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Eastern Front


Timing is everything

I don’t remember the specific meeting that occurred or the date but I had just finished a twelve-month contract and I can remember saying that I would help with the Stalingrad Terrain for the upcoming book. 

In hindsight this is probably my most satisfying project I’ve undertaken in this fantastic hobby but one that almost sent me around the bend as I racked up over 960 hours of time at Battlefront completing the terrain.

This isn’t to say that terrain has to take a long time. The piece that I am the happiest with only took a day or so which is the sniper tower. The factory and department store took over a week and a half of twelve-hour days each.

First thing I learnt is that in terrain making time is proportional to planning. I would have had several pieces going at once and learnt to multitask more effectively had I had more experience.

Towards the end of the process I’d have two or three things on the go, which compressed the completion time by a huge amount.

We had some basic ideas, from the beginning, that kept us in good stead for the final look of the terrain:

1.  It had to be practical to game on.
2. To be able to game on it, it needed to be modular so that we could get access and  store it.
3. The window dimensions needed to be larger than normal because we needed to get depth into the terrain to allow better photography and lighting options.
4. We needed to be able to cover a 12x6 foot table with a cityscape.

Factory Office Front
A Mortar Platoon in rubble strewn streets around Colin’s Factory Complex

I’ll break down the materials by building as I go, but before that I need to give people an idea of where to start. There is a vast amount of information and photography from after the battle but very few visual records from before the battle. The probability that most of Stalingrad was destroyed and the visual records were lost would account for the scarcity of information let alone the fact that most of the buildings that we wanted to recreate in one way or another had been leveled or made unrecogniseable.

Then we thought about where the major areas of conflict were within Stalingrad and its surrounds. Here we drew on the web for details as well as the Battlefront reference library.

We decided that the Central City Square where the Univermag Department Store was located, that was firstly the Soviet GHQ and then Von Paulus’s GHQ prior to his capture, was a central terrain piece as well as an aspect of the fighting in any one of the three major factory complexes that were in the city. 

We also needed some smaller terrain features/structures and about half a dozen were discussed and then all sorts of rubble piles as well as some multi story apartment style buildings.

I just started making bits and pieces and learnt the skills of what worked and what didn’t as well as the quirks of the materials I used.

I would like to say that I was an expert when I started but that would be a lie. I hadn’t made any terrain before this other than painted a number of resin one-piece scenic style terrain pieces. I looked at pictures of rubble and after the battle style publications and drew inspiration from many of them. I am not an architect or a technical drawing expert. 

Department Store
I can also say that you can go nuts on this stuff as there was always more I wanted to detail on all of the works but, I was reminded by various people that functional and visually cool was the desired effect not detail. Although I managed to slip a few detail bits past them.

I started on a number of smaller corner style buildings to make up the four table corners.

Stalingrad Street with sIG 33 guns

These 15cm sIGs are sitting on the sand texture of factory base. 

Some basics measurements to keep in mind

Windows 6-10mm above the floor so you can see the figures inside them.

Floor level is approx 3.5-4cm from floor to roof so don’t measure the width of the floor or you will come up short. This allows you to place troops on a base in and out easily. The width of the floors should be the depth of a base so 5cm or so allowing for battle damage.

The bases on all the terrain is 3mm mdf cut to shape, remember to use a mask when sanding or cutting this stuff, the dust is very bad for you.

Some basic techniques to keep in mind

Super glue eats/melts the foam in ‘foam card’ only use it if you are gluing the outside paper to other materials, otherwise use PVA Glue. Any spray paint, due to the propellant, will also eat/melt the foam. It also warps when painted so paint both sides at the same time.

Foam card needs a very sharp knife to cut cleanly and it blunts hobby knife blades very quickly. It will rip the paper on the reverse of the cut if the knife isn’t sharp. Buy a cheap knife to cut the basic shapes and trim off damage etc.

If you are going to paint the mdf base boards or glue sand on the top then paint the bottom first as having a painted surface on one side will promote warping when it dries. Use heavy weights to fix any warping before sticking the terrain down to it.

Use pins to hold foam card together when waiting for PVC glue to dry

Polyfilla or some other form of plastering product fills gaps and covers up mistakes nicely.

Sniper in rubble

5cm PaK 38 guns in battle damaged building

Colin has added both bullet and shell holes, and burn marks around the openings and holes. 

Battle damage basic techniques

This is the hardest to explain as it seems strange but it is hard to make a building with damage built into it. From the outset you are better to make a clean building and finish the basic construction and then apply the damage after painting the original colour scheme on the finished piece.
Slice chunks off the exposed walls and corners of the building as well as out of some windows. Ragged gouged cuts look very effective but don’t go overboard as it is easy to do too much damage, its really a personal preference here as to what you like or don’t. 

For shell holes use a nail or sharp object to punch a hole through the card or into it and then carve a crater out of the card on both sides of the impact as if the shell has penetrated the building. If it didn’t penetrate then only carve it on one side, this will look like a shell has been fired at it and exploded. 

When painting shell holes paint them black and then use a white paint to highlight the bottom right hand third of the hole, this gives the damage a 3D appearance giving it depth and character (thanks to Dion for showing me this). 

German Assault group

You can see both Casey and Richard’s apartments and Colin’s Department Store in the back ground.

For bullet holes use a pin dipped in black watered down paint and it will leave a nice little hole that you can spray across a wall as though a machine gun has worked its way towards a lurking enemy in a window or a doorway. Keep bullet holes and damage close to windows and doors, this is where enemy appears, so it is likely that the bullets searching them out will be close by. 

Sniper tower

For damage in plastic pieces that are stuck on the structures I used a soldering iron and cleaned up the holes with a knife to give them depth.

The sniper tower

This is constructed of foam card available from any art shop. This makes up the walls and floor sections; any off cuts from this process can be cut into small squares to use in rubble piles. On the outside of the tower I bought some generic railroad brickwork packs which had various sizes in HO(1/87) and TT(1/120) which is the closest match to our 1/100 products.

The rusted reinforced iron that protrudes from the floors and is attached to rubble off cuts is plastic rod available from any hobby shop and I applied a flame to them to warp them into the weird and wonderful shapes that they are in now, painted in Vallejo Smoke gives them the rusty finish.

The windows are again railway model sets of windows that I liked the shape of stuck to the exterior of the building. 

Three story corner building

I designed this to be able to hold a complete Strelkovy Company within its confines and learnt a number of key tricks about doing multilevel buildings.

The outside walls were in foam card but the floors I did in balsa wood. This I wouldn’t recommend. Foam card floors work much better. Also cut the access points for stairs before you glue the floors in and measure the locations so that the stairs all look to be the same angle. As I stated before I am no architect. Stairs are an interesting one, in this building I hand made them by cutting lengths of balsa and gluing them between two pieces of plastic card again available from any hobby store. These six sets of stairs took me a day to do. I had Evan arrive during this project and he made me a master set of stairs out of modeling putty and we cast them in resin. This saved me many hours of work on all of the future terrain pieces.  

Corner building
The Department Store

The Department Store
The Department Store

This was a mission, not only was it four floors high it had two flat fronts converging to a curved façade in the middle and a terrace on the first floor.

I only had a photo of the front in peacetime so used this as a guide. 

I initially did this as a corner piece as I had no idea of what it looked like from the top or back but cutting out all of the windows and getting the curve right on the front were things that took me back to asking myself why I never listened better in geometry class as a lad.

The columns are plastic tube from a hobby shop and the railings on the terrace and top floors are HO gauge white picket fences chopped down to look more realistic. The skylights were from a plastic HO kit set, which I had already converted into the front administration building for the tractor factory.

I found a 3D image of the Stalingrad set for a computer game, I can’t remember which one, that showed me the roof layout and building shape and was able to finish the back and tops as well.  The whole building comes apart to allow for placing troops inside and there is even a grand stairway to ascend and up to each level. 

I think an entire soviet battalion could inhabit this building happily or you could have snipers hiding anywhere.

It is 20-25cm high and 64cm across diagonally and 45cm frontage on each side. So you can see it was a big piece.

The Real Department Store before the war.
The Department Store Roof Back view of the front section
Ground Floor Stairs Right wing roof
Two halves

Factory Administration Building “Traktophar”

Factory Administration Building “Traktophar”

This was modified from a plastic model HO kit of Grand Central Station. I used the basic structure and made four columns for the front which looked like the front of the actual factory administration building and added a flagpole and some posters which we downloaded and printed that added the flavour to the finished item.
Factory Table The Factory

This was the last piece that I undertook as it was the most daunting. From photos of the damage I had ascertained that the roof was a triangular shape to allow for skylights.
Factory Detail

The factories were vast and covered many blocks in reality. Although the initial idea was to have three sections of 2ft round to tip of the highest point and 2ft long. I learnt that it is easier to cut multiple 1ft sections and stick two on a base, which made warping less of an issue.

Factory Hoist

Factory interior

I offset the walls on the base so that one side of the factory had a large area to allow for placing the railyards onto and on the other side, the narrow side, a smaller space to put rubble and damage on.  I cut the two-foot base into a 16” and 8” down the middle to allow for photo and troop access from any angle.

The width of the factory was 30cm/12 inches.

The roofing sections were made of foam card and fitted as individual sections except where the damage wouldn’t allow this and a number of them were rigged together. The corrugated material is silver corrugated card from an art shop dry brushed with good old Vallejo Smoke watered down.

T-34 transmission and engines
Rail Loading area

The gantry and pipe work is all plastic I-beam and pipes from a hobby shop again painted with Vallejo Smoke.

Various railway hobby clunge was used including the external chimneys and boilers in the boiler building. These were originally railcar petrol tankers and the columns from the Grand Central Railway made nice chimneys.
An old electric motor made a cool looking generator within the factory, encased in foam card.

Rubble was off cuts and I made the ramps for the railyard from foam card and plastic sheet brickwork, which you can get at 1/100 scale from the hobby shop as well.

The railway track is TT as are all of the carriages and our brave little Soviet train, which were purchased from an ebay auction. As always you find a local supplier of all of the aforementioned railway equipment we needed after we have almost finished the whole exercise.

If someone tells you TT gauge is dead that’s a lie they just don’t stock it. They can source it however and there are a number of German companies that still produce this excellent scale.

Interior of Factory

Posters and slogans were stuck on and painted on as well as a white ink pen used to create the cracking effect on the brickwork. 

Evan sculpted some T34 transmissions and engines that I put on workbenches and Karl carved out and installed some into T34 Hulls (insane I know but he likes that sort of thing. 

The Fountain

In Stalingrad there was/is a very famous fountain that was highlighted in the movie “Enemy at the Gates”. Evan sculpted the figures for the top, which is a ring of children dancing around a crocodile. It was a gift from Ghana apparently and the base of the fountain was sculpted by Karl. I painted it up as it looked in photos and I think most people should be able to recognize it.
Apartments Apartment Blocks

Richard and Casey decided to do some generic apartment block multi level buildings that were a standard floor plan and when damaged look sensational. They were built completely of foam card and 3mm mdf for roof and bases.
You can lift out floors to put troops in and they have been used a lot in our testing of the street fighting rules and in games after that as it is great fun to run troops up and down buildings.


Dion made a chimney shape from off cuts of brickwork and we cast it in resin, which allowed for the multiple chimneys to be churned out representing the workers houses that were built around the factories.

The houses were all made from wood and when they burnt down all that was left was the chimneys and a pile of ash and rubble.

The German Soldiers called these places graveyards as they looked like large tombstones dotting the landscape and provided very little cover. Richard based these and painted them up nicely for the finished effect. 


As I said the most memorable project I have undertaken and hopefully you fellow Flamers enjoy the results.



(Most of these Stalingrad buildings can now be seen in Ostfront ~ Ed) 

Last Updated On Thursday, September 29, 2011 by Blake at Battlefront