UNLICENSED OFFSHORE GRIND ARENA

by Phil "forcedperfect" Duple

4/15/2007

THE ORIGINAL IDEA

This project actually started out as an idea that my terrain building buddy Jon (macgowan on the Privateer forums) and I had. We were excited about GRIND, and since Cryx pretty much destroys all comers in that game, we thought about building a board modeled after the deck of the Atramentous.

The project changed shapes a few times while I got started on the design. After I abandoned the pirate ship idea for reasons of scale and proportion (those masts would have just been TOO huge), I settled on a generic Cryxian offshore mining rig. This idea was also eventually scrapped because I couldn’t afford all the Cryxian bits I needed to pull off the ideas that Jon and I had.

THE PLAN GETS REFINED

As time went on, I started envisioning a platform somewhere in the Scharde Islands, hidden away from shipping lanes, where less reputable GRIND fans could still enjoy a game and bet some ill-gotten coin on the outcome. This rickety platform would be constantly exposed to the elements, and be rusty, run-down, and full of Scharde character. With my idea firmed up in mind, I set to task.

THE TOOLS AND MATERIALS

For this project, I used the following items:

    • Dremel
    • Heavy Wire Cutters
    • Wood Glue
    • Electric Drill
    • Strong Needlenose Pliers
    • Paint
    • Clear Acrylic Spray Varnish (Krylon)
    • Wooden Kebab Skewers
    • Jeweller’s Chain
    • A Whole Lot of Popsicle Sticks
    • Thick Plasticard
    • Thick Cardboard
    • Thin Plastic Rod
    • Plasticard Beams (medium size)
    • Scissors
    • Brass Rod
    • Pin Vise
    • Black Duct Tape
    • 3’x3’ 2" thick pink insulation foam
    • Balsa and Bass wood rails and strips
    • 2" PVC pipe
    • Photoshop or the GIMP
    • Computer and Printer
    • Jute
    • Compass
    • Hacksaw
    • "Gladys"
    • My Mitts

GETTING STARTED

First things first, the insulation foam was cut to size and marked with a sharpie in the measurements suggested by the GRIND rules. Holes were gouged out of the board with a knife and my fingers for the pits and the bumper posts.

PLANKS. AND PLANKS. AND PLANKS.

I started cutting tips off of popsicle sticks with my heavy wire snips. My wife Robin helped a lot during this stage, and any time you want to do a whole lot of planking, I strongly recommend that you have a cutting buddy. In fact, the more you can get the better- so I went to my LGS - the Core in Cedar Falls, Iowa - where my friends Jon and Ian helped chop up even more and get most of the planking glued down.

Nothing particularly special here, just alternate your rows as you glue down the sticks and trim the ends off flush with the board when you reach the end of a row. Time consuming, but looks great when it’s finished.

It’s worth noting that during this stage you can take extra care to make sure that everything fits flush and that the planks are exactly the same width if you want a nice, uniform appearance. I intentionally bought low-quality craft sticks and glued them in a pretty haphazard fashion to get an uneven, warped look to the surface.

THE DECK RAILS

These were a pain, but one of my favorite parts of the whole model now that it’s done. First, I marked the Balsa columns in ¾" posts and cut them down with my X-Acto. Then I drilled out the bottom of each post and inserted a brass pin in each one. Then I drilled into the planking all around the edge of the board at uneven intervals and wood glued the posts into the holes.

After the posts were seated, I placed a drop of wood glue on each post’s top and laid the deck railing on top of the row. I let the glue dry for a little while, and then used the pin vise to drill through the railing and into the posts beneath them. I then inserted a reinforcing pin into each post.

This seems like extremely time consuming work (and it IS), but the flimsy balsa railing is now strong enough that the board can be lifted, or even carried, by it.

THE BUMPERS

These were interesting to make. I actually made each one differently, but it would be just as easy to keep them uniform. First, you just need to hack down your PVC pipe to be the size you want. in my case, I went for about five inches above the surface of the board plus the two inches through the foam. After your pipe is hacksawed down, you can start making holes.

I painted post marks fairly randomly in an alternating pattern around the pipes and CAREFULLY used my drilldriver to core them. After I had all my guide holes, I stuck in the kebab skewers that I used as spikes, or cut down sharpened spikes with my x-acto before placing them. If you use a slightly smaller drill bit than the width of the sticks, you don’t really need anything other than tension to hold them in. I used a drop of wood glue on each just to be sure.

After the spikes were in place, I wrapped the bumpers with Jute and glued some chain to one of them.

ABOUT JUTE

For those that haven’t used it, Jute is an extremely cheap natural twine that I use in my projects occasionally. It’s super fibrous and almost looks hairy, so I usually soak it in watered down superglue or wood glue before I use it. This has the dual benefit of making it stronger and easier to paint as well as matting down some of the fibers that stick off of it. After it dries, you can trim the ‘hairs’ off with a small pair of scissors. Looks just like old, decaying rope when it’s all done!

BASING RINGS AND GOAL PITS

The base rings for the bumpers were just circles cut out of plasticard, measured with the compass and cut out with scissors. Since I didn’t have enough plasticard during this stage, I used thick cardboard cut off the back of a sketchbook for the goal pits.

After the rings were glued down, I cut little stubs of plastic rod to make rivets and glued them down to the pit rings.

I cut discs of plasticard to wedge into the goal pits about an inch below the deck surface. Then I applied some spackle to the edges to seal the gap between plastic and foam.

THE GANGWAY

The gangway was made pretty much the same way as the decking, with the exception that I whittled at the edges of each gangway plank and cut chop notches into the ends to make them pop out a bit more after they were painted, and I glued them down to three long strips of balsa that reinforced the structure. The gangway rails were about half the width of the deck rails, but the same posts were used. The same construction methods applied here as well, pinning each post to the gangway and then pinning the rail to each post.

The "pool ladders" were made by bending lengths of brass rod around my X-Acto knife and gluing short lengths of plastic rod to them. They were based on small plasticard rectangles and glued to the gangway.

THE BILLBOARD

Originally, back when this was being made as a Cryxian rig, this was going to be a scoreboard big enough to pin some Satyxis cheerleaders to. Sadly, this was too cost-prohibitive and was scrapped… that, and I’ve only ever played one game of multi-goal GRIND, so it seemed kind of silly to have a scoreboard.

So I thought I’d flex some photoshop muscles and make some signs for IK businesses. I picked up the World Guide last year because I’m a fluff junkie, and it has loads of resources about every little detail in the IK setting… in this case, the names of different industries that operate all over the IK. I used that to draw some inspiration.

The construction of the billboard was pretty straightforward. It’s just a two triangles and three rectangles that were cut to fit one another, with a four-sided box at its base with some notches cut into two sides for the board to snuggle down into. I glued some plastic beams onto the billboard surfaces to make frames for the signs I was going to make, and it was ready to be painted.

 

PAINTING

All Things Wood: I started with a green/grey/brown mix and watered it down heavily. This was applied to the entire structure and the gangway. This was followed by a darker grey wash over all surfaces, and then a light grey drybrush over everything.

All Things Metal: This rig is exposed to the harsh elements of the Scharde Islands all year round, so there would be no pretty metals left on this thing. First, I painted all the metal surfaces in a dark silver metallic paint.

After that dried, I liberally stippled on a dark red-brown at random, followed by another stippling of a lighter, dusty brown. When painting rust, make sure to leave your darker browns at the edges and build up the lighter ones in the center. After all the browns had settled, I grabbed a bright orange and very sparingly stippled it on totally at random.

This was my first time painting rust like this, and I’m really happy with the result. It was quick, easy, and looks great! I strongly recommend you try it.

All Things Jute: Any rope surfaces were painted with a wash of dark brown, and highlighted with khaki.

Fire in the Hole: The ‘lava’ pits (what are lava pits doing on an offshore platform?) were painted by blending red at the edges of the pits into orange, yellow, and white as I neared the center of each. The interior edges of the pits were painted brightest as they contacted the bottom and faded up as they reached the rings. A little yellow was applied to the edges of the rings to give the impression of glow.

Wrap It Up: The whole project was given a healthy coat of Krylon clear acrylic varnish.

ASSEMBLY

I actually built the bumpers into the table as I went. DON’T DO THAT. It took forever to paint them and it caused a lot of shoulder fatigue due to the angle I had to hold my arms at. So paint first, build later.

I drilled a hole into the center of the wedge of the billboard and placed a pin through it before drilling a matching hole into the center of the gangway and gluing it all together.

Then I drilled pins into the balsa supports under the gangway and into the pvc of the bumpers before gluing the gangway to the bumpers.

And now it’s in one piece!

FINISHING TOUCHES

After I had the board painted, it still just didn’t have a certain something. I decided to add some more detail to the rails by wrapping them in places with Jute and painting them in the same way as I had the bumpers. This helped unify the model a bit and give the impression of rigging. Then I masked off the deck and painted on field lines, first in dark red and then with a salmon-colored drybrush highlight.

The edges of the board were wrapped with black duct tape to reinforce the soft foam and mask ugly paint and wash stains.

THE SIGNS

While I’m a decent graphic designer, no amount of design skill will save you from a broken laptop power cord, so I had to use my wife’s computer and the free photoshop alternative, the GIMP (which I’d never used before), rather than my beloved CS2 . As a result, the signs look a bit goofy, but I like them all the same. After the billboard was painted, I just spread some tacky glue on the back of each one and glued them into the frames on the billboard.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

And this is what we end up with. I’m pretty happy with it overall. It presented some really interesting design challenges. Normally, I tend to sacrifice playability for style (okay, can I REALLY balance a behemoth on that?) but in the case of a GRIND arena, it really has to be a ‘form follows function’ type situation. The board must fit certain dimensions, the field of play must remain open, the goals must be just so wide, etc. At first, I found these limitations really restrictive, but after I tried to simplify my approach, it really came together quickly.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun on this project, and I recommend anyone give it a try. Here are the finished photos, featuring some of my Khadoran models and The Core’s Cygnaran demo army:

Anyone can find me on the Privateer Forums if they want to talk about this or any other project. I live in the terrain and modeling forums there, so look me up if you’re around!