Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Making Of Drax Returns!

In the last post I reported on the 7TV2 game we ran at Vanquish 2018. This post is all about how the set for that game was created.

Drax's secret base
And from a different camera angle
With the intent of hosting a 7TV2 participation game at Vanquish and about six weeks of preparation time available I decided the most generally accessible plot line and casts would be something James Bond-ish (everyone knows James Bond) and so the obvious idea was to set the scene for a raid on a Supervillain's lair.

I needed to consider the following:
  • The setup must look good. I wanted to attract spectators and participants and inspire and enthuse those who passed by as well as those interested enough to play;
  • Including space for cards, dice etc it would need to fit on a 4x4 playing area - in the event, the table was larger, but this was the original brief I was given;
  • The game would use profile cards taken straight out of the basic set. I wanted to make minimal changes to the basic game other than those to make it work on the day;
  • The game would need to be short in duration and high on action. The intent would be to give people a taste for the game and its rules without needing to take up too much of their time, and generally promote the rules. I was aiming at keeping people playing for no more than an hour and a half. On the day no game lasted longer than this and most were done in around one hour;
  • I didn't want to spend a fortune on materials, and it would need to be put together in my limited spare time. It would also need to be ready sufficiently is advance to allow for play testing.
  • I needed to get all the figures painted and based in time. With different casts I could have used figures I had already finished but I also wanted to use the event as a catalyst to get some more painting done! In the end all but two of the figures used were painted specifically for the day, plus all the furniture;
  • The scenery would need to be modular so that it could be transported and stored;
  • The scenery would ideally also be versatile enough to be used for other casts and scenarios for games played after Vanquish. A modular setup allows for a certain amount of flexibility when repurposing the scenery for other scenarios by adding new bits and swapping old ones out.

After a lot of thought (heavily influenced by other sets I have seen and admired) I decided on creating a stronghold  of some sort, a walled structure with internal buildings. With a little imagination this might serve as all sorts of locations. If painted in grey it could pass for concrete or stone and with any base areas painted in brown shades it could easily sit in a variety of settings, from desert or jungle to mountain top or even the polar regions, and of course could be adaptable to all sorts of different casts.

The structure was first assembled out of cardboard in six separate components. Buildings within these areas would be solid structures with no access to internal rooms (taking buildings apart during a participation game was to be avoided). A series of ramps allowed several options for routes around and into the structure via the central courtyard, flat roofs and walkways, as well as walls that could be climbed, and gave the whole set more visual impact because of its vertical scale.

For ease of play, and so that I wouldn't need to take them apart during the show, building interiors would mostly be inaccessible. Clearly such areas were off-set and no filming would take place there. But one corner would represent a few rooms within the Supervillain lair itself. The top of this would remain roofless and open so that internal rooms could be represented and furniture added, and maybe even the villain confronted in his lair.

Two other corners would contain things that might be alternative objectives or just visual dressing. One would have a helipad and the other a radio mast (my original idea was for a gun battery or missile silo but constructing this would have substantially exceeded my available time!)

Construction of the main elements

Each of the six main elements of the set was constructed with a basic frame of cardboard taken from boxes and Amazon packaging, with added flat surfaces and raised detail made from card and foamboard.

Each element was based on 3mm MDF cut to appropriate size. Papier-mache was used to strengthen and cover gaps. Surface details including closed doors, windows, and raised edges were made from card and mounting board. Some minor adjustments were made using foamboard and Milliput to make better joins between different elements - cardboard has an unfortunate tendency to warp.

Element #1
Element #2
Element #3, with helipad
Element #4
Element #5
Element #6, gatehouse, from the front
And from the rear
Building walls were textured with a filler, sand and chinchilla dust mix, while flat areas were textured with chinchilla dust only. When complete, each element was toughened and sealed with PVA.

The whole building was painted with a matt grey primer, to simulate stone or concrete, and dry-brushed with a paler grey. Floor areas and some vertical walls were painted with a different grey to add contrast. The interior of windows were painted black and doors picked out in an appropriate shade of grey. Base areas on the ground were painted in Crown Cappuccino matt emulsion and highlighted with Crown Brown Sugar.

Base cloth

The basecloth
I made a bespoke base cloth for the set from a cut piece of table protector (about 3mm thick material that you would normally put under your tablecloth to protect your table from hot dishes). I painted the underside of this with a thick layer of Crown Cappuccino onto which I generously sprinkled chincilla dust. This was left to dry to make a textured painted surface (the chincilla dust absorbs the colour of the paint). When dry, it was all dry-brushed with Crown Brown Sugar.

Close-up of finished base cloth texture


After rejecting several ideas of a separate removable helipad I finally simply painted the helipad design directly onto the roof section using a home-made stencil. 

The helipad
The SHIVA copter
The helicopter is a cheap Cararama diecast model taken apart and repainted appropriately to accompany my SHIVA cast.
The SHIVA copter on the helipad

Radio Mast

This was a simple structure made from strips of foamboard and card glued together an attached to a small box on an MDF base. The box and base were textured with chinchilla dust and sealed and the whole structure spray-painted grey.

The radio mast

Open Room Section

To keep games sensibly short I limited the number of rooms, eventually settling on an entrance room (occupied by guards and a security desk), a main chamber with windows overlooking the courtyard (the supervillain's quarters), a back room connected to this (the control room in which I put a couple of scientists and computer banks), and a secure room (containing a safe). There was also a lift from which minions could enter the entrance room from within.

Open room section from the front
Open room section from the back
The walls were made from foamboard glued to an MDF base and internal doors made from card. A large window from which the supervillain could overlook the interior of the base was made from foamboard and clear plastic. The outside of this was textured with filler and chinchilla dust, and it was all painted grey.

Rooms were appropriately furnished with items from Crooked Dice, Pigeon Guard Games and Ainsty Castings.

With furniture, and various occupants
When assembled, for visual effect and to create some cover, I also added some jungle terrain elements (put together for the Congo game), areas of scatter terrain (crates and oil drums), and two jeeps.

The Casts

Finally, here are some pictures of the figures painted and used for the game.

Drax and Jaws
Bond and Bond - players could opt to be Daniel (Hasslefree, L) or Sean/Roger (Crooked Dice, right) 
Steed and Emma Peel
X-commando squad
And more minions!