Written by Sarah-Anne
The very first complete set of scenery I made for a gaming table, the town of White Sands was to be an outpost town in Malifaux, but could be used anytime you wanted a Wild West-esque themed terrain set. It was an experiment piece for me as I really wanted to test out inexpensive and readily-available building materials, in this case, Popsicle sticks.
When I first started playing Malifaux I was surprised to find it was not the Eldritch Horror aesthetics that most appealed to me, it was the gosh-darn cowboys. Cowboys! The idea I could play with a rag-tag group of outlaws sounded like so much fun, and I just knew the first set of scenery I created for the game had to be the perfect backdrop for Parker Barrows and his crew.
Enter White Sands. A little nod to my own home town of Penetanguishene, which in the native Ouendat language means Place of the White Rolling Sands. It began with a single farm house and outbuildings, which were made of differently textured styrene sheets on a base of blue foam insulation. The various barrels and other details were cast from plaster, a gift from another great creator in our local hobby group. I used aerosol hairspray between paint layers to give the weathering effect, which turned out to be an easy but effective way to mimic peeling paint. I plan on making a tutorial on that soon.
Though I really liked the end results, the sheer quantity of styrene sheets required would soon become cost prohibitive if I wanted to build an entire town. So I decided to give another material a try: Popsicle sticks.
Now these aren't collected from actual Popsicles but are now sold as 'craft sticks' at my local dollar store. Regardless, you can purchase around 100 sticks for $1.25 CND, so it will really cut down on the overall material cost. I started using PVA glue to attach together, but the time it took to dry (and the difficulty holding them together until they did dry) proved very frustrating and I soon gave up for hot glue. I knew the bonds wouldn't be as stable, but I needed something that would attach the sticks together quickly. I had a LOT of sticks to add!
While the main structures and siding were made from the Popsicle sticks, I did use the leftover styrene sheets and rods I had lying around for the roofs and front porch details. More plaster sacks and barrels also added extra details, and drying 'clothes' were made from sheets of heavy paper coated with PVA glue.
While I did like the look of the ground built up around the original homestead buildings, I knew it would limit what play mat or other gaming table type I used and opted to not make a base (other than the wooden front porch/sidewalk) for the remainder of the town. That way I could place them on the badlands gaming mat I had, or any other type of scenery that we felt like for the next game.
In addition to the buildings of the town itself, I also made a few other pieces to add more flavour to the gaming surface.
I felt all good Malifaux tables needed a Hanging Tree, and White Sands was no different. Inspired by the Tree of the Dead in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, I made the core from wire and blue foam insulation, and the bark from wrapped 'worms' made of Greenstuff to give that warped and creepy feel. The branches were cut from metal tree armatures, and I even left a hole at the base to insert the required skulls (as all good creepy trees need!). The noose was made from fine lace-weight wool, stiffened with PVA glue.
For more pieces to add to the homestead I made a windmill from scrap styrene, as well as a water tower. A lone angel tombstone was added to mark the entrance of the town, and it was complete!
This set of terrain was the first completed set I made and I am very happy with how it turned out. That being said, I've discovered a few things that I had to chance/fix once the set saw actual gameplay.
Because the scenery is carted between home and our LGS, the hot glue (as expected) has not held up well to the constant jostling. As boards and sections come loose, I've been using PL Premium to re-glue them to a much better result.
I also discovered that though the buildings provide excellent concealing cover and different vantage points for line of sight, the overall gaming table does require smaller scatter terrain. I plan on adding 'destructible' wooden crates and piles of hay bales, and a few movable wagons and carts.
Overall though these buildings were a great success, and fairly inexpensive to craft. I hope they serve as inspiration for your own next project, and would love to see what you create in the comments!