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.


10 thoughts on “Building Blocks

  1. Superb Sir! that is a truly excellent bank, I’ve been thinking of doing a bank for a while and that is spot on, I have some wedding cake pillars that I keep thinking would look good on it somewhere but now I’m not so sure. I guess I could cut them in half and use them as decoration…. Hmm you’ve got me thinking now, always a dangerous thing.

    No Forgotten Heroes first! damn you!

    Cheers roger.


    • Thanks Roger. If you’re playing Supers, gangsters of whatever era or even VBCW, you need a bank. Otherwise, what will your villains rob? And if this post has put the wind back in your sails in a hobby sense, then my work here is done… 😉


    • Thanks Andy. I always try and look beyond the surface – what does this object’s shape lend itself to? What can I make with this? Luckily, I don’t hoard too much stuff, otherwise my wife would go spare.


    • Thanks Steve. Just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to throw money at manufacturers to get a decent looking building on the table. The whole building was constructed from either bits I had lying around or stuff that my work was going to throw out – so the only thing I spent was time. I likes a bargain, me!


  2. This is frugal gaming at its best and as you show, cheap does not necessarily mean nasty. You’ve done a great job on bringing this building to live. Well done, Jez!


    • Thanks Michael. Each dirt cheap building made rather than bought mean more funds available for figures. I get the best of both worlds – terrain AND miniatures. And you can’t be told off if you’ve made it yourself, which is an added bonus. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.