Quick update on the river project! I’ve been taking a lot of summer holiday time recently, including all of last week away, so not a lot of progress or action, but there has been some, at least.
I’ve got all the river segments except the bridge basecoated and drybrushed up, ready for foliage and then water effects.
I snapped this photo after dark, so I apologize for the generally crap image quality, but it shows the current state of everything except the bridge. Black basecoat over the sand layer, then heavy brown drybrush on the banks and shallow bits and a lighter brown drybrush down the centre of the river channel. Finally a drybrush of tan on the banks and the shallow parts of the river channel.
The bridge segment is a bit behind the others; it just got the black basecoat on the banks and channel so no picture for now as I didn’t want to put wet paint down on my carpet for some reason.
The long straight sections are 12″ long, 6″ wide overall, and the river channel is 3″ with 1.5″ wide banks on either side. The short straight is intended to be a ford and is 6″ long; the two short curve segments are roughly 4″ or 5″ long on the long outside sides. The bridge is on another 6″ segment, and the eventual plan is for different 6″ segments to add flexibility – a high tech bridge for my Infinity gaming will be one of the first, probably.
Next up will be foliage and flocking along the banks, and then the smelly, messy business of resin water effects on the whole set!
I started a pond as a test piece just before starting the whole river section project, and it’s been progressing one or two steps ahead of the rest of piece all along. Like the river pieces, the base is sheet plastic styrene with air drying clay for banks, and it was then covered in fine sand before being primed black.
It got painted and decorated with various foliage bits, and after letting all of that dry for a bit I tried out a new-to-me water effect with cheap resin 5-minute epoxy glue.
For water I’m trying out ordinary hardware store 5-minute epoxy glue, as shown in one of Luke’s APS YouTube videos on water effects – this link is to the main channel page, as I can’t remember which of his water videos actually talks about epoxy glue for water. Sorry – will update if I find it!
Anyway, I squeezed the 5-minute epoxy right into the pond bottom and mixed it with a scrap stir stick. There was a brief scare when it went all silvery while I was mixing part of it, but that cleared up right away, thankfully.
I wound up using three overlapping small batches of epoxy to fill the pond to the current level, then left that for 24 hours to fully cure.
It needs a bit more epoxy around the outer edges as the first pour didn’t get right in under and behind some of the reed bunches, but I’m really happy with how it’s going so far! For the second pour I’m going to try getting the epoxy glue a bit thinner by warming the dispensing syringe with a hot water bath before squeezing it out.
Nothing fancy, just a coat of black paint mixed with some white glue, then sand shaken over while everything was still wet. I’ll put another coat of paint and glue over the sand to fully secure it, then get on with the rest.
As seen in the photo above, the bridge is also fully painted. Over the black primer (mixed, as usual, with white glue) I blobbed two different green shades and some rust brown, then started drybrushing with a dark grey, a bit of tan, then lighter grey and finally just a bit of pure white on the edges and upper surfaces.
I’ll do the river banks alongside the bridge next, then paint and sand so all ten river segments are at the same stage, then it’s off to doing water effects, probably with epoxy resin.
Realized I forgot to include the photo of the river modules with the air drying clay banks in place, so let’s start off with that! I rolled clay snakes out, mushed them into place, and left everything to dry.
On to the actual subject of this post, the bridge! This river project is initially intended to go along with my English Civil War pike & shot project I’m painting figures for, so I started with a classic stone arch bridge. The base module is one of the two short river modules, so it’s 6″ long and 6″ wide. I decided to make the roadway portion of the bridge 50mm wide, which will fit at least two foot or cavalry figures side-by-side, or a wagon or vehicle. The whole bridge is roughly 5.5″ long, more or less.
The roadway is three layers of light card (90lbs or so) laminated together with white glue and left to dry under a couple of heavy books. After that dried overnight I cut it to length to form the arch, then glued more small rectangles of light card to it for the flagstone bridge surface. While that was drying I superglued two little strips of card in place on the styrene base to hold the arch in place – you can see them at either end of the roadway in the picture below. These gave the roadway something to be braced against while I superglued it into place.
The inner arch was formed similarly, although I only used a single layer of card as it won’t be exposed in the final model.
For the sides I started with an offcut of one inch thick pink styrofoam insulation. I marked the roadway and inside arches on the side of the piece with a pencil, then carefully cut the curves and the end pillars with a brand-new Xacto blade before slicing the entire piece in half lengthwise to get both sides of the bridge. They were glued into place with white glue – you can’t use superglue on styrofoam, it melts! – and braced with various heavy things overnight so they dried in place.
After the whole assembly had dried for about six hours or so I started carving the stone sides, using my usual combination of an Xacto knife and a pencil. Cut patterns with the knife, then open up the cuts with the pencil for a nice easy stone effect. I also used a ball of tin foil to add a bit of stone texture to the sytrofoam; I might yet go back and add more to the parts that are still too smooth.
After doing the carving I decided to put a row of capping stones across the tops of the arches and pillars. Making them out of heavier matt board (picture framing card, one of my favourite building materials) means they’ll protect the styrofoam sides of the bridge, much the same way a harder stone like slate is often used to protect a more carveable stone! I cut a strip of matt board then chopped slightly different sizes rectangles from it, to make the result more varied and interesting.
To add texture, especially to the card, and to help protect the whole structure a bit more, I put a coat of GW Liquid Greenstuff over most of the bridge and, for now at least, declared construction finished! I still need to do the river banks, obviously, and might yet add some small buttresses to the sides of the end pillars of the bridge. The stonework might need more texture, too, but I’ll wait until I get a primer coat of paint on it before making that decision.
Finally, here’s a miniature eye shot (more or less!) of one end of the bridge looking up the roadway. This shows the flagstones of the roadway nicely; I’m really pleased with how they turned out. Individual little rectangles of light card is a painful way to do flagstones, but it does look good! You can also see the card strip I glued down to brace the road arch in place; I’ll eventually cover that in clay or putty to disguise it as flagstones or hide it.
The main river modules are also proceeding, all the clay banks are straightened and glued down, so I might be able to get texture on them in the next few days, although we’re going to have a house guest in our spare room (usually my workspace/man cave) for all of this coming week!
A relatively large modular river setup has been on my Things I Want To Build list for years. I went through the excellent set of scenarios that come with Pikeman’s Lament recently with an eye toward what additional scenery I might need to do them properly, and one of the scenarios is a bridge seizing/river crossing that needs a river the long way down the table — suggested table size for Pikeman’s Lament being 4’x6′.
Perfect, a good reason to shunt the river project to the front of the queue as my summer project! It’s also universal scenery that I can use on pretty much any of my tables, possibly with alternate bridge modules eventually to better match, say, my Russian Civil War setup or even Infinity’s cyberpunk future!
To check proportions and the basic idea I fired up Inkscape. You can work in real-world units in Inkscape really easily, so it’s ideal as a super-basic quick layout tool, faster than doing things by hand on graph paper and cheaper than wasting materials! I decided on 6″ wide modules with a 3″ wide river in between 1.5″ banks, which will let me put lots of flocking and foliage along the banks. The bridge is 50mmm wide across the road part, which gives enough width for at least two figures across and will accommodate figures on 40mmm wide multibases as well.
I started construction by buying a 4′ by 2′ sheet of .040 (~1mmm) styrene plastic sheet from our excellent local plastic store, Industrial Plastic & Paint. The big sheets of bulk styrene are identical to the 8×10 pieces you buy in a hobby store but much, much cheaper! I cut two 12″ by 24″ pieces, enough for six 12″ straight river modules, two 6″ long short modules, and a pair of curve pieces about 3 or 4″ long. That’s enough river to get from one side of a 6′ long table to the other at an angle, and keeping the bridge piece on one of the 6″ short modules makes placing it more flexible.
The long straight sections aren’t perfectly straight, incidentally. I offset each one by about a half inch, so the river will wander back and forth a bit on the table, or angle gradually one way if you align all the long pieces the same way. The long sides are cut slightly irregularly and then sanded down to smooth out any jagged edges from the scissors.
There are cheaper material than .040 styrene, even at bulk rates, and there are certainly stronger materials, so why thin styrene? Because it’s thin, strong, and waterproof. I dislike scenery that stands up really high off the table, the styrene is going to be strong enough provided nobody abuses it, especially once all the clay, sand, glue, more glue, etc etc is on it, and I can slop paint, water, and glue around with abandon without anything warping or being destroyed.
For the banks I decided to use air drying clay and picked up a cheap pack at one of our local art stores. I marked the 3″ standard width of the river on the ends of all the styrene pieces, rolled out snakes of clay, and mushed them into place with my fingers. Good old kindergarten-level stuff, nothing fancy. Keep a little pot of water handy to wet your fingers in and smooth the clay.
The best way to use air drying clay is actually to put a layer of white glue down on your base material, and then mush your clay around on top of the glue. They’ll dry together and bond to the base material. I didn’t do this, so now I’m gluing the dried pieces of clay back to the styrene… this does give me a better chance to correct any warping caused by the clay drying, which has happened. Gently bending the clay straight then gluing it down with a weight on top of it – I used figure transport cases – has so far sorted out all the warping issues.
A thicker more heavyweight base material wouldn’t have warped, but see above about disliking scenery that stands too proud of the table surface. Always about the tradeoffs!
With the clay done on all six straight long modules, the two curves, and one of the short straight modules – which I’m doing up as a shallow ford – I started building the bridge on the last short straight module. More on that soon!
First unit of foot for my English Civil War project is done!
Ten pikemen, an officer, and a flag ensign all lined up ready for battle.
I’m plugging away at the shot in blue to go along with these guys… the musketeers have a lot more equipment hanging off them and are a lot slower to paint than pikemen!
There’s also a second unit of pike almost finished, these ones in green uniforms, as well as six firelock musketeers for a forlorn hope or commanded shot unit. The mounted commander from my last post has also had a few more details completed and is inching toward the finish line. Lots of assembly line style painting currently, which makes for really boring photos to share here until a unit is suddenly done…
Got a couple of half decent photos of Warlord’s Pike & Shotte Mounted Commander that I’ve got on my painting bench right now, along with a whole bunch of pike & shot soldiers for him to command.
This is one of Warlord’s all-metal figures, and very nice too, a good level of detail and a pose full of attitude as he slouches along, pewter wine cup in one hand and a huge broadsword on his hip. There’s an eyepatch under that wide hat too, although I don’t think you can actually see it in these photos!
I set myself the painting challenge of doing a black horse, black coat and hat, and black hair on the commander. The clothing is done with a base of Reaper Walnut Brown (a very, very dark almost black brown) with a few drops of Pure Black in it, highlighted with Rainy Grey; the horse is mostly Pure Black with some Walnut Brown highlights and then a coat of artist’s India Ink over the whole horse except the mane and tail.
Loads of highlighting and some detail painting left to do, but I’m happy with the progress so far and thought I’d show him off here!
Much chaos in my non-gaming life, so time and brainpower to actually paint is kind of hard to come by, but this weekend I sat down and organized my pike & shot foot figures for Pikeman’s Lament and other English Civil War or Thirty Year’s War gaming.
I now have exactly 60 figures assembled, based, and in progress for this project; I know it’s exactly 60 because the 4Ground 25mm bases I’m using come in batches of 60 and I just finished the first batch of two that I’ve bought!
Starting from the far left, there’s a unit of musketeers in blue uniforms, then a pike unit in blue (on the close-order base from Warbases). To the right off the back edge of the cutting mat is another dozen musketeers, this time in green. In front of them is six foot characters/officers/leaders and one mounted officer, and on the skirmish base to the right is the first six forlorn hope firelock musketeers. Finally in the front right corner is another dozen pikemen, in green uniforms. All the figures are from the Warlord Games Pike & Shotte range, all plastic from their infantry regiment box. This is one full infantry regiment box plus a couple of extra sprues picked up separately, except for the firelock/forlorn hope figures who are the first of the Forlorn Hope/Firelock Storming Party box I’ve assembled.
The blue pikes are closest to being done, and a few of the green musketeers got finished as part of LPL11 recently. Most of the bare grey plastic figures were assembled just this weekend to fill out various units and add some more leader/officer/character figures to fill out some units.
Unassembled, I’ve got another 14 musketeers, enough for a second full unit of “blue” musketeers. That will give me a “full” pike and shot unit of 2:1 shot:pike ratio, which will look good on the table! There’s also another 12 firelock musketeers, and a dozen cuirassier heavy cavalry. Finally I’ve got another dozen regular cavalry fully assembled but not shown above; six of them are fully painted and the other six have been almost finished for… about four years now, or maybe longer…
The four new officer/character figures are made with arms from the Warlord plastic pike & shot infantry command sprue, and a mix of pikeman bodies and bodies from the command sprue. The two on the left are pike bodies; the two on the right are command sprue bodies. The two completely finished and based figures in back alongside the mounted officer are also made the same way, with two spare pike bodies. I have more command or character type figures than I’m ever likely to need for Pikeman’s Lament, but they’re fun to assemble and there’s lots of single-figure small skirmish games out there like Pulp Alley that I could see tweaking for an ECW setting!
As soon as I saw how the figure on the far right came together I thought about cutting the head of the halberd off and turning it into a magic-user’s staff of some sort! Hmmm, mix and match the fantasy Dragon Rampant with Pikeman’s Lament? Dragon’s Lament? Pikeman Rampant? The two games use the same basic core rules, so it might be possible, and gunpowder/Renaissance fantasy (vs more standard medieval fantasy) has always been an interest of mine!
I haven’t actually sat down with the Pikeman’s Lament rules to put together some companies, but the figures assembled and based here are enough for a full size 24pt force with some different build options. I’m going to try to get one or two of the almost-finished units actually pushed through to completion this week, and hopefully get a PL game of some sort in next Sunday, but we shall see…
Buttresses and a double row of foundation stonework have been added with pink styrofoam insulation cut with a new Xacto knife. I used scrap card to create a small jig to keep the angle of the front of the buttresses the same across the fourteen buttresses around the outside of the church. The buttresses are roughly a quarter inch wide, two inches tall, and about half an inch deep at the base of each.
The front door is card with planks scored into it, with more light card for the hinges and handles. The door arch is more pink styrofoam. Inside the church I’ve added an interior wall of 1/16th matt board on the tower end to hide the tabs where the tower walls slot into the end wall. That’s had some added detail with matt board and card, and the door was done with offcuts of coffee stir stick wood and card.
All of the styrofoam was glued down then carved and textured after the glue had dried; I used a ball of tin foil to add a stone texture, then my usual knife-and-pencil stone carving technique.
Priming & Painting
The whole building got a coat of black paint as primer. Rather than the default grey stone that I always seem to use I took some inspiration from churches I’ve seen online from Shropshire county in England and decided to do mostly reddish stone with some grey stone used as accents, similar to the Cound Church of St Peter
I started with brown paint drybrushed heavily on, then a fairly light grey paint, and finally a drybrush of red oxide/burnt umber. I’ve done a bit of edge highlighting so far, but will do more and might yet do another paler drybrush over the whole building to pop some more details out.
The capping stones on each buttress were done in dark grey then drybrushed a paler grey, as was the arch around the main door. I might yet do more stones in grey, just to add some variation to the building. I also glued the porch walls and front down, and added more strips of styrofoam for the foundation of the porch.
Both the main roof and the porch roof got covered in Warbases’ very nice lasercut slate tiles and primed black like the rest of the building. So far the main roof is painted more or less the same as the rest of the building, with an extra grey drybrush to pop the texture a bit more and make it look a bit different from the walls.
The porch comes with MDF panels for the roof, but they look quite thick so I cut a strip of light card the same size, folded it, and glued it into place. Before gluing the roof down I added strips of card against the stone wall to hide the slots where the MDF roof panels should slot in; they’ll be painted to look like lead flashing eventually. As mentioned, the porch roof got more of the Warbases lasercut slate tiles, and will get bargeboards on the front edges eventually to hide the edges of the slate.
Up on the roof of the tower I doubled the thickness of the walls with matt board, then put down a wooden floor using styrene plank sheet, with a roof hatch from a bit more styrene. The upper edges of the walls got a bit of GW Liquid Greenstuff to help disguise the line between the MDF wall and the matt board additions, and painting is in progress.
Still To Do…
The outside edges of the base has a layer of fine scenery grit – coarse sand – glued down and mostly painted black; I’ll paint it up dark brown with a bit of a drybrush, then put various kinds of flock and turf around.
The porch still needs work, mostly paint, and a bit of detailing on the roof. The tower roof also needs painting, and I’m not entirely happy with the colours on the main roof.
Inside is still the big job. The Warbases kit comes with solid lasercut windows that look good from the outside but will make the accessible interior look a bit odd. I might use square grid plastic mesh – the same stuff you use in screen doors – to fill the windows, with inside walls of more matt board, like I did with the inside of the wall between the tower and church proper. Still, with the exterior done including scenic groundwork I’ll be happy to put the church on the table and put finishing the interior off for a bit!
Glued down the towel thatching, slapped a coat of paint over the small stone building, added the door, and declared it done!
The towel got cut into a rough rectangle, big enough to hang an inch or so over the edges of the cardboard roof on all sides. I used a hot glue gun to glue the towel over the cardboard roof, including wrapping it around the edges and underside of the sides of the roof. This gave the roof the nice thick edge you see on a lot of thatch roofs. To fit the roof around the curve at the rear of the building I cut up to the peak of the curved part and layered the towel over itself further down, trimming a bit away so the overlap wasn’t too large.
The first layer of painting was actually a mix of paint and white glue, generously applied with a fairly large brush, with a bit of water to help move the paint around. Towel soaks liquid up like, well, towel, so expect to use more paint and more glue than you first thing you’ll need! After this mix has dried overnight it’s really solid and gamer-proof. One of the reasons I usually use a tan or off-white towel for thatch, even though I always paint over it, is that any bits of towel that don’t get painted still look reasonable, which wouldn’t be the case if I used a colourful towel &mdhas; thatch ain’t usually blue or red…
After the black paint has dried overnight I drybrushed various shades of brown and tan over the thatch, ending with a fairly bright yellow-tan colour mixed with a bit of white, applied mostly along the ridgeline and edges of the roof, just to make them pop a little. As with the base coat, don’t bother using a small brush for this, I used a 3/4″ wide cheap house painting brush for all of this work!
The stonework had also been based black. I put a few blotches of green and brown down here and there, and then drybrushed a dark grey, a pale grey, and finally a mix of pale grey and white over the stones.
I didn’t get a photo of the door, but it was done on a rectangle of light card with narrow pieces of scrap wood from coffee stir sticks, glued down with hot glue, then hit with a heavy dark wash (mostly GW Nuln Oil) so it looked like heavily weathered wood.
Stonework from styrofoam is a lot of fun and fast to do; I might do a few more stone cottages or something eventually. Maybe a ruined abbey or something suitable for pulp/English Civil War crossover gaming? We shall see!