The Plague Tower, Pt. 3

To conclude the very drawn-out construction on the Plague Tower...

So, when I left off I’d just glued the tower to the chassis and finished up the pus cannon. At this point, a few issues presented themselves.

I couldn’t hope but notice a certain wobbliness to the tower. I wasn’t worried about it falling apart but it had a definite wibbly-wobbly quality to it. And not the good kind of wibbly-wobbly. So I went into the lower section and put two diagonal struts. I straightened the tower, held it in place with a few books, and cut the struts to the spaces. Clamping these was a bit of work. I ended up just holding the deep one for about twenty minutes or so. Once they were dry, the tower was notably improved, stability-wise.

The other thing was that the front of the tower just looked... flat. I balanced it on the axles to get an idea how it was going to look and it felt clunky. After coming close to ripping the axles apart, I realized the problem was as simple as it sounded. It just looked flat. It needed something like a grill or a cowcatcher to sell the idea of it being a dynamic thing and not just a static object.

I toyed with the idea of using two of the spike-rams from the Chaos vehicle sprue, but they didn’t seem quite right for some reason (I also only had one spare one). Then I hit on the idea of using the obelisk-shaped tombstones from the Warhammer Fantasy zombie sprue. Alas, I’d already used most of them to make a graveyard and only had three left--barely enough for one side. I even peeked at Battlewagon Bitz on the WarStore, but no luck. Neil doesn’t stock zombie, skeleton, or demon parts, curse his black heart.

(I jest. I love the WarStore.)

Anyway, I realized I’d have to build this thing from scratch. I cut a series of six triangles, 3/4” at the base, 1 1/4” tall, but left a 1/2” or so tab past the base. Then I cut three more with no tab and cut them in half lengthwise. The tabs glued on to the base of the tower along the front edge, three on each side. Once they were in place, I set the half-triangles down the center lines of the full triangles, bases against the edge of the chassis-platform. This gave extra support (gluing in two different directions) and also created a visual “broadhead” effect, style-wise, for the cowcatcher. This looks like something that would shred through trees, soldiers, small buildings, or anything else that got in its way. In retrospect, I should’ve jammed a few random body parts into the corners. It’s still not too late, I suppose...

At this point I just had to attach the wheel-axles. I shuffled the wheels around to make sure each axle was in the best spot because they’re all slightly different (the downside to doing so much of this off the cuff). Just a sixteenth of an inch here or there, but it was enough that in the wrong order one set of wheels could get left floating above the ground. The tower itself weighed enough by now that I could just glue them, set it on top, and let it dry.

I threw on a few last details, too. This thing is so big that there’s a lot of blank space on it. I used some more tidbits from the zombie sprue to put a hanging corpse and a few severed heads along the battlements. A little excess white glue made it look like the corpse was leaking down the side of the tower.

The tower is considered open-topped for purposes of embarking and disembarking. I decided to put a few hatches on the sides to symbolize this. They’re just simple shapes with Nurgle icons made from 1/4” hole punch disks. After a lot of thought, I decided to close up the bottom section in the rear, too. It would cut my usable space in half, but it also would hide the diagonal struts, the base of the pus cannon, and other things I’d prefer not to be seen. So I made a panel to cover the back bottom half using some scrap card, building it right to the opening. I put a wider hatch on that, and glued the whole thing in place. It’s worth noting this made the tower rock-solid, as much again as the diagonal struts had.

I also took one last marble of green stuff and added little threads of it all over the model. I did some quick work with the sculpting tool to make it look like rot, corrosion, or whatever other damp, soggy substance you can think of on a Nurgle vehicle. This also helped make a few joins a bit more solid.

This thing’s about 90% cardstock, so I still went for the “liquid goo” phase with the acrylic paint. The paint seals the edges of the cardboard so moisture can’t get in to make the paper swell and deform--it’s more-or-less the same principle as painting foam with Chaos Black before you prime it with spraypaint. I layered the acrylic paint on especially thick on the tower. Doesn’t hurt to be safe, and if it shows through... so what? It’s Nurgle.

Priming this beast took some time. It’s about three times larger than a Land Raider, and I was doing light coats so the cardstock stayed as dry as possible. On the plus side, since I was going at a slow pace, by the time I’d done the fourth side the first was just about ready for the next coat. I gave it two good coats, one coat across the bottom, and then dusted a few trouble spots.

As I’ve mentioned before, painting isn’t my strong point, so I’ll just do a quick overview. All the metal got Tin Bitz as a base. The pus cannon, the Nurglings, and anything else kind of rotted got based with Dark Angels Green.

The metal got drybrushed with brass with gold even lighter over that. Then I put rust patches all over that, which is just a bit of Blazing Orange dabbed on with a really crappy old brush, and a light dust of Tin Bitz on top of that. The icky bits got drybrushed with Snot Green, washed with green ink, and then drybrushed with Camo Green. I did a super-light drybrush of Scorpion Green around the mouth of the pus cannon just to emphasize the muzzle.

For the main body, I used a variation off the color scheme for my Death Guard. They’re all based with Dark Flesh, then drybrushed with a few different colors to build up small patches of white (I go off the idea it’s their original armor--pristine white and gold--that’s gotten filthy over the millennia). I simplified this a bit for the Plague Tower, but it still ties nicely to their paint scheme.

So, not counting the six frozen pizza boxes that gave their lives for this project (really, their days were numbered once LOST went into the final episodes) total cost for some tubing, half a pack of green stuff, a new bottle of white glue, and a blister of Nurglings... about $22 and maybe twelve hours altogether.

Not a bad price for 700 points of Chaos/ Apocalypse fun.


The Plague Tower, Pt. 2

So, with the bulk of the tower done, it was time for details. I’m going to list all these out in order, but the truth is I often jumped from on element to another as different sections and details were drying. So if the pictures look a bit further on at places, don’t worry too much about it.

First thing I did was take a quarter and trace three circles. This gave me a card Nurgle icon that stood about as tall as a Terminator. It’s eye-catching and leaves no doubt how this war machine is aligned.

Next I took my 1/8” hole punch (grab yours there on the right) and made a hundred or so little disks. Once I had a good pile, I used the white glue one drop at a time and covered the two long corner-strips with rivets. I also ran rivets across the tank-straps, which would help sell them as metal, too. Also, if you look close, every here and there is a cluster of three rivets forming another tiny Nurgle icon.

I also cut an interior level and a top platform. Because I’d made the whole thing with simple measurements, it wasn’t hard. Just like on my diagram, the top is 5” x 5” and the interior one is 5” x 6 1/2”. I think the inside one needed a tiny bit of shaving to make it fit, and I glued each of those in with a few long tabs. These’d be holding up metal Death Guard figures so I didn’t want them tearing loose.

The rivets gave me another quick inspiration. I knew I wanted to put lug nuts or some sort of detail on the wheels. So I used the 1/4” hole punch to make some larger disks and made a Nurgle icon on each wheel. It’s hard to tell in this photo but I also stacked a 1/8” inch disk on top of each one, too, for more depth. If there was excess glue, I spread it out to form the “arrows” that go between the three circles of the icon.

At the top of the tower is the plague mortar. Played with this for a bit. First I thought of doing three smaller tubes in a Nuglesque cluster, but having three barrels seemed a bit misleading. I decided on just one big mouth up there, and used another bit of piping from the store (about $.50). The guide rails/ wheels on the side are two quarter-traced discs again, plus one that’s about 1/4” larger. The two quarters (so to speak) got glued together and centered. Once it was dry I marked off 45 degree marks and made a straight cut across the bottom.

Helpful Hint - As I mentioned before, remember that the card is triple-thick on these. If you force it and try to cut through the whole thing at once you’ll wreck your blade. Same goes with foamcore and even plastic. Be patient, go over your cuts two or thee times, and just work your way down. You’ll get a cleaner cut and your blades will last longer.

Once I had that I added more detail with the 1/4” and 1/8” hole punches. I also traced a piece of card for the base of the mortar and added some Nuglesque detail to that as well. I mounted the whole thing on the top of the tower with a blob of green stuff that I molded just enough to give a rough shape to. I didn’t want anything too elaborate.

In retrospect, I would’ve used a slightly smaller piece of tubing. Of course, it does use the 7” blast marker, so it’s not like the barrel’s ridiculously oversized...

Next up, the double demolisher cannons. I toyed with the idea of having them side by side but decided they’d go better with the putty work I was planning like this monstrosity. The demolishers are doubled-up plastic tubing, just like I did with the Malcador a while back. They’re a touch longer to help them stand out against the broad front of the tower. I set the whole thing on its back and superglued both cannons in place.

While the cannons were drying I mixed up a blob of green stuff about half the size of a golf ball. I ran three lines of putty out around the large icon on the front to complete the Nurgle icon. Each of these lines got poked and shaped with my little sculpting tool until they had a very messy, organic feel to them. The bottom, vertical one ran down to the highest demolisher cannon and then continued between the two cannons. Eventually it would go all the way down to the pus cannon, but I wanted to wait until the chassis section was attached to the tower.

I came back to this a bit later, after the superglue had dried, and built up more putty around each cannon. The idea here was for the texture to look (hopefully) a bit like decaying muscle tissue. This made the cannons more stable and solid on the tower, it made them look a bit larger, and it also gave the tower a good visual line. The eye flows easily up and down the tower, hitting all the details.

The top of the tower needed railings-- battlements, if you like. They would give it a clean top, add some more detail, and also keep figures on the platform from plunging almost a foot to the tabletop whenever the tower moved. First I put a 1” piece of card on the inside edge (you can see two of them in the shot with the plague mortar). Then I ran two thinner pieces along the top edge of the tower. These were cut to be flush on the top with that 1” piece. Now I ran a 1” piece on the outside edge to make this are flush with the “metal bands” that ran along the two front edges of the tower. Last but not least, I ran another 1” piece on top of that which ran “around” the tower and clamped the whole thing with a forest of clothespins. So in the end I have a wall around the plague mortar that’s five layers thick.

I topped the little wall off with spikes made from the old plastic Rhino’s cowcatcher. Also added another wave of 1/8” disks as rivets. This project is what really got me thinking about buying the 1/16” hole punch, although I still think the larger ones were the right way to go for this. I think on this scale smaller rivets might vanish, especially with the broad open areas. At this point, I also stuck a Nurgling by the cannon--the Plague Tower is supposed to be infested with them after all.

In the Apocalypse book I loved how the Plaguereaper had body parts floating in its pus tanks. I decided to go a step further and used some old Warhammer Fantasy zombie parts to show whole helpless victims being rendered down into... well, pus. All it took was snipping the parts, filing them flat, and supergluing them in place. I have another idea for these tanks but it’s going to have to wait until the very end of the project...

I also used this time to fill in a few gaps around the tanks. Little scraps of card with a few disks on them look like metal plates riveted in place. Voila. No more gaps.

It was time to fasten the chassis to the tower. I measured off the tower’s exact footprint on the platform, glued it, and actually piled some books in the bottom of the tower. Fortunately, as I mentioned, the platform was built to hold weight. While this was drying I also added a few more Nurglings around the base. You can never have too many.

Once it was dry, I used tinfoil to bulk up the pus cannon against the tower. Then another largish marble of greenstuff covered that and gave the weapon an imposing mass. I tried to keep up the muscley look here, and I also connected it up to the line of “rot” that was centered on the front of the tower.

Next up, more assembly, a few final details, and painting.


The Plague Tower

Sorry for the long absence. Stupid real world job getting in the way of my toy soldiers...

Since I got into this whole scratchbuilding thing, Apocalypse games have held a special thrill. Scratchbuilds are almost required so it mean I finally had a chance to catch up with some of my friends who can field half a chapter’s worth of Dark Angels or an entire Eldar craftworld. Being who I am, my thoughts for the big stuff tend to run towards Chaos.

The Plague Tower of Nurgle is just great. It’s got a solid amount of history behind it, both fluffwise and in the game itself. You may have seen some pictures of the old Epic model with the goblin-esque faces on the front, or maybe the new one in Apocalypse Reloaded which looks a bit more like a siege-tower. Plus, it would give some big-game punch to my Death Guard army because it has a very solid statline and two demolisher cannons. Two! And those are its small weapons. Could you ask for more fun?

I decided I wanted to go for the siege tower look. I also really liked the creepy, organic look to the pus cannon on the Plaguereaper model, so I wanted to make mine more like that. One of the things I love about Nurgle stuff is it’s very easy to mix in those organic elements. I sketched out a few simple plans, because at its core the Plague Tower is a really easy model. It’s just a tall block, really, which means it almost calls to be made out of frozen pizza boxes.

I should note that I decided to leave the back open so I could place models inside and keep track of what’s where. It’s not on this side view diagram, but I also cut a small opening into the front. That’s for the pus cannon, so I can run whatever forms its core along the chassis for this thing and give it some stability.

Helpful Hint - There’s not too many exact measurements in here once I get going because I did a lot of it by eye. As I mentioned, this is a simple model. Plus, if something’s a bit off or mangled somewhere... it’s Nurgle. After Orks, this is the best army for irregular, imperfect models. And if something’s really bad, you can just put a lot of goop over it and it looks perfect again.

I cut out both sides and the front twice. They’re so big you can just use a pair of good scissors if you don’t rush. Each of these double layers got glued together slowly so I could make sure nothing was going to slip and mess up an edge. Once they were together, I folded them into a piece of wax paper and stacked a few hardcover books onto them. After about an hour under the books each side was very flat and rigid.

The wheels are just the lids off old vitamin jars. If you look it’s amazing how many of them have the same standardized lid. I’d noticed it a while back and just started saving them because I figured all those identical circles would be good for something. Between myself and my girlfriend, eight double-thick wheels took about six months to save up. I superglued them together, then used greenstuff putty to make them solid and also add some messy-looking detail.

I played around with how to do axles for a while, then settled on the simplest solution. Just make square tubes that fit inside the vitamin lids. Now it’s just high school geometry. I know the lids are 3.5cm in diameter, or 1.75 radius (I always go metric for the super-precise stuff). Two radii are the two sides of a triangle, which means the third side is 2.475 cm (rounded up).

Then I made a very simple platform, as detailed on my extensive plans. Think of it as the chassis between the wheels and the main hull (the tower itself). To help make the platform solid, I cut a few long strips of cardboard 1/2” wide. I folded these four or five times to make a bunch of zigzags and consummate V’s and placed them inside the platform (a system first devised with the Mk. I Land Raider). This gave the platform load-bearing inner walls and made it a lot stronger. It held up Under the Dome with no problem.

So, by this point, the sides were pretty dry. I decided I wanted to install the pus tanks now, when I could still lay each side more or less flat to dry. To keep it asymmetrical, there were going to be one large one with two smaller ones on the opposite side. I used two vitamin jars and an old superglue bottle. The heavy pipes coming out of the bottom are little tube elbows I grabbed at my local hardware store (total cost, about $2 for all three). I glued these in place, then did more green stuff to make them solid and add to the look of goop and corrosion. I cut slots into the sides that the tanks could settle in, then lined up the pipes and cut holes for them.

Helpful Hint - Remember, the card is double-thick on all these sides. If you force it and try to cut through the whole thing at once you’ll wreck your blade. Same goes with foamcore and even plastic. Be patient, go over your cuts two or thee times, and just work your way down. You’ll get a cleaner cut and your blades will last longer.

Once these were in place I cut a 1” strip of card. This would be the metal bands holding the tanks in place. A little bending, a hard crease on either side, and I had a snug-fitting band. I used clothespins and a few big clamps to hold that in place while it dried. On the port side, I set a heavy pair of scissors between the two tanks while it dried to give it a bend.

I let the two sides with the tanks dry overnight. In the meantime, I took the first pass at the pus cannon. For the core, I just took a 6” square of card and rolled it up nice and tight into a cylinder. I used some duct tape to hold it shut like that. The front piece with the notch let me get it lined up so it was centered with about 2 1/2” reaching out past the front edge. Then I fastened it to the chassis-platform with some glue and two “straps” across the far end (which would end up inside the tower). That got clamped to dry.

While it was drying I bulked out the card cylinder with some aluminum foil. It’s cheap and easy to shape. This helped me build the basic shape of the pus cannon’s muzzle without using a bunch of expensive green stuff. Once I had the shape, though, I did use about an inch of green stuff on it to make sure it kept the shape. I gave this some basic texture just by dragging my sculpting tool along it.

Now it was time to assemble the tower proper. I cut two long strips of card 2” wide and gave them each a light score right down the middle. I glued one edge of each to the front and clothespinned it at top and bottom. Once that was solid, I also trimmed the top and bottom of the 2” strips to line up (another eyeball measurement). I glued the sides to the front along the same strips. It did overlap the tank-straps, but as I mentioned earlier... It’s Nurgle.

So, here’s where it is so far. Nothing’s glued together yet, mind you. I just balanced the platform with the cannon on a couple of the wheels (square axles won’t roll) and stood the tower on top of that. In the foreground for scale is my girlfriend’s warboss, Bah Bossa, from the Black Reach set. She insisted that I point out he’s still a work in progress as well and his paintjob is incomplete.

That’s the big bulk of it done. Next for a bunch of detail work.