Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cultists of R'lyeh pt.1- the Desolate Waste

For Origins 2013, I designed and built a custom giant sized Setters of Catan clone with a Cthulhu theme, that I call Cultists of R'lyeh. This involved hand sculpting nineteen seperate hexagonal tiles with six different terrain types. Committing to this build was biting off a lot for me, as my sculpting skills are not very advanced.

To start with, I needed do decide on a scale and materials for my build. The round gaming tables at Origins are 6ft. in diameter, so I designed my board to fill most of the table, with about 10 inches or so on each side for player space. With the longest row of tiles for the basic game being five tiles across, that put my tiles at roughly 10 inches across.

I wanted the tiles to be substantial, and not bend or warp easily, so I decided to use some recycled 3/4" MDF that I had laying around. This MDF used to be shelves in a local gaming store that went out of business. Then, I cut them up and painted them black (they were white shelves) and used them as post bases for movable divider walls during our Origins show in 2011. I had a huge stack of these 16 inch square pieces sitting doing nothing. Time to make some hexagons!

I scribed the hexagon onto the tile using a large pair of steel dividers. The shabby coat of black paint scratched away very easily, making for perfect scribing. Then I cut the hexagon out using a table saw. The cutting part was harder than I thought it would be. Though I could draw a perfect hexagon with no problem, I couldn't seem to cut one perfectly out of a square piece of wood using a rip fence and an angle guide. I was always off by a little bit. After much screwing around trying to refine my technique, toying with jigs and fences and such, I decided that pretty close was good enough. I took my best one, traced it out on the blank square tiles (which was much faster than using the dividers) and cut away.
After a while, I had a nice big stack of tiles, 3/4in. thick, 10 inches across (flat side to flat side) and almost perfectly hexagonal. I took a piece of the scrap MDF and used it as a guide to trace out 3/4in. from the edge of each side. This would be the margin I would leave, so that the roads and cities could be placed along the edges of the tiles. I also scuffed up the surface with some sand paper so that my sculpting medium would stick better.
For the sculpting medium, I decided to use cold porcelain, which is neither made cold, nor related to porcelain. You can check out my post about using this stuff. it is pretty cool and cheap and easy to make.

So to start off, I will show you my first terrain tile for the game. This isn't the first one I made, but it is the simplest, and there is only one of them on the board. It is called the Desolate Waste, and it is analogous to the Desert in Settlers of Catan.
Pretty simple, right? Not much going on there (trust me, they will get better). Unlike any of the other terrain tiles, this tile has a black and white color scheme. I just painted the finished tile with black primer and then dry brushed a little white around the textured area, and along the edge of the tile. The texture is meant to be sharp low rocks jutting from an otherwise barren ground. A rocky wasteland. It is black because it is always night there, the moonlight just glinting off the edges of the sharp rocky spikes. The texture was created by  simply taking a ball of the cold porcelain dough and smashing it down on the tile and lifting it up quickly, letting small pieces stick and taper upward as the ball was ripped away.

This is the home of the Haunter in Darkness (otherwise known as the Robber to you Settlers fans). To portray the Haunter in Darkness, I used a Horrorclix miniature I had, called the R'lyeh Guardian, which looks like a miniature Cthulhu.

Here it is in place, ready to play. No fair peeking at the other tiles!
Until next time.

See also:
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.1- the Desolate Waste
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.2- the Pits of Despair
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.3- the Ravenous Cavern
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.4- the Cyclopean Ruins
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.5- the Sanguine Gorge
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.6- the Mountains of Madness
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.7- the Game Pieces, Portals, et Fini
Cultists of R'lyeh - After four years of wear and tear

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