Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

On the Road to Armies on Parade - Part 1 - First Steps

Of all of the great experiences I've had playing and painting miniatures for Warhammer 40K, last year's Armies on Parade was one of the highlights. I've always loved not only building, converting, and painting the miniatures, but telling a story with those miniatures. I'd also managed to make it to Warhammer World while vacationing in the UK last year and saw the amazing dioramas on display there realizing I was not the only one who wanted to take that storytelling to the next level (or in the case of the displays at Warhammer World, the next 50 levels or so!). Last year I didn't win a medal at our local shop, but I did take home best painted for my "Uprising" themed entry. With that great experience under my belt, I immediately began planning this year's entry.

For 2020, I wanted to keep essentially the same theme, "Uprising," but take my board to the next level - both literally and figuratively. The goal was to show the Cult uprising across the surface of the planet - within the limitations of the 2' x 2' standard board. So since I couldn't move out, I had to move UP! My  vision is to have a three tiered display (I'd initially toyed with the idea of four tiers, but just couldn't make the layout work) with snapshots of the uprising at different levels of the Hive World my cult lives on. Level 1 represents the mines below the hive cities. Level 2 represents the underhive - which extends outside the radius of the hive above and underneath the polluted landscape of the planet itself. Level 3 represents the battle on the surface - which will largely be home to many of the Astra Militarum Brood Brothers units I've painted over the past year (though some of the miniatures will find homes on lower levels as well).

Level 1 with brackets and first support attached

In order to preserve the maximum space for my miniatures, I had to carefully plan out the superstructure for the board itself and get at least the first two tiers going from the outset. I went diving into my old spare hardware and found a few brackets leftover from previous projects. I cut a couple of 2x4s to support the second level. This affords me plenty of room to build up the rock formations that make up the mining level of the display while leaving ample space for the actual miniatures and vehicles. I found it was easier to attach the bracket for the second level to the display board first before adding it to the assembly below, and you can see some of my measurements and notes written directly on the plywood.

Bracket on the second level

Once the second level was attached, I had to perform some fine alignment to get the sides parallel with the 2' x 2' sheet of plywood below. To ensure that the second 2' x 2' sheet making up the second floor was completely level, I also had to add a dowel to the opposite corner of the display. It is visible in the photo below where you can see I've run the wooden dowel through plastic tubing which will ultimately be a pipe of some unknown function. I have additional "plumbing" to add to the display as well.

Test layout of levels one and two

The height of the lower (mine) level was mostly dictated by the fact that one of the centerpieces for that layer is the Tectonic Fragdrill I finished back in January. You see it in the layout above as I was starting to map out where the various large items had to land so I could plan the rest of the surface details. I've also included an older resin 1' x 1' terrain piece previously available from Forgeworld. I'd intended to use this for a different project that I never quite finished, so I've repurposed the piece. This will servce as a platform for many of the miniatures on this level. 

You can also see the wrecked Goliath truck I finished back in July. Peeking out from underneath the assembly is a connector for a 9V battery attached directly to the vehicle, but there is actually a socket underneath the raised platform that will allow me to power the Goliath's fire LEDs from a lower level central power supply. Which sort of neatly brings me to another aspect of this board that I'm having a lot of fun designing and constructing - the lighting system!

Mock-up of Level 1 lighting

One of the problems with a multi-layer board is that the levels above obviously shadow those below if you rely solely on ambient light. The obvious solution to this is to incorporate light fixtures into the design not only for aesthetics, but for the practical reason that if there were no lights actually seeing the miniatures on the lower levels would be difficult. Above you can see the initial tape mock-up of the ceiling lighting circuit for the mine layer. Eventually the ceiling will be a mixture of rock and concrete, but I'm still waiting on the final clamps to hold the wiring in place. I'm also still constructing the actual light fixtures for the LEDs as well, but those will not be attached until the ceiling itself is in place. The LEDs themselves are cool white and are wired in parallel so if something happens to one, the rest of the circuit will function properly.

Wiring the lights underneath the catwalk

As with the mine layer, the underhive layer will have its own lighting and ceiling system as well. This layer will use a different style LED that is taking a bit more wiring, but as the second level is a hive level, I'm using a fair amount of Necromunda terrain including the Zone Mortalis: Floor Tile Set, Platforms and Stairs, Columns and Walls, and Barricades and Objectives. As the catwalk created by the platform, column, and stairs once again creates shadows, I opened up the lighting fixtures on the bottom of the platform and added small LEDs and conduit to them. You can see some of the wiring above - I still need to electrical tape the exposed wiring around the resistor on the positive (red) wire, but I'm planning on using electrical tubing that heat shrinks to fit as this will give a neater appearance (and be easier to work with afterward). I will say my soldering is improving as I've been working on this project. When I first started it would have made any electronics shop teacher cry!

In Part 2 I'll go through progress on the underhive level. The underhive ceiling is also built and I'll be going through how I created it as well. I'll also detail the rest of the superstructure for both the mine and underhive levels - there is a lot of Soviet protective green coming soon!

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