Gisby's Gaming Blog

August 2, 2020

VBCW: Scatter Terrain

Filed under: terrain, VBCW — gisby @ 14:48

When I started building forces for VBCW, I had plenty of terrain for Near Future, Old West, and Ancients, but nothing right for the English countryside. Rather than spending a bunch of money, I decided to make a bunch of cheap terrain. Then I spent a lot of money, but that’s another post.

They are all made from coffee stirrers, lolly sticks, match sticks, and toothpicks. The bases are MDF, sometimes offcuts that MDF kits have been pressed from, or cut from dollar store clipboards.

The Bee Hives


The bee hives are made from small dollhouse baskets atop wooden blocks. (Note: I have no idea what real bee hives look like) The tree is a cheap Chinese product.


I like them as cover that explodes into a cloud of stinging bees when hit.

The Chicken Coop


Made from coffee stirrers and match sticks, with a pair of ERTL PVC poultry clipped  from their base.

The Pig Pen


An enclosure designed to hold a couple of ERTL pigs. The fence is made from toothpicks and match wood.


The food in the slop bucket is unraveled embroidery floss and mustard seeds. Mustard seeds are useful as apples, onions, potatoes etc. whenever you need to build a fruit or vegetable stall.

They are also useful as pig or horse turds.


I was very pleased with the sty, but I cannot find my ERTL pigs.

Wattle Fencing


These are made with toothpicks and crochet cotton. I soaked the cotton in a mixture of PVA and brown paint, and dragged it through a paper towel to squeeze the excess out. I then let it dry.

The toothpicks are glued into holes 1 cm apart on a strip of MDF. Having learned from the short test piece, the end posts are strengthened at the base with putty, allowed to harden before I weave the fence. (So they don’t start to lean in when I tighten the weave)


When I finish the weave, I paint it with a diluted PVA mix to harden it all. I mitre the ends in a mitre box when it’s all dry, so the sections can butt closely to each other.


September 24, 2015

Sally 4th Russian Farmhouse – A Review

Filed under: COLONIAL WARS, Pulp Gaming, Review, Sally 4th, terrain, Victorian Adventure Gaming, WW1 — Tags: — gisby @ 20:38

This is Sally 4th‘s kit 28WW2_001 Russian Farmhouse. I have no idea how typical this building is of Russian farmhouses. (farmhice?) I picked this kit up because it looked (to me) like it wouldn’t be out-of-place as a white farmer’s home in Africa. (NB: I am not doubting it’s accuracy…. I have seen a photo of the original building, and this is what it looks like. It’s a dam’ good representation.)

Sally 4th Russian Farmhouse

It’s laser-cut from 2mm and 3mm MDF, with a patch of ‘fun fur’ for the thatching. It also comes with extensive colour-printed instructions. The fit is good, and it is well-engineered.

The building itself is a rectangle with two interior rooms. Three walls have windows, and one wall is blank. It is surrounded by a wooden walkway and an overhanging awning/roof. There is a nice-looking chimney supplied, but apparently I forgot to add it.


I primed and painted all the pieces before assembly, which makes for much easier painting. Priming isn’t essential, but without it, the MDF tends to soak up paint like crazy. However the tolerances on this kit are extremely tight, so too much paint will interfere with the fit of the pieces. Be aware of how it fits together before you start painting.

The roof has four sloped pieces that are glued together, and to a good, solid frame that helps align them. The instructions suggest that there can be difficulty getting them aligned because of all the angles, but it wasn’t really difficult.

The instructions tell you to assemble the four outer walls, let them dry, then insert the inner walls and room dividers. (The walls are double-thicknesses as are the interior walls. This makes for a more substantial kit, and allows detail on both sides of the walls..)


Because the tolerances are so close, I’d suggest that you assemble the interior walls then glue the outer walls around them. (And do not paint the wall surfaces that are glued together.) When dry, I filled what seams there were on the outer walls, and used a bit of the filler to add some texture to the walls themselves.

Each window has a lintel, a sill, two sides, and a shutter (open or closed) and a frame that sits inside them. Again, be careful of painting the surfaces that glue together because they may not fit easily if you are careless. Don’t get me wrong, the resulting windows look great, and all the pieces make them easy to paint. They are engineered so that they align themselves for the most part, so in spite of the number of pieces they aren’t really difficult to assemble.

The doors can also be assembled open or closed (or left unglued.) They have a handle assembly that looks like a block with two curved antennae. The instructions showed where they go, but not how. Eventually I realized that they fit into the door with the antennae pointing down, making a very convincing set of iron door handles.

The floor and walkway are a single piece, and slot into place easily. The awning and supports also fit easily and cleanly. The roof just sits on top for easy removal.

I had pictures of each end, but they are identical, so why bother?

I had never tried the ‘fun fur’ thatching before, and it was complicated by the multiple angles of the roof, I aligned and glued one  long side. When that was dry, I did the other long side. When that was dry, I folded the fabric at each end flat and slit it at the approximate centre of the wall. This left a flap on each end that overlapped the other side. I trimmed this flap where it overlapped the other, and glued them down.

Then the fabric was dry, I brushed the fur with a toothbrush, blending over the joins. I used slightly dilute white glue and brushed it all downwards.

I painted the whole house much like they did in their instructions. (It looked good, why not?)


When dry, I lightly primed the thatch, then brushed various tans and greys onto it. The fur supplied was black, and I had some doubts, but it actually worked well.

While more complex than most laser-cut kits, this was easy to assemble, and a pleasure to build. The results make the extra complexity worth it. Available from Sally 4th.

December 6, 2008

Review: Arnica Montana Buildings

Filed under: Old West, Review, terrain, Victorian Adventure Gaming — gisby @ 01:59

302k-cAlthough I usually like to make my own Old West buildings, I recently picked up a few
from Arnica Montana.

When they arrived, I was sad: They were far nicer than I had expected, and I had not ordered anywhere near enough of them!

When they arrived, I was sad: They were far nicer than I had expected, and I had not ordered anywhere near enough of them!

In style & scale, they are a good match for the Ertl Cow Town. Doors and windows are open and cleanly cast: separate doors are supplied.

Buildings come as four walls plus two roof sections. Most have a boardwalk, and many have optional parts: Sheds awnings, balconies… No floors are supplied.

They are sort-of-modular in nature. The outbuildings can be attached on the rear or side of the buildings, and awnings & balconies can be used on any. (and are available separately)

Boardwalks are supplied much longer than needed, and must be trimmed to length (or can stretch from one building to another)

The pieces are well cast and substantial, and none of mine were warped.

302k-c Arnica Montana 302K

The side shed is optional, and can instead be attached to the rear of the building (see 301K below)

For variety, I made the boardwalks on this building from sintra.

The barrels are turned wood craft items, and the crates are blocks of wood with boards drawn on.

The hitching rail is made from plastic pick-up sticks, and the trough from craft sticks, based on 3/4 in steel strapping.

302k-b 302k-a

301k-a mmm
Arnica Montana 301K

Yes, the sign looks dorky, but is more legible than the original (above)

The side stoop is made from sintra.

The optional shed is attached to the rear of the building in this case.

405k Arnica Montana 405K

The large doors were made from plastic strips and hung as per “How To Hang A Door”.

The wood stack is made from bamboo skewers.

Arnica Montana 103K
The rear stoop is a cutoff from the front sidewalk.

What do I like? Pretty much everything, style, scale, & price are all great.

What don’t I like? The doors are a bit too narrow to set up to open & close, but you can just leave them off…

They get a thumbs up from me: Recommended


August 18, 2008

Darkest Africa: The Shostim Trading Company

Filed under: terrain, Victorian Adventure Gaming — Tags: , , — gisby @ 00:29


In this time, I did a lot of other stuff: A half dozen websites, masters for 50+ miniatures, painted about 1000 figures. In the end, I decided to just FINISH it, and it took… 3 days. It was sitting at that stage for months. I am a slug. I’m a slug. A lazy slug. I had an idea for a birthday gift for my pal Chick, and it took two years to finish it.

When it was done, and in the post, I put up a website with these pictures, and invited the guys at ColonialWars to comment on it, but Chick wasn’t allowed to peek.

I only hope he got as much satisfaction out of it as I did in making it.


The view above shows the building with a 28mm Warrior Zulu for scale. The building is made from craft sticks and bamboo skewers. As usual, the roof is cardboard, thatched with brushed-out string. The factory is designed with small windows for ventilation, and loopholes in the walls.

shostim2 shostim3
Here’s two views from the front: It looks bowed, but that’s caused by the close-up lens. The door near the sign is the door to the factory, the double door leads to the storage room. (There is also access from the inside)  I haven’t showed the back because it’s just a blank wall with some loopholes in it.

I wanted it to have a generally ramshackle, rundown air: Like it was a forgotten post in the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully my work always looks like that.


Of course the doors open and the roof comes off, otherwise it’s far less useful for gaming. It also needed some interior detail, or it would just be a badly-made box. I swear it is not bowed like this!

shostim7 shostim6

shostim5Above we see the main sales area: I tried to make the goods at least sort-of-identifiable. There are books (each one with a hidden treasure map) and ammunition on the top shelf, with canned goods and flour below. A rack displays a number of guns for sale.

The front counter has bolts of fabric in unattractive colours. The black pad is magnetic rubber, to hold various artifacts. There are a pair of hoes in the corner and a few cases & barrels.

The shelves are glued in place, but the barrels & crates are loose so they won’t get in the way of figures.

Finally, we have a general overview, showing the ‘storage’ area and the treasures within. Barely visible are a pair of hats on the wall by the door, and the factor’s grubby, unmade bed..


Here are the various treasures and accessories: Chick already has plenty of treasures, but I thought the factory shouldn’t be empty. The goods can also be used as cargo in boats, whatever.


This is the underside of the bed: It’s a slat bed and they are not very comfortable.

The factor’s “wife” lives in her own hut on the other side of the clearing.

chut1 cstuff1
It’s made from a papier mache birdhouse bought at Michaels. I just thatched the roof and cut a door into the side. There’s also a natty plaid blanket on the floor. The pot is a bead with a wire rim.

She sets out a blanket when she sees visitors coming. The blanket is cotton cloth, glued to magnetic sheet, with the ends frayed. The bowls are thumbtacks, the fruits are mustard seed.

barra2 barra1

This was originally intended as a palisade, but can be used as a palisade, herd enclosure, or barracoon.

It’s made from bamboo skewers, strengthened with bands of dyed string glued to the inside. The gates are hinged as seen at How to Hang a Door. (For that matter, so are the Factory doors)

idol1 idol2 idol3

Chick likes horror, so I thought I’d give him some mystery toys.

The two carved pillars are craft store beads, as are the two blue pots. Their bases are magnets, and the tops and spots on the bases are magnets too.The various ritual items (Jade head, ebony head, skull, pots, food offering, mummified baby, blood-smeared stone) are also based on magnets. This allows them to stay on the idol or on the counter of the factory. (Chick lives in earthquake-land, and magnet bases are handy when the house moves!)


August 13, 2008

Darkest Africa: Native huts

Filed under: terrain, Victorian Adventure Gaming — Tags: , , — gisby @ 23:36


When Foundry first started their Darkest Africa range, I was quite excited. The possibilities for adventure in the great untamed continent seemed endless. And so it has proven.

So of course I needed to make some scenery for my games. Where better to start than huts? A quick internet search showed a wide variety of native buildings: I chose these because they are so generic.

So of course I needed to make some scenery for my games. Where better to start than huts? A quick internet search showed a wide variety of native buildings: I chose these because they are so generic.

They sort of scream ‘African Hut’, but with wicker or stone walls, they would serve equally well as Celtic round houses.

They MAY be a little small (or not) but it’s always better to have buildings as small as possible (without looking stupid) so they don’t take over the table.

The bodies of the huts are made from a papier-mache box from a craft store: I cut it in half: This left me with a half with a bottom, and another without a bottom. Sooooo…. I glued a floor to the part without a ‘bottom.’

When this was dry, I cut doors into the ‘front’. I left mine open, but you could close them with a screen, curtain, or even a wooden door.


The roof is a cone made of poster board. It’s three layers thick, bound with white glue and is now a strong cardboard cone.

To attach the roofs, I made a ring from layers of poster board sized to fit the top. Using tabs, I glued it to the cone.

The thatching is made from teased out 1″ lengths of cotton string, teased out and glued down in layers, a tiny bit at a time. (To avoid warping) The bottom row takes forever, but each one above it takes far less: The last takes no time at all, and extends past the top, where it is tied off in a tuft.

The whole roof is painted with diluted white glue, and painted once dry.

They are a bit time-consuming, but I think they are worth the effort.

chutThe grain jars (Yes, they really are that big in real life!) are turned wooden candle-holder cups from a craft store.

On the other hand…. In another craft store, I found papier-mache birdhouses, the same size as my huts, and the same shape (albeit with a shallower roof). All they needed was a door cut in (or painted on) and thatching, to make huts every bit as good-looking as mine. The pot by the door is a wooden bead with a rim made from soft wire.

Zulu storage huts are similar, but set up on platforms. Zulu huts have walls , but rounded rather than pointed tops, and all tend to have a distinctive pattern of weaving: I’ll make some Zulu huts later.


Simpler huts, seen in the Soudan and other places are made by making a circle of upright sticks, and tying them together at the top. Sticks are woven through these, making a loose basket, and thatching is attached over these. Apache Wikiups are made in a similar fashion.

I formed the shells of these over 1/2 Xmas decoration balls from a craft store, using layers of paper & white glue. I formed them inside the ball sections, and removed them while they were still wet.

When they hardened, I attached them to cardboard bases (for strength) and thatched the exterior with glue & string. When all was hardened again, I cut the doors and painted the thatching.

You could just cover Styrofoam ball halves with paper & thatching, It would be easier, faster, and probably just as effective.

August 12, 2008

Darkest Africa: King’s Hall. An Ideal first Project

Filed under: terrain, Victorian Adventure Gaming — Tags: , , — gisby @ 22:56

African King's HallThis was a simple piece inspired by a papier-mache box sold in a craft store. It has a plain rectangular bottom, but the lid was a gabled roof-shape with overhanging eaves. It is structurally strong, and is pre-made with a removable roof. There are several sizes available, including some I have looked at for European buildings.

I originally bought it years ago to make into a Dark Ages Hall (which wouldn’t really have been all that different) but looking through Stanley’s Darkest Africa books I saw a similar structure and was thus inspired.

King's Hall

I drew a line on the outside of the box bottom, where I wanted the lid to sit. I then glued matchsticks to the sides with the tops aligned with this line (one side at a time) and when dried, sawed them flush with the bottom. When dry I weathered them with a black wash. (A doorway was cut into the front of the hall.)

I also used matchsticks braced inside to keep the side walls from warping inwards as the glue set. These were removed when the glue had set completely.

King's Hall

All in all, a simple craft project of gluing sticks & string to decorate a cardboard box. (All too similar to kindergarten arts & crafts) If you feel you have no talent for this sort of thing, it’s an ideal first project. There is essentially no cutting, fitting, or measuring.I thatched the roof & sides with frayed-out string painted with white glue. and finished the peak with a roof-beam. The thatching was painted, and dry-brushed to bring out the details… A RAFM shield was glued to the front of the roof as a decoration.

Overall cost was probably about $5.00 Canadian, plus of course my time, which is beyond price!

The figures in the pictures are from Foundry’s Darkest Africa range. The greenery is made from cake decoration palm trees

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