Category Archives: Terrain

A simple way to paint a Maori pa and other scenery


I recently helped Printable Scenery to write and illustrate an article on how to paint their Maori pa palisade and buildings, using the ‘dry-brushing’ process.


This is a fairly quick way of painting large lots of scenery. The results look good despite being somewhat ‘rough and ready’ to do. This technique is particularly useful for things like rough wood and thatch – perfect for a pa, in other words!

See the full article here.

And here’s a little video of the fully painted pa:

Video #3dprintable #Maori pa printed on #makerbot for #wargamesterrain #wargames

A video posted by Printable (@printablescenery) on


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Terrain

World’s first 3D-printed Maori pa completed

Maori Pa001

Here’s some great pics of the final result of my enlistment of Printable Scenery to model a Maori pa and print it on a 3D printer. (Don’t forget to click on the photos to see them in their spectacular full-size glory!)

A Maori pa was a fortified settlement with palisades and defensive terraces. In the pre-European period, these were often built on prominent raised ground, especially volcanic hills. The natural slope of the hill was then terraced.

For years I’ve wanted to have a pa on my wargames table for my colonial New Zealand Wars games, but constructing the fencing from pieces of wood was too fiddly and time-consuming, and the results too fragile. Then I came across Printable Scenery …

Maori Pa002

I discussed with Printable Scenery’s Matt Barker how a model pa needed to work for wargaming.   The company was great – I just sent them some drawings and photos and they started showing me 3D prototypes almost the next day.

By producing the fences and buildings in a modular format, this scenery will be infinitely adaptable to put together any type of fortified structure required for wargaming a typical colonial New Zealand Wars battle or siege.

With over 30 pieces of fences and buildings now available, they can also be modified to form any other type of tribal village, not just Maori. You could even consider such forts for fantasy or pulp fiction games. And by reversing the fences so the posts go on the inside, they can become a generic northern European stockade.

Maori Pa033

The components were designed with pen and paper, and then drafted in 3DMax, where the overhangs and support tolerances for printing were tested. The mesh was exported to Z-Brush for detailing, then ‘decimated’ to provide a workable high-res file in a technique perfected at Printable Scenery. Each piece prints in just over an hour on a Makerbot.

The variety of walls provides an unlimited range of options that can also be scaled, as can the meeting house and huts. Even the statues and entrance-way can be configured in a variety of ways.

Maori Pa022

Once several batches of fences and buildings were printed out, we were keen to see how they would look assembled together to depict a typical Maori hill pa. In our trial layout, three layers of palisading encircle a small hill that has been shaped into defensive terraces. In the centre is the meeting house and huts. The outside circle has an ornate carved gateway. All around is the rugged New Zealand bush.

Maori Pa010

Our pa is populated by 28mm figures made by Empress Miniatures, which cover the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s. There’s even a British attack going in on one side.

The palisades and buildings of the model pa were painted using the ‘dry brushing’ technique. This entails dipping a flat brush into acrylic paint, wiping off most of the paint on a tissue, then sweeping the almost dry brush back and forth across the model to pick up all the raised areas.

Maori Pa028

For the wooden fences and thatch, I started with a medium grey dry-brushing. I then picked out the binding ropes and the sharpened ends of the poles with beige, and the carved tops of the posts and the frames of doors and windows with a rust-red colour. I used some Games Workshop dark washes to bring out the detail of the ropes. This was followed with a light grey dry-brush over everything, and finally the faintest almost white dry-brush.

The bases were covered in PVA glue, and then dipped into sand. I finished them with splotches of different types of model static grass and flock.

Printable Scenery do great custom creations, and it works out really cheap if you offer them copyright of the finished items. As Matt says, “Now anyone can download and print for less than a cup of coffee from”

PS:  The gnarly old trees you can see on either side of the meeting house in some of the photos are also Printable Scenery items!

[Photos in this article all by Matt Barker from Printable Scenery.]



Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Terrain

Maori meeting house, and other buildings


I had fun this morning painting these 3D print-outs from Printable Terrain.  This company produces computer files for printing these buildings on a 3D printer.

This impressive meeting house and its two accompanying huts will be perfect to populate a Maori pa for my colonial New Zealand Wars project.

I still have a lot more of Printable Terrain’s pa palisades to paint up (like the fencing in the background), and also a rather impressive gateway arch – so keep watching this space.

IMG_3527_a IMG_3528_a


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Terrain

3D files for Maori pa fencing now for sale

maoripa-stockade-v01 (1) The Maori pa fence 3D printing files are now available for sale on Printable Scenery. You’ll need access to a 3D printer, or to a local 3D printing service, to print out these files.  But then you can churn them out to your heart’s content.  Imagine the size Maori pa (or pirate  stockade, or cannibal village, or orc fortress) you could make with unlimited pieces! After a wee bit of cleaning up to remove some supporting sprues, and a quick paint job, they come out really well, as you can see in the pictures. maoripa-stockade-v01 maoripa-stockade-v01 (2) maoripa-stockade-v01 (3) maoripa-stockade-v01 (4)


Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Terrain

I’ve seen the future of wargames terrain


Recently my wife told me that she had just found out that a colleague’s partner was into wargaming and making his own scenery.  This of course piqued my interest, so I contacted him and arranged a visit.  Arriving in his workshop, I found to my surprise that Matt Barker wasn’t scratch-building scenic items in the traditional manner, but was designing 3D files and marketing them through his website, a branch under his parent company Catalyst Creative.

Matt had plenty of printed out and painted examples of his terrain to show me, which took my breath away.  They included a variety buildings and structures for fantasy, future and historic genres.


You buy a Printable Scenery file from the website, print it at home if you’ve got a 3D printer (or use a 3D print service), paint the resulting print, and you end up with another excellent piece for your gaming table.  You can print out and paint any number of items, and put them together to form really impressive scenery, such as the above fantasy castle.


Watching the ‘MakerBot’ 3D printer in action was fascinating.  A filament of plastic ‘wire’ unwinds from a drum and is fed into a print head, which zips backwards and forwards (just like a paper printer’s head).  The head squeezes out the molten plastic filament, gradually building up layer after layer to form the structure from the bottom up.

Where there are big overhangs, the printer produces supports (like ‘sprues’) to hold them up during the printing process, which have to be cut away afterwards – you can see some of these in the arches in the above picture.

It is quite time-consuming to print out an item, but worth the wait.  As Matt told me, you press the ‘Print’ button, go to bed, and the next morning there’s a new model house waiting for you!


The real skill with 3D printing is the initial design work to create the file.  The designer needs to have both an artistic eye and the technical knowledge.  Matt and his team luckily have this ability through their experience in the TV industry.

I was really impressed with the design of the fantasy buildings.  To me, they have captured the quaint and quirky look of Terry Pratchett’s ‘DiscWorld’, though they would also fit in well with the more black and morbid look of Warhammer.  

The buildings are made up of modular pieces, so all sorts of variations are possible, as with the fortified cottage above. One of the advantages of 3D printing over more traditional mass production is that it’s easier for the designer to make any number of variations to a basic design, so that the modular elements can all look slightly different.

bendy wall

I especially liked a deceptively simple piece: bendy walls.  How often do we see wargames tales where everything is lined up straight and square?  But in real-life, nature has few straight lines, so fences often follow curving contours.  Printable Scenery’s curved fences come in short lengths that you can put together in any combination.  There are pieces with different radii, so you can even build circles within each other.


All in all, I think this is a very exciting concept.  OK, not that many people have 3D printers yet.  But Matt reckons we’re at a similar stage to where normal paper printing was a decade or so ago, when only a few houses had dot-matix printers.  So, just like with paper printing, it won’t be many years before 3D printers will become normal in most homes.

Matt and I talked about an idea for his next range of 3D printable scenery.  I’ll keep quiet for now about what this range will be until it is confirmed, but suffice to say it’ll fill a current gap in the historic gaming scene, and will also work well for fantasy and pulp fiction too.  You’ll just have to wait and see – all will be revealed in due course!

I’ll just leave you with this parting shot of Matt’s gaming table, showing off some of his printable structures.   You can visit Matt’s website if you would like to know more.



Filed under Terrain

Māori attack on the homestead

IMG_3052_aThe peace of Atkinson’s Farm, somewhere in the back-blocks of colonial New Zealand, is suddenly disturbed by blood-curdling yells as a party of Māori warriors descend on the farmhouse.  The Atkinson family run to stave off the attack.

IMG_3050_aaMiss Amelia, still dressed in her Sunday-best, flinches as she fires her father’s pistol at an attacking warrior brandishing his tewhatewha.

Note: The tewhatewha is a long-handled Māori club weapon shaped like an axe. It was designed for scientific sparring and lightning strokes and thrusts, aided by quick footwork on the part of the wielder.  The blows were not struck with the blade as one would with an axe, but rather with the thicker straight front edge. It was common for tewhatewha to be decorated with a small bunch of  feathers to distract or confuse the wielder’s opponent.

IMG_3052_aaMr Atkinson, still bandaged from a wound in an earlier clash, takes command and directs his son Jim (dapper in his town-going clothes) to his position.  Little Annie hitches up her skirts and runs with a haversack full of  ammunition to resupply the defenders. Meanwhile Mrs Atkinson can be just seen in the doorway, musket slung over her shoulder, doling out the gunpowder from a small barrel in her arms.

NewZealand3 - Copy (2)NZ16 - Copy (2)The Māori warriors and the family are all from Empress Miniatures.  My favourites are the delightful set #NZ16 shown above.   The house is a plastic kit by Perry Miniatures, and the typical New Zealand cabbage trees, toi-tois and flax are paper kits from Right Track. The background is my own garden!

burtts farmWith this set, I’ll be able to recreate attacks on homesteads during the New Zealand Wars, such as the attack on Burtt’s Farm in 1863, as shown in Gustavus von Tempsky’s above painting.

illus02Or I can portray attacks from romanticsed fiction, such as the attack shown in the above illustration from the classic 1891 novel Maori and Settler by GA Henty.



Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Terrain

Colourful ‘Ronin’ skirmish in 16th century Japan


Our first-time experience using Osprey’s Ronin skirmish wargaming rules resulted in pretty much of a mixed bag. We found many aspects of the rules worked well and were simple to follow.  But a few of the rules mechanisms did confuse us, which made this first game a very slow one. In fact, it went so slowly that there was only one casualty in the whole two hours we spent playing.

We now need to decide if this was just first-time inexperience, and with a few more Ronin games under our belt, things will become clear.  Or if we should revert to a samurai version of another set of rules we are already quite familiar with from playing other periods, namely the Legends of the Rising Sun variant of Games Workshop’s Legends series.

Anyway, here is the report from our first Ronin game.

The terrain

IMG_3018_aThe terrain consisted of a small post village straddling a straight highway.  The thatched house in the foreground is by … um … 4Ground.  On the left you can see the red torii gate of the temple, which is a plastic kit by Plastcraft Games. The fencing is also by 4Ground, and the latex road by Miniature World Maker.

IMG_3019_aPeasant cottages lie just off the highway, each with a small garden area shaded by cherry-blossoms trees.  To the left a stream babbles quietly under a stone bridge.  A Perry Miniatures coolie lugs his load across this peaceful scene.

IMG_3020_aPedestrians on the busy highway pass a small temple complex, cross the stream and then proceed past the open doors of the village’s communal rice barn.

IMG_3021_aA monk stands on the ornamental bridge in the temple grounds.  A peaceful scene, about to be shattered by the clarion calls of war …

The game

We fought the game with two small but evenly-matched forces.  We each had two samurai (one mounted) and four ashigaru soldiers with different weapons.  These figures are all by Kingsford Miniatures, by the way.


The main force of Scott’s Takeda clan started by moving towards the highway through a field of long grass. The archer attempted to shoot some enemy at long range, but with no effect.

IMG_3025_aMeanwhile my Hojo clan warriors moved up to the stream from the other side of the board.  My archer also tried a few long shots, but was also unsuccessful.

IMG_3026_aIn the background, Scott makes his next move, whilst my men get ready to wade across the stream. One of my ashigaru carries the distinctive  Hojo banner of  ‘the five lucky colours’.

IMG_3032_aOnce across the stream, my men ran into Scott’s mounted samurai, who had galloped around the edge of the board.  This ‘two infantry vs one cavalry’ melee took quite a while for us to work out under the rules, and in the end it was an inconclusive result, with nothing major happening to any party.

IMG_3029_aMeanwhile Scott’s Takeda soldiers lined the fence alongside the highway, as civilians scampered out of the way.

IMG_3030_aBut, surprise! My mounted samurai had made his way through the village and now suddenly appeared behind the Takeda line.  The soldiers quickly vaulted the fence to get out of the way, whilst one of their number shot a hasty arrow at the approaching horseman – and inflicted a light wound.

IMG_3033_aMy samurai charged in to attack the archer, who was quickly joined by his spear-wielding comrade.  Fighting from behind the protection of the sturdy fence, they wounded the samurai again, causing a fatal wound – the one and only casualty of the game!

At this point we had to finish the game, so victory went to Scott.


Filed under 4Ground, Kingsford Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Samurai, Terrain