Container Office and More Barriers

I’m still assembling and painting post-apocalyptic terrain for This is Not a Test. I’m hoping to get a TnT campaign started at TCOW, my local gaming club in 2018. For that I’ll need enough portable terrain to cover a 4′ x 4′ table, and now my 3D printer is fully operational again I’ve started cranking out more terrain parts.

First up was a few extra pieces to add to a shipping container to turn it into every working man’s nightmare: the on site porta-office! That’s the first one I have assembled and painted in the photo above. These parts were created to add some more variety to the containers.

I’ve also thrown together a couple more barriers from 3D printed test pieces and some of my original designs – metal lockers and the venerable IBM 729 Tape Drive. Originally I had planned to build a more traditional junk yard, but as time goes on I find my terrain slowly turning it into some kind of electronic cargo cultist’s lair. Perhaps the post apocalyptic occupants worship the great old gods of Tesla and Turing.

I’ve also printed and painted up a few pieces from this small, but well formed forward command post terrain set on Thingiverse. I’ve got a few barriers from this set ready to varnish, and the forward command panel makes a nice bit of scatter terrain. I may also get around to printing a couple of copies of the command post too.

Barriers from 3D Printed Parts

It’s been a month since I last posted, and in that month I have been continuously 3D printing all sorts of terrain pieces on my Anet A8. I’ve had some technical issues with the printer too – the extruder heating element failed ($2 to replace) and my control board appears to have suffered some damage as the hot bed temperature is reading wildly incorrect values (despite the hot bed sensor operating as expected) – so I have another board on the way ($32 to replace). That means I’m limited to printing smaller PLA items on a cold bed. However that’s still ideal for 28mm terrain pieces.

I’ve been cranking out pieces from Thingiverse, as well as some of Kim’s Kreative Scenery designs, and a bunch of my own stuff too. I’ve burned through at least 1.5kg of filament and now have an old shoebox full of various small parts. So it was time to start gluing them together and painting them up!

It turns out to be very easy to make barriers from a mix of barrels, drums and corrugated plastic-card scraps. That’s handy because I need a bunch of barriers for a This is Not a Test table I’m making steady progress on. Also, because I generally print on ‘rafts’ I tend to have a lot of spare pieces of mesh plastic laying around. It seemed a shame to just throw these away, so I’ve been cutting them up to use as wire fencing, and with the additional of a simple printed bed-frame they also make horrible old mesh bed frames. You can see several of these above on the two barriers I’ve painted and varnished.

The barriers are also pretty good fun to paint as you can throw around graffiti for some light detailing. I have several more on the go and plan to try and crank out at least a half dozen of them for the table. I’m also working on a bunch of scatter cover terrain in the form of 1980’s style ‘spacies’ machines. You can see the first one painted up in the background.

Painted 3D Printed 28mm Shipping Containers

Goodness, 3D printing is fun. I’ve been spending so much time printing parts, teaching myself Autodesk Fusion 360 and tinkering around with my Anet A8 printer that I have struggled to paint anything recently. However I have managed to finish the first batch of my 3D printed 28mm shipping containers.

Here’s a bunch of them stacked together with some of my earlier hand molded terrain and painted figures for This is Not a Test. The container ends are 3D printed, the doors and other details – while the main bodies are just made from hobby shop plastic card.

They were primed with Army Painter colour primer, either Dragon Red or Skeleton Bone. Fortunately 3D printed PLA filament primes just fine with Army Painter spray cans, and it also glues together well with normal polyester cement. The containers were then painted with a variety of cheap student acrylic paints, crudely highlighted, stippled with grey paint applied with a scrap of foam, and then brown washed with a variety of products.

Initially I started washing with cheap liquid shoe polish, but the polish ends up looking a bit heavy and patchy once it dries. The yellow shipping container above is an example of this. After a few containers I changed from shoe polish to my old standby: satin ‘Kauri’ pre-stained floor varnish. This provides a smoother finish, and has the advantage of being a reasonably good sealant for the paint job. The disadvantage is it takes about 12 hours to fully dry and requires Turpentine to clean up. The rest of the containers were treated with this, followed by a dusting of Army Painter spray varnish to dull the shine down.

These containers are the first piece of 3D printed terrain I’ve painted using my normal quick and dirty techniques. The 3D printing process does leave some light texturing on the parts, but once they’re painted and on the gaming table you don’t notice that at all. This second photo shows the finished containers a little better. For comparison the rust coloured container on the bottom left is one of my earlier hand built prototypes. It’s made from the same plastic card as the rest, but the doors were painfully hand assembled from plastic rod and stamped greenstuff handles. The 3D printed doors next to it look crisper, and have more detail, and are a breeze to print once designed.

If you discount the time spent designing the parts, these containers are very fast to assemble and get on the table. It takes roughly an hour and a half to 3D print the ends of each container, around 15 minutes to cut and assemble the plasticard, and around 30 minutes of painting time. You can batch assemble and paint them too of course while fresh ones are printing. It took me around a week of hobby time to hand make three containers, and about the same amount of time to 3D print and assemble three times as many containers. I’ve got another six on the paint table as well, which will give me a reasonably good collection for an abandoned shipping yard.

Cost wise they’re also ridiculously cheap. Assuming you have a 3D printer (the Anet A8 is $200 NZD), the hobby store corrugated plastic card is considerably more expensive than the power, or 3D filament used to print the container ends.

The only disadvantage these 3D printed containers may have is that they’re super light. My prototype containers were built around children’s wooden blocks so have a good heft to them. The 3D printed containers are hollow, bottomless, and probably don’t weight more than 80 grams each painted. I may resort to a little blu tack quietly applied to the bottom corners before I game over them.

I’m considering selling the STL design files for a few bucks to download. Would anybody be interested?

Anet A8 3D Printer and Creating Terrain

Kim from Kreative Scenery recently picked up an Anet A8 3D printer from GearBest.com and was getting very good results from it while printing 15mm terrain. At around $200 NZD the Anet A8 is a steal, so I ordered one as well. That’s my Anet A8 in the photo, assembled a couple of weeks ago, and with various printed parts added to the stock kit.

As a change from browsing Thingiverse for parts to print, I’ve also been learning to use Autodesk Fusion 360 to create original designs. Amongst the CAD and 3D modelling programs I’ve tried in the past I think Fusion 360 is by far the most powerful, and intuitive. Something about the way the project timeline and the browser feature work make it an ideal tool. I think it may be because the UI feels like an IDE such as Visual Studio. I also find the way you sketch things in different planes and then render them into 3D objects using a variety of simple extrusion operations really clicks with me.

My first completed, original design is a pair of simple frames that can be combined with cheap corrugated plastic-card into an almost instant 28mm scale shipping container. One frame holds a set of closed doors, and the other is a simple holder for an additional piece of plastic-card. I designed this because I want to build a post apocalyptic factory table for This is Not a Test. These frames were also easy to create in Fusion 360 and print reasonably quickly – so I won’t bother casting or molding them. Plus 3D printing allows you to use undercuts and back cuts that one sided molding won’t allow. For example the frames have a 1mm trench on the back that the plastic-card slots into for gluing.

Here’s the container quickly dry fitted, and next to an earlier container I laboriously built by hand around a kid’s wooden block. Mr Zippo is for scale. The painted container is one of a set of three I spent something like a week of hobby time building and painting. Thanks to the 3D printed parts I cranked out three more assembled containers in an evening this week, and they’re already more detailed and better looking than my hand made effort. I glue them together and then add a little more 3mm plastic trim around the edges for reinforcing. If you ignore the printing time, they take about 10 minutes to assemble and finish. The other advantage of just using the frames is I can vary the container length simply by using different lengths of plastic card. They’re pretty stable out to a 10-12″ long container. Being little more than hollow plastic boxes they’re ridiculously light weight so stack very nicely. The frames are designed with 2mm holes in the top and bottom, so could be joined together with plastic rod or pill magnets.

I plan to vary my original design to create an empty frame and a pair of free standing doors that will slot into holes, like a Lego door. That’ll give me the ability to model some open containers as well. I also plan to create an alternate end to represent a ‘reefer’ or refrigerated container. I’m then going to print and assemble around another ten containers and call that done. They’ll probably get bulk painted with a couple of cheap spray cans.

Even with this simple project I can see an almost endless possibly of custom war gaming terrain opening up. The only thing holding me back is finding time to design and print everything I want!

Test of Honour: Painted Scratch Build Village

I’ve painted the start of my scratch built Japanese village for Warlord’s Test of Honour. After some experimenting, the paint scheme I went with was a mix of cheap ‘dark umber’ student paint lightened with gesso, watered down and applied with hog bristle brushes. The stiffer brushes cover quickly and help work the paint into the balsa detailing. Once dry it was all dry-brushed a couple of lighter shades to pick up the balsa grain. After another round of drying everything was washed down with a 50/50 mix of water and liquid black shoe polish – again to help pick out the natural balsa grain. The paint scheme was to try and make the wood look sun faded and generally weathered.

The tree/rock pieces are an attempt at making some simple LOS blocking terrain. They’re MDF bases with chucks of garden bag limestone epoxied to them and detailed with some ancient model railroad plastic trees I’ve had in my garage for years. Originally I planned to try and make trees with foliage, but the material that came with the kit was so awful I’ve left them barren and autumnal looking. That also inspired me to throw around some of the leaves I’ve been cutting with my Greenstuff World leaf punch. That’s the little splashes of colour you can see on the building roofs. They’re glued down with PVA and add some nice detail to the roofs, while also hiding a few of the dress-makers pins used to hold the plastic tiling down.

I’m happy with the end result, and have the start of a good set of Japanese terrain to run Test of Honour games over. I need a few more larger pieces and some kind of 3′ x 3′ gaming mat to put it all on. The plan is to go with a quick and dirty drop-cloth and caulk style mat in a similar shade to the ground pieces I’ve already made. This is meant to be a fishing village so I’m going for a sort of gray volcanic sand look for the ground. I also need some more detail pieces like old fishing boats and maybe nets of some kind. Simple fishing boats should be pretty easy to scratch build out of balsa.

Now I have to get cracking on some Samurai and Ashigaru soldiers. Unfortunately the Warlord plastics aren’t really to my tastes – they’re quite low detail and a little unpleasant to paint. I’ll probably end up using the rank and file Ashigaru archers and spearmen, but have recently ordered some metal North Star ‘Ronin’ figures for my Samurai/Ronin heroes.

Test of Honour: Scratch Built Village

I recently played in a demo game of Warlord’s new Test of Honour Samurai game at TCOW (my local wargaming club). I enjoyed it enough to pick up the reasonably priced starter box from Mighty Ape. Warlord have a YouTube video un-boxing the starter set, which shows you everything you get in the full box.

The set includes several cardboard template buildings which you can get you playing the game right after assembling a few figures. However after years of watching Akira Kurosawa classics like ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Yojimbo’ something possessed me to dig out my scrap foam board and balsa wood from the garage and start scratch building. The photos show what I’ve built so far, in a week of evenings.

The first goal was to simply replace the cardboard template buildings with something equivalent in footprint. This means I’ve built a richer man’s two story house with a tiled roof, a small shrine building, and a simpler single level dwelling with a traditional wooden roof held down by stones. The buildings are meant to be clad in exposed wood, based on some turn of the century photos of Japanese houses. I don’t have any materials handy to make anything that looks like a sliding door, so opted for simpler doors and windows.

The larger plan is to build enough terrain for a 3′ x 3′ poor, coastal fishing village that has been infested with no good Ronin that a local Samurai needs to clear out. The next challenge is going to be coming up with a suitable paint scheme to represent weather faded wood.

This is Not a Test: Hirst Arts Consoles

Hirst Arts Machinery Joseph McGuire, the creator of This is Not a Test, recently launched a Kickstarter for a hardback copy of the rules. The Kickstarter is going gang busters and you should definitely jump on board for an updated, physical copy of this excellent independent game.

The Kickstarter inspired me to get stuck into some work on my small TnT scenery collection. I ordered a bunch of Hirst Arts molds a year ago for sci-fi terrain, and have cast them up several times since, so it’s time to build something.

Hirst Arts Machinery First up is a set of free-standing control consoles which were inspired by some Space Hulk tables I’ve seen on the Hirst Arts forums. These are meant to represent some kind of futuristic industrial grade control system for some kind of factory floor. They’re thrown together from a few casts of a single Hirst Arts machinery mold, and were quite fun to build. They’re a little chunky compared to the Pig Iron Productions figure next to it, but that works as they’re meant to be industrial scale. They were painted with house paints and the good old Marmite technique. This works just as well on plaster pieces, provided they’re well sealed with the first coat of paint, and you’re careful not to get them too wet while scrubbing.

Hirst Arts Machinery I’m also working on the machines these consoles are supposed to be the controls for. This will be a small set of larger based pieces also built from Hirst Arts. They’re meant to represent generators or some kind of turbines, and will effectively be long pieces of linear hard cover for This is Not a Test. In the mean time, here’s one of the consoles in my Mantic red brick terrain from earlier.

This is Not a Test: More Mantic Red Brick Stencilling

Mantic Red Brick I’m still slowly working my way through my Mantic Red Brick box, adding terrain to my This is Not a Test collection.

This is another stencilled piece inspired by a corporate logo, which was largely borrowed from Geof Darrow’s ‘Hardboiled’ graphic novel. In the background of his densely laden artwork Darrow messes around a lot with big US corporate logos, and this one caught my eye.

The stencil was cut in two parts, the outer shell shape and the inner shell details. Unfortunately it didn’t come out as clearly as I’d hoped due to the rather old rattle can of Tamiya Desert Yellow I used. A lot of hand painting was required to fix up the blurred edges of the shell, and the ‘SHILL’ logo was hand painted afterwards. Fortunately the floor varnish I use for cheap weathering blends down the handpainting once it goes over the top.

Mantic Red Brick Rear For a little variety the rear of the ruin has also had a small section of ruined floor added with balsa wood for a sniper’s perch.

This piece is the last of the larger pieces I’ve constructed from the Mantic box. There’s still a lot of terrain for me to paint in there, but it’s mainly waist high ruined corners and wall sections, as well as scatter terrain.

I still can’t believe was fantastic value this box was from Mighty Ape. A box by itself it can cover probably half a 2′ x 2′ table. Hmmm, I guess I should have bought two boxes in the Mighty Ape sale!

This is Not a Test: Mantic Red Brick Stencilling

Nuka Cola Stencilled Red Brick I’ll admit it, I suck at airbrushing. It’s probably not helped by the fact I only own a cheap compressor without a regulator, and an even cheaper Chinese knock off airbrush. At any rate I very rarely airbrush because it’s always a fraught affair, with depressing watery looking results. However since I’m still assembling and basing Mantic Red Brick terrain for “This is Not a Test”, I wanted to add a little something to one of the larger, blank brick walls in the set.

One of the inspirations for This is Not a Test is the Fallout series of video games, so I decided to borrow some of their imagery. Everybody loves the refreshing taste of Nuka Cola right!? The first photo above shows you the finished, stencilled artwork. The stencil was draw by hand on a piece of A4 paper and then cut out with a very blunt Xacto (I should have changed the blade). The main wall was painted the same way as the rest of the Red Brick terrain I’ve built.

Nuka Cola StencilThe stencil was then attached to the wall with low tack painter’s masking tape and blutack. The blutack was rolled into tiny pinhead sized balls and slipped under the tricky parts of the stencil that wouldn’t lie flat against the wall. Namely the central parts of the larger letters like the ‘N’ and ‘C’. A little more blutack was used to mask out the centre of the ‘o’s and ‘a’s which I’d cut out of the stencil.

The whole mess was then surrounded by a plastic shopping bag which was fixed around the edges with more masking tape. I then took it all out to the garage and sprayed the stencil with Kilrust vehicle white metal primer – because that’s the only white spray I had to hand. After drying overnight, the bleed around a few edges was tidied up by hand and the letters over-painted with a little Vallejo “Iraqi Sand” and pure white mixed together. It’s hard to see in that top photo but I couldn’t resist adding a ‘TM’ marker by hand down in the usual bottom right corner. The wall was then finished up with brown tinted floor varnish over the top and the whole lot was matt varnished with Army Painter “Anti-Shine”.

Nuka Cola Stencilled Red Brick Rear I’m pretty happy with the end result, and it really wasn’t too much work to add something visually interesting to the large blank wall. I might try cutting another stencil for some more Hirst Arts based tanks and pipes I’m painting up as well.

If you’re wondering why the sign says ‘Queen St’, that’s because I live in New Zealand, where every town or city of a reasonable size has at least one ‘Queen’ or ‘Victoria’ street in it. Finally here’s the back of the terrain piece with an old, headswapped GW Necro Scavvie for scale.

Tutorial: Post Apocalyptic Terrain with Mantic Red Brick

Mantic 20th Century Brick This tutorial describes detailing and basing a set of Mantic “20th Century Red Brick” terrain. Mantic Games produce these plastic terrain kits for a variety of their games such as Deadzone and Mars Attacks, and Mighty Ape stock them locally.

These kits are great value for money, and come with the pieces already removed from their sprues, with a bag of clever connectors which you can use to snap them together without glue.

In 15 minutes you can put a whole box together and create a collection of terrain ready for a game. The kits really shine though if you spend a bit of extra modelling time on them, which this tutorial will cover.

Step One: Dry fit a wall section and find a base

Take the Mantic Red Brick sections and dry fit together the terrain you’d like to build. Don’t glue anything yet though, because it’s easier to work on the separate parts as we go. For this tutorial I’ve put together a simple ruined corner from three pieces. For the base I’ve used a section of 5mm MDF which has been cut with a jigsaw and sanded down by hand. The straight edges on the MDF have also been sanded back so that they will fit against the sloped bottom edge of the Mantic walls.

Step Two: Fill the connector holes with a texture stamp

Green Stuff and Mantic Brick Walls The Mantic connector system is clever and allows you to build a variety of buildings from the same basic pieces. One unfortunate side effect of the system, however, is that there are visible connector holes all over the assembled terrain. To address this, we’ll patch the holes that aren’t filled with connector pieces. The easiest way to do this is to make a texture stamp, using green stuff and a little olive oil from the kitchen.

Smear the olive oil on a part of the wall to keep the putty from sticking, and then press a large pea of green stuff firmly against that area. After leaving it to set overnight, the green stuff should be easily removed and the olive oil can be washed off. I also cut notches in the set texture stamp to make it easier to align with the brick texture on the wall parts.

Mantic Brick Hole Textured To fill each hole, take a little mixed green stuff and push it into the hole, using either a wet sculpting tool or your fingers. You want to get the green stuff smooth, and as flat as possible against the wall. If you find you’ve put too much in the hole so it’s overfilled, remove it and try again otherwise you’re likely to end up with a bulging patch which is harder to paint.

Wet the green stuff in the wall, and then carefully line up the texture stamp and press down with reasonable amount of force. If you’ve lined everything up and the green stuff is wet enough, you’ll be able to lift the stamp away and find a nicely textured section covering the hole. You’ll probably have to tidy things up a bit with an Xacto knife or sculpting tool, particularly around the bevelled edges of the wall. With a bit of practice, you should be able to patch each hole in a couple of minutes! Once again, remember to leave the green stuff overnight to set.

Step Three: Cover the wall edges and corners with plastic card

Mantic Brick Wall Plastic Card Once everything is patched and set, glue the wall sections together with polystyrene glue. You might notice there’s still obvious gaps between the connected wall sections and on the corners. The next step is to hide those with a bit of cut plastic sheet or styrene. Mighty Ape stock “Evergreen” styrene sheet which is what I’ve used here. At this point I’ve also cut the broken ‘glass’ out of the original windows, as I plan to replace these with cut blister plastic in the finished piece.

To cover the corners, I used a piece of thicker Evergreen rectangular rod which has been cut down and lightly sanded for texture, before being glued flat over the corner join. It’s a quick and dirty solution but works well to hide the corner seam. To cover the joins between the flat wall panels, I trimmed some strips off a piece of 1.5mm Evergreen sheet, and then cut them down and glued them in place on both sides of the wall, into the triangular space made by the wall seam.

Step Four: Pinning the wall to the base

Mantic Brick Wall Pinning Now those seams are hidden, attach the wall to the MDF base by drilling three small holes through the bottom of the wall with a pin vise (or similar). Two of these holes are visible in the base of the long part of the wall in the photo. The tricky part here is you’ll have to drill the holes low enough that they can be continued into the MDF base behind the wall. I then pinned the wall to the MDF base using some cheap 0.9mm garden wire and a bit of superglue, using the Blu Tack method which I’m described on my blog in the past.

Mantic Brick Wall Pinning Here’s another photo showing how blutack can be stuck on the base and then wet slightly to guide the position of the wall; just press the wall against the blutack to show the position of the holes, then remove the wall carefully, before drilling holes into the MDF base at the points where there’s obvious nubs of blutack. Doing it this way means the holes in the base will properly align with the holes in the wall. Remove the blutack and then put everything together by gluing sections of garden wire through the wall and into the MDF with superglue.

Step Five: Detailing the base

Mantic Brick Wall Rubble Now the wall is built and firmly attached to the base, improve the plain MDF base with some simple detailing. I keep a mixture of beach sand, kitty litter and Woodland Scenics Railway Ballast handy for instant rubble. Using watered down builder’s PVA the mix can be glued around the bevelled edge of the base to suggest exposed ground underneath the ruined corner.

A simple trick when gluing rubble down like this is to apply PVA first, scatter the rubble over the base, shake off any excess, then take a large brush and some more watered down PVA and dab it liberally over the glued down rubble. That will help the PVA from underneath to “wick up” through the sand and small stones, gluing everything in place firmly (which is what you can see in the photo).

Once the PVA is dry, wait overnight, then start building up the base with a cheap, flexible plaster. I use Polyfilla for this, which comes in a tube with a handy plastic scaper attached to the back. The Polyfilla can be applied in two layers using the slightly wet scraper. The first layer covers the MDF base, and some of the glued down rubble. Polyfilla dries pretty quickly, so you can usually work on the second layer after a couple of hours. The second layer creates a smooth final surface. It’s easy to get Polyfilla on the walls while you’re applying it, but just clean it up with a wet brush while you work.

After the second Polyfilla layer has dried, take a sharp sculpting tool and Xacto knife, and cut and score the edges of the Polyfilla to try and make it look like cracked, ruined concrete. Dried Polyfilla is fairly easy to work with and cuts nicely. After carving the edge, I sanded the whole surface with a 120 grit sandpaper just to give it bit more texture for painting.

Step Six: Paint

Tutorial Final Plain Here’s the painted terrain piece. I’ve used several different products to paint it as follows. To seal everything, the brick work and base was primed with an Army Painter ‘Dragon Red’ spray can, another excellent product that Mighty Ape stock. Dragon Red is a rich, deep colour which is a touch too bright for real bricks, so it can be toned down considerably by lightly drybrushing a variety of browns over it, working from a dark earthy brown, up to a light tan which you can see on the edges of the bricks. The trick with drybrushing is to use a large brush and to drybrush at a 45 degree angle rather than straight up and down or side to side. The window frame was painted with Vallejo Game Colour acrylics, with a couple of layers of quick highlighting. I didn’t bother trying to paint the Mantic connectors any differently from the wall as I noticed they blend in nicely anyway.

The brick wall and window frame were further toned down by painting with Wattyl ‘Kauri’ Satin Polyurethane floor varnish. You can use an ink wash, but hobby ink is fairly expensive so I tend tosave it for painting figures, and use cheaper products from the hardware store for terrain. The varnish collects nicely between the bricks too, and has the added bonus of sealing the paint and making it harder to chip.

The Polyfilla base was painted in simple grey tones mixed from cheap student’s acrylic paints, with a few lighter layers drybrushed up around the edges. The rubble was painted with the same paint used to drybrush the bricks, and then the rubble and concrete cracks were washed down with watered down Army Painter ‘Strong Tone’ ink wash. Once everything was dry, it was varnished lightly with an Army Painter ‘Anti Shine’ Matt spray can. This is mainly to flatten down the shine left on the wall from the floor varnish, but also to seal the base further.

Tutorial Final Decorated Finally, to replace the plastic ‘broken glass’ I’d cut out from the original wall, some old blister plastic was trimmed, lightly varnished with the Army Painter Matt spray, and then painted with some thinned down AK Interactive ‘Dark Mud’ Weathering enamel wash. The idea here was to try and make the jagged glass look filthy. The painted glass was glued into the window frame using PVA, which dries clear and won’t add any frosting to the blister plastic.

Here’s the same terrain piece with some added props and a couple of 28mm figures on Games Workshop bases for scale. As you can see, the Mantic terrain provides an excellent base to create and build great terrain for a number of different game systems such as Bolt Action, Moderns, or Post Apocalyptic gaming.