Monday, 7 July 2014

Linka gaming terrain moulds

Paul has been busy casting loads of Hirst Art pieces for our Space Raiders boardgame terrain - enough to make a few decent sized rooms at least! He also came across some alternative moulds from the late 70s/early 80s called Linka.

Just like Hirst Arts moulds, these are best used with dental plaster/stone, to make solid, robust wall sections. Unlike Hirst Arts, the walls are more like thin, flat panels, than blocks to make walls from.

The moulds cast really easily and the pieces, although thin, are relatively easy to get out without too many breaking and snapping during de-moulding (some of the long, thin sections are susceptible to breaking as the mould is flexed to get the other sections out)

One really nice element to the pieces is the way they can be connected either in a long, flat section, or at right angles, to make nice, sturdy wall pieces.

These moulds were originally created for Hornby 0-gauge and 00-gauge model railways. As such, they're not quite to the right scale for our 28mm miniatures.

The 0-gauge stuff looks fine against a 28mm western-styled miniature. The bricks may appear a little larger than if they were made to the same scale as the character, but they're not completely out-of-scale. Given that most 28mm miniatures have "cartoon" proportions (large heads, feet and hands) having larger-than-they-should-be bricks in a wall section isn't the end of the world.

The smaller 00-gauge stuff also looks ok, set against a 28mm character. In fact, the bricks look more in scale to the character than the 0-gauge sections.

But it's immediately obvious that the doors and windows are far too small for this size playing piece. What we need is something somewhere inbetween....

Using the Linka moulds as "inspiration" (we definitely did not just rip off their idea but make the wall sections a little larger) we drew some wall sections in Inkscape, but made them a little larger.

We kept the interlocking edges so multiple pieces could easily be connected together. However, we made each wall section almost as high as a playing piece. By creating some "full-height" and some "half-height" pieces, they can be stacked one on top of the other to create either single-storey or multi-storey buildings.

We made each wall section in 1", 1.5" and 2" sizes.

(In the image above, we've incorrectly labelled the 1/4" section as half-inch. Sizes are approximate: a one inch section is 7 bricks across, but a quarter-inch section is two bricks across. Obviously, four of these sections would be longer than a single, one inch section - the length, in inches, is really only a guide, to help determine how many playing squares each wall section would cover)

After placing the layouts alongside some 1" squares (our board game playing surface uses 1" squares) it became apparent that we'd need to do some jiggling about:

To place a door, for example, it would either have to go in the centre of a single 1" piece or to one side of a longer 2" piece. In either case, we'll end up with a door frame very close to one edge of a wall section, which is potentially a point of weakness. We can't place a door in the middle of a 2" piece, because then, when it is placed on the board, it would fall between two playing squares, and not line up with a single one.

An alternative to this is to create a 1.5" wall section, into which we can put our doorway, allowing about a quarter of an inch of material around the sides of it. In this way, we can put the door in the middle of the playing piece, but we'd need either quarter-inch or three-quarter-inch wall sections to go on either side, to create either a 2" or 3" long wall section.

As we couldn't decide which to choose, we drew both.

As we already have some liquid silicone and catalyst here, the idea to laser cut and engrave the brick pattern onto some 3mm acrylic and - assuming everything works as we hope - make a rubber mould of the final piece; this will allow us to make multiple wall sections quickly and easily from our dental plaster, without tying up the laser cutter for hours at a time!

Progress will be reported (successful or otherwise) in a later blog post......