Saturday, 22 April 2017

Nostalgic Model Making - Paper Houses

As I'm a bit skint at the moment but wanted some 3D house models for my new 15mm tank tabletop game. I also didn't want to get into building and painting scratch models as I have a sizable cue of projects on my workbench. So, what to do?

GF9 supplies some flat scenery in its Tanks game to get you
started, but the houses - in particular - just didn't feel right
during my first game.
I had considered making plain featureless 'blocks' to represent buildings, the point being that these scenics provide obstacles to 'line of sight' in the game (I had a problem with the flat 2D scenery that the GF9 Tanks game provided as I felt they sometimes gave a false impression about what was and was not behind cover). This would have been very quick to make, but a bit lacking in 'realism'.

Then I remembered the printed paper models that my father used to make for his model railway layout, some of which were very good indeed. The advantages of these are; they are cheap (sometimes free), they are pre-textured so don't require painting and they are relatively quick to put together (though there are some very sophisticated paper models out there).

An example of some nice historic paper models by PaperTerrain. Unfortunately,
they charge $18 to download this set, so had to look elsewhere!
Downloading these type of paper designs seemed to be a more satisfying option, and with only a pack of card to buy from my local craft store they exactly suited my budget.

Sourcing The Models
This is one of those areas where the Internet shines after a short Googling session I found a few likely sources for free paper models, but I was most impressed by the range of buildings by Wordsworth Model Railway and their 'Townscene' collection.

WMR's 'Townscene' series of paper models and well-designed models which
represent standard British building types which suit most periods, from the
1930s to present day.
The Townscene houses maybe ostensively 'British' but several of their more rural models - their cottages and stone buildings - are fairly generic and could pass for WW2 era French buildings...

WMR's 'Stoneacre' model is a nice 'two up' house model and was the first
I downloaded and made.
The 'Hannah' cottage kit is their simplest of WMR's model and only takes
minutes to put together!
Making the Paper Models
The only real issue is scale, the WMR models are in 'OO' railway scale (1/76), so I had to do a bit of math to work out the size reduction necessary to make these models suitable for a 15mm game (1/100-ish). In doing so I discovered that 15mm is actually an equivalent to the 'TT' railway scale which is about 1/120 scale, in the British way of calculating it (apparently it varies around the world).

My way of calculating was a bit more 'guestimate' as I happened to find an actual 15mm house model - a particularly badly drawn one which I couldn't use - which gave me the standard scale height for a doorway in this scale. I then used this measurement to determine that I needed to scale down the 'OO' models by 72% (so the doors were 19mm high by 10mm wide, roughly).

A couple of evening later I had these...

I was a little slow at making these as I have never put together a paper model before. But I did get a bit better as I went along and the lovely little garage building went together pretty quickly. There's a bit of a knack to building paper and card buildings and you soon find you own best technique for doing things.

One thing I would say is that your choice of glue and card thickness has a lot to do with how easy you will find these models and how good the end product will look. I tried ordinary 'school' PVA glue and this 'wet' glue soaked the paper and deformed the card, this is why WMR suggests that you use PRITT sticks. I used heavy 410gsm card stock, but this was probably overkill taking into consideration the rescaling I did, so I will try out a test using half that thickness for 15mm in future.

Finally, always use a sharp craft knife blade for your cutting out. A dull blade can drag and tear the paper which is glued onto the card, so you will have to change blades every so often. I used two craft knives, one with a new super sharp blade for cutting and the second with a used and duller blade for scoring the card for folding.

Sod's Law Strikes Again!
When I was searching for suitable buildings for my game I did really want authentic continental house models, but aside from PaperTerrain's costly WW2 French village models I couldn't seem to find any. Which is why I made do with WMR's more rural houses instead.

However, as thing always tend to happen, when I sat down to write this blog entry I was doing some additional web research and guess what? Yes, I found better examples of WW2 rustic building models!

The Perry's Heroes website has a set of 'Western European Buildings' which fit the bill exactly, the only catch being that they seem to be in 28mm scale I think (so I ended up scaling these down in my print dialogue by 48%).

These are actually simpler - so quicker to put together - designs than WMR's, and I had the cafe example put together in about ten minutes (there are no fiddly chimneys, etc). That said, I did take the design into Adobe Photoshop and add some of the French cafe signs that I used for my earlier MDF French building project that I did a week or so back.

I did like the rather more grubby rustic look of these models and the fact that they only composed of two building sides (front and side and a back and side) plus a roof meant you could knock out a whole village in an evening if you want to!

I'm really happy with these little models, they fit my current needs exactly. They are cheap (free), simple and quick to put together and look OK from a tabletop distance. However, one caveat is that if you are playing a wargame like 'Flames of War' you might not find these models useful as the game requires that you be able to place figures inside your buildings!

This wasn't a problem for me, as GF9's 'Tanks' game does not include infantry units, so houses are no more than obstacles to the tanks movement and line of sight, so they can just be solid models.

And, one more thing, I actually found these little models very satisfying to make in of themselves! So I would be happy to look into using these again for when I gat more into 28mm Bolt Action gaming, I would just have to devise a method fro making the roofs removable for placing my little soldiers inside.

NEXT: I set up a test game of Tanks using my new houses!

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