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.