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Squat Stronghold

Squat Stronghold

 


 
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Squats live in Strongholds, impressive fortifications spread on the surface of the planets they call their Homeworlds. Those places are a hallmark of the race, as their beard or their hate for Orks. No Squat truly exists without being affiliated to a fortress: the fortification protects his belongings, his family, his home. It's the material incarnation of both his community and its values. Defence of such a place is an imperious necessity and a honor, for the loss of it means the loss of everything making a Squat life worthwile.

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A Shelter

As I was creating my Squat army based on numerous Brotherhoods, I had a strong feeling that Squats could not be "just" a fighting force, like Eldars and Tyranids are. They needed Strongholds to defend. They had to fight for something more than a hill or a bridge. Naturally, I wasn't implying that Squats fight are always on the defensive; but I nonetheless felt that, as an non-imperialist and industrious race, they were most likely to be attacked than to initiate a conflict. Like an old Squat adage could say, "A Brotherhood does not start a war, but ends it." A race-specific set of scenery was in order, where attackers would crash like waves against a cliff.

What would a Stronghold look like? As there was little Squat-specific artwork around, I had to rely on Dwarf imagery from fantasy settings and add a pinch of technology element. The basics were not hard to figure out from the background of Squat Homeworlds. Those high-gravity planets circle around old stars in the middle of the galaxy. They are arid and barren places, rich only from their crude ore. Most of the structure would therefore be underground or carved in mountains. A good scenery piece would involve a massive entrance to such a place on a mountain side, with proper fortifications and gates large enough to accomodate largest Squat superheavy vehicles. Yet, this structure would not come alone: we can imagine that Squat engineers would also store some dangerous material in external tanks, to avoid the risk of an underground explosion, or just because such matters would consume too many air while processed. I therefore had the idea of some kind of refinery (you can never have enough refineries!) I also had a thought for Squat flying machines: it would be impractical to have them reach a landing site while flying inside the stronghold after every flight, especially in time of peace. A permanent outdoor landing platform was in order, with suitable AA defenses, fuel tanks and radars. Finally, I had a large polystyren rock at hand and I wanted to use it, so I thought of a possible secondary entrance for the Stronghold.

Gathering material

It would be untrue to write that I thought of the scenery before collecting all material implied. It's actually the opposite. I had the vision of an accompanying scenery for my Squat force very early, way before starting the paint job on the Epic miniatures and knew I would need a bunch of material to create it even if details were unclear. I therefore started gathering random things before knowing how or even if I was going to use them. It worked in the sense that I finally managed to create the scenery, but it was awfully costly and confusing. I realized too late that some pieces were missing, and on the other hand I was fully loaded with useless bitz - paid at dire price - that would have no usage for. I can't stress enough the need to draw plans before collecting components for your project. It won't be perfect but you will certainly have a more precise idea of what you truly need.

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What a shambles!

So, what did I use? An insane amount of components. In no particular order:

  • Buildings, containers and fuel tanks from the 6mm range of Old Crow Models;
  • Hex Builder and Platform Builder from Urban War;
  • Various Dwarf Bitz from Games Workshop's Fantasy line (Anvil of Doom, Ram, shield sprue, etc.);
  • Vehicle accessory sprue from Games Workshop's W40K line;
  • Ral Partha resin scenery;
  • Polystyrene rocks from Noch;
  • Components from bashed train models kits (1/285th scale, also called Z scale);
  • Cardboard, glue gun, clay, modelling putty, plasticard, etc.

    Note that this list is not limitative, since I also gathered a number of items I had finally no use for! Among them, wire netting for model train scenery and plaster strips I wanted to use to create a truly gigantic mountain corner. I aimed too high, and the result was so ugly I took the only viable option: throwing it away! After having created the scenery, I had many leftover components (especially from Hex Builder and Platformer kits) that I may finally use for their intended purpose, 28mm gaming... On the other hand, you cannot have too many Dwarf bitz. Be careful when ordering them from Games Workshop though: their pricing is random (to say the least) and not necessarily relevant to the size of a component. Some big bitz are surprisingly cheap, for example old components from the Anvil of Doom.

    Painting

    Squat homeworlds are, in my opinion, rocky and hostile, so I opted for a rough ground with little vegetation, using instead a large amount of sand painted in shades of brown. There could be some kind of oasis, but only of limited size. Mountains received a drybrush of grey and white, without trying to correct accidental brushstrokes and spilled black undercoat.

    External buildings and fortifications raised a number of concerns regarding color. An imperial dark grey was out of question, and I wanted to stay clear of all blue variants, Ultramarine or not. A concrete-like paint job would have been a bit bland; finally, the chosen color should feature a good covering power. With all those factors in mind, I opted for the classical "green plus gold/yellow" which always gives excellent results. Several green shades were in order for base colors: Dark Angels green, Woodland green, and Goblin green. I usually avoid the latter because it's a tint already in use for most miniature stands, but since the building was located on a rocky ground there would be no conflict of colors. Moreover, it covers well, and would be perfect for large bland items like the refinery tanks.

    Therefore, Squat structures received a Bolt Gun metal drybrush while Squat buildings were painted in green. Some gold was sparsely used to add depth to the paint job, while selected areas were inked with chestnut ink for a rusty look. If sturdy constructions are probably maintainted in good working order by Squat engineers, they probably care less about their appearance. The final step was to add banners, symbols and all appropriate details as a touch of color and to turn those buildings into "living" places.

    I worked simultaneously on assembly for all items, but later detailing and painting stages were done in the same sequence finished pieces are presented below.

    Squat Refinery

    This refinery was small compared to other elements and could easily simulate a Squat isolated outpost or an energy plant far from main lines. It all started with a shape for the stand, and then I loosely started to arrange leftover foam rocks and see what I could achieve. I had some large resin tanks left and I knew they would give a good impression together. A pair of pipeline corners were used to link the base of the tanks to a resin building. It was a good start but looked a bit bland, so it was time to make it more Squat!

    I smashed several "obelisks" from my Ral Partha resin scenery blister and laid the pieces as if a massive dolmen had been destroyed there, everything holding with a glue gun. With the addition of four chimneys (Fantasy Dwarf bitz from the old Anvil of Doom) on top of the building and a Squat symbol on top of central tank, it started to look good. A defense tower was in order, as no self-respecting Squat would let any construction without protection. The tower is made of Platformer components, Dwarf bits and the cannon on top is a plastic Cadian grenade launcher (giving a huge barrel in 6mm scale!) Finally, the largest rock was carved to allow insertion of large doors - yet not the largest ones. It's unclear if they give access to a standalone shelter or a larger underground network. It will all depend on the scenario.

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    Landing Platform

    Normally, a landing platform means a large flat surface where flying machines are supposed to land. Yet, I wanted something big. The plastic top of a sushi box cover (!) gave me the structure I was hoping for, but it was awfully plain. I did my best to break the shape and add more variety to it. I started carving large holes and adding foam rocks, as if the disc had been created from an existing setting; then, I pasted resin scenery all around. I wasn't sure of where I would end and was still unsatisfied. Then I remembered my landing platforms for Tau and thought of a variant - massive enough so there would be no doubt over its Squat design - that would hold vertically. Hexagon shapes from Platformer set would be perfect for a distinctive look; I played a bit with components and connectors until I came up with an adequate structure. Once glued in place I added more elements to make the whole less plain: containers, pipelines, fuel tanks, struts, etc.

    A Ral Partha Obelisk found its place on top of the rocky steep slope, which was carved to accomodate a large-sized gate (enough for a Colossus!) as to link the landing platform to the rest of the Squat tunnels. Some kind of AA defense was in order; it took the form of two static Thunderfire batteries located on the base, with a slightly restricted arc of fire but also a good defence from incoming attackers. I worked a lot to improve the circle shape of the landing platform base by adding whatever I found to make it less plain.

    Application of the black undercoat was somewhat laborious because of the structural complexity - and everything was glued in place. Using the same style than the Refinery, I knew what colors to use but I wondered a lot how the large base should be painted, as I did not want it to stand out, always fearing that someone would comment "Oh, you created a landing platform on top of a sushi box cover!". After a while, I opted for a mix of color: dark green for the inner plateau, grey in the circular path, and the outer edge would be left in the dirty state it reached after much spray painting on the ground around. I am only moderately satisfied of the pattern painted on landing platforms - too much kitchen tile floor like - but I had no better idea. The banners hanging in the center were the last component added, giving some symbolism and a touch of variety to the completed platform.

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    Secondary Entrance

    In the first drawings of the Stronghold entrance, I figured a massive industrial complex in a broken ground: I thought of a maze of underground exits, defense batteries, aerial gateways and landing platforms. Of course - it's always easy when you are at the design stage - the result was fully modular, each element able to connect to others.

    As I started to create the scenery I had to lower my expectations to more realistic goals. Nonetheless, I wanted to build a scenery piece where an industrial structure would link two rocky extrusions at a given height, and the big rock would be perfect to create one of those ends. The bridge was created from a model train kit and some resin platforms from Old Crow Models. It was a good start but not spectacular enough; a metallic arch with a gun on top was added later. The rest of the stand received a hangar, a landing platform and a communication turret. Decided to put the big rock potential to use, I glued the massive Anvil of Doom base to the mountainside as a spectacular Squat symbol. I carved a gate too, using the exact same measures than the one designed for the landing platform - to give an impression of consistency and standardized construction - but with the doors open, leading to the core of the mountain. Various pipelines, tanks and access ramps were added to make the scenery more interesting.

    I attached most parts with a glue gun. Clay and gravel were applied to areas where glue was too noticeable. The paint job was standard; I wondered a while how to paint best the runic stone circle applied to the side of the peak and finally opted for a discreet result, after having considered a bright result where each stone would have been in a different metallic color. After painting, the buildings were lacking a bit of variety, so several banners were in order. They came from the Dwarf Man O'War sails and pennants sheet. External tanks received additional decals. The proverbial amount of chestnut ink was then applied here and there for a rusty look...

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    Stronghold Gates

    If all components were spectacular or interesting so far, the main gates had to be the masterpiece. The cliff is a single piece of polystyren scenery for scale train; I mercilessly hacked and carved holes to put inside everything I had in mind. The gates themselves are slightly prominent from the mountain, letting a big structure with adequate decorations and complex machinery on it - possibly an air recycling unit. They are made of resin walls and cardboard. A large tank found its place on the left of the entrance; probably a storage for toxic substances or matters too dangerous to be located inside the stronghold. The ramps on either side of the tank link elements together - the farthest one is directly inserted in the mountain! On the right, I just added a random mix of plastic elements for an appearance of complexity.

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    On the left, I wanted a tower of some sort, as to balance the weight of entrance on the right side of the scenery. Yet, I wanted the structure to be linked to the fortress, so I added two gateways leading to the mountain. A small turret was placed on top of the tower to add token firepower (the model is similar to the one defending the Refinery) but I knew that I'd need something bigger... And all architectural elements so far were too close to the ground.

    That's why I added secondary platforms higher on the cliff. The aerial structure linked them to the main gates, while their own entrances gave the impression that the whole mountain was full of tunnels and lifts. A high-located platform gave also a perfect base for the massive defense system of the fortress, made of two Imperial Guard autocanons (for W40K) around a Dwarf bitz. At 6mm scale, those are truly massive artillery pieces! Able to pount enemy forces miles away - and perhaps enemy spaceships too - I don't plan to give them too much importance in Epic battles, taking place too close.

    The paint job was without surprise, and much faster than on the Secondary Entrance - perhaps because there are few surfaces to address with more than a drybrush. After using shades of green for consistency with existing scenery pieces, it was time to add some decals and pennants for a touch of color, and it was done. Some small parts of the plastic pieces used in the scenery received a gem-like painting to give the impression they were bay windows.

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    The door had to be a character all by itself. I went through several designs before ending in a massive four piece airlock with a Squat face in the middle. The door had too appear impossible to open by force, offering a stern and battered look to visitors. I started painting it with much detailing, addressing every cable and bolt, but the result was not meeting my expectations: it's as if the details were taking the attention off the shape of the gate and the Squat figurehead. With a sigh, I chose to start again and applied a fresh black undercoat on my work... My second attempt was a lot simplier, on purpose: I wanted to highlight only two characteristics of the door, the four-panel airlock and the Squat face. This was achieved with a subtle drybrush and carefully chosen highlight.

    Bonus: Stronghold Interior!

    When I released the article about my Tau army, I was very surprised by the popularity reached by a single detail of the project: the Tau Manta Loading Bay. It seems this small scene full of life was inspiring to many, so I had a good excuse to do the same for those Squat fortifications!

    Naturally, the project of a stronghold interior came early as I drew my first pictures of the main gates. If doors could be opened, then they should reveal something, shouldn't they? Unfortunately, the corridor was a bit cramped and I had no idea how I could create a diorama there. Until I thought of a removable piece of scenery. I would base everything on a stand that could be inserted and removed at will, accordingly to the shape and form of the main entrance. This scene would only feature a single wall for the best exposure. After several measurements and corrections, I had a base and wall of right dimensions that would even fit and hold in the scenery. It was time to create the scene, using spare parts and a handful Squat warriors I had kept for that purpose.

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    View from the core of the mountain.

    The scene depicts an industrial immediately after the doors of the fortress, as close as possible to the outside world. It shows a Land Train under a massive ore loading structure, next to a battlewagon prepared with a rad bomb. As I had more room than for the Manta Loading Bay, I wanted to add all the details I could cram there, in the most realistic way. Hence there are two goods elevator on either side of the ore loading plant (only half of the left one can be seen) leading to the core of the fortress, each one large enough to accomodate a Gyrocopter. On one of them, a set of transportable tanks waits for attention. For personel, there's another elevator on the right with bay windows and a Squat engineer inside. This elevator has its own trap entrance on the ground level. To limit the risk of accidents, stronghold members are not allowed to wander everywhere: there's a strict policy of access defined by the green ground color, defining safe areas. For this reason, the background platform does not feature a handrail over its edge's full length, but only where it is necessary. On the left and rear, behind the pipelines, you can notice an emergency vent. Finally, the Land train loading is the most spectacular scene, where ore is being loaded on a wagon on one side while a Rad bomb is being installed on the other. A number of Squat personel are distributed in the scene as observers or supervisors of the ongoing operation.

    I considered adding weapons and defense turrets in the Stronghold interior, but renounced - after all, the fortification are already formidable enough to withstand any attack. Defense points inside would surely be seen as an extra insurance from Squat point of view, but it would also show a lack of trust in the reliability of the main gates, which is hard to believe. I decided too not to turn the scene into a ceremony hall of some sort, full of silence and majesty. Despite the loose contact Squats maintain with other fortresses, the entrance hall of a Stronghold would surely be a busy place, plenty of industrial activity. There are certainly revered places in the heart of the mountain, but it was just not appropriate for a scene so close to the outside world.

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    Greetings from a Squat Homeworld

    All the Squat scenery pieces have been based on a brown ground, although I have no gaming mat of that color for the moment. As a result those shots might be less beautiful that they could have been - my apologies.

    From battle to battle, the layout of scenery pieces can be dispersed, giving the impression of a large underground structure with plenty of ramifications, or gathered, giving the impression of a crammed industrial area - especially when I drop in more mountains and cliffs. Themed scenery is an excellent inspiration for scenarios: just by looking a this Stronghold, half a dozen ideas spring in my mind.

    Go Squats!
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    created on 10 Oct 2006

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