Monday, October 14, 2013

Building the frozen city... on a budget

My current project (and I have many ongoing) is to build a board and scenery for my starter set of Dropzone commander. With the starter set, there are ten folded cardboard buildings that are very nice for beginning to play the first few games. I remember that there was also some cardboard scenery in the starter box of the second edition of warhammer 40k - I played a lot of games with just these on the table. But with old age, the miniwargamer also becomes more demanding : I know that to enlist some of my miniwargamer friends into playing dropzone commander, I would have more success with a nice board...

My source of inspiration for the board is the map "frozen city" in the game mechwarrior online. I played this game for countless hours, and it is one of my favorite. There is an eerie feeling when walking (quite literally as the player is a mech pilot) the abandoned street, with building covered in snow and ice. My purpose is to try to reproduce this setting on my board.

I already did some researchs on this project. There are some posts here and there about building scenery for dropzone commander. The 10mm scale is compatible with n-scale (also named n-gauge in UK I believe), it is also the scale 1/160. There are some scenery lines by US, german and japanese brands for model railroads. The US and german ones are quite expensive, and often unappropriated : bavarian house ? No thank you... The best lines are of the japanes brands : those are very extensive, and much cheaper. The main problem is to find them in online shops, and when they have them, they always come with a steep price increase.

The decision was then to build as much of the scenery as possible. Buildings in dropzone commander are often just boxes of different size, with details like doors and windows. I used some foamed cardboard (4 x 50x65 cm for 8 euros) to build the boxes. Then I glued some details on the sides to add some details : doors, windows... I think that I can build at least 2 large building with each 50x65 sheet, and I have 8 of those, so there should be enough materials to build my entire city.

My first protoype, a medium building, that I painted very fast with the airbrush. I think that I will need to use some lighter colours. I will also need to add some textures on the base.

I also bought some styrene plastic shapes by Evergreen (tubes, beams, strips, textured sheets) but those are really expensive. One set of shapes (ex: 3 x 5cm 4mm tubes) are about 5 euros. It is less expensive to use cardboard or thick paper.

A big box of 12x12cm, for a large building.

My first real building, a 12x12cm, 16cm height block with 8 floors. Each floor in dropzone commander is about 2cm height (I measured it on the cardboard buildings). I realize that the windows are maybe to large for the scale, but it was faster to cut large windows in the sheet. I may use another technique later to produce smaller windows with less work as it is already very time consuming (more than 80 windows on this building...)

A medium residence with 5 floors. I still needs some details here and there but it is almost finished. Next time  I try this kind of shape, I will make the roof in one piece and then glue the walls to it.

A small residence, first try with columns. There are some styrene plastic H beams glued at medium height. It still need some work on the windows.

A small dropzone commander board needs 10 building, I have almost 3. A big board would require 20, and this is my goal. Still most of the work left.


  1. Fantastic work on the buildings. Your scratch building is excellent.

  2. Thank you, I wouldn't go that far, there is a lot of room for improvements :)