Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Terrain Update: Operation Tuckborough

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned in my last post, I was nearing completion on a number of Shire-related terrain projects, and I wanted to update you all with a progress report from the Forge!  I also received my new Armored Merry and Pippin in the mail from eBay, so I will showcase them in this update as well.  I've been looking around at other ideas for Shire boards online, and so far I've only seen one on Warseer to date, so if you have any other ideas on things that would be fun to add to the board, let me know!  With no further ado, a few projects I've been working on...

1.  Hobbit Smials

I am now up to three hobbit smials, and I'm pretty content with that.  I don't think I'll make any more, though I want to experiment with a "Great Smial" that would be larger than the others.  We'll see if I actually do it.  The smial above was my first smial, and appeared in a scenery update for the TMAT GT 2013 back in March.  It's pretty basic, and is also the largest smial in my collection.  I thought of updating it with some of the other modifications I've done to my two new smials, but I wanted to keep this guy as the "Mark 1" model, clearly delineating him from my "Mark II" models to track my progress over time.

You also have a chance here to see my new Armored Merry model fully decked out and awesome.  I'll be doing a tactics post soon on the four hobbits, which you should use in an army and why, etc., so you'll see this guy again.

Hobbit dwellings not only allow you to experiment with brighter color schemes (especially for doors), but also allows you to practice making some of the more refined things in life, like picket fences!  The fence pieces are made from cut up coffee stirrers (big surprise, right?  I use these things for everything), and then painted white (in my case, I went with the White Scar White by Citadel).  I'm still deciding whether I want to do more of them around my other hobbit holes, as I want to experiment with square yards, but the time/effort it takes to build them is dragging me away from it.  I like the look of it, though, so I'll likely do it for the final cut on the smials.  Hobbit homes also give you a chance to experiment with other things, like...

Sorry for the blur on this one!
Window sills!  These were made in the same way as the smials: take a piece of foam, cut it into the shape you want, and then spackle over it.  Allow it to dry, then sand down five of the six sides (with one of the long sides going unsanded).  Base coat and then use some of the spackle coming up from the unsanded side for the flowers by painting it a different color and viola!  Window sills!

The windows were even easier.  Glue coffee stirrer shards to the smial, paint over them, and then fill in the "panes" with a Russ Grey (a grayish-bluish color) under a base coat white (in my case, I used White Scar White from Citadel) to give it a tinted look.  If I do make any more smials, I'd also like to experiment with circular windows, which would be harder.

You can also see my new Pippin model in this photo (sorry it's a bit blurry!).  The model itself doesn't have a Gondorian Tree on it, but I wanted to put one on him because 1) it's consistent with the Gondorian armor scheme, and 2) I like it, :)  Here's another version of the same style hobbit smial:

For this guy, the owner went with a unified color scheme for the door and window paint job.  I will likely not do this for all of my hobbit smials, as I want there to be a good amount of color on each.  But it's fun to do every now and then.  While I use Maggot and his dogs for the scale photo here, this will likely not be Maggot's home, as I want to actually build a partial farm near a house for his place (as I have a bit of a farmer streak in me, and I'd really like to build one), though that one may not be a smial.  It will likely be more of a house than a hobbit hole, but since I enjoy building these, we'll see.

2.  Marketplace

Here's the starting image for the grounds of the marketplace.  If your IT Department gets a shipment of computers in, be sure to ask them about hawking the excess packing material that they are planning on throwing away.  Not only does it provide you with a lot of foam (which you can use for smials, bridges, packing protection for models in boxes, water for the base of the town well pictured above, and other building projects), but it also provides you with a number of oddly shaped pieces of cardboard, like this one.  It's also free building materials, by the way, so I'm a fan, :)  More on this technique when we get to Brandywine Bridge.

No marketplace is complete without something to fill it in, so I built a few trade stands:

Pretty basic: for the one on the left, I glued coffee stirrers to cardboard from a Pop Tarts box (because if you have tons of Pop Tarts boxes lying around, you might as well use them; if you don't, go out and buy some.  You'll thank me later, :) ), with other coffee stirrers inserted into slots in the cardboard to form the legs.  Support with more coffee stirrers, and you're good!

For the one on the right, I experimented with some modeling putty on the corners, as I wanted a trade stand that had a complete top instead of a slotted top.  I also curved the roof slightly when I glued the stirrers down, adding a bit of character to it.  Both of these changes required me to experiment with a new way of attaching the stirrers.

I'm still working on a cloth-based top (for an awning-based trade stand), but the design is proving difficult (as it lacks the structural integrity of a rigid, strong roof).  Hopefully there will be more on that one in my next terrain update.

3.  Pipeweed House

So, it wouldn't be the Shire if we didn't use pipeweed! :)  Naturally, every community needs a place to stuff and dry pipeweed for sale, especially if there is a marketplace nearby, and this is the Pipeweed House for this community.  I used the same building materials for this building: foam, spackle, and coffee stirrers.  My plan after the roof is finished is to take Pop Tarts box cardboard (because that's the other building material I have in no short supply, :P ), score the cardboard with a knife, and then glue it onto the sides for imitation wood siding.  The new thing I tried with this building that I have never done before was...

Shingles!  I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but I really like the stirrers - you can literally do almost anything with them! :)  I hope you like it - I won't be shingling another roof in a long time, as 1) it depleted my reserves of coffee stirrers, and 2) it took a long. time. to do (read: most of a Saturday, Sunday, and Monday cutting the stirrers, gluing them in place, and adding spackling to fill in the gaps underneath, and it's still not done, :-/ ).  Getting excited about doing another one will be hard, :P  I like it, though, and it's different from the other buildings I've made.  It adds a good amount of character and color to the marketplace, so I'm excited about it!  I'm still trying to decide if I should do a deck and patio outside of the pipeweed house for a delivery station, but the jury is still out on that one.  Is that something that you'd like to see?

4.  Brandywine Bridge

Funny thing: I've had the building supplies for this for over a year, and try as I might, I could never find a way to use them.  Then I was riding through the Shire in Lord of the Rings Online one day, and I was like, "Hm, you know: it wouldn't be all that hard to build a bridge.  All we'd need is..."  ...And would you know it, the pieces were out of my desk as I was thinking about it, and I could already see this structure coming together in my mind.  I started with two keyboard packing pieces, and a massive piece of foam:

I then cut up the packing pieces for the siding of the bridge to make it more bridge-like, and to bring it to the right scale for the models:

I then cut the foam into a strip that was 6" wide (for a pretty good-sized bridge that is both accessible and competitive for 25mm and 40mm bases) and about 9.5" long for the center of the bridge.  Then I spackled the sides of the foam (to make it easier to glue to the side pieces) and the top and shorter ends for the top surface and for easier gluing to the other foam pieces that will constitute the ramps to the top of the bridge.  After letting it dry for a few hours (just to make sure it had the right firmness and consistency), the end result was this:

I then did a similar procedure for the two ramps, which will lead up to the main bridge piece:

My plan is to add masking tape strips to these to serve as cobblestones right before I do the painting.  I'll show you all the result of that in the next update.  Once the spackling has dried, glue everything together:

...And we're ready to paint!  At 14" long, with two open arches that are 4" wide and 2" high, the bridge could be useful for a massive water feature, a small water feature, or as part of an urban combat scene.  The finished product will be shown in a future post, :)

Still on the to-do list to finish Operation Tuckborough is scenery for filling in the marketplace (barrels, primarily), the awning market stands mentioned earlier, and the final stages of Brandywine Bridge, the completion of the pipeweed house, as well as a special project which I hope to reveal soon, so stay tuned for the final update in the next few weeks!

Watching the stars,


"I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane - yes, with humans alongside me if I must." ~ Firenze, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


  1. I got a whole load of polystyrene from some movers some months back. I'm a fan of getting the free stuff too. Very handy. Nice work by the way. All looking very good

  2. I sense a shire brawl for THRO13?

    potential tip for your cloth roof problems: Not sure exactly what kind of fabric you are using, but you could try coating the underside with some white (Elmers) glue and let it dry into shape. or at least coat the section that will be structural support, and then you can let the sides hang loose.

    1. Hm, that's a good idea - I'll give it a try. It's still in the conceptual phase, so I have a lot of room to work with the structure still. Thanks for the input, guys!