“Little Boxes On The Hill Side”

“And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky”, well actually they’re all made out of MDF, but you get the idea. Anyway, it’s been a while since my last post as work and life returns to normal and so sucks up more of my time, but I did mention a while back that we needed some more scenery for our “Dead Zone” games but the cost of the “official” Mantic plastic pieces was more than I felt they were worth (though this is only my opinion of course), so the search was on to find an alternative (a cheaper one would be nice!), so much trawling of the “net” was commenced, and in the end I settled on “Tabletop Scenics”, “Industrial Hive” in MDF, now though these looked about right size wise, and even with the dimensions given on the web-site, it was still a bit of a guess as to whether these would fit the 80x80mm squares on the play-mat. But even so I thought they were worth a “punt”, so I ordered the “Slum Blocks” set of five MDF “boxes” really, with a view to buying a larger set if they fitted the mat OK. My son also threw a few other items of scatter scenery into the cart as well which I’ll have to paint up too at some point (kids eh?).

Well they arrived pretty quickly, and after downloading the instructions from the web-page (you don’t really need these as they are pretty self-explanatory, but better safe than sorry), they were put together and measured…and they could have been made for the game to be honest, the building bases are about 75x75mm, and the ridges around the tops are just a “gnats willy” under 80x80mm, so more will be ordered at some point.

I used PVA (wood glue), to fix them together, but left the rooves un-fixed so you can lift them off and add figures to their interiors. Now, they do look OK as is, but my main problem with MDF buildings has always been the fact you can see the “dovetails” at the corners, so I had to cover these with some lengths of the obligatory coffee stirrers, and while I was at it I also ran a length along the bottoms too to hide the slot to located one block to the next when you stack them up. I always worry with MDF scenery that I’ll obliterate all the detail etched into the sides with paint so thought, next I’d add some more pieces of detail (well crap, to be honest), to try and break up the “boxy’ness” of them a bit, so my box of model bits (again, crap), was raided and stuff was stuck here and there, including pieces of card, parts from a MK1 GW Rhino, various bits and pieces, and even an old plastic “Draught’s playing piece! Then the madness set in as I thought the “doors” weren’t obvious enough so the remains of the sheets of MDF were vandalized to make frames to go round the door’s, and Matty suggested that a bridge would be good between some of the upper blocks (again kids!), so I set about making one of these too. Now there was no obvious way to hook this on, so in the end I decided the best way to secure this was to start with a thin piece of card and “tuck” this between the top of the lower building and the bottom of the upper, making it long enough to reach snugly between the two buildings once they are positioned on their play-mat squares (obviously this wouldn’t be glued in place to allow for different configurations). Once I was happy with this I stuck some coffee stirrers along the bottom for strength, and four of scrap MDF pieces along the top as slats (these are actually the window pieces pushed out of some MDF tower blocks I bought years ago and have yet to assemble and paint (the shame!). Anyway to finish off the bridge I added a couple more lengths of coffee stirrer, and a couple of railings that were actually part of the scenery that came with the box game itself.

Next it was out for a spraying with some matt black and I could get on with painting them. Now being the “tight arse” that I am I didn’t want to go wasting my good paint on these, but I obviously couldn’t really nip down to B&Q (DIY store) to get some sample pots either, luckily I still had some left over from when I painted up the helmet and shield for the brother-in-law’s cosplay costume, so I took some “Warm Pewter” (sorry for the silly names but this is wall paint, and they tend not to use sensible names like “Snot Green” etc…), anyway as I said I took some “Warm Pewter” and added a little black to darken it a bit and slapped this all over the pieces, this was followed by dry-brushes of “Chic Shadow” and “Frosted Steel”, a few places I also painted in light blue or pink burgundy, and the doors, window bars, tread-plate rooves, and awnings I just dry-brushed chainmail over the black. I also added some “chevrons” here and there in orange mixed with citrus orange, with just citrus orange highlights.

I then found some old GW transfers so stuck a few of these on as well (I really just threw everything at these!), before I attacked the edges with some chestnut brown (the closest thing I still have to rust!), and gave everything a coat of thinned matt black in the form of a wash. Once dry I picked out the odd light here and there along with a couple of dots on the door frames as controls, in light green (day-glow), before going back over the rusty areas this time with orange to signify fresh rust, I might have got a little carried away with this as they now look more decrepit than I’d planned (just like me!). Lastly I lightly flicked a little khaki and coffee up the bottom and top edges for a bit of weathering, and they were done. I could have carried on adding the odd patch of static grass or moss here and there, but I think they look good enough for what we want then for, which at the end of the day is just some “little boxes” for our fellow’s to use as cover.

As said I do think I’ll be investing the lager set at some point (and that one has stairs!!). Anyway Keith is running another round of “Monster May(hem)” in May so if you can, please do join in, I’ll add a link at the bottom of the post. So next time it’ll be “What’s that coming over the hill?”.

Oh and thanks for everyone who was concerned by my absence the last few weeks, I’m pleased to report that I haven’t expired (not just yet anyway), though please don’t be surprised if my appearances are a little sporadic over the next few weeks.

So for now, stay safe, and cheers Roger.

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30 Responses to “Little Boxes On The Hill Side”

  1. Dave Stone says:

    I think you’ve done a grand job on your little boxes Roger, the extra details and edges make them look substantial and that they have purpose as well. The painting looks spot on, and would look great on any industrial area or housing slum

    • Thanks Dave, (see I did get this post finished in the end!), I do think they came out alright in the end, and it’s great that they fit the terrain matt so well too. I think the chevrons give them the industrial look, and quite frankly I don’t know as you could live in one of those “cubes” (It’d probably go for a million pounds in London though!! 😁).

      Cheers Roger.

  2. Those look pretty good to me! Roger! I like all the extra detail you’ve added. I’ve used GW’s liquid greenstuff to fill in the morticed edges of MDF buildings before, but the trick is to not put on too much and think you can just lightly sand it down afterwards – any sanding tends to abrade-roughen the surface and make it look a bit crap (technical term)!

    • Thanks John, and thanks for the tip too, I have to admit it’s those mortis joint edges (not dovetails, as I said 🙄) that tend to put me off MDF buildings, its a little thing, but some little things just bug me and that’s one!

      Will have to try filling a couple on the next lot.

      Cheers Roger.

  3. Tip top stuff, Roger. I hadn’t heard of that particular MDF Range before, but now you’ve put them on my radar. Love all your extra bits and bobs too. Great work, and I especially like the drink stirrers down the sides and the doorways. Your rusty paint-job also adds enormously to the overall feel of the buildings and their increasingly poor state. Terrific posting 🙂

    • Thanks Simon, I just thought they were a bit “flat” and the doors just sort of blended in, another way would ne to add so sci/fi doorways like the resin ones you’ve featured on your blog before now, but I didn’t have any of them so needs must as they say.

      One thing I have now noticed while taking the photo’s (the first time figures had been in them) the way the rooves are done they “stick up” to far into the building above so that the fig’s stand to tall in the windows, so I might have to make some flat (probably cardboard) floors to replace the one between floors (if you see what I mean.

      Cheers Roger.

  4. Matt says:

    Good to see you blogging again, Roger! These buildings look great and I’d never have guessed they’re MDF from the final photos. The way you’ve painted them and the bits you added really make them come alive.

    I’ve got some of the Tabletop Scenics scatter stuff and have yet to paint most of it up. I’ve also got an MDF building (by a different manufacturer, can’t remember which one) to paint for Summer of Scenery.

    • Thanks Matt, the TT Combat stuff is nice, just a slight word of warning though, I sprayed up the scatter stuff at the same time I did the buildings, and the undercoat black paint has come off the scatter stuff here and there, I did give them a quick wash in washing up liquid before I sprayed them but perhaps they could have done with a more vigorous scrubbing, as the plastic seems very slippery, worth checking before you do yours mate. 😀

      Cheers Roger.

      • thegoodground says:

        You know I think I went here on a field trip in third grade. It was supposed to make us feel industrious….

        Plans for this, game wise?

      • Thanks Tom, haha!! actually this is pretty much what my school looked like (only with more grafitti!).

        Game Wise, these were bought to go with the “Dead Zone” rules by Mantic Games, the figures are from the box set for this too.

        Cheers Roger.

  5. Wudugast says:

    These look great. Oddly enough I just bought this exact same set and was looking for inspiration on how to paint them – consider me inspired!

    • Thanks Wudugast, it is a pretty good little set to be honest and pretty versatile too, as I stated to Simon above though, I think I’ll make some flat floors to replace the “box” tops when they go between floor, to drop the figures in the windows.

      What system are you -planning to use them with by the way?

      Cheers Roger.

      • Wudugast says:

        That’s good thinking. These will be my first time using mdf for terrain so although I’m confident working with the material I think I’ll built the first one strictly by the book and then start experimenting and adding some flourishes to the rest. Mine will be for Necromunda mostly.

      • I must admit, I’m thinking of trying to turn on or two of the bigger set (when I order it that is) into double size buildings again to add more variation.

        Strangely Necromunda or Kill team would have been my guess as to your use 😀.

        Cheers Roger.

  6. Cracking job Roger on pumping the boxes. I do like the MDF buildings but nit the finish and like you I cover them up in the best way I can. Some great ideas here and everything works so well. 🙂. .

    • Thanks Dave, I know what you mean, these are actually only the second set of MDF buildings I’ve ever bought (the other set I still haven’t built after three years!

      There are some beautiful kits out there (especially 4Ground and Sarrissa) and I’ve often looked at the fantasy (Tudor style) houses, but I just know I’d end up re-tiling the rooves, and adding doors timber and filler to the sides, so end up feeling I might as well start from scratch and build it myself! 😁

      OCD is a terrible thing (haha!) cheers Roger.

  7. borderguy190 says:

    Those turned out really nice, Roger. You hid the mdf well. I’m like you, the corner tabs drive me nuts. So far everything ive built has been covered in ‘stucco’ or plaster to hid the base material. Strips worked well for modern/sci-fi.

  8. Great work Roger. I think the extra bits of “crap” stuck on add a whole lot more to the general look. Malvina Reynolds was a great folk singer and Little Boxes is one my wife and I often sing when we drive past all the estates with their cloned houses. We aspire to live in a unique home. Hope you’ve been well mate.

    • Hello stranger we haven’t seen you round these parts for a while! Hope all is well with you and yours and life is calming down a bit, you’ve been missed.

      Well all the cool kids have been messing with MDF so I thought I’d get in on the fun (though I was actually looking for these before you started your “wild west” project, funny how great minds think alike).

      Little Boxes is one of those songs that pops up in my conscious every now and again for no reason other than it is a catchy song 😁.

      Cheers Roger.

  9. They look ace mate, great job! 👏

  10. angrypiper says:

    Sorry it took me so long to pop over here, Roger, but I’ve been dealing with Monster May(hem) prep and real life. (Guess which one is more fun?) The buildings look great and I can think of a ton of uses for them. Are you planning on publishing some Batreps after you play Deadzone? Because I vote for that, no matter how much extra work it is for you. 🙂

    • Thanks Keith, hey I don’t know how fun your real life is, so I can’t make an educated guess here!! 😖.

      You can think of a ton of uses for them, well if there is any more talk from you about Batreps, I can think of one more use for them! 😉 At some point I do want to do a Batrep with my 10mm Cowboy and Indians, but at present I haven’t even finished my rules for them! and we’re into theme month season now!

      Cheers Roger.

  11. Pete S/ SP says:

    Those look great- very useful bits of scenery.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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