Stone, Water, and War: My adventures in terrain and miniatures

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    • Stone, Water, and War: My adventures in terrain and miniatures

      Hello my fellow hobbyists and terrain lovers!

      Attempting to follow in the footsteps of such legendary terrain builders like Little Joe, Izzilduuur, and many others I decided to finally start my own terrain thread. I have gotten so much inspiration and energy from you guys to make my own terrain projects a reality, can't thank you all enough for being the amazing community that you are!

      Just tonight I finally finished one of my most ambitious terrain projects. I play the games Frostgrave and Arcworlde, two skirmish games that both take place in cold, wintry settings. I made this terrain primarily for those two games, however I also intend to use it to play massive 9th Age games in a desolate, winter landscape!

      Winter terrain tables have always been one of my favorite settings to play a wargame in, whether it be historical winter wargaming scenarios or just being able to have an immersive frozen battlefield to play fantasy battle games on. I also decided to start with this project because I think winter terrain is far too absent from so many gaming tables, particularly those who play Chaos or Ogre Kahns, or even Beastherds, which are all ideal factions to have in winter settings.

      I will hopefully be posting many more future terrain projects as well!
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
    • Winter terrain

      Here I present my first terrain project: my completed winter terrain set.

      I very carefully planed the project in terms of what materials I would use. It involves a combination of plastic model kits that I purchased, both plastic and metal skulls and skeleton fragments kits, left over bits from various GW terrain kits, Harry Potter toy chess pieces, yogurt and other food/household containers, clear glass fragments, garden stones and pebbles, several different types of bases including both craft wood and plastic mini. bases, and of course snow paste!

      I made enough terrain to easily fill a 4 x 6 table for 9th Age and to absolutely pack a 4 x 4 table for a skirmish game like Frostgrave.

      I gave everything the same dull, gray spray primer coat to give everything a dreary, cold and desolate feel. Much of it is simply the gray basecoat with a single drybrush of lighter gray. The skulls and bones were one of the most labor intensive parts of the project. I used a combination of GW skulls from their skull set and also Secret Weapons Miniatures metal human and animal skeleton parts kits. In addition, I used one toy cow skeleton and also a left over banner skull from the old GW Ogre Kingdoms regimental boxed set.

      Of interest, the plastic watchtower is from WAAAY back in the day, from Milton Bradley's "Battle Masters" wargame. It came out in 1992 and was kind of a simplified version of Warhammer for a younger gaming age. GW had a contract with MB to produce a mass battle game and for a while it sold very well. You got plastic armies, a battle mat, and some 3D terrain. One of the most useful pieces from that old game was the plastic watchtower. With some paint and snow effects it can be turned into a very nice looking terrain piece.

      The other plastic kits are a combination of Pegasus Hobbies gothic ruins series, Renedra's plastic generic stone ruins, and one vacuum-formed plastic ruined buidling corner.

      The snow paste is a mixture of white acrylic paint, PVA glue, baking soda, with a coating of Woodland Scenics snow flock sprinkled over the top of everything to complete the snow texture. One important aspect of using white acrylic paint is that you should use artist's acrylic that has titanium in it instead of using ordinary white craft paint. White craft paint and baking soda can turn yellowish over time and the titanium white helps to keep the snow staying more of a pure white.

      I have a large household painting tarp that I spray painted white which I use as my battle mat and then everything else goes on top. The only thing I still lack are modular winter river sections which I plan to do next.

      I will be happy to provide tutorials, advice, and guides on what specific aspects of the project and where you can obtain some of the plastic kits that I used.…eb257b1cf7e78311d997cd0a5
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Baranovich ().

    • Here are the basic materials needed for generic terrain snow paste:

      The cool thing about this mixture is that you can make it as thin or thick as you want, depending on how much baking soda you use. There's really no "correct" thickness. You kind of just have to play with it and see what thickness works best for what you want to do.

      Another really neat feature of this snow mixture is that when you apply it to a piece of terrain, it will actually settle and sag like real snow does. It will fill in a crevice or corner and when it's dry really does create the look of fallen snow. It can be used with or without snow flock sprinkled on top. For terrain I prefer to use flock which I apply over the paste while it's still wet. For smaller mini. bases I tend not to use the snow flock as the texture can look a bit too large for the scale of a miniature soldier. But for terrain pieces you need something to make the snow texture stand out. Without snow flock the paste on its own can sometimes tend to look like white pudding or look too shiny. However there are times when snow WOULD look smooth and shiny if it had like ice glazed over it. So using the paste without the flock is totally fine as well!

      I tend to make my paste on the thicker side and I add baking soda until I have a fairly stiff mixture. This makes it easier to work with and it tends to set up and keep its shape better. With thicker paste you can do things like "heap" some snow on top of rocks or ruins and it will look like genuine accumulation rather than just a flat, white coating.

      Applying snow paste takes some practice. For tighter areas you'll need smaller paint brushes, like for the bases where I had all the skulls and had to get snow in between them. In some areas you'll want to go back and apply a couple layers of paste to achieve some depth. Applying the paste with a paint brush involves a combination of dabbing it on and then spreading it out to achieve whatever depth or look you want.

      You'll notice that for the bases that have the barrels and crates, I took a few of them and actually cut them in half before gluing them to the terrain base. This helped to give the impression that maybe the snow is much deeper in that area since the barrels and crates are half-buried in it. The illusion of deep snow without actually having deep snow!
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
    • Here's a battle that I fought with Steve (Mr. Owl!) last year at our local store. The winter terrain here has the exact same snow paste recipe that I used in my most recent terrain project. In this instance it's layered foam cliff pieces that are painted and has the snow paste applied over it. There's also several stands of winter trees on wooden bases with the snow paste applied around the bases of the trees. The pine trees themselves were sprayed with spray adhesive and had more snow flock added to them. The leafless deciduous trees are Woodland Scenics tree armatures that I simply left as they are and didn't add any foliage like you would for spring or summer trees.

      I took a small paint brush and added very small amounts of snow paste into the crooks and elbows of the tree branches to give the impression of snow that had fallen and collected on the trees:

      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
    • The game Frostgrave takes place in an ancient city that has been buried and frozen for ages. I wanted to convey that look with this terrain so that it could also be used for a frozen chaos wasteland or somewhere far, far north in the frigid, upper reaches of the 9th Age world.

      I also wanted to tell a grim story with some of the terrain features. These terrain bases with the skulls, scattered bones, mixed in with old barrels and crates and bits of old industrial timbers suggest that a once thriving city in the 9th Age world had something terrible happen here.

      Was it an epic battle? Was it some some kind of disease or plague? Was it some kind of sinister magicks? Or perhaps some force of Chaos befell this place and turned a once prosperous civilization into nothing but cracked, broken ruins and bleached bones.

      All we know is that something truly horrible befell this 9th Age city...and many were slain and left unburied until the winter snows came and gradually began to encase the remains in a permanent, frozen silence.…eb257b1cf7e78311d997cd0a5
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Baranovich ().

    • These ruins of a gothic-style cathedral were perfect for an old, 9th Age Empire city. This is a Pegasus Hobbies kit that comes without a roof, since it's meant to represent old ruins. I built it per the instructions and then added some snow paste to areas where it would have collected during a snow storm, along the upper edges where the roof once stood and also in some of the window sills around the cathedral.…eb257b1cf7e78311d997cd0a5
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!
    • Let's talk about rivers

      In addition to winter terrain, water features like rivers are far too absent from gaming tables. A river can create many interesting dynamics for a battle that can shake up and challenge an optimal army list. It can create choke points that force players to funnel units over a bridge. It can completely dictate the nature of how the players deploy their forces. It can be dangerous terrain that can prove disastrous to an army attempting to cross it. It can equalize two armies that might not be of equal strength. Rivers on a tabletop can drastically alter and effect how chaff is used, both positively and negatively. In short, rivers can add a lot to a game of 9th Age!

      And the irony is, great looking rivers are among the easiest types of terrain to make! It's just a matter of knowing how to use the right materials in the right combination and following the formula.

      One of the obstacles that confront many wargamers who wish to have rivers on their tables but feel that it's too involved because it requires difficult things like resins, water effects products, etc. So for many gamers, they simply never make rivers at all or at best use a low-level form of terrain like blue construction paper. Now of course there's nothing wrong with going that route. Better to have some kind of river than no river at all!

      However, the purpose of this article is to show that with literally just one or two more steps, you can go from construction paper rivers to rivers that genuinely look real!

      RESINS! A word about resins and why I abandoned them as a hobby product. Clear resin water products are problematic for several reasons. One is their chemical makeup. You have to prepare a surface so that the resin doesn't eat through it. It isn't water cleanup. You have to wait extended amounts of time for the product to cure. Achieving any sort of depth to a river requires many pours of resin, which can get very expensive if you have to buy multiple bottles or boxes of a resin water product.

      Where a lot of gamers get hung up is that they make the mistake of trying to do a deep river with multiple pours of resin. That's not to say resin DOESN'T work. It can and does look amazing if used correctly. But the problem with resin is that it limits how "deep" your actual river can be. What many gamers do is paint their river bed in a light sand color and then go about pouring and pouring and pouring, until they have if they're lucky a depth of perhaps a half-inch give or take. That's fine if you're portraying a very shallow river or stream where you can see the bottom. The other problem with clear resin is that by itself it only provides a flat water surface. You still have to add something on top of it to make ripples and waves. In that regard clear resin is better suited to pouring things like still, calm ponds and lakes. But for rivers it's not ideal.

      The problem is that the clear resin in and of itself should not be the thing that you try to achieve depth with. I'll explain more about what that means later. You're fighting against the fact that even after ten or more pours it won't be all that deep. And it takes forever.

      If we're going to have some of the epic, deep rivers that would be found in the 9th Age world we have to change how we approach the project.

      With t
      hat in mind, take a look at these photos of various rivers of varying depths as they appear out in the typical daylight of our world:

      Now look at all of these rivers and think for a moment about what they all have in common'll notice that in each one of these photos you really can't tell how shallow or deep these rivers are! Their depth is hidden. They could be a few feet deep or many, many feet deep. There's no way to tell unless you actually jumped in and swam to the bottom! The reflection of the daylight on the water actually makes the water itself look like a dark blue or black liquid. The rivers look opaque! The light gives the illusion that the water isn't clear at all!

      This is the key to escaping the resin trap when making rivers for wargaming tables.

      So because we can see that in many cases, deep rivers in the daylight look black and the depth cannot be seen, clear resin is actually quite useless in trying to represent this in a miniature scale.

      The key here is to mimic what we see. And what we see is a wet, rippling surface with a very, very dark color beneath it. Therefore, on a wargaming table the river's "depth" is going to be achieved by the dark base color of the paint we use to paint the riverbed, NOT by multiple pours of a clear resin. The only thing we need to do on top of the dark color is to give the river its movement and water texture. All that is needed to do that is a single, solitary thin layer of some kind of product that will dry clear.

      The answer is Mod Podge! I am assuming this is available in other countries, or that something similar to it is available. It's essentially a water-based glue/sealer product designed for sealing things like craft puzzles, picture books, collages, and things of that nature. However, this product comes in both matte and gloss! The gloss version of this product is the perfect water effects product for deep rivers. And compared to resin products it's ridiculously cheap in price:

      Mod Podge is water-based and so is non-toxic and brushes can be cleaned with water. It has the consistency of like a slightly watered down Elmers Glue or equivalent PVA glue. It initially goes on white but it dries COMPLETELY clear and COMPLETELY glossy. It creates the perfect water surface! For river currents and ripples, all you need to do is to apply it with a paint brush onto your river bed in a dabbing, back and forth motion. It sets up fairly quickly so that when you dab it it will retain the shapes of the ripples and currents you make with the paint brush.

      For my rivers I chose to make actual full-sized modular board sections with the river recessed below the surface of the terrain board. Doing it this way means the rivers are permanently modeled into the terrain board itself. But you could also use Mod Podge to make individual modular river sections that lay on the surface of a table. I intend to make a set of these in the future, but I always wanted to have the kinds of rivers that you see in dioramas so I chose to go the route of the recessed river channel.

      One of the most common techniques used by gamers to make recessed river channels is with MDF board and insulation foam:

      Basically what you're doing is you are gluing the foam to the MDF board to create a "sandwich" which then you can carve down into like this:

      The only other thing you need to complete the sandwich is to give the outer perimeter a wooden framework to protect the edges of the foam from damage:

      Any kind of square wooden dowels will work for the frame. They can be cut to length and openings can be cut at the points where the rivers will meet up between boards.

      Once you have your river channels carved like shown above, all you need to do is to paint the river beds and banks. You want to paint the bed in a dark color. I use a combination of black, blue, and green crafts paints:

      Mixing these three colors together will result in a very dark, murky, blackish/bluish/grayish kind of color with a hint of green in it. This is exactly the color you want for the river bed.

      With your river bed covered in a dark color, all you need to do is apply one layer of Mod Podge, like this:

      This modeler here is using Liquitex Gloss medium which works much like Mod Podge but is way more expensive. He's also doing wave effects for a harbor as opposed to a river current but it shows essentially how you can apply it. To do a river you simply do a dabbing back and forth motion in the direction the river channel is flowing:

      In both of these examples it looks like the modeler did do a single pour of resin and then applied the Mod Podge over it. I have found this to not be necessary. As I said I apply the Mod Podge directly over the painted river bed and achieve pretty much the same effect!

      And here is the end result. My completed river terrain:

      Now compare these images to the photos of the actual rivers at the beginning of the article. You'll see the similarities!

      This technique can as I said also be used to make flat individual river sections like this:

      Whichever way you choose to make your rivers, just keep in mind the lighting and color principles I've laid out here and you'll have some great looking, realistic deep rivers for your 9th Age gaming tables! Happy modeling everybody. :thumbup:
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 4 times, last by Baranovich ().

    • Some of my favorite nightmares

      Up until as recently as last year I had very little interest in any fantasy armies outside of the classic dwarves, Empire, Orcs, etc.

      But during 2018 I suddenly became intrigued and fascinated with the daemonic legions and the 9th Age factions that represent them.

      Disclaimer here: Please pardon me for the round bases! Yes, I confess that I do also play Age of Sigmar in addition to The 9th Age and the models you see here I bought primarily for use in my Age of Sigmar Nurgle army. I also play Warhammer 40k which of course is all on round bases as well. Hence the round skirmish bases. However, I wanted to post these because they show for me a real growth in my painting skill over the past couple years where I really tested my own plateaus and pushed into areas and techniques that took me way out of my comfort zone!

      Another reason I'm posting this is because I do not and have never owned an airbrush. I really can't give a good excuse or reason as to why. It's just something I never gravitated to during my modeling career. I do know very well how useful they are for spray priming and for achieving very fine gradient effects on things like monster's skin, vehicles surfaces, etc. Airbrushes are amazing tools and most certainly an asset to any modeler.

      But I for some reason always stuck to developing my skills with using colored spray primers to achieve smooth basecoats, and then relying on selective drybrushing and washes to bring my models to life and to what I would consider to be somewhere in the ballpark of being "professionally painted", whatever that really means!

      In any event, these are three models that completed during 2018 and early 2019. The thing they all have in common is that their basecoats were done with spray paints and primers. I use all brands of sprays depending on my needs. Army Painter is very useful because they make primers that are actually colored. Games Workshop, say what you will about them, make some of the best hobby sprays I've ever used. Their Chaos Black and Macragge Blue sprays deliver some of the finest, smoothest finishes I've ever seen if used properly. I also utilize Testors Model Master Sprays as well as Tamiya's fine surface primers which come on both white and light gray.

      There was a time when I would just prime everything in black! Black was my go-to primer. But it was only when I ventured into using sprays as the actual base color of a model was I able to really take my painting to another level and do things that at one time I never thought I was capable of!

      The Great Unclean One

      There are many things to be critical of when it comes to Games Workshop. But I can tell you this. They make some amazing chaos models. The Great Unclean One model was the single kit that inspired me to start a Nurgle army in the first place. I painted him in March of 2018. After spraying him with the base color of green, I closely followed the painting tutorial by Duncan on Warhammer TV. This model really helped me take my painting to another level. I learned a lot during the course of finishing him.

      The Maggot Demon

      The Maggot Demon by Creature Caster was another one of those models that inspired me to start modeling and painting the daemon legions. From the first time I visited their website, THIS was the model I kept coming back to. It fascinated me and horrified me at the same time, lol. There is something simply nightmarish about a demon that has giant maggots embedded in his flesh. Even his staff appears to be made out of some disturbing kind of corrupted flesh, with bleeding teeth growing out of it.

      He was spray primed with Army Painter Skeleton Bone spray primer, and then I did a series of washes in browns and purples, and drybrushes while picking out individual details like the maggot clusters, the finger and toenails, etc.

      The terrain base is made from a combination of the resin rock that comes with the model itself, additional garden stones that I added, and finally several skulls from GW's skull kit. I chose winter/dried grass over green grass because I wanted to give the feel that The Maggot Demon is wandering somewhere high up in some mountainous, desolate landscape.

      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 7 times, last by Baranovich ().

    • The classic castle keep: a terrain project that really has no easy shortcuts

      I titled this post the way I did because for us as a wargaming community we are confronted with all of the same challenges of time, motivation, and other personal factors that affect how much effort and determination we ultimately devote to our hobby in terms of actual painting and modeling.

      I wanted to chronicle the making of this particular terrain piece because it is an example of something in wargaming where what you put in is what you get out. Gamers have an infinite diversity in levels of individual pure talent, artistic ability, steadiness of hand, etc. etc. Some gamers are more naturally gifted to be better painters from the start, others have to work more to achieve higher levels of painting. The same certainly applies to terrain as well.

      However, in this particular example I show you this model castle and terrain precisely because this was a project that I actually struggled with mightily. This was not the result of master planning. It was not the result of precise engineering. In fact this was a terrain project that in reality survived my own shortcomings in engineering, planning, and artistry. I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve, but ran into numerous roadblocks of my own doing that I had to kind of steer around and kind of fudge to make it all work!

      I tell you this because when you look at my miniature painting results and my terrain modeling results, I want you to know that I had to seriously struggle to learn the techniques and practice extensively to get the place I am today in my wargaming aesthetic. I had to learn how to do these things despite my O.C.D. tendencies, anxiety and tendency to want to rush through something to the next step before finishing the previous one! At times I had to literally filter out everything I didn't know about what I was doing and focus on the raw mechanics of it until it meshed and my brain finally absorbed it and I could be confident in what I was doing!

      Which brings me to my castle keep project. I knew from the start I wanted to have a castle keep standing on a hill or bluff with a road leading up to it. I also wanted some matching terrain for the surrounding countryside. I had already spent a couple years building other terrain projects using the exact same kinds of materials, paints, glues, etc. So I understood how many of these things interacted and looked when painted and textured, etc.

      So I simply dove in! I built the hill/bluff piece first and planned to measure out the castle so that would it fit on whatever sized hill I ended up making. I returned to that most reliable terrain building material: pink insulation foam, with the additions of pine bark chips and cork bark chunks to represent rock formations. There was also an extensive amount of wall filler/spackle involved, and also an expanding spray foam product that is usually used for filling cracks to help insulate homes.

      Not yet worrying about how big or small the castle would be or indeed what shape the castle would be, I heaped up a stack of foam layers, glued them together, which in turn was glued to a baseboard of artist's foamcore board:

      So now I had a very rough hill shape with some idea of the slope leading up to the front gate of the castle keep. But now it needed to be bulked out and filled in so that the landscape was more naturally sloped and graduated. I turned to some basic materials. I glued chunks of pine bark chips around the outside of the hill for the rock formations. I used the expanding spray foam to fill in some of the sharp gaps in between the foam layers:

      ...and now the remaining sharp gaps had to be filled in. I turned to utilizing a massive amount of spackle/wall filler. This also needed to be done in order to "embed" the rock formations into the cliffsides so that they appeared to be naturally part of the landscape:

      At this stage of the project I realized that I may have made the top surface of the cliff/hill too small. I had to modify my vision for the castle into a more compact kind of castle keep.

      So I then turned back to the raw insulation foam again to begin planning the actual castle itself. And this was where the real trouble began! I wanted to have at least two towers but realized that having two towers meant that it would be too cramped to be able to have an equilateral kind of four walls. My keep was going to have to have walls at awkward angles but somehow it all had to look logical and like like it was arranged in a way where the occupants could actually access the towers and walls and move around the place!

      I am by nature a lousy engineer and not a good measurer! I did my best to cut out rough shapes to get the dimensions of the towers worked out and more importantly figure out how the walls were actually going to be shaped and angled:

      At this point I was not encouraged. Because I had made the hill too small I quickly discovered that four wall sections was out of the question. There could only be feasibly two wall pieces and they would be forced to connect to the towers at VERY WEIRD angles. And I had to make those walls connect in a way where the doors on the towers could actually open up onto the ramparts and all match up!

      It was not looking good at this point. I considered abandoning the whole thing and starting from scratch with a bigger hill/cliff surface. But in the end I thought I would go with it and figure out a way.

      I finally worked out that if I cut the ends of the walls so that they ended at a very sharp angle to the tower walls, the doors could actually open out onto the ramparts in a way that would make sense. And at this point I was kind of becoming encouraged by the idea that back in medieval times or in a fantasy setting for that matter keeps of this kind might have to be built on high ground that wasn't ideal for the situation. And the builders and engineers might have had to do exactly what I was doing - which was to figure out how to design a castle keep to fit onto the existing high ground that was available or not available!

      Now that I was confident that the angles all worked with the doors I set to adding details to the walls and towers to begin to give them their final shapes. This involved more cutting of foam chunks and filling in gaps with spackle/wall filler. I had to cut individually measured pieces for the wall crenelations and support stones. I chose to use artist's foamcore for the rampart floors:


      Again, my poor measuring kind of worked to my advantage because it helped visually to reflect the technology of the day where stonework wouldn't be perfectly measured out. Indeed if you look at pictures of historical castle keeps you'll see what I mean with regards to the rough engineering and rough measuring in some cases.

      The tops of the towers had pointed roofs added. This was fairly simple. I cut out equal-sized triangle shapes to make four-sided roofs for both towers. I additionally cut smaller triangles to create "caps" for the tops of the roofs.

      Now I finally had the major pieces of the keep finalized, knowing that they all fit onto the hill and just as importantly fit together.

      ..and then...the real INSANITY BEGAN!

      There were two elements of this project that I knew I would have to face at some point. And it was two elements that anyone who has built any kind of detailed dioramas or terrain projects knows full well: this is something for which there ARE NO shortcuts you can take. You can't slap some cardboard together in an afternoon and expect a miniature castle to look real. You can't throw this together in an afternoon while watching TV. This came down to facing the prospect of weeks of raw labor and how far I was willing to go with it!

      The vast majority of the time used on this project went to two things: making the shingles for the tower roofs - and all of the actual stonework texturing on the walls and towers.

      The shingles were no big mystery. Mundane, repetitive, cutting. I used thin cereal box cardboard and cut out what amounted to many hundreds of tiny rectangular chips. And yes, these were then glued to the roofs: one row at a time, one shingle at a time. Brain melting work that drove me to the brink of insanity!

      But finally it all came together and the towers were suddenly looking like actual medieval towers!:


      And now - the moment had arrived to do the stonework. Again, no shortcuts. The stonework had to be etched into every wall and tower surface. It took me over two weeks to complete. I had to pay attention to the corners of the towers and walls where there would be larger, alternating stones that would provide stability at the corners like you see in historical castles and keeps.

      I also had to pay attention to the arch around the castle gate doors. Those etchings had to be curved around the arch so that they stood out from the walls around it.

      All of the etching was done by hand - one stone at a time. I used a pencil in some places and a ballpoint pen in others.

      While this mind-melting etching was going on I also took breaks in between to make the actual castle gate doors and finding left over bits to add to the outer detail of the structure. I had many left over GW fortress doors which fit perfectly for the scale of the castle. I also had two stove chimney/vents bits left over from GW's watchtower kit. Additionally I had a spare banner pole and finial from the same GW watchtower kit. I attached all of these bits to appropriate places on the towers and walls. The front gate as well has two GW bits from the watchtower kit.

      The castle gate doors I made as double doors. They were pretty basic. I took two pieces of cut foamcore and glued cut pieces of craft sticks to them to make the timbers. I took plastic bits left over from the GW mighty fortress kit and worked out an interior crossbar for locking the gate from the inside. Finally I used two tiny jewelry rings cut from a chain to make the interior gate door handles.

      With all of these components and details finally worked out and with the etching completed my castle project began to finally look it might be successful after all:


      I had finally survived the mind-bending labor and now had finally reached the point in the project where I could actually turn to my strengths and have fun! I was at the painting and texturing phase and from here on out the project's success was guaranteed. I had made it through all of the hurdles and obstacles and now could set about to giving the entire project its color and realism.

      Everything you see here was painted with craft paints from Walmart and Michaels Crafts. No miniature paints! Contrary to popular belief among modelers, cheap craft paints CAN BE USED with excellent effect on miniature terrain if it's used properly and thinned where needed.

      The cliff terrain and the accompanying terrain pieces were all painted in a base coat of brown craft paint and then drybrushed in a lighter tan color. All of the rock formations were painted in a simple base coat of gray and drybrushed with lighter grays and some pure whites.

      For the color of the castle itself I wanted a color that would stand out from the natural rock formations. I wanted it to look aged and that the stones had been heavily weathered worn and stained. I used a gray color but mixed in some green and brown to give the stone a greenish tint. This worked perfectly for making the color of the keep distinct from what's around it.

      The other terrain pieces were inspired from the landscape I had seen in The Hobbit movies where they had been shot on location in the outdoor landscapes of New Zealand. I wanted to capture that sort of layered, multi-colored mixtures of bright greens of that sort of landscape. To achieve this I used three different shades of green foam flock, with some areas of clump foliage and lichen added to break up the landscape.

      The banner itself was my own design. Not very complex but appropriate for a castle keep I think. I cut the banner out of computer paper and then simply painted it by hand. The sunburst symbol is fairly universal and made sense for an Empire outpost like this one. Plus it was a banner design that my limited free-hand painting skills could handle!

      And - lo and behold! Four months later the project was finally complete!

      In conclusion, I wanted to stress that this is a terrain project which I probably could not repeat if I wanted to! It's the kind of tabletop centerpiece that you really only need one of for a lifetime of wargaming. I'm very pleased that I pushed through my own doubts and shortcomings and the boring aspects and seemingly endless labor to finally arrive at the final product.

      For me this was an example of the kind of thing in wargaming where there are no shortcuts. To make terrain on this level requires work. Many weeks of work. Lots of monotonous work. No way around it. Keep this in mind the next time you see a really amazing gaming table at a tournament or club and wonder, "wow, how on earth did they do that? I want to do that as well!". For this project there was no magical secret or mystery. I simply had to decide that I wanted to do it.

      Happy modeling my friends! :thumbup:

      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 10 times, last by Baranovich ().

    • Thanks so much for the positive feedback guys, much appreciated! For the record, I am very internally lazy by nature when it comes to something that challenges me or something that I know has to get done. Like I said above this project happened despite my laziness and procrastination, and I had to get out of my own way to do it.

      Earlier in life I really don't think I would have been able to follow through and actually finish something like this!

      Maybe as I've gotten older I've developed more patience, but I certainly have to fight that part of me that wants to quit. I have to grasp with that with every mini. I paint!
      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Baranovich ().

    • The old town gate

      It is no secret that the world of The 9th Age has numerous great cities, many towns and multitudes of smaller villages and settlements.

      However like water terrain it is far too rarely seen on the gaming table.

      I always wanted to have at least some representation of a part of a city or town on the tabletop. Even if the specific city or town terrain isn't part of an actual scenario, just having one corner of the table covered with a small portion of a city or town can add so much aesthetically to a battle and really give your games a sense of place in the world.

      On a 4 x 6 board you really only need two or three feet worth of town walls cutting across one corner at a diagonal to effectively represent part of a town.

      Unlike my castle keep project, this particular project involved only painting, no actual building of anything! I reached a point where I wanted to focus mostly on painting actual armies and getting them to the tabletop. Building a town gate and walls from scratch would have been something that would taken numerous hours away from painting soldiers. So I instead chose to purchase ready-built pieces.

      The one I ultimately chose was Thomarillion's town gate and wall sections. They are made in hard foam by the German company Noch. For a time I was considering getting Tabletop World's city gate and walls, but they proved to be way too expensive to justify buying them.

      Thomarillion's gate and walls by contrast are only about a third of the price of Tabletop World's. I got the full town gate and four walls sections for a total of $165.00 including shipping. To cover the same length of table with Tabletop World's pieces would have cost nearly $500.00 which for me was out of my budget range.

      The gate is about a foot and a half long and each wall piece about a foot long, so the five pieces end to end can create a city or town wall that stretches roughly five feet diagonally across one corner of the table. That's plenty long and gives enough space to put a selection of buildings behind the wall to populate the city/town space.

      I painted this in just a couple evenings. I used all cheap craft paints from Walmart and Michaels Crafts. Again no miniature paints! Not necessary to use miniature paints on terrain like this. Craft paints are excellent for this type of stuff. I did simple base coats on everything and gave each base coat color one simply drybrush. For the windows I painted them all a dark, bluish/black color and then drybrushed light gray over the window to bring out the detail of the leaded mesh and to represent reflection on the glass itself.

      I'm going to be adding some decals to the shields rather than attempt to do any free-hand painting on them. This will save a lot of time and allow me to get it to the tabletop a lot faster!

      So here's the old town gate. A gate that could represent any 9th Age city or town really. I like that it has that classic, medieval look to it and that it's not overly busy or overly fantasy.

      There are many magic rings in the world Bilbo Baggins, and none of them should be used lightly!