Making a Spanish village on the cheap

This posting is a combination of two articles that first appeared on the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website in around 2005 and 2007. I am republishing these articles because they describe how I made the Spanish buildings that sit in the background of several of my more recent postings.

Making buildings for wargames

Can’t afford miniature buildings? Fusilier Roly Hermans shows you how he made his own complete 25mm Spanish village for less than $NZ40.

Since I started back into wargaming a few years ago, almost all my hobby finances have gone into miniature figures. So the terrain for them to fight over has been sadly lacking. But no longer – I’ve now made a whole village for myself.

I’d often thought about scratch-building some houses, but never really known where to start. The breakthrough came when I discovered a product called “foamboard”. This is a 5mm-thick sheet of foam, backed on both sides by paper. It can be easily cut with a craft knife, yet is sturdy enough to make a strong model. It also has another neat advantage, which I’ll come to later. Foamboard can be bought in large sheets from stationary shops – I got mine coloured black, which saved a lot of undercoating later on.

The first step in planning to build miniature houses is exactly the same as that for painting miniature soldiers – research. I wanted my terrain to go with my Peninsular War miniatures, so visited the library and got out some landscape books about Spain. I also looked for design ideas in catalogues of commercially made wargames buildings.

From the library books, besides learning about the design of Spanish houses, I was also able to extract some doors and windows from the photos, and scan them in to use on my miniature buildings. The resulting sheet is shown below, for anyone who wishes to use these doors and windows (click on the image to see the fullsize version).

Once I worked out the design of my houses, I drew the shapes of the walls onto the foamboard and cut these out carefully with a craft knife. I also cut out the openings for the doors and windows, all sized to match the windows on the above mentioned sheet.

Now comes the bit where foamboard has a really neat feature: the corner joints can all be easily rabbeted (I think that is the technical term!). I got this idea from Major Tremording’s Colonial Wargaming site [sadly this site is now gone too, but the article concerned can be found on Wayback Machine]. Rather than explain it in detail here, I suggest you look at the illustrated instructions on how to rabbet corners on this page of his site. The technique is surprisingly easy, makes tidy corner joints, and also saves the complicated mathematics of allowing for the thickness of the construction material at the design stage.

If you want to add features such as corner-stones, do so now. I used cardboard from a cereal packet, cut into small strips and folded around the corners of a couple of the houses. Rather painstaking, but worth it for the effect (see the house on the right, above). I also glued on some random patches of brick-paper which would represent where the plaster had fallen off the building.

Once the house is constructed using the rabbeting technique, then comes the exciting part – texturing and painting. I coat the walls with thinned-down PVA glue, then sprinkle them with a mixture of fine and coarse sand. Once dry, another coat of thinned-down PVA is applied to seal the sand onto the walls. They look pretty terrible at this stage, but, never fear, the next step of the process will fix that!

Painting is done with several colours. Firstly I outline the patches of bricks in black. Then I apply a dry-brush of yellow oxide artist’s acrylic to the walls – the sand is very thirsty, so you have to use tons of paint to do this! Next, a dry brush of arylamade yellow, and finally a dry brush of titanium white.

Now the house is ready for its windows and doors. Simply glue these in place behind the respective openings. I then glue some scrap foamboard behind the paper windows to make them stronger (I don’t want anyone poking a finger through them!). I make shutters out of corrugated card, and some windows have foamboard window boxes with scenic flock plants.

The final stage is the roof. I was planning initially to use a technique described by well-known terrain modeller Gary Chalk, in which he uses cordouroy cloth, set with PVA glue, and dry-brushed. However, I found a perfect product in my local hobby shop – a sheet of plasticard that has been pre-moulded into pantiles. This was the costliest part of my project (all of about $NZ20!), but the resulting roofs do look the part.

And there you have it, one complete Spanish village. By using the buildings in different configurations, and using a few freestanding wall pieces to connect them, the layout possibilities are endless. Now I am inspired to set up a scenario game at the next club night, involving the British and French fighting over my village terrain.

And here is the second Kapiti Fusiliers article, which appeared in May 2007.

A peaceful little village somewhere on the Peninsula

Recently Fusilier Roly Hermans added a few new Spanish houses to his terrain, and painted some Perry civilians to inhabit them.

A year or two ago, I made some Spanish houses out of foam-core board for my 25mm Peninsular War games, and wrote an article for this website on how the construction was done [i.e. the article above].

Being a regular visitor to Paul Darnell’s beautiful Touching History website [now no longer existing] I snapped up his book on terrain-making, and used it as a guide to make some more buildings to add to my collection.

I was also impressed with a fantastic 40mm game put on by the Durham Chosen Men [yet another defunct website] and liked their half-timbered ‘bodega’ so much that I copied it to give a bit of variety to my otherwise plastered buildings.

Looking at all the resulting buildings, I realised that they looked a bit spartan without any landscape detail, such as streets, courtyards, gardens and so on. So my latest project has been to tie all my buildings together as a fully landscaped village.

I laid out the village as a crossroads with a small plaza in the centre. Each quadrant of the village is a separate small baseboard, so I can break it up into several smaller hamlets if necessary. I’ve made the buildings themselves detachable from their baseboards, so that I can still use them individually.

A view of the churchyard, with the plaza and bodega in the left background. Note that I still need to put plastic tile sheeting onto the roof of the bodega.
A ground-level view of one side of the village. The exposed stonework and the windows are done with textures printed out on the computer, while the shutters are corrugated card.
The cobblestones are also just print-outs of texture images from the internet, jazzed up with a little sand and flock glued on in patches.
The churchyard will work perfectly well as a stand-alone terrain piece.

The village now needed some inhabitants. Just in time Perry Miniatures released a very nice range of Carlist Wars civilians. Although this period is a few years after the Napoleonic Wars, the costumes would not have changed that much, and so they were perfect for my purposes. 

3 thoughts on “Making a Spanish village on the cheap

  1. Those are fantastic buildings. perfect for the period and the civilians fit in very well. Superb job!

  2. I’ve just come across this post and it’s your village is inspirational. I’m doing something similar in 15mm and will be “borrowing” many of your ideas. All the best Dr B.

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