Monday, 7 October 2013

Building Bilgewater Creek – A Guide to Making Necromunda Terrain

Welcome to another installment of Do You Have a Flag? If Sheldon Cooper thinks he has fun with flags, then he's not visited this blog. A quick warning, this post is a bit of an uber-post, but hopefully enjoyable and useful. It would have been more uber but I broke it into two parts.

In today's post I'm travelling back a few months to the Necromunda campaign organised by Ed (Scipio) and myself. He did the actual hard work, the proper actual organising - and I did the scenario/fluff side of things. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend indeed, but rather busy. As well as painting two gangs, my Scavvies and the ultimately victorious “Cuccini's Crew” (not a futile attempt to claim some credit.. but it was my minis that won..), I also set myself a terrain-building marathon.


In fact, it was some of the most enjoyable “hobbying” I'd done for a while. Not only was it a chance to flex the old grey matter in the creativity department, and raid York's modelling shops of all of their plasticard and wood, it also really helped my general modelling skills (obviously not in the Vogue sense).

I had hoped to chart the progress of each piece as I made it, but getting everything done on time barred that. Luckily, I still have plenty of ad hoc photos from the construction. The terrain is currently locked in the subterranean gaming Bunker so I've not been able to get any other shots.

A huge thanks goes to Ed for doing most of the emergency paint jobs and making sterling work of it. We ended up with a production line, as I built the last few items on the day before the big games he was spraypainting them and almosting knocking himself out with the fumes in the process...

This was my first time really building any terrain and I have to say I've found a new hobby within a hobby...


My Brief
With most of my projects I try and give myself a quick brief, just some simple aims. For this it was:

  • Terrain items should be pretty quick to build.
  • They should be light but durable – for easy transport back and forth (they survived travelling in a suitcase on a train in the end).
  • No component should be instantly identifiable, e.g. “ooh that's a Pringles' tube” or “isn't that a computer fan?”*
  • Where possible, everything should be as modular as possible.
*Definitely nothing wrong with using these (I do) and obviously they'll be recognisable, but the intention was to break up the shapes so it wasn't the players' first thought.

As I'm writing from memory, I may have forgotten a few specifics – if anyone wants to know about any specific parts or plasticard/wood thickness etc., I'm sure I could work it out.

The Gantries Well obviously the first thing that had to be built were gantries, nothing is more Necromunda-ry (-esque?) than that.

These definitely needed to be light and durable, as they need to be able to rest on other terrain without being too bulky or putting too much pressure on them, but they also need to be able to potentially support X amount of models.


My thought was balsa/bass wood, encased in relatively thin plasticard. But that could look a little dull. At this stage I hadn't plundered the hobby shops of all their textured plasticard, and wanted to add a little texture and depth. I recalled (or perhaps misremembered) that grid pattern on some of the old card gantries, and instantly thought of the wire mesh I had left over from the Nurgle Rhino.
 

Having acquired a lovely new craft knife and a steel ruler, I put them to good use in cutting out the gaps for the wire mesh to go. The idea was to sandwich it between the wood and the plasticard, and I nearly didn't cut a corresponding gap in the wood – but I thought it would be cooler to be able to see through and put the effort in for that extra step. Incidentally I find that a half-decent pair of scissors cuts the mesh much better than any knife.



Last but not least, some plasticard edging just tidied it up and made it look complete. It's always these little touches that make the biggest difference I find. ALL the off-cuts of every material were saved as they would almost certainly be useful later.



The plan eventually is to do the gantries in three lengths: 5”, 9” and either 11” or 13” - with around 3-4 of each. I also intend to use some of the texture plasticards for a few of them to “mix it up a bit” (I wanted there to be a slightly rusty, ramshackle look to all of the terrain.

The medium wire gantry along with a "quick gantry" built with plasticard scraps, a pizza box and lengths of sprue The alternating pattern was later roken up with a few extra pieces.

The Fuel Tank
As well as the gantries, what sort of a game would it be without things that could possibly blow up? I had a a tin of mint hot chocolate from Whittard's (oooh, very fancy...) in the cupboard, and now an extra motivation to finish it.

Firstly to break up the simple tin shape I added a little cardboard banding and strips. Definitely won't be using that cardboard again, the texture is just not right when painted. But it's not too bad.



 For this piece I also made my first shopping trip for plasticard , and managed to get hold of some nice criss-cross patterned sheets to mirror the wire mesh of the gantries.

This was where it got tricky, trying to cut out a circular walkway. I had the idea of using a pair of compasses and using the needle to score through the line I'd drawn. This would have worked brilliantly if I hadn't inadvertently bought a pair that had a “quick release button”. Who on earth needs to quickly reset a pair of compasses? So having to reset them every so often did make it a little rough around the edges, but that would be fixed with a good old bit of bodging - a bit of filing and some plasticard edging.



To support the gantry I added some brass rods that were fed all the way through holes drilled into the tin. The fun bit was trying to feed them across each other - it was like childhood games of Kerplunk! All over again....

Thankfully that worked fine and everything was more or less level. The difficult part and perhaps most infuriating part of anything that I built was putting the edging around the walkway. I initially tried just sticking a single strip down but the springiness just meant that it unglued itself. So the trick was to break it down into pieces that were small enough to not flex away from the glue but large enough so that they would actually flex at all. One sentence here translates to about an hour of me sat cutting the card, holding it in place and eventually using enough glue for the fumes to kill a small ox.
 

To further break up the shape of the tin, I thought a few pipes would look decent – this is supposed to be some sort of fuel tank of some such. These were purchased from the local hardware / homewares store, a veritable heaven for the terrain builder. I always feel like Alan Partridge browsing for tungsten-tipped screws though....

 Anyhoo, to attach the pipe sections I found what seems to be the world's strongest superglue, the kind that burns fabric as soon as it hits. Added to this was a little greenstuff, to which I made a few quick indentations to make it look like it had been welded.


Almost finished.... I still though the gantry looked a bit flimsy. Structurally it was bloody solid, but it didn't “look” like it was, so after similar feedback from Ed / Scipio I added a few plasticard girders (with a little section of sprue inside to make them a little more secure). Add a few gribbly texture bits to the top and we were good to get undercoating. I didn't paint them all yet as the intention was to just get as many items made as possible first.







Stairway to... something grim
Although one of the simplest pieces of terrain, this is one of my favourites (if I might say so), and rather enjoyable to build... even if it was a pain in the arse at times.

 As with the gantries and what not I knew this had to be structurally sound as I want it to be functional, so you could actually place your miniatures on them without worrying that the lovingly painted miniatures might lose an arm... At the same time the scale needed to look right. In terms of the width it was originally meant to match the waste disposal unit (more on this in Part 2). The plan was changed slightly midway but I can't recall why. I blame the rum that was getting me through the manic building... evidently there were some side effects.

At this stage of the scenery marathon, the tiny desk began to look a little chaotic

As with everything else, the height of these would be 3” - there was no clever maths to work out other relative dimensions – because I wouldn't know where to start so I judged it by eye. I originally had an extra horizontal support at the back (in the form of a sprue), but it actually distorted the structure slightly. I decided to lose it and trust that the steps would be enough support...



I had a pretty clear picture of how this would would work, each step would be glued to two brass rods (not flimsy ones), and originally I planned to glue “aluminium plate” texture plasticard to the top of each step, but the clock was ticking so I abandoned it this time round.


I worked out that roughly 1cm between each step was about right, and the the brass rods had the benefit of looking like they were bolts / rivets. Again, the finishing touch of some plasticard edging (this stuff is gold) tidied up the rough edges and made them look complete. Now I'm getting on a bit I could do with some of that I think....

The stairway being tested by "Scabs" next to the in-progess shipping containter with Real Opening Doors (TM) - more on that next time.

I planned to replicate the steps on another round container I had, so there was a spiral stair effect – but alas time got the better of me so that will have to be done in the near future.




 “The Right Tools for the Job”

This mini-project certainly reinforced my old hobby addage “a little preparation and the right tools go a long way.” Even if it's only investing in a cheap saw, or some new sharp knife blades. It makes a difference to the end product.

It's all about balance, rushing into things can sometimes produce good results and a quicker job, but a little prep or the right tools can make the difference between good and ruddy superb. Similarly, doing too much preparation can leave you in an unproductive mire (*cough* Mawdryn *cough*).

So if you have a terrain project you want, plan it out, measure everything properly, take the time to use the right tools, and be prepared to make a few changes to the plan as you go along. And above all, just enjoy it. Okay enough of the saccharine motivational lines...

Update 11/04/2014: I originally promised a Part 2. Having gone back through my notes and images I felt that a Part 2 wouldn't really add much overall.

20 comments:

  1. Awesome stuff, man! Love how the terrain turned out - I'm always happy to see more Necromunda gaming going on, it's hands down my favorite specialist game!

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  2. Thanks very much! We still need to go back and finish the board so it looks as intended, but I'm pretty happy with what we achieved in a week. Definitely my favourite too, with BFG a close second

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  3. That is some seriously great scratch building, fabulous work.

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  4. Looks even better IRL ... and if that bowled you over wait until you see the crusher...

    Great stuff, hopefully it can be pressed into service again soon with our next Necromunda game.

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    1. Most kind, some of it could also be used in the odd 40k game too hopefully

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  5. I love me a good set of home made terrain - a couple of bloggers have been showing off their creativity. Reminds me of when I first came to the hobby and everyones tables looked like this as GW hadn't gotten the kit stuff out yet (aside from the old card and plastic hybrid jobs).

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    1. Likewise, I definitely miss that. Hopefully the table should look much better than in the photos but that was what we managed in about a week

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  6. Great post!

    Love the fuel tank!

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    1. Thanks very much, reay appreciate that!

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  7. Great terrain, and very useful tips! I find the hardest part of making gantries is making railings for them. I look forward to part 2!

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    1. Ya muchly sir, I haven't done any railings yet but with the balsa/plasticard ones they're thick enough to be able to put brass rods through for the support, then add a couple of picture frame wire lines across them and voila. Well, that's the theory...

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  8. Seriously cool, just getting back into this great game

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    1. Thanks very much Al, yeah I just got back into this year and wondered why I hadn't played it in so long

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  9. REALLY COOL....

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  10. It's amazing what you can do to a can of hot chocolate.

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