The Battle for Sul—Sul Building Tutorial
by James "Delgrieve" Bothwell
This tutorial shows you how to make Sul building terrain as seen in No Quarter #9 used for the Sul Theater of War Champaign. I wanted to give my buildings a "Middle Eastern" look since Sul is out in the middle of the desert. This is a fun and easy building project that doesn't require a lot of tools or special materials. It's also a very good project for a group to get involved with.
12" x 12" MDF board squares
Textured wallpaper or anything that might look like cobblestone
Plastruct brick pattern
Step 1—Mounting Board
Use Spray mount to coat a section of MDF board and lay down a section of textured wallpaper. Trim one edge of the wallpaper with a ruler. Then lay it down on the board lining up the trimmed paper to one edge of the board. Cut the rest of the wallpaper piece slightly larger than the board. Use your hands to press down and make sure ht at the wallpaper makes a good bond to the board. Start in the middle of the square and smooth it out to each edge. Once the wallpaper is applied and smoothed out, turn the board over and trim the excess on the three remaining edges. TIP: I use Spray mount because using other water based glue tends to slightly warp the MDF.
Determine what size buildings you want on a given 12" x 12" section. For the purposes of this tutorial I will be making two 4" x 6" buildings. Use the Xacto to cut strips of foamcore 2-1/2" wide and 3-1/2" long. Cut the strips in to individual "wall" sections and four 4" sections are needed—2 of each high (2-1/2" or 3-1/2"). Take the 6" sections and measure 3/8"* in from each end (2A). Use the Xacto to make a deep cut in the foamcore BUT Do NOT CUT ALL OF THE WAY THROUGH. It may take a couple of cuts but trim down to the bottom paper layer. When you are down to this part put away the foam and first paper layer leaving you a small lip/channel. This is the trickiest part of the whole project. Give it a few tries and it will prove to be an easy step (2B).
*This size is dependent on the thickness of foamcore used.
Next determine where you want any windows and doors. Make as many or as few as you want. I tend to use only a very small amount of doors and windows—First because I thought it would limit the amount of access points to the building and second, I want players to try to find their way through the winding streets vs. cutting through buildings. Use a figure to determine what height you want your doors and windows. Once you determine the shapes, cut out the windows/doors if you want you can add doors by putting a small piece of card stock to cover the door opening and cutting balsa wood strips to fit. (2C & 2D)
You can give a little extra detail to the building by adding a few pieces of brick here and there. Cut the Plastruct brick pattern in small sections and then trace them on the wall areas. Use your Xacto to cut down about halfway through the foamcore. Cut down through the foam portion past the "opposite" cut and pop out the excess piece. Finally use a bit of whiteglue to adhere the piece to the wall section. It's a neat trick that gives the impression of stucco over a brick structure. It involves a little practice but is well worth the effort.
TIP: I like to have a good mix of building with/without back doors. I don't want to make it too easy to duck out back to the alley.
Once you have all 6" sections cut on both ends per the above step (and cut any windows and doors) use your white glue to fill the channels that were cut in the 6" sections and insert the 4" sections Once you have attached two 6" sections and two 4" sections you have the basic part of the building. I like to do several buildings at a time since it will take a bit for them to dry.
TIP: A variety of sizes and shapes help to make the tabletop more interesting.
After the buildings have dried you can attach them to the mounting boards. Its nice to have the shapes to move around on the board and determine which setup works best. Rather than putting the buildings in the center of the board, I like to draw a line 1-1/2" from the "back" of the boards and start my building placement on this line—This makes for a good "alley" in the back and a "main street" I front that are common for all of the buildings made for this set. Also having the buildings for all the way from one side to another allows you to make long alleys and dead ends. Once you have positioned the buildings, use a small amount of Liquid Nails to slue them down to the board.
TIP: As with a variety so shapes/size of buildings a variety of placements gives you a lot more possibilities when setting up a game board.
Step 5—The Rooftops
After the Liquid Nails has dried you are ready to add a simple roof. I like to allow the roofs to be removed on this type of table since there could be a lot of play inside them. To allow for a removable roof, cut strips of foamcore 1/4" wide. Measure the inside of the buildings and cut sections of the strip to fit inside them. Measure down from the top of the roof 1/2" and use the whiteglue to attach the strips to the inside of the walls. Finally measure the inside dimensions of the roof and cut the section for the actual roof. (5A)
TIP: It's good to allow at least 1/16" (or more) around the edges of the roof to allow for easy removal of the roof.
TIP: Attaching a chimney, smokestack or other small piece found on the rooftop helps with the removal of the roof during games.
To add some texture to the buildings put a VERY LIGHT coat of spackling compound on all building surfaces (including the roof). Once it dries, use a ruler or other straight edge to knock off any pieces of spackling that may be damaged during extended use (better to take care of them now than to have to paint over a spot later). To give the effect of blown sand glue down some ballast in spots along the bottoms of the walls (6A, 6B & 6C).
TIP: For a larger amount of sand you can put down a bit of spackling compound and then cover with ballast.
Step 7—Painting and Finishing
For the painting of building and board I first coat everything with Celleni Gold #96253. Once this dries I add a heavy dry brush of Brass Tack #96252 followed by a lighter dry brush of Antique White #20405. To finish painting I go back with the initial color Celleni Gold to add some aging to the buildings by putting a light dry brush around the bottom of the buildings as well as other selected areas. To complete the piece I add some brown static grass around the buildings as well as in some cracks in the streets. For other finishing touches you can add awnings, crates, barrels, etc. (7A, 7B & 7C)
TIP: For my awnings I used a small piece of wallpaper that I felt had good color/textures.
TIP: The more pieces you make the more varied your terrain board can be. Give it a try and have fun!
Finally, make more of these 12" squares. Once you make 16 you have enough to cover a 4' x 4' playing field. They can be turned many ways to make endless combinations.