Back to basics! Or bases to be more accurate, but they do make for a good beginner exercise in sculpting, while you are still building up confidence and tool control, to try more advanced conversions later on. Anyway, I have been asked to sculpt a few ‘scenic bases’ for a foreign SR 2012 tournament, I will be attending later in December, to use as quirky awards (like Fastest caster kill, Greatest cheeser, Loudest whiner and so on…), so I thought I might as well make an article out of it.
After some brainstorming I decided to go for assorted urban floors: they are flat and level enough to accommodate for most medium based models (since I have no idea who will end up getting these bases), while still being intricate and interesting enough to make cool little prizes. That said the ideas and patterns presented in this article could be applied to any fantasy, steam punk or urban skirmish gaming system (IK RPG models, Malifaux, Necromunda, Mordhaim or even Infinity).
Cobble stone/brick floors
Let start with the simplest and most usable pattern: cobble stones (useful for high fantasy, steam punk and historical settings/game systems):
As you can see in the pictures, you start by laying a flat even layer of modelling putty of choice (I’m using mainly grey stuff in these cases) on your base (I use a 2×2 inches piece of thick plasti card to just press down the putty and ‘circumcise’ what ends up spilling from the sides) and while it is still soft use a modelling tool to press in some parallel lines (for regular cobbles you don’t need to make the spaces between the lines even) and then press in some perpendicular lines in an irregular pattern.
Once that base layer is cured you can add more details to ‘skew’ the look of the base to a specific theme; if you want a ruined city look, you add patches of sand and grass flock that overgrew the ruins, while for a more urban look you can add drains and manhole covers (like I did in this case). To make that I just flattened a small ball of grey stuff on the base into an evenly thick circle and pressed in a ‘wire fence’ pattern (will explain how I got that impression further down this article).
Now for a brick-like pattern the process is basically the same, just have to keep the spacing between the parallel and perpendicular lines consistent (so that you get consistent bricks)
For this base I wanted to represent the side of a city street with a water drain, so before starting with the putty, I cut out and glued to the base a few semi circles of plasti card, to create two floor levels (elevated walkway and lowered street floor), separated by a water draining channel (used a small plastic tube cut in half longitudinally as base). After that prep work, I just covered everything with a thin layer of grey stuff and traced a more regular/consistent ‘cobble’ pattern, following the same steps as before.
For the water drain I pressed a smaller diameter cylinder in the putty, to get the inside of the channel and pressed in some perpendicular lines with the sculpting tool to get the segmented look (as if it was made of stone/clay). On the upper level I also sculpted the cover of the water drain (just a flat square, in which I then pressed elongated holes, to get a grill-like look). After these layers of grey stuff were cured I used some green stuff to add some more depth to the stone work.
This pattern is just a simple ‘upgrade’ of the previous recipe, as in you have to add some wooden texture and nails to your ‘elongated bricks’.
I decided right from the start that I wanted a trap door on this floor, so I delineated my planks keeping that in mind. Same steps as before, just keep in mind that you need only one or two perpendicular lines for each row of planks on the base (since wooden planks are much longer than bricks). Now take your sculpting tool and lightly trace some undulating lines on the surface of the soft putty to make the wooden texture and finally press in some nails (using a small metal tube, like the needle applier of Revell’s plastic cement glue).
When that first layer had hardened, I rolled up some thin ‘ropes’ of grey stuff (1 mm thick) and flattened them to crate metal bands around the trap door (adding more nails/rivets and chips in the edge of the bands) and glued a small plastic tube at the edge of the door, to later sculpt the hinges on it.
Now lets try combining these two patterns on one base. Thematically this could be the dock of a harbor (particularly appropriate for mercenary models and Privateers in particular) or the edge of a low bridge.
Like we did in the second example, before applying any modelling putty I used some plasti card to get two levels of elevation on the base, but in this case I applied a smaller ‘square cobble stone’ pattern to the upper level and a wooden plank look to the lower level.
Once those were dry I added some more details (the bigger slabs of stone on the edge of the stone floor and the riveted bands on the wooden dock), again to gain a little more depth and variation on the surface.
Normally, if you wanted metal floors on your bases, you could just flatten some green stuff on the base and press in some rivets and ‘chip damage’, like we did before, but those on their own aren’t very exciting. I prefer the look of ‘wire fence’ floor to convey that industrial/futuristic feel and it is very easy to achieve. Also if you look at assorted game’s artwork, there are usually a lot of tubes and vents around, so I implemented those as well…
As you can see in this first example I started by cutting out half of the base’s floor (leaving just the round lip of the base), glued a circle of plasti card under the base and filled out the hollow space under the bases ‘round lip’. This is also a good trick if you want to use deeper water effects on your bases, without having to elevate the floor or water level above the lip of the base…
After that was done, I made the ‘wire fence’ pattern by rolling the handle of one of my sculpting tools (if you have some metal sculpting tools or a hand drill, they tend to have small pyramids in a regular pattern to provide grip on their handles) over a layer of fresh grey stuff and glued some small tubes in the lower level (hole) of the base. Next I used some more putty to texture the empty space between the tubes (could be water, toxic waste or sewage, whichever you prefer) and finally added some details on the tubing and floor with some green stuff.
Now that was a lot of work for one base (not advisable if you plan on making 40+ such bases by hand; more sensible if you plan on resin casting them), so lets finish with a less time consuming industrial example:
In this case, instead of ‘hollowing out the base’, I just cut the tubes in half longitudinally, glued the to the base and added grey stuff around them, to make them look like they are sunk in the floor. The pattern and edgings use the same tricks as before, but since in this example there is a bigger flat area, I decided to break it up by adding with green stuff a vent/drain in the middle of the base.
So, that is all for now. If you have any questions or suggestions, as usual leave a comment below. My next article will be unusual (for me), since it will cover my list building, painting and prep work for the next tourney that I will go to (same event I made these bases for) and possibly a tournament recap article when I get back. Until then, cheers!