Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Frostgrave Terrain Tiles - Part 2

Following the test piece I looked at in the last post, I have moved ahead and created my first full board. It actually began as another experiment on one of the "bad" pieces of foam. I wanted to test the glue I had chosen, so I took one of my 30cm square pieces of MDF and stuck the "bad " piece to it. I have used Uhu All Purpose, solvent free glue for this, available from places like Amazon and Hobbycraft amongst others for about £3 per tube. 

I chose this because it's polystyrene friendly and will cure in the absence of air, which PVA and wood glues won't do. I often see people use lashings of PVA to fix large areas together, like sheets of styrofoam for terrain projects, but what they don't realise is that whilst the glue around the edges will cure, it will stay liquid in the middle. I've taken large pieces of terrain apart that have been in use for years and found the PVA still wet in the middle of large areas. It also needed to be solvent free, as solvent based glues will melt the polystyrene.

I applied the glue to the MDF and affixed the XPS (extruded polystyrene) sheet to it. In a couple of places I had been a bit generous and glue squished out the edges like an overfilled, sticky doughnut. Once I cleaned up the excess I found that the corners had lifted away, so added some extra glue there and used some small clamps to hold the sheet down. The glue set quickly and the piece was solidly stuck within about 30 minutes. I left it overnight just to be sure.

I checked the next day and there was no sign of melting or warping, and the sheet was firmly attached across its entire width. I then decided to try out the slabs effect on a larger scale (area 4 in the previous post). I gridded the sheet with 25cmm squares using a ballpoint pen. I also cut out the damaged area of the sheet, making it into a square recess. I plan to create a couple of drop-ins for this area; a trap door from balsa, a grating from some wire mesh and maybe a well or pool of some kind as well.

I then grabbed my handy rock samples and began to press them into the foam. I'd done about half the sheet when I decided to try out another technique. I must confess I have completely forgotten where I first heard of this, but I do remember one of my dad's old model railway books talking about using crumpled tinfoil to create rock faces.

I took a sheet of tinfoil and scrunched it into a tight ball. I then rolled the ball around on the sheet of foam, pressing it into the surface. The effect was remarkably similar to that produced by using the rock samples, but much easier and less time consuming to do. 

I then used the same painting techniques as I used on the sample piece; dark grey (Payne's grey) base coat, mid grey drybrush and then a light ivory highlight.

The completed piece

Close up detail. 

Stack of XPS sheets glued to MDF squares.
"YOU SHALL NOT... oh, alright then, off you go."
I am very pleased with the outcome, and will probably be using this technique for most of the rest of the sheets. The longest bit is applying the Payne's grey basecoat, as you have to get every nook and cranny or the blue shows through quite glaringly.

With the success of this piece I decided to try experimenting some more, and have started doing a few "character" pieces. The one below is a mix of cobblestones and slabs. AGG suggested that the cobblestones could be painted as a mosaic or even use different colours to reflect the use of reclaimed stones.

I also have some smaller sheets, about A5 size, that are much thicker, at least 25mm thick. I plan to texture these as-is to use as risers to add some 3-dimensional interest to the city. Finally, I also have some very large sheets in the shed that are also around 25mm thick. I may use these to create some dramatic terrain pieces like docksides or a stepped plaza of some kind. Watch this space!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Frostgrave Terrain Tiles

This week I have been working on some terrain tiles for Frostgrave. For those who have been living in a cave or on the dark side of the moon and aren't familiar with Frostgrave it is a fantasy skirmish game set in a magically frozen sity of Felstad. Each player controls a wizard and their apprentice and a band of merry cutthroats and vicious warriors. Wizards fight to recover treasures amongst the ruins with the ultimate aim of becoming powerful enough to cast a spell that allows them to discard their mortal shell and ascend to a higher plane of consciousness.

It's a fun game with some nice, if fairly rudimentary, campaign rules and myself and AGG have been thinking about playing it for a while. I have a variety of terrain pieces, a mixture of GF9 Battlefield in a Box, Pegasus Hobbies Gothic Building Sets and various Conflix pieces, plus some odds and ends from an old Mordheim campaign that I will re-use. I've also been painting up some of my 28/32mm Fantasy figures in preparation, including this 30 year old Citadel Winged Fire Demon.

I have been considering various different options for the base terrain for Frostgrave. Initially I was going to use some textured wallpaper glued to MDF boards. I now have two different rolls of textured wallpaper and neither are quite right. I then saw a post showing buildings made from 6mm XPS under-floor heating insulation boards. These boards are made from the ubiquitous "blue foam" extruded polystyrene (hence XPS) and are available from an array of sources including Amazon, Ebay and a variety of online retailers. I have seen them as low as £3.50 for a 600mm x 1200mm sheet. They are also available in differing thicknesses as well, so you can get 6mm, 8mm and 10mm.
Blue foam sheets. Not the most exciting picture I have ever posted.
I picked up two for less than £10 from an ebay retailer and they arrived very quickly, with free shipping as well, which was nice. I cut the boards into 30cm squares using a long ruler and a Stanley knife with a fresh blade. The foam will quickly blunt the blade on your knife, so as soon as you see it dragging or tearing the foam instead of slicing, it's time to swap blades. I have no idea how such of soft material blunts the blade so quickly, but it does. 

The sheets were advertised as 600mm x 1200mm, but they were ever-so slightly larger, probably about 610mm by 1260mm, so I had to trim the edges slightly. I used a set-square and a long ruler to make sure the cuts were all at right angles and switched to 30cm non-slip ruler and a standard craft knife once the long cuts were done. It's important to try and keep the knife vertical whilst making the cuts, or the tiles won't line up evenly after you have cut them.

The two sheets gave me 16 30cm x 30 cm tiles, enough for a roughly 4ft x 4ft grid. I'm intending to try Frostgrave on a 3ft x 3ft board first and see if it's the right size. Two of the tiles included areas that were damaged in transit, so I relegated those to test pieces. That means I have enough tiles for a 3ft x 4ft board at the moment, with two spare "good" tiles and two "bad" tiles.

The plan is to affix the foam tiles to 30cm square 6mm MDF tiles which I had cut from a larger 1220mm x 606mm sheet by my local hardware store (B&Q for those in the UK - if you buy your wood from them they will cut it for you free of charge in many stores). The plan is to add the EVA tiles to the MDF to strengthen them and add a bit of weight to stop them sliding around. I'm tentatively thinking of some way to join all the squares together to avoid moving everything around whilst they are in play, but haven't go very far with the concept. At the moment it's either going to be a collapsible framework or possibly just velcro strips and dots on the undersides.

I have used one of the "bad" tiles to test a number of possible finishes. One of the advantages of XPS foam is that it is strong and dense and can be carved and scribed without crumbling into the little balls that the more common expanded polystyrene (EPS) suffers from. It does have the same drawback that it reacts badly to solvents and many aerosol propellants. Spraying EPS or XPS with rattlecans will cause the surface to melt and shrink and give off stinky fumes. So, hand painting or airbrush is the way to go.

I textured the board in a variety of ways (see below), then painted with some cheap craft acrylics from The Works. I used a dark blue-grey for the base, then a cool grey for a heavy mid-tone drybrush. The final highlights were made using a light drybrush of an ivory/off white. The image below shows the various finishes.

Area 1 is comprised of "crazy paving". This is simply a pattern of random shapes drawn into the foam using a ballpoint pen. It crushes the foam and leave s a nice seam between the slabs. Some areas were "scribbled" on to mimic the depression left behind by a missing stone.

Area 1 - crazy paving

Area 2 uses a rough 1 inch grid to represent more regular flagstones. I lightly drew a grid on in pencil then used the ballpoint to draw around each flagstone. Drawing round each one, rather than just drawing a grid, gives a more natural feel to the flagstones, and rounds off the corners slightly. Cracks and missing pieces were added randomly.

Area 2 - Flagstones

Area 3 is comprised of small cobbles or bricks drawn by hand. small O's abd C's are drawn into the foam using the ballpoint pen, so they abut one another. This is a very time consuming process and there is a tendency for the foam to tear if you aren't careful.

Area 3 - hand drawn cobblestones

Area 4 is perhaps the most interesting. This has been created by pressing the rough end of a broken piece of rock into the foam (actually two pieces of rock, a sample of granite and basalt from my OU geology sample set). The random texture of the rock creates a very realistic rock-like effect (which is probably to be expected since I'm using a rock to simulate rock). The gaps between the slabs were created using the sharp edge of the rock samples, and aren't as defined as I'd like.

Area 4 - stone slabs

Area 5 is cobblestones created using a pen cap and the eraser cap from a propelling pencil. In both cases they were simply pressed into the foam to create an overlapping pattern. I have also seen an example of cobblestones created this way using a rectangular shape made from reshaping some brass tube. There is still a bit of space on the sheet, so I may see if I can find a suitable tube to try this out with.These methods have the advantage of being fairly quick, but the results seem to be much less controllable than the other methods. The pen cap is far too large, but the eraser cap from the propelling pencil looks OK. 

Area 5 - cobblestones again
I have also tried a 6th technique on the other "bad" piece, which is to scrunch up a ball of tinfoil and roll this around on the surface, pressing it in. This leave a random texture similar to the stone but is MUCH quicker and easier to do. This sheet is in the process of being painted right now, but I'll add it once complete.

So, which option do you think looks best? I'm torn between the cobblestones and the rock-effect slabs. I may actually mix it up, and add in some designs to the slabs, so I can mix the techniques up a bit. I also think a variety of styles will make the frozen city much more interesting. Let me knw your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Teeny Tiny Spacemen - 6mm Scifi

Not much text to go with this post. I have a selection of 6mm/1:300 sci-fi armies that I use for Future War Commander. The ruleset has recently been picked up by Pendraken, along with Blitzkrieg Commander and Cold War Commander, so I'm hoping it will be available and supported again soon.

Most of the miniatures are Ground Zero Games, with a small selection from Dark Realm Miniatures and assorted bits from the clicky Mechwarrior Dark Ages.


GZG Grav APC's

GZG Grav tanks

Missile tanks and MRLS artillery. Hulls are GZG. MRLS is from a Mechwarrior click and missile turret is Old Crow.

HQ, command, FAO, FAC, Sniper, auto mortar and recon stands. 

HQ stand GZG APC and old Ogre light GEV.

five stands of infantry with attached smart missile (top left) and heavy laser (top right)

Heavy laser team

Smart missile team

Scouts and power armour.

Mechwarrior Clix power armour


Silent Death fighters used as gunships.

GZG Dropship

New Israeli

Command, HQ, FAO, FAC, Recon and sniper units.

HQ stand with a hoverjeep and radar equipped Wombat APC. The radom is a wooden "mushroom" shape.

FAO (front) and command stand (rear)

Five stands of infantry plus heavy laser (top left) and smart missile (top right) attachments. 

Mechwarrior Clix Power Armour


GZG Wombat APC

GZG Blower (left) and Goliath (right)

GZG Rommel

GZG Rommel hulls with Zandris missile turrets

Automatic mortars made from GZG cannons

Clicky Mechwarrior APC's

WIP Pax Arcadia

Pax Arcadian Gunship.

(L to R) Tiger light tank, 3 x Ramjack APC's, Petard artillery, Rampart heavy tank, Tigre light tank

(L to R) WIP jungle troops x 2, two buggies and HQ stand with modified Petard. WIP industrial infantry x 2

Buggies and HQ

WIP industrial troops

WIP Jungle troops

A funny thing happened on the way to the Blog...

Anyway, as I was saying....

Yes, things have been a bit quiet around here for a while. The Empire of the Dead campaign we had going on sort of fizzled out after our fourth game at the end of last summer (a batrep of which may or may not show up one day). Since then I have managed to get in only a single game of Bolt Action (my first, in fact) which I actually quite enjoyed. It's nice to be playing some 15mm WW2 again.

In the meantime I have picked up no less than four new rule sets, Frostgrave, Dragon Rampant, Black Ops and the finally delivered mountain of stuff that is Dungeon Saga.

AGG and I are in the process of building warbands for Frostgrave, and I've been making batches of Hirst Arts blocks out of plaster to create some extra scenery. I have also dropped a small fortune on GF9 Battlefield in a Box and Pegasus Conflix pre-painted scenery. I also have various types of wallpaper and some sheets of 1cm blue polystyrene to try and make some cobblestone street tiles. If we ever get around to getting figures on the table it should at least look spectacular.

For Black Ops i have picked up some very nice 15mm Professional Militia from Peter Pig's AK-47 range. I also got a pack of the Battlefront SEAL teams from their Vietnam range which make nice SF operators. I also have some modern US on order from QRF. I managed to find some cheap chinese kits of Apache's and Blackhawks at The Works, and a 1:100 EH-101 helicopter from Skyfall on Ebay for just £5. I'll be building some shanties out of corrugated art card as well as cannibalising various aquarium plants for jungle terrain.

For Dragon Rampant I've been slowly building an Undead, Dwarf, Orc and possibly Hobgoblin warbands. More on these later.  

Hopefully normal service will now be resumed.