While we were randomly shopping at one of our local game stores, Noble Knight, we wandered over to the MDF terrain section and looked through the kits on hand. I always love looking through the various kits, looking for ideas. Some times, I end up walking away with a kit or two. That’s when I picked up the TTCombat Subway Entrance Terrain Kit.
TTCombat has been producing quality MDF kits at amazingly affordable prices for a long time. For modern city street war games I haven’t found a company that produces a wider range of options at the price point. For around 10 dollars US, the TTCombat Subway Entrance Terrain Kit is another of these great values.
Assembly was a breeze. Well, ok, my wife assembled it so not much work on my side. That said, it’s honestly not a hard kit to assemble. TTCombat provides a PDF that you can download from their website for the assembly instructions. The one thing I would caution is that you dry fit everything before gluing together. Gluing together the kit should be done with PVA (Elmer’s Glue All is what we used). Assembly was relatively quick and painless if you follow the instructions.
Prepping it for Paint
With any MDF kit there is a bit of prep work that I do before we paint it. Painting wood is not like painting plastic, resin, or metal miniatures. Wood is porous and soaks up paint, washes, and primer with equal abandon. I made the mistake with some of the early MDF kits that I painted of not prepping the MDF and I had to use a ridiculous amount of paint to get the color I was looking for.
First, I take watered down PVA glue and brush down the entire model. The MDF soaks this up very quickly as the wood itself is a bit dry. The PVA, when dry, will reduce the how much fluid the wood can absorb. I also feel like it makes the MDF just a little more durable. For gaming pieces anything I can do to make it a little more durable is also a good thing!
The final thing I do during prep is to give the MDF a good primer coat. For this kit, I went with a black undercoat using an aerosol primer. I did then have to touch up the undercoat with a little black paint using my airbrush. The finished look was a very black, dark terrain piece. Now I was ready to start painting.
Planning The Paint Job
We don’t have subways here in Madison. It’s been a long time since I used one to be honest. I needed to do some preparatory research. Using my favorite search engine, Google, I immediately started looking for Subway Tunnel Entrances with an images search.
I typically look for big cities that I know have the types of buildings I am working on. In this case, I narrowed my search to New York City. That’s when I stumbled on the Astor Place Subway Entrance. It’s not an exact match for the TTCombat Subway Entrance terrain kit, but it gave me a lot of inspiration.
When you look at the picture above, the first thing of note is the color tone of the structure. I wanted to capture that color scheme in the project. The next thing you will notice is that there is some light debris and dirt on some of the raised areas. Also there is what looks like a bit of paint chipping on one of the beams closed in the frame.
I took note of all of these things and now it was time to paint.
Setting the Stage – Base Colors
It’s time to get started with the paint job. For this, I moved over to the airbrush station and went to work.
To match the jade green tone of the Astor Place Subway Entrance I picked Vallejo Game Color 72026 Jade Green. I don’t put the paint directly in the airbrush. Rather, I use little plastic disposable shot glasses (pick them up at your liquor store) to mix the paint into an airbrush ready consistency. To do this, I add about a 30% paint to 35% Golden Airbrush Medium and the rest with water. The end result is a very thin, almost watery paint. This will help keep it from clogging in my airbrush. If you are careful, keep the airbrush moving in roughly 6 inch sweeping passes, you will get a pretty good color coverage and result.
This is important. Don’t forget that there is an inside to this piece that needs a coat of paint. The coverage here doesn’t need to be quite so heavy. Imagine as you enter the entrance what the shadows of light would do to the ceiling.
I was pretty happy with the result so far, but I know I want to lighten the color just a bit before I take it to the paint table. I had about half of the initial mixture of color still in my shot glass which I then added Minitaire Snow White to. This really lightened up the tone and I proceeded to do just the exterior of the structure with a light coat of this mix. Make sure you are careful not to do too much in any areas you want to maintain some shadow.
On to the Paint Table
With the base coats complete, I wanted to start by picking out some of the shaded areas and making sure they had just a little more depth. I used a little Reaper 09236 Black Green to shade in some areas and just add a little more depth to those areas in more shadow.
Next, I wanted to have the front concrete area look like concrete. In the picture of the Astor Place Entrance you can see how the structure is really mounted to the concrete and raised a bit up from the sidewalk. I can’t quite do that with the way this kit is, but I can imagine a slight curb or step up on the front. The base coat for this is Reaper 09085 Shadowed Stone. This was then highlighted with a drybrush of Reaper 09086 Stone Grey and a lighter drybrush of 09087 Weathered Stone.
The one thing I don’t care for about dry brushing is the streakiness you get over a flat surface. I am not worried about it yet on this project because after I weather the concrete this streakiness will look more natural and make the concrete look more like it’s supposed to be there.
There are two signs on this kit. One sign is on the far back inside the subway entrance and the other is the sign that says Subway above the entryway. Unfortunately, my reference picture doesn’t really help here. After some thought and more Internet research, I settled on a black backdrop and white lettering. I didn’t want to do a harsh black though. To get the effect I wanted I mixed Reaper 09088 Stormy Gray with Reaper 09037 Pure Black in about a 40% gray to black ratio.
To do the white lettering I used Reaper 09090 Misty Grey. This took a little patience and a steady hand, but the lettering really pops now. It took about 3 coats of paint before I was able to keep the green from bleeding through, but I am really happy with the way it turned out.
Adding those Finishing Touches
At this point I feel like I have this project painted to a tabletop gaming standard. I do like to add just a little more detail to these kind of projects.
I mentioned that there was two signs on this one, and the one at the back of the kit does have text that could be painted on the MDF kit. This is definitely something that should have been painted before assembly. Rather than paint something, I created a small graphic for the Gotham Transit Authority, printed it out, and glued it in place at the back of the tunnel. Now passengers of this subway system will know where they are going!!!
Adding Weathering Effects
When you look at the photo of the Astor Place Subway Entrance you notice there is dirt and debris that is caked on several of the horizontal ledges. I want to emulate that effect. To do so, I am going to use pigments from Secret Weapon Miniatures.
On the jade green flat edges I used a combination of Secret Weapon’s Dark Earth and Clay Brown pigments. This gave a nice, dirty color. It’s important when using pigments that after brushing them on you use a pigment fixer. What I do is immediately take the project and spray it with a matte varnish. That does a good job of holding the pigments in place and serves the job.
For the concrete, I used Secret Weapon Green Earth pigment just to brush on a little dirt effect. It adds just enough brownish green tone to convince the eye that people have been walking over and using this Subway Entrance.
Wrapping Up the Project
This project was really rewarding to work on. The color will really pop and give the city streets a bit more of a dynamic feel. This is a great kit that will add some variety to my modern games such as the Batman Miniature Game or Marvel: Crisis Protocol. The TTCombat Subway Entrance Terrain Kit is a great value. If you are looking for a terrain kit you can purchase, paint, and put on the table this kit might be for you.