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Old May 28th, 2012, 12:22 AM
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Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

WizKids made some pretty spectacular modular castle bits for Mage Knight that look fantastic but, unfortunately, don't mesh well into the Heroscape terrain system. I've been working off and on for the past year or two on trying to fix that.



The Castle Gatehouse is a really nice piece: working doors, removable bar, working portcullis, and wonderful detailed sculpting. Unfortunately it has a lot of challenges on a Heroscape map; let's start at the top and work our way down...

The piece is almost exactly three hexes wide, but the clix mechanism and thick side walls all get in the way of figures using the top. And there are those irrelevant symbols and numbers.



The sides have those big, white slots for connecting to other MKC walls, which don't look very attractive and (more important) get in the way of FotA walls connecting up to the piece (the whole thing is just slightly too wide).



The thickness of the walls on the inside makes it impossible to use the interior hexes.



Also (I don't have pictures for these) there's no way for non-flying figures to access the roof, and the gatehouse of course does not lock onto the hexes.

But, in the next post, we're going to correct all of these deficiencies!


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Last edited by Just_a_Bill; January 18th, 2021 at 05:10 PM.
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Old May 28th, 2012, 12:22 AM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Here's how I fixed the issues listed above.

Warning: What follows is not a foolproof recipe that will guarantee success; it is a brief list of steps I've followed that eventually worked out, after some trial and error. I've had to ruin more than one Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse (and some FotA ladders) to get to this stage, so don't even think about undertaking this project unless you're willing to wreck some stuff yourself.

Tools: safety goggles (MANDATORY), Dremel, Dremel workstation drill press, diamond cutting wheel, screwdriver or putty knife, x-acto, hobby knife, styrene hobby strips, model cement, paint, stain, black ultra-fine Sharpie.

The first step is to break the gatehouse apart into its component pieces. I initially separated the walls with a screwdriver, but this marred them up so I tried a putty knife. That worked a little better, but you really do have to do this SLOWLY and carefully ... I still ended up cracking the walls of my first attempt.



Now eventually, we're going to turn the smaller side walls around so the outsides face inward. (In fact, this picture that I "staged" to show off the putty knife already has the wall turned around ... oops!) This will hide the ugly connection ports, while hopefully making the gatehouse just the right width to fit into a run of Fortress wall segments. But we have a lot to do before that happens.

First, we're going to cut out some notches in what used to be the outside top rock area. A certain amount of this is required in order for the piece to go back together with the side walls flipped in, but we're going to cut even higher than is necessary in order to make "slots" for Heroscape figure bases to fit into. This will allow all three hexes on the top of the gatehouse to be occupied by figures.

This is one of the many times that the Dremel workstation "drill press" setup is indispensable. Under no circumstances should you try to freehand this by holding your Dremel in your hand ... it's dangerous, and you will end up with poor cuts in your material.



I don't know what the measurements are here; I determined them by trial an error, and once I got a wall where I wanted it, I then used that wall as a template for making precision cuts in my second and third gatehouses.

Note that I'm using a diamond cutting wheel. You can try the standard cutoff wheels that come with your Dremel, but I found them very frustrating. They break a LOT, they're too thick, and they don't always make precision cuts in styrene plastic.

In the next shot I've blurred the bit to avoid confusing you, since I had already changed it to something else before taking this shot. So ignore that gray shape; it has nothing to do with this step in the process. Imagine that you still see the diamond cutting wheel, and you will be able to visualize how I made the final cut that allows the material to be removed.

All of these cuts are made with the bottom or back of the piece firmly on the base of the drill press apparatus, to get nice straight cuts with good 90-degree angles.



If you have to overcut like I did (and you probably will), err on overcutting toward the bottom, since this will be hidden inside the piece.

While we have the workstation set up, let's clean up all the old glue-gunk from the original assembly. I'm using the small sanding drum for this task, but be aware that the plastic residue will ruin your sanding drums pretty quickly.



Now, there's going to be a "post" inside the wall. You can just leave this in place, or remove it. This is purely a cosmetic choice, and a trivial one at that since it will barely be seen. I find it easier to remove it, because later on I'm going to paint, stain, or decal the inside of the piece here with a rock texture, and that's easier with the post gone. I start by just snipping it off with pliers or cutters ...



... and then grind the "stump" down smooth. (Be careful not to mung up the exposed edges of your nice cuts; I position the Dremel inside the piece before turning it on.)



Optional: At this stage you can paint, stain, or decal a rock texture inside the cutout area. This is not essential since this area will be in shadow and only visible through a small slot the height of a figure base. I tried both painting and decals, but did not take any pictures of those steps. You may be able to see the texture later in some of the vanity shots.

Now for the bottoms of the sides. Here you'll want to cut out a hexagonal shape from the bottom, to allow figures standing inside the gatehouse to use the full hextop of whatever terrain is underneath. I did this by laying a glyph on the wall's bottom, tracing it with an ultra-fine Sharpie, and carefully cutting out the shape. Then I made a connecting cut near the bottom of the piece, parallel to the ground. Unfortunately the next four shots were taken after texturing and assembly, so they don't show the process of cutting as well as I would have liked (I really didn't think about a tutorial until well into this project; I'm sorry the pictures aren't better). So naturally the brick texture on the inside of the piece would not actually be there at this stage in your process.



You can see in the second picture above that I stained the inside of the piece to match the bricks, then hand-drew in mortar lines with my ultra-fine Sharpie. Notice also that I stained the inside of the long groove designed to mate up with other Mage Knight Castle walls. Even though these are now on the inside of the gatehouse, the off-white plastic just bugged me, so I had to do something about it.

I wasn't too concerned about precision here, because this isn't really visible at all when the piece is on a map. I really just did it for my own sense of knowing it's there.



Okay, now the top. This takes basically five steps: take it apart with your screwdriver and/or putty knife (be very careful; the sides are fragile); remove all the clix apparatus; carefully scrape off the white symbols; plug the holes using other material; and paint or stain as needed for cleanup.



Now this part is tricky and a little hard to explain, but I manufacture both of the plugs from the "clix knob." I separate the sphere from the base, and carve a chunk out of the sphere to fill the circular hole. Then I carve and whittle and shape a corner of the base until I get just the right L-shaped piece for the other plug. This latter one requires a little staining on the plastic to make it blend in, since part of the piece will have the plain white plastic from where it was once part of the sphere.



(These pictures are actually from two different attempts, explaining why it seems like I can't decide whether to separate the two parts first or grind off the "bumps" first.)

Be especially patient with this part; it's not easy getting that L-shaped plug formed just right to fit in the hole. It took me a lot of practice and failures, but fortunately you get two attempts from the material (diagonally opposite corners). You can of course also use the "rock" material you removed from the side walls, but I'm planning on keeping that for another project.

Now for the hex interlocks. You could of course just glue this whole thing onto hexes; a lot of folks go that route. However, I want to be able to use this on any terrain at any time, so I bought some polystyrene strips at the hobby store, cut them into short lengths which I beveled, and attached them to the bottom of the gatehouse with model cement.



(Make sure you scrape away the paint before gluing.) The way I lined everything up was to use painter's tape to attach the strips to a 24-hex tile, put the glue on the strips, and then carefully set the gatehouse on top of them in the proper alignment. This part will take a lot of patience; I really HATE working with model cement, and it's important to line up the gatehouse precisely if you want it to mate up to Fortress walls later on. I actually built a fortress around the gatehouse so I could make sure I was gluing it in the proper position. Give your glue plenty of time to dry (follow the directions on the tube) or else the painter's tape will just pull the strips back off the gatehouse; I had to deal with that frustration a few times before forcing myself to be patient.

Choose strips that are slightly narrower than the gaps between hexes; you want to leave a little play in the positioning to allow for fine-tuning when mating up to Fortress walls.

Now the ladders. This might be the part of the design I am most proud of; unfortunately it is the least well documented. I've only done this part once and I didn't take any pictures while doing it, since it was so experimental. I just got lucky that it turned out well the first time.



Notice that each of these ladders consists of three normal FotA ladder segments stacked up, with a special modified segment connected to them at the top (and going in the opposite direction). The modified segments have had their bottom halves cut off (at a slight angle to match the angle on the top of the gatehouse's side walls), and also the pins on top were very carefully removed and relocated to the bottom of the modified segment (pointing downward instead of upward). Then, I carefully drill small holes in the top of the gatehouse sidewalls for these pins to fit down into. The result is a completely modular, extendable ladder that will very snugly hang onto the side of the gatehouse via the inverted pins, and reach down to adjacent Fortress walls or even the ground, but that can be easily removed when you don't want ladders. The special modified segments are completely independent and slide right onto and off of the normal segments like any other Heroscape terrain piece, so nothing here is glued together (except the relocated pins).



Three ladder segments are perfect to reach down to a wall walk, and eight segments reach to the ground. In this latter case, the last segment actually comes within one hex-height of the ground, but since two levels of ladder count as one movement space, the last hex does not matter. The right half of the last picture puts a road hex under the ladder just to show how precisely everything lines up. The top of the ladder is exactly two hexes above the roof of the gatehouse. It really works out amazingly well.

One other thing I tried in my first attempt was spray-painting hex outlines on the roof ... but I didn't like how it looked, and really a hexgrid is not needed. Whenever a figure is in the middle hex, it just stands exactly on the circle plug; whenever a figure is on one of the side hexes, it just stands as close as it can to the side wall. Again, it works out amazingly well.

Anyway, once everything is finished you just glue the walls back together with model cement and you're done.



In the next post I'll put a bunch of beauty shots (or, at least, whatever passes for beauty shots with my feeble photography skills).


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Last edited by Just_a_Bill; January 18th, 2021 at 05:33 PM.
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Old May 28th, 2012, 12:23 AM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Various shots of the final result.











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Old May 28th, 2012, 06:43 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

:jawdrob:

Wow that is awesome, I wish i had the ability to do that with my gatehouse, but alas I don't. Well done ja.bill

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Old May 28th, 2012, 07:02 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

That's amazing. Wish I could do that. Good work man.

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Old May 28th, 2012, 07:10 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Beautiful. Simply, beautiful.

I'm not too bad at customizing, but jeez, that's a lot of work. Great result though.

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Old May 28th, 2012, 07:41 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Only tip I would suggest is to put the outline of some hexes on the top of the gatehouse.

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Old May 28th, 2012, 08:40 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Wow, that is pretty!
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Old May 28th, 2012, 10:52 PM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

/boggle

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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:05 AM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

That it a pretty sweet conversion.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:27 AM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Nice job +rep
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Old May 29th, 2012, 01:14 AM
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Re: Mage Knight Castle Gatehouse Conversion

Wow that is really awesome!
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