Derelict Depot: Construction

It’s been a long while since I wrote up a terrain project, mostly because I have a couple stuck in half completed limbo. But one is moving forward; I finished construction this weekend, and expect to have it painted up for my local shop’s next RECON+ Infinity tournament: The Derelict Depot.

Construction complete!

Planning

RECON+ is basically half the size of a standard Infinity match: 150 points, on a roughly 24″ by 36″ board. I really like the format and we play it often so I wanted to put a new, detailed board into the rotation. Major goals were that it work for Infinity, which has fairly different terrain considerations from 40k, and that it not look or play like the “MDF-box” cities that are somewhat ubiquitous in Infinity. I think the end result will fit right in with the Shantytown, Old City/Slums, and other unique terrain we run at the shop alongside the more standard MDF stuff.

The start was an actual, physical board I’ve had kicking around almost a decade now after I made some basic terrain for teaching 40k to the university gaming club. The desert colors brought to mind a scenery idea I’ve dreamed about for some time but not built yet: A vehicle graveyard. Simultaneously, some interesting packaging scraps laying around got me thinking about a fuel depot or similar. Putting the two ideas together I started building toward an abandoned vehicle depot.

Very very preliminary ideas.

Garage

I quickly settled on the defining piece being a garage of sorts. Our Infinity group doesn’t play many interiors so I thought it’d be neat to force some inside action. I liked the image of two teams shooting it out across a garage while huddling behind small humanoid doorways on the sides. Cutting big vehicle doorways on both sides to make it a pass-through garage was a simple way to make the interior playable. You can fairly easily move figures around inside through the large openings on either side.

Sketching out cuts on the garage.

Initial cuts forming the garage.

One quirk about nearly all Infinity “MDF-box” terrain is the little walls on the tops of the buildings, sides of walkways, and so on. They provide obvious, extensive cover opportunities and straightforward gameplay. But it’s a little weird that nearly every little roof and walkway has short solid walls. Most roofs I’ve been on you can just walk off, most walkways have railings, fences are more common than walls, etc..

So rather than put unnatural little walls all around the roof of the garage, I put a bunch of large-ish features that an infantry model could get partial cover behind while prone models could easily duck below and move around safely provided they watch their angles. The turbine ventilation units are stolen off baby food pouches, while the other brightly colored bits here and throughout this board are 3d printed pieces I designed for this kind of assisted scratchbuilding. For this construction I had to rely on pieces I had laying around already as my printer is currently fully occupied churning out another project. Many of them are already available via my Thingiverse profile.

Testing details on the roof to provide some cover.

With the basic openings and roof features selected, I spent a while adding trim and details, just whatever I could think of and had on hand or could create quickly. Just one side got a ladder, in keeping with the idea that Infinity boards shouldn’t be that symmetric, built using a technique I use often. Both sides got outcroppings to provide some cover along their faces. The roof got an additional pile of junk “metal” to make a small cover nest, and some tubing hooked up between the mechanical boxes for flair.

“Front” of the garage (the front and back faces are essentially the same).

Side of the garage.

Final rooftop details of the garage.

Fuel Reservoirs

Next up were some fuel reservoirs made of supermarket mushroom containers. The key feature here is some kind of large pump that I imagined keeping the fuel moving around and cooled, or a giant fan for ventilation. These are big enough to provide cover, but I also added some railings on the sides. By themselves these are too slight to reasonably obscure any models enough for protection. However, once painted I plan to add overgrowth all across the board to give it an abandoned, unmaintained feel. Vines and plants draped over these railings will solidify them visually and make it clear that they provide cover, without having just stuck on some solid walls.

Primary components on the fuel reservoirs.

To create some vertically overlapped space on the board, a distinctive feature of much Infinity terrain, I made a walkway out of polystyrene strips and sheeting to go between the fuel reservoirs. The garage I think is too big for it to really feel like two planes of combat despite having two levels; the roof and interior can’t interact enough. Sizing for the walkway is dictated by having just enough clearance for a 40mm base to definitely fit on it. Overgrowth will provide models some cover while crossing, but mostly only from one direction—one side has already been blasted away! I frequently lose a trooper or two to missile and rocket fire while hiding on walkways by my deployment zone, and I wanted to capture that kind of story vignette here.

Finally, each fuel reservoir got a ladder, and some lights and vents were tacked on. Unusually for my terrain there’s no functional hint, no obvious interface for actually getting fuel in & out of the reservoirs. But I thought they looked fine at this point, I wanted to move on, and that lack of grounding is certainly not out of place in miniatures gaming. Maybe these entire buildings are cooling circulation units for a huge underground reservoir, interfaced through the pipes and fittings on the other pieces?

Ladder and walkway.

The mushroom containers are unfortunately very thin and compress too easily, the main effect of which is the features could pop off due to the plastic flexing under them. I’m going to address that by filling the undersides with expanding hard foam.

With the core concepts of the garage and fuel reservoirs nailed down, everything kind of took off. After almost a month of sitting on my hobby table getting poked at every now and then, the rest of the board got built pretty quickly over a couple nights. To those three pieces I added a mechanical building, silo, liquid tank, and a segment of blast wall to provide some additional large elements blocking line of sight. A variety of vehicles, containers, and scrap pipes then filled out the board with scatter terrain.

Mechanical Building

The mechanical building was inspired by realizing some sports drink canisters I had fit perfectly over the hole in a piece of plastic electronics packaging that I wanted to put on a wall somewhere. I started thinking it could be the broken output pipe from some giant pump. Later I realized this idea is a bit of a rehash, it basically combines the pump station and pipeworks pieces from my Medea Refinery build, but that’s ok.

Two blocks of foam covered entirely in cardstock make up the shape of the mechanical building. Again I used chunky details to provide cover rather than just solid walls. One railing is included though, which will get vines and ivy just like the fuel reservoirs to make it actual cover. As on the garage, I especially enjoy the tubing connecting some of the mechanical boxes to the wall inlets as a neat functional hint. The canisters on the front are glued on to break up the wall surface and provide cover straight down its length as the broken pipe does on the back. A short ladder at the back provides quick access the the mechanical boxes on the roof, but I purposefully did not add a second to the top roof so that it would take some extra climbing to get there.

Front of the mechanical building.

Back and roof of the mechanical building.

Silo and Tank

To create some more big LOS blockers, I made up a silo and a fuel tank out of coffee and vitamin containers. Loops of masking tape and polystyrene strips combined with the foundation pieces hopefully will break up the recognizability of the shapes just a bit once painted. I did not add ladders or platforms to the silo, though I might think about that some more so that any models on top are more accessible to close attack. Hopefully players will know to not place the tallest terrain piece in either deployment zone and let a model just deploy on top unreachably. I also plan to add a lot of built-up overgrowth to the top to make it difficult to place infiltrating snipers there.

Tank and silo (left and right).

Details

Finally, I made a whole bunch of scatter terrain: Several vehicles, lots of containers, and some piles of scrap pipes. The shipping containers are 3d printed designs I made that have been super useful on several boards. One variant is on Thingiverse. The other containers are wood pieces I got in bulk a while ago and use everywhere. The scrap pipes are sports drink tubes hacked up, and in one case wrapped with tape to make the ends look fitted. I like them being see-through laterally, making the ends tough to use for cover even as the sides are excellent for it.

The vehicles are 1/48 models. For 40k that works for some tanks and is arguably maybe “correct” if you incorrectly consider its miniatures to be 28mm scale models rather than the artistic, loose 28–32mm gaming pieces they are. But for these and most vehicles 1/48 is too small to look right in Warhammer. That’s one reason I never built my original vehicle graveyard idea. For Infinity though, as the figures are generally fairly accurately proportioned and mostly closer to 28mm scale, these models look ok. Next to heavy infantry or such they look small, but they should—those are big warriors in giant suits of armor! Compared to unarmoured troopers and similar the models look fairly plausible, particularly the earlier figures before Corvus Belli started creeping up the scale. Comparison pics to come once the terrain is painted.

I greatly enjoyed clipping and physically smashing down the really broken truck and airplane. I don’t know what kind of backstory justifies a biplane in an Infinity setting. Maybe this depot is on some neglected backwater planet and they use very low-tech vehicles for civilian tasks as they’re easy to build and maintain? I have no idea, but it looks pretty cool in the garage-hangar and is a neat piece of scatter terrain cover.

Broken down truck and Volkswagen. Original Volkswagen Beetles have their engines in the rear so that vignette with the hood off will be misread by a lot of people thinking it reflects working on the engine, but it’s still plausible.

Abandoned biplane in the garage.

Looking out from inside the garage.

Diagnostics console, supplies shelves, and other equipment inside the garage.

Shipping containers: The true hallmarks of far future war.

American-Style

That about wraps up the tour. There’s definitely enough pieces in the depot for the dense “American-style” boards we generally play in my Infinity scene, much to the sadness of my airborne troops. Big models have enough to hide behind, and there’s plenty of ways to prevent overly long firelanes and lots of partial cover over which to advance cautiously. Variety in heights should create good reasons to go up or slink around. Boards made with these pieces will definitely not be symmetric, an important property required to give meaning to the choice between initiative or deployment zone selection. On the flip side, the board is so dense that it should be difficult to inadvertently leave one side overly exposed. Finally, the pieces have a good level of detail, but easy playability and only a few features here and there that look particularly amenable to breaking, so I think it will hold up ok to public play.

Next up is painting, hopefully to be completed for next month’s tournament!

Top view.

Left airborne view.

Right airborne view.

Ground view left.

Ground view right.

Painting 3D Printed Parts: Tech-Coffin

My Data Targets Kickstarter campaign to produce 3D printed objective markers for Infinity and other games is underway and going strong. The STL files for the whole collection are also available via DriveThruRPG. People of course have been asking about how well these 3D printed pieces take paint, so this is a copy of the campaign update posted with an example. More generally this post shows that painting pieces printed with HIPS filament is the same as painting any hard plastic miniature, and I understand that to be true of other common filaments as well. It’s also a good look at what kind of resolution is easily achievable on mid-level home printers.

Note: Many different materials and several kinds of processes are used in 3D printing. The most common filaments (ABS, PLA, HIPS) produced by the most common type of printer (fused deposition modelers, FDM), as well as many others, are amenable to the basic process outlined here. However, some have different properties. For example, the “White, Strong, and Flexible” material offered by Shapeways should be washed first and note taken that paint can go through thin sections of the model (though this is often not an issue if primed appropriately). Some filaments may also react with acetone, alcohol, or other solvents used in some less common painting and inking techniques. If you’re just starting out, most likely this approach is fine, but read around about your specific filaments and paints!

Tech-Coffin

Personally I really like the look and game table visibility of the objectives as-printed in a bright color. But it’s also totally reasonable to paint them up to match terrain & so on. So I quickly painted up a tech-coffin and datacube as a demo. I’m confident many of my backers can do a better job than I, but at minimum this shows that these pieces paint up easily and no differently from other minis. The washes used also highlight the minimal level of striation so everyone can plainly see and gauge how they feel about it.

Tech-coffin and datacube painted up.

The print shown here is exactly the same as the production sets backers will receive. It’s from the same type of printer with the same settings and so on. These pieces also haven’t been sanded, smoothed, or otherwise cleaned up. The only prep work done is that a magnet and ball bearing, as included in all the sets, have been inserted. This is a trivial task as there’s no need to worry about matching polarity.

Raw printed piece with magnet and ball bearing attached.

The plastic we’re using is the same type as used in many well respected commercial miniatures. It’s hard, can be cut or sanded, and takes superglue and paint readily. There’s no mold release or similar that needs to be washed off as with resin or metal models. We recommend priming with spray primer, and any common or miniatures-specific primer will do. Here we’ve used a Rustoleum Ultra-Cover 2x Flat Gray primer that can be found in any hardware store for a few dollars. One observation is that with proper priming the bright neon color of the plastic doesn’t affect the final outcome.

Spray primed with hardware store primer.

For this demo we’re going to go with the flat gray color as the base color so priming and blocking is already done in one step. It’s not visible in the picture, but a matching gray brush paint has been used to patch up a few places where we didn’t get great coverage with the spray (under some of the overhang on the backside). We’ve decided to interpret the top panel as some kind of status display screen, so it’s base coated blue. The datacube compartment and details have then been picked out in brass. The only minor care to take on this specific model is to not paint the datacube or the interior of its compartment excessively thick, lest the fit become too snug. However, there’s enough tolerance to not worry about a couple standard coats.

Details picked out.

All of the gray and brass has then been washed in a light brown. Compared to a black wash this tends to give these colors more of a used, dirty, earthy look appropriate for terrain pieces. The screen has been washed in a blue with the piece held horizontally to deepen the color and have the panel darken toward the edges.

Washed in a light brown, and blue on the screen.

For the final step, some vague display information has been stroked onto the panel in white. The main datacube compartment has also been washed in soft black to further darken it. From here we will dull coat both pieces and then gloss coat the panel, but this is optional. Paint adheres well enough to the plastic that chipping isn’t as much of a concern as it is for metal models.

Finished up with some vague display lines and second wash on the main compartment.

With the washes and viewing up close under painting table lighting like this, the striations are definitely visible. However, we think they’re more than acceptable for this kind of terrain/objective piece and in practice we don’t find them noticeable at all on the tabletop in play. Potential backers should make your own judgement though!

In the end, as you can see from this demo, these pieces paint up very easily. All of the paints and washes used here are just standard Games Workshop and Secret Weapon supplies, and no special preparation or handling is needed.

Thanks for reading, and please post any questions in the comments!

Paints and washes used in this demo.

 

Medea Refinery

Medea Refinery.

Medea Refinery.

My new Medea Refinery terrain set is complete, and all set to be one of the centerpiece boards for our LibertyHammer 40k narrative event later this month!

Process

The whole build took about a month of work off and on over evenings and weekends. Tons of photos, notes, and 3D models are in the WIP writeups:

I also have up a general walkthrough on 3D printing terrain.

But the short story is, Medea Refinery started from some boards…

Hardboard terrain bases cut and sanded.

Hardboard terrain bases cut and sanded.

Proceeded with some serious traditional scratchbuilding…

Scratchbuilding the first piece.

Scratchbuilding the first piece.

Grew to incorporate a bunch of bespoke 3D modeling and printing…

Modeling the outlet spigot.

Modeling the outlet spigot.

Then took a small crew to get it all painted…

My 9-month old supervising.

My 9-month old supervising.

Later I took some photos…

Medea Refinery photo shoot.

Medea Refinery photo shoot.

And now it’s done. We could spend a lot more time working on it. There’s enough detail to spend forever on weathering, let alone anything else. But we’re at a good balance between great looking terrain, robust and playable terrain, and actually getting it finished in time for our summer event.

Action Shots

A few photos of the refinery in the thick of battle; more photos are in this gallery.

medea-left

medea-right

medea-pump-building

medea-pump-sign

medea-pump-station

medea-truck

medea-processing

medea-tower-feet

medea-water-tower

The fire background is from Argaz, used without permission.

Wrap-Up

Again, more photos are in the gallery, tons of construction notes are in the WIP writeups and 3D printing walkthrough, and all of the 3D models are available for free download via Thingiverse. Thanks to everybody that’s followed along, it’s been really encouraging to receive so many positive comments throughout.

Many many thanks of course also go to Alex, Colin, Jason, and Tom for doing such an awesome job bringing the pieces to life. In our club we’re really big on community storytelling, group projects, and fun events, and it was a great time to build yet another whole new world for our space dollies to fight over and forge the narrative.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to another big terrain project. In the immediate future I need to make the mission packet for our LibertyHammer event, and then roll right into the same for the NOVA 40k Narrative. But a couple small projects are already in the works, and building the refinery has reminded me that terrain building is one of my favorite aspects of the hobby, so I’ll be back at it soon. See you out there!

medea-refinery-low