For a while now, I’ve been contemplating making some suitable crater markers to use with my Trygons. It’s a little odd now that I’m thinking about it because the Trygon got completely neutered in 7th edition, but the idea came long before then. Still, I really stopped deep-striking with my Trygons early on, and generally use them only to run across the board. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve deep struck a Trygon (outside of an Apocalypse game) since 2010.
It must be the completionist in me. Whatever the reason, I’ve been mulling over how to make a “suitable marker” for my Trygons for years now. The idea that finally inspired me to do something about it was based upon a Quaker Oats container (which is just a large cardboard cylinder). I found that the opening, if pressed into an oval was just about the perfect size for positioning a Trygon into, and luckily my kids eat their fair share of oatmeal. So, after a few months of breakfasts, I had saved up three containers and then wound up cutting them at an angle so that they’d fit onto a base–as if to appear as a tunnel coming from underground. I just needed to figure out a solution for building up rocks/dirt/debris on the outside, and a base.
The base was an easy next step: I had some extra plywood laying around from when I made my buildings (keep in mind that while I just finished painting those up recently, those were a work in progress since 2010–boy can I procrastinate). Anywho, I just traced the oat containers on the board and then allowed enough room around them to build up rocks and dirt nearby.
I think I got that far in my modeling about a year ago? Something like that. The plywood sat, rough-cut, in my garage for about that long before I finally dusted it off and started to make progress on it. I only pulled them out because I wanted an easy project to do one week when an odd number of people showed up, so I wound up sitting out to let others play. So, I reached for the dremel and the wood bases and sanded them down. After that, I moved onto the other problem: how do I build up rocks and debris?
My first thought was to use some sort of filler (perhaps balled up tin foil) with a covering of some sort (paper mache?) over the top. I bounced he ideas off the guests I had at the time, and Brandon suggested that I would likely have problems with the parts moving over time and suggested I use foam. I had some blue foam laying around, but he strongly urged me to use pink foam instead as it would be “more durable” (I think). I didn’t have any, so that idea was out the window to me, but as luck would have it, Brandon works in construction and they had a job winding down so he was able to obtain some scraps for me.
With the scraps in hand, I set to cutting them to size. At first, I just traced the bases on the foam and cut those out, then I went to town with an old foam cutter that I’ve had for ages (that has seen absolutely no use). After a while, I wound up breaking the wire, but luckily I had a pack of guitar strings that seemed to fill in nicely.
I cut the first one out in such a form that I could get the Quaker oats container inside it, and then fidgeted with the top layer to make it line up. It eventually worked out, but then I found myself wondering how I was going to break up that perfect circle in the front of the tunnel (formed by the plastic ring around the edge of the oats container). So I asked myself: why do I need a container at all?
Since I couldn’t come up with a good answer to that, I pulled it from the plan and just crafted the other two without it (which is why the hole in one of them looks far bigger than it does in the other two).
When I got them to be the general size and shape I wanted, I worked on trimming the edges down to be more sloped in the back and lower in the front. Originally, they were much larger, but I wanted to allow for units to fire over the walls to hit those targets inside (if not, I figured it might be called “modelling for advantage” since I could just drop some genestealers in there and leave them well protected against shooting to survive to assault the next turn). I’m not making these because I think they’re good, rather because I think they’re cool.
Anywho, while cutting the foam, a couple of things I noticed that worked out good/bad:
- When cutting into the area, it was quite easy to make the impression of large rocks in the foam (smaller rocks proved quite difficult, due to the size and angles caused by the foam cutter–so I wound up gluing some to the outside later).
- Wood glue worked very well for gluing the foam to the plywood (and eventually gluing layers of foam to each other). I also found that if I just held the foam firmly as I cut around it, the heat from the hot-wire did a reasonable job of holding them together after a while (not enough for a permanent solution, but enough that I didn’t have to worry about them slipping apart as I finished the cutting).
- As stated in the first bullet point, the angles of the foam and the fact that I don’t have any way to adjust the length of the hot wire made it difficult to cut the foam into the shape that I wanted. I really wanted to have some areas of the hill (in the back) be parallel to the ground, to show that clumps of it broke up at odd angles, but that just wasn’t going to happen.
- I also tried using an industrial grade hot knife foam cutter, but that only ever seem to make caustic smoke (though it does cut REALLY well). I really should just toss this or give it to someone who doesn’t have an aversion to lung cancer…
The next step was to paint them up. From the little research I did, I saw that you should give them a coat of wood or PVA glue to protect them from spray paint, so I mixed the two with a little water and some sand (in this case, the sort of sand you throw on driveways, as it was what I had on hand) and painted two coats on each. I went a little thin on the “rocks” because I wanted them to have a smoother overall finish–but that apparently burned me later, because one of the rocks started to fall apart. It seems that was where I superglued another rock to the same area, and we surmised that the glue ate through the underside of the “rock” and through the Styrofoam and out the face.
I also wound up throwing a few embellishments into these models. Not that I spent a huge amount of time on them, but I wanted them to be more than just dirt hills. So, for one of them, I took a leftover “low E” guitar string and made an electrical wire coming out of the back of the hill and through the center (with a break in the middle to allow the Trygon to sit inside). In hindsight, I don’t think I’d do that again. It’s a subtle effect, and the bending/stretching of that guitar string created a far bigger hole than I would’ve liked. I’m a little worried that with a little abuse from the table, the hole will just get out of hand.
On another hill, I made a simple graveyard theme by adding in a few tombstones I had in my “undead bits box” (yes, I have separate bits boxes for most of my armies–even for armies that I don’t play: in the case of undead, because they work great as scenery pieces for other forces). Anywho, I added a few hills, a severed hand, foot, and a torso hanging out.
From there, I base-coated them with Rustoleum’s rusty metal primer.
As this post is getting pretty long, I’m going to wrap this up here, and do a follow-up later on how I finished these up. There’s a special twist inside that I’ve purposefully omitted from this post that I’m kind of proud of. More to come on that next time…