Sunday, 29 October 2017

EXT: The Lord's Tower

One last trip to the frozen ruins!

Now, it's not like I don't have enough of them, exactly. My collection has expanded to have more than enough scatter terrain to coat a 6'x4' map handily. More than I need, in fact.

But what I don't have is line of sight blockers. Cemetary fences and broken walls are all very well, but they're all full of holes. Personally, I find big bars to line of sight or movement make a game much more interesting, and they also make good centrepieces. 

Hence this old mixing bowl.

A while back, I got a double pack of the Ruins of Osgiliath terrain kit, and ever since, I've had a plan brewing to make something big and elaborate. All the more so because I didn't want a duplicate kit for the table. Finishing off the last set of commission work got me feeling I wanted to cut loose a bit, so I set to work on something a little larger than usual using a variety of spares from my cupboard. 

The plan? A snowy ruined tower, would you believe!

  • A set of Ruins of Osgiliath Sprues
  • The steps from a Baleful Realmgate
  • Leftover Dungeon Saga furniture
  • A large piece of cardboard
  • An old plastic Vanish tub, 1.5 Litre family value size
  • 2 A4 sheets of stone effect styrene modelling kit
  • A big spray can of insulating foam
  • Kitchen paper (Torky brand)
  • Sand, flock, small stones and crushed glass
  • All the PVA glue you can eat
  • Paints to taste

Step 1 - The Skeleton

The washing bowl is going to be the body of the mountain, because it's strong and light. I upended it and spend a while playing about with the terrain sprues and Mantic bits, laying them out on top and seeing what was possible. Once I was happy, I cut and glued the kit to shape, leaving it in several pieces for later. 

The red and blue bits have already been painted by my daughter. If this saves time later, I'll be able to spend it apologising to her for ruining her work.

Next, the tower. The Vanish tub is the base for this. The styrene sheets are rolled round the in and outside, then stuck down with PVA. The inevitable gaps have insulating foam piped into them. This stuff takes 12 hours or so to dry, but is light and tough once it's there. Fragile, true, but not terribly so. Once it's made, I hack a big chunk out of one side. It now looks like this. 

Vanish is useless against the ravages of time.

I cut the cardboard to size as the base for the model, then placed the tower, bowl and part of the ruins on it. After trimming a bit more, I glue everything down with PVA. 

Aaaaand we're done.

Step 2 - Padding it out

Using this as the frame, I spray a massive layer of insulating foam over everything to make it look a bit more like a hill. 

This stuff is very satisfying to use, but an absolute bugger in many ways. First, it's incredibly sticky, and because I stupidly ignore everyone's advice on the internet and don't wear gloves, I have a deformed crust over my fingers for almost a week afterwards. Seriously, wear gloves!

Next, although it dries with a nice rocky crust, like something volcanic and extruded, you don't have a lot of control over the final shape. Cutting it quickly reveals air bubbles or the foamy interior, which is a lot less convincing as a surface. 

It's also brittle. To strengthen and shape it, while it's still damp, I press Torky kitchen paper over the outer layer and mould it a bit. Not easy, especially with sticky hands, but much better results than letting it be. I also stick down a few bits of the terrain here and there, either permanently or so I have their footprint for later work. 

Overall, I end up with something like a failed wedding cake. 

Four Funerals and a Funeral

Once it's dry, I slap a couple of layers of very watered-down PVA over the top. This firstly sticks the paper on properly and solves any loose flappy bits (there are several), and it also primes the insulating foam for spray painting (otherwise it dissolves). 

Step 3 - Basecoats

First, the main bit goes Abaddon Black. (You may have spotted it during this stage, I used it in the recent 40K fight with Stylus). All the ruined walls and Mantic bits are Mournfang Brown to start off with, but the wooden parts get Dryad Bark over the top to darken them up. The walls get a heavy drybrush of XV88. 

At the same time, I add sand to the main chunk, then spray this Mournfang Brown along with the stonework, which then also gets the XV88 treatment. 

Doors also go Mournfang Brown. Additionally, I use Green Stuff to smooth off the broken edges of styrene sheet on the tower, then paint them to fit it. And I add interior details to the tower, using the long straight bit of rotting woodwork from the Ruins of Osgiliath kit to chop out some semi-circular sections of broken floor. Once painted and dry, these are glued onto the inside and held in place by toothpick supports that I drill into the body of the tower.

Step 4 - Paint

The easiest bit. All the rock is done with Eshin Grey, Nuln Oil, Dawnstone and Longbeard Grey, a standard mix I use for old rock. Green Ink in recesses to make it look mossy, with extra Nuln Oil to finish. 

The stonework is drybrushed again with Rakarth Flesh, then heavily washed with Agrax Earthshade, Green Ink (moss) and Nuln Oil (detail). Then Rakarth again, followed by two drybrushes of Pallid Wych Flesh (one generalised and fairly light, one heavy and detailed for raised bits). 

I leave the sand be, mostly, but I do dab Nuln Oil here and there to make it look patchier. I also add some clumps of small pebbles painted in Pallid Wychflesh and washed with Agrax as rubble. 

Woodwork gets done with Nuln Oil and some Green Ink, then Dawnstone, then Agrax again, then Longbeard Grey very lightly over the edges. Tin Bitz and Brass Scorpion for the locks and barrel hoops, and that's it. 

The chest and bookshelf weren't glued down until much later, so I could paint the details in properly without having a breakdown

Step 5 - Flock and Snow

4Ground's frozen ground mix did nicely for the basic turf - watery PVA over the top, then scatttered it on with a small sieve and shook off the excess before leaving to dry overnight. A few GW tufts here and there for emphasis and variety, and because I had a few spare that wanted using. 

My standard snow mix these days is PVA and 4Ground Snow flock in a roughly 2:1 mix, with some white pigment thrown in extra. You want it with the consistency of toothpaste, but I'm not very scientific about which brand. It's slapped on with a modelling trowel, pulling downwards over edges to get the fibres in the flock to make a sort of melty icicle effect. 

Once that's dried overnight, I went back over the edges of it with watery PVA again, and sprinkled crushed glass (from Secret Weapon) over it to make icy slush. This is another pig to use, it rolls about everywhere and it's super toxic and abrasive, so I used plenty of newspaper underneath to catch excess. And I ought to have used goggles and a breathing mask, because it really will wreck you if it gets in the wrong places, it's powdered broken glass, but I chanced it and didn't, and survived this time. 

Step 6 - Finishing Touches

I got the offer of Mrs Kraken's glue gun to make icicles! But I turned it down. I don't know how hot glue works with insulating foam. I mean, it ought to be fine, insulating foam should surely cope with heat, right? But I don't know how it dries, I haven't used it before, and didn't want to chance spoiling things at this late stage. Plus I can always go back to it later once I've practiced. 

A spray of Purity Seal, then a selective application of 'Ardcoat so it looks wet and runny. The very last drops of my water effects in the hollow in the centre of the upper ruins, which are still detachable for storage and gameplay reasons, then I painted the details on the Mantic furniture and glued it down before calling it a day. 

Apart from vanity shots, obviously. 

I mean, you need a sense of scale, right?
Footprint from the air - it's about 1.5x A4 size, and just shy of a foot high on the tower end. 

I hereby declare my Snowy Ruin collection finished! Because this won't fit in my cupboard, for starters, there's no room and it's too big even if there was. I'm very happy with it, although it was also an excellent learning experience - the ruins are super-wonky, as the foam pushed the tower to one side as it dried and expanded, and the detachable bits tend to lean a little, but it sort of adds to the delinquent charm of the place. I hope. 

The foam is also still pretty easily damaged, and I don't see this lasting the years (or my daughters) terribly well. Plus it'll die if dropped or crushed, simple as that. But until then, I'm considering it my masterwork until the next time I read Ron Hawkins Hobby blog and despair. 

Obviously, this means I can now focus on 40K scenery. Jungle deathworld? Hive Spire? Space Hulk interior? Double down on the frosty ruins, for mix and match pleasure? I do have some ideas, but I'd love to hear yours...

"Why are you smiling?"
"Because I know something you don't know."


  1. That's a seventh wonder of the Warhammer world right there. Bonus points for the life and limb you clearly risked in its construction.

    What about some deathworld terrain next, populated by ravenous Audrey IIs?

    1. Funny, I am considering a Deathworld. Jungle plus scientific compounds, is one plan, then some kind of mat to go with. I see there's a print your own design option from one of the many dedicated mat companies out there that somewhat appeals...

    2. Do I hear the Catachan Guard polishing their bowie knives and oiling their pectorals?

    3. Not yet! Tyranids and Guard both have my interest at present, but the chances of buying and painting up two hoard armies that size is precisely zero.

    4. Now that my last comment is very clearly a lie, I have decided that a research base in the deep jungle is definitely the plan. Fences, generators and weird foliage, here we go.

    5. Don't forget to include the goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus.

    6. Is he a new entry in the Tyranid Codex?