So I’ve got a shiny new army: Bretons, currently enough to play Lion Rampant but eventually there will be enough for bigger games like War & Conquest. Miniatures are only half the story though, and I was short on medieval terrain. These guys would need somewhere to fight over.
The club has some late medieval buildings knocking about in the bottom of a box, but they’re a bit Tudor-looking and I wanted some grimy Dark Age stuff. I looked at the 4Ground Dark Age range, but they’re about triple the price of the very basic buildings from Warbases and I knew I’d want to customise them, which would take me about the same amount of effort as starting with a blank slate anyway. So Warbases it is.
These are some pretty generic houses, cheap and cheerful. To try to make them a bit different from each other (and break up the plainness of the MDF) I got stuck in with the trusty coffee stirrers and added timbers to the outside, picking a slightly different pattern for each. I thought they still looked a bit alike so added a little porch to one of them, somewhere for the farmers to take off their boots in the rain.
To hide the joins in the MDF I taped the corners and slathered them in an undercoat of textured paint.
The main job on these was trying to sort the thatched roofs. I think the technique I went for here works better than the one I tried on the barn (see below) and is quicker, too. I got most of the way through painting these buildings and suddenly realised I might have forgotten something important: chimneys! However, a quick search online seemed to suggest that these sorts of hovels might not have actually had chimneys. That seems a bit bananas to me, what kind of idiot would light a fire inside a house with no chimney? Besides how do the archaeologists know they didn’t have a chimney? It’s not like any of the roofs have survived, and they could have simply just had a hole in the roof. Anyway, it’s too late now so I’m not going to go hacking holes in them.
The roofs on these Warbases kits are actually designed so that you can lift it off. That’s not really a feature I expect to need, but is nice to have. I haven’t detailed the interior.
I wanted to give the exposed timbers on these an aged look, and after a bit of looking around the internet I decided the try creating a stain out of vinegar and steel wool. You leave some fine steel wool (0000 grade) in vinegar for a few days, the vinegar eats the wool and the result is a vinegar wash full of black iron oxide to paint onto the coffee stirrers. I gave it a crack, but wasn’t happy with the effect, so I just painted over in brown, dashed a bit of wood grain onto them and washed the lot down in the trusty burnt siena ink.
I’m a big believer that it’s the little touches that make terrain pieces come to life, so I based these and added some scatter bits from Ainsty, Foundry and Wargames Terrain Workshop. It makes them look lived in I reckon. That’s one of the main reasons I based these buildings; it gives somewhere to put stuff outside. On these buildings it’ll also protect the eaves from getting knocked about in transit. The base is just MDF covered in grotty sharp sand (the more big chunks and stones in it the better), Sandtex Bitter Chocolate and drybrushed. I just bought a massive new pack of static grass to apply with my
deathtrap static grass applicator and I’m not sure if it’s a bit bright for my tastes, but it’s near the same shade that the cloths at my club use, so we’ll have to see how it looks in a game.
I’d picked up a pack of Ristul’s Market pigs at Salute and threw them together with some Renedra Wattle Fencing to make this little terrain piece. The wee shelter is scratchbuilt (obviously). I used coffee stirrers from the coffee chain “Eat”, as they’re real bamboo and have a nice grain to them. Following a different tack from the wood on the huts I tried a very thin brown wash (Liquitex’s lovely Burnt Sienna Ink, I use this on loads of things) then a couple of washes of black ink. I varied the strength of the brown wash between “planks” to make it look more ramshackle.
The wattle fencing was just sprayed a browny-yellow, washed and highlighted. I’m not totally happy with it. Being plastic it bends easily, so you can make it look a bit more organic and Dark Age-y rustic by curving it.
The Ristul’s Market set has some nice pigs and a slop trough, plus various other bits I’ve scattered around buildings in the farm. I’m not really sure what Dark Age pigs looked like, but I figured they probably weren’t the hairless pink things we have these days, so I went for brown and mottled. I love all the detail in their slop trough!
The muddy ground was just made with my go-to basing material: Liquitex Black Texture Gel. As the name suggests, this goes on as a gel so you can form it into whatever shade you want. It’s got bits in it to give it texture, doesn’t smell, doesn’t warp things as it dries and can be cut and painted. Great stuff. I just basecoated a muddy colour and gave it a wash.
This is from the same Warbases range as the “grub huts” but is quite a different kit. It has exterior timber detailing already. I painted the walls with the same textured paint undercoat as the other huts, but tried a different technique for the roof thatch. I don’t like it as much, and it was a faff to do, but doesn’t look so bad I’m going to rip it off.
The building is quite small and I had some leftover wattle fences from making my pigsty, so I made a little storage area outside (Ainsty gubbins to the rescue again).
Cheap as chips
Total outlay for these was about £10.50 on Warbases buildings, about £6 on the pigs, £6 on the wattle fencing and about £2 for a towel from Asda to make the thatch. Even if you chuck in the Ainsty and WTW scatter bits I had kicking around I reckon that’s a little village done for under £30 and not a lot of effort.
7 Responses to Dark Age Hovels
JOHN BOND's WARGAMING STUFF says:
Excellent conversion work on the building Andy, great job on the roof and walls , like the pig pen too.
Looking back at it you could probably scratch build the “grub huts” as easily as buying them, they’re so simple.
The pig pen is must-have scenery for a Dark Age village I reckon! (Or maybe it’s an anarcho-syndicalist commune…)
Dave Toone says:
Nice work Andy – I may need to nick some of those ideas for my own gaming table! 😉
Cheers Dave, nick away!
Excellent work Andy, but a bit more explanation of the towel magic?
See here, George.
Matt OS says:
Absolutely stunning mate! The roofs are superb and all the little extras really help set the scene!