The Ruins of Dale.

By Onyx.


Building Dale.


“they could see in the wide valley shadowed by the Mountain’s arms the grey ruins of ancient houses, towers, and walls.
‘There lies all that is left of Dale,’ said Balin. ‘The mountain’s sides were green with woods and all the sheltered valley rich and pleasant in the days when the bells rang in that town.’ He looked both sad and grim as he said this: he had been one of Thorin’s companions on the day the Dragon came.”

J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit.

This modular battle board is meant to represent part of Dale. It will be used with other boards I am building to depict the Front Gate and valley of The Lonely Mountain (The Battle of the Five Armies). It can also be used with any of the other boards I have made (I have 8 so far) to represent old ruins from Osgiliath to Arnor.

Materials and Equipment.


  • MDF 600 x 600 x 6mm
  • Polystyrene block 600 x 600 x 50mm
  • Medieval Roadway terrain board
  • Bostik Craft & Hobby PVA glue
  • Homemade scenic cement
  • Polyfilla
  • W.S. Raw Umber pigment
  • W.S. Ballast (fine & medium)
  • W.S. Talus (medium)
  • W.S. Foliage (light & dark green)
  • W.S. Turf (Weeds, Soil & Yellow grass)
  • A.W. Cork rubble
  • A.W. Spring & Autumn mix
  • A.W. Autumn Static grass
  • Superglue
  • Acrylic paints:
  • -Jet Black
  • -Alabaster White
  • -Weathered Grey
  • -Statum Rock (brown)
  • Hirst Arts Blocks:
  • -Small Brick mould
  • -Bell Tower mould
  • -Ruined Tower mould
  • -Fieldstone Wall mould
  • -Flagstone Floor Tile mould
  • -Prison Tower mould
  • 5 Ruined wall sections
  • Chess game-piece
  • Small Wooden Coffee stirrers
  • Wooden Toothpicks
  • A small polystyrene ball
  • 50mm duct tape
  • Human hair (!)



  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Tweezers
  • Small file
  • Modelling tool (scraper)
  • Foam nails
  • Sprayer
  • Paint brushes (large & small)
  • Foam brush
  • Homemade scatter Sprinkler
  • Engraver
  • Wooden skewer


1. Getting Started.
I’m not one for making big plans before I start. I have a picture in my head of the outcome I want and then I go about building it.
After gluing the polystyrene to the MDF for strength, I started playing, er I mean planning the board. That’s the beauty of these Hirst Arts blocks. You can dry-build the ruins to get a formation you like. With other modular boards I have constructed I have made the mistake of not allowing enough space around the ‘central feature’ for bigger mini’s to move freely. It helps to have a few of the bigger ones around (a troll in my case) to help plan to make room for them.
I knew I wanted a central statue figure in the entrance square so I pinched a polystyrene ball (6cm diametre) from my wife’s craft box and cut it in half. Then I glued the old chess game-piece to it. The H.A. circular floor tiles ringed it perfectly.
I broke one of the ruined wall sections and placed them all on the outside of the’town’ to form a decayed outer wall. I didn’t want the buildings to be too similar so I made sure I used a variety of block styles for character. I used the Medieval Roadway terrain board as the floor for one building and the Flagstone floor tiles for the other.
I thought the town should be raised up so I found a piece of polystyrene sheet about 1cm wide to build a base. Next, cut the edges with a craft knife and sand them smooth. Glue the base down with PVA and smooth the join with some Polyfilla. Start planning the ruins again, remembering not to make it too ‘cluttered’. You have to be able to move your mini’s around without having to play ‘around’ the scenery.
The remaining half of the polystyrene ball looked perfect for a domed roof of a small guard tower so that’s what it became. I got the fireplace idea from the Hirst Arts site and thought it would make a nice touch. Once happy with the layout, glue the blocks together (either PVA or superglue will do) and stick them to the base. Break up a couple of the Wooden Coffee stirrers and glue them down to represent broken planks. Also use the wooden stirrers for the mantle piece over the fireplace. I made the ladder in the watch tower out of wooden toothpicks. The metal bar in the window, near the entrance is made of an old plastic model railway power pole. Use Polyfilla to cover over any obvious joins in the H.A. blocks.

2. Ruining the Ruins.
Use the engraver to cut cracks into the walls and statue. Use pliers to break off the edges of bricks to simulate weathering and decay. The file can also be used at this point for detail.
With the basic buildings all secure you can start placing the ‘debris’. I like to use various sizes of Talus and Ballast for realism. Rubble comes in all different shapes. Dab PVA glue in the corners and around buildings to ‘bury’ the wall/floor join. Start with the Antenociti’s Workshop Cork rubble and gradually move onto the smaller grades until a last fine coat of Woodland Scenic Turf is used to represent dust. A heavy spray with scenic cement (or 2 if needs be) after, to make sure all the debris is set in place.
*I make my own scenic cement spray using PVA glue and water. Always clean out the sprayer after use. The cement is still glue and it will set in the sprayer, making it useless.*
Here I also started experimenting with colours (watchtower roof) for the base coat.

3. The Base Coat.

On previous boards, I have given the whole ‘ruins’ a black undercoat for more detailed shading in the recesses. On this board, I wanted the buildings to be similar to Minas Tirith in colour (much whiter than I have done before). Also for a better contrast between the floor and the walls, I chose to give the buildings a Weathered Grey base coat and the floor, Jet Black. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies to get a solid colour for the base. A very ‘light’ drybrush of the grey over the floor brings out the detail of the rubble.
For the grassed area I use a Stratum Rock (brown) base. Again, a good solid coat all over and down the sides of the polystyrene base is needed to hide the white. At this point I gave the walls a ‘heavy’ drybrushing of Alabaster White. Give the floor a very ‘light’ drybrush of white for more detail.

4. Adding the detail. 
Next I gave the whole ruins area (walls and floor) a wash of Diluted Woodland Scenic Raw Umber pigment. I love these pigments and use them on both terrain and mini’s for adding detail. The wash ‘ages’ the brickwork and helps add definition on the recesses and cracks.
The surrounding grass is made of equal amounts of W.S. Yellow Grass and Weeds Turf. Brush a layer of PVA glue on the base first then sprinkle the grass mix over the PVA with the (homemade) sprinkler. Spray several layers of scenic cement over the whole thing after to seal it. I prefer a mixture of colours as nature always seems very colourful to me. A few sprinkles of Antenociti’s Workshop Spring Mix help to break it up a bit.
*I use this grass theme on all my boards and that helps the modular aspect work. They all have the same type of border and so can be set up in many different formations.*
The planks and mantle-piece are drybrushed with brown and lightly touched up with white around the edges.
The moss and other vegetation is added by dabbing PVA glue in the desired spot and using the homemade ‘flock sprinkler’ (got to get a puffer bottle one day) to cover the area, liberally.Let it dry, then blow away the excess (or collect it and reuse it). I used the darker Weeds turf for the corners and in recesses. The lighter Yellow Grass is on the more exposed areas and the Autumn Static grass is used for variety in a few patches.
The long tufts of brown grass are actually my wife’s hair (long story – won’t bore you with it now). The stuff is a nice colour and basically lasts forever (Antenociti’s Workshop used to have useful tips on making long grass – not sure if it’s still there). The wooden skewer is used to poke a hole in the foam base and a dab of PVA is squeezed into it. The prepared grass is then pushed in the hole.
A very light drybrush of black in and around the fireplace makes it look more realistic.
This ‘glory’ shot of the entrance shows the Raw Umber wash more clearly. Also the plant growing up the wall is made using a PVA trail covered with A.W. Autumn mix.The bushes around the outer wall are made from W.S. foliage (light and dark green). I prefer this to lichen as it’s more realistic and easier to glue. Put a blob of PVA on the base of the bush and push a Foam Nail (metal pin) through it to hold it in place whilst drying. These pins can help with getting more of the bush into contact with the floor, making the join more secure. The two colours add contrast and realism.
The wooden upper floor on one of the buildings is made using the Wooden Stirrers, glued together underneath with some braces and fixed to the building with PVA. It was painted with a black base coat and drybrushed with brown and white.
The whole board was given several coats of scenic cement to help seal it.
A line of Duct tape is used around the outer edges of the base to protect it and give a nice finish.
The finished board, ready for battle.

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