Thursday, December 4, 2014

Town Houses and Mansion from Tabletop World

Tabletop World released some very nice timber-framed fantasy houses over the last couple of months. After their latest release - an impressive mansion - it was time for my yearly order. As always this means another review of these new products on the blog.

There are few things in the hobby these days that excite me as much as when Tabletop World release a new building. And although I was quite critical with their Coaching Inn (specifically its size) that piece too is an absolutely beautiful eye-catcher on the battlefield once it is painted. So naturally I was very excited when Tabletop World showed a preview image on their website for their upcoming release. Between the announced release date and its final release date I was checking out their website daily to see if it was out already. Once the full gallery for the Mansion was up it were minutes until I placed my order, catching up on their latest products since the release of the Coaching Inn: Townhouse II, Townhouse III and the new Mansion. Let's take a closer look!

Townhouse III, II and the new Mansion next to each other


Townhouse II

Starting with Townhouse II the guys at Tabletop World tend to an aspect that is all too often neglected when producing buildings for the gaming table: What you actually need to fill the board is regular houses, ones that can form streets and alleyways. These buildings do not need to be extraordinary (though you sure do not want them to look boring, either): There are already enough taverns, blacksmith's forges and coaching inns out there to supply multiple towns. Townhouse II and III were desinged with that gamer's need in mind (note that the "Townhouse" building  - "Townhouse I" so to speak - is one of their older "stand-alone" buildings and not part of this new "range").

Townhouse II was the first building released since my criticism regarding the Coaching Inn's size. The first thing you will probably notice about the building is the balcony which gives it a nice unique touch. The rest is pretty much standard half-timbered house appearance. Of course, that is the challenge when you try to design houses which are meant to be "normal" - they still need to have something special about them as otherwise most customers will go with more exciting buildings instead. Because of that you have to give kudos to the guys for taking the risk of creating fewer centrepiece houses and accepting the challenge to create interesting normal houses.

When I unpacked this new building I was curious about two things. Firstly, how tall is it? I was actually positively suprised to see that it is taller than the Coaching Inn. Ultimately, all these 28mm buildings can only be approximations of properly sized buildings as otherwise your gaming table would consist of no more than four or five buildings (which no one could afford to spend the money and/or time on). I believe what is most important for these buildings to feel right, is that the ground floor has a sufficient height. Figures will be standing next to the walls and in front of the door and windows. That is what counts. The upper floors just needs to fit the rest but unless they have balconies you will not usually see figures next to the upper walls for scale so you can get away with a few less millimeters height. Of course this is different when the building can be accessed from the inside.

The gound floor of Townhouse II with 28mm figures in front

Note the slight difference in height between Townhouse II (left)
and the Coaching Inn (right)

Townhouse II from the side



When I first saw the photos on the Tabletop World website I was immediately wondering whether it would be possible to place miniatures on the balcony. For some reason this is not something that the creators of such houses always keep in mind. For me this gaming value is quite important, especially with a balcony where you will want to place marksmen during a game that make use of the position.

For years I have been using 25mm round bases for all my human figures. Fortunately, this is just small enough to fit on the balcony!

Inside of Townhouse II

25mm round bases fit on the balcony of Townhouse II

However, this first floor is not high enough for many average 28mm miniatures. So if your models are waving torches or pikes as the ones in my photos they will not be able to stand up inside the house. The balcony has a bit more space because of the balcony roof so that will work with most models. The topmost floor is not a problem because there is enough space under the roof.


Townhouse III

Townhouse III is a bit bigger and - at least to me - more visually appealing. I especially like the backside of this house: A big wall of timber-framed beauty that I find strangely impressive in its simplicity.

The stone staircase with the roofing is a nice touch and fulfillls a similar roles as the balcony of the previous Townhouse in that it makes the facade more interesting. To top it off there is additional detail in form of a little bench with a pumpkin and vase and a separate wheel.

Again, the most urgent question was about the height of the ground floor. And yet again, there is the same improvement as with Townhouse II.




Sadly, unlike the balcony of Townhouse II, the staircase is not wide enough for the 25mm bases of my figures. If your humans are placed on 20mm bases they will fit, though.

Unfortunately 25mm round bases are slightly too large
to fit on the staircase of Townhouse III


Mansion

Finally, the highlight of the range: the mighty mansion. This is truly a masterpiece. The dimensions are impressive, the architecture with the tower thingy is just beautiful. Personally, I think this is their best creation to date.

Size-wise the mansion fits right in with the two previous townhouses and will create a lovely city scene when set up with them on the table.




On the first floor normal 28mm figures will have a hard time standing up.

On the top floor figures can be placed without problems
because of the additional space from the roof



Summary

I am very happy with these new buildings from Tabletop World. I feel like they accepted the criticism of the Coaching Inn's low height and have now improved their new products in that regard. It is interesting to learn how a few millimeters on the ground floor can have such an impact on the overall impression of a building when there are figures standing next to it. Now, if the other floors were a bit taller too, they would be absolutely perfect. Nevertheless, these houses are the tallest buildings in my collection and look absolutely beautiful.



The new buildings with the painted Coaching Inn in between


I did not mention any of the standard criteria of a terrain review yet: material, casting quality, sturdiness, etc. I think by now I have written this so many times already - Tabletop World has the highest quality products I have come across in the terrain section. Their resin is wonderful, the casting quality is nearly flawless and I am still surprised everytime by the fact that there is no assembly required apart from a chimney and an occasional delicate piece (such as the staircase roofing of Townhouse III).

Now off to slapping some paint on these beauties!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Golden Tom 2014 - Tom's Boring Painting Competition 2014

Games Workshop may have dropped Mordheim, but the community is still well alive. And what better proof could there be than the announcement of Tom's Boring Painting Competition 2014 over at Tom's Boring Mordheim Forum.



From Tom's announcement:

Did someone say “Golden Tom”? YES! It is finally here again by popular demand! After 6 years, TBMF is (finally!) back with hosting the second Golden Tom Painting Competition!
And this time, we beefed it up with an amazing, REAL, PHYSICAL, 300g BRONZE CAST, MAHAGONY BASED trophy!

THIS is YOUR chance to compete once more in the only Mordheim themed painting competition in the world and take the amazing Golden Tom statue home (well… technically you are not taking it anywhere, we will send it to you by post)
So wet your paintbrush, get the sculpting putty out, shake the paint pots and DAZZLE us, because who knows when you will get that chance again… maybe in 6 years?


This time there is a very special prize for the winners: These awesome statues were sculpted by forum member Ben "floedebolle" and one will go to each of the top three places:




So head over to Tom's for the full rules and start painting!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Port of Gierburg - Part 4: Dock Section II Ground Level WIP

After completing the first section of my Port of Gierburg gaming table it is time to start with the second module. This one will be a lot more difficult and a lot more exciting. Due to its complexity I will handle the (under)ground level first and then tend to the rest later.

Similar to the first module this one is based on a solid 5mm MDF board. Following my initial plans (see Part 1) it measures 45cm x 72cm.

The concept for the port modules with two dock sections encapsulating a water board


The core of the module is a big 6cm thick piece of styrofoam that was glued on the MDF board using white glue and then cut to shape.



Underneath the City

Something I absolutely wanted to do after seeing an impressive zombie board at this year's Tactica convention: Tunnels on the sides of the board. The idea is to make the underground accessible from the sides. This adds an additional level to the board which is great from a gaming perspective. It is also a very practical solution compared to undermining the entire board which would then require a lift-off street level.

The first dock section came to have a height of 7,5cm which now determines the height for all sections of the gaming board. Factoring in the neccessary bottom and top this allows for just enough space to include tunnels between 5cm and 6cm high.

The idea is to have the tunnels lead around the two outer edges of the board (bottom and right edge if you look at the illustration above). The tunnel along the "bottom" side leads to the harbour wall, where through a small secret crack in the wall it would then be possible for models to enter the docks. At the other end the tunnel would end at the "top" side with a door. Through that door it would be possible to connect future sections with similar tunnels. Somewhere in the middle of the long side I wanted to have the entrance to the tunnels. Again, a door would indicate where models "pop up" on the battlefield. Since the tunnels are only accessible from the sides and the tunnels are not very high, doors are a great way of creating spots where models can go deeper into the board without actually modelling it. How exactly this entrance would work out I will decide when I tackle the first floor of the dock section. For now I have to focus on the (under)ground and just create options for later. I did try to think of an ultimate masterplan for the entire board but I then decided not to try to deal with all the questions at once and instead focus on the beginning at start on that rather than thinking and getting nothing done.

Tunnel tiles for Mordheim
I chose to apply the same technique that I used a couple of years ago for building Tunnel tiles for the Border Town Burning supplement of Mordheim. I carved/cut/broke the tunnels out of the styrofoam board with a box cutter. Then I coated the surface with filling using a strong brush. I used the brush to get a smoother surface than I got before when merely using my fingers.

The tunnel carved into the styrofoam board

Applying the filling on the styrofoam

After the filling had dried completely I added sand to the ground of the tunnel: I first applied a mix of white glue and water to the ground, then sprinkled and rubbed the sand over it. I also placed a few small stones across the tunnels.




I made two simple doors from coffee stirring sticks and glued them in place with white glue.

Two scratch-built doors for the tunnels





Next, I glued another layer of 3mm MDF board on the styrofoam to get a sturdy ceiling. On top of that I put a 3mm sheet of Selitron. This provides a nice base for the final layer of hard plaster cobblestones from Vampisol that would come later. However, to get the Selitron height correctly at the edges I had to glue a few 1mm wood pieces on the MDF.

Then I cut four pieces of 1mm thin wooden board to shape so that they would cover the sides of the board, basically creating a kind of veneer.

Before finally doing the cobblestone layer I had to do the walls of the wharf...


The Wharf

The wharf is made from a piece of harbour wall by GrandManner which I had left from section I. The remaining wall was filled with flagstone boards from Vampisol. I cut the hard plaster boards to size with a slitting saw.

Hard plaster walls from Vampisol

At the top of the walls I made small indentations with a file. These would later hold small bits of wood that would serve as mounts to place one side of the pier on.

The walls are glued to the sides of the styrofoam

The last wall piece was filed so that it looks like there is a hole in wall. Through this hole the figures can leave and enter the tunnels during gameplay.

Finally I added capstones, again from Vampisol, so that this section ends up with the same height as the harbour wall piece. With a bit of plaster I filled the gaps around the pier mounts, smoothed out the transitions between the three plaster pieces and modelled the inside of the hole.



Cobblestones

I find this to be the most exciting part of all the work: Building the cobblestone streets. As I mentioned above, I used cobblestone tiles from Vampisol. The same stretcher bond pattern that was used on Dock Section I was applied along one side of this section to continue the street.


For the rest of the board I used the other style of cobblestones, the segmental arch pattern. I like this pattern a lot for creating places such as town squares and so found it very appropriate for the area around the main docks, which would later be full of cargo, busy lumpers and probably the dockside crane.


After all cobblestone pieces were glued on the board I used filler for any gaps as well as watered down PVA to glue sand in some of the gaps as well as across the board for variety.

The most important thing was to ensure that both board sections align properl

The Pier

The Pier is a big wooden structure that extends the wharf. It can be thought of as the counterpart to the scratch-built jetty of section I.

Mainly, the pier is made from my never-ending bag of coffee stirring sticks that I have used for all works of this type.



The pillars are made from a 8mm thick wooden stick. I needed them to match the looks of the GrandManner harbour walls. Using a large file I rub deep indentations into the wood to achieve similar exaggerated detail. Whether that actually worked out I will only know once they are painted.



Additional details include rope around the pillars made from special rope-style wire, and rivets made from a thin plastic rod.



And this is what it looks like:

The pier set up and awaiting paint

Dock section I and II placed together



Lastly: The Heavy Tip
During the building of all these boards I found it extremely useful to keep stacks of heavy books nearby. All materials tend to bend when you least expect it. I have started to leave the books on the styrofoam whenever possible to ensure they always dry in the correct position and even afterwards.


Coming next: Dock Section II Elevation WIP



Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: More Wargame Terrain by Tony Harwood

Recently my copy of "More Wargame Terrain" arrived in the post. Let's take a look!

After the excellent first volume "Building Wargame Terrain" Tony Harwood has released the follow-up book: "More Wargame Terrain" with more articles on how to create top quality terrain for the tabletop.

From the Outside: Production Value

This perfect bound, full colour soft-cover book has a total of 118 pages from front to back. The layout and production is pretty much the same as the first book so nothing new to explain here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gypsy Caravans from Sarissa Precision

In this post I present my versions of the two Gypsy Caravan models from Sarissa Precision.



I first saw the two gypsy wagons by Sarissa Precision on the Lead Adventure Forum and I was instantly sold: the designs of the models looked great.

Gypsy Caravans (source: LAF)
Now before looking any deeper into the caravans I have to say that I am usually very sceptical of laser cut models. They seem to be very popular for all kinds of terrain these days - especially Wild West buildings. Often these models appear somewhat "flat" to me, lacking the details of resin models. However, there are certain structures that lend themselves to laser cut building very well. The dockside crane I assembled recently wouldn't look any better (or probably even as good) had it been scratch-built. The gypsy wagons by Sarissa immediately looked like further examples of laser cut technology done right. In fact, these models look much more interesting than the gypsy wagons I know from West Wind Productions or Old Glory. Actually, judging from the Sarissa website pretty much all of their buildings look damn good to me. Anyway, let's look at the wagons!