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This group is all about sharing great pics of beautiful models and other cool hobby stuff.

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Fresh Water Challenge: Docks and Canal System (Completed) (53 posts)

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  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Fresh Water Challenge – Docks and Canal System

    Short version: Flexible modular dock/waterfront terrain pieces that can be combined to create varied gaming tables suitable for a variety of skirmish games with differing levels of elevation. Guides to building the components follow in the below posts.

    Thanks to the BoW Team for rolling out the challenge and motivating me to get this done :)

    Harbour along one long table edge, suitable for RPG’s, scenario based skirmish games or naval skirmish games like Blood & Plunder:

    A more ‘compressed’ terrain setup with a large harbour and smaller ‘gaming’ area, more suitable for Frostgrave and smaller games of Age of Sigmar or similar:

    A setup with more canals, appropriate for Carnevale:

    A river flowing through the game board, suitable for various scenario based skirmish games:

    Same terrain with a ‘city’ based setup. Suitable for RPG’s, fantasy skirmish games or perhaps even Bolt action or 40K with the right buildings and scatter terrain?

    Apologies, appreciate the photos aren’t great but had trouble photographing due to the size of the gaming table relative to the rom that holds it…

    hrb-long-215.jpg
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    canals-215.jpg
    river-215.jpg
    city-215.jpg
  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 0 – Preamble (I think I mean pre-ramble?…)

    Have wanted to do up a dedicated medieval fantasy skirmish cityscape gaming board for years. Ideally I was seeking something which could be set up to have a game happening over multiple levels of terrain, with bridges, alleyways, stairs and other terrain options creating interesting gaming opportunities. Naturally I have hit the same problems as everyone else when planning/attempting this. That is, having a large dedicated board creates storage issues. To compromise, many people break the board down into smaller more manageable sections (600 mm / 2×2 foot squares or similar) which can be linked together to form a modular table. Some of these look absolutely brilliant but I was keen to have something which felt different like a different board every time you went to play a game (low maintenance, aren’t I? ;-) ).

    Eventually I hit on the idea of using carved insulation foam blocks to create raised sections of the city. Once I had enough of them in various sizes I could mix and match to create different setups each game. I trialled a couple of sections as a proof of concept, taking them up to the basecoat stage a few months ago and they have been working well in games of Frostgrave, so I was reasonably confident that the concept would work. However, my proof of concept pieces also alerted me to the fact that it takes a long time to carve each block. As in probably 2 to 6 hours solid depending on the size of the block and the level of detail involved. But then, who can really put a price on the value of our hobby? Clearly none of us lot at any rate as if we could we would have all run away screaming madly by now no doubt. Ahem, anyhow…

    Several months ago I had bought a couple of 6×4 foot mats form Deep Cut Studois – the Cobblestone (http://www.deepcutstudio.com/product/wargames-terrain-mat-cobblestone/) and Waterworld (http://www.deepcutstudio.com/product/wargames-terrain-mat-waterworld/) mats. My intention was to use the Cobblestone mat as the basis for a city, and slice the Waterworld mat up into two parts, one a 2×4 foot strip and the remainder a 4×4 foot mat. I could then use these to overlay the cobblestone mat and have a river going through the city, an island section or similar. However, when the mats arrived I couldn’t bring myself to cut the water one up. They are just way too pretty. So instead I broke out an 8×4 foot MDF board and used that as my gaming surface. Now I can lay the water mat over the cobblestone one to create a harbour setting (2×4 foot of cobblestone showing at one end and the 6×4 water mat for the rest of the table) or cobblestone over the water mat to create a bigger city with a port or river along one edge. Yes, the astute readers amongst you may have noticed that my skirmish gaming board just grew to 8×4 foot – big enough to comfortably accommodate a 5,000 point game of 8th ed Warhammer. I didn’t really realise this until just now – oops… Um, multiple Frostgrave warbands on the one table maybe?

    So on hearing news of the Fresh Water Hobby Lab challenge it seemed like the ideal time to get stuck in and see if I could get this from concept to completion. With only a couple of months from announcement to completion date I knew the timing was going to be tight. But hey, stretch targeting is a good thing, right? So, setting aside all other projects for the next short while I girded my teeth and clenched my loins and set boldly forth.

    As it turns out, managed to get the blocks done by the original due date, but the extended deadline will mean I can take my time with the write-up and hopefully add more ‘whistles and bells’ to the end project (Shiny). Will try to call out the mistakes I make on the way through so anyone wanting to give this a go can hopefully avoid the pitfalls I hit. Happy to respond to any questions but please be aware at the outset that I am not a terrain building master and genuinely have little idea what I’m doing. So anyone with a morbid sense of curiosity is more than welcome to follow along :)

    Basic Plan (AKA – It all makes sense in my head):
    - Layer the 2 terrain mats over the MDF to create a ‘city’ or ‘harbour’ board.
    - Stack on multiple carved foam sections to give the board a layered look.
    - Add buildings (ruined or otherwise) to make it look more like a city.
    - Add bridges, piers, boardwalks, docks and stairs to reduce ‘choke points’ and hopefully make games tactically flexible.
    - Add whistles and bells (fences, crates etc) to make it look more like a city, and to provide cover for minifigs.
    - Laugh maniacally (if for no other reason than to bewilder your gaming buddies).

    End result should be a board/terrain system that works well for Frostgrave, but should also work with Mordheim, Blood and Plunder, Age of Sigmar, D&D, Carnevale, Malifaux or probably dozens of other game systems with which I am yet to acquaint myself.

    Will try to do write-ups in some logical ordering but as different elements are being worked on simultaneously that may not eventuate. Will see how we go.

  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 1.1 – Carving the Foam

    First things first, if you are going to make terrain out of foam please note that you will want to get a hold of proper insulation foam – the foam that electrical appliances are shielded in when you open the box won’t work as it is not as rigid and will not hold shape as well when you start carving into it.

    I have a hotwire cutter but it was not going to be big enough to make the rough large shapes I was after. So I used a wood saw to cut the general shape of the foam blocks I wanted, then used the hotwire cutter to clean up the edges (The teeth on the wood saw made a mess of the cut sections unsurprisingly…). A light sand and the blocks were good to start.


    Example block.

    Tip – if cutting or sanding foam do it outside, and wear old clothes. The foam fragments will end up covering you. Probably not a terrible idea to have a dusting brush on hand to brush the foam off too…

    Using a 600mm ruler I began by drawing parallel horizontal lines around the edges of the blocks with a ballpoint pen. The idea is to carve texture in to the foam to represent the join lines between stone blocks, so don’t worry too much about having a visible line of ink.


    Horizontal lines carved.

    Tip – I used blue and black pens interchangeably. Black might be preferable when you come to paint as if you miss a bit putting on a black basecoat it will be less visible.

    Tip – when drawing on the horizontal lines leave the smallest edge until last. It will be easier to line up the pen lines edge to edge to make a complete lap around the base if the final side is shorter.

    Next up I carved in vertical lines to create the impression of stone blocks. Rounding the horizontal lines slightly into the vertical ones makes them look slightly more organic.

    Tip – smaller blocks look better but will take you exponentially more time to carve. Suggest if trying you start with a smaller test piece until you see what works for you.
    Next I carved a section around the top surface, slightly in from the edge, to act as a boundary line for the edge row of blocks. I then drew small lines at right angles from the top of the vertical brick lines to the edging boundary lines, in effect finishing the border row of stones/bricks. Picture probably explains it better…

    The ‘happy medium’ method I have found between having a result that looks good and gets done fast is to draw parallel lines outward from one corner to the far edge of the top surface, and then carve in bricks as was done with the vertical surfaces. Of course more elaborate patterns and designs can be done if you want to invest the time.


    Foam block with tiles carved in.

    foam-carving-pattern-1a.jpg
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  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 1.2 – Texturing the foam

    Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had a reasonably sized pile of interestingly shaped foam blocks carved.

    Next step is to add some texture to them. Have read several ways of doing this online but the method I went for was just firmly pressing on all the surfaces (top and sides) with a rolled up ball of aluminium foil. This leaves irregular indentations in the foam and provides the appearance of rough stone. Plus it will also allow for easier painting later on as drybrushing will pick up the top layers.

    I additionally textured/damaged the corners and vertices of the blocks a little to make them look worn down by the elements. However I did not go overboard on this as I wanted the blocks to sit reasonably flush against one another if aligned adjacent on the tabletop.


    Foam surface prior to texturing.


    Foam surface once textured.

    foam-carving-completed-a.jpg
    foam-texturing-1-a.jpg
    foam-texturing-2-a.jpg
  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 1.3 – Painting part 1

    Painting foam terrain involves large surface areas. Annoyingly however, spraypaint is a no no. I am by no means a rocket surgeon or chemical engineer but as I understand it something to do with the propellant in the cans of spraypaint melts the foam in short order. If that’s the look you are going for, all well and good. However please be advised it will undo any hard work carving or shaping foam you may have done to that point. To demonstrate I carved some small lines in to a smooth edge of foam and gave it a couple of light bursts of black primer…


    Could maybe be a quick way of making dungeon cavern walls perhaps?

    I have tried using an airbrush with Vallejo model air paint and it didn’t damage the foam (but maybe try on a test piece if giving it a go yourself), however I have a small airbrush (model airbrush not industrial airbrush) and it would take too long to cover such a large surface area (not to mention would burn through a lot of good paint), so I went with plan B.

    A trusty paintbrush. And by trusty I mean a cheap dodgy one.

    And for paint…


    Poster paints, mixed on the fly in an ice cream container watered down as required. High volume coverage in not much time for a small financial outlay. I can always detail later as needed…

    spraycan-on-foam-2-a.jpg
    foam-painting-3-brush-a.jpg
    foam-painting-6-paints-used-in-second-highlight-a.jpg
  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 1.4 – Painting part 2

    I started by giving everything a watered down coat of ubiquitous black, making sure it hit the recesses and crevices specifically. and then let it all dry overnight.

    For the first coat of colour I mixed approximately equal quantities of burnt sienna, black and white and applied liberally. Again, left to dry for a day.

    Second shade was 2 parts white to one part each of black, burnt sienna and burnt umber, which i brushed on lightly. This made the stonework look a little warm but I knew I was going to add further shading so was not too concerned yet.

    Another day and the next highlight was 3 parts white to 1 part black in a light drybrush. This cooled the look of the stone a bit and brought it back towards the result I was hoping for.

    I had considered picking out a few of the stones and shading in a slightly different colour, but decided against it. I can always touch up later if I feel the need.

    Final step is a super-light drybrush/dusting of white to the top surface, and a drybrush of burnt umber and then dark green to the bottom edges of the vertical surfaces, to represent dirt and mold.

    Edit – picture of finalised piece with extra colours drybrushed on:

    foam-painting-1-thin-black-primer-a.jpg
    foam-painting-2-first-shade-a.jpg
    foam-painting-5-second-highlight-a.jpg
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    foam-painting-completed-a.jpg
  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Part 2 – Causeway

    On a visit to a local hardware shop I saw these 300mm square tiles in the flooring section. Not sure what they could be used for but steadfast and determined in my belief that they would be useful later on I picked up a couple…

    On a later trip to the same hardware store I found this:

    Decided to pick up a can and give it a go (again in an irrationally steadfast and determined manner…). It is a spray-on textured terracotta finish. I thought I could use it to texture the two floor tiles I had bought earlier and perhaps let me do something interesting with them. I gave the tiles a few light coats, and wasn’t unhappy with the result.

    Once this had dried I sprayed both tiles with a can of grey spraypaint, then gave a light dusting with a can of white.

    Result looked OK, but I will probably need to dirty it up a little (almost everything I try terrain-wise gets blasted with Plastic Soldier Dirt Brown at one stage or another… I may have a dependency…). Am then thinking I can use the two tiles as a sort of causeway or spillway section for the harbour, perhaps adding a bit more flexibility to table set-ups. Will see how it pans out…

    causeway-1a.jpg
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  • Avatar Image lancorz948p said 9 months, 3 weeks ago:

    This is turning into quite the project now @evilstu , can’t wait for the end results!

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  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Part 3 – Sewer Covers

    A bit more progress today. Noticed a while back that the plastic tops of empty spice jars were an interesting shape, so had kept a couple aside in my pile of random gamer junk and rubbish which might be useful one day… Will use them for manhole/sewer entrances – because every fantasy city needs to have an overly elaborate sewerage system underneath it for evil to lurk in – it’s all in the city planning code, somewhere towards the back no doubt…

    First up was a light coat of oily steel over a black undercoat, followed by stippling on dry rust.

    Next up, stippled on some oxide, trying to hit the edges of the holes mostly.

    Then re-layered more oily steel over the top to tone down the rust effect.

    Completed grates sitting on top of one of the foam blocks to check how it would look.

    sewer-grates-1a.jpg
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  • Avatar Image redvers142p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    This is looking fantastic. Well done! I think the manhole covers really make a big difference to the overall look. Will you put some black backing inside so that you can’t see the stones underneath? Or will you mount/fix them directly into the board?

    Sometime ago, I also spotted the sheets of small tiles. You can get them in about the same size as a Bloodbowl square so I had envisaged creating my own pitch. It would have been bloody heavy though. But now the new game is out with double sided pitch included, probably not worth the effort!

  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Part 4.1 Wooden Bridges

    I’m keen to have several bridges to allow access between platforms, and to reinforce the riverside feel. I had originally planned to use coffee stirrers over wooden dowelling to create the bridges, then remembered I had a few bags of mdf laser cut bags of scrap i picked up for a few dollars at a convention years ago which I could use, so broke it out and kicked off without any real game plan.

    Messing around with the pieces I opted for 2 large wide covered bridges. Of course the bridges won’t actually be covered as it will make it too difficult to move minis around – instead I will do part of a roof frame and glue on a few tiles to suggest that the bridges were once covered and have fallen into disrepair.

    Basic structure was formed by gluing the four cut pieces of MDF to one another, then affixing 6mm wooden dowelling to the bottom. paddle pop sticks were glued on as an afterthought to provide extra rigidity (probably would have been better to have a plan at the outset, I’ll confess..).

    View of the top side of the bridge platforms.

    I affixed the legs (again, made from 6mm dowelling) with the base propped up on it’s side and allowed to dry to try and ensure that the legs adhered at a 90 degree angle. These were then reinforced with short pieces of coffee stirrers vertically, and a large strip of coffee stirrer horizontally. Once dry I repeated on the other side of the bridge. Bridge legs were measured to 50mm, same height as the foam blocks, with the intention being that they would sit on top of the foam rather than be flush with the top of the foam.

    I separately glued 4 sets of uprights and wall sections, using a straight edge as a guide to ensure that the finished piece would sit flush with the bridge platform.

    bridge-1a.jpg
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  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Part 4.2 Wooden Bridges

    Once everything was dry it was a simple case of affixing the prefabricated side pieces to the bridge sections.

    Next up will put together a frame for the roofing and then hit with paint before adding sections of roof tiles.

    bridge-10a.jpg
  • Avatar Image evilstu421p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Thanks @lancorz, don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve everything I’m hoping to by the due date but should have something to a finished state by then regardless.

    @redvers hadn’t considered adding backing to the manhole covers, might give it a go and see how it looks. Will keep the covers as separate pieces rather than affix, I’m trying to have everything in this project as separate modules so that they can be fit together in whatever way is needed for the game that is getting played that day.

  • Avatar Image sniperbait72p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I love the idea of using moveable raised platforms like that. It means if put onto a water board you have instant canals or if put onto a cobble board, instant alleyways which can be accessed by steps and the like. Really good work, I can’t wait to see the next steps.

  • Avatar Image ghenrikg33p said 9 months, 2 weeks ago:

    This is just great work!
    Good job evilstu!