Living in a Box

For the last post in ‘Buildings’ month here at the Buffet, we will be looking at the final, and probably most common type of building, what I like to refer to as the Shoebox. Basically, this type of building is a hollow shell with integral floor and removable roof, to allow access to the interior – exactly like a shoebox. To illustrate this type of building, we will be using my scratch-built ‘bar’, which when we last saw it, looked like this;


Previously owned by a gentleman of Polish extraction, who ran the place as a bar, this particular property stood empty for a number of months, until recently purchased by Harry Valentine, owner of the restaurant chain Cupid Burgers. Repairs have been made and the initial company livery applied to the shell. The contractors still need to install the doors, complete the interior and add the signage and fibre-glass “Cupid” mascot…


So, the walls of this particular building are made from a single piece of foamcard, with the corners mitred. This results in stronger walls, as the exterior is a single strip of card, and all the walls are attached to this, rather than individuals ‘walls’. The windows and door holes were cut out whilst the strip was still flat.

Once glued into the exterior shell shape, this was mounted onto the base, which was made from a piece of self-adhesive vinyl floor tile, sticky side up. The advantage of doing this is that you don’t need to glue the walls in place, as the glue is already there and as it’s designed to stick the tile to the floor, its pretty strong. However, the disadvantage is that the parts of the base where the wall isn’t attached are sticky, so need to be covered with something or they’ll attract dust, cat hairs, etc. A quick coat of paint or a piece of card cut to the right size can solve this issue.

As the external walls were a bit too smooth for my liking, I decided to clad them with sandpaper, to create texture and give the impression of stucco walls. Next, the window and door holes were lined with lengths of wooden coffee stirrers to create window frames and doorjambs, with additional lengths of coffee stirrer used to create the external half-timbering.

The drainpipe was made using the internal plastic tube from a ballpoint pen, cut to the relevant length and shape, with the end bent. And when you remove the ‘roof’, this is what the inside currently looks like;


Here’s a close up of the drainpipe and details of the textured wall;


The roof was made from a further piece of foamcard, with the roof edge created using ‘hobby wood’ and the roof texture created using a further piece of self-adhesive vinyl floor tile, which had the added advantage of giving the roof some heft. A plastic generator from a G.I. Joe action figure was then added to the roof, as it looked like an air conditioning unit.

And then Batman showed up, as he does…


Apparently, he’s quite partial to Cupid Burgers and had heard there was a new restaurant opening soon.  However, as they’d not actually finished the installation, whilst Alfred had provided him with his lunch money in his Bat-Purse, he couldn’t actually buy his favourite Cupid Burger – the Big Eros. Looks like he’s not too happy about it…


Luckily, Bats heard a scream in the alley behind the restaurant – “No Cupid Burger for Bruce!” he snarled, “Someone’s about to enter…A…World…Of…Pain!!”


For a more comprehensive guide to making foamboard buildings, check out this playlist from The Terrain Tutor – Mel knows his stuff and is a very entertaining host.

As most of you should now be aware, June is;


month, where myself and some of those within my blogging circle are creating 28mm versions of superheroes or villains that have yet to have a figure made of them or have, but it wasn’t very good. There is still time to join in, all you need to do is visit the ‘official’ site here, and make a comment on their stating your intention to take part. Even if you haven’t got a blog, Roger (who set up this site) has taken it upon himself to post entries from non-bloggers, details of which can be found in the ‘Contact’ section of the site. Some of those who’ve expressed an interest have yet to formally ‘register’ (such as Vampifan…tsk, tsk!) so if you haven’t done so yet, go and do so!

As this particular project will involve the conversion of a quite a few Heroclix figures, if you prefer them in their unaltered state, I would suggest you take a look at the latest post on the All Things Dungeon Crawl blog, which features a comprehensive overview of the Heroclix brand and a rather interesting batrep.

That’s all for this month – join me next week, when I will be taking a selection of cheap Heroclix singles and attempting to turn them into completely different heroes!

Building Blocks

As I have had the week from Hell AND have been working on an extra-special secret gaming project, the actual progress on the buildings this week isn’t that much.

However, as this post was going to be mainly about “building materials” and the example building I’m using for this week’s post does look sufficiently different from last time, it’s all good.

So, this week we’re looking at the type of building I refer to as the ‘Block’, and we’re using my scratch-built bank as an example, which looked all Gotham City last time…


But has had a bit of a face-lift and now looks all…purty. Don’t worry, it won’t be remaining like this, as this looks like it needs gingham curtains, window boxes and unicorns with rainbows coming out of their asses…


Back at the Dawn of Wargaming, if you wanted a building for your battlefield, your only option was the Block. This was a solid, one-piece resin casting, usually of a half-timbered building of some sort. They were pretty well-detailed and usually just required painting, but they were heavy and they smelt…funny. I had some Torchlight (remember them?) dungeon terrain, which I got rid of  due to not getting used to the smell. Each to their own, I guess…

So, the Block is essentially a solid cube or block, with no access to the interior. Mainly used as a LOS blocker, but athletic figures can climb the walls and scamper about on the roof, especially if flat like the bank above.

The bank is made mainly from corrugated cardboard, so is hollow and therefore quite light. “Corrugated cardboard?”, I hear you cry, “But that’s a crap material to use to build wargames models!” True, it has its issues, but it also has its advantages. There are two main problems with corrugated cardboard, both related to the corrugations – firstly, any cut end shows the cavities between the corrugations and secondly, once painted, as the cardboard sandwiching the corrugations is quite thin, this shows through the paint as pretty obvious lines. However, both of these problems can be dealt with and corrugated cardboard is a lot cheaper than the equivalent in foamboard.

The cavities showing on cut ends can be filled with putty or covered with a variety of sticky tapes. A good example of this is the back two edges of the roof above and the front steps shown below.

The lines showing through the paint can be dealt with by either covering the top layer with another layer of card or textured paper, such as wallpaper samples or sandpaper. Alternatively, as with the bank, choose a ‘double-skinned’ box. These are the sort of boxes that have a further glossy layer over the normal corrugated cardboard, such as those that office printer cartridges come in or large children’s toys. The additional layer, being pre-printed, takes a few more layers of paint to cover (use car spray primer, it’s cheaper), but prevents the ‘lines’ showing through your wonderful paint job.

The other advantage of ‘double-skinned’ cardboard is the outside layer is thick enough to allow scoring of detail, without breaking through the surface, as shown below:


As you can see, the detail of the stone ‘blocks’ was scored on, prior to additional details being added. The windows were cut out completely, and a piece of semi-textured plastic glued behind the hole. Greyboard, which is used as dividers in boxes of envelopes supplied to offices (and is therefore free!) strips were used to create the lintel and windowsill, with cut-down toothpicks used for the uprights.

The base of the building and the detail above was created simply by gluing further lengths of greyboard to the sides, with each layer being slightly smaller, to give the impression of carved stonework.


The door was built up in a similar way, with successive layers of greyboard, The decorative plaque above the door is actually a button and the porch roof is a small piece of textured plastic, bent and then stuck onto the building. The decorative ‘molding’ around the top of the building is merely a strip of corrugated cardboard with the top layer removed. The best way to do this is to wet it first, then carefully peel it off.

Moving “up on the roof…”


The whole roof was covered with a layer of coarse sandpaper, which was then painted black. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT use a brush you intend to paint anything else with on painting large areas of sandpaper, as it will f*ck it up. Use a cheap decorating brush. You have been warned.

Adding details to an essentially large stretch of nothing is a good way to give your building character. The roof ‘furniture’ above was made from a square nut, cup washer and plastic fitting from some flat pack furniture for the chimney and a square GW base and a small offcut of plastic coffee stirrer for the hatch. The vent below was some kind of DIY fitting, but made a good roof vent.



When looking for building materials, remember the Womble mentality, i.e. make good use of the things that you find. Pins, pop fasteners and buttons from the sewing box, plastic bits and bobs left over from flat-pack furniture, the remains of your used-up ballpoint pen – all of these can provide materials for converting an empty box into something a little bit special. Give it a go – you might surprise yourself with the results.

Next week – the Shoebox building. And hopefully more painting.

The ‘Shell’ Game

In the first proper post regarding scratch-built buildings for wargames, I will be using my Kura as an example of the type of building I call a ‘shell’. There’s probably a proper ‘terrain-buildier’ term for this kind of structure, but this is what I call it. Essentially, it’s a hollow structure with no bottom, so similar to a walnut shell, hence the name.

The advantage of this type of building is that it’s one-piece, so you won’t lose any parts, and because it’s hollow, it’s both lightweight and allows you to hide things inside. However, the disadvantage is that you can only access the interior by moving the building.

I have already gone over how I constructed this particular building here, so go there for full details. This is where I’d got to last time:


Whilst pretty much done, it still required a door, so I gathered my bits and bobs and started work. However, my first attempt was bloody awful, so into the bin it went and back the drawing board I went.

After some thought, I decided to use a single block of thick Balsa, with the individual planks scored in using a bradawl. As the ‘door’ looked a little bare, I decided to add ‘bolts’ to the door by pushing pins through the balsa and snipping off the excess shaft at the rear. A lock-plate was made by using a piece of textured self-adhesive floor tile and a door-handle from a picture framing screw-in hoop. And this was the result;


As I had the ‘bits box’ out, I decided to add a ‘guest’ to the structure in the shape of a plastic rat from the HeroQuest game, whose tail I managed to snap off and lose…somewhere.


So, the first order was to paint the rat, which was undercoated in white, then painted with Docrafts Flesh, the fur then painted with GW *something* Brown, then a wash of the same brown mixed with black. And this is how he ended up;


The door received a couple of coats of GW *something* Brown until it reached the same/similar colour to the rest of the wood on the building, with the bolt heads, lockplate and handle initially painted with GW Chainmail, followed by GW Black Iink. And it was done…finally.


A pretty nice looking building, made from various scraps I had lying about, which means that it was cost-effective (i.e. cheap). And yes, that is the bank in the background, but you’ll have to wait until next week for a closer look.


Not-So-Grand Designs

The problem with celebrities is that you think you know them, due to having been exposed to them via television, magazines, etc.

Take Kevin McCloud, for example, the host of Grand Designs on Channel 4…

Comes across as an enthusiastic and passionate advocate of architecture and all-round nice chap, right? However, should you suggest that there might be room for another television show following the same format as Grand Designs, but concentrating on those of us in the hobby who scratch-build buildings for our games, possibly called “Grand Designs…in Miniature” and maybe hosted by everyone’s favourite Eagle Muppet lookalike, well, then you might get a different view of him.

Especially when he pulls a katana out of God-knows-where and launches himself across the table at you, whilst screaming “There can be only one!”in a French accent…

So, in the absence of my own Channel 4 television series, for the month of May I shall be concentrating on buildings for wargames, specifically scratch-built ones. And attempting to ‘complete’ some half-finished ones that have been gathering dust – literally in some cases.

So, as the majority of my gaming takes place in an urban environment, I need some-where to ‘place’ my buildings and currently I use this:


This is a Mars Attacks Deluxe Gaming Mat, which used to be available from Mantic Games for a very reasonable £14.99. Strangely, whilst you can search for it and find it on their website, when you try and view it you get an error message, so perhaps they no longer want your money…

It’s 2′ square and has 3″ squares for the Mars Attack game, but these are so faint that they can be ignored. It’s a thin pre-printed cloth mat with rubber backing – so essentially a giant mouse mat. The detailing is very nice, although the roads are a little narrow for 1/43 scale vehicles, but if you’re primarily using it for skirmish gaming, this isn’t an issue. And for what you get, it’s very reasonable. I think I only paid half retail including shipping, which was a bargain.

However, I personally have two issues with it, 1. It would appear Mantic no longer sell it and 2. as my primary playing are has change from a 3′ x 4 1/2′ oblong table to a circular 3′-ish table, it’s no longer really suitable except for very small games.

So, I intend to replace it, when funds allow, with one of these:

Urban District 3'x3'

This is the Urban District 3′ x 3′ gaming mat from Urbanmatz. This will set me back 35 Euros, but is a rubber-backed cloth-topped gaming mat, similar to my Mars Attacks one, and comes with its own carrying bag. And the image above is of the 3′ square one – they do bigger sizes for those with greater table space. Follow the link above to see a gallery of the may being used for the Batman Miniature Games, which was one of the reasons I decided on it.

Digression over- bring on the buildings…

The first building I intend on completing is this one;


This is my kura, from Oriental Fantasy month back in August last year. As I ran out of time, I failed to provide a scenic base and door, which means that as storehouses go, it’s not particularly secure. So, that’s the first building.

Next up is my converted firehouse, which is intended to be the headquarters of my Ghostbusters;


Whilst I know this isn’t strictly scratch-built, it has been modified and still needs finishing, so it’s been added to the list.

Next is a building that has been used as a backdrop in a variety of my previous photos – the Bank;


One of the first buildings I ever made, it’s a sealed unit on its own base. Lsts of nice fancy detailing, but I made the mistake of painting it a very dark brown and it needs a face-lift.

Finally, what will eventually become a fast-food restaurant, which may look a little familiar…


I think the previous owner may have run it as a bar…

So, four weeks – four buildings. Let’s see how well I do…

May the Farce Be With You…

When I started this particular project in April, the idea was that due to potentially losing a week due to attending Salute, I pick out some partially completed figures that just needed finishing off and…well, finish them off.

As usual, I then decided to add something more to the project – namely building a truck for my clowns to tool around in – which added to my workload.

Which is my way of explaining why we’re effectively in May, but only just finished off April’s project. To be fair, I’m only two days off my planned end date and it still counts as the same weekend, due to the Bank Holiday, so I can live with that.

So, I’ve finally finished my Clown Gang. Here are Tom Foolery, Merry Andrew and Silly Billy, in all their multi-coloured glory!


And here are Marionette and Sweet William:


And finally, M.I.R.T.H.:


And here is the (almost) finished Clownmobile:


I say almost, because whilst the painting and assembly is completed, I was intending on finding out some appropriate circus posters, re-sizing them and printing them out to stick to the sides of the lorry. However, whilst I did find some, I forgot to measure the side of the truck first and they were too big and the dpi was a little low-resolution, so they didn’t look quite the way I wanted. I also feel it needs a number plate, so I also need to do that too.

Here’s a close-up of the cab showing the steering wheel, seat and canopy.


And here’s Merry Andrew, skulking in the back of the truck, doing his best Pennywise impression,  “Do you want a balloon?”  


And finally a group shot, showing the entire gang (so far) and the Clownmobile, ready to empty bank vaults, rob jewellery stores and generally act in a larcenous manner.


And why did I say “so far”? Well, as part of the FORGOTTEN HEROES project announced in my last post, I need to order some figures to form the basis of my conversions. As I always try to order enough figures to justify the postage, I may have added a couple of other figures to my order, including one which I intend to add to my Clown Gang.

Speaking of FORGOTTEN HEROES, there’s still time to join in. The ‘rules’ are simple – create a 28mm superhero or villain (or more than one, if you’re feeling ambitious) during June, ideally one that has not yet had an official (or unofficial) figure created for it. However, in a slight change to the original rules, you can create a character who has had an official or unofficial figure made for them, as long as you don’t use the original figure to make YOUR version. This was requested by someone who wants to make a ‘proper’ version of the character, as the official figure was not very good.

May was going to be a return to the Ghostbusters project, but I’ve decided that I really should finish off some of these half-finished buildings I have lying around, which does actually include my Ghostbusters HQ and my Kura, which still needs a door.