Roads and Rivers

I caught a virus at ZomBCon that’s been kicking my ass (no, seriously), and it’s put me behind on a bunch of stuff.  Sorry I haven’t posted anything.

Anyway, in the interest of putting up something, this was a random thought that hit me the other day.  I’m not sure if I’d ever do it myself, but it might be worth thinking about.

Games Workshop sells a roll of Urban Roads.  It’s a 6” x 10’ strip of vinyl printed with some cool graphics to help represent roads.  It’s also twenty-five dollars. 

Go to your local Home Depot or Osh or whatever they call the hardware/ home improvement store in your town.  You want the tile section.  The stuff you want to get is the cheap tile, often called composite tile, and it feels a bit like dry rubber.  You can usually pick up one of these tiles for a little over a buck, so five or six of them shouldn’t hurt your budget too much.  I use them a lot for big scenery bases, because they make great city blocks.        

Once you’ve got your tiles, sand the hell out of them.  Use the coarsest sandpaper you’ve got.  Get both sides good and scratched up.  This is going to give the tiles a bit of texture, which is good for looks and also gives paint and glue something to grab.

I’m going with a six inch wide road.  It’s what GW used, and I think it’s a good number.  At six inches most models can run across a road in a single turn.  It’s wide enough for pretty much any standard vehicle, even Land Raiders and Monoliths.  Yeah, a Baneblade’s going to hang off the edges, but think about what a Baneblade would be in the real world.  It’s not designed for rush hour traffic and carpool lanes.

And, most important, six inches lets me save on materials.

Let’s say you bought six tiles.  Take five of them and cut them straight down the middle.  You should end up with ten 6” x 12” pieces.

This is Important - The tile is resilient and a hobby knife isn’t going to cut it.  You need to use an actual tile knife or a matte knife at the very least.  On the off chance you’re under twelve, ask someone to help with this.  Dad, Mom, or your older brother or sister.  This is very tough material and its easy for the knife to slip and hurt you (said as someone whose right thumb has a lot of scar tissue in it).  Make three or four shallow passes rather than trying to go through the whole thing at once.  If you get 2/3 through, you can probably even get it to snap in half with a clean edge.

The last tile’s a bit more challenging.  Measure off a 3” square in each corner.  Cut them out so you’re left with a large cross.  Or, to be more precise, you’re left with an intersection.

Spray paint all these parts flat black.  I’d do two coats and give them time to dry.  If you want to add a bit of detail, you could drybrush a bit of Codex Grey along the sides or on any particularly rough bits left from your sanding.  You could use pencil to mark off a center line and then add a yellow line down the middle.  Maybe even use some big aquillas if you’ve got them left over from a tank set.  Let’s face it, the Imperium puts an eagle on everything.

What did that take—two hours?  Half of which was waiting for paint to dry?  Two hours gives you eleven feet of road, including a four-way intersection.  All for well under ten bucks.  Plus the tiles have a good weight to them, so you don’t have to worry about them sliding too much.  You can use a piece of tape on the underside to connect them if you want it to be really solid.  Even if you don’t have much else for scenery, these road pieces and a white sheet gives you a nice supply road through the arctic wastelands.  If you’ve got a tan tablecloth, it’s a highway across the ash wastes.  So you’ve made a whole landscape off this and a trip to the linen closet.

Here’s an easy tweak to this.  Suppose you want to make a river for either 40K or Fantasy.  Be honest with yourself—you’ve always wanted to use that Amphibious rule for Chimeras and you’ve never had the chance, have you?

Take a few tiles and cut them in half, just like above.  Texture the long sides of each 6”x12” piece.  Go about 3/4” in at the most.  You can use superglue and rocks or a bit of putty.  Hit it with some sand or textured paint, too.

This is Important -  Make sure you’re consistent with these textured edges so the sections will match up with one another.  Don’t go 1/2” in on one piece and 3/4” on another.  An easy way to do it is to cut up a bunch of cardboard strips at the chosen width and superglue them onto the tile.  Now just texture the cardboard—which you can do with white glue (much cheaper).

Now spray paint the whole thing with glossy blue.  Once it dries paint the “banks” green or brown and maybe use a few touches of flock—whatever matches most of your scenery.  Maybe do a few streaks on the water with Enchanted Blue and Lightning Blue.  You could make a four foot long river for just five bucks—and that’s including the spraypaint.

Want to add a curve to your river?  It eats up a bit more material, but it’s still easy.  Just mark off the edges of a tile at the 6” mark and connect accordingly.  You can make a little jaunt or a full bend.

You could combine the road and the river with the tablecloth, add in a few stones, and look at that.  A very solid and logistically challenging landscape for under twenty bucks.

The only other thing to remember is that this tile can settle and bend over time, so you need to be able to store these flat.  Even if they do bend, just set them out on a hot day and they’ll flatten right back out.

Next week, I’ll get to those Dark Eldar for sure.  And then I think I’ll have a couple more cool scratch-builds to show you.

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