Sunday 12 May 2024

Making a Semi-Flat Town

In a few recent games I played scenarios which had a town is positioned on the edge of the tabletop, serving as an anchor for an army’s flanks. Typically, I arrange a cluster of houses closely together to depict the town, but this setup encroaches six inches into the table's edge. In attempts to maximise tabletop space for gaming, I could place just one house to indicate the town. However, while practicable, it doesn't quite provide the look I want.

One of the prints that sparked the idea of making a semi-flat town.

Recently I have been re-reading and browsing through some books relating to the pike and musket period and enjoying the various prints of battles in the books. This sparked the idea of sketching a town scene, cutting it out, and sticking it to foam board, which I could then attach to the edge of the tabletop. As I began the drawing, I thought about using a semi-flat approach by layering multiple sheets of foam board and making the town into more of a model rather than a drawing

I remembered seeing similar concepts of semi-flat buildings on a few other blogs. Some of the posts are going a while back. One was from AJ’s Wargaming Table blog of a medieval manor (see here). Another use of semi-flats was in Wargaming Miscellany which described the use of two-dimensional buildings to reduce the footprint of buildings on a grid. (found here). Another more recent blog post with extensive use of semi-flat buildings is on Not Quite Mechanised (found here).


The finished town on the tabletop edge with a backboard.

Positioned on the table’s edge without a backboard.

A closer look at the semi-flat town.

The steps to making the town…

Materials required:

  • Foam board
  • Gesso Moulding Paste
  • Paints and brushes
  • Pencil and Paper
  • Toothpicks (or moulding tools)
  • Stiff cardboard

The steps to create a semi-flat town are:

  1. Begin with drawing a sketch and getting the positioning of buildings.
  2. Cut out the drawing and use it as a template to cut out the foam board.
  3. Cut away the rear buildings on the drawing and use gain as a template to cut out another piece of the foam board.
  4. Cut away more buildings and repeat until there are four layers of foam board.
  5. Stick the foam board together lining up the layers of foam board.
  6. Apply the Gesso Moulding Paste to the front of the foam board.
  7. Using toothpicks I etch in building details particularly for the building roofs and corners.
  8. Once the gesso is dry, paint the model with a base colour of the building walls, then add base colours for roofs.
  9. When painting the roofs and details I will use washes and highlights to give depth to the buildings. This is where etching the roofs and other details help in the painting process, particularly for washes and highlights.

Pictures of the process below…

My original sketch. Along the way I ignored the chimneys as they were too fiddly.

After cutting out the drawing I used it as a template to draw around on the foam board.

I cut away some of the back buildings from the drawing. Then used this as a template to cut my next piece of foam board.

I gradually cut away more and more until I have four layers of foam board.

The pieces of foam board are stuck together. You can see how this gives some depth to the model.

Gesso Moulding Paste is used to cover the front of the model. I also added a base of stiff card.

Using a toothpick etch in some details for the roofs and buildings. A small piece of card help smooth out some of the surfaces.

The base colours are applied.

I find a brown wash helps pick out the details.

Watered down paint is used to draw in windows and other features. If you get it wrong the watered down paint is easily wiped away.

I continue adding details and little blobs of watered down paint to indicate bricks and stones.

The finished model is given a coat of PVA glue to seal it and some scatter on the base.


32 comments:

  1. Peter, your handicraft and artwork never cease to amaze and inspire. Superb looking town back drop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jon. There were a few times during the making of this I thought I had got it all wrong, but once the paint goes on it started to come to life.

      Delete
  2. That's absolutely brilliant Peter!
    I may steal that for my Italian Wars flats project.
    Neil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be perfect for your Italian wars, there always seems to be a town in the background in pictures I have seen in books of those battles.

      Delete
  3. What a super idea, really well done, quite ingenious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Gesso paste helps immensely with the painting.

      Delete
  4. Another cracking idea, my table's not so small but I am severely limited in terms of storage space.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, storage is also getting a bit tight for me as well.

      Delete
  5. Amazing piece of scenary Peter. You are an artist and an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Richard. Etching in the detail with the Gesso paste made the painting with washes and dry brushing much easier.

      Delete
  6. What a neat idea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure there are a few other applications of this I will need to try, particularly for my sci-fi scenery.

      Delete
  7. Great idea, magnificently executed! I've been contemplating back drops for some while but hadn't thought of this 2.25 dimension backdrop approach for buildings, woods, a pass through the mountains, etc.

    Its now been passed to my imaginary engineering corps to start working on the idea for future execution.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the idea of mountains in particular as I am sure to need some with my samurai games. This should keep your engineering corps busy.

      Delete
  8. As the others have said, it is fantastic Peter. Very clever with a great result.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. It gave me a nice break from painting figures.

      Delete
  9. Great idea there Peter and well executed! I've seen similar on railway backdrops but never thought of using it for my games, so might give this a try...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They have a lot of nice modelling ideas with miniature railways.

      Delete
  10. Once again, a very clever and practical idea, Peter....excellent!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did consider using MDF board instead of foam board as it is more durable.

      Delete
  11. Great work Peter. This scenery will save space on and off the battlefield.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Space does become a premium as our wargaming collections grow.

      Delete
  12. Looks fantastic! Thank you for the step-by-step as well. It seems like something I may manage to successfully repeat myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad I took sufficient photos to help describe the steps.

      Delete
  13. This is brilliant and very inspiring, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The town was quick to make, the drying time of the Gesso paste overnight was the only real wait time.

      Delete
  14. Agree with everyone else - great idea, and very well executed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Upon completion is was put to use in a game.

      Delete
  15. Brilliant..
    Pete

    ReplyDelete
  16. clever idea and nice execution.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. There are a few clarifications to tidy up which I plan to do after a short break so come back to the rules with a fresh set of eyes.

      Delete