Friday, June 2, 2023

Battle of Scarif - Building the base boards


Having decided to build an 1800mm by 1200mm board to refight the battle of Scarif, and having found a map that I liked, I now needed to build the boards themselves. This wasn’t as straightforward as I would have liked. I know from experience that I can fit three 1200mm by 600mm boards into the stacking system I’ve built for my car, so I knew how big each board was going to be. The challenge came from the depth each board would need to be.

I googled other Scarif games that people have put on, including some enormous 28mm games and also looked at other models of Scarif that people have built including some impressive Lego versions. Whilst all of them were great in their own ways none of them seemed to have really recreated the whole battlefield in detail, with most in particular, just building the tower itself and at best paying lip service to recreating the tower base. Quite understandable, but this gave me the chance to do something unusual.

The base of the tower is very complex. It’s very geometric, in concentric patterns replicated 6 times. There are multiple transit lines intersecting with the outer ring, 6 main arteries connecting with the tower centre, ducts, gangways, 6 massive weirs with attendant waterfalls and enormous pool as well as a landing pad, all of which are on multiple different height levels. The rest of the board is fairly straightforward with low island atolls and sea - a pleasant change after the contours of my Imjin board!

Luke Fellows, of Geek Gaming Scenics, builds his boards using 6mm MDF or ply with 20mm or 25mm battens round the edges with the middle infilled with polystyrene insulation. I’ve built my last few boards the same way and I really like the system. If you are not familiar, check out this video he did here as it’s a very effective system.

I still wanted to use this system but the problem was with the six waterfalls surrounding the tower. I wanted to represent these and they needed to seem massive. A 25mm drop was not going to be sufficient to convey the scale of the complex. I thought that if I doubled that drop to 50mm I could probably make that work. That would allow me to infill the board with 50mm insulation and keep to the same system just with deeper insulation. 

The problem was that I couldn’t find any wood cut neatly, with clean edges and smooth that was exactly 50mm. Everybody that showed up in the search results for 50mm battens, strips or whatever actually provided the cut at about 44mm. There was clearly some major discussion and agreement amongst British wood suppliers that nobody needed exactly 2 inch thick wood and that 1inch and 3 quarters was just fine. Except it wasn’t for me. It would have meant slicing the top 6mm of whatever insulation I needed across the face of the insulation boards! Not going to happen!

Going any deeper than 50mm, up to say 75mm or 100mm, which I could get wood for was going to cause significant weight issues as well as imperilling my stacking system. So I was stuck at 50mm. The only option was to cut wider wood down to 50mm. I picked up some 119mm wide by 18mm thick smooth finished timber and fired up my rarely used table saw. With some test cuts and the odd error I was able to cut the timber lengthways into 50mm strips. 

These were then cut into the appropriate lengths using a mitre saw, which is when I realised I hadn’t cut enough and had to go back and buy more timber. Basic maths fail and an extra day’s effort required. D’oh!

I glued and screwed the wooden strips to some 6mm MDF boards that I checked were all absolutely the same size. I used clamps and corner angles to ensure that the sides were perfectly square and absolutely vertical and screwed them into each other at the corners. Whilst narrower than I’m used to using at 18mm thick I believe the height at 50mm will prevent any warpage.

I then cut Reticel 50mm thick insulation board to fit into the middle of each board and glued it in place using spots of gorilla glue.

I overlaid the top with some good quality wall lining paper carefully laid edge to edge and glued down at the edge of each board to minimise potential for warping.

I filled in gaps and screw holes with wood filler, sanded everything smooth and applied two coats of black gloss paint. I now had a blank canvas upon which to create my model.

Next time I will look at how I created the shape and design of the tower base. Until then keep the dice rolling!

Charles the Modeller 

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