Sunday, July 15, 2012

Counts-As Aegis Sandbag Bunker Scratchbuild, Part 1

Gaming on-the-cheap is a must for me.  I wanted an Aegis Defense Line type of emplacement for my army but I can’t really justify spending the money on one right now.  I already had an Aegis Lascannon handy due to some frivolous (but ultimately fortunate) bits trading earlier in the year and I have a lot of Styrofoam, textured patch paint, and putty-like material (green stuff, clay, milliput, etc.) on hand in the man cave.  Everything I need to scratchbuild a piece of terrain that can double as a “counts as” Aegis line.

The only reason to actually buy the Aegis model would be to get my hands on a GW Quad… consequently, I figured the ROI just wasn’t there.  If I really need a Quad, I can convert one from my many Robogear bits.  I’m not a serious tourney player so having official GW models isn’t super important.

Unfortunately, I didn’t decide to turn this effort into blog content until halfway through building the thing.  Most of the pictures regarding the early construction are on a mock-up I built after the fact so I could actually have pictures in the post.  They get the point across.  Once we get to the “making sandbags” section, you’ll be seeing pictures of the actual build.

The Aegis has about 28” of armored gun-line safety.  I wanted a relatively compact piece of terrain with an analogous length of protection.  I decided a hexagon with roughly 4.5” sides would be about right.  Plus, the big old Lascannon in the middle should look really cool!

The base material is some 1/8” foam project sheet I picked up at a local office supply store about a year ago.  Good and inexpensive.  The only problem with it is that it is sometimes not completely flat.  Also, putting the patch paint on can cause it to bend, too.  As the paint dries it contracts and warps the sheet.  I didn’t think that there would be very much painting/flexing… I was mostly right.

The stepped ground material is some Styrofoam sheet I had laying around from when we upgraded our TV.  They used a great big sheet of the stuff to protect the screen.  Naturally, I had to pack-rat it for just this type of occasion.  It's about 1/4" thick with a very spongy texture.

I worked up the hex pattern in Visio in about 2 minutes.  One hex had the 4.66” sides and a second, larger hex, was 4 inches greater in diameter. This large hex was the absolute biggest I wanted the Styrofoam section of the terrain to be.  I printed out the incomplete hex (the entire hex pattern wouldn’t fit on a single sheet) on 11'”x17” paper.

You can download the hex pattern in pdf format HERE or from the GSI Downloads Page.

I cut the big hex pattern from the paper and used it as a template to draw two big hexes on the sheet of 1/4" Styrofoam.  I did this by marking out the majority of the outer edge, rotating and aligning the pattern with what was already marked, and then marking out the remainder.  This gave me two large hexes which I cut out of the foam with my hot foam knife (a great piece of kit for the tabletop gamer).

Then, I cut most of the smaller hex out of the paper template but kept 1/3 of the large hex attached; meaning keep the white bits and cut out the grey bits in the picture above.  By aligning the remainder of the large hex with the outer edge of the new cut foam hexes I drew the small hex boarders by just roatating and aligning the pattern again.

The mock-up.

I then went to work with the hot foam knife to free the small hexes from the large foam hexes.  This gave me two hexagonal donuts, if you will.

I roughed up the outer edge of the donut I was going to use as the bottom layer of terrain with the hot knife.  I tried to keep as much of the donut intact as I could but still make it look semi-natural and random.  You could also just break the foam, like I did in the photo above, and get a more rocky look.

The upper layer I cut into with a vengeance!  In most places it was only about 1.0” wide.  This was OK because all it’s there to do is provide a bit more height to the sandbag bunker.  Sandbags are cool and all but I don’t want to have to make hundreds of them by hand!

The next step was to glue the donuts to the base material and each other, stacking them to make what could be described as a hexagonal crater.  At this point I ran into a problem: I didn’t want a squared-off base plate, I wanted a natural looking one.  So, I cut the base material a couple of inches wider than the foam and not very neatly.  This bit of terrain is a lot larger than I wanted, but as long as everything outside of the bunker is "open terrain," I don't think it will be a problem.

Once that was done I glued them all together and put a heavy book on them, i.e. the 6th ed rulebook, and let that assembly cure overnight.  When it's all dry it's time for the textured paint.

I use Shur-stick Perma Patch 102.  I like it because the texture bits are little pieces of rubber (I think) and not sand.  Plus, it seems to clean out of the brushes pretty easily.

I imagined that the bunker base would look pretty plain once I started slathering on the textured patch.  I could cure that with some wooden retaining walls and floor planking.  I made these from your standard popsicle sticks and a couple of Starbucks stir sticks, which are wooden, thin, and fairly long.  A nice contrasting piece so all the wood isn’t uniform in shape.

Just measure out what your maximum wall/floor size will be and then start gluing them together with PVA based on that info.  I cut my pieces using a pair of flat-cut wire cutters.  Sometimes I just cut them and other times I score them with the cutters and then break them with my fingers.  I tried to make them as different as possible by varying the angle, length, and number of layers the planks have.  It needed to look cobbled together.

It’s easy to add detail to these by poking nail holes into them with a sharp implement.

Once the walkways and retaining walls were complete I just slathered on the textured patch.  Do not be shy!

I put the walls in by sticking the bottom edge in the corner and tilting them up into place.  This helped squeeze the patch through the openings and give it an oozing mud look.

Once the walls are up, I put the walkways in by butting them up against the walls and pressing down.  This oozed the mud up through the planks.

Seeing as the patch needs to dry for 24 hours this seems like a good place to end Part 1.  In Part two I’ll cover how I made my sandbags as well as how I made a Plasma crater inside the bunker.

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