All Along the Watchtower

When we began work on Dawns & Departures, it became clear that the Generic Support Options in the main rules were ideal for one-off games, but that we needed to add a few new ones for the campaign system.  Three of these were the message options: the carrier pigeon, the brazier for the warning beacons and the signal station options.  As in the past, we turned to our partners at Warbases and asked Martin to work his magic for us.  Once again he came up trumps and the resulting “Asset Pack”can be found here:  Signal Stuff
I was particularly keen to put together a tower for the signal station, so this was the starting point.  The little pack went together perfectly with a few dabs of PVA.

Readers of Lard Island News may well recall the slaver fort that I built for our Viva Ras Begus game last year.  Due to my ordering vastly more 2″ styrofoam than I needed, I had plenty left for this project, so I began cutting a 3″ by 5″ section which I would join to another similar piece which had been cut through the middle to make a 3″ square tower.
 As I put the two pieces together it was clear that the foam had been a bit knocked about an the tower was a little wonky, but my thoughts were that this was a rough old structure and rather than chuck out perfectly good foam, I would accept a wonky tower.  Tower purists may shudder, but I care not one jot.
The next step was to cut out the foam to create the top platform and then to cut out a section to house the base of the signal station.  Thus:
With that done, I began to plan the detail, such as the external stairs and door.  A nice and simple design here.  
I used the 1″ thick section of the wall which I discarded earlier and drew on the steps.  I then cut these out with a sharp knife (obviously whilst under supervision from the Lard Island Health & Safety officer and whilst wearing a full suit of armour.  I suggest you take similar steps is even considering such an insanely dangerous project as this).
As you can see below, I make all the cuts in one direction and then slice the other bits across to get a neat finish.  As you can also see, some of this ‘fits where it touches’, but that’s fine.  Any gaps can be filled with hot glue or filler later in the build.  Note here how having the stairs go round the corner allows me to create two platforms, one at the door, one half way up, where I can place figures; always a handy addition.  
I then cut out the doors and windows and stuck the whole thing together with a hot glue gun.
With that done, I cut a slope onto the top edge of the wall, and reached for my latest purchase:  a three quid pack of Will roof tiles.  Don’t waste your life trying to make pantiles, buy these off eBay.  
With my trusty hot glue gun I then added sections of tiles (they cut easily with a pair of decent scissors, don’t use craft knives as they are bloody dangerous).

Interestingly, what had been a slightly wonky tower was now looking VERY wonky, but hey ho.  On I pressed, using a bit of green stuff to create the four small sections of ridge tiles.  Roll it out, slap it on, use a knife to shape.  Here it is half way through that process in its sausage-like format.  
Next, I used a biro to draw on some areas of stonework before making the door and lintels from cut up artists mounting board. 
You will note, eagle-eyed reader, that in the last photo I have also added a base in the form of a rocky outcrop.  The mill I did the other week used the same process, so suffice to say here that it is simply 2″ styrofoam with the sides shaped with a knife.  I cut out some steps leading up to the tower, again pretty rough work but it will all come out in the wash.  This is not the Sistine Chapel or Michaelangelo’s David.  
Next I cut up some hardboard for a base.  I kept this tight, but with enough room to add a few stones from the garden.  You will note that along the wall where there is heavy foot-fall, I use fine cork rocks, whereas elsewhere it is BIG stones.  
I then added patches of sand on the walls and sand on the areas where there will be earth and grass.  Note how the rocks are left exposed as these will just be painted up as large boulders.  
Next, I painted the whole model in lashings of PVA glue and left to dry.  This stage is critical as it holds everything together.  Without it the sand will rub off and rocks come away to show unsightly blue polystyrene patches.  
With that dry, I went through my usual plastering stage, with quick drying Polyfilla.  See my articles on building Ras Begus’s Fort to get the full SP on the technique.  You’ll find that here:  Ras’ Fort

At this point it is worth stating that when I get to this stage I ALWAYS sit back and say “Well, that looks bloody awful”.  And it does.  However, the next stage then seems to put everything right.

A coat of what can only be described as dog-shit brown somehow ties the various stages together.  Although I do wonder who, in the name of God, paints their house this colour.  Some sort of strange pervert maybe?
Anyway, a quick coat of paint later and this is the finished tower.  I must confess that I would have liked to add another layer of smaller rocks to give some finer detail, but I only had 24 hours to build this and much of that time is take up with drying; especially the PVA wash.  So, you do what you can.  Sometimes something only 90% right is better than bugger all.

And that, as they say, is that.  Once again, the main point to be made here is that this is not difficult in any way, shape or form.  I have the artistic skills of blind monkey, so making stuff like this is something that YOU can do just as well and probably better.  I use no specialist equipment, just the bread knife and a boning knife from the kitchen and an old bread board.  However, I do keep hold of odds and ends which do (eventually) come in handy.  As a result most of these projects are incredibly cheap.  The total outlay on this project was three quid for the pantiles and then I used less than 10% of the pack, so one could argue that this tower cost less than 30p.


8 thoughts on “All Along the Watchtower”

    1. Hi Brent, it’s actually called Bitter Chocolate. However, having just taken Freddy the Lard Island dog for a walk, I am pretty convinced what it really looks like.

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