From Junk You May Already Have
If you’ve followed along with my last two blogs then you should now have some Fighters ready to fight in your Fighting Pits! Of course, in order for this to happen you’ll need a Fighting Pit for your Fighting Pit-fighters to fight in! Fortunately I can help with that.
All the action in Fighting Pits of Baad Tibera takes place in a circular arena measuring 18 inches across. Therefore, you may have already figured out, if you were to draw an 18 inch circle on a sufficiently large piece, or pieces, of paper then you would, in effect, be ready to play! You’ll be pleased to hear there’s nothing to stop you doing that, please go right ahead if that’s what works for you.
If you want a slightly more in-depth experience then I’ll have some playmats available to download soon that you can simply ask a print shop to run at the right size, or do it at home, yourself, over a few sheets of paper. Voila, instant Fighting Pit.
However there’s nothing quite like a physical artefact to hold in your hands, place your miniatures upon, and conjure the bright equatorial sun on your neck, warm desert winds on your cheek, and the roar of a baying crowd in your ears; and because they’re so easy that I can make one, I thought I’d show you how it’s done too.
Before we start, a lot of terrain and model builders use insulation foam, hot wire cutters, airbrushes and the like to construct their pieces, and if you have those then you can easily adapt what’s written here to create something a little more professional. However, I wanted this build to be made primarily from everyday items that you’d otherwise throw away, the sort of scrappy junk that, if you don’t have it your friends might, or even a local shop might be willing to donate in order to save space in their skip, just to open this up to as many people as possible. The only ‘non everyday’ item that I would recommend is a hot glue gun. Now before you bail on me, these are incredibly easy to come by and most hobby shops sell them for a few pounds (or equivalent currency) now – you only need the basic model for this and it really will make your life so much easier. Trust me.
The rest of the materials you’ll need are:
Cardboard and polystyrene sheets, at least 18 inches across (I took mine from the waste packaging of a flat packed table that I then proceeded to build my Fighting Pit on – but like I said above, if you haven’t just bought a new piece of furniture then don’t be afraid to ask friends and businesses if they have any spare).
Scissors; a Stanley knife or other super-sharp (mind your fingers!) extendable cutting blade (for non Brits, you may call this a utility knife, a box cutter, an x-acto knife, that sort of thing); a pencil; a tape measure; a ruler that is at least 9 inches long; a small nail and length of string (at least 12 inches or there-abouts); a pot of Polyfilla or other pre-mixed plaster or grout (readily available in many supermarkets or hardware shops); some cheap craft paints (don’t use your miniatures paints for this!); PVA glue; hot glue gun (mentioned again here in case you’re using this as a checklist).
Optional: sand; spare miniature weapons and shields; oil washes (we’ll get to these).
Start by drawing a circle, 18 inches across, on a piece of cardboard. Here’s the easiest way to do that. Set your tape measure to 18 inches and lay it across the card. Make a mark at 0, 9 and 18 inches. Then with your ruler measure 9 inches out from the central 9 inch mark to the edge of what will be your circle, as many times as you like. Finally, carefully insert your nail into the central 9 inch mark.
Next, tie one end of your string to the nail and then tie off your pencil as close to 9 inches from the nail as possible. You can then gently pull the string taut and draw a circle around the nail. This will look rough, I won’t lie, but don’t worry, your Pit doesn’t need to be a perfect circle. Indeed, it will look better if it isn’t.
You’ll need a base for your Pit so use the template to draw out a second card circle and then measure and draw a second circle around the first to the same width as your polystyrene sheets – in my example pictures this was half an inch. Then cut this out too.
Using your hot glue gun, sandwich all your layers together as pictured, with your larger cardboard circle as the base. Then stack some heavy books on top of them, preferably leaving the whole thing overnight.
Meanwhile cut some strips of polystyrene about 2 inches high, and then slice these into blocks about 1 inch wide. These will be the bricks that make up your Pit walls, and should be built up with your hot glue gun about as high as pictured. The hot glue gun will seal the bricks in place nice and quickly but tends to leave fine strands. Be sure to tidy these up if you want your Pit wall to look neat (I may not have done this…).
Use your Stanley knife to make the top of your Pit wall look a little more irregular; don’t go crazy with this, less is more. Then spread your polyfilla around the outside and inside of your walls, filling any obvious gaps and smoothing out the transition from wall to pit-floor. Again, if this looks rough then it simply adds to the overall feel of the piece. Try to not to completely obscure the definition of your wall, you still want to be able to see the individual blocks. If you have any spare weapons and shields that you want to leave discarded around the Pit, now is the time to add them.
At this point you’re almost ready to paint. Before you do, you’ll want to seal the card surface and the polystyrene blocks. You could use a modelling varnish like Mod Podge, which would be perfect but expensive at this scale, and was unavailable to me at the time I built this. Instead I used PVA glue mixed with brown paint which worked just fine. I took the opportunity to add some sand to the surface of the Pit before this stage with watered down PVA which sealed it down nice and securely. I mixed the brown from red, green, yellow and white craft paints, settling on a shade that I liked. there’s no science to this, just go with what looks right. You’ll need a couple of coats at least, so mix up plenty.
I painted the sands a yellow-brown to differentiate them from the walls and just swirled the paint in where I felt it worked. Then I dry brushed the whole thing with a pale yellow, off-white paint using an old decorator’s paint brush, making sure to catch the sharper edges of the bricks. This worked far better than it had any right to.
The finished Pit is light, durable and very playable – much of my early playtesting was performed on this terrain. Even better, it would have ended up in the bin (well, except for the cardboard) if not for this make so that’s a bonus. If you’re not a crafter though, or simply don’t feel you have the time or the patience, then that’s fine too. I have a range of pre-printed MDF terrain and accessories available soon from the XLC – keep an eye on the webstore, or sign up to my newsletter to stay in the loop!