Thursday, 23 January 2020

Helm's Deep Part One

Materials and Equipment:
Games Workshop Helm's Deep Fortress (X2)
2" Thick Polystyrene
1/2" Thick Polystyrene
Pink Insulation Foam
Thin Cardboard
Corrugated Cardboard
Thin Balsa Wood
PVA Glue
Hot wire Cutter
Marker Pen

At Helm's Gate, before the mouth of the Deep, there was a heel of rock thrust outward by the northern cliff. There upon its spur stood high walls of ancient stone, and within them was a lofty tower. Men said that in the far-off days of the glory of Gondor the sea-kings had built here this fastness with the hands of giants. The Hornburg it was called, for a trumpet sounded upon the tower echoed in the Deep behind, as if armies long-forgotten were issuing to war from caves beneath the hills. A wall, too, the men of old had made from the Hornburg to the southern cliff, barring the entrance to the gorge. Beneath it by a wide culvert the Deeping-stream passed out.


This is the first of a multi part guide to building Helm's Deep. The will be five planned articles covering the various stages of construction:

Part One (this article) - The Cliff Wall, Outer wall, Causeway and Deepening Wall
Part Two - The Inner wall and Courtyard Area
Part Three - The Hall, The Hornberg
Part Four - The mountain Side
Part Five - Painting

This article first appeared as a multiple series on The Last Alliance.  Unfortunately the images to part four were lost so during that part there won't be many images.  If any one has saved that part and has the images we would be very grateful.

This article makes use of two Games Workshop Helm's Deep Fortresses. If you do not have any you can use the techniques presented in the guides to make your own. If you are new to terrain building I would not recommend you try this as your first build, instead view some of the other guides found on this site and gain some experience. This is definitely not for the beginner.  Some of the construction is very hard to explain (at least for me) in words. It is just one of those things you know how to do from experience so please forgive me in places if it is not as detailed as what it could be.

Also this guide is not about making an exact replica of the Helm's Deep as seen in the movie. This is about making a terrain board that can be used to play the scenarios found in the rule book and that looks similar to the fortress in the film. There will be sections and areas that will be wildly inaccurate but serve the purpose of getting the job done. Being that it is based around the Games Workshop fortress the scale for the rest is taken from that. This also means that the ladders in the Siege Box set will be able to scale the walls perfectly.

Step One

The first part of the guide is with making the cliff wall that the GW fortress will sit on. This is made to give the whole piece some extra height and grandeur. Take a sheet of 2" thick Polystyrene and set up the fortress on top.

Draw a "wiggly" line around the walls leaving about 1" gap. This will be the top part of the cliff. The 1" is so that bases and ladders can fit here ready to storm the walls. The gatehouse should sit flush with the edge of the polystyrene.

This needs to be cut out using a hot wire cutter.

Step Two

I wanted to give the cliff extra height so I decided on another layer of 2" thick Polystyrene At this stage I did some forward planning deciding where the tower and deepening wall would go. I placed some off cuts of polystyrene underneath and placed some stand ins for the tower and wall.

This actually gave me the idea to use off cuts of polystyrene as the underneath layer to save wasting a whole new sheet. I made allowances for where the tower and deepening wall would go. The tower would need to have somewhere flat to rest on and the angled part of the deepening wall would need to slot into a gap to fit nicely. I drew outlines as in step 1, that where at least 1" away from the top layer.

The top layer was then glued to the bottom using PVA glue and left to dry.

Step Three

The next stage was to make small ledges that climbing miniatures could rest on in mid move if need be. These where made from bits of 1/2" thick polystyrene that would be able to support a small base.

These where placed around the base and on top of the bottom layer in various places as seen in the photo above.

Step Four

Before covering the cliff face I wanted to partially build the tower to see if any more support was required. The tower was made from pink insulation foam and was made to the same size as the tower on the GW fortress gatehouse. It is 3" by 3 1/2" and stands 4 1/2" tall. I am glad that I built the tower at this stage as more cliff was requires to adequately support it.

The front two corners were angled off in the same manor as the fortress. This is about 1/2" in from either side:

I put the tower to one side so that I could cover the cliff face in Modrock. Follow the instructions that come with it, although on mine I found that using warm water was better and this was not mentioned. If you do not have modrock you could use PVA glue and tissue paper to cover the cliff in. Place a piece of tissue paper on a selected area and paint slightly watered down PVA over it. Which ever method you use the cliff will need to be left to dry for about 24 hours.

Step Five

While the cliff was drying I continued work on the towers. I needed to add the top row of parapets, these were simply made from pink foam that was 1 inch high and half an inch thick. The front edge has been cornered off about half an inch. To make it, cut out a shape as seen below and cut out the five thick black lines and then using PVA, glue them around the top of the tower.

Next the tower needs to be covered in bricks. These can be made from thin card such as cereal boxes. The blocks need to be about an inch long and half and inch wide. Glue these to the tower using PVA.

Step Six

The Causeway can now be built I made this from a sheet of 2" thick polystyrene. Draw the desired shape from a side elevation onto the polystyrene In the movie the Causeway curves around but I made mine straight as it is easier to construct and still looks great. It needs to be about 4" at its highest so that it is flush with the top of the cliff. Look at the picture below for an idea on shape.

Cut this out and use it as a template to make another one of exactly the same size and shape. Cut this one out too. Using PVA, glue them both together so that you have a Causeway of 4" wide. In various places you can cut nicks out of the edge to act as wear over the years. Cover the ramp of the causeway in blocks of 1" by 1 3/4" and the sides of it in blocks the same size as those used on the towers.

This is how the Causeway looks with the outer wall and gatehouse in place. Note the Causeway has not been covered in blocks yet. You can see the top of the Causeway is flush with the top of the cliff area.

Step Seven

Now the angled section of the Deepening Wall needs to built. This made from 2" thick polystyrene and 1/2" thick polystyrene.

Use the picture below to cut out the main wall section from the 2" thick polystyrene and then cut a long strip the same width of the wall out of the 1/2" polystyrene. This should be about 1" high and of the same angle as the top part of the wall section. This will form the parapet. Cut this in half and then cut a small amount of each side. This will create the gap to allow arrows to be shot through. This is attached to the front of the wall section by using PVA.

Once dry, draw the stairs out on the back. I made mine big enough so that they can hold one small base so they are about an inch wide. These can then be cut out using a sharp craft knife.

The rest of the deepening wall is made in the same manner. I made mine in 8 1/2" long sections. This is because I want to be able to replace them with blown sections when a bomb has exploded. This guide will also show how to make the blown up wall parts as well. Also making them in sections means that the whole piece is easier to pack away and store. Below are pictures of a typical deepening wall section taken from various elevations.

Step Eight

Cover all the wall sections in cardboard blocks the same size as the ones used to cover the towers. Running along the front of the wall, underneath the parapet glue a strip of corrugated card 1/2" thick that is the same length as the wall. On to of this at the top of it, glue another strip of corrugated card that is 1/2" thick and the same length as the wall.

There is a special wall section in the deepening wall, this is is piece that has the pulpit. This can be made by cutting a semi-circle from the centre at the bottom of a wall section. This should be about 2" high and 2 1/2" wide.

The gate was made from thin balsa wood. Cut strips that are about 1/2" thick. These should be made long enough so that they cover the width and height of the pulpit entrance. Glue the strips together so that you form a cross-hatch type pattern.

Mark out the semi circle of the pulpit on to this and cut this out.

Glue this into place. I positioned mine towards the back. This is to allow the Uruk-Hai Engineers room to place a bomb inside.

Step Nine

Speaking of bombs, it is time to make a blown section of wall. This is made in the same manner as a normal wall section, except you only make it about 2 - 3 inches wide. One edge also needs to be made uneven. Make a matching opposite and you have a section of blown wall.

That's is it for this part of the guide. Coming soon we will make the curved inner wall section. If you don't have the GW Helm's Deep Fortress pieces you can use the techniques in the forth coming guide to make the front curved wall section and the towers in this guide to make a replacement for it. As it is you could play a few siege scenarios with it.

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