Tag Archives: citadel

Tabletop War-Game Terrain & Scenery: Bombastic Buildings and Fantastic Features – Creating your Tabletop Battlefield

If you’ve ever played any sort of tabletop game that did not require a board of its own, you’ve probably considered terrain.

Terrain in tabletop war games is used to represent geographical features on a battlefield, whether it’s medieval France, the grim darkness of the 41st millennium or the post apocalypse. Terrain makes the tabletop battlefield not just look interesting, but offers tactical features, blocks line of sight and generally adds an extra layer to the tiny dimensions. Terrain features become part of the game.

The are lots of cool things out there already and a lot of it very cheap. Take for example, MDF laser cut buildings. Affordable and surprisingly detailed…

But what to do if you don’t have any terrain? How can you get it? Well, since I’ve not written much over the last month, I’m offering you a multi-blog series on my attempt to acquire and create tabletop terrain. Here goes…

Think Big and Start Small

I’ve been tabletop gaming for years, on and off. As a kid in the late 80s and early 90s it was impossible to buy terrain that was a) good and b) affordable. Now that I’m all grown up, it’s about time that I set aside some of my life and get together something which I can invite friends over to checkout and drool upon.

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

What do I want?

Being realistic I’m not going to have all the space in the world. Everything needs to fit on my current gaming table (I dine on my gaming table, not the other way around). My trusty gaming table isn’t huge: it’s not quite 4.5’ x 3’ foot – that’s a couple of feet too small for most standard wargames.

I’m a player of Warhammer in its various forms, so ideally I’ll need something which is 6’x4’ but I’ll be honest – the size isn’t what matters to me (they all say that). I’m more about the terrain, fantastical features to bring life to the battlefield of the Age of Sigmar or the 41st Millennium. So, forget the size for now, lets see how we’re going to create the stuff!

Design Notes

I won’t be going into any great planning detail for this project. I know in my head what the theme of the battlefield will look like and I think that is enough for now. I’ve also spent a few weeks watching YouTube videos and reading articles to give me some sort of grounding in the techniques used by modelers with a tonne more experience than I have.

There are two very important messages that I’ve got from the internet; 1) It is OK to be totally new to this part of the hobby, 2) don’t spend your time painstakingly drawing up designs and measuring everything.

Part 1 seems sensible – everyone has to begin somewhere.

Part 2 seems a little silly at first, until you realise that modelling terrain is just like any other creative endeavor. If you enjoy planning to the millimeter then lucky you! But for everyone else, just get stuck in and learn from your mistakes – it’s totally worth it, just like writing and editing your NaNoWriMo each year – write it first and enjoy the creativity, then learn from your editing and proofing steps. Easy to say and read and I understand reality isn’t that straight forward, but there’s something to be said for just getting on with the task.

I will add that I am not a total stranger to crafts. I’ve got several years of leather working experience, completely self-learnt. Why is this important to you? Well in the interest of honesty, I can cut pretty much freehand… and it’s right first time. You guys probably can’t so please take your time cutting anything, and for heaven’s sake, be careful!

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

Safety & Hazards

A word of caution, some of the stuff I’ll be using is considered toxic – but don’t panic too much. I’m talking about polystyrene based materials, which are essentially plastic.

Loads of people will cry out about how toxic polystyrene can be when you cut it with a hot wire or melt it. Yes, it is toxic, and yes the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) say it may be carcinogenic (may cause cancer) but I’ll point out that every MSDS is written from an industrial point of view where exposure is massive compared to that of a hobbyist. That said, always craft in a well ventilated area or if you can, outside. Always vacuum up any bits and pieces so they don’t stay floating around your house or work space for children and pets to inhale or ingest.

A clean work space is a safe work space.

Next up are materials and tools. I want to stress that you don’t need to go out and buy a load of expensive stuff. If you’re starting out you can get away with some PVA glue and a craft knife with some old packaging material. But if you want to make your life easier and have a small budget, you can get yourself some time-saving tools.

Materials

The great thing about making terrain is that you don’t have to buy in loads of expensive materials and tools. Chances are you throw out a lot of the materials we’ll be using in your household waste bin. Save some of it and recycle it into something useful.

Polystyrene – there’s a couple of varieties we may all be familiar with; Expanded polystyrene which is used in packaging and is normally made up of small spheres which crumble away when you break chunks of it up. It can be referred to as EPS. Extruded polystyrene is much more homogeneous and smooth. Extruded polystyrene is sometimes referred to XPS foam. If like me and you’re in the UK, XPS is generally referred to as Styrofoam. There’s a lot of confusion about what materials are named so if you’re in the know (and by that I mean: use the stuff at work or make it) please let me know!

Tools

I find that you can get away with the cheapest craft knives and some PVA glue, but if there was one essential piece of equipment I think you will benefit from its’ a hot glue gun. Not the massive sized ones, just a simple, small one. Why? Large glue guns get really hot and you don’t have as much control over them. A small glue gun is more precise and there’s less wasted glue. You can get cheap glue guns with a hundred glue sticks for less than £10, maybe even less than £7. I think I spotted some in Hobby & Craft for £5 (sans glue sticks). Shop around.

You can pick up craft knives quite cheaply. I recommend you have a disposable & retractable knife and a separate single bladed craft knife (the ones that look like surgical knives). Depending on where you are in the world, you can find these in hobby stores with extra / spare blades. Whatever you do, be careful with knives – I’ve cut myself more than a few times so I imagine you will too. GO SLOWLY.

The Ruined Tower

I’m going to wrap up this post with a few images and some constructive criticism of my own pilot project –  a ruined circular tower, which I’m hoping to use in Age of Sigmar, Frostgrave or even Warhammer 40K…

I made this up using a sheet of packaging polystyrene for the base, and polyethylene foam (the stuff they use to make LARP foam weapons) for the brick work. Some lolly sticks and gravel / flocking for the details.

Criticism Number 1 – the bricks. Polyethylene is quite robust. Easy to cut and apparently heat moldable. However, it doesn’t get battered easily. Even after I scraped it across the concrete outside, it still managed to hold itself together. It looks too perfect.

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

Criticism Number 2 – Inside the tower there is a nice portion of what looks like a once highly detailed floor surface. I made this with a rolling pin made by Green Stuff World. The rolling pin kept sticking to my putty, no matter how much water or Vaseline I used, hence why it is only a small portion of the broken flooring!

wargame wargames terrain building modelling warhammer 40K age of sigmar AOS miniatures frostgrave

Criticism Number 3 – The dry-brushing. Dry brushing is when you add a bit of paint to the brush, wipe most of it off and very lightly and quickly move the brush over the item you’re painting. Because the bricks lack detail this didn’t turn out exactly how I hoped – but the textured bricks I hope to make next time may change that.

Overall I think for a first attempt this turned out alright. I’ve still got to finish off the edge of the base (you can see the bubbles of expanded polystyrene).

In my next post I’ll go into the formulation I’ve devised from my first test piece. I’ll make a visual account of it too so you get to see the different stages. I’ll also go into more detail in the next few posts.

Part 2

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3 Asymmetric Board Games That Will Make You Hate Your Friends.

War Of The Ring.

wotr1

The board of this game is so big that audible gasps come from anyone who sees it emerge from the box. Expect more gasps as you shovel out the hundreds of cards and components. The amazement quickly tails off into some form of shock as you and your compadre realise that you have no idea how to play this game and won’t understand how to play this game for the next few hours.

I’m the kind of person that loves complex games. I see them as a challenge, a mountain to be climbed. I find that the more complex the game is, the more time I’m willing to spend getting to grips with it. It’s a value proposition as well as a preference.

Well, War Of The Ring provides complexity in spades. Of the five or so (3+ hour long) games I’ve played of this, the first two were basically write-offs as one player made some serious mistake that crippled their chances for the rest of the game, it’s not really the game’s fault, just the nature of playing something with so many (metaphorical) moving parts.

The story is as old as time at this point. One player takes on the role of Sauron and his limitless hordes while the other picks up the tattered banners of the free peoples, attempting to give Frodo and the boys time to trek half way across the world to chuck the infernal jewellery into the volcano and save the world.

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What this translates to is the Sauron player grinning with glee as his orcs pop up every turn and constantly flow over the board towards the scant strongholds of elves and men. As the good player, you find yourself glaring out from just above your excessive hand of action cards as you frantically try to juggle all the different mechanics (diplomacy, moving the fellowship, separating your heroes, recruiting troops and many, many more) to try and get any edge you can against the forces of evil.

As the good player, you’ll lose a lot until you get the hang of managing everything, and at the end of every game, the Sauron player will look at you with some small pity in their eyes and ask “Do you want to play evil next game?” and you will sit up straight, puff your chest out and defiantly say “Hell no. Set up the board again, damn it.”

I think that is all that needs to be said.

Escape From Colditz.

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In every gaming group, you will find one person who just loves being the authoritarian. Whether they always DM your games of D&D, play The Emperor in Dune every time or cackle with glee and search your pack without fail in Sheriff Of Nottingham.

This game is tailor made for these people, as one player actually plays as a group of dastardly Nazis hell bent on keeping the noble allied soldiers locked up tight inside Colditz Castle. The others play different nationalities of POW, all trying to evade the guards and escape from their prison.

This is sort of a worker placement game with movement, item collection and capturing mechanics. The German player gets a ton of pawns to patrol the gorgeously designed map of the castle grounds. There are rules that determine in which places the POWs pawns can be seen to be escaping, captured and sent to the “cooler”, to have the items they have collected taken off them and spat out into the central courtyard, to try and try again.

The items are used in specific places to cut through wire fences, descend towers through windows and aid you on the way to Switzerland when you make good your escape. This portion of the game is quite amazing, and you really do see your plan unfold as you evade and befuddle the German player and the game inevitably always ends in a madcap chase, as the German sends all his guards after you as you make your mad dash to one of the few escape points at the edge of the map.

One strange downside is that if you’re playing with more than two people, the POWs can’t work together (explained in the game as that they all speak different languages. A bit lame if you ask me.) So you sort of become a bit competitive about who’s going to try their plan next, but instead of ruining the feel, it just makes things funnier, as one player’s escape plan failing could provide you just the opportunity you need to see yours succeed.

This game always ends with one player swearing angrily at another.

Space Hulk.

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We’re ending on a light note here as Space Hulk. While doling out heaps of punishment upon the loser, it is at least set against a backdrop of Grim Darkness. Nobody is the hero in the Warhammer 40k universe, so you can both laugh heartily as the horrible alien devourers rip your authoritarian Imperial oppressors to pieces.

So yes, one side will play the noble Terminators, who are attempting to secure sites of strategic importance aboard the moon-sized accumulations of ancient spaceships that float eerily throughout space. Apparently, these Space Hulks are always infested with ravenous horrors from another galaxy as the other player plays the hordes of Genestealers, whose objectives, while ephemeral, seem to revolve around trying to hug the Terminators to death.

This is another boardgame where you really get what you pay for. The massive box opens up and the thick cardboard tiles of the modular board almost jump out at you the box is so full. You get proper 40k models as well, including exclusive sculpts of the Blood Angel Terminators, Genestealers and the massive Broodlord.

When laboriously setting up one of the many scenarios in the thick book, you will be surprised at how long it takes and how big the boards get as you place tile after tile in an expanding maze of tunnels and corridors.

You will silently hope that you have all the right pieces for the map. But after the anxiety and half the night pass by, you can finally get to playing. You take your gun-toting superhumans and set them plodding along the ship’s decks, while the genestealer player places “blips”, counters representing an unknown number of aliens, at the edges of the board, usually inbetween the imperial player and their objective.

I do have some misgivings about this game, while the value proposition is good; I mean this box is packed full of gorgeousness, every game can sort of end up the same, with your terminators trapped in a room, hoping the other player runs out of genestealers before you succumb to their rending claws.

At the end you will both be exhausted and the winning player will shrug, smile and ask for another game. The other will then wipe the stress-sweat from their brow and politely decline.

Orktober Begins! (Get Excited Ya Git!)

The time has come for every Ork player to both hold their breath in anticipation and quake in their boots a little bit at what Games Workshop is going to do with the Orks next.

The road has not been kind to us Ork players over the years: the edition before this one (Seventh) saw us having to retreat more often than not, causing your WAAAGH! to feel as anaemic white bread; coupled with the crap rules for vehicles, old kits, hardly any looted vehicles any more and stalled forgeworld releases, we haven’t been treated very well at all!

This month promises to at least let us know what we have in store for the future. Games Workshop have really turned it around in recent years: their new community site has allowed fans and newbies alike to keep in touch with the Warhammer world (and it’s associated specialist games) by giving us sneak peeks, news and hype leading up to new releases. Well, last month, to coincide with the NOVA open, GW published a post detailing the up and coming projects for this year and into the next.

https://www.warhammer-community.com/2018/08/30/breaking-previews-and-reveals-from-novagw-homepage-post-1/

And there it is; a whole section dedicated to our beloved greenskinned roustabouts, a new specialist game called Speed Freeks (owing to the focus on the Speed Freeks faction inside the Orks for the new releases). So we have some new, shiny vehicles to goggle over and add spiky bitz and more dakka to!

The game looks like GorkaMorka of old but simplified, which I don’t really mind, there are plenty of examples of complex games in the GW sphere these days. I’m sure it will be nice to have a simple and smashy good time game to whip out at the weekends.

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We also had some new rules explanations and teasers for the new Ork codex (A long time in the releasing, we haven’t had a new codex since fifth edition in 2008), giving a tantalising and juicy look into what we can expect. Namely lots and lots of Dakka for our Boyz!

So this is just the beginning. New models are already teased and I fully expect a codex release in the next few weeks. I’ll be sure to bring you all the latest for our green guyz.

Keep Krumpin Ya Zoggin Gitz!

J.A.Steadman.

Speed Freeks Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v7QiQ9ika0