There are some things you’ve just got to have in your terrain collection, and up until now I’ve not actually had a church in 28mm.
I’ve been looking for a stone church to add to my terrain collection for a while, and recently saw someone recommend the range of WW2 buildings from Dark Ops. There are a lot of MDF churches out there, but none of them were really ticking all the cost/features/looks boxes. What I like about this one is:
- A decent amount of exterior and interior detail
- It looks kinda solid
- It can easily change the roof on the tower
That last point is important to what I wanted. Part of the problem I find with European terrain suitable for WW2 is that it’s all aimed at Normandy. Personally I think Normandy is a hugely overrated setting for wargaming and don’t want to limit myself to just that one short time and small area. The fighting in Normandy lasted for only 12 weeks, or a little under 4% of the war, and wasn’t even the most important Allied operation of summer 1944. It’s kind of weird that it gets all the attention.
The thing that makes a church look typically Norman is that squat, square-topped tower. Once you head out of Normandy you’re more likely to get a tapered spire like the one on the right. That one is in the Ardennes, but you seem to get similar ones right through the Low Countries, into Germany, etc. So if you want a more generic church you want a pointy spire.
Luckily the way the Dark Ops church is built you can actually leave the top part unglued, so it can be swapped with a scratch-built steeple of your own devising.
I built my steeple out of foamcore, and couldn’t resist adding a hole in the roof for a little sniper or observer to hide away. Obviously the steeple would have to be tiled, so that meant I had to put tiling sheets on the main roof, too. I probably would have done that anyway. The etched detail on the MDF roof sections supplied with the kit isn’t bad (you can see it on the Dark Ops site here), but adding tiling to your MDF buildings always makes them look much better IMO, and all my other buildings are done the same.
The kit includes some interior detail such as the stone floor and I like the little candles in the alcoves in the walls, that’s a nice touch. The windows come with a pattern to represent stained glass, and I looked online at a couple of different methods of actually doing stained glass. The doll’s house community are really good for these kinds of little details, and I got the tip to use coloured gel pens on plastic sheet. So I cut up some old blister packs, stuck them in and fiddled around a bit to add some colour. I didn’t try to be too fancy, I just wanted to give the impression of stained glass. If you’re good at drawing you could really go to town here. I think I could have done a neater job, but I didn’t want to spend too long on a small detail that people might not even notice.
The front doors on the Dark Ops kit are really nicely done, and can be left to open and close, and you can also get away with not gluing the tower to the base, which will make storing it easier. I added a 4Ground altar that I had in my terrain bits box, that was about a 15 minute build and looks quite nice I reckon. I considered adding some pews inside but feel they’d just get in the way of placing miniatures so aren’t really worth it.
Overall the Dark Ops kit is excellent quality. The main body of the church is double-layered so you’ve got both interior and exterior detail, and the kit includes extra stone pieces on all the corners that hide the joins in the MDF. Top marks there.
The walls have an etched stone pattern and I’ve left them as-is. I just sprayed them grey, picked out the mortar and then gave it all a quick drybrush. As mentioned above I’ve left the tower unglued and it just sits snugly in its pegs on the base. This allows me to take it off for storage. I made up both the standard square Normandy-style roof and my pointy steeple.
The latter was built up out of foamcore, with some wooden skewers hiding the joins down each edge, and then tiling strips stuck straight on. It was a little bit fiddly getting them all lined up and trimmed nicely along the edge, I recommend sticking the roofing strips on and just leaving them ragged at the end, then when they’re dry go along with a small sharp pair of scissors (I used the ones on a pocket knife) to trim along and make a nice clean cut.