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Building a Medieval Town Part 1
Completed Nov 26th, 2012
By Neldoreth
Oct 1st, 2008

Towns are easily one of the coolest, most fun terrain set ups to play over. They offer so much cover, areas to explore, objective locations, and simply detail and flavour. I've wanted to build one for some time and I've never really taken the time to do it, so here it is. This project article will progressively cover my medieval town building project. It will be an ongoing article, with new pieces and tips and tricks added as it comes together!

First things first, I've started with one simple-ish building. It's small, it doesn't have a lot of detail, it's fairly simply to build, and it's useful to have. Starting easy is the best way to start, otherwise I risk burning myself our early! It all starts with a have-baked plan!

Sketches are where it all starts.

First it starts with an idea that develops into a plan that you use as a starting point... Typically for me that starts with sketches. In the above picture I've done a few angles so I have a very good idea of the structure of the building. Trust me that having a good idea on how the building will look/be is a huge step to making building it easy!

I also textured the MDF. Be sure to wear a cover over your mouth.

Next step that I took was to decide the dimensions of the house, which I did arbitrarily based on the idea that I wanted it to be small. Then I cut out the base of the building; I used a base for the building to allow me to have an floor and some surrounding area outside of the house to put decorations. Once the base was cut out I sketched on the floor plan. This was the first time I considered the floot plan, and at this point I hadn't decided how I was going to handle the second floor.

Cutting this stuff is harder than it seems.

So, I skipped a crucial step here: the walls. First, measure and cut out the walls. Don't make them too high or it will be hard to move the figs around inside. Next, cut out strips of thin, dense card as shown above to make the wooden frame and the stone doorway frames. For your average small medieval house you'll need about 25 kilometers of the stuff... okay, maybe not that much, but close!

The first floor went together really easily.

So here's the first floor. I used white glue - Elmer's because it's vegan - some black 5mm foam-core board for the walls, some thing, dense card from the office supply store for the wooden frame trim, some thin packaging card for the bars that hold the doors together, a piece of sprew with a hole drilled through the middle for the door-handle ring, and a piece of an extra spear for the bolt-piece that holds the door-handle ring. The crate is a plaster-of-Paris casting from Hurst Arts. The first floor is built!

I purposely made the doors fit 28mm, but not a figure with a base, as you can see here.

A quick look at the inside of the house reveals the stone door frames that I used inside as well. For these doors I simply used the stone door frames to define the door and some scoring on the foam core for detail; I didn't cut anything out or build a door in any way. This is the easiest way to do doors. Also, I've found that the doors that can open and close are basically useless in miniature gaming, so adding opening doors is 90% more work for 10% more gain. Also note the step ladder there. I built it with the same card as the wood frame trim along with the same white glue, but I mistakenly glued it in too early; don't glue in details like this until after everything's painted otherwise you'll have trouble painting behind it.

The scale works well I think.

A different angle for variety. The figure shows how the building scales, but notice that the figure's staff is higher than the walls, which will cause problems if I add a second floor...

The second-floor loft piece is on...

After some deliberation I decided not to do a real second floor. Having a second floor is easy to build, but very difficult to actually use in a game; if you decide to put figs in the top and bottom floor at the same time, then you have to have the top floor somewhere off table to be able to have access to both floors, in which case it can be easy to forget about the top floor... and if you put the roof back on top during game play, then it's easy to forget about all the figs in the house... So, I went with a loft sorta deal instead. Kinda like a study that looks down on the rest of the house. It was technically more difficult to build but worth the extra hassle. The floor is made from foam core like the walls, with scoring to make the wood panels. Finaly, do you see that slot between the side wall and the front wall? It's about as wide as a piace of foam core is thick, and I plan to use it to fix the removable roof on...

That half-roof piece was quite a lot of work to put on...

Here's a front view for detail. Note the short walls on the second floor. I have a scheme to make a removable roof that completes the second floor walls; the front walls of the second floor will raise to the peak of the roof, but the side walls are as tall as they will be, and the angle that's cut along the top of them is there to facilitate the angle of the roof. More on the roof structure later.

The stove... I'm happy with it.

I built the oven/stove out of pink insulation foam. The knife is made out of two different kinds of thin card and put in place with white glue. Detail like this can go in at this phase because it doesn't make it hard to paint around it, unlike the step ladder.

Pretty happy with the inside, and there's not so much detail that it's impossible to game with.

A rear view for more detail. Note that the edges along the top of the wall on the inside, the white strips above the doors there, they are covered in masking tape. I probably should have used the thin cardboard strips that I used for the frame/trim pieces.

Three perfect triangles!

The three pieces of black foam core that will form the foundation of the roof. Basically, I'll pin and glue a piace of thin corrugated cardboard to form the actual roof, but these three pieces form the foundation, the shape, and provide the strength. The front and back pieces will also fit into the slot I left to make a snug fig for the removable roof.

If I'm lucky, the roof will still fit when it's all together!

Here's a picture of the front and back roof pieces set into the slots that I left for them at the front and the back of the second floor. They really fit in there just perfectly... almost too perfectly. Typically the cardboard and foam core will change shape after the glue completely dries and the paint is applied and dries. At this point though, I don't care :) I'll deal with it later if I have to!

The roof piece fits! And the front looks pretty good too I think.

Here's a picture of the front of the house with the roof piece in place. The crate adds flavour and the overhang is a nice touch I think. It's the perfect place to put a figure during a game and accidentally forget about... until it's time to pack up, when the house is picked up and the abandoned miniature ends up getting flung across the room... but I digress. What's almost worse is forgetting a figure inside the house when the roof is replaced on top of it. I've actually found figs hiding in houses years after I forgot them there...

Corrugated cardboard isn't my favourite, but it works.

So here's the roof all assembled. I typically use white glue for everything because it's amazingly affective on cardboard, wood, and foam core. But I use sewing pins to keep the roof in place while the glue sets. I've also put on the thin card trim that plays the role of the house frame. That's the white strips on the front facing in the picture above. The thin black line along the bottom of the front-facing foam core is to allow that piece to fit into the top floor...

The roof fits well after the glue has dried!

A quick test run of the roof once the glue is dry shows that it fits like a charm. First hurdle hurdled! Unfortunately, after all the glues goes on with the shingles, and then the paint goes on after that, there's a real chance that there may be a problem!

The shingle creation and application process in detail.

The above pictures was stolen from my Building the Prancing Pony article, but the process hasn't changed at all so why reinvent the wheel? That article actually has a lot of details that are directly applicable to this project, so if you haven't seen it, it might also be helpful. This is easily the most tedious and boring part of building a house with a tiled roof.

The tiles are complete, now it's ready for paint!

I glue on the tiles as I finishing cutting them. It's a great way to break up the monotony. I built the chimney out of pink insulation foam, which is quite a bit different than the pink insulation foam I used to be able to get, but close enough so that the process is exactly the same :) One notable upgrade from the Prancing Pony is the wood I used on the side of the roof; on the Pony I used the same thin card that I used for the wood beam outline/frame. Unfortunately that stuff isn't all that sturdy, so now it's all bent on the corners. I've also used balsa wood, but it's very fragile. This time I used popcicle stucks and I am pretty sure they'll be very durable!

Removal of the roof!

Just a quick demo of the roof-removal action, and so far so good! The roof fits despite the dried glue! Actually, it was a bit warped; the glue caused the roof to twist slightly, but it was easily stretched back into a suitable straight shape.

The paint begins to go on.

The first step is to paint it all black. Then I did the brown fram boards and drybrushed them. It's very easy to paint brown beams first, and then the plaster (aka daub) secontd. I find it's a lot easier to carefully paint the light-coloured plaster carefully, without painting over the wood beams than it is to paint the brown wood beams after applying the light-coloured paint to the plaster area. Why? It's because of the side of the beams; you don't want any white there, so if you just paint the light-coloured plaster sloppily first, then you'll spend a lot more time painting the sides of the beams carefully... but try it out for yourself and you can decide ;)

The window building scheme...

This one was also stolen from the Building the Prancing Pony article. Once all of the painting is done it's time to add the finishing touches such as windows. The only thing I changed from the above is that I painted the wooden window supports before gluing them on. It's much easier that way.

And then it's done!

Okay, I skipped a few steps, but I got caught up in the rush and forgot to take pictures! I promise to take more pictures of the next building I put together for the medieval town project! For many, many more photos of the finished house in the Medieval Terrain Gallery. Stay tuned for Part 2!