Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Home for the Holidays

A couple of years back, I started working on buildings for my "Out west Town".  Not a real town, but more of a modern version of that isolated little town that has the misfortune of staring in every "B" movie that comes along.  It was to be a collection of buildings, some based on things from my childhood, others on Route 66 type Americana, some just subjects for games, like the "Birdman Museum".  Many of these would also be part of the city for my "Cops and Robbers" games that I someday intend to run.

Anyway, I wanted a few houses, a couple older style, a couple newer,  a couple fancy, etc.  I find it easier to build models of things that really exist, as dimensional and design issues that I might overlook  with original designs are already worked out for me in the real world. So the thought occurred to me to base a model on my in-law's small ranch house.  It would be a fast build as it is a fairly simple design, would be one story for easy access to the interior, and I could estimate the dimensions and do up a sketch real quick like.  I sketched it out for 1/56 scale, and modified it to accommodate figure bases, and went to work.

The model measures roughly 7"x5"x3", and was constructed entirely from plastic, mostly Evergreen styrene with the textured roof panel being the old Holgate & Reynolds shingles in whatever plastic they used to use. The model as shown is primed, ready for paint and detailing, though still needs the simple flat-roofed porch.

I mentioned it to my wife, when I got it to the primered stage, explaining that it would participate in alien invasions, zombie sieges, attacked from mutant beasts, etc.  She thought that it was cool, and decided to show it to her parents, when we went to visit.

Her parents loved it.  After a little while, her Dad disappeared with it, taking it to the their neighbors to show it off.  Some of my wife's siblings showed up during the visit, and very much to my surprise, it was a big hit with everyone. They were a little confused about its purpose, as the whole idea of aliens and zombies and games doesn't really get across to them too well, but it was all cool.

So.... at some point the question came up, "Can you build one for us?"  Time is my biggest enemy, so I try not to commit to too many outside projects.  So I took a few dimensions (too few as it turned out), some pics, and shortly before X-mas, my wife announced that I was building a gift for her parents. I had taken some time off around the holiday, mostly with the hope getting some work done on my post apoc terrain.  Joke was on me. "But they don't even game!" didn't get me out it.  And so...

I built the in-laws house.  Between the time that I took the pictures, and the time that I built it, they did some remodeling.  So I built some of it twice (or should that be three times).  The in-laws house is all plastic, built in 1/60 scale (a little easier to crank dimensions than in 1/56, plus they won't be putting based 28mm  figs in it.

So my post apocalypse sets unfinished, as does my "out west town", its birdman museum, and its little ranch house, but the in-laws got their home for the holidays, and they and my wife are happy.

Not quite what I had expected to do over the holidays, but I did enjoy it, and I might still get the New years weekend for my hobbies.  What?  It could happen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bridging the Apocalypse

The way it is working out, I guess I'm going to post weekly updates of my post-apoc terrain project, and here is yet another.

The work this weekend has centered around the raised highway, the bridge and underpass.  Most of the bridge and underpass construction is done, but there is quite a bit of detailing to do.  The Jersey barriers are roughed out, and though not seen in the photo, the guardrail sections are underway as well.

The bridge was constructed from various strips of blue foam cut on the bandsaw.  The decks and walls were then glued with a artist's matte medium, and held together during drying with straight pins.

I got some of the erosion damage done to the south section of the highway, but still haven't added the retaining walls.

A view under the bridges.

Still a ton of detail work to do.  Each end of the two spans is supported by three columns and a horizontal beam.  The columns were cut out of one inch square foam strips by tacking a 1" diameter washer to each end and cutting it round with a hot wire.  They ended up needing very little touch up and were much easier to cut than I had anticipated.

The photos above show battle damage to the southbound span of the bridge.   Tank gun scars, a bunch of pock marks from small arms, and an artillery shell hole through the deck of the span have taken their toll.  Eventually I will add lots of debris under the span from all of the fighting.  Most of the damage was made with a hobby knife and a hotwire "pen".

Last is a view with the southbound span removed, showing the columns.

Again, I won't get to do much if anything on the project through the week, but hope to finish the highway construction and ramp next weekend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Apocalypse Creeps Along

I managed to get a little more time in on the end of the world, so thought I'd post a few pics.  I've managed to get the rest of the highway glued together, cut, and started damaging and eroding it.

Above is a view of the highway prior to damage and erosion after gluing it up and cutting the excess foam away. Below is a view of the entire layout as it sets right now.

I've added some shell craters and damage from erosion that can be better seen in the photos below. 

The bridge will actually be two spans, side by side.  Each will be 24 inches long and about 8.75 inches wide with a narrow separation between them.  The actual bridges are made completely from concrete castings, and are supported by six columns and a concrete beam near each end, located just outside of the sidewalks below the bridge.  The truck shown in  the photos is 1/50th scale.

the photo above shows erosion and decay of the concrete panels under the bridge.  The erosion is in line with where the drains on the outside edges of the bridge would line up, and centered between the spans. The area of missing concrete tiles is damage located under a shell hole that will be located in the "southbound" span.

I'm hoping to finish the highway and bridge this coming weekend, maybe get the roads puttied up as well.  Only making small steps, but at least it is progress.  Engineering the end of the world takes time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How Big is my Dumpster? A Question of Scale for 28mm Gaming.

One of the many side projects related to my post apocalypse terrain is the construction of some masters for dumpsters or commercial trash containers.  I figure that I'll probably make three different sizes and cast several of each for the various iterations of my PA terrain, making a few intact, and several smashed up a bit.

The first is a smallish 4 cubic yard dumpster, actual dimensions being approximately 72"x48"x65".

Before starting construction, I questioned what scale they should be constructed in.  I've generally accepted that 28mm is about 1/56th, but I decided to use 1/43 scale vehicles for these games.  Most of the cars are actually smaller than 1/43, and most of the trucks are actually 1/50th or smaller, so the distortion isn't as bad as it might seem initially.  I also figured that I might well use some 1/48th scale accessories from model railroading, model ship-building, etc.

So back to the dumpsters, my concern was that a 1/56th scale dumpster would look too small next to 1/43 to 1/50 scale cars and trucks.  I also wanted figures to fit in at least some of the dumpsters, which would be harder to do in 1/56 scale.  On the flip side, at 1/48 scale, the compromise scale I decided that I would use if the vehicles looked to big for 1/56,  I was afraid that they would tower over the figs and even smaller buildings.

I ended up sketching out three views of each of five different sized dumpsters in both 1/56 and 1/48.  I still had the same concerns.  Big dumpsters looked too big in 1/48, and small ones looked too small in 1/56.  I still couldn't get a good feeling for how they would look with other accessories such as fire hydrants, garbage cans, mail boxes, etc.

In the end I decided to just start building and see what looked okay.  The smallest of the dumpsters that I had scaled was the 4 yard one mentioned above.  I decided to build it in 1/56 and see how it looked.  If it appeared too small next to the figs and cars, I'd junk it, and go with 1/48. If it looked okay, I'd just do them all in 1/48 scale.

So here is the result.

The lid is actually two hinged plastic panels to be cast as a single unit.  The masters measures about 1.28" wide, about .85" deep, and 1.16" tall.  Here it is with a 1/43 police cruiser, and a 28mm fig.

At 1/56 scale, I think it looks okay with both the car and the fig. 

I'll probably cheat and go with larger scale 1/48 accessories where I can get them to save time for things that are smaller than a man.  And, stick with 1/56 for accessories for items that are generally larger than a man.  Next I'll add six and eight cubic yard dumpsters will round out examples of different shapes and sizes and give just a touch more flavor to the tabletop.

Early Stages of the Apocalypse

Well, it may have happened a few days later than I expected, but I finally started on the apocalypse.  Not really a lot of progress, but the sidewalks were a tedious part and are more or less done.   I've only got about a third of the highway and overpass glued up, and I'm not sure if I really like it or not.  It is kind of compressed to fit the table top, and I may end up re-engineering it before I'm done.

Anyway, here are a few pics with some 1/43(ish) vehicles, and a couple of 28mm figs for scale.

The craters need to puttied and sanded, the roadways need ballast, and the whole things gets a coat of acrylic paste before painting begins.  I'm probably going to finish the roads to the painting stage before making much headway on the city block sections. 

The city blocks will be a mix of flat plain panels on which various buildings and other constructs will set, and detailed panels with integral PA damage and ruin.

I want to do all of the masonry buildings out of the blue/pink foam as they will be much faster to construct than from other materials, but I need to make some patterns first, to press brick, stone and block patterns into the foam. Wood frame structures will be made from basswood and/or styrene textured sheet, but will take much longer to construct.

Unfortunately, I have to take a break from this for a couple of days, but hopefully will be back on it by the weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Researching the Post Apocalypse Landscape

The foamboard is cut into panels and setting on my work-table downstairs, but before I actually start shaping, sanding, and painting, I thought I'd share some of the places I searched to get more feel for what the PA world might look like.

In my PA games, I imagine it to be a world with few people, hungry, often sick, and too often fighting each other to survive.  The landscape is scarred with war, desease and decay.  Maybe in places rebuilding has begun, but most live in a decaying wasteland of a fallen empire.  The question is, just what does our world look like when it is broken and left to decay?

Since I decided to base my gaming terrain on my own home town, I figured I'd wander around town photographing any abandoned buildings or places, noting the manner in which nature breaks down our accomplishments, and then do some online searching.  Silly me. I have the "misfortune" of living in an area that is growing despite the ecomy, so most empty buildings have been leveled with new developments going up. Great contrast to where I grew with many old abandoned storefronts, houses and steelmills within walking distance.  Too bad I didn't have a digital camera 30+ years ago.

From time to time, I'll stumble upon such structures in my travels, and if I have a camera with me, will take a few pics.  The brewery below is one such building. 

Anyway, I still have to go through about 30 CDs to chase down the other pics of this and a few other structures.

While searching for pics, it occurred to me that there are three basic things that I am looking for; battle damage, structural decay, and reclamation.

Battle Damage: I want my terrain to have evidence of battle having taking place during the calapse of civilization.  Not overwhelming evidence, just some blowed-up stuff here and there.  Maybe the result of factions fighting each other shortly after things got bad, rather than armies participating in full scale war.  Enough to help make the terrain a little more interesting.

Structural Decay: Next is the structural calapse of buildings and civil engineering, etc.  Rather than just build broken things, I thought I'd try to get a feel for how things really fall apart over time, maybe after 10, 20, 30 years of nature beating on them.  While getting it "right" really doesn't matter with respect to the game, it could be fun to model.

Reclamation: Lastly was an effort to study how nature reclaims the land.  How the earth "absorbs" those things left setting on it, the manner in which foliage forces its way through various construts, etc.  Basically, how nature erases the memory of man.

Below are a few links to sites that I found helpful or just plain interesting. Some are very specific in nature, or have just a few pics of interest, others are expansive and could take weeks to view entirely.  Hopefully something here might be of use or of interest to others. 

Battle Damage:

Structural Decay:


General Sites:

Hopefully I will be posting some photos of my terrain in the next few days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

20mm Vietnam Riverine Terrain - Part 3 of 3

I finally managed to work in time over the last couple of weeks to finish my riverine terrain.
I decided to make the water panels before finishing the river bank sections.  The water panels were cut from .06" thick styrene plastic sheets.  I buy it in 4'x8' sheets from industrial suppliers and cut it down to the size that I need, in this case, 2' square, 1'x2', and 1'x6" panels.

I then applied a coarse coat of artist's acrylic paste to the sheets (barely visible in the photo below), brushing it on with a 3 inch brush to give indication of the flow of the water on the finished panels.

Once the paste was dry, I mixed a muddy olive color with artists acrylics and painted a base coat of "water" onto the panels and later drybrushed with a lighter mix of the muddy olive to give some contract to the peaks and valleys created with the paste.  Once dry, two coats of artist's gloss medium finished the water. Finished panels are shown below.

The paint dried a little more grey than I had intended, loosing some of its muddy complexion, but I decided to go with it, as I didn't want to repeat the step.

With the water more or less done, I returned to the river bank portion of the project.  I don't really use a primer on the foam, but paint on a coat of the artist's acrylic paste.  Woodland Scenics offers similar product, though I usually us a thicker version from Liquitex.  This helps to protect the foam and soften any unwanted hard edges that remain after the shaping process.  A coat of paste is simply painted on with a 2-3 inch wide brush and allowed to dry.

Once the paste is dry, it is time for paint.  I start off applying a base coat of colors that helps me to visualize the final colors.  The muddy banks in most of the photos that I had (working from about 50 pics from various sources) depicted mostly dry, cracked mud of a light chocolate or "baby-poo" color.  Sometimes the color seemed to shift to a more slightly yellow color where dry ground continued away from the immediate river bank area.  Curious to me was little indication in the photos of the reddish brown mud colors that I often have read about.

I decided to paint the exposed banks the baby-poo color, and transition to a more yellow (too yellow as compared to the photos) so that the terrain could mate to my older jungle terrain.  This would save me the time and space needed to complete a completely different set of jungle terrain for Vietnam.

The first stage was the base coat, mostly yellow, a burnt umber for the banks, and areas of darker baby-poo along the banks.

Once the base coat was mostly dry, I went on to the final colors.  This involved applying the baby-poo to the banks, allowing the burnt umber to show through only in the crevices, highlighting the upper portion with a lighter, more faded poo mix, and the lower portion of the bank with a slightly darker, wetter looking mix of poo, which doesn't show up so well in the photo below.

The rest of the terrain was finished using shaded baby-poo on all of the exposed mud areas, and blending it into the yellow that matched my old terrain.  With the water panels in place,  the terrain finally started to take shape below.

Next step was to add flock to the terrain.  I used a mix of Woodland Scenics products, as they was readily available, and easy for me to match if I add more terrain later.

To apply the flock, I brush on a coat of artist's acrylic matte medium, being sure to maintain a thick, moist coat, and sprinkle on a mix of medium green and light green coarse flock.  The ratio is about 20 to 1, medium green to light green.  Over that, I apply a mix of fine yellow and earth blend,  mixed 2 to 1, yellow to earth blend.  The yellow blend then has a little coarse medium green added to it in about a 10 to 1 ratio.  This is all patted down and allowed to dry.  Once dry, the excess (maybe 80-90% of the flock) is brushed off and recovered.  Most of the fine yellow mix can be separated from the coarse green mix, and reused for similar terrain.  There will be a little green in the yellow and yellow in the green.

A couple of views with my PBRs in the water.

Overall, I'm happy with the way the terrain turned out, though the river is a little less muddy than intended, and the river banks have a little less contrast in the mud than I expected. 

Originally, it was my intent to use the foliage, ferns, palms, etc, from m 28mm terrain, but the palms in particular are just a bit too tall (and maybe a little too cartoonish), so it looks like I have a new project; making Vietnam riverine foliage.  Most of my tropical ferns, bushes, cycads, and deciduous trees should work fine, but I definitely need palms and will add a few more things to Vietnamize the terrain a little.  Guess I do some research on that, while working on my post apocalypse terrain in the coming weeks.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Modular Post Apocalypse Terrain - City Street Grid

It seems like I've been working on near future and post apocalypse gaming projects forever, but I really don't have a set of basic terrain for games set in the post apocalyptic world. I've been designing and redesigning various concepts for years as I slowly built up figs. With hundreds of figs waiting for a decimated, plague infested, radiated, de-civilized world to enjoy, it is now time to get serious about the terrain.

I've had hundreds of terrain ideas (I keep a list) for things to include in a PA world, and over the last year, went on a PA reading binge to steal as many more ideas as possible. After agonizing about how to include every possible feature in a 9'x6' table top, I decided to take a different approach. I will start with an idea that I mentioned in a post sometime back on The Miniatures Page. I am simply going to adapt a piece of my hometown to the table top and build it as it might appear if the future went badly.

Though I've always been a fan of 28mm sci-fi, I seriously considered the 15mm option due to the explosion of great 15mm figs and vehicles that has appeared over the last couple of years. Though I intend to use armored vehicles, flying craft, etc in some of my games, I really want my PA gaming to center around smaller skirmishes, focusing on of the struggle of small groups of survivors. To really exploit this, I want extremely detailed terrain, which is easier to build and manipulate if it is in a larger scale. So 28mm it remains, at least for now.

I tried modular roadway/city-scape terrain that consists of thin road/sidewalk sections that lay on top of basic terrain/table cover sometime back, and just wasn't completely happy with it. I really like completely 3-D modular terrain that allows a rolling effect and various depressions for things like stream beds, shell craters, ditches, etc.

So I hopped on Google Earth, and looked at areas in my town near my home, and created a basic design as a starting point for my modular terrain. I will use a 1 foot square grid system, similar to my terrain for historical gaming, made from 1 inch thick extruded polystyrene insulation board, or blue foam. A sketch of the basic roadway tile is shown below.

Tiles will tend to be in three sizes, 1 foot squares, 1'x2', and 2'x2'. The tile above is the typical roadway cross-section, this one a 1'x1', though most roadway tiles will be 1'x2'. It allows for two travel lanes 2.5 inches wide, parking spaces along the curbs of 1.75 inches, and 1/8" high raised sidewalks of 1.75" width. All of the tiles will be designed to mate into these "standard" city street widths and will accommodate most 1/43 and smaller scale die-cast cars that I might use in my games. The lanes would be really tight for semi-tractor trailers rigs, but most of the trucks that I have found are actually smaller than 1/43 even if marketed as such, and I don't expect to use too many trucks.

With the basic roadway width settled upon, I went to work laying out the street grid below.

This is roughly a scale sketch designed to fit my 6'x9' game table. The blue squares are 3 inches on a side. Basically, the grid consists of 2 foot square city block panels surrounded by 1 foot wide street/sidewalk panels. I had previously adopted the standard of using the 2 foot square city block footprint with the habit of making buildings no deeper than about 10-11 inches to permit alley-ways between commercial buildings in a city block. The raised sidewalks will act to capture the buildings, and the foam terrain panels will in turn be kept in place by a felt sheet on the tabletop.

To the left in the drawing above are blocks for commercial buildings, the center will have residential structures, and to the right will be a raised 4 lane divided highway with an underpass and an off-ramp to the left of the highway. All of the features of this terrain are designed to fit into modules that will allow new modules to readily mate to the them as I add more terrain.

The basic modules for the above terrain include:

1'x1' 4-Way intersections with raised sidewalks sections at each corner
1'x2' roadway sections with raised sidewalk on either side
1'x2' roadway sections with raised sidewalk on both sides and cutouts for alley ways
2'x2' city block panels for buildings or other features to rest on.
1'x2' city block panel as above

The highway will consist of the following type of modules:
1'x1' 3-way intersection to accommodate the off-ramp
1'x2' off-ramp panel
1'x1' off-ramp panel
1'x2' underpass roadway module.
1x2' 4-lane highway module
2'x2' 4-lane highway modules
18"x24" removable 4-lane highway bridge

Side and end elevation views are provided below to help visualize the highway. The highway will consist of four 2.5" wide travel lanes, two outside shoulders of 2" width, interior shoulders of 1.5" each separated by a raised concrete barrier, and the the outside shoulders will be lined with guardrails. Grassy areas will slope away from both sides of the highway, and the terrain module will end with a concrete (or maybe steel) retaining wall on either side of the highway.

Aside from the raised highway, the terrain will be pretty flat with only minor depressions due to erosion or damage from battle or disaster.

It looks like I will need to pick up three sheets of foam (4'x8'), and probably a couple cans of spray adhesive to build up the highway panels. The road surface will consist of gravel glued to the foam with artist's matte medium, coated with a layer of acrylic paste, smoothed (maybe sanded) and painted, all other surfaces will get a coat of acrylic paste, and be painted with artists acrylics, sprayed with Testor's Dullcoat, and flocked with woodland Scenics materials.

I expect to start on this project during a week of vacation later in the month. I will have to finish my Vietnam terrain in the meantime to get my table cleared off, so this might turn into a December project. I'm going to go out later today or tomorrow and take pics of the highway bridge and some of the buildings that I intend to model. All of the structures will be adapted to fit my modular terrain design. My hope to to make a flexible, highly detailed and very realistic PA terrain set. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

15mm M2A2 Progress

Though I'd post a few pics of the completed model, as the Bradley is coming along with production molds finally in progress. The basic plan is for a 4 piece kit, though the gun barrel may end up being a separate piece, as the deep undcuts on the turret make it a little challanging. I 've made molds with the barrel attached and separate, so we'll see how each one goes.

Below is a view of the assembled raw casting. I'm pretty happy with it overall.

And few pics of it primed, this one has a few blemishes, but came out pretty good overall. I've pretty much de-bugged the mold, but took a couple more tries than usual with the Bradley. I'm using a different method in the construction and molding of the turret, and the hull just has so many nubs, it took a couple of more tries than usual. The rebuild of the turret has lead to much better results with the castings.

As soon as I can go on a casting binge, I will make some available for sale. It will also finally be nice to have some serious rides for my figs. My US troops are tired of walking everywhere they go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HAL-3 Seawolves

I finally finished a pair of Seawolves for my Vietnam games. They are the 1/72 scale Italeri UH-1C kits, which come with decals for the Seawolves. The kits fit together very nicely, and deserve better treatment than I gave them, but with my limited time, I decided to get them to a useable state.

The kits came with rocket pods (though many of the photos that I have seem to show a different type), and I added scratchbuilt miniguns to one of the birds. The other will get twin M60D mounts, as soon as I dig them out of another kit.
Eventually, I'll go back and add some more detail and weathering, but for now I'm pretty happy with them, and now will try to get my river terrain done.