Building the Cassino Tables

Cassino Building the Cassino Tables
with Mark Hazell.

When it was announced that we would be doing Cassino as one of our Battle Books, I knew it was going to be a great opportunity to create a new gaming table or two for the studio team to use for the photography. I hadn’t dreamt I’d be asked to make a full 8’x 4’ table consisting of a town, a large river with multiple crossings and craters. Lots and lots of craters!

It was decided that the focal point of the book would be the Allied advance on the town of Monte Cassino. This meant that there had to be enough Italian style buildings to portray the feeling of the township including the big hotel which; although severely bombed still stood as a German strongpoint during the campaign overlooked by a representation of Cassino Hill.

Read the Cassino Design Notes here...
Another thing that had been discussed amongst the studio team was updating the look of how we based our miniatures for the Italian campaign and this in turn lead to a new paint and flock palette being created that would be carried across the entire Cassino project.

Learn more about the new Plastic Rubble bases here...

Building the Boards
I began constructing the boards the same way I always do; I built six framed 2’x 4’ sections of MDF with polystyrene sheets glued on top. I won’t go into too many details in this article but if you check out the Battery of the Dead article I did several months back you can see the entire process I used. This gave me my 8’x4’ area that would be used for the town and surrounding area.

Learn more about the process of building the basic structure of the tables in Building the Battery of the Dead Table here...

Right: Framing out the tables.

Framing out the tables

Next, I sat down with Mike (author of Cassino) and Sean (the Graphic Designer for the project) and we talked about what we wanted to show in the photos and the story we wanted to tell. Although the urge was too rush off and start building a big table full of terrain features, liberties had to be taken when creating the terrain to make sure as many useful shots can be taken as possible. This means that terrain must often be movable so that the camera is free to get into any position necessary to capture all the required shots you see in Cassino.

After about an hour of throwing around ideas, we decided the table would have four major terrain features; these included Cassino hill, the river, the town and the craters.

The Hill
Originally the hill wasn’t going to be a model. We were going to use a photo of the hill as a background for certain shots; Phil really wanted us to have a large section of the Cassino hill on the table so in the end it was decided that a compromise would be made. I would build a small section representing the base of the hill with pathways going up the sides. I built several levels into the hill so that shots could be taken showing how difficult the terrain was.

Below: Building the hill.

Building the Hill
I used a large amount of dense foam to form the basic shape of the hill; once I had the basic shape worked out I started to carve in more detail with a craft knife. Once I was happy with the result I covered the hill in exterior powder filler and sand and then gave it a base coat of brown paint (see the colour scheme used on the table later in the article).

Below: Detailing the hill.
Detailing the Hill

The River
The river represented the majority of work for the whole project. First I had to decide where the river was to go, and then I had to dig the basic shape out of the polystyrene. Because the river was a major feature of the table and was meant to be deep; I dug the river into the polystyrene 2” deep and then smoothed out the sides with exterior powder filler mixed with sand. Next, I created the texture on the river bed and banks using GF9 Fine Basing Grit (GFS019), Medium Basing Grit (GFS021) and Rocky Basing Grit (GFS023).

Find all the GF9 tools and basing materials in the online store here...

Below: The river bed and a couple of the crossing points.

The river and a couple of the crossing points
The Town
The town was built out of foam board covered with a mix of filler and light sand. The windows and doors and roof tiles were sculpted up by James and then cast up to keep everything uniform and the drastically cut down on the workload.  There are three designs of buildings which I then chopped up and destroyed different sections to create the ruined appearance again; GF9 Fine Basing Grit (GFS019), Medium Basing Grit (GFS021) and Rocky Basing Grit (GFS023) were used in various amounts. The colour scheme for the buildings was very straightforward. The interior and exterior colour of the walls was a heavy dry brush of White (FWP301) over a base coat of Worn Canvas (FWP306).

Below: The buildings in the town.
The buildings in the town
For the damaged sections where the plaster has fallen from the walls; a 50/50 mix of Artillery Red (FWP380) and Panzer Grey (FWP303). Panzer Grey was then used to paint on the brick work lines and cracks and bullet holes. The Windows and doors are painted Army Green (FWP342) and inked with Black Shade (VP200). These were glued onto the sides of the buildings once they were dry. The roofs were painted Artillery Red (FWP380)  and then a small amount of Buff (VP976) was added to the red and lightly dry brushed over the tiles. 

Below: More buildings in the town.
More buildings in the town
The town roads were 2mm cardboard glued on the base board and then painted in Comrade Khaki (FWP326) and then dry brushed Military Khaki (FWP327).

Below: The roads in the town.
The roads in the town
The Craters
The craters were dug directly into the polystyrene and then the sides were built up using off cuts. Once the basic shape was glued down exterior powder filler was used to finish off the shape and GF9 Fine Basing Grit (GFS019), Medium Basing Grit (GFS021) and Rocky Basing Grit (GFS023) were used in various amounts were used to add the final texture.
Below: The crater hole. Below: Forming the sides of the crater.
The crater hole
Forming the sides of the crater
Finishing the Board
Once everything was built it was time to paint the table.  Starting with a base colour of Chocolate Brown (VP872); this was followed by a heavy dry brush of Battledress Brown (FWP325) and a lighter dry brush of Sicily Yellow (FWP362). Finally a very light dry brush of Buff (VP976) was added as a highlight.

The flock is a blended mix of GF9 Winter/Dead Static Grass (GFS003), Dark Conifer Flock Blend (GFS011) and Arid Static Grass (GFS004).

Below: The painted boards.
The painted boards
Final Thoughts
A few final thoughts when planning a project of this size:
  • Always start out making a small 1’ test square and paint it up and flock it in the colours im planning on using to see if I like the final look before going all out on the create of a table. This way if you don’t like the final result you can revise your colours and flock choices before you invest the hours creating your table.

  • It’s worth taking colour samples of the paints you intend to use to your local hardware store and get them colour matched to the Vallejo colours you plan on using. This is a cost effective way of getting a quality house paint that can take the wear and tear of war gaming.
Overall this was a fun project to work on and certainly the largest table I've ever built for a book project. I’m looking forward to the next big project.

~ Mark.

See more photos of the finished Cassino tables here...
The Finished Table
The Final Result