Let Me Take You by the Hand…

…and lead you through the streets of London…

As announced in my last post – Eliminating the Impossible – the Buffet will be travelling back in time to the Victorian era.

Now, whilst I have both a selection of suitable figures and some suitable buildings, what I didn’t have was anything to put them on.  I could go out and buy a suitable ‘cobbled streets’ gaming mat, but having had a look at these before, the smallest I’ve found is 3′ square and about £40. As my usual gaming surface (my dining table) can just about cope with a 2′ gaming mat, the smallest available mat was a bit too big, not to mention a bit too expensive…

However, I have actually been planning this particularly project for a while, working out exactly not only how I was going to do it, but how I was going to do it cheaply.

Way back in November, in the post Welcome to Easy Street, I showed how I made a remarkably cheap and easy 1′ square modern road tile, using self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles, sandpaper and hobby foam. This post will show you how to do the same thing for Victorian streets, but with a few variations.

So, at the end of this project, I intend to have my own small slice of London, represented by four 1′ square gaming tiles, a selection of street furniture and buildings and a handful of suitable dressed civilians and personalities…and a bunch of monsters.

First things first, we need some Victorian streets and nothing says Victorian like cobbles. Now you can buy both resin and plastic sheets of cobbles, which can then be attached to whatever basing material you choose, but here at the Buffet, we like to show you how to do things more cost effectively. So rather than spending money on these, take a stroll down to your local DIY shop and walk into the wallpaper section.

Wallpapers come in a wide selections of styles, colours and prices, but we don’t care about this, because we’re looking for texture. Probably about 30% of the wallpapers on offer in any DIY shop will have some kind of texture on them, but the kind you’re looking for will have lots of little bumps on it that, when suitably painted, will give the impression of cobbles. And the best thing about this wallpaper is that the shops actually encourage you to rip off a sample and take it home. That’s right, boys and girls, it’s free! (I do have to admit to always feeling a little bit guilty when walking out of the shop with my tightly rolled sample, which is probably a good 18-20″ in length, knowing that I have no intention of every buying a roll of the stuff, but that won’t prevent me from going back if I haven’t got quite enough…)

So, we have our ‘cobbled’ paper, a pack of Poundland special self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles and some Poundland grey primer spray paint. After some measuring, cutting, sticking and spraying, you end up with something that looks like this;

The figure in the picture above is a West Wind Productions Victorian policeman, from their Vampire Wars: jack the Ripper 28mm range, which gives an idea of scale.

The next picture gives you a better idea of what the ‘cobbles’ look like in close-up.

Whilst one of my friends felt that a proper representation of cobbles should have the cobbles closer together, this isn’t a diorama, but a gaming tiles to give the impression of cobbles. As the three tiles I made took a couple of hours and cost me a grand total of £2.00, I think they look pretty good.

However, whilst they looked pretty good as a base, they needed a bit more detailing to match my idea of what I wanted to achieve. And this is where things didn’t go according to plan…

So, having got my base tiles, I decided that I was going to scribe pavements onto the inch wide strips, scoring these into the vinyl floor tiles with a bradawl. Once this was done, I would wash the whole tile in a brown ochre wash, which should not only ‘fill’ the scribed lines between the paving slabs, but also dirty up my road a bit, making them look more realistic.

However, whilst the scribing looked good, all it actually did was remove the top layer of spray paint, so when I applied the wash, all it did was show up the underlying colour of the tiles. And it made the tiles look a bit crap. After a bit of rethinking and a further visit to both Poundland and a different DIY shop, I had another can of grey primer and some different textured wallpaper, this time what was described as ‘mosaic’, which was basically lots of little squares.

As approximately two and a bit of these squares covered about an inch, I cut several strips an inch wide of my sample, then glued these down over the sections I had previously scribed as pavements, then re-sprayed the tiles. The end result was this;

Whilst they may not be offset paving slabs like I had originally intended, I think they look a lot more effective than if I’d tried to either paint the paving slabs on individually or tried to paint the lines on freehand.

As I’ve only completed three of the intended four tiles, I dug out my pumpkin patch tile I made last October, to show what the completed playing area will look like;

I decided to cut out the pavement on the bottom left tile to make them more modular and give me more options in layout. The final fourth tile, which will replace the pumpkin patch, will be a churchyard, utilising the iron railings I got at Salute from Renedhra and a Plasticville ‘cathedral’, which is a little too small to be a cathedral, but does make an acceptable small church.

I still need a few rows of Victorian housing and probably a pub, which will be scratch-built, along with some gas lamps. Having looked online at the various gas lamps available, I will probably be scratch-building these too – I know roughly how I’m going to do these, just need to work out the best way to do the actual lamps, as the bases and posts will be a cinch.

So, that’s how far I’ve got with my Gothic Victoriana tiles, and so far it’s cost me just under a fiver, which is pretty good going.

Join me next time and we’ll hopefully see my small slice of London look a bit more built-up.

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29 thoughts on “Let Me Take You by the Hand…

  1. Very attractive Jez. Cobbles do indeed say “Victorian” and “London” don`they, strange that but its true >>chuckles<<

    nicely done, and look forward to seeing what you do next.

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    • Thanks Steve. Whilst there were a few hiccups whilst making them, the final result looks pretty much how I envisaged it. And once you’ve got cobbles and gas lamps, you’re pretty much there when going Victorian. 😉

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  2. Great work Jez, have you thought of putting in search in Ebay for Christmas Diorama stuff, there is an American company that does Victorian style stuff to make up those awful Xmas scenes. I got some in a sale at a local garden centre after xmas a few years back to use with my Christmas Wars figures.
    Now I no you don’t need it now but I seem to recall they did roll out mats of cobbles and street lamps and the prices were pretty reasonable.
    Oh and check out the link below, Will used the same paper you did for your pavements to create his dungeon walls, and he has also done railings..
    https://thegrinningskull.com/2016/06/18/grims-dungeons-of-doom-realm-of-the-dead-opening-cemetery-gates/
    https://thegrinningskull.com/2016/07/08/grims-dungeons-of-doom-realm-of-the-dead-metal-railed-walls/
    Cheers Roger.

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    • Ah, that would be the Lemax Christmas Village stuff I keep hearing about. Readily accessible in the U.S. but not quite as easy to find over here.

      Thanks for the links – very interesting stuff. I think Michael did some similar with the walls of his Gotham zoo, although there were a few more statues of penguins, if I recall correctly.

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  3. these are as close as you`re going to get to cobble stones at that price. The price is wonderful, and I honestly don`t think (when a game is set up) that anyone is going to notice the stones are a tiny bit too spaced apart. I`d say this is a job well done.

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    • Thanks Hils. Given the remarkably low price it cost me to make them, I’m pretty pleased with how they’ve turned out. Let’s see if I can make half a dozen or so gas lamps using similar ingenuity and I’ll consider it a job well done.

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    • Thanks Dave. As my gaming budget is quite small, this forces me to come up with ingenious ways in which to use inexpensive (or free) materials to get what I want. And hopefully when it’s finished, you’ll be hard-pressed to know if it’s bought or made.

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  4. I don’t see the cobbles being far apart as a problem, as you say the idea of the terrain is to suggest a concept rather than accuracy, which is why our model buildings are smaller than they should be in relation to the people. Great work Jez.

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    • Thanks Andy. You’re absolutely right. It’s not an architectural model or a diorama, it’s for gaming, so as long as it looks ‘right’, it doesn’t need to be 100% accurate. Once they’ve got buildings, scenery and figures on, the overall impression of a Victorian street will be reinforced. And worrying about the spacing of the cobbles, especially with ‘orrible monsters stalking you through the fog, is a good way to get yourself killed. 😉

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    • {{which is why our model buildings are smaller than they should be in relation to the people}}

      You`re dead right Andy. Its an accepted convention among the more historical wargamers to use buildings that are slightly small scale than the miniatures themselves (so for example, for 28mm figures, one would perhaps use 20mm / HO/OO buildings). It just looks better on the table top than true to scale terrain would do, and fools/pleases the eye better.

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    • Thanks Michael. I do need my final tile to make it 100% Victorian, as I don’t recall pumpkin patches being something that featured a great deal in fiction of the time… 😉

      And I know that you used Tamiya street lamps for your Gotham build, but I felt that the cost was prohibitive for the amount I needed, so scratch-building will be the way for me. I know roughly how I’m going to do it, it’s just working out how to do the actual lamp itself I’m unsure of. I’m sure I’ll come up with something though…

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  5. If its of any use to know, the cobblestones belonging the Georgian market place of Richmond (N’Yorks) are separated quite a distance from each other and match your wallpaper cobblestones quite accurately. When the Council repairs stretches of the cobbled market place it is always quite surprising the distance between cobbles, when there’s no sand and cement mortar filling in the gaps between.

    Anyway, cracking good work!

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    • Thanks Roy. That’s good to know – I had a feeling that there HAD to be cobblstones that did look like this.

      And I’ve been eyeing up those Victorian mourners on the Colonel Bill’s site, as they look exactly the kind of thing that would fit it my view of Victorian London. Will you guys be attending Warfare here in sunny Reading in November? If so, I think I shall be spending some of my hard-earned pennies with your good selves. 😁

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      • Yes, Colonel Bill’s is trading at Reading I can confirm
        (just looked it up on the website’s notice board and its listed as “18th/19th Nov Warfare, Reading”)

        I’ve just started working the trade stall at the shows (as of yesterday), but at present I can only do the ‘close-to-home’ shows so I won’t be there to say hello, unfortunately. But Stuart and (probably it’ll be Scottie – there’s a few of us helpers) are both nice chaps and very approachable and will chat.
        If you pre-order anything for the show, purchases receive a 10% price reduction – payment on the day, or in advance. Might be of help to know.

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  6. What incredible terrain Jez, and all your own built too. Ahhhh, how I miss this and feel all inspired now with the sights and smells (in my imagination) of old London, carriages and four.. the chestnut seller on the street corner: “Hot Chestnuts, hot chestnuts, get yer hot chestnuts `ere`.. paperboy with a pile of broadsheets under his arm, selling copies of “The Strand” and cobblestone streets of course. Ahhhh, wistful imaginings. “cor lummy, what a picture, what a photograph.”

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    • Thanks Tar. Hopefully as this project progresses and I flesh out the details, it will become more ‘real’. Lots more to come…including gas lamps! Can’t do ‘Victorian’ without gas lamps…

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  7. So for double post, wordpress is playing up.

    I think the thing to do in situation potentially this large (assuming you don`t just mean a boardgame), where the sheer number of possibilities are so vast, making a distinct era in history come alive, all be it a fantasy representation, if you hold fast to the notion that for it to feel Victorian, it must seem Victorian, then its a case of just making a start. Any big subject is the same and the same principles apply. Historical American Civil War times, the Age of Napoleon, The Crusaders, or even the diverse `true` fantasy mythologies out there, Middle Earth, The Seven Kingdoms, Narnia, etc, you can easily get caught up on the visual minutia, at the expense of enjoying just doing it. I must have the right houses, I must have the right figures, I must have the right visual tone, and so it goes on; and nothing gets done. You could go on forever making an aesthetic London set up, and yet no game. Its to impossible task we gamers often set ourselves. Role Players got it right in the day (though even they now are getting caught up in the misguided need for perfection on the table top). Role Players started by IMAGINING the visual, describing what they knew from the books they had read and the joint knowledge they had in their heads. The rest was role play, graph paper, pencil and paper and a heck of a lot of actual fun. If you only even plan a game, it will probably never happen, and if it does, will probably just disappoint, which I suspect is why we procrastinate so much, terrified actually to begin.

    But that is the key, just begin.

    Play on hand drawn 2 dimensional maps, play with what you already have in your range, add nice stuff in later, but all importantly, begin. Or it never seems to come off. Only plan and it will never live. Play first and plan as you go, and you will be a head and shoulders over most of us.

    (you can tell who I`ve been taking about this with >>big grin<<)

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    • I can’t imagine who you could possibly mean…

      She’s got to you too, hasn’t she? *sigh*

      However, I do understand what you mean. I think bloggers, because it’s a ‘show and tell’ kind of experience, do tend to concentrate on getting the environment ready before actually playing any games. I’ve been guilty of this just as much as others – you kind of feel that peiple won’t be interested in the game unless it looks ‘pretty’.

      What I intend on doing is getting enough ‘structures’ on my boards to give an impression of a built-up area of London to enable me to play. We might end up with shoeboxes as buildings, but the idea is to add the ‘detail’ as I go along, so the first adventure might feature just plain boxes, but as it progreses, more detail will be added, slowly but surely creating my small slice of London.

      But first, I must built some gas lamps. Once you’ve got cobbles and gas lamps, everything else can wait.

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