While having a shanty-town is somewhat satisfying, I wanted to create a more modern-looking built-up area. My goal was to keep the buildings as generic as possible, to allow use over a wide variety of time periods from the early 20th century to the indefinite future.
Doing a google image search for generic tower blocks and urban landscapes leads to a lot of inspiration, but the kicker for me was Matakishi’s teahouse. His designs managed to distill the essence of disintegrating dystopian flats into simple to create models.
Unfortunately, his site is for a completely different scale, and I also was unable to find any cork tiles anywhere which were recommended for construction purposes. So, basically, I used the pretty pictures as a guideline.
I would supply plans for the buildings, but I literally made them up as I went along, working along each wall individually. That’s exceptionally bad planning, to be sure, but as each building was to be unique, I wasn’t overly concerned.
I initially started making the buildings out of foamcore, like most people. It has the advantage of being light and cheap, but for 15mm scale it’s a bit of a pain to cut out windows and doors. After assembling two or three buildings, I switched to using Canson Mi-Tientes illustration board. I’ve now become a convert to this material, and I will now explain why.
It’s tinted (hence the “tientes”), which negates the need for an undercoat, or, at least, gives some visual interest
It’s rock hard, and thinner than foamcore. For 15mm scale, it looks less bulky and more to scale
It’s both easier and harder to cut. Harder because it’s literally harder, and will normally require more than one pass of a knife (usually 5 or so). On the other hand, it cuts very cleanly, and doesn’t have any of that annoying pilling that can occur if your knife isn’t razor sharp or you cut at the wrong angle.
With foamcore, holding the blade at exactly 90 degrees is near impossible, and with the 5mm thickness, that angle creates a lot of error. That’s greatly reduced with illustration board, and with no cost to durability
That doesn’t mean there’s no place for foamcore. For stonework, it’s still unmatched, as you can easily score the foam, something that’s significantly harder with a rigid board.
The whole thing goes together quite rapidly; this photo shows a week’s work, which was basically an hour a night.
I did make a few more after the picture; you can’t have enough urban buildings.
Painting them is where the illustration board really shines as a construction material. It’s designed for watercolour and acrylic paints, as well as pastel and pencil crayon, so it accepts paint without any issues. You can use traditional painting (canvas, not miniatures) and mix media with impunity. It’s also very easy to airbrush. The high absorption factor means it dries quickly, and you can do fancy watercolour washes if desired.
I painted them with some airbrush base coats, touched up with a brush, and then weathered with airbrushes and pastels. They’re not model railroad quality, but they weren’t intended to be, and they’re so durable I can throw them into a box and forget about them when they’re not in use.
You can see I also have 8 desert tiles, which doesn’t work for a 3×3 layout. That’s what I call “attention to detail.”