Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Siege Equipment: Siege Towers - Finished!

In preparation for a Warhammer Fantasy Siege game that I have coming up soon, I've been working on some  projects to ready some siege-specific equipment.

This post covers the first of them: Siege Towers.

Siege Towers are a vitally important part of siege warfare. Being basically a multi-storey shed on wheels, it allows attacking troops to approach a fortress with about as much cover as you could hope for on the battlefield. Please note: all photos in this post are just mobile phone snaps and therefore not the greatest quality. When I field these models in battle in a few weeks I'll endeavour to take some better pics.

This is the finished product:

I started building mine by creating a framework from foamcore. I'd measured up the height of my castle walls (I have the old styrene Citadel "Mighty Fortress" set from circa 1990 - I'll cover painting and battle-damaging that in a later post) and attempted to create tower pieces that were going to be approximately the right size. There were some guesswork and unknowns going in as I was missing a key component: Wheels! Without knowing the size of my wheels (more on them later too) I couldn't be 100% sure of the height my towers needed to be. At the end of the day, though, it doesn't really matter if the scale is a bit off - these models are only representative of troops/fortifications/equipment at the end of the day.

I'd decided to build three towers - more than I need for the upcoming game, but who knows what games I'll play in future. Be prepared!

The roof is just a rectangle of thick card; the walls and base and the levels that will be inside will give the model all the strength and rigidity it needs (I hope).

No siege tower that ever took the field for real was ever built from foamcore - wood is the material of choice so I clad my towers in balsa. I used a very, very thin sheet for the majority of the planking, very roughly cut. I also used a slightly heavier-grade "rod" to form "beams". The roof tiles are just rough rectangles of card (a cereal box) overlaying each other.

Now, any good siege tower needs a way that the troops within can exit onto the ramparts of the castle and storm the walls. This is where things get tricky - opening doors need hinges of some sort. After a few minutes musing (I don't like to think too hard about anything) I came up with the idea of just using gaffer tape (duct tape or carpet tape are pretty much the same thing). It's strong, flexible and very sticky so wouldn't come loose. I added a couple of staples into the section that covers the foamcore front wall just for a bit of extra strength, but they really don't add much.

The door itself is just a bit of thick card. The chains were sourced from a local budget fashion shop - they're harvested from some very inexpensive costume jewellery. The attachment points for the chains are just made from paperclips which were cut down, bent to shape, inserted through the door/side wall and gaffer-taped into place.

The door itself is then covered with more balsa planking.

Some platforms were added inside the towers and cladded with yet more balsa. I then used some of the heavier-grade balsa I mentioned to cover the edges of the foamcore.

The next thing I needed were wheels.

Bearing in mind that after these towers are complete I'm also going to be building some battering rams which will need four wheels each and that these towers will need six wheels each and I'm building three towers and two or three rams, that's a lot of wheels (26 or 30 depending on how many rams I build).

There was no way I was going to get that many wheels from "bits" suppliers, certainly not at a reasonable cost. Then I remembered a purchase from many years ago when holidaying in Cork, Ireland. I visited "Prince August" - a manufacturer of miniatures and moulds for miniatures. Among other things I bought was a mould set for a stone-thrower. They've got wheels!

A few minutes hunting in the loft and I found my kit: moulds, some white metal, a melting pan and some grippers for holding the moulds. Brilliant! I still had a problem though. The melting pan is minuscule - way too small to use on a gas job like in my kitchen. Solution: a single electric job from Amazon for about £15 including shipping. Still cheaper than buying wheels AND I could use it to make other models on too.
The Hot-plate

Kit assembled and work begins. An hour later and I have plenty of wheels, parts for stone-throwers for my Dwarfs and one burnt finger. All the excess bits of stone-thrower just get re-melted to make enough metal for the next casting.

A mound being held closed ready to accept white metal

Half of a stone-thrower complete with wheel (top)
Before attaching the wheels I decided to add some detail. I'd added small features like extra bracing-planks at angles across the upper parts of the towers in random positions, covering imaginary damage-holes and so on. I'd also cut a few short sections of card to add some "metal plates" and strips here and there. Another card strip went across the leading edge of the front hatches to represent a metal edge-piece.

As a last bit of detailing, I decided to add some animal skins and sections of mail made from Milliput to the lower sections of the towers. My "prototype" had had large areas of blank foamcore left for that reason - I didn't leave blanks on the other two for two reasons:

  1. Laziness
  2. It occurred to me that the balsa would glue well to the card on the foamcore and give the Milliput something to "key" to.

Anyway, I added rough shapes of varying sizes and textured them as best I could to make a variety of different finishes, using a Citadel sculpting tool, a knife-blade, an old toothbrush and some dentist picks (dirt cheap off ebay and very useful).

Next I was going to need ladders. This was undoubtedly the least fun part of the build. I originally tried to build these like "real" ladders with the "rungs" (matchsticks) inserted into holes drilled into the balsa (heavier-grade) side-pieces. Far too fiddly. Gave up.

I eventually just taped the balsa down and glued matchsticks at regular intervals. When dry I snipped off the excess with sprue-cutters.

Then it was assembly-time - attaching the ladders and wheels to finish the build. This was the easy bit - I PVA-glued some balsa (heavier grade) to the base in order to create "channels" that I could insert the wheel axles into. When dry, I hot-glued the axles (some plastic rods from my local modelling shop) into the channels and glued the wheels on.

The ladders were PVA'd and pinned into place and "build done".

So far, I'd considered the build of this lot to be quite laborious. All that balsa cutting, trimming and glueing had taken quite a while.

I now consider that to have been the fun bit, when compared to the tedious drudgery of basecoating them!

For convenience(!) sake (i.e. being too lazy to get my airbrush out) I'd elected to brush-coat them. I couldn't use a rattlecan primer as it would have dissolved the foam in the foamcore. Brush painting the base black on took an age and was difficult to get into all the nooks & crannies too. Also a mistake was attaching the ladders before I painted.

Anyway, I've got the wood drybrushed to my liking and have also done all the "metal" bits (though I think I'll paint some rivets on to make them a bit more interesting). All that's left is the animal skins and the roof.

And I'm done! A few layers of progressively lighter blues applied to the roof tiles to make them look like "slate" and some drybrushing on the modelling-clay animal skins and mail cladding and a bit of varnish and I hereby declare this project "closed".
The finished towers

A different view

Roof detail
Now I need a castle! I feel another project coming on.