Mediterranean Island Pirate Mega-Map ReaperCon 2012
Hello everyone.  Back at the original TerraGenesis site, I created a large 3-D map for ReaperCon 2012, a convention held at the makers of Reaper Miniatures.  The theme of the convention was pirates.  For the miniature battles, they wanted three pirate island maps (eventually knocked down to two) that shared the same general layout, but could have their own interpretation from there.  I agreed to make one of the maps.

For my map, I decided to go against the stereotypical tropical island and instead create a rocky Mediterranean island with ancient ruins that had been taken over by pirates.

This was another of those Push-Hard-Short-Deadline projects.  Start to finish, I had only six weeks.

I had a lot of fun with this project, and since the WIP threads eventually get erased, I thought I'd share the journey of making this project here at the new site.  Smile

I'll do my best to show the overall flow of the original WIP thread, but I plan to edit out some of the comments others made along the way.

The support, encouragement, and enthusiasm expressed by the TG community during the project was it's usual wonderful self and I want to preserve that example here as much as possible.

If you were one of those that gave me ideas and encouragement as I embarked on this mad project, please don't take the removal of any of your posts from this thread as anything other than an attempt at streamlining.  I couldn't have done this project without you.   Big Grin
[+] 1 user Likes ableman33's post

I have received a commission to build one of three large islands maps that will be used in a local gaming convention for some table top games.

There will be three separate large maps with similar overall designs and gaming layouts, but differing styles and climates. The basic concept is two forces battling it out on an island once controlled by pirates.

Each of the three maps will take the form of large islands that will be further broken up into three separate pieces for different scenarios.

The general layout for each of the islands will look something like this:

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To make more room for gaming, the north side of the island has been sliced off so that less space is wasted on ocean that will not be played on.

For my theme, I wanted to choose something that I have not done before. After toying with possibly doing an ice and snow covered arctic island, I settled on a Mediterranean theme: light colored limestone, dusty scrub and bushes, and some tumbled Greek/Romanesque ruins.

For inspiration, I gathered some images.

I like the palette of colors of the rocks and vegetation. I also like the shapes this type of rock takes as it erodes. I can definitely see some rough craggy arches in my future.

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These types of low cliff beaches lend themselves well to cave formation which should provide lots of opportunity for fun details assuming I can find the time.

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For ruins, I am likely looking at some roads/causeways that will not impede play, some ruins built into some of the cliffs, and possibly a few scattered broken walls and columns. Some of these elements might be separate from the map so that they could be moved around as needed.

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With my inspirational pics gathered, my first step was to rearrange my garage workshop a bit.

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I needed to string two of my 4' x 8' tables together because this map is going to be huge!   Cry  Each square is 2' x 2', with the overall map measuring 4' x 12'.

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(Seen here with one of my previous Battletech Hex maps for comparison.)

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The map will be pulled apart into three 4' x 4' sections for scenario play, but it needs to fit together into one cohesive whole. It is to be built out of twelve separate 2' x 2' section for easier storage.

After whipping up some 1/4" luan plywood bases, my first challenge was to decide how to go about building this thing. To minimize the breaks between the twelve different sections, I am tempted to build this thing as a single giant foam map and not cut it apart to be glued to the bases until overall sculpting is mostly done. I have pretty much decided to give this method a try.

The challenge with building everything as a single piece is cutting the giant map apart neatly and precisely later. I should be able to adapt my homemade hot wire cutting table with a long enough wire to make the cuts (though the longer wire will mean that the cuts will take longer since I will not be able to get the wire as hot with my current power supply).

Next step, lots of blue foam.   Smile

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Quote:threewolftats said:

in reference to your power supply problem..... for this limited use project, would it not be possible to place a battery of some description in series with your current dc power supply to increase the overall system voltage?

its been a long time since high school electronics.... but i think that should work.....

am looking forward to seeing what you do with this....


@ threewolftats - Welcome back! I remember fondly your commenting on my very first project here at TG.

Adding additional power to my hotwire is certainly a possibility, but since I will be cutting through around 8 inches of foam at most, I will likely be fine with my current setup.

For most of my cuts I will still be able to keep my shorter wire and make faster cuts. I have just gotten spoiled by the extra speed a hotter wire allows.

All the cuts on this map can be made my a wire shorter than that in the original HotWire tools scroll saw.

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My Homade HotWire Cutting Table uses the same wire and power supply (although at a higher setting), so things should still cut well, if slower than I have come to be used to. When I first put it together I did use a longer wire.

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When cutting through thinner material, I can shorten the wire to cut more quickly.

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Thanks for the idea about the battery. I will have to keep that in mind for future projects.   Big Grin
Next step, lat out some foam in a 4' x 12' rectangle.

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With a project this size, I felt I needed to just lay everything out and start sketching free hand to get a feel for how things fit together. The cardboard shapes allowed me to quickly move around a ship and some building foundations to see how things worked.

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For a background story, I decided that this Mediterranean island was formed of layers of limestone and solidified volcanic ash. The ancient Greek/Romans used the site for religious observances, building a small temple complex on the island with a broad causeway leading from the temples to the ceremonial landing at the west side of the island. The east side of the island is a secluded natural cove ringed by rock bridges that formed the entrance to the priests' living areas carved into caves in the rock cliffs.

A nearby earthquake hit the island hard, toppling the temples, splitting the island in two, fracturing the remaining land, and destroying one of the natural arches guarding the cove. The survivors abandoned the island and nature slowly reclaimed the land.

Much later, 1,500 years or so, a bunch of pirates adopted the island as their base. They strung bridges over the gaps and hid their plunder among the many caves and ruins. Now new forces come to battle for control of the fractured isle.


Here on the west side of the island you can see the remains of the original ceremonial ramp in the NW corner. The land to the SW collapsed during the earthquake and has now formed a series of rough natural steps leading from a beach. The two areas are separated by a low hill topped by the foundation of an ancient lighthouse. The remains of the grand ceremonial causeway head east through the center of the map. These four maps will form the first playing table.

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The center four maps will form the second playing table. They are dominated by the split where the island cracked completely in two. The bottom of the chasm will be filled with rocks and seawater. The west side of the island actually dropped down about 15 feet during the earth quake. The east side of this map is three levels higher than the west side to reflect this.

The foundations of the temple complex fill much of the east side of this map. I am considering placing sheets of metal under the foundations so that I can make broken columns and wall sections with magnets to place randomly around the area.

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I have a bunch of fish tank decoration pieces that I may use for parts of this island, especially including the scattered bits around the temple.

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The final four maps form the third playing area. Here a natural cove forms an amphitheater to channel players toward a waiting ship. One of the natural arches has collapsed here choking the entrance below with debris. Pirates have strung a bridge to cross the gap.

The north of this map slopes up to the top of the arches while the south side slopes down to the interior of the cove. A switchback ramp allows access from the north side down into the interior of the cove. The ship cutout insured I made the spaces in the map large enough.

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Once I had everything roughed out, it was time to start cutting.

One disadvantage to sketching things out on the foam directly is that it makes it a bit more of a challenge to transfer the drawings to subsequent layers.

Since my island is split completely in half, I decided to tackle one side at a time. First I cut out my base layer.

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I then traced it onto some more foam.

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And cut it out.

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I then cut off bits from my original layer and used that as a template for the next piece. As I got near the top, I left the layer with the sketches alone and cut smaller pieces to place on top of it.

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At this point I am just past halfway through with the west side of my island.

On to more cutting.   Big Grin
Quote:Elderac said:

What a fantastic looking build. I get the feeling those pirates will like their new home so much they'll stick around there for many games to come.

@ Elderac - Thanks.   Smile  It is quite liberating working more organically outside my usual hex-based constraints. I hope I can continue this pace so I can get some nice detail in before the convention.


I have pretty much finished roughing in the west part of the island.

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The south west corner, which has the natural staircase connected to the beach, has a lone breakwater left standing. I plan to put some sort of broken plinth at the tip to mark it. For now I have a broken column standing in to give me an idea of the feel.

I want any troops that start here to be directed toward the center of this part of the island rather than running off around the edges, so I deliberately made the walls containing the sides of the natural staircase tall to inhibit movement.

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For similar reasons, I will be lining the edges of the ceremonial arrival ramp with walls and broken statuary.

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I decided to move the hill containing the remains of the ancient light house (here represented by more broken columns) to one side to avoid having to cut through the top part when the map is split into 2' x 2' sections.

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And finally, to give the board a bit more detail and to further direct attention toward the center, I added the edge of a hill that was broken during the earthquake.

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Now to get started on the east part of the island.   Big Grin

This make take a while given that it is almost twice as tall and much more complicated.
Quote:extraevildave said:
Cry  A build so EPIC in scale it should have songs and poems written about it, oh wait..., pirates, make that a sea shanty and a rather dirty poem about a girl from Nantucket.
I'll be following this one with great interest.

Quote:MUMSY said:
Totally agree about the epic part and the songs and poems part and pirates, and sea shanties, but stop at the dirty stuff...I am Mumsy after all...  Wink

Very happy about this project ableman. I'm following.   Big Grin

Quote:nealcrankshaw said:
Aaarrrrrr me hearty! I am subscribed.

Thanks everyone. It is good to be building again.   Smile


I added some trimmed down skewers to the thin promontory to give it a bit more strength.

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I then extended the light house hill a bit to get a more natural shape and give myself some room to carve in a broken staircase later.

I deliberately left a gap when adding this piece to make it look like this hill cracked during the earthquake.

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After that I glued the layers together with 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive. This will make it easier to store as I work on the east side of the island.

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I finalized the east side in preparation for cutting. I decided on a centrally located wharf in the cove, though I did move it a couple of inches to one side to avoid having to slice through it when I cut everything into 2' x 2' squares. This will let model ships be placed on either side or at right angles across the end.

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The south east corner will be another natural stair case formed by collapsed layers. This will allow players on the south side of the map to access the interior of the cove.

I am toying around with making the southern shore of the cove be formed by the collapsed remains of the high cliffs that were once here.

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The north east side of the cove has the remains of the ceremonial ramp that led from the temple complex on the top.

The ramp will actually pass under the upper level of the ring surrounding the cove through an arch.

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The reference layer is cut, now on to the rest.

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With eight layers on this side of the island and the arch bridges around the cove to cut out, this could take a while.   Big Grin
Quote:Elderac said:
After this build, you may need to change your name to Table-man33.


Quote:Thumper said:
Moving right along on the new build I see ...   Tongue

Looking great so far, I'll be watching your progress as well   Big Grin

@ Elderac - Heh, I hear you.   Smile  This thing is ridiculously huge. And I am only working on half of it at a time. I cannot wait to see the whole thing together.

@ Thumper - Yeah, I am trying to get as much done now as possible. Roughing everything out is dramatic and goes fairly quickly. Hopefully the inspiration provided by looking at the work so far will help me get through all the detailing later. Big Grin


I have the layers for the east side of the island roughed in. Here are some pics of them dry stacked to get a feel for the overall shape.

The lone speeder bike trooper checking out the project in the pics is on a 1 inch square base for scale.

View from the west.

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View from the east. I have put down a ship template at the end of the dock. The ship will also fit parallel down either side of the dock.

I plan to have a lone support with a fragment of arch on top of it standing up on the end of the level 1 ground at the bottom of the picture. The pirates that came along later will have strung up a bridge across of the gap connecting to the intact arches.

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Here is a better view of the collapsed section that will form the natural stairway allowing the south side of the map access to the cove.

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Here is view from the top of the cliff toward the arches.

For now, the support columns are loose so I can carve them into their proper shapes later.

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The flat areas against the cove cliff wall will eventually have Roman/Greek style ruins carved into them.

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I still have some cutting to do in my ramp area before I glue these layers together. To keep things simpler here, I plan to cut out a rectangular hole, then drop in a ramp I create separately. This should give me a cleaner product than if I try to carve the ramp in place.

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A view from outside the surviving arches. I am considering making the bottom of the larger support stick out further than the rest of the layers so that units might potentially go over there.

The smaller support near the end of the broken arch will have a piece of broken arch sticking out on top of it. While the base of the support will be very close to the edge of the cutting line when I slice everything into 2'x2' sections, the broken piece of arch will actually cross over the line a few inches. Since the arch segment does not touch the ground I can get away with this, plus extending the arch piece past the cutting line will help draw the eye away from the seams between segments.

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Just to get an idea of what the ruins along the cliff face will look like, I threw one of my fish tank decorations in front of it. The real ruins will be flush with the cliff leaving room for battles around the dock.

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To save time for these rough cuts that I will be texturing later anyway, I used a hacksaw blade in screwdriver-like handle. This cut rapidly through the foam while the small teeth meant the cuts were fairly clean and did not make too many electrostatic crumbs. The narrowness of the blade allowed me to make fairly sharp curves without having to resort to my hotwire electric knife tool.

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Taking a bit of a break, then back to the foam.   Big Grin
Quote:Thumper said:
Very curious to what game system this will be used for...

I'm actually looking for something more on the skirmish level with maybe 10 models per side. I've been playing 40k kill teams recently with more terrain and it's a good change of pace, but it's getting stale.

Quote:Shakandara said:
Thumper: These boards will be used at ReaperCon in Denton, TX for their Warlord 2 tournament. The entire convention is pirate-themed, and these 3-part islands are the focal point of a story-driven tournament arc. Unfortunately, due to time/money/space constraints, not all participants will be able to play the scenarios in order (beach landing, treasure grab, exodus on the ship), but even so, it should still be very cool.

Ableman: Looking fantastic, man. I've had this picture of these islands in my head for almost a month now, and seeing it finally being laid out in foam is awesome. As you said, this basic foamwork is actually quite dramatic in showing the elevation changes of the island and the overall form. Back to work on the ships for me!


EDIT - Thumper: Regarding skimish size, a typical Warlord army for a tournament like this is 1000 points, and results in 20-30 models on avergae. Depending on the faction and the type of list created, they can be much smaller (as few as 7 or 8 models) or much, much larger (as many as 70-80 models). Personally, my list for this year's torunament is 25 models, right in the middle of that average size.

Quote:Eldarac said:
Reapercon? Man I wish I lived closer to Texas. I'd love to see this and meet the Order 66 crew.
OK, the gluing of the basic layers is complete so I was finally able to lay out the whole island to get an idea of what it looks like.

I did need to tweak some things in my final layout. I ended up expanding the ceremonial ramp down into the cove twice until I felt there was enough easy space for hands and figures.

The three level drop between the east and west sides of the island across the chasm was just too big, both visually and for the pirate bridges I have planned. To solve this I added some more broken layers near the lower edge of the chasm to easy the transition.

Here are four corner views of the island with some odds and ends standing in for some of the planned features. I had to pull out the loose stacks of the arch supports around the cove as I accidentally sprayed the extended bottom of the arch with glue and I am not ready for the supports to be attached yet.

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Here you can see the expanded ceremonial ramp space. It is now six inches wide throughout. The tunnel between the turn in the ramp and the cove will eventually be around five inches tall. As it is only a couple of inches deep now this should allow easy access for hands and figures. I will create solid ramps the right sizes and drop them into position later.

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Here you can see part of the temple complex courtyard extending toward the cove. The actual pillar remnants will likely be much shorter, but I did not feel like doing any cutting just for these layout shots.

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Here you can see the pirate bridges over the adjusted chasm with the remains of the temple complex behind.

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Here is a view of the cove showing the expanded exit of the ceremonial ramp. I still need to glue in a block to fill in part of the ramp's corner platform after I widened it.

I moved one of the loosely stacked arch support columns to the end of the level one arc to represent the lone pillar that will be standing there.

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And finally, here is a closer shot of the chasm with a bridge crossing it.

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That is probably it for tonight.

Tomorrow I start the first pass of detail layout.

Thanks everyone for all the comments and support. I have never made anything like this so it is going to be an adventure.   Big Grin
Quote:nealcrankshaw said:
Two huge table projects happening at the same time... fantastic!

I am watching with interest how you are making this playable... making the ramp big enough for hands to get into for instance... while at the same time laying the foundation for something that will look good.

Speaking from bitter experience, you might want to consider putting a serious pin into the bottom of the columns to securely anchor them to the board.

It is thoroughly depressing how careless other people are with your beautiful scenery when it comes to leaning over, sweeping hands across to pick up models and generally not caring a jot about being bloody careful when you pick that up!.

Quote:pendrake said:
Looks like you will be up to texturing the foam soon. Some of your inspiration pics show sedimentary rock with horizontal layers.

I had an idea; the thought process went something like this:

● I remembered Asdel got a good result with his entry in the Anything Goes comp by attacking his foam with a horizontal [hatchet?] blade.
● I thought that would take a very long time on this much foam.
● If you had something that would roll along horizontally like a pizza cutter wheel...
● But really you need it to do multiple parallel groves, so it needs four or five blades...
● What could be made...?

And then I started picturing all the parts available on the hardware aisle at my local Ace Hardware --- the pieces just flew off the shelves into an assembly --- and I came up with this:

The Foam Texturing Pizza Wheel

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It is: a bolt, five big 2 inch outside diameter fender washers, four nylon washers, combined as shown. There are some details not shown remaining to be worked out.
● A sleeve for the bolt to help it all turn. [?]
● Smaller Nylon washers top and bottom. [?]
● A longer bolt, to facilitate mounting it to a handle. [?]
● A nut, or two. To hold it together.

Run it along the edge of those foam layers, roughly parallel to the base, varying the pressure = ? = sedimentary foam deposits. Hopefully??

Quote:nealcrankshaw said:
And afterwards... pizza spaghetti!

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