Having returned home for the holidays I recently found myself on an archaeological dig through my own history as a terrain builder. I hope that my work can inspire creativity and an ethos of having more fun with the box than the toy inside.
My work tends to lean toward up-cycling and found art, however this project draws heavily from the terrain I unearthed back home. In the future I’ll be sharing more of my scraps and rubbish terrain that the old school taught me to craft. Though prefabricated terrain gets great results fast, there’s more satisfaction in building from scraps.
That being said, this Martian temple excavation site has been built from foam, joint compound, wedding cake columns, an antique bathtub drain, an elbow joint, a radio knob, matte board, sheet plastic and from Citadel: 3rd edition gothic buildings, Necromunda bulkheads, the bitz of an immolator (2nd edition Rhino not included). The fleur de lis is a universal enough icon, didn’t feel it niched the terrain terribly, but if you’re reproducing this project it’s entirely possible to replace any of these once bought items with ruins and sci-fi doors of your own design (it feels better to create every detail, and more liberating as in this project I’ll have the challenge of conforming to the citadel sculpts)
I wanted the terrain to have table functionality, I enjoyed the building damage tables in older editions so the design includes stages of deconstruction. I began with a ruin featuring three corners and three elevations, the fourth left open for a removable wall. In a rear corner I would build to the second story to justify the fallen tower in the center and to include a rubble hill. The face would feature a wall of bulkheads and reflect the temporary fortification built around the excavation site. This evolved into a full coverage with a skylit roof allowing more visibility and Batman style skylight access points. Crash!
One corner of the ruin is removable; I carved out craters on the base to be revealed when the gothic ruin is destroyed. Sawed and affixed wedding cake columns destroyed by the collapse of the ancient tower, I laid tile up to the craters and displaced the grid to reflect the collapse where the tower carved into the martian soil.
I magnetized the roof of the ancient tower to allow player access or more battle damage, though it’s shingles already reflect damage and allow for visibility, it was important to allow some light into the tower as I wanted to use the bathtub drain to create the frame of a shattered stain glass window, and I didn’t want to wire any lights in this effort.
I started in on detailing the walls, the continuation of patterns in the gothic ruins and bulkheads. While working in textures, I like to spray on a coat of primer so the shiny bits would stop distracting me from the textures and patterns in need of more detail. After appraising the progress I’ll detail the surfaces and add removable artifacts to the rubble.
Short on supplies for detailed modeling and not feeling up to the grueling task of cutting framing strips and bricks from sheet plastic I applied color to get a better sense of the terrain’s needs in detailing.
The tile will be a bright red marble to differentiate between the eras. Even at this stage in painting the tower stands out as bland (certainly the primer helps) but texturally it’s overshadowed by the fortifications and the citadel ruins. I’ll lay in a clock tower frame or gothic cathedral stone pattern to complete the detailing, it should after all stand as the pièce de résistance, a reward for destroying the fortifications, not an ugly slab on the table. I was initially considering a statue or gargoyle on the tower, but with the immolator turret so close it would be clutter if another figure was on the same plane. That sort of complexity fits best in the rubble pile. I need to get some plastic strips and go to work on fine texturing.
This is the result of a few layers of color, washes and dry brushes. Definitely need to minimize the wear on the plascrete roof, it’s flattening out the texture of some panels in a conflict of scale. This is a result of a lack of direction of weathering, I need to consider the winds and the protection from sand that the ruins provide, I’ll focus on this specifically when I work on the dust windblown on the ruins.
I referenced some photographs of oxidized copper and went to work on the gothic metals. Had I not I wouldn’t have used black at all, always worth doing a bit of research. While this is a project about new and old, I hope to accomplish a venire of antique and ancient, telling a story of archeological research as old as the war waged around it.
Detailing the collapsed tower ruins left me at an impasse, was the face a stained glass window or a vault door, or a repurposed entrance inoperable by the adaptes excavaticus? I’d already dedicated the copper to the old, the ancient needed something more regal, a metal that still held it’s luster in this harsh atmosphere? Or artisan stone work in the gothic tradition? Making a decision on the rubble colors was a cake walk compared to the details on the tower ahead.
The marble effect was a product of photograph research, always worthwhile, do make sure you toss out the cg rendered textures, it defeats the purpose of studying a photo to turn to something artificially colored– the uniformity is the give away. I did the marble in three coats, red with white streaks black flecks, and Vellejo rust oxide wash, and finally after applying fine white highlights and shading the cracks a shellac of Testor’s red crackle paint.
Realizing the scale of the nearly full exposed face of the tower’s window is large enough for monstrous creatures, the gothic window could be confused as an entrance; I’ll be building up the rubble pile to bury it more thoroughly. I leaned on the side of playability when laying out the levels, but to have a debatable entrance to the last chamber of the fortification would cause more confusion than the cool points justify. Hopefully it survives the burial and is still keeps it’s iconic appearance.
To finish the final details I built the drilling rig out of bitz from an old printer the bulk of which will be used for building the Underhive. I reinforced the cathedral window with mysterious alien technology using aluminum tubing, plastic crochet rings, and a saw.
So here in it’s final stage, the Adaptes Excavaticus.
Since the initial build the fortifications and bulkheads were salvaged for the Underhive, while we are auctioning our studio terrain to fund future projects.
If you enjoyed this piece enough to build this project or buy our studio model, we’d love to see photographs of your results on the tabletop.