Making Graves

Who doesn’t like a graveyard setting in their favourite fantasy skirmish game?! I certainly do, so I went about making a few for my current favourite games of Frostgrave and Kings of War: Vanguard.

My first step was to find some plastic kit grave stones, since it takes more skill than I have to sculpt these. I found a pack of Renedra’s Grave Stones at my local game store. This kit is perfect for 25mm – 32mm and provides a selection of grave stones. Too easy.

The next part was how to dress up the grave stones. Some I just put on a small base of card, but most I put on a large base so that I could add a burial mound next to the grave stone. I took this opportunity to experiment with some different materials to see what the best option was for applying ground cover onto card with minimum warping. So I tried ready made Spakfilla, Milliput, air dried clay, and glued model railway ballast or basing grit. The Spakfilla is light and a little dry so it can be a little fidgety to get it stuck down on the card, but I think it provides the best texture of the three because it is so easy to rough up while it is drying. The Milliput had no problem sticking to the card, but has the classic problem of all two part putties, that it sticks to your fingers whhile you work with it. The air dried clay was very easy to use, the only downside worth noting is that it takes at least two days to dry. For the ballast, I avoided gluing it directly to the card with PVA glue, because obviously the PVA would soak into the card and warp it. So I made a ring of hot glue and sprinkled ballast over it to look like an open grave. Not a lot of the ballast stuck to the hot glue, so I put a layer of PVA over the cooled hot glue and sprinkled more ballast over that.

But how did the three materials go with shrinking and warping their card bases? I will straight up say that air dried clay was the worst. In case you didn’t already know, this stuff suffers from a fair amount of shrinking as it dries. There are ways you can mitigate the warping it causes to its base as it shrinks, like The Terrain Tutors advice of letting it dry covered with a damp cloth, but ultimately this stuff has noticeable shrinkage. I had previously made a tree stump out of air dried clay which I had sculpted on a PVC foam base. PVC foam sheets are great because they are non-porous and so don’t suffer from any warping. But as my air dried clay dried and shrunk, it actually pulled itself off the PVC foam base. Clearly, the shrinking force in this case outweighed the bonding force with the PVC sheet. But don’t get me wrong, air dried clay is great stuff when used for the right reasons, and its super cheap.

The Spakfilla, which has been a basing favourite of mine for a long time, did pretty well. There was perhaps a very small amount of warping, but with a piece so small it is barely noticeable. The hot glue and ballast had a small amount of warping, but not too much. I’m not entirely certain why. Perhaps I got some PVA onto the outer edges of the card as I was sticking down more ballast.

But the best material of all was the Milliput which didn’t exhibit any warping. Milliput does not shrink as far as I can tell, and it sticks pretty well to anything. Unfortunately, its the most expensive of the three, and requires a little more effort to sculpt than the Spakfilla.

If I were to do it again though, I would go with Spakfilla all the way. Though it is the most difficult to stick to a base, you can slap it down with little thought to sculpting and still end up with a reasonable ground texture. In future, perhaps I will try experimenting with other crack fillers and dry wall compounds.

So once the experimenting was complete I went on with some basic terrain painting. Firstly, I undercoated all the pieces with a fine coat of black spray paint. I made sure this was a very light spray from almost 12 inches away. This prevents too much spray paint from soaking into the card. Then a medium grey base coat, light grey dry brush, and a generous layer of black wash was all the grave stones required. The dirt was done with a dark brown (burnt umber) base coat, and a lighter brown dry brush. Finally I glued down some static flock and the odd grass tuft and lichen. Graves done.

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Crudboy's initiation into war gaming was with Battletech way back in high school, where he spent more time creating 'mechs with his friends, and not nearly enough time actually playing the game. Since then, Crudboy has dabbled in so many different tabletop games that he no longer remembers which rule goes with which game. His latest loves include, but aren't confined to, Frostgrave, Gloomhaven, and Gaslands.

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The Monday Knights are a gaming group based in Melbourne Australia.  We are happy to play just about any game at any time.

We meet every Monday night at the Auburn Bowls club in Hawthorn East, Victoria, from 6pm onwards.

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