Friday, 20 July 2012

Frontline Workshop: Making some Bushido boards.Part 1


Right after last Sunday's Sermon I thought I really ought to actually write an article on making some scenery and stuff. If these prove to be popular you can expect me to go all sticky back plastic and Blue Peter on your ass. For my none British readers please see this awesome (warning may not be awesome) video below, don't worry you don't have to watch it all:

Now that I've got that obscure British cultural reference out of the way, and brought you all up to speed, lets get on with showing you what I've been up to shall we?

What I've been up to is making two Bushido gaming boards in case the article title wasn't enough of a hint for you, or the giant Bushido logo. But I digress. Why Bushido? I hear you ask, well it's for a few reasons:

  1. It's a game I'm trying to pimp locally and I figured having nice looking game boards would helpm with my pimping efforts.
  2. And most importantly the game is played on a 2' by 2' board so it's piss easy to do and that meant I could rock them out quickly. Sweet!
  3. Also because two of my friends have gone a bit mad on the game since I convinced them to support the Indiegogo campaign!
  4. Finally, if they prove easy to make, and more importantly cheap, I'll make some more and might start running Tournaments for the game if people are interested.

Those are as good a collection of reasons as any, and quite frankly it normally takes less than this to set me off on a course of action. I'm sort of easy to motivate where toy soldiers are involved, it's maintaining th emotivation that's been the problem of late. So what am I going to do? Well as Bushido is played on 2' by 2' it is more than possible to make interesting scenic boards to play the game on. Also if I want to be able to transport these boards they need to be sturdy and have a frame around them to protect the board from any potential damage. Obviously it'd be great if the scenery on the boards didn't exceed the height of these protective frames, but it's not vitally important, as if I were planning on transporting these to venues I'd almost certainly be doing so in specifically constructed boxes... because yes I am that anal.

Board construction

Well I had enough materials to make myself two Bushido boards, which you know was quite nice, but before I get onto the airy fairy arts and crafts side of things I have to walk you through the butch bit that requires power tools. Just the thought of power tools makes me giddy with excitment. WARNING if you think no more nails is manly then this walk through might not be for you! There are drills, countersinks, saws and mitre joints involved.

First up you need to get yourselves four wooden batons to attach to the underside of your board. I used some pine batons cut into about 6" strips, the baton was 3/4" by 1/2".

One side of the baton was smoothered needlessly in PVA glue. That's how things get constructed at Frontline Towers, the PVA glue is sort of my insurance policy against crap DIY skills.It goes on everything, everywhere all of the time... and then receives a second coat afterwards just to make sure!

Meanwhile on the 2' by 2' board (I used HDF) I drilled out three corresponding countersunk holes for some screws to go into. The wooden baton was then pressed firmly into place underneath these holes. I then drilled some small guide holes through the HDF into the wooden baton below using a powerdrill *swoons*. Using a second drill (yes I am a man that has many drills) I screwed three screws into place.

Voila! Baton in place and no nasty screws on the underside to scratch an expensive coffee table or anything. Don't worry too much about the big holes on top of the board because when making scenic boards they'll be easy to cover, or you can just put some wood filler in the holes.

I repeated the process three more times so that I had four batons on each of the corresponding edges of the board. See there's a symmetry to it all. I then cut four lengths of bullnose architrave to match each of the four sides, with mitered corners and the round lip on the outside of the frame. For this I used my beastly compound mitre saw. The outside leading edge of the HDF board and the batons attached to it were once again smothered in PVA (or Frontline Gamer insurance as I now wish for it to be called), then the four architrave sections each had two countersunk holes drilled into them to line up with the batons underneath the board. Once in place guide hole were once more drilled, and screws used to firmly fasten them to the outside of the board. At each miter joint more PVA glue was used as well as wood tacks being hammered into place to hold it all together. More PVA might have been sloshed around afterwards, but I couldn't say for sure... OK there definitely was more PVA used.

This is the finished board frame from the top. This is actually the second one I did, and actually isn't as neat as the first one for a number of reasons. Primarily that the architrave used on the second board was a bit bent and warped, and quite frankly I couldn't be arsed to soak the wood to try and straighten it out again. Still with copious amounts of wood filler and a sander it'll all come good in the end... maybe.

The inspiration bit

Yeah this is the part where you should try and get in touch with your inner interior designer, the guy that seems to like cushions and throws, like I do... but is far to manly to admit it in public... oh crap... I've done it again haven't I? Oh well I guess the pink and purple background doesn't help much does it. Any way, I had two tables to build, and I wracked my brains for ideas / jumped onto the first things that pooped into my head. I'll leave it up to you to decided the more likely scenario. The first idea isn't exactly super original and is insipred by this:

Yeah, House of Flying Daggers bambo forst scenes, so it's not a very original an idea, but hey it is still cool looking. The idea being that I will build a lime green bamboo forest of sorts. Although I have to be careful to make it still playable and not swap it with too many 'trees' that get in the way.

The next idea wasn't actually inspired by an image as such, but was inspired by a book of Japanese myths and legends I had as a child. It spoke a lot about 'spirits' and 'deities' that lived in sacred places like forsts, rivers, lakes etc. that humans should not trespass on, apparently an awful lot of Japan was comprised of such places. In fact much of this book could be deemed environmental warnings as such, you know, not to trespass in such important natural places. I can't rememebr the story I was thinking of exactly, but it was one of these cautionary tales. There was a tale of a village and shrine that was built on a sacred wetland, so the humans could be closer to the spirits they worshipped or something. This angered the spirits and they basically sunk the town into a swamp / wetland. So my second idea is to create a sort of wetland scene with a sunk Buddha stature.

Anzaii Wetlands, Japan.

So where next?

Well actually the next steps are already done. But, I'm dragging this work out into a series of articles, kind of  like a wargaming soap opera, so consider this my cliff hanger! Yeah OK so it's not been badly acted, and there hasn't been a fake tan in sight... yet! But, hopefully you'll all be looking forward to the next in the series. Where I'll be constructing the basic scenery for the boards and getting the lie of the land done. You know, the topography, ready to paint and put the finishing touches to. Oh and yeah, I've even started the painting and everything. Peace out!

Please remember I'm not around at the moment to respond to any questions or points you might have. So could I ask you to be patient and bear with me, I'll get round to it eventually I'm sure. Thanks!


  1. Well that was a cool post.
    Frontline gettin' all constructive on us.
    Heh...see what I did there?
    Cuz, y' mean...


    *sits quietly and waits for Frontline*

    1. Well I'm sort of back now SinSynn... although I'll probably be making even less sense than I normally do for a few weeks. I guess I could have written a number of articles like this over the past year, but I didn't think anyone would be interested. I'll give it a go though and see how people take to them.

  2. I don't think I've got anything constructive to add, so:

    Mmmm... Scenery construction pron...

    1. Yeah they're looking quite good up to the stage I've got them to right now. I think my next update will be next week now though as I've got literally 1000's of emails to wade through and I'm still feeling a bit under the weather so sitting and writing multiple articles a week is a tough ask of me right now.

  3. Man, that video brings back memories. I didn't manage anything NEAR as good when I tried it.

    Oh how times have changed....

    1. Well I was lucky enough to get the actual Tracy Island so I didn't have to use any sticky backed plastic!!! Still the skills come in handy for scenery construction.

  4. Anyone States-side have suggestions for suppliers of HDF? MDF I can find reasonably quickly, and hardboard, but HDF is giving me headaches tracking suppliers down for.

    1. Sorry I can't help you buddy. Maybe they call it something different in the USA but it seems it gets used in flat packed furniture in the USA. So you should be able to get it somewhere surely?

    2. Wikipedia equates HDF with Hardboard so you may be done.

      I don't see any reason why MDF would not work provided it was of suitable thickness. I would stay away from the 1/8" thick sheets, but the 1/4" or 1/2" MDF sheets should be more than strong enough. You could probably dance on it. Thickness selection would vary based on what your module size was, and what and how you are anchoring to it. I would think a 2'x2' up to a 2'x4' would be fine with 1/4" MDF(might need a mid brace for the 2x4). If you're drilling holes through it to anchor trees or bamboo, I'd go with 1/2" MDF just to get a good glue surface.

      One warning: it gets heavy! I have a layout made from 4 sheets of 2'x2', 1/2" thick MDF because I was too lazy to make a frame like Frontline and I can only reasonably carry two sheets any significant distance.

      I looked up HDF and MDF on wikipedia and the differences are not that distinct. Yes, weight per volume is different but actual strength varies with what type of wood was used not necessarily density. Providing I read it was not riveting.

    3. Hardboard isn't quite HDF. It is basically the same stuff as peg board without the holes in it. It's super cheap ($3 2'x4' 1/8" sheet) at most big US hardware stores.

      HDF is a LOT like MDF, just somewhat denser fabrication, and it is sturdier by weight at lower thicknesses. Which is why some companies making laser cut terrain use it.

      Unfortunately the only suppliers I could find are in Washington state, and the shipping would be horrendous.

    4. Hmmm... that is a bit of a conundrum Elbrun. I'd have thought that HDF would have been easy to get in the States. I'm interested to hear you're having problems. But MxConnel is right, certain MDF will be better than certain HDF, I check to see whats available by surreptitiously scraping allong the thing edges to see how it holds together and also test it to see how much flex it has.

  5. Looking forward to the next parts. If you went on to do more, for tournaments or what not, have you considered trying to modularise (Not sure if that is a word?) them? Would then mean they could be lumped together to play other game systems on?

    1. Yeah... I'm looking forward to seeing the next parts too... o_0

      I did think about making the boards modular in some way, but in the end I decided they needed to be designed specifically for Bushido, and I wanted to make each one themed and quite different looking, so modularity wasn't an option. So what I've done is design each one to be a little scene in their own right.

  6. Thanks for posting scenery articles. I'm a scenery article junkie (and figure painting) as you never know when you'll learn something new.

    Eager to see how you pull off the bamboo as it's something I've always wanted to do. An acquaintance once found a fake plant in a craft shop that looked just like miniature bamboo when it was stripped down, ridges and all, but he could never remember what the plant was. I've haunted the fake floral aisle for years now and not been able to find it.

    1. Ah my bamboo trees are awesome!!! Ahem... OK I'll be honest I've only made 2 thus far. However I'm actually quite happy with my results. I'll hopefully get back to this project soonish, but I'm just really struggling right now.

  7. Cool idea. Even a lot of modern Japanese stuff seems to have that environmental message, like some of Miyazaki's work. I guess you're right, it comes from their animist native religion.

    Pity their religion only regarded Japan's landscape as sacred and not earth itself, because they don't seem to have any problem chopping down other people's forests and harpooning whales in Australian waters. /rant.

    Anyway... lookng forward to seeing the bamboo forest particularly.

    1. Ah the Japanese are pretty much like any nation on earth... blind to their own faults. There are plenty of nations stomping their feet over Japans whaling antics... meanwhile they're massively overfishing cod, tuna and other fish stocks to the point of extinction. We're all hypocrites and we don't know it! As to Miyazaki's work, what's your favourite?