Building a thematic Batcave board
After reading Henrik’s great tutorial on creating a batman miniatures game board I thought I’d give my thoughts on creating a slightly more flavourful Batcave board. The process is fairly simple and should be achievable no matter what level of terrain building experience you have.
This project took me 4 months and was completed late August 2015. Rather than provide a detailed step by step guide, instead I’ll run through some of the more specific aspects of construction, the issues I encountered and how the project developed.
Getting started – guidelines and materials
Before construction even begins, its important to set yourself some guidelines to ensure things don’t get out of hand. For this particular project I had to observe the following criteria:
- The entire board had to be as modular as possible for lots of replayability: I’ve built static boards in the past and grown tired of using them very quickly.
- It must be easy to store: although I do a great deal of my building/painting in my shed, the finished terrain had to be stored inside the house (MDF rots in my cold cave).
- Don’t spend too much money: low cost effective terrain was a huge factor.
The following is a list of all the building materials used and costs:
- Catwalks set (wargames tournaments) (£55)
- Expanding foam x2 (£20)
- Dinosaur (£4)
- Computer consoles (£7)
- Tile grout x6 (£6)
- Filler (£2)
- Glue/wood/foam board/paints (£0, already had these items)
Total cost of the project was around £100.
Constructing the Batcave board
So in proper blue peter style here is how its all put together:
Some people spend a great deal of time planning how everything will go together and creating drawings of how things will look. I’m far more experiential (or impatient) and simply just dive right in. There’s no right or wrong way, just simply go with what works for you.
For me the first stage was simply bodging everything together, the main catwalks/podiums are from Wargames Tournaments and can be found on eBay. These would also be great for any gaming system that would benefit from tightly packed industrial terrain.
It’s really important to think about the height that you want your catwalks to be at this stage: the Wargames Tournaments kit comes with stands for the platforms meaning that you can create standardised levels very easily.
Next up was simply packing out the larger areas with polystyrene before attacking the piece with expanding foam, to save on cost you can simply use the polystyrene and carve your rocks from this instead. The benefits of using the expanding foam are that it isn’t as messy as polystyrene and that it is really easy to carve into a rock face.
I learned a valuable lesson at this stage, expanding foam expands… a lot! Thankfully I was able to cut a lot of the excess off the first piece and create more textured rock faces, though honestly it helped making such a big mistake early on: it meant I could experiment with how to carve the rock and how to use the foam more sparingly for future pieces.
With all of the pieces carved and ready to go it was onto the next important step coating the foam in filler. Once again the first piece provided me with a chance to experiment and see what worked. It’s important to note that expanding foam, once cut, is not very stable. It flakes very easily, is not very strong and can have huge air pockets.
So, the plan was to coat the rock in polyfiller, as this would then strengthen and protect the foam from general wear and tear during use and speed up painting time as it could be spray painted.
Or so I thought. 😉
It took 5 days for the filler to dry! 5 freaking days! The temperature and the moisture in the shed meant the filler would not stiffen, only after moving the piece into the house did it finally dry, back to the drawing board.
The next filler based item I tried was bathroom tile grout from Wilkinsons: for £1 a tub it was worth a go and turned out absolutely great. The stuff stunk, so outdoor use and protective gloves are a must for this. However, honestly, the stuff worked wonders. Once the grout dries it has a rubberised quality to it, meaning that if the piece is knocked or bumped it flexes slightly. Meaning no chipping paint and no clumps of foam getting ripped from the model!
The Grout took a few hours to dry and I could begin spraying painting the pieces the next day.
The Batmobile podium required a bit of bodging before attacking with the expanding foam. A few pieces of foam board were used to build the cave entrance and this was then filled with expanding foam and carved out. The advantage in doing it this way was that the entrance looked as if it had been hollowed from the face of the cave.
Another totally pointless, but cool feature is the batcomputer: with a few pieces of foam board I was able to create a phone holder which can be used as a scoreboard during the game.
Painting the Batcave board
So that’s the basic construction, onto the painting!
Whenever I paint terrain, I like things to be quick and effective, so with that in mind a lot of the painting came down to drybrushing and stippling. To begin, the whole piece was sprayed black then the rocks were drybrushed with a black/blue mix. This mixture was then lightened with a spot of bleached bone/rotting flesh to give it more a natural tone and finished with very small dustings of brown from the airbrush and flock/foliage added as needed.
For the catwalks and podiums I really wanted them to look like they had been in this cave for a very long time, with spots of rust forming and general wear taking their toll on the lovely black metal originally used.
So after stippling the pieces with Vallejo Gunmetal, I created a rust wash by mixing GW snakebite leather and water. This was then applied wherever I wanted the rust to sit. The first piece didn’t turn out great, so I tried again this time mixing in a little more paint and some orange. This seemed to do the job pretty well.
After the wash had dried, I used GW Ryza rust to drybrush the corner sections of panels on the podiums and any grates or vents to cause further dilapidation to the cave. For the caves scatter you can use some of the iconic pieces such as the the dinosaur, giant penny and the big Joker card.
For more generic floor scatter computer consoles and boxes work just fine. If you like to get your moneys worth from materials the off cuts could be sued to make some rock outcrops or even stalagmites to decorate the floor of the cave.
And that’s it!
A very quick and easy Batcave board tutorial! Its not the best looking cave you will ever see but its modular, didn’t break the bank and is easily stored in a 40L plastic storage box.
Do you have any feedback or questions about the project, if you’ve built your own cave what methods did you use and what tips would you give? What other settings would make interesting terrain for the batman miniatures game?
As always thanks for reading 🙂