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…


10 thoughts on “Not-So-Grand Designs

  1. Some really nice buildings there Jez, something I keep saying I’ll do but never actually get round to doing! I like Mo’s tavern and the back they are corker’s

    Cheers Roger.


    • Thanks Roger. Other than a few Plasticville buildings I managed to pick up when they were semi-readily available in the UK, all my buildings are scratch-built. The building part is the more creative aspect, then you get to painting and realise that buildings take a loooooong time to paint. Which I guess is why 4Ground’s are so popular.


  2. So far so good mate, surely not too much to do on a couple of those. I must admit I love making buildings and have a few scenic items on the go at anyone time, so much to do so little time….


    • Thanks Andy. It was your Bushido building posts that encouraged me to finish off the kura and then I realised that I had a few more buildings that needed finishing touches, so I now had a topic for the month. So you are to thank/blame. 😉


  3. Another inspirational Jez project hits the ground running. Really looking forward to you performing your usual magic, my friend, and your thoughts on your new game-mat (once its ordered & bought). Although the mats seem to be purchasable now on the “Mantic” website – to me at least?


    • Thanks Simon. These have been hanging around for a while, so it was past time they got finished off. As each of the scratch-built buildings are constructed slightly differently, it gives me an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of each type, as well as where to find cheap (or free) materials.
      And for some reason it wasn’t behaving for me. I would have bought one at Salute, but they weren’t carrying any stock. However, the Urbanmatz one is a better size and offers a better layout, so whilst it’s more expensive, I’ll only need the one.


  4. Now this should be a blast, really looking forward to seeing these progress, especially Ghostbusters HQ. I have a couple of the Mantic mats, but really love the look of the Urbanmatz.


    • Thanks Michael. Having already got one of the Mantic ones, your BMG batrep encouraged me to get another one. Then my wife decided she wanted a different shaped dining table…
      I’ve been looking for a decent urban mat for a while, but they were either too futuristic or too apocalyptic. This one meets my needs for all modern gaming, be it superhero, Ghostbusters, gang warfare, etc.


  5. I’m a big fan of model buildings and the more detailed they are, the more I like them. As this is a topic very close to my heart, I’ll be following your posts very closely. Best of luck to you, Jez.


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