Port Aerie (Highgate)
by John "Scarab" Salmond

Captain Haley had been alerted that a small Cryxian expeditionary force had found its way into the area around Highgate. Putting together what forces were nearby she set out to patrol the repair docks. Upon reaching the river, she had fallen in behind her two light war jacks listening intently for any sound the enemy might make in the darkness but only hearing the the rhythmic sound of the mechanized warriors as they strode across the narrow decking. Earlier in the day she had read reports the Eiryss may also be in the area but she would have to worry about that enigma later, she had bigger prey to catch. Just as she was about to recall her small force and return to barracks a single twang of a crossbow from above told her that the enemy was upon them...

Well, if you are anything like me, you have already looked at all of the pictures before you began reading the article. You may have already come up with some questions concerning the piece, like "It's okay, but it would be really cool if you had a ship hanging from the crane. Aaaargh!" Others may be be "How am I supposed to recreate this and find the time to do so?" So let me try to enlighten you on what the premise is behind the piece. When i started playing Warmachine I saw this picture of the port city called "Highgate" and thought, "that is cool and I want to do something like that." i also play on a 4 foot by 8 foot board which allows me to play in the center with pieces like this on the edges of my board. I believe in not only playing the game but also having the experience as well. Throwing yourself into another world for a time, like when you go to a movie. This piece was never meant to be recreated as is. It was designed after a drawing using techniques that can be applied on smaller more playable pieces. Let's explore those options. we will look at the cliffs, flat rocks and rivers and we will take them from this piece.

Materials Needed:
For Rocks:
Rocks
Joint compound (or "mud" you use on drywall to hide joints)
Masonite
Sifted playground sand
Whiteglue
Water

For water:
Envirotex
Popsicle sticks
Toothpicks
Plastic cups

Step 1: The Cliffs
First off are flat rocks or riverbanks and cliff faces. Cliffs can be as high as this piece or as small as the height of a fig for a more playable surface. I would like to show you how to create a cliff face or flat rocks with regular joint compound.

You will need to create the main structure on which you will be applying the compound. This can be foam shapes or just a flat piece of 1/4" Masonite like I use for my terrain bases (1A, 1B & 1C).

There are a wide variety of things you can use this rock technique on. Some of which we will show pictures of in this article. Now you are ready to apply the compound. Find your tools and go to town. You will want your compound to be at least 1/2" thick, but I wouldn't go more than 2" thick. The more compound you use the longer it will take to dry. I used a fan to speed up the drying time. Your compound may develop cracks, which are okay and it gives it more character. You may also find that the thicker the compound that your surface may be dry but as you carve it the interior is still wet. Thick compound can take days to dry (1D & 1E).

Once the compound is dry you can begin carving. My first step for rock faces is to use an actual rock to rough up the surface and remove the just-been-puttied look (1F). This also gives it the initial textured look I like for rocks. You may need to brush off the dust and flakes from time to time to see your progress (1G).

Now you are ready to carve. You can use wood carving tools and craft knives. When carving a large piece like this try to find pictures of real rocks. I used a picture I took in southern Utah for this piece (1H). I used the hill off to the right. I drew lines on the rock face to make sure my strata went in the same general direction.

Now using your carving tools you can begin to shape the piece. During your first step you are just worried about the over all appearance not the fine detail (1I). Next, apply smaller detail like chips and smaller strata lines (1J).

For the final step I add cracks or add to the cracks that were created in the drying process and then add sand in places I think it would have settled due to the wind moving it around. You now have a riverbank to keep your water from running all over the place (1K & 1L).

This is the same process I use carving cliffs. Now you can begin painting your rocks. I usually use four colors minimum on my rocks (1M). The darkest color is the wash (50/50 water and paint). I mix my wash in a cup and apply the paint.

Once it dries you can begin to drybrush the rest of your colors (1N). Always go from darker to lighter (1O). Make sure that every color you apply is lighter than the last. Sometimes it is smart to have test objects so you don't try something on your piece and decide that it is not something you want. Sometimes you can even add a slightly different color to your rocks. When I do darker rocks with grays I may add some brown here and there. Here are some examples:

One of the last steps in all of my projects is the placement of grasses and foliage so wait until everything else is done (1P).

Part 2: The River
Now we start on the river. We have made our rock shores with the compound and they are carved and painted. Do not apply and foliage to your piece yet (If you want foliage in your water you need to know that Envirotex will wick up your foliage and ruin it. This is something you should practice with on smaller pieces first). We want the river completely done before we do that. On the Highgate I glued some foam core with whiteglue to the edges to retain the resin. Before I applied the Envirotex I painted the bottom in a random color mix but making sure I was painting in the direction I wanted the river to flow (2).

Make sure everything is dry before you mix your resin. This resin also wicks a little so if your water line is too close to the top your resin will creep over the top of your bank. Make sure your mixing container is disposable. I use plastic cups for my mixing. I will have two different cups to make sure the mixing has two equal parts. I will color the resin before I mix the hardening agent. I use oil paint for my coloring. Always start with a little at a time because you can't take away but you can always add. I did my color in a blue green making sure it remains fairly clear. Once I got my coloring right I then mixed a darker blue-green mix of oil paint which I will use later for the streaks that are in the river. You can also mix dark greens as well. Now that I am all prepared, I mix in the hardening agent with a popsicle stick with the resin. Mix it well. Now, hopefully, I guess correctly and I made enough Once the mixture is completely mixed I pour the resin in the river bottom. Once it has all settled I want to make streaks in it. I use a popsicle stick with a little oil paint on the end. I dip it in my river and run it in the direction the river is supposed to be flowing. I keep doing that with the same stick until I get the look I want. I will need to add more paint from time to time but again remember that you can't take away so don't do a lot all at once. Now for the waiting, your piece needs to dry. Make sure you have weights that can be placed on your terrain somewhere that will keep your piece flat as it dries. Wall compound and Envirotex will warp your piece as it dries if you let it.

Now your water is dry but looks smooth and shiny, not what we want. Where are the ripples I see in the picture? Let us begin: You will need some acrylic medium and a brush you can beat u a little bit. A size #2 or larger works for me. Now apply the medium and get it to look like the photo (bumpy). You may need to keep going back to it and working it until it doesn't want to flatten out all of the way (2B). This is a little time consuming so make sure you're not hungry or need to visit the outhouse or the "head" as we pirates say. Notice the foamcore border and edge of the dumbbell holding it down in the picture? Make sure your cat or parrot is locked up so no hair, feathers or footprints get on it.

Once your ripples are dry you can try to make water foam or leave it as is. Making water foam can be a little tricky. I used 5-minuyte epoxy and worked it in the direction of the river. After it was dry I drybrushed it lightly with white acrylic paint. Try this somewhere else first before working on your piece so you feel comfortable because when it dries there is no turning back. I used a toothpick to work it and move it. When you're done you have a river that appears to be moving.

With these ideas you can make all kinds of useable playing pieces, small hills with cliffs, a river running through a terrain piece and so on (2C, 2D & 2E). Good luck in your adventures and always remember to have fun, Aaargh!

Thanks to Jim "Nobody" Cornell for letting me use his Cryx for some of the shots.

Scarab