As you might be able to see, the banks of the river are big rocks and boulders covered in snow. There are also tree stumps and branches dotting the banks. The water portion is sculpted to look like moving water, painted and then coated with a clear coat of some kind. The coating is quite soft and sticky and picks up fingerprints easily.

All snow covered areas, tree stumps and branches were hand painted black. The rock and water areas were left as- is. The tree stumps and branches were drybrushed first with a dark brown, then a brown- grey mix and finally a light grey.

White glue was used to adhere the magic ground cover mix to all of the black painted areas. A mix of green course turf and brown fine turf were then applied sporradically on the pieces to break up the uniformity.

The project was simple enough and though it was a bit expensive than I would traditionally have spent on terrian (around $25), it is still cheaper than purchasing a river or stream specifically made for wargaming.

Small Landing Pads

The first thing I did was disassembled the toy and took all the cool electronic guts out. I then reassembled and glued the base to the model.

I added a plastic skull ring to the front for the proper techno- gothic look. Some GW Rhino tank bits were added as well. A hatch was used to plug the hole in the roof and a radar dish from the gun turrets was glued atop that. A Rhino rear hatch was added to the back of the structure to act as an access hatch (and to cover the hole that was there.) A handle made by bending floral wire into a "U" shape, drilling holes in the hatch and glueing into place. A plate was cut from carboard and glued over a large hole in the back. Seed beads were added to simulate rivets.

Each piece was primed black. Then each was drybrushed in either blue, brown or green and then additional and progressively lighter shades were drybrushed over those. The radar dish and skull were drybrushed silver. I left them unbased for two reasons: they are stable on their own, and without bases they can be used in a variety of environments.

The Stagnant Lake

For this piece I finally moved to the big- time. The base is made from 1/4" MDF. No double- corrugated cardboard or foamcore here, and no masking tape on the edges, either.

The banks of the lake were made by tracing the outline of the base on a piece of cardboard. This was cut out and then the bed was drawn out on the carboard and cut out as well. This left a nice ring- shape to fill with water.

The cardboard bank was glued onto the MDF with white glue and allowed to dry. Once it had dried the edge of the carboard was cut and angle for a better transition from table top to terrain. Wall filler was then applied to the bank to smooth out the corrugations and to blend the bank into the base.

The center hill is a piece of blue insulation foam cut to shape and smoothed with sandpaper.

The cross is simply balsa wood strips cut from a large sheet and glued together. The cross is pinned together with with floral wire to help keep it together and glued with with white glue. The cross was also pinned and glued to the hill.

The figure on the cross is a MageKnight Wereraven minus wings. The feet were bent down slightly to look like it was hanging. Small disks were cut from a plastic lid with a leather punch and glued on the wrists for nail heads. The figure was attached to the cross with super glue.

Sand was glued to the bank of the lake with white glue.

Once everything was dry the foam hill was brush painted black and then the piece was spray- primed black. The lake bed and banks were drybrushed from dark brown to brown to light brown to tan. The cross was drybrushed from dark brown to Burnt Sienna to a few shades of grey. The figure was painted like a normal mini.

Once painting was finished my standard ground cover mix was glued in various placed on the banks and along the edge of the lake bed to simulate weeds. Bristles from an old paintbrush were cut off and glued to the edges of the banks to simulate rushes.

After this was dried the nightmare began...

After the sucess I had with Woodland Scenics E-Z Water on the Jungle Project I thought I'd use it again. I began by heating up a batch and pouring it into the lake. It didn't flow out very well and began to cool in lumps. Several more batches were heated and poured, each one larger than the last. The liquid still wouldn't flow evenly, and began to form a lumpy, uneven surface. Air bubbles also began to form all over the piece.

I finally stopped playing with the stuff when it set off the smoke detector in the hallway. It wasn't smokey in the house, but according to my wife the smell was aweful. I hadn't noticed being I was working over the crap.

I let the piece cool as I opened doors and windows with single- digit temperaturs outside to get the smell out of the house.

After seeing how the E-Z Water had ruined my hard work, I took the suggestion from the instuctions and drove over to my dad's place with terrain in hand to try to even the surface with a heat gun.

The heat gun worked well; at high setting it burned the brush bristles and ground cover, but on low setting it slowly melted the water and smoothed it out- somewhat. Unfortunatly the foam hill couldn't take the heat and shrunk down to a small bump.

Woodland Scenics E-Z Water is only good for small puddles and such. Never use it for a large project, or you will be very disappointed. The piece turned out all right in the end, but an hour and a half with a heat gun just isn't worth it.

At one point I left this piece in my car overnight in the middle of a Minnesota winter.  The next day I was horrified to see that the E-Z Water had cracked all over the piece, all the way to the base.  I was so disheartened I placed it on a shelf and it has sat there ever since.  I just had an idea to turn it into a swamp or bog...

Jungle Foliage

When Games Workshop repackaged aquarium plants and tried to resell them for a huge amount of money I was inspired to whip up some simple stands of dense jungle foliage. My first stop was to find a cheap supplier. I found www.wholesale-aquarium-plants.com (which is now , unfortunately, out of business). Instead of $10 for a mat of plants you could get them for $1.69.
Combining my fresh shipment of plastic plants with a rather large pile I already owned, I set to work.

I used MageKnight figure bases for the bases of these plants. They're round, sturdy and I have a lot of them. I simply popped the two halves of the bases apart with a screwdriver and covered any holes with masking tape if necessary.

After preping bases I pulled all of the plants off of the sprue. I then started clumping them together to see how many pieces I would need to get a full- looking base. Most of the bases required 10 plants; some only took 5.

Once the plants were arranged in a pleasing fashion I held them upside down in my hand an applied a huge glob of hot glue and pressed them onto the base.

The more hot glue you have, the longer it will take for it to cool and harden. Some of the pieces had to be held in place for some time before they would stand on their own.

Some of the plants were so rigid that they would not stand up at all. They were based a little differently. A small sliver of pink insulation foam about 1/4" thick was cut out and broke into an uneven , rock-like chunk. It was then hot glued to a MageKnight base. I then used the end of a small screwdriver to punch as many holes as I needed for all the plants into the foam.

Each of the plant pieces had a large hunk of plastic at the bottom with a hole in it. This was used to mount the plant to the sprue. I simply cut those off, put a dab of hot glue on the freshly cut end and then jammed them into the holes in the foam. The plants stayed in place nicely.

Once all the pieces were assembled I based them with my typical flock-static grass- ground tea leaves combination. This was attached with large amounts of white glue.

Once assembly was finished I spent some time pulling all of the hot glue strands out of the leaves of the plants. I'm not sure if there is a way to get around the spiderweb- like strands of hot glue.

River Ford

Not one of my projects, but similar to one I've done.  Mine is not done yet, and this one is, so I'll post it so you can get an idea of what we're doing.

The local game store carries a selection of items from Pegasus Hobbies.  This particular piece is their Museum Models River Set.

You get about 4' of river.  It is painted plastic.  The water sculpting is a bit odd, but it still looks good and is a steal at $20.

We found that to enhance the look it helps to give the dirt colored banks a wash of Citadel Brown wash.  It gives the bank more depth, and dulls the glossy finish.  A bit of ground cover on the bank really enhances the look as well.

A ford was added to one of the short, straight sections to create a crossing for our Song of Blades and Heroes Campaing we will be running starting January.

My friend Brian simply coated a section of the river in white glue, then placed some stones randomly in the river.  The result is a quick and effective method.

The glue is still wet in these pictures, but it does dry clear and looks good.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jungle Terrain- Finished

The pieces were finished by hand-priming the rocks on the bases black, then drybrushing them from dark grey to white. A mixute of flock, static grass and ground tea leaves were then glued on top of the rocks with white glue. You can click some pictures for larger views.

My brother's Deathwing terminators were nice enough to model these pieces.

Oops! Looks like one got too close the carnivorous plant!

The finished Flower- Trees of Gripping Death and Stuff.

A hill. Cut with a razor blade from blue insulation foam. The top is finished like the bases of the trees.

The pond was finished like the other pieces. The same flock mix was glued to the banks and bottom of the pond itself.

The water was done with Woodland Scenics E-Z Water. I had heard bad things about this product but it was cheap, and looked easy to work with. It is easy to heat and pour, but I'm not sure why I got such horrendous bubbles. I didn't want to use a heat gun to try to fix it (like the instructions say) for I didn't want to melt my plants in the process. It's not too bad for a first attempt. I may need more practice working with it.

NOTE: the pellets stink when heated and while cooling. I would recommend putting the terrain piece outside for a few hours as well as any utensiles and containers used to melt the pellets.

I don't know how well the water re-melts. Apparently I'm very lucky or an excellent judge of volumn for I had next to no leftover "water" when the pond was full. Make sure you know exactly how much you'll need.