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17Apr/101

How to make simple roads

By Neil of Orange

In the next of my very infrequent series of making 40k gaming scenery, I'm going to cover how I've made a set of modular roads.  I should state at this point the ideas, construction and painting of these road tiles was a joint project with my Orky mate Jim so although I say 'I' a lot below, I really mean 'we' - thanks for all the help Jim.

There are various places you can get roads from if you prefer not to make them.  GW sell a roll of the stuff which may be very useful - I've not tried it.  An interesting alternative is the raised roads that Amera Plastic Mouldings have.

I'm aiming to make my roads on modular tiles so that they are easy to arrange in any configuration I like and it gives me a standard base size to work with for buildings and other bits of scenery I can slot in around the roads.

So, in best Blue Peter fashion, what do you need?

  • Your chosen 'tiles' for the roads.  You could use cardboard as I have, polystyrene tiles are another option.
  • Thin cardboard (cereal packets for me) for kerbs
  • A variety of tools will make this easier, a guillotine, scissors, pencil, ruler, PVA glue and paints.

I recommend ensuring that your supply of both tiles and thin cardboard stretches far enough to cover all the possibilities you want to make and to allow for a few mistakes!  If you run out you may never be able to match your first batch.  The tiles work best if they are square so you can face them in any direction, sadly mine are not, however they were freely available so I've just made twice as many pieces to allow for this.

First step is to make a pile of kerbs.  Based on the size of your tiles, you'll need to decide on the road width and the size of the kerbs.  My kerbs are simply 1cm wide.  Using the guillotine I cut up a huge pile of kerbs so I could play with my roads without having to keep coming back and cutting more out.

Next I recommend making a template that covers all of the kerb positioning you'll need to consider for all of the roads pieces you will want to make.  This template isn't actually used for a road, its there to help keep all the measurements regular for all tiles.  If you have nice metric tiles you may not need to do this if you are handy with a ruler, unfortunately my tiles are odd sizes so this template saved me a lot of headaches.

The template looks simple, but it gives you all the positions I've needed.  The idea is to simply line up the kerbs against the relevant guideline.  In this example, I've made the most fiddly section, a cross road.  The kerbs are glued down carefully using PVA and then I've left them to dry for a couple of hours with a weight over the top to keep the kerbs flat.

That's pretty much it for construction - at least for basic tiles (more on that later).  Painting the roads is also fairly easy with a bit of prep.

First off, undercoat the pavements - avoid wasting paint on the road, but don't worry about getting it anywhere.  I've used a car undercoat spray that is a close match for codex grey.

Next paint the tarmac, don't worry too much about being neat here, the kerbs get painted last but avoid the pavement if at all possible as that is a pain to repaint.  This is going to need a lot of whatever colour you are going to use (black in my case) so finding a cheap and plentiful supply is a good idea.  I bought 'Mars Black' ("The Silence of Death" apparently) from WHSmith pretty cheaply for a big squeezy tube.  Applying the paint to get a nice finish is tricky.  The best success I've had is to water the paint down quite a lot and give it a couple of coats.  With the paint being thin and a little runny the brush strokes don't remain once the paint has dried.  Also do your self a favour and get a big brush that you don't mind ruining.

The last stage which tidies everything up is to paint the kerbs.  Take your time on this bit as it really finishes everything off well if you get it right.  I've used GW's Adeptus Battlegrey, this is a foundation paint that's darker than Codex Grey and also covers black in a single coat very nicely.  In the photo below you can see the finished effect and also the different shapes I've created from the template besides the cross road.

You may decide to detail the roads a bit to make them more interesting beyond the basic construction I've used.  You may have spotted on the tiles above some small man hole covers and drains.  I've used some brass etching from Scale Link Ltd although they are a bit too small.  The drains available on the 40k basing kit etching are much bigger, but you only get 2!

On a few tiles I've experimented with some fun details

Broken kerbs

Road damage (road works possibly?)

A barrel leaking dangerous goo

Other things you might like to try are tire marks, road paint markings, bullet holes, blood, last nights curry and rubble - all of which you might be able to spot on these layout shots, just to give you an idea of how these all fit together.

Of course using this much road in a single game can be unbalanced, especially with things like Ork Trukks and Land Raiders gaining 6" and having the assault vehicle rule!  To counter this sections of ruined road (difficult ground) or barriers can make the whole place seem more war torn and also fairer to play over.

I hope this has been a useful post.  I'll be looking at various buildings and ways to build them next, as I complete my various projects so do keep looking out for more in the 'simple' series.

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