I’ve always loved the idea of Space Hulks; ancient amalgamations of space ships constantly submerged in the terrifying energies of the Warp. My re-introduction into the Warhammer hobby came in the form of a copy of Space Hulk 2014 which contains some of my favourite Blood Angels sculpts to date.
I’ve been playing a lot of Kill Team recently with Garfield and thought I’d managed to resist the urge to buy Shadowvaults. Turned out I was wrong! In January I started to get obsessed with the idea of creating a Space Hulk style board that was compatible with the excellent Into the Dark terrain designed by the Games Workshop studio.
Designing the tiles
I started doing research into the tiles and found Stahly’s excellent review of the terrain. It contained all the measurements I needed to start designing a tile set for the board. The new terrain is designed around a 97mm x 97mm tile size. A board is made up of 42 tiles in a 6 x 7 grid. I initially started playing around with complex tiles that I could 3D print.
However I soon discounted this idea when I got a few quotes for the printing cost of my test tile!
My second approach was to design the tile set in Adobe Illustrator to be laser cut into MDF. This seemed like a better option financially and also meant I could get creative with adding details using traditional hobby methods. I don’t own a laser cutter but knew of a great Etsy vendor who has done laser cutting for me in the past.
I spent a couple of days playing with different tile designs. I based them on the designs of GW’s card stock Into the Dark board. I knew I needed to keep the edges of the tiles simple so that the terrain wall sections would sit flat on the board.
I made a big list of tile types I wanted to try and include…
And then created them in Illustrator… The black lines represent cuts and the red lines would be laser etched.
I sent the file over to Rosie on Etsy and she immediately sent me back a photo of a test cut!
I was really pleased with how the test tile came out. I made a few more tweaks to my tile set and then put in an order for the full set!
The tiles arrived after a couple of days and luckily they were the right size! I Could now move on with building a frame to mount the board on.
You can grab a set of these tiles from Rosie on Etsy!
Or buy the file to cut yourself here:
Building the frame
I built the frame from lengths of pine. The inner rectangle was built from 25mm x 25mm strip wood and measured a little over 680mm x 582mm. The idea was that I would mount a sheet of 3mm MDF on top of this inner frame. Then create an outer frame to form the border of the board. The outer frame was made from 21mm x 46mm strip wood.
I also included another strip of wood across the centre of the inner frame to better support the MDF sheet.
The mdf sheet fitted perfectly in the frame. Phew!
I checked the tiles sat nicely within the frame.
I wanted to create a gap beneath the tiles to add fun details like pipes, fans and other features. So I initially thought I’d raise up the corner of each tile on a small wooden block. Just before I started cutting out blocks I remembered I had some 10mm foam sheeting I’d used in another project. This was much easier to cut, still fairly firm and lighter than wood. So I cut out a heap of squares and stuck them to the MDF sheet using wood glue!
I knew that some of the features I wanted to add would be deeper than the 10mm space between the tile and the MDF sheet. Where this was the case I used a kerf saw to chop spaces into the MDF sheet to drop features into. This picture shows some of the tiles resting upon the foam squares and a hole for the ‘access hatch’ feature.
Laying out the tiles
With the frame built it was time to decide on the layout of the board. I knew that some of the features would get in the way of gameplay. To test my layout I superimposed a photo of my board with every Into the Dark mission I could find to see if features were sitting in sensible places.
Here is an example of the video I made to do this. Its actually from a later version of the build but gives the idea!
Having pretty much settled on a layout for the tiles I got to the fun stuff!
I started building the features I’d decided on using old bits of junk and spare 40k terrain / parts.
Weathering the tiles
After doing most of the custom features I went across every tile to give them the beaten up look I wanted.
This was time consuming and involved; cutting nicks into the tiles with a craft knife, cutting chunks out of with clippers and sanding the edges of the tiles to bevel them a little. I used a metal point to score along some of the etch lines as I was concerned they would get filled in with paint. In hindsight I didn’t need to do that as I used spray primer to paint the tiles and it was nice and thing.
I also used Milliput to block up patches of the holes in the tiles. On top of the Milliput I used AK Rough Terrain to give the impression of piles of rubble and debris.
I was concerned that the laser etching on the MDF tiles would get filled in when I painted them so I ended up priming with a rattle can primer (I use Hycote Matt Black). Normally I would seal MDF with modge podge or PVA before painting but didn’t this time for the same reason I used a rattle can, to avoid filling in the etched detail. The spray primer worked great but did soak into the MDF so I had to use quite a lot of it to get a smooth black finish!
I followed a fantastic Patreon tutorial by Juan Sanz for the rust effect on the tiles. Juan is an amazing hobbyist and his OSL work is the best around. Check him out on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/elminiaturista/.
After priming I hit the tiles with patches of browns, oranges and yellows using my air brush. I used these fantastic high saturation colours from Life Color.
The key here was to make sure the patches of colour were nice and saturated!
I then did a heavy dry-brush across the whole board using a dark metal colour. Following Juan’s tutorial I added a little blue to the mix to contrast with the rust colour.
I then used some orange and brown oil washes to re-enforce the rust effect in some areas.
The piles of dirt got a base of a reddish brown and then dry brushed with lighter browns.
I noticed that the latest box release for Into the Dark, ‘Soulshackle’, had some nice hazard stripes around some of the tiles. I decided to copy these for my cargo lift tiles.
I was really happy how the board was looking at this point! I painted up some scatter terrain too keeping the same rusty feel so it would blend nicely with the tiles.
Here are a few WIP shots of some of the other board features!
Lighting the Gallowdark: Electronics
Cranking nerd-level to 11.
Very early on in this project I decided that this board would look great with some ambient lighting! I’ve always been amazed with what clever hobby people do with LEDs and other electronics. Massive shoutout to Bobo’s Hobbies on Instagram whose incredible Space Hulk board has given me loads of ideas.
I have very little know-how when it comes to electronics and so I initially planned a really simple approach. I thought that I could add a string of Christmas tree lights to the lower level of the board. Often tree lights have multiple ‘modes’ allowing for flashing / blinking etc.
Then I remembered I had a Raspberry PI sitting in a drawer somewhere from an old coding project. Raspberry PI is a tiny hobby/education computer that runs Linux and is used for small scale IoT and hobby projects.
When I bought it originally I wanted to do something with LEDs so I also had one of these 18 channel LED drivers. It was pure luck that these were the exact bits I needed to independently control up to 18 LEDs for my Gallowdark board!
Using this board also meant that I could avoid any really tricky electronics work and instead lean on my coding to carry me through.
It was still a bloody fiddle to get the board set up correctly and I spent a few long nights scouring old internet forums for the help I needed…
Eventually I got the electronics wired up correctly.
The supply from the Raspberry PI is 5v so to avoid burning out LEDs I brought some pre-wired with resistors from eBay.
The underneath of the board looks terrible with wires going all over the place! I did some of the wiring prior to gluing down the tiles or the final time.
I left three of the tiles in one corner of the board loose so I can access the Raspberry PI.
Lighting the Gallowdark: Coding
To control the LEDs I developed a Node JS server that runs on the PI. Simply put the server runs on the PI and controls the LEDs but it also renders a web page that can be accessed by devices on the local network so that users can connect to the PI and update the lights.
I’ve released the source code here for any JS devs who are interested!
One of the benefits of this approach was that I can be pretty flexible with what each LED is used for. Some of the LEDs poking out of the board can be programmed to have different effects. In this video the default light is switched to a Plasma core pulse and then to a flickering flame effect to match the prop I put on top of it.
The finished board
Here are a few pictures and videos of the finished board! Please drop me a question here or on Instagram if you want any more details.