Monday, March 27, 2017

Materials, plans and a test building to build a Warhammer 40K modular space ship interior or industrial terrain (part 1)

White Dwarf magazine had a beautiful bit of space ship terrain a few years back. A complete 28mm scale half-open Ork Kruiser for toy soldiers to fight over. At a glance I would guess it to be around 120cm x 60cm x 60cm big. I want to build something like that but, as my mansion is currently in the 'aspiring to one day maybe live in one'-stage, I don't have the room to store or display a model of that size (don't get me started on the storage of my vampire castle). So I have been planning to build the next best thing for quite some time now: modular space ship interior terrain.

Yes this modular bit of 40K terrain still needs some paint...
While playing missions on a space hulk in Dawn of War 2 I realized that the terrain looked fantastic and should be easy to build. It answered the question how I could have fights inside a space ship without building a humongous model. It also showed me that I could use a stack of regular PVC pipe to make scatter terrain, but more on that at a much later date (if I remember it during construction). The basic concept is to put the terrain on rectangular bases that can be pushed together to form an interior. By giving those bases a rusted metal floor they will look like a rotting hulk when pushed together. If you pull them apart they will look like industrial buildings on a rusted metal foundation. Building this will give me two types of terrain sets for the effort of one.

A shot of one of my larger bits boxes.
The estimation that building it will be easy (and therefore quick) is a lie. I find that lying to myself about the ease with which something can be build tends to help me get started. As with most things in this hobby, plans like these need (quite) some time to ferment. While they go through the 'I should do that some day'-process I tend to start collecting stuff that 'might be useful if I ever do this'. To make a long story short I've been keeping my eyes on interesting shapes from the thrift store and the cheap stuff store for quite some time, slowly building a collection of cheap and useful looking materials.

What finally pushed me to get started on this was a mixture of slightly too much fantasy since the launch af Age of Sigmar,the trailer for Shadow War: Armageddon and a gift from a fellow hobbyist. Shadow War looks like it can be a fun way to do something 40K again while waiting for GW to (hopefully) fully overhaul the system. The gift was a stack of 16 square MDF bases a fellow hobbyist had lying around with a plan to turn into a Zone Mortalis board.

A 30cm x 30cm MDF base, in the running to be the most inspiring picture on this blog.
For my first build I decided to try incorporating plastic race cart tracks in a model. I picked up a huge amount of these in a thrift store for that purpose and they've been sitting around in the shed for quite some time. Actually every time I tried using these they turned out to ruin the rest of the model. So there was a challenge. First I covered my first MDF base with IKEA carpet anti-slip underlay to simulate metal grating. This base was also given a raised edge because it seemed smart at the time (it isn't and I hate it now (but it's stuck).

Dressing up the base with floor underlay and bits of wood.
I then build up two towers using black foamboard. These are both 15 cm high which is the maximum height I want to go to for my gaming table. In my experience anything higher than leads to trouble while gaming for these reasons:

  • It is practically impossible to reach using normal movement;
  • People knock it over while reaching down for something else;
  • It is hard to store higher terrain features.

Two 15cm high towers constructed out of black foamboard.
The nasty secret of foamboard is that it looks ugly as hell. So next up I set about covering these in metal (1mm cardboard) sheeting.

Cutting metal sheeting from 1mm cardboard step 2, using a knife to cut long strips (step 1 is drawing rectangles using a protractor).
Cutting a sheet to size. I buy 1mm cardboard new at a local hobby shop in stead of using old cereal packets or the like. I do that because 1mm is slightly thicker and looks better, buying large sheets save time cutting around pre-formed shapes in packages and a very large sheet of 1mm cardboard costs next to nothing (70 eurocent for a 100cm x 70cm sheet if I'm not mistaken).

I try not to think about the amount of time spent making these...
I made some different sizes of tiles. This will make the terrain look appropriately old and messy and saves me the embarrassment of having to explain why my identical looking panels are not quite identical.

Sometimes inspiration hits you during your lunch break.
I also took two nozzles from old milk packages and glued a bit of mosquito netting to them to add an industrial effect.

The towers start taking shape.
Here the first tower is slowly coming together, the second is ready to get covered in cardboard.

Now they are completely covered. I could punch small holes in every square to make them look nailed in, but I will probably abandon this project screaming if I do that on this scale, so I'll just go for an extra coating of rust.
And the towers are covered. Take note if the fantastically subtle way I apply PVA glue to cover up gaps. Next up was dressing the ramps with some carpet underlay to make them look slightly less toylike. I cut the original stand up a bit with a saw to get the bridging right. I also took a pair of pliers and demolished bits. Having a lot of collapses will help explain why the different tiles of this modular terrain will never fit together on the ramp level.

The ramps are in place. I used a q-tip to spread the to thick for even my style of globbing things together bit of glue on the ramp.

Here is the end result of the first base.

The other side of the ramp, the upper floor is actually pinned to the tower so it will most likely survive gaming.
Part 2 will feature me working on more test buildings for this project.


  1. Good work, truly inspiring. I´ll collect my kid´s toys before they trown them to the garbage. They have good stuff to recycle into warhammer scenery. ;)