Friday, May 24, 2013

Building Wargame Terrain by Tony Harwood

The release of the "Building Wargame Terrain" book by Tony Harwood of Dampf's Modelling Page is coming closer. In his book the creator of beautiful Grand Manner houses descibes his techniques for building and painting wargames terrain.
Over at his blog Tony is trying to find out how many interested wargamers and modelers are out there. So if you are seriously considering to buy a copy of the book upon release I suggest you head over there and say so in the comments.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Port of Gierburg - Part 1: A Water Board

For years now I have been collecting and painting high quality resin buildings for some kind of medieval/fantasy gaming board. Now the project is taking shape and I have begun working on The Port of Gierburg. This first part describes how I made a water section usable not only for the port but also for piratey boarding actions.


Water effects are one of the more difficult techniques it seems. I have read a lot about all types of water effects for tabletop/modelling. There's a lot of talk about different resins, bubbles, stink, bending and breaking, etc. etc. Stu's reports did not neccessarily motivate me to tackle the issue either, despite the results looking great.
Because of all this uncertainty and difficulty regarding the water issue I kept on procrastinating for years. Then, recently, at a local artist supplies store here in Berlin (Modulor) I found a product called "Seefolie" (German, meaning "sea film" or "sea foil"), a water effect film by HEKI (3110 / Seefolie). It finally gave me an idea of how I could tackle the port section and so I got to work...


One sheet of sea foil is declared to measure 80 x 35 cm, but the edges are not perfectly cut so I had to manually cut the sheets in size. With these size constraints in mind I decided to start the project with one half of the typical wargaming board size of 4' x 4' (4' x 6' for bigger army games). So the port would take up an area of 120 x 60 cm. As I wanted to use as much of the sea foil as possible to fit three ships next to each other I divided the length of 120 cm up into two sections: a water section of 75 cm and one section for the docks with the remaining 45cm (both 60 cm wide).

Initially I planned the second 120 x 60 cm half of the board to incorporate the neccessary dock features such as as the walls on the edge and starirs leading down to the water. I then realized that I wouldn't want to dedicate such a huge part of the gaming board to the port. So I went with a more modular approach instead using two special 12 cm wide connector sections. They would allow me to again treat both the water board, the big 45 x 60 docks section as well as the big 120 x 60 main city board as independent sections that are connected by the docks.

First concept of the modules: Two 12cm wide "connector" pieces (Dock I and Extra) are placed between one half of the gaming board - the city section (imagine that at the top) - and another half comprising of the water board and a dock section (II)

Again realization struck: The Dock Section II would be a fully dedicated board with no possibility for re-use in a different set-up. Therefore the Extra section did not make much sense at all. This made me end up with the following more straight-forward approach for the modules.

The final concept for the port modules with two dock sections encapsulating the water board

Of course I could have just created one big port piece. But it was important to me to make the water section an independet piece. Like with the board as a whole I had multiple purposes for the water section in mind. Firstly, it is part of the port. But it can also function as a mini board for boarding action scenarios or other special set-ups in nautically themed games - I'm thinking pirates, of course!

Assembling the Board

My first attempt was using a 15 mm thick piece of Kapa cardboard. Unfortunately, after hand-painting it with a first layer of black, the board started to bend and became simply unusable. After reading this post by Mathias Horn (aka Samy) about his current Behind Omaha gaming board I decided to try MDF board as a base. On top of a 5 mm MDF board I glued a Selitron foam board using wood glue.

MDF board with Selitron foam board form the base of the water board

To prevent the edges - especially the corners - of the board from damage (and for better looks) I bought four cheap beech moulding strips, sized 2 x 10 x 1000 mm.

After everything was glued together it was painting next. Browsing the modulor webshop I found a spray colour that is suitable for styrofoam and other foam boards: Aero Design from Union Chemie GmbH. My very first terrain piece was a phallus shaped herdstone for my Warhammer Beastmen army. At that time there was no internet knowledge let alone any experience so I basecoated the styrofoam piece with standard Citadel spray colour - just to see it melt away. Since that moment I am extra cautious when it comes to colouring anything foam-based. So I bought one spray can and tested it on a small piece of Selitron. And: Lo and behold! It works.

The board after applying the first can
of bluegreen Aero Design

Aero Design spray cans:
suitable for styrofoam and other foams
In total I used up three 150ml spray cans to completely cover the board - not exactly a cheap solution but compared to hand painting it saves a lot of time. Plus, similar to air brushing you can achieve very nice effects. I used two different colours: A lighter petrol bluegreen and a dark blue. This allows to create a feeling of depth by having lighter and darker areas on the board. However, this effect is somewhat negated later when appliying the sea foil, which is not 100% transparent. When working with proper transparent resin for water this would be more effective.

Lastly I glued the sea foil on the board with superglue. Anticipating that the superglue would turn at least slightly white when hardened I spread the glue in lines so that they would create the impression of waves. Had I gone zigzag this would look very bad now.

Vallejo Foam & Snow
Looking for a way to create a nice wave effect I came across Vallejo's Foam & Snow product. A quick research on the internet brought up some positive reactions I ordered one bottle. I used it on my test piece and - even after it had completely dried - I was very surprised: The "foam" and "snow" effect little more than plain white colour. I don't know if I am using it wrong, but from what I can see this stuff is completely useless. I expected it to be of a harder consistency and being somewhat translucent when dry. I don't think I could tell the difference between this and plain white PLAKA colours.

The test piece with "foam" on the sea foil

However, I didn't want to give up on the waves. Since some of the dried superglue was already shining through the transparent sea film I made the bold move to apply more superglue - on top of the film. I only did a few experimental lines. You can see the result in the photos below.

The finished water board in its entirety

Close up of the water board. You can see the foil and lines of glue.


As a final verdict, I have very mixed feelings towards the sea foil. On one hand, it does create a surprisingly good looking effect and it is really easy to work with. On the other hand, the effect is not quite up to the standard that I try to achieve with how I paint my buildings and the rest of the board. This makes it even more important that I went with the modular approach. At some point I will definately get my hands all dirty and try the expensive and stinky resins which create the perfect water effect. Until then this board is what I need to keep going with building the port section. So for the moment it is probably just the right thing.

The most impotant lesson learned: Try out your materials before working with the final pieces. There were so many throwbacks and frustrations during the creation of this rather simple board, it is astounding.
  • The bending Kapa board was a waste in the end
  • The sea film wasn't properly cut so I had to manually cut it to shape. Unfortunately at that point I had already assumed that the declared sizes would fit and made my preparations for that, wrong, measures.
  • The sea film can be cut with a cutting knife but it's hard to achieve perfect results. Also, if you need two sheets for your water section (like me) the edge between the two sheets is somewhat annoying.
  • The Aero Design products were a positive surprise as I wasn't aware of foam friendly spray before. Unfortunately they run out very quickly and I had to buy another can twice, ending up with three cans for this not that huge water section.
  • At first I guessed the height of the board so the first four moulding strips I bought were 15mm wide - but I needed only 10 mm.
  • Vallejo Foam effect is utterly useless.
I feel like I even forgot one or two things. There were points where I just wanted to finish the damned thing. It definately wasn't that much fun. But now that it's done, it's okay. And it is fun to work on the surrounding dock sections of the port. So in the end it still was worth it.

Coming next in part 2: Dock Section I.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rest in Peace, Mordheim

BoLS reports that Games Workshop is getting rid of their Specialist Games range. This means the demise of the game systems Battlefleet Gothic, Epic Armageddon, Inquisitor, Necromunda, Warmaster and - most importantly to me - Mordheim.

I don't play Mordheim actively right now, but this does make me sad nonetheless. I have never really been a fan of playing with huge armies and even though I loved my beastman miniatures I would have quit the hobby had Games Workshop not released their skirmish game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. To me Mordheim embodies most of what is 'tabletop', simply because I had been so dedicated to that system in the past years. The involvement with the Nemesis Crown supplement and more so the development and release of the fan-made Border Town Burning supplement for Mordheim has had a huge impact on my "hobby life". Countless inspiring discussions with Stu "Werekin" (of the Liber Malefic blog), being part of an awesome community as a moderator at Tom's and the Yahoo group, and - most importantly - playing this game with friends!

Of course, the game isn't just going to disappear from my head: Like with any board game I like, I have what is needed to play the game. The thing is, as a wargamer you're used to having a company support their games and continuously breathing fresh air into them. Being a fan of Legends of the High Seas (based on 'Legends of the Old West' based on both 'Lord of the Rings' and - ta daah! - Mordheim) I had to mourn the death of Warhammer Historical. This was already bad and the community always had small undying hopes for a LotHS supplement. Now this one is even more sad. Also because it cuts the last ties I had attached with this company.

It has been a long dying process, which at times left the fans with frustration and uncertainty, always hoping for a rebirth of their favourite game. Especially the re-release of Blood Bowl fueled that hope. Now it is the carrying to the grave at last, that allows us all to accept the inevitable and move on to the new. There are plenty more fish in the sea, so let's set the sails!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Guide to the City: The Peasants

The Guide to the City series of articles describes the background for the Gierburg game setting. In this first installment we take a loof at the lowest of the low: the average citizen of the Free City.

Born in Gierburg. Die in Gierburg. Born in the gutter, die in the gutter. Everythin’ else issa step-up.

Gutter-scum, peasant, citizen, down-trodden, poor, starving, bedraggled, stinking, continue as you will along the same vein, the average life of a Gierburg peasant is two-score and ten years of misery. You get born to parents who can barely feed you, survive till you get old enough to earn money to eat, settle down with someone to start a family and continue the cycle, dying at some point from malnutrition, sickness, an accident, murder or age. A peasant is a peasant is a peasant is a peasant and nothing tends to change that.

    The population of south Gierburg is around fifty thousand peasants and there is simply not enough food or money to go around them all. The buildings are old, stinking of rot, mildew, damp and faeces, the streets are worse, the water from the well is always going to be dirty and the food verging on the rotten.

    Yet south Gierburg is different from place to place. Southwest Gierburg is marginally less crowded and stinking, the buildings newer (i.e. less than three centuries old), the food slightly better, fresher. You also see a more ethnic range of faces here, whether it is the mildly tanned faces of Estragian immigrants, the rough-hewed faces from Cregger or a flirtatious minx from the shores of the Blue Bay. They have come to Gierburg to make their fortunes, or their parents or grandparents did and so have become locked into the misery pervading the city. If they seem less pitiable than the rest, it is simply because the communities they have founded around themselves help bear the burden of crushing poverty, so that neighbours help their neighbours.

    Along the Docks, the faces become huskier, covered in beards during winter and burnt red in summer from working in all weathers in the docks. The houses here are smaller, crammed close together; where the families all come from dockers and longshoremen, long lines of family. Here the faces are leaner, but the fire in their eyes says that they know how important they are to the city. No dock, no Gierburg, and these are a proud set of citizens, proud to do an honest and hard day’s labour. If something is skimmed off the side, it will put food on the table, but they are not thieves.

    South of here, you find the barricades and inside these cordons, a whole new world of suffering has risen its ugly head, as families who were once merely poor and hungry are now broke and starving, fighting over the remaining scraps as if they were dogs. They are trapped through no fault of their own and seek release, either by fleeing the barriers or by fleeing their life. Everyday brings new turmoil as a gang claims new turf, the Gang War continues unabated and a rising Black Market has put a price on everything, from table scraps to the virginity of a young girl sold by her family for food on the table.

    The Southeast is still the worst in the city by a wide margin. Here the buildings are crammed together, whole rooms filled with a single family in a building with maybe a dozen rooms. Here the poverty has ground out all hope, where the cries of a hungry child will go unanswered and a body in the street will always be naked because the clothing is precious. Those streets sandwiched between 8th and 9th Avenue and running south from 14th are the hardest hit, whether because they are the oldest or the most secluded is unknown. There are no beggars here, for there is no money to be begged for. The women here are too old, too scrawny, and too hungry to sell their bodies. The men work whatever jobs they can get, all too often for the most meagre amount of money they can get and resort to casual theft to get food for an evening meal. The south-east is where the poor go to die and it is no surprise that months can go by before anyone will open a neighbour’s door to see if they are all right, only to find a body, or, in some cases, bodies of a whole family.

An agitator is speaking to the masses.
    With nothing to live for in many cases, some of the citizens have gotten angry, pointing fingers across the river at their fat neighbours and screaming to their contemporaries about the problems they face and the solution. Some of these agitators believe that the time has come for change, violent change. They see the Charlatans as the start of that and want to continue the fight for that change. More than a few ears are starting to listen to these revolutionaries and some of those ears agree.

Written by Rev Larny
Figures painted by Simon Bradley of Stone Cold Lead. See more photos here.
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