Thursday, November 21, 2013

Skull Cave -- Pulp Skirmish terrain

Skull Cave -- home of the Pygmy Cannibals of the South Seas -- a scratch-built piece of terrain for my Pulp Skirmish games
 Ages ago, I'd picked up a skull mask in metal from Iron Wind Metals loose bin. I saw it and thought, "Wow, wouldn't that look cool hanging over a cave entrance in some native-haunted jungle?" Well, now that I'm actually running Pulp skirmish games, I figured it was time to construct that cave! My experience making the cliff sections for my French & Indian War games taught me the wonders of pine bark as a stand-in for rocky outcrops.

Several layers of pine bark glued one atop the other formed the cave walls
 This was really an easy build. I went out to the garage where I stored the leftover pine bark chips that I'd dried out for the cliff sections. I plopped them down in the desk in the spare bedroom where I do my messier work. After cutting a piece of black styrene to the size I wanted, I began sorting through the pine bark pieces. I decided to do a relatively straight-forward "U"-shape. I began stack pieces on top of each other until I was happy with how they were sitting, trying to minimize gaps. Once I felt I had a few layers ready to go I began Tacky gluing them down to the styrene. I globbed it on fairly thickly, as the pine bark is brittle and will shed in layers. I wanted to maximize the amount of surface that was adhered to another.
The U-shaped cave walls with a coarse ballast floor after they've been spray primed black
 While my U-shape was drying, I took three larger pieces and glued them together as a roof for the cave. Once both were dry, I played around and set the roof on top of the cave walls. I quickly realized the bowed shape of the roof meant that when I glued the heavy skull piece to over the cave entrance it would tip the roof forward. I needed something to prop it up and prevent that, so dug out some Hirst Arts stone pieces and glued them atop the cave walls. I wanted the roof to be removable so that miniatures could be placed inside the cave and accessed easily. Once everything was dry, I turned the roof upside down and used liberal amounts of Tacky glue to attach the metal skull mask to the part of the roof that would hang over the entrance. A little blue tack kept in place while the Tacky glue dried.
Testing out how the roof sits on the cave walls. I wanted the roof to be removable so miniatures could be placed in the cave soon-to-be-sacrificed (and eaten?) victims that the players must rescue...!
The next day, I took both pieces outside and spray coated them with acrylic black primer. I then flipped the roof upside down and sprayed the underside, as well. Once that was dry, I mixed up some black acrylic paint about 50/50 with water, and coated the pine bark thoroughly. This makes sure the areas missed by the spray paint are black, plus fixes the pine bark a bit for the dry brushing. The next day, the dry brushing began. It was a fairly straight-forward job of a first coat of dark gray, and second coat of light gray.

Skull Cave fully drybrushed and sealed. Note the clumps of foliage to mask the join between the skull and the pine bark cliff pieces.
Then, I looked for gaps where the pine bark wasn't flush with one another, and filled those with Woodland Scenics clump foliage. I squirted glue into the crevices and shoved in the foliage. I also added some pieces here and there to represent vegetation growth on the surface of the rock, too. The final stage was to flock the styrene base that was showing in the corners. I used my usual medium ballast, sand, and paint method. A little more Woodland Scenics flock and foliage and Skull Cave was ready to be "sealed."

The rear of Skull Cave. Once again the pine bark chips did an excellent job of simulating rock.
I could simply use multiple coats of Dullcoate, but I think the pine bark needs extra protection against wear and tear. So, I mix white glue and water about 50/50 and load it up in a spray bottle. I squirt the terrain piece down really good. Don't worry about bubbles, they seem to pop and work themselves out. Once it is dry, it is ready for one final Dullcoate.

I was really surprised by how quickly I constructed this and completed it. The pine bark was easy to work with and looks great, I think. I briefly toyed with the idea of putting gem eyes in the skull, but decided not to do it. Maybe later....who knows?

No comments:

Post a Comment