Friday, 13 November 2015

Scenery - hills and buildings


It is difficult to make war-games hills look convincing. Part of the problem is that real hills tend to be big and complex in shape but war-games hills are small ovals. In the case of FOG-R in 15mm, particularly small: a maximum of 12” diameter for a standard terrain feature and 16” for a large one, so no long ridge lines or bluffs filling half the table. The other problem is making them with slopes shallow enough so the figures don’t topple over but with enough height that they look like hills. 

So far I have made a few low hills with shallow, smooth, uniform slopes. They are made from MDF, cut to the outline shape with a jigsaw and then shaped with a power planer. ( A big warning here: any wood dust is hazardous and there are suggestions the resins in MDF may be particularly bad. I did this outside wearing a proper respirator mask and even then the mess it made of the driveway makes me reluctant to make any more hills this way.)  For the double-thickness hills, I used repair plaster to smooth out the join. After sanding, I used the same finishing process as for the area pieces: PVA glue and sand, paint dark earth, dry-brush yellow ochre then yellow ochre mixed with increasing amounts of white and finally glue on some static grass. 

If I was doing this again, I think I could use thin mdd as a base and then craft foam to build up the height - the only problem with that is that it seems difficult to buy high/medium density foam in less than industrial quantities.

I have plans for some high hills and maybe a hilltop village. I have bought a small sheet of Celotex insulation foam for that. It seems very crumbly but I plan to use quite a lot of plaster and PVA to build up a more complicated shape, add texture and (I hope) make it more robust. We'll see how that goes.


I decided to go for a generic southern European style that would work for anything from medieval to WW2 in Italy and the south of France. The first thing I think of with village and small-town buildings in these areas is a jumble of pantile roofs. I have since learnt that the typical cylindrical section tiles are actually called barrel or mission tiles. I started with a good selection of reference photos to try to make sure the overall effect was correct. 

Finding pantile / barrel tile textured roofing sheet was not so easy. The sheets made by Slaters didn’t look very convincing so I bought some Wills SSMP206 Pantiles from AGR Model Railways off Ebay. These are very clearly classic S-shaped pantiles and rather oversize for 15mm but I think the effect is good. I have now seen some other options that might look even better but without a ready source in the UK. I spent a long time thinking about how to make the ridge tiles. The best method I could think of was a bamboo skewer shaped with a V-section on one side to fit in the gap between the top edges of the roof sheets. I then held it in a modellers mitre saw box and made cuts through the curved edge to represent the joints between the ridge tiles.

This roofscape is actually Aigues-Mortes in the South of France but shows the type and mix of colours I was aiming for.
Most of the war-games model buildings I see have open shutters. This seems unlikely to me - for one thing, assuming the battle is being fought in the Mediterranean summer, in day time, they would probably be shut to keep the heat out. Another reason is that, if a load of Landsknechts, Swiss and Stradiots were going to pass near my house, I’d make sure the doors and shutters were closed and barred, any valuables, wine or food well hidden and my daughters staying with relatives in the next town! 

The structure of the building was made from picture mount card - although this is a bit thin (use a double thickness for visible walls), it cuts very cleanly and glues together well with PVA. With extra PVA to reinforce the edges and joins, the completed building is very strong and reasonably robust. 

I added stonework detail on corners, around doors and windows and to break up large plain sections using old business cards cut into thin strips and then chopped into squares and rectangles. The doors and shutters were made from slightly thicker card, scored to give a plank effect and then with addition thin card glued over the top on the doors for the rails and stiles.

Once the construction was finished, the cardboard parts were given a wash of dilute PVA for strength and then, avoiding the wooden parts, PVA and DIY filler (Tetrion or similar) to soften the edges and add a bit of texture. The stonework was painted with cheap DecoArt acrylic craft paints - Country maple as a base then dry-bushed with sandstone and sandstone and white. I also used some brown washes for the darker shadows. The doors were painted separately then glued in place.

For the roof, the first stage was to give it a coat of Sandtex fine textured masonry paint in terracotta. I bought a match pot of this many years ago and it should be enough for my modelling career. My reference photos show old roofs with quite a lot of colour variation from tile to tile. The first step was to enlist the help of my 11 year old daughter to paint a lot of individual tiles in a random pattern. We chose six or seven different darker browns and greens and she painted 10-20 tiles, randomly scattered on each side in each colour. Once this was completely dry I gave it a wash of dark brown then dry brushed with terracotta and then light-stone hi-lights.

One thing I don’t like with this first model is that the stonework detail looks too uniform. I made the mistake of making the blocks all the same height - maybe not so bad for a higher status building but less likely on a village house. For the next group of buildings - a row of smaller houses - I have cut strips to various heights and mixed them up a bit. 

I plan to make another two or three building groups, maybe including a church, and some walled areas to create a little village. As with the other area scenery, I’ll make a suitably textured base and move the building groups out of the way to allow for figure movement. 


  1. That's a beautiful looking building.

  2. Thanks very much. The next group are coming together - I'm doing a bit of card sticking as a "brain out of gear activity" for when I don't feel like painting. I'll post some photos up as soon as they are finished.

  3. You can get craft foam in sensible amounts from Antenociti either as A4 sheets or 2' squares. If you want larger amounts, try Craftfoam but they are in approx £50 quantities. I've had good service from both. There was also an insulation supplier somewhere round Oldbury which did a good selection of boards which you could buy individually - not sure if it still there.

  4. Thanks, I don't know how I missed that from Antenocities. I have bought a few things from them and also had very good service. I will have to get a few sheets for some more hills. I fancy doing an Italian hilltop village and certainly don't want to do that from MDF.

  5. I did the same a few years back, though it is so big I have hardly used it. Looks nice though - 10mm Timecast and 15mm JR miniatures.