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Scratch Built 1/32 Scale Roman Fort & Pontoon Bridge (Hobby Post)


Scratch Built 1/32 Scale Roman Fort (See further down for the Bridge)

Having collected both Imperial and Caesarian Roman armies in 1/32 scale this project had been on my radar for a while and this summer I finally got around to completing it. 

Below -  Completed 140cm square modular fort.

Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

Aside from the weather the timing was partly encouraged by the fact that I had got a new larger shed so would have somewhere to store this rather massive beast of a thing without damaging it.

I decided to build my own for a few reasons - I had most of the materials on hand already gathered over time for other hobby projects, it would be a fun thing for me to make that was just about within my capabilities and I could design it to fit my table. 

Prior to launching my own build there were a couple of alternatives I looked at. The TSSD ready made marching fort looks good but the shipping fees and import costs from the US made me think twice. The John Jenkins Designs fort whilst a thing of wonder is really a collectors display item rather than a gaming scenic piece and is priced as such.

I built the fort in sections so it easier to build and store. Also it means I can use it both as a stand alone fort (both large & small versions) in the middle of my table and as an Alesia or German Limes style fortification dividing the table into two or three sections.

The Build

The main material I used was insulation foam. This is much more robust and  dense than the white polystrene used for packaging etc... And thank heavens that it is as the latter creates so much "snow" when worked with it's a nightmare.

I had loads of this blue insulation foam already stored in my shed waiting for a use. Years ago I bought lots of cut to size 50cm squares off ebay intending to use them as scenery tiles for my table top which never happened.

It is easily cut and shaped with a craft knife and hot wire cutter making it ideal for the slopes and curves required by my fort.

In regard to glue I tested PVA, Superglue and Bostik All Purpose. The latter two tended to eat away to some degree at the foam so when joining the cut sloping sections together to get the required height I used PVA. To secure these I inserted cocktail sticks at an angle to help the bond. The ends left sticking out I cut off with clippers so the sticks were completely hidden.

For a better 'join' on the slopes than I achieved you could use some filler to make the transition from one piece to another less noticeable.

Aside from that pencils were my next biggest inventory item. Again I already had a lot of these on hand from other projects. More were required though and I bought a few hundred half-size golf pencils off Amazon for not much more than a tenner. These form the pallisade encircling the fort.

For the corners I stuck the sharpened end into the foam with wood glue having pre-cut the tops with clippers. Gluing each pencil to next in turn. For straights I used some old fencing sections as a frame.

The rear of each straight section was covered with plastic 'wooden' plank sections I had acquired over the years from multiple AOME Helms Deep playsets I had bought up. Very handily these were just the right height for my ramparts. The walkways were covered in pva and sand. My infantry figures are based on 7cm squares so I made sure the walkways were wide enough to accomodate these.

The slopes were covered in Javis static hairy grass to represent turfing - which in real life would have been available from the ditches dug in front of the walls. I guess this may also have helped bind the earth on the ramparts. It could also just have grown naturally I suppose if the fort was used for long enough.

Photo below - some of the materials / tools I used. The make up brushes were very cheap off Amazon and did a great job of applying both watered down PVA and also paint to large surface areas very speedily.

The other option would have been to paint the slope earth brown but I preferred the green look and the static hid a multitude of sins underneath it where two section of foam board were joined on top of each other to make the right height rampart.

I also considered whether or not to add permanent spikes and abatis to the slopes but figured this would make storage problematic. I will look at creating some separate additions later that can be just placed on when needed. The Chevau de Frise from CTS may do the trick as illustrated below.

CTS Chevau de Frise

Some sort of defensive trench also needs to be worked out. Will have to be painted as an attempted optical illusion of depth as I am not up for sculpting terrain boards. The trench will also need a road over it at the gateways and I'll be using some ideas from the bridge (see end of article) for this.

For the corners I found it easier to measure these out by placing two already made up straight sections in position so that everything matched up. In a precision factory environment all the sections would be identical but with my ropey measurement I found it better to annotate the sections under neath so that each piece always fitted next to the same one.

The gateways were the biggest challenge as you might expect. I made mine from a variety of wooden and plastic bits including mdf board, balsa wood, garden plant stakes, Airfix pontoon bridge sections (ideal to get that Roman X look) and plastic pieces - including the gates - from the previously mentioned AOME Helm's Deep playsets.

Below - Completed fort with 2 gateways. Measures approx 140cm square.

Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

I was going to take photos on my tabletop. But the whole thing was outside drying off after varnishing so I made use of the natural light and space and took the pics in the garden instead.

The ground is a bit uneven so makes the sections fit together more poorly than they actually do. I was surprised when doing my inside tests on a nice flat table how well the sections join up give that accurate measuring and cutting out is not a strong point of mine.

 Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

 Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

 Smaller version of the fort with one gateway. Measures 90cm square.

 Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

 I will get around to adding some tents and maybe buildings for the interior at some future stage.

 Roman Fort 1/32 Scale - 54mm. Scratch Built

Some time ago I converted an Airfix Checkpoint Set watchtower for Roman use with this fort project in mind. I have a few more to build so that I can add them to the fort corners and also use them for more linear siege battles like Alesia or defending the Limes.

Roman Watchtower - 1/32 Scale Airfix Checkpoint Conversion

Roman figures are converted A Call to Arms 54mm Romans.

Roman Watchtower - 1/32 Scale Airfix Checkpoint Conversion

The chap threatening the tower is a 60mm Expeditionary Force Gaul painted as a German. I like my Romans to be smaller than my 'Barbarians', so these two ranges work well together for me.

Pontoon Bridge

I took a few hours out from fort building to try my hand at a pontoon bridge. 

1/32 Scale Roman Pontoon Bridge - Airfix Conversion

This is really easy to make and for me looks effective enough.

It's basically the old Airfix 1/72 scale pontoon bridge with some lolly stick planking for the decking and a coat of paint!

1/32 Scale Roman Pontoon Bridge - Airfix Conversion

I stuck the lolly sticks over the plastic road way and fortunately the sections did not warp. The lolly sticks were just wide enough with their rounded ends clipped off to allow both my cavalry and infantry units to cross.

1/32 Scale Roman Pontoon Bridge - Airfix Conversion

The pontoons had to be cut up and lengthed but fortunately all that is hidden on the underside.

The two cavalry figures are 60mm metal from Del Prado with a bit of converting. I'll be using them as Sarmatians for my Dacian Army. I think originally they were Parthian and Scythian.

1/32 Scale Roman Pontoon Bridge - Airfix Conversion

As you'll also have seen from my fort towers the X shaped railings from the Airfix Pontoon Bridge set come in very handy for adding some Roman era detailing. 

1/32 Scale Roman Pontoon Bridge - Airfix Conversion

I found quite a few Airfix "spares & repairs" type listings on ebay enabling me to cost effectively buy up what I needed.

In the future I will post more blog articles when the fort and bridge see proper action on the wargames table.

If you feel like collecting some 54mm or 60mm Romans yourself you can get some ideas here: Romans

Thanks for taking an interest. You can see more hobby stuff in this scale here: 1/32 Scale Blog

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