In this article I would like to share with you some pictures of my Dark Ages/Medieval village, how I built it and so on. Hit the link for lotsa pictures and enlightenment through PVA glue.
Let's talk about MDF
First I would like to say something about why I made this and why I went for doing this the way I did. The MDF terrain market completely exploded over the past 5 years. Nowadays you can get everything in MDF and many of you will be familiar with the offerings of 4Ground, Sarissa and others.
Originally MDF buildings got popular due to the fact that they were cheap stand-ins for resin/hard foam/plastic buildings and terrain. From there it went on from there. Nowadays people make great things in MDF, but the material comes with inherent disadvantages and I believe that it is overused. The main disadvantage I see with MDF is that bare naked MDF terrain works for very few settings/periods such as Wild West, Feudal Japan and possibly smaller scale modern city buildings or some sci-fi things. The simple fact of the matter is that MDF sheets don't have a texture and thus most of the times end up looking like ..well, wooden sheets or cardboard. At the very least you have to slap some texture onto those walls (which of course defeats any claims to 'pre-paintedness'. That and the fact that these pre-colourings only enforce the cardboard cutout look.)
|My point pretty much.|
If you look at the picture above (made by Derek H and posted on his blog along with an excellent article about how he did it. Hi, Derek!) you will notice that this is the same model, but the left version is pretty while the one in the right is built right 'out of the box'. The right version looks kind of sad, artificial and - last but not least - exactly the same as on thousand other gaming tables. Not to mention all the obvious connector pieces and such. In the left you can see what can be achieved by just a little texture, a few details added and a proper paintjob.
This pretty much is what I did as well and this illustrates what I think MDF works for: Giving you a base to build upon.
So what exactly did I do?
As I knew that I would add a bunch of bits and wood the considerably more expensive offerings were tossed aside and I went for Warbases' Dark Ages range (this was primarily planned to be an Anglo-Saxon village). Those kits are rather simple (really nice wood texture doors and doorframes though) and inexpensive and as such perfect for my plans. By the way, the Warbases guys are great people to deal with. I didn't ask, but I heard that they'll occasionally also cut things to your order if you ask nicely.
Here you can see the first step:
I got each house in the range once or twice, got me a whole lot of wooden coffee stirrer sticks and lolly sticks, cut them to fit and glued them to the walls of the houses. I also added some more details here and there like reinforced doors and such. In the front you can see some of my Dark Ages collection set up on multi-bases, also sold by Warbases. Good stuff.
Here you can see the houses drying in the sun after I had applied texture (made from fine grit, a little sand, PVA glue and water). For the thatched roofs I used teddy fur...
...cut to fit and soaked in PVA glue and water. I used an old comb to work in the thatched look. It was the first time I did this, so it's not perfect, but servicable.
After putting the houses on wooden bases and slapping on some paint the houses looked as above now. Let's have a look at the individual houses.
Huts 1 and 2 and Workshop/Weirdo Hut
Of this kit I got two. You can see that I hacked a bit at the wooden beams to give them a hewn look and make them look less like they're flat boards. I also added something underneath the roof and horizontal bits to the door. The little holes in the walls are just painted on, but add a LOT to the overall look. The rest is taken care of by the base and details such as the wood stack (Always fitting, houses with wood stacked against the wall are houses people live in. Consider wood.)
Here's the second one:
I used a different pattern for the wooden beams, a different pattern of wood stack, and even added some planks in the front because the lady of the house does NOT appreciate people dragging mud and dirt in!
On this one I replaced the roof parts with plasticard I cut to fit. Then I took the original roof and turned it into this:
These used to be very popular with people depicting Anglo-Saxon villages of the period. Until research turned out that houses probably weren't build that way because they don't make much sense. Buildings of this style dug up earlier proved to be just regular houses sunken into the ground. It is possible that such houses were built as get-by solutions or for non-permanent use. So I made this one all-wooden as a workshop of some sort or the village eccentric's habitat. I put some extra effort into modelling the logs holding the roof in place and again added that hewn look to the woodframe. That look especially adds a lot to a natural look of such things. Mind the doorstep.
On this I did pretty much the same as on the houses above: wooden beams (way wider ones on this one, just for fun).
|...the obligatory stack o'wood...|
I added some ivy to the other wall. In the front I put some rocks to mark a path to the door.
Pig Sty and Granary
Okay, I have to admit that I didn't do too much on this one. Other than on the other kits, Warbases put some additional wood beam texture onto the house and the horizontal beam on the roof helps a lot too.
You may remember this one because I posted it recently after I had finally added pigs.
I cut out an extra large base and drilled holes and stuck in the pegs (after having added texture to the base of course. Then I took some gardener's wire and wove it between the pegs. Maybe it's a nudge thick, but it was late at night the only other wire I had was way too thin, and I wanted to get this done rather than waiting for the next day to get to the hardware store, being too busy the next day and not making it, maybe getting there the week after and this thing would have never gotten done.
So yeah, good thing I got it done I think. The pigs of course make for great game objectives (often with a mind of their own) and the fence makes for good linear cover.
Now that our supply with sausages is secured we need some bread to go along. But where to store our delicious grains so neither weather nor vermin get to it? As so very often in life, the answer ist stilts:
I nicked the idea from a blog I found online. So I put the house on stilts and turned it into a granary (first thing to build when you found a new city in Civilization, so a must-have for my little village to prosper). Another great way to shake up the monotony of 'just huts', another way to add life and plausibility to your village. Another great game objective and a prime target for raids. I think I still should add a little ladder.
Now the village has delicious bacon and sausages as well as tasty rolls. Following the natural order of things, bearded men with axes will want to nick all those foodstuffs. The addition of a watchtower is in order!
Again, beams were added (from that angle you can't quite see the diagonal ones I added properly, but you can see them slightly better in the work in progress pictures above), vertical beams to the door. There's also a door on the top to get out on the platform of course. An important thing I did was to file the handrails round.
There is a little problem with this kit - it could be taller. I've heard of people who ordered the guard tower kit to be taller and the good people at Warbases actually cut them that way for them. I just put it on a little hill (base plus styrofoam layers plus filler and texture). Of course such a slope called for simple stairs, just a few logs planted firmly into the ground. Helps a lot, especially as in cases of emergency you should be able to get up or down the slope fast.
...and that's it.
On a more serious note, another cool thing about those houses is that they are very versatile in their use. From Roman times up to the 17th/18th century (getting quite rural towards the end. But then I have to admit that I also used some of those buildings for WW2 skirmish games in rural parts of the Soviet Union).
Or of course for Fantasy gaming:
|A 'barbarian' lady defending her home against Roman light infantry.|
|Roman light infantry retiring at haste.|