Sunday, October 23, 2011

Warmachine Table Part 1: The Fire of the Forge

I recently realized that it has been one year since I decided to create my own 4'x4' Warmachine/Hordes table.  Realistically, I guess the table better suits Hordes, but since both systems can play against each other, I guess the point is moot.

When I started the project, I decided to photo-document the whole project last year back in October.   I realized this fall (after the craziness of moving) that I never really finished the table.  I will be finishing the table by the end of this month, and so I figured that I would chronicle the project with a series of blogs from the beginning until the end.  There will be four entries, each corresponding to the four primal elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and WaterLet's start with Part 1: The Fire of the Forge

The Spark of Creation

He loved Warmachine.  It was new, exciting, fun, and he felt like all of his decisions actually mattered.  Luck played a part, like in any battle, but his battlefield decisions provided consistency over the fickle nature of Lady Luck.  As he surveyed his hobby materials, he realized that he had everything he needed to craft the penultimate necessity for war.  He excitedly exclaimed, "I'm going to make a Warmachine table!"

I have a lot of experience playing wargames - initially with Warhammer 40k.  I had designed a table before for 40k which was a city ruin table.  In hindsight, I guess it wasn't a bad table, but it certainly wasn't too great.  It was a purely modular table, with buildings making up the majority of the terrain.  While there were "streets" and "sidewalks", it really wasn't all that difficult nor spectacular.

The initial design
For this table, I decided that I would create a set board but with modular elements.  I'm never really impressed with 'modular' boards, as they always seem plain and uninteresting to play on to me.  The advantage of a modular board, however, is that the terrain is never the same so people don't adjust their tactics to the specific board.

For my board, I wanted to blend the beauty of a set board and the utility and flexibility of a modular one.  The solution was simple!  The ground would be the interesting part, while the individual terrain pieces could be modular!

 The Forge
The layout of the foam on the table
I bought the 2'x4' of 3" thick pink insulation foam along with a 4'x4' sheet of 1/4" plywood (for a base).  I already had several sheets of 3/4" polystyrene foam that I could use to make the cliffs.  I designed what I wanted the board to look like using a black sharpie (after I cut the pink foam in half).  I wanted features that I love in nature and that you rarely see on WM/H tables (at least that look believable): a waterfall, a river, and a beachhead!

View of the cliffs
After designing what I wanted the table to look like, I took the sheets of polystyrene, laid them out where I wanted the cliff elevations, and cut them out in those shapes.  I stacked multiple sheets of the same shape to create the higher elevations.  It was a little crude and clunky, and in the future I think I'll just buy thicker foam, but I was using what I had.  I then used some foam adhesive to stick the stacks together, as well as securing the pink foam to the plywood base.

Note: at this point there was also a gap which I had to fill with random bits of foam stuck together by that expanding foam in a can.

I also had to use some carving tools - basically just kitchen knives - to carve out where I wanted the water to flow... this was incredibly time consuming and messy and in the future I would rather just stack foam pieces to create different elevations.
The expanding foam was useful for filling gaps

I like how it turned out but it was messy and time-consuming
Note the difference from the design for this cliff area
I should also point out that at this stage I decided to make some slight changes to the original design for 1) ease of construction and 2) ease of play.  I basically made it easier to escape from the beachhead area by expanding the cliff steps upward.

As much as this table was about appearance and having my own table to play/teach games on, I needed to consider the implications of my design decisions on how the games would be played.  I wanted to make sure that elements were present for everyone to use (like the 'Amphibious' rule) but not to be so crippling as to frustrate my opponents.  Therefore, I decided to make it a little easier to escape the deep water.

"This is so neat!" the unlikely general proclaimed.  The imagination of the general was starting to become realized as his ideal field of battle materialized in front of him.  As excited as he was, however, he knew that the path laid out in front of him would not be easy.  It was strewn with dust, muck, paint, and so many tiny bits of styrofoam that he would still be finding them months later.

Coming soon - Part 2: The Stones of the Earth
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