NeX-1119: Construction

Recently I finished construction of my next miniatures terrain board: NeX-1119, a secretive high-energy research facility. I’d built much of this last summer, and a few people have actually played games with some of the pieces. But the collection has lain unfinished on my shelves until I could figure out what game I was making it for and how to complete it. Now it’s all built!

NeX-1119, a secretive high-energy research facility.

In the end the board is oriented toward Infinity miniatures, but should work for other games as well. The big difference versus 40k, my other main game (along with X-Wing), is that there isn’t really any area terrain. If I’d focused it on 40k I would have mounted the smaller components on hardwood bases to create intuitive area terrain, much like many of the buildings in my Medea Refinery. It would probably also need fewer pieces. That said, there’s enough large line-of-sight blockers here that I think it’ll also work for 40k. It’ll just play differently than more typical ruins+forests+LOS boards.

At the same time, these pieces will also foster somewhat different Infinity dynamics than more typical MDF terrain. Much like my Derelict Depot, there aren’t many parapets and railings, so there’s limited ability to move on the top of the structures under partial cover. Instead you need to hop across gaps between generators, radar dishes, and so on to stay covered.

Front oblique overview.

I was mindful while working to line everything up and ensure I covered at least 4 square feet, 25% of a standard 4×4 Infinity board. That’s the default density my group has largely aimed for, though recently we’ve shifted to more like 20%. In the end I built a good bit more than that, so this collection might be able to provide for two somewhat less dense tables. Certainly it can provide for multiple 2×3 RECON+ boards.

Rear oblique overview.

Building Modules

Much of the collection are simple constructions of electrical boxes combined with 3D printed parts for detail. Here and there some other parts crept in, like hatches from a Rhino. With the exception of a tower shown below, all of the 3D printed parts used here were designed and printed by me. Some are available on my Thingiverse profile.

These buildings have very different dynamics from typical Infinity MDF buildings in that they have much less roof area to run around on. But I think they work great as sci-fi, space-colony-module looking pieces. Several different sizes and types of electrical boxes are used, and many different kinds of bits, to create a pleasantly varied look.

Half-size module.

Full size module.

Comms center.

A few simple scratchbuilt ladders and walkways add some vertical dimensionality, making it easier to access and move between the roofs. To further vary the overall look and heights, a large block is included on which some configuration of buildings can be placed, making them noticeably taller than the others. This also functions as a LOS blocker that covers substantial area/angles, but only for shorter figures.

Half modules with integral balconies, raised on a large block, and connected by a walkway.

Twinned small modules, connected by a walkway with a ladder at one end.

Walkway construction.

Major Buildings

A few simple pieces scratchbuilt from packaging foam provide larger LOS blockers. These are not especially detailed, but have interesting enough shapes that a quick paintjob should bring them to life and look good in play. Notably, all their sides include built-in cavities or protrusions large enough for figures to tuck behind for partial cover. This reduces the amount of scatter terrain needed for the table as it’s not needed to create positions for models to leapfrog between in advancing along the longer walls.

Major LOS blocker.

Landing pad.

Towers

Rounding out the buildings are several distinct towers. One is made from a laundry detergent can with a foam base and some tape wrapping to break up the shape, and an optional long ladder to reach the top. It provides the tallest location on the board. An interesting feature though is that, provided you put no scatter terrain on top, I don’t think it’s an automatic choice as a sniper location for Infinity. There’s just enough lip at the edge that a prone model won’t see anything, but nor will it get any cover if it stands to shoot. So there’s some built-in balance to its commanding height.

Compute tower.

The other towers provide more straightforward sniper positions with partial cover, but in return are much lower. One is made from 3D printed parts custom designed to fit a canister of Gatorade powder. The other is a fully-printed piece that my friend Adam designed to fit some of my Kolony buildings. He left it behind at the shop one day and I figure he can always print more, so I’ve absorbed it into this collection.

Liquids tower.

Gases tower.

Scatter

The last portion of the collection is a bunch of scatter terrain. There’s of course a small pile of the containers and chests in my Deployable Cargo set. New are some vaguely sci-fi looking pylons made by 3D-printing details and bases to fit a commonly used style of drink mix tablet packaging. Here I’ve used Nuun sports drink, but Airborne vitamins and other companies are also sold in this style canister. These should be interesting in that they provide good partial cover even for larger figures, and if you work the angles carefully you can move around a bit in total cover. But it’ll also be easy for an opposing figure to get an angle through the pylons to take a shot at your troops.

Energy pylons.

Painting

Despite the long gap in the middle, the actual work time for this build was fairly short. My collection of 3D-printable bits work well with these electrical boxes, and some quick scratchbuilding filled out the set. Next up is a (hopefully) quick paintjob to complete the NeX-1119 research station. I’m not sure yet what direction I’ll take that, but probably cleaner and more high-tech looking than many of my previous projects.

Derelict Depot

Battle breaks out amid the newly completed Derelict Depot!

Advancing through the wreckage.

Looking out from the abandoned garage.

Lurking in the shadows.

Moving through the scrapyard.

Garrisoning the mechanical building.

Scouting for trouble.

Overlooking the battle.

Showdown at the depot nexus!

Derelict Depot

The Derelict Depot is a board I put together for RECON+, essentially half-size games of Infinity, but it should work for a variety of skirmish games. It’s a mix of scratchbuilding, scale models, and 3D printing. More details on its creation are here:

I designed all of the 3D printed parts. Many of them are already available as free downloads in my Thingiverse collection.

The armies fighting it out here are my Military Orders and Aleph painted by Tim D.

The first step: Putting down some initial ideas.

3D printed and scratchbuilt elements.

Construction complete!

Base coating.

Painting details.

The final board!

Narrative

The story of this terrain is something like:

Early in the colonization of Ariadna, Depot E-7 was a supply outpost used by militias fighting the antipodes on the fringe of the settled area. As the border expanded outward and it was no longer militarily useful, a bold, risk-taking entrepreneur began using it as a base for an air courier service. Given the harsh conditions, limited technology, and few resources available to the colonists, its equipment was all based on very old and simple technology easy to construct and maintain. The service provided an important link ferrying supplies, messages, and people over the dangerous ground between the new, far flung settlements popping up as the colony grew rapidly. Later though the depot was overrun as its region collapsed in one of the periodic waves of antipode fighting. Although abandoned since then, it has recently come to be occasionally used as a waypoint or temporary base by various special forces teams operating on Ariadna.

The board is of course designed overall to feel abandoned and disused, but particulars of that story are captured in details here and there: Signage declares the garage to be the home of the “Air Bonsky” courier service (Bonsky being our local lead Infinity TO); militia recruitment and “EVACUATION NOTICE” posters are scattered about on some of the walls and littered on the floor; blood spatters mark where the last defender was caught when the base was overrun; a walkway has been twisted and burnt by high explosives in more recent fighting. It’s not much of a story, but it was just enough to generate some unique, cohesive imagined micro-vignettes and details to add flavor.

Air Bonsky: Why fight the antipodes when you can fly over them?

Evacuation notice poster on a wall.

Littered recruitment poster and evac notice handbill blown into a corner.

A warning not finished in time.

Play

This board is definitely designed with just a bit of priority toward aesthetics and narrative versus gameplay. In a few places it can be a touch awkward to place figures because of details, many of the shapes are slightly odd so models often don’t perfectly snug up into cover, and so on. But it’s very playable, and has interesting features.

As one example, none of the buildings have the ubiquitous low walls found on almost all Infinity MDF terrain. In places where railings make real-world sense and cover would be useful for gameplay, the metalwork is more realistically thin and open, but overgrown in thick vegetation to physically obscure models and leave no doubt they’re intended to be cover. In other places, a variety of mechanical boxes, large vent outlets, and other details scattered about provide partial cover instead of walls and screens. This approach creates some interesting dynamics. For example, the top of the garage can be a great vantage point for controlling ground below. But it’s essentially not possible to move around on it without either breaking cover between features or going prone out of sight and foregoing your own shooting, quite different from moving along a rooftop railing or edge. At the same time, it’s not possible to get cover from all angles, so no sniper can rest easy if there’s a chance the enemy can flank them—which they might very well do by running through the garage directly underneath them!

Similarly, the tallest point, the silo, has a piece on top such that models can generally only be placed solidly at the very center. A small lip prevents models from fitting at the edge. So a sniper can be placed there for a commanding view, but if they go prone they won’t be able to shoot anything, and if they stand up they won’t get cover.

The board as shown here is very dense, which impacts some armies negatively, but that just means there’s plenty of pieces to be used or not used in different games, generating a lot of variety in potential setups.

Face-on view.

Mechanical building side.

Fuel reservoirs side.

Top view.

Sniper hiding behind a rooftop mechanical box.

Roof of the garage.

Poster inside the garage.

One of Bonsky’s relic aircraft.

The mechanical building.

Gas mask warning and ladder on a fuel reservoir.

Burnt out low-tech car.

Fuel distribution tank.

Creeping behind the distribution tank.

Truck dumped out front the distribution tank.

A silo, the tallest point on the board.

Door on the silo and truck left outside.

Next!

I’m very happy with how the Derelict Depot came together. It was a nice, tractable effort that didn’t drag on forever, and got done on schedule—just barely!—for an event I wanted to use it in. My small library of 3D printable parts made expressly to quickly add details to scratchbuilt terrain like this provided plenty of variety and interesting features, and I enjoyed making good use of a number of found objects. People seem to enjoy playing on the board, the pieces have some neat game dynamics, and the terrain has a lot of character and cool visuals. Mission accomplished!

For another example of this kind of scratchbuilding + scale models + 3D printing, check out my Medea Refinery build. Partly by chance and partly by design, pieces from the two sets go together well to create a really cool, large, detailed board. I also have a few tutorials up on 3D printing and modeling.

I’m not sure quite when I’ll get to them with NOVA and other events coming up, but I’m kicking around a couple neat ideas for new boards and in some cases have even started some work. Stay tuned!

As a bonus, the Derelict Depot packs up perfectly into a box I had on hand!

Derelict Depot: Painting

A few weekends ago I got to painting my Derelict Depot, a mix of scratchbuilding, model kits, and 3D printing as described in the construction walkthrough:

The assembled Derelict Depot.

Colors

In choosing colors for the set I started with dark red and grey, mostly because I had spray cans of those laying around. But using those also meant these pieces would fit right in with my Medea Refinery board, adding a bunch of LOS blockers and scatter terrain to that collection. To add variety though I opted to do the big buildings here in olive green and some of the containers in red and yellow.

I used a lot of leftover white foam packaging in constructing this set, which some spray paints will melt. Generally I haven’t had a problem with that, but have had a couple cans that did eat such foam, so always test on a scrap piece first. To reduce the amount of spray painting on the white foam though, I brush primed those areas with two coats of black. All the other pieces got a good coat of spray black to start. Often you can just go straight to the base colors if you’re spraying, but the black coats better, adds another layer to help mitigate chipping, and if you spray the colors lighter and from a slight angle it creates some natural shading in the corners and recesses.

Unfortunately I had not previously used the olive green I picked up and it reacted badly with either the temperature on the day I was doing this, or the materials. On the trucks it cracked and broke, which would have been devastating on a normal model but worked great with the derelict theme. On the buildings though it fuzzed up a bit and became crumbly. Still not really a problem with the theme, but it made them feel funny and the paint a bit fragile to the touch.

Priming everything black.

Colored base coats.

Cracking on one of the trucks.

More Color

Following the base coating I wasn’t sure how much more time I’d get to work on these again before I wanted to use them. So I went with a technique I picked up watching my friend Sascha help paint the Medea Refinery, basically spray painting a bunch of details rather than brushing them. So mechanical boxes, doors, ladders, etc., all got sprayed in various colors without worrying too much about overspray—quite an affront to my OCD tendencies! Definitely wouldn’t work for all styles of terrain and isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s fast and I like the look of it for these kind of pieces. All the overspray just looks like rust, wear, etc., and ties everything together.

From there, still concerned about getting more time for this and feeling overeager with the spray paints, I went on and lightly oversprayed various colors across all the pieces. Having hints of the whole palette on each piece helps tie it all together visually, and lightly spraying this particular selection of colors also makes it all look weathered. Although I’d started off with a board previously painted, I felt it didn’t match this color scheme well so it got spray painted similarly. At this point I felt the pieces were all interesting and playable as-is even if I didn’t get back to them.

Multi-colored and somewhat weathered pieces.

Top of the garage.

Weathered truck.

Weathered plane.

Weathered console.

Site Designations

Fortunately I did wind up with more time to work on the set. So I sat down for a marathon overnight session of detailing and finishing. A key theme throughout this though was still facing a time crunch, trying to add a bunch of visual appeal under tight time constraints before hopefully using it in an event the next day.

So, thinking about quickly adding color and detail, first I added some site designations. Using some cardboard alphanumeric stencils, I spray painted “E 7” on a bunch of the buildings. A medium tip ink pen then let me quickly outline the lettering with thin, clean black lines. Of course the new lettering stood out against the weathering sprays, so it then got drybrushed appropriately to wear it back into the pieces.

Stencil masking the site designation on the silo.

Site designation after removing the stencil.

Outlining the lettering with an ink pen.

Drybrushing over the site designation to blend it into the weathered paint.

Hazard Stripes

Another quick way to add color and life to the scene was to throw a bunch of hazard stripes on various pieces. These were done real quickly by brushing on several coats of dark yellow, taping off the yellow stripes, brushing on black, and then drybrushing the whole stripe appropriately to weather and blend it into the piece.

Hazard stripes inverse masked on a solid yellow base.

Black part of hazard stripes painted on.

Finished hazard stripe.

Details

Still good to go on time, I set about with a brush picking out details. Some things were painted as normal and then drybrushed to blend and weather them into the existing paint job. For example, the tires and rims on the vehicles were painted black and silver and then drybrushed rust brown. The few organic elements around, like the duffel bags on the trucks, got painted a leather brown and then washed a dirt brown. Various dead light fixtures and computer consoles were painted black or dark purple and washed with the same. Other features were done solely with heavy drybrushing to add color and distinguish the feature but not break it out too much from the background, e.g., drybrushing a dark brown on the cabling or steel on the various scrap laying around. All the gravel and texture on the bases and the board itself also got drybrushed appropriately. Some metal edges and so on then got a hint of silver drybrushing to seem worn or jagged, like on the ends of the roughly cut scrap pipes.

Painting details on the garage. A layer of Modge Podge cures on the mechanical building in the background.

Painting details on the vehicles with my helper as dawn approaches.

Posters

I still had some minutes for detail work, so the finishing touch was to print up some signage and posters on cardstock. These were cut up, in some cases further filled out with ink pen scribblings, glued to various pieces either on the walls or crumpled up as litter on the ground, and then washed brown to age and grime them heavily.

Printed signage, posters, and litter.

Sealing

All these pieces are intended for public use in my local shop’s tournaments and such, so even if they’re not out all the time they still need to stand up to some abuse. The board and all the foam and cardstock surfaces therefore got coated in Modge Podge to seal them with a protective layer. This also resolved the problem mentioned above with the olive green paint having fuzzed up in the heat and feeling crumbly. Modge Podge can add a bit of a gloss sheen, but I knew the final steps would take care of that…

Covering the board in Modge Podge.

Carbon

Last up, I wanted to knock down the brighter colors and better blend the brushed details in with the sprayed “weathering.” So everything got quickly “washed” in carbon black pigment. Out of time, I didn’t try to do any real weathering here, caveat being sure to generally throw on the pigment low and then brush it upward so that it tended to collect and be heaviest toward the bottom of pieces. In some cases this “wash” dimmed the colors a bit more than I would have wanted, but overall I thought it really made the pieces feel more lifelike without hardly any effort. It also definitely made the sprayed and brushed details feel uniformly worn.

Once the pigment was on I just sealed it in place with dull coat spray. That’s not really sufficient to secure thick applications of pigment, but for a wash like this and even with some thin accumulation on the tops of a few pieces it was fine.

Fully painted tank.

Tank “washed” in pigment.

Play!

In the end, after working all through the night, at just about exactly noon I did the last batch of dull coat spraying, took a shower, and jumped in the car to head to the shop and get the board set up just in time for a 1pm Infinity tournament—success!

Critical to this was carefully staging all the various tasks so that I didn’t have any downtime. The ordering above is just notional, in reality the various steps were mixed up and interleaved across all the pieces so I was never just sitting around waiting. A prime example was doing the buildings first so I could Modge Podge the fragile parts and then work on painting the vehicles while that dried. All told this whole board got painted in about 16 hours of work: 2+ hours spraying one day and the rest leading directly up to the debut event. In hindsight I wished I had done the detail brush work and then gone back to do the weathering sprays, but it worked out fine in the end between drybrushing and pigment washing so this was an acceptable strategy to ensure I had pieces ready even if I didn’t get to work on them more.

A few of us played games in the newly built Derelict Depot in that tournament and it worked well. One modification needed was that it was immediately clear I needed to add some vegetation and such to make the railings and such provide overt partial cover, as planned in the construction writeup but not completed beforehand, so I did that afterward. The board definitely isn’t going to be loved by everybody, it’s more oriented toward narrative and aethestics than pure gameplay. Some of the details and unique shapes make placing figures, especially in cover, a bit more fiddly in a few places than standard MDF terrain. It’s also super dense if you put on all the pieces—very challenging for my own airborne-oriented squads! Realistically you could probably make two boards out of the collection with a more typical level of density.

But, it looked great, has a lot of unique details both mechanically and visually, and turned out very well. Gallery photos of the final product to come!

Don and Lovell fighting it out on the brand new board.

A Morat commands their troops from the mechanical building.