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Pagan Wolfe

Building Malifaux One Table at a Time

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Part One - The Western Town

So, with an insane demo schedule over the next month I decided to use this weekend to make some new terrain. Terrain is an interesting affair that can fail on epic levels for many reasons, but when it is done well it really helps bring the world to life.

Terrain has a few basic rules, in fact the guys over at Worlds End Radio narrowed it down to three golden rules that I agree with whole heatedly (and I paraphrase here):

1) Functionality: does it work well with the models and rules you intend to play with? Is it clear how the terrain functions and what it is intended to be (of course the quick check and chat at the start of a game is essential).

2) Durability: For those heavy handed players who will drop a Lord Chompy Bits right onto that fine detail.

3) Storage: Oh, sure...themed tables are great...but where do you store them? Oh and transport for demos with that too...does it fit in a box?

I also add my own rules, being a family man and all...

4) Is it cheap (or even FREE)?

5) How long is this going to take me to do (kind of an effort/time vs end product judgement)

To demo games I wanted some straight forward terrain that had a few interesting features that used some of the basics while also allowed exploration of more advanced rules if we wanted. The Wacky West is a pretty pervasive theme in Malifaux, so with that in mind I set off to make Perfection (yup, Tremors dude).

Balsa Wood. So easy to work with, slightly more durable than foam core card and cheap if you know where to buy it from. I got a big box of assorted bits for just over $100AU and although I used all of the blocks I still have more than 2/3 of the sheets and sticks remaining for future projects. Estimated price of materials used? About $40.


EDIT - Measurements of BLOCKS

Small block (square base)

Length / width: 7.5 cm (3 inches), Height: 5 cm (2 inches)

Large block (rectangle base)

Length: 15 cm (6 inches), Width: 8cm (3 inches), Height: 5 cm (2 inches)

The conversions to inches are not precise, but very close (out by something like 0.15 inches).

Using the solid blocks as the basic structure for each building I set to work cutting some of the sheets into miniature planks of random thickness (using a craft knife and going WITH the grain of the wood). While I knew this would not make a high detail 'genuine' western town it would give the effect of a frontier town with the right kind of vibe.

Solid blocks not only made the terrain durable and stable but it also cut down on the complex issues of having buildings that can be entered (more on those in a future post). The building can be moved around and even climbed over at some points, but the models stay out on the table where they can be seen.

The mini planks were then jumbled up to make sure they would not share edges and start fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle with neat edges. PVA was applied down a face and the planks added. To make a window I just used a pair of scissors to quickly cut out the middle section of a few planks while doors were just half planks.



To make some doors and windows stand out I glued some of the square sticks around as a frame. Again, most of these were cut with scissors and cleaned up with a craft knife. Larger bits of Balsa sheets were glued to the front of most buildings to allow for signs in the final stages.

Time to make a building?

Less than 10 minutes.

In some places I cut the planks off at roof height to allow space for...the ladders.


This is just two long bits of square Balsa stick with small bits of sheet glued on. The sheet was cut into 2cm width pieces using a steel ruler and craft knife as it was important this time to get it uniform in size. The runs themselves could afford to be random so, once again cutting with the grain, I used the craft knife to cut the 2cm sheet into little pieces. Once I had a large pile I pinned a piece at either end to hold the sticks in place then ran a small amount of PVA glue along the length. With the runs in one hand I quickly dropped them into place using the other hand.

Time to make a long ladder (each made about 6 smaller ones that i needed)?

About 6 minutes.

To make some larger buildings I glued blocks together or even on top of one and other and repeated the same process.


Six buildings? Just over an 1 hour.

The town need some watch towers too. Thinking about it I wanted somewhere for our plucky little 30mm bases to run and hide, get up off the ground and maybe even get cover. So, the doorway had to be just over 30mm but some of the larger flying critters may want to leap to the top and crush the defenders. A 50mm ledge at the top is needed (in no way was this made so I can intentionally fly Nekima up to mercilessly hack away at some of my regular opponents :) )



Using more of the square stick I build a frame up and used pins to hold it all in place (and add strength) while the glue dried.

EDIT - Now with LADDERS!


Now, while I wait for all that glue to dry it is time to make some big, old, dead, ugly look'n trees.

---------- Post added at 10:26 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:02 AM ----------

BIG Trees

Right O. So these are made out of junk and scraps I had, but honestly by the time you get two rolls of wire, some masking tape and some plastic (or even tick cardboard) pipe from somewhere you will probably be out of pocket less than $20AU and have left overs. Lets make 3 trees...estimated cost if you had to buy your materials? About $4AU each.


So, this is a little trickier than the buildings and will take some extra time but I feel the effort is worth it. I also made some bases out of thin MDF I scored from a good friend that works in a warehouse. They get this stuff through in oodles as waste packaging...so another free score for me. Using the trusty jigsaw i cut out a few random shapes large enough to take the tree base and then sanded the edges down with the good'ol power sander. This can also be done with a wood rasp (bought my 3 set for $3 at the salvage yard).


Oh, the big baboon kidney is for another project later... :)

Take the plastic pipes and drill some holes through the top that are large enough to take you thick gauge wire. These will be you main branches.

Thread the thick wire through and give it a rough bend to get some shape. Use some of your tape to hold them in place to prevent 'drooping upside-down' branch syndrome.


Once all of the thicker branches are in place start winding your thin wire around these branches (make sure your thin wire is stuff you can comfortably bend with your bare fingers). Where ever you want a thinner branch shooting off just make a loop, give it a few twists, then go back onto winding around your main branch. Keep your lengths of wire at a manageable length, it is quite alright to have 5 or more bits of thin wire winding all over a main branch if they are wound in nice an tight.



Once you have made all of your branches it is time to start covering the whole thing in masking tape. Don't worry about bending these things into shape, keep it open and easy to work with as you can bend the branches after applying the tape.

Start at the trunk and wind tape around and around the branches, again keeping the lengths manageable.

Now here is a trick to make the end product look better. Once you have applied tape in one area TWIST IT, that's right, pinch it and twist it around the branch.


Once that is done you need to work on the trunk, which is probably smooth and boring. To make mine lumpy I just stuck some bits of junk (left over ladder runs from the building project) to the tape (actually I dipped the tape into the junk pile).


Keep going until the whole thing is covered...like THIS




Next...adding texture and painting!

Edited by Pagan Wolfe

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On that point I forgot another design feature!

The blocks, when rotated the way they are, are 5cm high (or so close to 2 inches nobody would care). That is ALL ladders, even the ones in the towers. This makes it very easy for players (especially new ones) as once they understand one ladder they will understand all of them on the table (climbable terrain @ 2 inches = 4 inches of your movement to use).


And more...these one weekend projects are FUN!

So to fly in the face of popular opinion SAND is not the only method of adding texture to terrain. The effect I am after for these trees made me go for PVA with plaster mixed in. This makes for a very thick mixture that will retain some of its 'gloopy' structure once dry.



On the base I used...sand...undone! Yes, sand is good :)

I also knocked up some extra buildings while I was at it, since they were so easy...

A toilet :)


And the town entrance...


Oh, and this was one of the multi-story buildings.


There are doors on both sides of the upstairs part so I may say you can move through that with no penalty but you may not stop INSIDE...otherwise there are ladders but that is 12" of movement as opposed to about 5".

Here is the set so far...all in a weekend with KIDS and family time too...


And a water tower...yes :)

Now the weather has gone all cold and wet chances are this stuff won't dry properly until tomorrow.

Edited by Pagan Wolfe

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Very nice! I really like the buildings. They look like they are very functional. I'm still torn on having buildings with and inside or not, but those are small enough it doesn't matter. At that size its better not to be able to go inside. Can't wait to see more. Are you going to paint them or stain them or both?

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I am in the process of trying to get them painted.

As for inside? Well you can always fight on the roof...so the footprint of the building does not deny area from the table/game, rather changes the way models interact (deny LoS, provide cover). So really they work like having an inside with actually needing an inside. No fiddly bits :)

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I'm a big fan of buildings with insides, but I don't think it needs to be harder than what Pagan Wolfe is doing here. You just have to prioritize being gameplay-functional over being an accurate scale model of a brownstone or whatever. In other words, leave the roof off, don't worry about whether your floorplan is realistic, etc.

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Sneak peak at Down Town...now that is all buildings you can walk in and out of.

Currently only two buildings with a set of 4 large and 3 small planned.

But that is later :)


This town is for demo games mostly, so easy to play. I think it is also fun to have some different style sets. the Western Town is all outdoors focused, while Down Town will be moving in of, out of and around buildings.

The Resurrectionist labs are going to be...interesting :)

Edited by Pagan Wolfe

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Awesome. Will we get a zoom-out on those downtown buildings?

Also, I find it entertaining for some reason that Ryle is screaming in front of a wall full of bottles. What's he been drinking?

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Lots more later, as I said I want to do the set. These are the experimental ones i did up to try out some ideas.



Works largely with what you said...concentrate on what is fun to play rather than a 'realistic' floor plan. In saying that, have some idea about space. The guild office has a kitchen area (tiled floor and larder) while the General Goods has a storeroom full of stock (printed shelves on walls as opposed to clutter on the floor).

I will do the full down town next...after I get through 11 Demos I have booked for the next four weeks! First month as a Henchman and I am hitting up everyone I know for a demo before the end of the month. Years of people looking at my glass cabinets and shelves of stuff and now I have asked "OK, so want to try? Please? Will bring beverages and chips". It is going to cost me a fortune in food and drink :)

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So, I won't call these DONE...but they are 98% what I want (that is weather beaten and neglected old buildings). A little flock around the town sign...as well as the town sign...not to mention the half built water tower. But enough to use on Tuesday, the first in my insane marathon of Malifaux awesomeness (seriously, almost 3 games a week, this is going to be GREAT!)...anyway... We have a town called PERFECTION :)







Oh and those trees too. They are still drying, but that is fine. I will paint them some other time...maybe tomorrow night!

Either way, including the trees, I have used about $50 in materials and 4 hours of my time (not counting drying times, I went and did other things) to speed build a town in a weekend.

Stay tuned later in the month for Down Town :)

See you all then!

Edit: Just looking at the photos lets go for 95% done, there are some easily fixed sloppy bits there but i don't want to handle these things while they are still wet anymore :)

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For sure! Didn't even think of that...um, next game with my scenery is Saturday (the club has its own stuff we made in tech and enterprise - Fridays game). MIGHT even get some of the other bits and bobs done by then (trees and signs).

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Had another great game today and got to use the table to full effect. It made the game fun to play, demonstrated some of the basic movement dynamics and just generally allowed some nice interesting interactions.

First though, some finished up trees. These are meant to represent massive redwood style tress rather than the smaller ones I have floating around. Over all the effect I was looking for was a frontier town rather than just an out and out desert.

Tree with no foliage (could leave it as is)


And with greenery :)


Then THE TABLE (during a game)






So all up, less than 6 hours work (building, painting and printing signs).

The budget blew out because I used some woodland scenic green fluffy stuff for the trees ($12 for a bag). Including the amount of paint I used...approximate cost $75.

Not bad :)


Oh...the last two pieces...

Rocky outcrop. This was a cheat as it was re-purposed from my other scenery from other game systems, just given new paint and flock to match the town set.

Just good old packing foam cut to shape and textured with PVA and sand on an MDF base.


And the water tower...simple to use again, although tall models (like some of my fancy bases) will not fit *sigh*


Edited by Pagan Wolfe

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Looks like a fun table! Your buildings are great and simple, but excellent for the game. Someone else said something about doing a whole table of rooftops and I think that your simple building would be the way to do it. Enough of them packed in together with only small alleyway style gaps and a few bridges where necessary, would be very interesting. I could see Seamus racing across the rooftops being chased by the Guard! Might have to try it when I get home (I'm overseas - so it'll be a while).

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Thanks everyone! It has been a blast getting all of this done and starting out as a henchman...good times so far! The set needs some smaller terrain now, like crates and low walls, stuff that won't block LoS but will provide soft/hard cover.

Maybe some post and rail fences, I have enough balsa wood left over!

It was kind of fun having some fights on the rooftop while others were on ground level, made you plan ahead about support and interactions between units. I think Lilith would do well on this table :)

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Looking really good though I might add a little something to the foliage on the trees. Adding a little adhessive spray and course flocking material (you can also use crushed herbs) or clump foliage will make them look less like spanish moss and more like leafy trees.

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Those are looking really good :) I was happy with my old Mordheim buildings for my games, but this might just have inspired me to make some new stuff!


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Yes...yes it is. Sorry, I have been doing an insane amount of demos and haven't had time to look in. Anyway, after 6 games on this table in two weeks I was getting bored, even though it can all be moved around. That, and the guy I was playing yesterday was very interested in the water tower effect (actually, so are all the kids at the club too *poke*poke* "Whats THIS!?)). He also looked through the books and noticed that some models (gups in particular) got benefits from being IN water. So as we chatted it occurred to me how many tables I have played on and how little water I have seen.

The wife and kids were busy today, so with the day to myself Perfection got a water feature!


I measured and cut some MDF in an interesting shape (once again, salvage from my good friend in the warehouse).


He also came through with some cork tiles that had been taste tested be a rat. Cork is THE holy grail of terrain construction in my book, so much tougher and natural looking than Styrofoam.


Glued and undercoated...then the waiting began. I hate waiting for paint to dry. Sticking to the rule about being portable and store-able I made the decision to make no piles more than two cork layers high. This means that I can not only flat pack it but I can add extra terrain as I choose. The only reason I even went for the second layer was to hide the seams in the tiles.


Rough colours added. By changing between the water and the land I was able to work on one while the other dried. The layers after this were light and dried very quickly.



Stippled the different layers of colour to make it dynamic and interesting.


Before adding the water effects (big bottle of scenic's stuff for $35...I used about 1/5 because I am such a tight wad and expect this bottle to last for ever...it is already 3 years and several projects old). It looks GREAT if applied in layers and those layers are shaded for depth, but on a project this size I just wanted it to glisten.



While the undercoat dried I knocked up some bridges that can be moved around (45mm wide so even the large based models can cross easily).



Perfection now has a water feature! This will help me get through the last few games this month. Later it will be part of a wilderness table too, but for now I am making some low shrubs and rocky outcrops that are small enough to be placed anywhere on the ledges.

All of the cork is pretty much decoration, just the river 'counts as' severe terrain (double movement cost). The shrubs and rocks will offer soft cover when they are done.

Yet another weekend project done. About 3 hours work (spaced out through the day) and less than $20 in paint, glue and water effects!

EDIT: Oh and yes, there is a large seam at the end, as it was built in two parts. When I get around to it I will make a second extension to replace the small one that will take the river out to 4 feet...for 'other' game systems :)

Edited by Pagan Wolfe

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Great terrain you got there, everything looks very nice. Good thing you made it flexible and all the elements can be arranged differently for the game.

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Brilliant river, the detail of adding white-water realy makes it look like it's flowing - best painted, realistic looking river I've seen!

If only my local DIY store had a rat problem, the I could offer to releave them of unwanted treasures :P

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