Middle East and African Terrain: Mud Brick House by Renedra, Part One
This article was originally published in Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy Magazine #94 which can be purchased from the WSS website. This blog version is posted with kind permission from WSS.
With a WWII Africa campaign now underway I’m steadily building up my supply of terrain for the miniature battlefield. The set of walls we looked at last time have been a welcome addition to the collection but there’s still a lot of empty space on my 6 by 4 foot gaming table. The British company Renedra produces plastic model kits for just about every era. Of particular interest currently is their versatile Mud Brick House kit. From WWII North Africa to the modern Middle East the kit and accessory set are a quick and easy way to bulk out a terrain collection. Let’s have a look at Renedra’s Mud Brick House and how to convert it for maximum versatility.
The house kit comes with three sprues of sturdy grey plastic. Somehow I ended up with two of them. Must have jumped into my cart when I wasn’t looking. I also bought one (OK, I bought three) accessory sprues in brown plastic. Together, I figured they’d do nicely for rudimentary outlying buildings to complement a cluster of more refined ‘town’ buildings I’ve got planned for later.
There’s a minimum of flash and the mould lines are easily scraped or filed off. Tamiya brand cement bonded the pieces together really well. This is easy plastic to work with. The shots below show the key tools I used. I’ll put in a plug here for the Tamiya sprue cutters I’ve had for 20 years or more. They cut dead flush and clean and really reduce the prep and filing work needed. The ‘Build and Prep’ tool caddy is homemade, like the decal tray I wrote about previously.
I was disappointed, however, to find out that the roof is designed to be permanently glued in place. The roof surface offers room for a full squad of 28mm soldiers, or any smaller unit like snipers, machine guns, and antitank weapons. A wargames building should also allow for troops to be placed inside. It’s not a difficult conversion but there’s a fair bit of careful cutting involved to make the roof removable so you can access the interior.
My attempt with a razor saw on the first kit was not a disaster but I had to cut the upper lip off in sections. I broke out the heavy artillery for the second roof and used a Dremel tool with a thin cut-off-disc and would recommend this method. You melt the plastic a little as you cut but a little clean up with a file afterwards gives you a one piece lip to set in place. I added supports for the roof with rectangular styrene rod which has the advantage of bonding very well to the plastic of the building with Tamiya cement. Then I scrubbed it all with hot water and dish soap to clean the mould release agent and any cement residue off the surface in preparation for priming.
You may have detected a certain degree of (shall we be charitable and say) “attention to detail” in the work I do. There’s no need to fill in the small gaps where the pieces meet but I did it anyway with two dual part epoxy putties. Greenstuff is great for small details and its stickiness makes for excellent reinforcement where a bit of flex in the plastic causes gaps to open. Milliput, by way of being significantly cheaper, less sticky, and more water-soluble, is better suited to filling large gaps and smoothing over wide areas to break up a linear surface like a flat styrene base. The detail on the surface of Renedra’s Mud House is easy to replicate with these putties.
I like to put bases on my buildings because it offers modelling opportunities, allows for a mini-diorama, and eliminates ambiguity when playing. If a model is even partly on the building base it gets the benefit of things like cover, otherwise not. A little forethought ensures your new terrain plays as good as it looks. To break up the flat expanse of styrene I first gave it a rough sanding and scraping to give the plastic cement some ‘tooth’ to work with and to provide texture. Woodlands Scenics Foam Putty, used in model railroad terrain, and an assortment of sand and grit finished the job. The intention is to give some surface detail so later drybrushing over a top coat of primer brings out detail.
Are you nuts? Using Games Workshop primer for terrain? Yup. I’d rather spend a few extra bucks on something I know bonds to clean plastic, putty, and grit alike. It also gasses off completely and quickly so you can get back to work within a couple of hours and don’t have to ‘enjoy’ the persistent chemical smell given off by cheaper paints for the next week.
As you can see, all the groundwork has been done and we can get on with the fun stuff. Stay tuned for a post in the near future on painting Renedra’s Mud Brick House with techniques like pre-shading, weathering, and washing.
Do you have any terrain projects on the go or kits that you’ve enjoyed building and painting? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.