Saturday, January 28, 2012

Waaaghpaca Display Board Tutorial Part 1

During my preparation for Waaaghpaca I decided that I really wanted to construct a more sophisticated display board for Clan Blazenbeard that would help push the theme a little further.  In retrospect I could have easily rolled out the display board from Brawler Bash last year and saved myself the trouble.  But where would the fun be in that?  :)  The only rule I gave myself is that I had to use materials I already had on hand.  Fortunately, I'm a bit of a terrain nut so I always have a ready supply of materials.
With the decision made my first step was to head to Google Images as it is a great source of inspiration.  I looked at a ton of pix of other player's display boards as well as Dwarfs in tabletop and video gaming.  I toyed around with various themes like an underground forge inspired by Orzammar (from the game Dragon Age Origins) and a set of caverns that would showcase the tunneling nature of my army.  In the end I reminded myself that the inspiration for the whole army was the miner unit, so I kept it simple and went with the entrance to a mine shaft. Around this time I also submitted my army list which nailed down which units I would be fielding which made it much easier to plan the layout than if I was just making a generic display board.  Next using a white board that is roughly the size of the cork board that I based the display board on I played around with various layouts.  Taking the units I rearranged them dozens of times until I got to something half way decent.  Then using dry erase marker I drew in the topography using lines to indicate changes elevation and where special features like the mine shaft entrance would go.

With the basic layout in my head I set the idea to paper.  It's at this point that I started to work out how I would actually build the display board.  I was committed to only using materials that I had on hand to save time and money.  For the cork board I used one from the "Board Dudes" that I picked up on clearance from Walmart for $5.  Turned out that at $5 I over paid as it was constructed using the cheapest materials possible (corrugated backing).  Also, the inner dimension were 21" x 15" just in case you were wondering.   For the foam I had  1" polystyrene board leftover from a previous project so I decided on an overall height of 3" from the cork surface.  This meant, unsurprisingly, I had 3 layers of foam which you can see indicated in the sketch.

With sketch in hand I headed to the computer.  I plugged the design in and dropped in the units to ensure that they would fit in the space I had allocated.  Some folks go straight from sketch to construction but I think the extra time spent at the computer is very important step as its here that I work out the actual dimensions.  Plus the 3D layout gave me one final check before I started to cut foam as it's much easier to tweak the design at this stage then once assembly has begun.  It was also at this point that I realized that since each layer was only 1" high I didn't actually need the stairs or ramps in my sketch.
With layout finalized I started construction.  To cut out foam pieces I normally draw the patterns directly on the foam by hand prior to cutting.  However, given the curves in the patterns this time I opted to make templates for the 5 pieces.  This significantly reduced construction time and ensured that I got the design I wanted rather than a close approximation. 

For cutting the foam I taped the pattern down and cut the foam using an X-acto blade.  Had I been working with thicker foam I would have traced the patterns on to the foam and cut the foam using a hot wire cutter.  Next I removed the protective layer of plastic from both sides of the foam pieces.  This ensured that the glue would penetrate the foam and create a nice bond during assembly. 
With the five pieces of foam in hand I went to the garage and sanded the edges with 150 grit followed by 320 grit sandpaper.  I rounded over all corners that would be exposed on the final display board and knocked off any debris on the edges.  Next I glued the the foam together using Foam Fusion from Hot Wire Foam Factory.   This is without a doubt the best glue I've found for adhering foam together.  This stuff is amazing as it provides a strong bond that can be easily cut through with hot wire cutting tools.  Also, if you haven't given their hot wire tools a try, you should, they are the best on the market.  After spreading the glue I put the pieces together and added some blue painters tape to help keep them together in the right spot.  After the pieces had setup I glued them down to the cork board.  With some weight on top I let it setup overnight. 
Here is what the basic board looked like all setup and ready for texturing. 
The first details I added were the wooden supports along the entrance walls.  I used craft sticks along with some paint stirs to build it up.  For each board I chipped up the exposed edges to give it a more rustic look, as if the walls were built with axes.  However, I made sure that I didn't go overboard and move into the area of shoddy craftsmanship exclusive to the Orcs (yes I know Orcs is Da Best).

 Next I started to work on the most important detail on the board - the mine tunnel entrance.  Using a Dwarf model as a guild I built the entrance support beams using the same craft sticks and paint stirs for the walls (the paint stirs were used to make the smaller braces).  I mounted the supports on a piece of foam that wedges into the end of the tunnel.  Having been repeatably reminded that the display board had to be small to facilitate carpooling (thanks Domus) I decided to try make the entrance and the back of the display piece removable.  However, I eventually decided against it because taking the piece in and out multiple times would wear the foam and eventually it wouldn't fit right.  

Texturing the display board came next.  As the golden rule with display boards is "less is more" I opted for just a little light-weight spackle to fill in any noticeable chips or gaps.  Then I added a little GW basing sand where the edges and floor meet. 

To give the army the hastily dug-in look I decided to add some resin barricades to the display board.  From Pardulon Models these barricades are made up of earth, barrels, wagon wheels and, as it turns out, all the basic stuff you would find near a mine shaft.  I opted to not glue them in place so I could continue to use them as terrain pieces well after the display board is past its prime.  I placed the barricades and army together on the board for the first time.  This confirmed that I was on the right track and gave me the shot of inspiration needed to keep steam-rolling on.   


Michael Butcher said...

Saw your army today @ Waaaagh!paca. Great work!

Richelieu said...

Hey now, you can't do this.. You can't show us the 3-d computer shots and not let us know what program you used. But frankly it looks good so far, and I need to start thinking on my own board.

retroalias said...

Thanks Mike I was very happy how the army was received at Paca. BTW your WAB stuff is amazing, hopefully 8th edition will pull you back to Fantasy! :)

Mark - I actually just drew this up in Adobe Illustrator but I would recommend using Google Sketchup instead.

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