Starting the Breeding Pits

I’ve bought in to the Gnickstarter for Frostgrave, ‘Into the Breeding Pits’, so thought I’d start on some underground terrain. Decided on 1″ squares so they are also useable for D&D, and a set of rooms with 2″ apertures in teh walls , so that I could put blanks or entrances in to allow me to vary things. I’m going to make some passages as well. This is about the first room I have made, together with an arched partition that I can use to break the room up.

The floors are 4mm mdf (masonite), and the walls are made of the same thing, faced with styrofoam. I have started with 1 room 8″ by 12″, 2 which are 12″ square, and 2 sections which are 16″ by 12″ with one open side that will allow me to put them together to make a large open area, although it would be broken up with pillars and the like to reduce line of sight. The following pic shows them together;rooms The walls are 10cm high to give me some height to play with.

Next I tile the floors with artists mounting board, including some broken tiles. The bare areas will be filled in with styrofoam walls.

tiles Next, I cut a 10 cm strip of 25mm blue styrofoam using my trusty hot-wire table, and cut it to length to wrap round the mdf walls. To avoid waste, cut a section long enough so that when it is spilt it will cover 2 wall sections. This is hard to describe but I hope that the second of the following pictures, where I have cut the 2 halves with the hot wire table, will explain it. Before cutting I mark up the stonework using a ruler and a cheap lining pen obtained from The Works – 3 pens for £1. Each row is 1cm deep. The pen makes grooves in the foam. I then use the trick I picked up from Lead adventure whereby a ball of scrunched-up kitchen foil is pressed against the foam to texture the surface.

wall 1wall 2The ridges are so that you don’t end up with a very thin section of wall with a complete gap between the foam and the MDF, as in the following picture.

walls 3

Next stage is to make the inserts for the entrances, and a partition section so that the room can be broken up if I want 2 smaller areas. The Inserts are 2″ wide, and the partition is 6″ wide. I decided to make 1 blank insert, 2 with an arched entrance, and one where someone or something has burrowed through the wall. These next 2 pictures show an arched section


The arch is marked on the foam using the lining pen around a jig that I have constructed from plastic sheeting, which I’ll illustrate with the partition section below. The entrance is cut out using a cheap retractable craft knife. A shield has bee pressed into the foam and glued with pva to provide some decoration. For the burrowing section I wanted to have some blocks removed from the wall, with a more irregular hole behind it to represent digging through rock or earth behind the wall. I cut the section into 2 pieces along one the the block joint lines so that I could slide the craft knife in behind the back of the blocks. This picture shows the insert cut into 2 and the blocks cut out of the wall.


I then gave it a base made om mounting card which projects forward and glued some blocks and rubble (Oyster shell bird grit) to it.

For the partition I decided to have 2 arches in it, using the jig. Here is a pic of the 3 jigs I have, the one I used for this was the one on the left.


jigsThe idea is that one side is fixed to a slider strip, and the other is free to slide along that strip so that both sides can sit snugly against both sides of styrofoam sheets of different thicknesses. There are some pinholes so that both side is pinned in place. The lining pen is used to mark up the stone joints and the joining points, so that when the jig is removed, the joints can be completed with a ruler and the lining pen. The next picture shows the jig in place in the partition, and the pattern of marks where it has already been used for the other arch. The second picture shows where the joints have been linked up to complete the outline of the blocks comprising the arch.


partition 1partition 2

The next stage is to mark in the blocks, but I wanted to put in a piece of decorative stonework to represent the guild sign of the Vintners Guild. so I marked and cut out a section to match the size of the plaque I had produced.

partition 3


The plaque uses the moulding compound that Aiden used for his well in his earlier article, called Oyumaru. Had to send to Japan for it, but pleased I did. Firstly I made a master. On a thin sheet of card glued to a piece of mdf, I constructed a design using Fimo heat-drying modelling clay – although the grapes are poppy seeds glued on using pva. This picture shows the master part-way through construction – I baked it at intervals so that sections of it were hard and didn’t get ruined when I added extra leaves.plaque 1

When the design was complete and baked, I took a mould using the compound. When that had cooled down – you make it pliable in hot water – I mix some plaster of paris and fill the mould. when it is dry I ease it out. Sometimes it breaks – next time my master will have a thicker base – but the crack in the plaque  on this one looks better to me. I used pva to glue it in place.

partition 4

Everything was then ready for the first coat of paint, which was  mixture of white, witha little black and brown mixed in. Here is the room, the partition and the inserts;


1st coat room1st coat inserts

To stop the gaps in the tiles from being too stark, a mix of fine sand pva, and varying amounts of black and brown were mixed up and rubbed into the gaps. Once dry, I then dry brushed the walls with white to which much smaller amounts of black and grey were added, to lighten the surface. Finally thin washed with varying mixes of black, brown and green were applied to the walls and floors. I then put them together with a few figures and took some pics, as follows. Some of the photography is a bit rough – especially the blurry skeletal leader. The furniture is a couple of commercial resin pieces I have painted up.

face off skeletons facin the rats partition shot rats rats 2 rats web undead pharoah Wizard Wizards chamber

Inquisitor Cynole playtest photos

A couple of weeks behind schedule, I’ve finally set up for the scenario playtest for the Inquisitor Cynole game. I was starting to worry a bit, but I’ve really pushed on in the last few weeks. Last weekend I printed out a draft set of the temple floorplans,  finished the first draft of the briefings and forces and made another 3 feet of chainlink fencing. I thought I had masses, but it turned out when I laid it out, I didn’t have enough.

We’ve set the whole game out and played the first couple of turns. I can’t show you too much in case of spoilers, but here are some photos from the initial setup.

Temple floorplan

Temple floorplan

This is a 4ft x 8ft table. On the day it’ll be a 6ft x 12ft, which will allow for a bit more jungle round the edge, and space for people to lay out their reference sheets etc. Up one end is the temple, then there’s a big compound full of ruins, surrounded by electrified fence, and beyond that… the jungle.


Luckily I already had all the jungle, so I didn’t have to make any of that, but all the ruins have been made specially.

More ancient ruins

More ancient ruins. Generator in the foreground


Shuttle on landing pad

In the foreground here, you can see a shuttle. I’m hoping to have a couple of ornithopters ready for the day, but in the meantime this is standing in.

Inquisitor Cynole scenario – background

The ‘thopter was a local model, ancient and noisy, the dull beat of its engines drowning any attempt at conversation. Dr Moenkhaus gestured to the ground.

‘That’, he said ‘is the main logging zone. You can see the loggernauts if you look closely’.
Inquisitor Cynole peered from the cabin window. Far below he could make out the brown patches where the forest had been cleared. Pinpricks of black betrayed the presence of the giant machines.

‘How far are we from the place?’, he asked.

‘About twenty miles. It’s impassable overland of course, but only a few minutes in a ‘thopter’.

Impassable – Cynole thought – how ready this doctor was to dismiss possibilities. Moenkhaus was either a fool or trying to conceal something.

from Chapter Approved – Book of the Astronomicon

At Bring Out Your Lead 2016, I’ll be running a scenario based on this intriguing snippet from the 1st Edition 40K supplement Book of the Astronomicon. In the old traditions of Rogue Trader, it’ll be very much a scenario that requires a GM; The players, a motley collection of human factions,  will  face an alien mystery. Below is the background – players will also receive an individual briefing.


The Planet Ardenjungle_planet

Located on the outer reaches of the Imperium, the planet Arden’s land masses viewed from orbit are pure, lush green; ancient terraforming has run wild in what is now shore-to-shore jungle. The only signs of human life are a few major cities where what passes for civilisation in this remote place can be found, but the majority of the planet’s people still live in the jungles. These wild and warlike tribes date from the Dark Age of Technology when life on the planet degenerated to Stone Age subsistence, with many significantly diverged from ‘human standard’. Although the planet has been re-contacted, the process of civilising its inhabitants has barely begun.

The city dwellers and the jungle natives are suspicious of each other, and many city dwellers consider the natives to be little more than animals.

Civil War

Power resides in the hands of many factions and cults, each with their own private armies. Only a few years ago, the power struggles had developed into open warfare with these factions grouped into a few alliances, and several of the cities were severely damaged. This war only ended with the arrival of Imperial forces who intervened and imposed a peace deal on the rivals, who have been forced to form a collaborative government.

Imperial Involvement

Inquisitor Cynole is participating in a new Imperial drive to drag this anarchic and backward place into the 41st Millenium. While Army training teams are developing their forces, and Adeptus Mechanicus tutor their technicians in the litanies of maintenance, his own role is to root out some of the decadence and corruption in the ill-disciplined and superstitious ruling classes. The widespread tolerance on this planet for mutants, aliens and psykers is also a concern.

Logging Operation

The Tcynole_junglerading Guild have been granted a licence to clear this area of the forest with their giant loggernauts. They have set up a base at a local landmark – a massive ruined temple built into a natural cave system. They are employing local native tribes to assist in the clearance, which has been broadly successful, although there are tensions and the occasional violent incident.

Discovery of the Artefact

Three days ago, accidental damage to a temple wall led to the discovery of a hidden chamber. Inside the chamber was an ancient and mysterious object, possibly of alien origin – an artefact of potentially great power and value. The Trading Guild declared the find, and brought in mercenaries to supplement the base security and secure the site. The government has dispatched a technical team from the Society of Mechanists (the planet’s equivalent of the Adeptus Mechanicus) to investigate the artefact further. Inquisitor Cynole has accompanied them, as this is potentially a find of importance at planetary level.

Also arriving at the temple is a noble’s hunting party, which has come to see what the excitement is about. He has no reason to be there, but his family rule this area and nobody has the authority to exclude him. Finally, word seems to have spread among the local tribes, and a large crowd of natives armed with primitive weapons has turned up in a state of some agitation.


Frostgrave arch


Wizard instructs barbarian in using what civilised people call a ‘doorway’

This rather fancy plastic arch came from some Heroquest style board game. It was used to join board pieces together with some plastic tags underneath, which I clipped off – otherwise it’s unaltered. I try not to make my stone work too ‘flat grey’ by which I mean the basic grey that you get when you mix black and white. I started this one off by painting it burnt umber, I then drybrushed with a brownish grey emulsion and added in very pale cream emulsion for the highlights. Finally I splashed on random washes of Wargames Foundry Phlegm Green and Terracotta. I added some small areas of brownish flock, some dried tea (of course) and a couple of fragments of tree root to finish.

I’ve got two of these arches – they have a different pattern on each side – below you can see the other one.


Arch works equally well as a free-standing portal

An Idol moment and a foam cutting table

In my doddery old age, I thought I would invest in a hot wire table to make slicing up blue foam a bit easier.
The one I chose is pictured below – I have marked the tabletop with lines at 1cm intervals to make it easy to cut to the required thickness. the guide bar makes straight cuts easy. I’ve not used it a lot yet, but it seems like a decent bit of kit. Got it from ebay for £35 – link here; hotwire cutter – I have no link with the seller.
I’m sure that with practise, freehand cuts would be easier, but at the moment it is easy to misjudge it and end up making a mistake. I wanted to come up with a way of being able to cut things in different shapes, and be able to produce things to a consistent size when I need to, and so decided to try making some templates from thick card. The wire won’t cut or burn them, and being softer than the wire, they should not damage the wire either.
The first project was to create a fancy base for a big statue. I obtained a crouching winged demon/gargoyle from some kind of trinket store. It looked a bit benign, so I added some horns and wing spikes, by drilling into the resin and inserting wire, then building the spikes with green stuff. I’d still rather it looked nastier, but it’s ok.
I could have put it on a rectangular base, but decided I wanted something a bit more exotic. I decided on an oval shape, but have a series of indentations where smaller statues will help support the top of the plinth. The smaller statues are plastic orcs from a boxed game I got years ago.
I trimmed the figure bases and cut the weapons to the same height as the top of the head. The base cutting was done at this time so that I could work out how big to make the indentations.
To create the template, I started by drawing up a rectangle on some thick card that could accommodate the main statue, and drew the required oval shape within it. Using the smaller figures, I marked up how wide the indentations had to be. Next stage was to cut out the basic oval shape from the card. When that’s done, I marked out the indentations using a handy little tool that I got from Poundland for £2. It has a little blade instead of a pencil and makes cutting the circular indentations very easy. This shows the template, the small figures and the cutter.

01 template and cutter
A piece of 25mm blue foam big enough for the template was then cut, and the template added to the top using a couple of bits of blu-tac.
Back to the cutting table. Loosen the straight guide and move it out so that the piece to be cut is not obstructed. Using the template, run the hot wire around it, and you get the resulting shape. Not perfect, but ok for a first attempt and good enough for my purposes. These show the cut piece with the template attached and without. I suspect I can find a use for those offcuts somewhere, as well.

02 template on base03 cut base

Using some 4mm obeche, I then cut the top and bottom of the plinth, and sanded the both edges of the top piece to round it, and just the top edge of the bottom piece so that it sits flush on the ground. the grid was marked to try and get a good oval shape. It was was a larger oval than that used for the support stone, to give a good overlap of 7-8 mm all round.

04 top and bottom of plinth

Just realised I didn’t take enough pictures of the next stage. I needed to disguise the figure bases for the supporting figures, so decide to use the thick card that I used for the template, together with some filler. At the same time, to give a neat finish to that raised area, and add a little detail, I decided to use the same card to put a 4mm wide oval around the bottom of the supporting structure. I used a mixed of grey paint and plaster filler to disguise some of the joins. Could have been a better job, but I was a bit impatient to get it done. This picture shows the figures glued in place, the oval strip laid down and the bases disguise. Note that I constantly checked that the support central stonework would sit in the resulting indentation properly.

05 small figures based

I then sprayed the plinth top and bottom, along with the small figures, with grey primer. The stone plinth was given a dark grey undercoat, and any stonework that would show was heavily drybrushed with white to which a small amount of black and brown was added. Then using a mix of black and bronze, I painted the idol and the smaller figures. Apologies for the contrast on this one.

06 first coat

Bronze statues can acquire a green patina – verdigris I think – over time. Having looked at a fair number of pictures, there doesn’t seem to be a standard pattern to it – some have patches, some streaks and some are completely green. Suspect it’s down to the distribution of copper in the mix, perhaps. I applied a mix of sage green and white to the idol and the other figures, leaving a few patches bare here and there, and on the idol in particular, trying to streak it down a bit. I then glued it all together.

07 verdigris

I then applied 2 washes to give the impression of weathering. One was a brownish mix, and another greenish. Not everywhere got coated  – some got 1, some none, and others both. I have a feeling that copper is not good for plants, so I didn’t use the green on the bronze figures or around their feet – on the basis that tiny amounts of copper might get washed down. To represent weathering, I try to make it look that the water has taken the logical route to flow down, and the easiest thing to do is to apply it to the top in the hope that it would take the correct route. 1 tip – on a dry figure it tends to puddle where you put it unless you use a lot. One thing I found on the idol – it you use plain water to wet the surface, the wash will then flow down that surface much more easily.

Here are front and back shots of the finished figure.

08 completed09 back view

I have put 2 gems into the eyes – these were obtained with a fair number of others from a discount craft/bookshop chain called The Works. Lots of useful stuff in there.

Bit surprised that these have not been taken by treasure seekers in Frostgrave. Those claws seem to be a bit shiny, and there are some dark reddish stains around the claws and mouth – but hey, it’s just a statue, isn’t it?

Frostgrave archer statue

Another element done for the Frostgrave scenarios. This plastic archer came to me mixed in with a load of undead from eBay.  He’s a little small, and the two-dimensional pose and poor detailing meant I had no use for him as a normal model.

Frostgrave statue

Frostgrave statue

I popped him on a Frostgrave disc-shaped base on top of an old Citadel display base (which I also had no other use for) and hey presto, a rather handsome statue. The large leaves on the base are from birch seed casings – at the end of summer you can harvest these. The moss flock I dotted on him was an important part of making him look more like a statue, rather than just a model painted grey.

I’d be interested to know where this model comes from – he is made of bright red plastic, which is rather unusual?

Frostgrave Well of Dreams and Sorrows

I’ve been working on some of the bits required for the scenarios in the main rulebook. This is the “Well of Dreams and Sorrows”. As followers of this blog would expect, it has been made for tuppence-ha’penny from bits of scrap.

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

I dug out an unwanted CD (AOL CD from 16 years ago – good terrain makers hoard everything), and a cardboard tube that had some kind of soap in it. I covered the CD with pizza base (scratched the CD up a bit to give it something to key into and used plenty of PVA.  I then used a piece of tarmac (very rough and knobbly), to dent up the surface of the pizza base.  The pattern was cut in with a scalpel and then opened up with a pencil tip.

I cut a hole in the pizza base to exactly fit the cardboard tube and stuck that in. The lipping on the top of it is simply mounting board stuck to the top of the tube with PVA.

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

The water was done in the same way as this frozen pond. Unfortunately the card tube end wasn’t quite flat and it took 3 layers to get it flat enough. With hindsight I should have cut a separate disc as the base.

Detail of well

Detail of well

To decorate the edge of the well, I used Oyamaru and Super Sculpey. Oyamaru is a re-usable silicone rubber – it has the texture of soft putty when heated, but a firm rubber when cooled. I’ve found that it isn’t really good enough to mould bits of models, but is ideal for this sort of thing. First I sculpted the original of each detail in Super Sculpey and baked it hard.   I then heated some Oyamaru and pressed it on to the originals to make moulds. Once the moulds had fully cooled – I used one of those freezer packs that you put in cold boxes to speed this up, because I was pretty impatient by this point, I packed Super Sculpey in and rolled it flat on the back with a pencil. Then I carefully peeled the Super Sculpey out of the mould and repeated until I had eight of each. The second from the left is the original – you can see the detail is a bit sharper and deeper cut, but the copies are certainly good enough for scenery. Because the Oyamaru mould itself is done in minutes, and you don’t have to leave the Sculpey in the mould to harden, you can make multiple copies of something in less than half an hour.

After hardening the copies, I then cut them to size (I had deliberately done them slightly longer than the height of the well), and stuck them on all the way round with PVA. There was a bit of a gap along the edge of each one, which I filled with decorator’s caulk. In another flash of hindsight I realised that I should have made more effort to curve them to match the well – it was very fiddly filling the gaps.

Super Sculpey sculpts

Super Sculpey sculpts

Rogue trader – raid on illegal crops

A few photos from a Rogue Trader scenario that Rowan has been putting together. The Imperial Guard are raiding a farm where criminals have been growing wheat. This is of course illegal in the 41st millenium, due to its use in the highly addictive foodstuff known as “cheese toasties”. In the central building are a number of scientists gone bad, who are helping them refine the raw product and are essential to the operation. The pirate gang have to get them to safety, but the only exit is on the side that the Imperial Guard are attacking from.


The centre of the operation, surrounded by crops

To add a further complication, one of the gang feels that he has been cheated of his fair share of the profits and is planning to shoot the scientists with a crossbow (silent and deadly). He is loose in the building and will have to be stopped.


Pirate scum defend their operation


“Don’t let them destroy our livelihoods”

So far in play testing, the pirates have won once, and the Guard have won once.

Frostgrave statues

Some fairly chunky statues to add to the mix. The 4 in the first picture were Burger King giveaways – can’t remember where I got them from, but I only realised their provenance when I undercoated them and found the brand moulded into the back of the figure.  Bit of work with a scalpel and a respray sorted that.

The bases are made from blue foam sandwiched between 2 pieces of obeche woodstrip, around 4mm thick. The top piece is chamfered on both side to give a rounded profile. The bottom piece is chamfered on the top side only, so the bottom side sits flush to the ground. The figures are fixed to the top ssections  – one is screwed into place – tho others are partly hollow so I rammed and glued some wood offcuts, into them, then cut the offcut flush with the base and used woodglue to fix it to the obeche.

I tried 2 different effects for the blue foam sections. On the first I decided it be a single rectangle of carved stone, so simply applied a section of  decorative plastic tape to the blue foam, as per the end figures in the picture below. Looks ok, but a bit sterile to my mind. On the others, I decided that I wanted to have it look like it had been made from blocks and been plastered, and that the plaster had suffered over time.

To do this I used a propelling pencil to score it so that it looked like it had been made of 3 rows of blocks. I then mixed some filler and smeared it over most of the surface of the blocks – covering most of the scoring. When it dried I then rubbed each face against a flat sheet of sandpaper to get a flat thin layer. Some of it flaked off at this time, but no problem as I wanted it to look damaged. I then used a scalpel to take some more off to expose the blockwork and carve a few cracks.

Statues based

I then painted the bases with grey acrylic to protect the foam, and added a few pits of grit to the bases to stop them looking too pristine. I then sprayed them with grey primer.

A black/brown wash is then applied to the whole pieces.

Drybrush with white acrylic softened with a small amount of red-brown. This was done more heavily than for the pillars and ruins – I wanted these to stand out more.

I then painted the plaster with white paint to which a bit more red-brown had been added to give it a slightly pinkish appearance – the pics don’t show this all that clearly.

The final stage is to take a black/brown  wash, and a green/brown wash, and apply them selectively to weather the figures, highlight the cracks and hint at muck being washed down by rain and snow-melt. The following pics show the finished pieces with a 28mm figure for size comparison.

statues finished 1 statues finished 2

The following pictures show some of the statues pieces from the LOTRbox, and another statue – this time from a magazine I think, which have been given the same treatment.

statues 2 based statues 2 finished

Frostgrave pillars

Figured a few pillars would be useful to block line of sight. I cut a strip from a 25mm sheet of foam using a nifty little hot-wire cutting table I got from ebay, to get a strip about 25mm square.

Using a propelling pencil and a ruler, I mark the courses of blocks at 1cm intervals, then again using the ruler mark the vertical joints. You could do it freehand, but I think that masons knew their stuff and it looks better for straight lines at right angles.

I then cut them into various sections and leave one section spare that I will cut into individual blocks, which can eiher be placed on top of the column or around the base to represent those which have fallen around it. In the second example from the left in the picture below, I wanted to represent the situation where something has dealt the column a might blow and displaced a block in the middle. I cut the section at a suitable join, cut one of the blocks from the top of the bottom section, glued it back in place at an angle and glued the top section back on.

I then distressed the columns and blocks to represent damage accumulated over the years, and split some of the spare blocks to give me some broken pieces. You need to part cut them to snap them without deforming the block. I do the distressing with a dentists tool and pick at the blocks to get the right effect. Trial and error to get the look you want, but not difficult. Bear in mind that if a lock has suffered some damage it does not mean the adjacent block has – so the damage might stop at the join. Not always the case, but I think this sort of detail adds to the impression of realism.

Incidentally, the ornament on the right came from Pets at Home – a pet store chin here in the UK. Don’t know if it’s elsewhere but lots of them sell useful junk like this for decorating aquariums.

pillars foam

Next I mount them on chamfered mdf, and add some bigger lumps of rubble, as per the ruins in the earlier article. In the picture below a big chunk of decorative masonry, presumably that had been supported by the pillar, has crashed down and come to rest against it. The black pattern is decorative adhesive tape from Poundland. The brown bits are pieces of cork. The pillar to the right has a piece of broken block.

pillars based

A mixture of bird grits, pva, water and grey acrylic is then liberally applied to the base, and smaller amounts to any flat ledges.

pillars gunk

In the following order, I cover the whole thing in grey acrylic to protect the foam from spray paint, spray everything in light grey, drybrush with white softened with a small amount of red-brown, add a little more grit – this time without the grey acrylic to allow the colours to break up the grey a bit, apply a brown-black wash to the whole thing, a further wash with a green/black/brown applied more selectively to hint at mould and lichen in sheltered spots, a final drybrush with the softened white, perhaps a tuft of dry grass with some thin bristles from a cheap diy paint brush, and it’s done.

There is more detail in the ruins article.

Here is a pic, with a figure for scale.

pillars finished