Mos Eisley Project: Sci-fi roofs

Warhammer 40K blog

These buildings are very generic Middle Eastern buildings. But I’m hoping that, after adding these details to the roofs, the overall effect on the game table is to suggest a more high-tech setting.

As I work on building a backwater, desert town for our 40K narrative campaign, I’m confronting a minor but interesting aesthetic challenge: How do I blend together my 3D-printed, Star Wars-themed buildings with some resin buildings depicting structures more suitable to a medieval-through-20th Century setting?

If you’ve read previous blogs on the Mos Eisley Project, you know one strategy was to paint the buildings the same color. This creates a homogeneous look that, I believe, captures the effect of a town built out of local materials and weathered by a millennium-after-millennium scouring by desert sand and dust.

But something else occurred to me. Gamers tend to view tabletop scenery from a “helicopter view,” so one of the first things that will stand out to observers is the roofs.

Warhammer 40K blog

This roof is a mix of dental-cement castings made with Hirst Arts molds. The rounded tank and pipe are plastic odds and ends found in my bitz box.

Many of my buildings were manufactured by the Miniature Building Authority (MBA) and, as most of their buildings are meant for historical gaming, most have bland, gravel roofs. Most would work perfectly well in a game set in Ancient Egypt, although one of their more “modern” buildings has an air-conditioning unit on the roof.

As many of these roofs are removable (so you can put figures inside), it occurred to me that I could add to the sci-fi “vibe” of the town if more of these roofs have a high-tech look.

What if I cut out new roof panels out of MDF board,  glue down some satellite dishes and solar panels, and then put down a layer of sand to represent gravel? Wouldn’t that instantly give gamers the impression of a more high-tech setting?

Of course it would. So that’s what I did.

As you’ll see from the photos, this was a simple terrain project. It only took a few minutes to cut out new MDF -board roofs on my table saw, and a few more to glue down my “scatter terrain” to the roofs. The next day I used a brush to spread glue over still-bare areas of the MDF and sprinkle find sand on it.

After that dried, I spray-painted everything with primer and began painting. Easy-peasy.

I did make one aesthetic decision. I painted the roof details with bland and muted colors: lots of grays, for instance. Although I want people to notice the details, I don’t want each individual detail to be too bright or colorful, or the town will lose its “dusty” feel and the details will distract from the overall impression of the town.

Warhammer 40K blog

This unpainted air-conditioning unit is a terrain piece from the Dropzone Command game. I wish I’d found this product before I put sand down on the roof. Ah, well, not every roof needs details.

There’s a balance to be achieved, although I’m not articulate enough to explain it any better than that. I’m simply trying to create a look that, when you walk up to the game table, you go “Ah! Look at that dusty, backwater town set on a lonely desert planet.”

Now, some might question my decision to glue the details down on the roof. Well, I’m of the opinion that the human eye can spot details down to the width of a human hair, so I think you can spot when something is resting atop something—particularly when the surface is as irregular as a sand-covered roof.

So everything is glued down—anchored “in” the sand. You may not notice it consciously, but I think your subconscious will find the roofs more believable.

Now, to keep these roofs from being damaged in transit (such as the Shorehammer Convention this December), I’m going to build a special storage box for for them. It’ll just be an inexpensive cardboard box with foamboard dividers. But with a little foam or bubble wrap in each compartment, my satellite dishes and air-conditioning units should be safe for transport.

That’s about it. When I start experimenting with the overall town layout, I’ll take a helicopter-view photo, and you can see for yourselves whether this idea is working.

Until next time . . . — TheGM

The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.


Categories: Terrain

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