Sunday, 23 November 2014

Malifaux docks table

I like to build at least one board every year, and I've spent the last few years building Bushido boards as that's still my favourite miniatures game at the moment, however Malifaux is happily sitting in second place, and as I now have a healthy number of Bushido boards I decided to build a Malifaux table instead, aimed to be ready for a local tournament in Firestorm Games.

I'll add here- I'm not a perfectionist with terrain, mainly using the Blue Peter method of scrounging up materials and building from there, I'll use reference images but tend not to stick slavishly to them where it would impede gaming (for example my barges have vertical sides as a rule, the sloped sides would have taken a lot of gaming space away from an already complex table) I'll add a huge amount of tiny details though, as these are what bring a table alive for me. If you have any questions just ask below and I'll try and answer.

I'll also add- as I've been too lazy to update as I go along, this is a HUGE post. sorry.

Main materials used-

PVA glue
Super glue
Cardboard (thick mountboard, rough textured cardboard and cheap thin biscuits boxes)
Foamcard (sometimes called foamboard)
Balsa wood
MDF strips and scraps
Plastic lollipop stick (chupa chups from poundland- £1=2m of plastic piping!)
Coarse fabric strips.
pins, lots and lots of pins.
bits from my mountain of 'useful' crap.

The Plan

The plan is to build a docks and factory inspired table set in Malifaux's dockside industrial zone, The rough plan is below, it will be mostly modular 'floating' on a flat watery table varnished to high gloss that I can double if as a swamp when needed. The main outstanding features of the table are 2 large barges, a docks crane, and a large factory with a detailed interior, I'll also need a fair few smaller boats and a tonne of scatter terrain (represented in the plan by generic crate shapes scattered around). The Playing area will be mostly usable, with only a few spaces like the two patches of water in the centre that will be unused, the scatter terrain can be used to correct any longer than usual lines of sight etc, and the smaller boats will provide a playable- if multi-level, playing area.

The Barges

I started with the barges, they are designed to be large enough to play across, and once I threw some scales around I came up with 6" wide, 14" long and 2" deep, both with raised fore and aft and a cargo hold in the centre. The first was going to be a generic transport barge to be pulled by a tug (no power of it's own) the second an ore barge with perhaps it's own steam boiler, dependant on how much time I have. I have a ream of research images but this one is probably the closest to what I'm hoping to end up with :

I started by planning out the footprint for the barges, I would build them both from the same basic frame and customise them as I build onto it. This frame consisted of two identical large rectangular foamcard shapes with rounded ends, one of which (the top) then had the centre cut out where the cargo hold would be. I marked out the areas that would need attention later and started building, boxing the cargo area in on the lower piece with more foamcard and added some supporting sections at either end.

Using PVA glue I attached the top section with the cut out, and while this was drying I used some thin mdf strips to mark out the skeleton of the barge where it would be visible inside the hold. I did this to both barges at once to speed the process up later (on one barge I also added wooden baffles to the top of the hold although these were changed later on)  I pinned everything in place temporarily and left it alone.

Once the frame was completely dry and secure I started plating the edges of the barges using thin cardboard and more PVA glue, I used long flat section on the sides and smaller overlapping sections on the rear- I wanted to give a more ramshackle feel to the barges that I think would suit Malifaux more than them being all spotless. I left the fronts for now as I has different bows in mind for each barge. when this dried a balsa wood fin was added to the rear of both boats- this was the last thing I would be identical on them, after this I would be working on one at a time.

The first barge is the all purpose transport vessel, I copied the bow from the image above, adding thick cardboard reinforcements to create a pointed bow, them plating it as before. I let all this dry overnight, (hence the strange discolouration on the next days photos) I added thin textured card strips across the bow in the manner of another of my reference images, then used the same 5mm strips of textured card to segment off the outside of the hull, matching the skeletal frame on the inside. 

For the inside I wanted walkway either side that a model with a 30mm base could stand on easily, and maybe even a 40mm with a bit of overlap, for this first barge I made these platforms using balsa wood strips and thin dowels. I found it easiest to build them separate to the main barge  then add them when they had dried. I left two gaps, (one each side of the vessel) for a ladder and a ramp, both of which I made using scraps of MDF and balsa I had lying around. 

I roughly floored both ends with either textured card or MDF (the fore I textured myself with a sculpting tool), One of the reference images had a tent on the aft raised area of the barge covering an access hatch, and I loved that idea, so I added a hatch with more balsa and mdf, then built a tent frame using mdf and a lollipop stick to hang cloth round (more on that later)

I mocked up a few goods to see if I was happy, and it looked pretty sweet, so I called it on barge one for now and started on barge 2. I also figured out how to change my cameras settings to get better colour again, which was nice. The bow on barge two is much simpler, an MDF prow which was then plated in using thin card as usual. 

As this was to be an ore barge, I decided the gangways would be empty wooden frames for any spare ore to fall through, it also would help defend the barge against boarders with the tricky footing. I was lucky enough to have some spare sections from one of 4grounds half built houses which when chopped up and reassembled looked perfect, I left two gaps as before, but this time I added a pipe funnel to one of them for receiving ore more neatly. Two supporting beams across the whole of the hold changed the shape of the vessel even more, and reinforced the flimsy looking gangways. 

Soulstone or Iron ore being valuable, (and Malifaux being more than a bit lawless) I wanted to armour this barge up, I used tiny corrugated cardboard and attached it to both sides, I kept it quite loose and irregular to add to the battered look. 

Rather than a tent on this more fortified vessel, I added a small hut, with shuttered windows and a corrugated roof, (There's also a drainpipe and water butt round the back, which you'll see on the painted images later), I planked the floor on both ends with MDF. after this I used more of the thin textured card and added the segmented look beneath the corrugated reinforcements as I did on the first barge. 

I left everything alone to dry for a week while I went on holiday, then when I got back it was time to add some soft furnishings, this started life as a fabric belt from an old top, which has a nice sacking texture to it. For the sandbag 'bumpers' on the first barge I soaked a section of cloth in a 50/50 mix of PVA glue and water, then rolled it up and tied it into sections using cotton, I then strung this across the bow of the barge, using pins to hold it in place while it dried.

I used the same technique to create the tent fabric, tying it to the tent frame and using the opportunity to Wrap more glue soaked cotton around the frame to reinforce it a little. 

For the second barge I added lots of sacking thrown over the armour, the crew would have soaked this and thrown it over to prevent sparks in case of an attack, (if they are carrying coal it could go very wrong) It also adds to the raggety look of the vessel, especially with a few more sections thrown around the deck and one used as a curtain on the rear hut window.

With the last of the material I created 6 more 'bumpers' for the sides of the first barge, I glued these on later once they had dried a bit.

The messiest job of the day- the ore. I wanted piles of ore in barge#2 to raise the interior and create paths across the sunken hold. to do this I roughly snapped section of polystyrene off and glued them in place to create mounds, I will cover these mounds in bird sand when they are dried to give an even rougher texture. This went everywhere, one of my cats still looks like it's been snowing. 

The Crane

As all that is going to take a while to dry (perhaps I watered down the PVA too much) I decided to build the Crane, As usual I built the balsa wood frame flat first, before attaching it to a square roof. on the roof I had added a large washer from my box of crap and punched a hole though the balsa wood to create a space for my crane to move.  

My first (precariously balanced) mock up of the crane, the giant cogs and bolts are more gubbinz from my box that I thought looked cool, and altered the historical style crane with a more mechanical look, although in the end I decided one cog would be enough.

Adding more reinforcements to the basic frame in balsa wood, then thick plasticard to give it some survivability, I don't trust balsa to retain it's integrity with height. I attached this to the base with the hollow end of the long bolt directly beneath the hole in the washer. I finished the base off with a walkway around the edge and some dowel legs, to continue the impression of a large mechanism (and add support) I added a wide plastic pipe section to the centre, directly under the centre of the cog. I cut this too short, so I had to add some thick card section under it to raise it up which I'll paint as ripples probably.   

This is the only image I took of the actual crane head in construction unfortunately, again it's mainly built from Balsa, Plasticard and gubbinz, mounted on another large washer and using a dowel 'pin' to allow it to turn. the wheels are from 4grounds western wagon wheels set, and fit my ideas for a crane perfectly. after this I added more reinforcements to the frame with crossbars etc, and bulked up the turntable area. 

The finished Crane- with Johanna for scale:) I'll update with more as I progress:) the only thing I'm unsure of is whether I should add a counterweight, to the back, most of my source images have one, but I think it would be too unwieldy on the table (and I also have deliberately avoided any flat areas on the top of the  crane to stop dirty 'from the shadows' action)  any thoughts?


update: after asking for advice I decided I would add a counterweight to the crane, however whilst attempting to add the weight I managed to break some fairly important bits, oops! anyway I spent the remainder of the night creating a big box weight and making it look a bit more like the reference pics:

After all that I'm much happier with it now, it has the look of a docks crane rather than an industrial one, and I'll add some wire rope to it as soon as I figure out how to build a bucket:) here it is with the barges so you can see it's size compared to them. 

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