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"How to model a sunken city" Topic

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Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 3:10 p.m. PST

So, with all the post-apocalyptic talk lately I have really been inspired as to how to model up a flooded city turned shanty town.

I have a few ideas about how I'd like it to look so don't really need much in the way of inspiration pics and such but what I am looking for more are ideas and tips on the best way to model it.

I am inclined to model it up in pieces and put it over a water mat or board. This will allow me to very the setup and keeps me from having to store big built-up terrain boards. This being said, I need to figure out a way to model the invidual "islands" that will comprise the sunken cities structures.

Some thoughts include remnants of multi-story buildings with overgrowth and scafold-like structures built on with rubble piles making up the bases. Of course various stilt structures could be built as well in addition to various house boats and the like.


Ambush Alley Games01 Jul 2009 3:23 p.m. PST

That sounds like a good approach. Then you could have your buildings on stilts, sand bars, rubble piles . . . That sounds VERY cool!

Dropship Horizon01 Jul 2009 3:23 p.m. PST

"Some thoughts include remnants of multi-story buildings with overgrowth and scafold-like structures built on with rubble piles making up the bases. Of course various stilt structures could be built as well in addition to various house boats and the like."

Sounds good to me. A sort of downtown Waterworld.


shelldrake01 Jul 2009 3:25 p.m. PST

Interesting idea – I would think that the tops of buildings etc mounted on a base, which is painted the same colour as your water mat or board would be the way to go.

I am making water level beach obastacles at the moment, so the principle will be the same.

Dragon Gunner01 Jul 2009 3:26 p.m. PST

There was a terrain company (Aintsy?) that made roof tops and terrain bits for roof tops. Build shacks on roof tops. Connect buildings with logs or plank bridges. Fortify some roofs with improvised barricades. Create retractable barricades or gates to close off water ways.

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 3:29 p.m. PST

Wow, you guys are fast and awesome all at once. Already good ideas flow from the mighty TMP!

Another idea was a floating market/town square, made up of a combination of flat boats, sampans, even house boats. On these could be various sources of food as well as public services. Floating barbers, general stores, assay offices, brothels, noodle huts, etc.


Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 3:31 p.m. PST

Side thought here. Places like this would be constantly plague by bull sharks, gators, crocks and killer catfish who would all be attracked to the constant run-off of human aquatic culture.

Perhaps a cool ship to build would be a professional shark hunter?


Cilidar01 Jul 2009 3:41 p.m. PST

I would imagine there could be one or two Junk dealers that had access to some diving gear or submersibles to go into the sunken city to look for goods and salvage.

I could also see areas cornered off for fish farms and special barges built to for room to grow agriculture.

Other special floating building could be built so that they can be pulled around the city at certain times or for special events.Like several small markets being tugged to an area for special market days, stuff being moved around to make room for a parade or festival. Etc.

Sounds like it could be an awesome board, good luck!

Brandlin01 Jul 2009 4:00 p.m. PST

DragonGunner said

There was a terrain company (Aintsy?) that made roof tops and terrain bits for roof tops.

You're right. Ainsty is now owned by Old Crow.

Sloppypainter01 Jul 2009 4:25 p.m. PST

How about a floating boxing-like ring for gladatorial fights?

28mmMan01 Jul 2009 4:28 p.m. PST

If it were me, I would get a decent blue material…even basic broad cloth, usually $1 USD on the clearance rack or $3 USD per yard for regular rates.

A medium blue for clean water zone or medium brown/tan for Mississippi style water zone.

There are lots of broken patterns like this picture

This will allow you to have an eye break under any pieces you add.

Atolls like the waterworld type would be easy to design using the remains of buildings picture

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 4:28 p.m. PST

Does anybody remember the town from the old Robin Williams Popeye movie? Sweethaven had a lot of good Water World appeal to it.

They had floating boxing ring. A mechanical horse race track on a ship. Everything was warfs and docks and houses built off of rocky outcroppings.


Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 4:43 p.m. PST

As to water color. Would blue be the right color for flooded coastal? I suppose the invading tide and ocean current might keep the water cleaner than it would be following your typical land flood.

Would human polution and contaminants from the now drowned city below be enough to keep the water brackish.


Cacique Caribe01 Jul 2009 5:07 p.m. PST


Wow. Are you my lost twin???

I love this.


Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 5:10 p.m. PST

I may be.

I just hope that my modelling skills are up to the task. Anyone know any quick and dirty ways to do bamboo or woven walls in 15mm? I seem to recall seeing some things about using cheap dollar store beach matts or bamboo place matts.


Bayonet01 Jul 2009 6:18 p.m. PST

Here are some examples of flooded urban areas. (Mostly due to Katrina I think)



As for the huts:

shelldrake01 Jul 2009 7:04 p.m. PST

What scale are you wanting to do this?

The reason I ask is that there are shark minis as well as boats that could be useful, especially in 28mm

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 7:08 p.m. PST

Good pictures.

Aerial shots always make it so hard to tell what the real color of the water is because of the reflection of the sky.

The pollution trail is very helpful. How long do you think it would take for that to stop and to wash away? I imagine that underground sewers, oil tanks, fuel tanks, etc. would take several years to start leaking then eventually they would seep out into the water above them as pressure and creeping moisture compromised them.

I do imagine that most of the dwellings would be pretty typical shanty town construction making use of everything from signs, drift wood, flooring material. A lot of the really useful construction materials would be at street level and thus underwater and out of reach making woven materials popular for housing as well.

Back to an earlier post. Salvage men and junk dealers would be kings as they plied the waters dragging up garbage and then selling it off to desperate survivors.

Shelldrake, I am wanting to do it in 15mm, myself.


jpattern201 Jul 2009 7:20 p.m. PST

First, establish how deep the water is. For example, if you are depicting the ruined tops of multi-story office buildings (deep water), you shouldn't include buildings on stilts (fairly shallow water), and vice versa. (At least, not in the same game/scenario.)

The depth will also determine the color of the water, but in general you can't go wrong with a deep blue with green and purple tints. Blue = water for most people – landlubbers!

Lots of cool ideas already for terrain pieces. Some more thoughts:

o Floating barricades, like the boats-and-ropes in "The Sand Pebbles". For post-apoc, floating barrels connected to each other with chains. Use half-barrels from GW or Tamiya connected with cheap jewelry chain, painted black and rusty. Make it in small sections for more versatility.

o The scene in "Apocalypse Now!" where the boat floats past a huge downed jet always gives me chills. Maybe do something similar, with a 1/48 model airplane or space shuttle nose-down in the water, or forming part of one of the floating islands.

o It's been a cliche since at least "Planet of the Apes", but if possible include a recognizable piece of architecture, preferably something tall. Scratchbuild the very top of the Statue of Liberty's torch, the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, the St Louis Arch, the Seattle Space Needle, Big Ben, or the Eiffel Tower. Or, for a downhome touch, scratchbuild the top of one of the taller buildings in your town, like a clock tower or town hall.

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 7:42 p.m. PST


Good stuff. Good good. Already been thinking of defensive ideas, myself. Of course I'll be working in 15mm but your ideas would work nicely. Another thought was to have curtain walls literally hanging between two buildings across the water way between. This would end up making a sort of medieval castle atop the water with buildings operating as keeps and towers along the wall.

I am considering making mine about 3-4 stories deep, actually. Also, assuming that mosto f the really talls buildings wouldn't last long at their full heights in a flood zone, I don't need to worrie about building too high. Also, the amount of submerged rubble might make stilt houses a viability. Also that same submerged rubble would create artificial atols where stilt homes could be built up.

House boats and raft towns would also be popular. Plenty of places to anchor yourself. I can imagine who shanty towns bobbing up and down on the lapping waves.

As for haunting images and such, I think having a naval vessel that has plowed into a building or something. Also, if you were doing a shallower zone, maybe having an elevated highway section poking out of the water with a shanty town atop it.


28mmMan01 Jul 2009 8:53 p.m. PST

Popeye is a great movie… YouTube link

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 10:38 p.m. PST

That clip gives some really good shots of the sorts of terrain ideas the movie is full of.


shelldrake01 Jul 2009 11:33 p.m. PST

It looks like Peter Pig sells some kind of a 15mm scale shark if you want one… but I dont know if it is the shark or the fin

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 11:36 p.m. PST

I may have to spend the weekend seeing what I can cobble together without buying any new supplies. Honestly, the sort of ramshackle stuff you would find in this setting can likely be made with all sorts of scrap materials.


Chortle Fezian01 Jul 2009 11:49 p.m. PST

You could put together a regular town, buildings, road, enclosures etc. and then partially flood it with liquid resin. I've seen resin pond in wargames which are semi transparrent. It could look really nice.

Perhaps if you give the resin a quick jolt at the right stage you could have little waves on the surface.

Great for games where players are in rafts or other craft.

Neil (painting service)

Eli Arndt01 Jul 2009 11:57 p.m. PST

That would look really cool. A bit more work than I want to do for a game table, but definitely an awesome diorama idea.


shelldrake02 Jul 2009 1:20 a.m. PST

This page was pointed out to me when I was looking at making scenery with a water feature, and there are a lot of useful ideas that may help (for more than just water):


tima113 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2009 3:06 a.m. PST

I really like this idea. Reminds me of the scene at the end of AI when they are in a flooded (and icy) city with only the upper stories of the skyscrapers above the water. If you go the major city route, I'd keep it as modular as possible for flexibility. Water mat or board with weather beaten building upper stories above the waterline with some PA/scavenger additions (makeshift docks on the lower stories, additional structures added to the roofs, zip lines and walkways between buildings, etc.) I also like the underwater ideas for exploration. Maybe someone can gather an old diving suit and manual pump from a museum or a makeshift sub with snorkle (think the Hunley). I also like the deadly nature aspect with bull sharks, gators, crocs, etc. Lots of possibilities for PA games.

Dropzonetoe Fezian02 Jul 2009 3:15 a.m. PST
Covers London in a flooded world.

There is a good Anime about subs that has the world flooded over with good visual appeal. Wish I could find the name of that one for you.

There are quite a few rooftop only boards people have made for heroclix.

MWright02 Jul 2009 4:40 a.m. PST

15mm or 28?

Chris V02 Jul 2009 5:26 a.m. PST

I love this! I've had a floating shantytown in my head for years but have never gotten around to making it. There are some great ideas here.

One thing I need to find is a good source of boats and ships in 28mm.

Wyatt the Odd Fezian02 Jul 2009 7:03 a.m. PST

If you can find it, there's a brief glimpse of Denver in "Waterworld". It has shanty towns built on and around the rooftops of Denver's skyscrapers.

Unfortunately/Ironically, Denver has a water park called "Waterworld" so you'll only find pictures of that while searching.

I did find the Exxon Valdez (as used in the movie): link


Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 9:08 a.m. PST

Good morning all,

Lots of good comments rolled in while sleeping.

My plans are for doing this in 15mm. The scale allows me to have a good number of boats on the board at a time as well as getting a little crazier with the scope of the build.

I do not think I will be building anything under the water, but having scenery and such that addresses the underwater will be fun. Also, I am not going for a total water world here. I still want land in places and so will be depicting my city as flooded to about the 4th 5th story. This will put most regular houses underwater in the coastal regions as well as allow for stilt houses and such (built up off of the submerged rubble piles. That's still a good 60-75ft of water below the city dwellers.


Der Krieg Geist02 Jul 2009 9:14 a.m. PST

Dropzone< that was Blue Submarine No# Six. :)

Lion in the Stars02 Jul 2009 9:47 a.m. PST

Tideline Blue, Innocent Venus, and Submarine 707R also deal with PA-flooded worlds. I particularly recommend Tideline Blue for your research.

I'd use parts of the East Coast of the US, if you're only doing a 10-12-fathom increase in depth. Most of the West Coast is too steep, wouldn't change the waterline much at all.

Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 10:38 a.m. PST

Anybody know a good scrap material to use for corrugated metal in 15mm?

I have some packing that works for 28mm but not for 15mm.


Cacique Caribe02 Jul 2009 12:09 p.m. PST

Eli, I tell ya. You keep reading my mind. I was about to ask that!

Anyway, found some cool photos that may inspire:


NOTE: Gotta have makeshift bridges to hop from one island to the next and to serve as traps when the post-apocalyptic pirates attack!


Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 12:28 p.m. PST

Nice pics. My grandmother came back from China with stories of the floating markets. She said that they were great but she was reluctant to eat anythign that had been so close to the water they were all boating around in.

The thatching on some of those houseboats got me thinking. Could a mostly ocean-locked community thatch their roofs with thatch still? Maybe they could weave matts out of kelp or seaweed-based fibers? Could kelp be dried and layered like other thatch?

As for bridges, I imagine a good number of suspension bridges for wider spans and scaffold bridges for others. In some cases they might be nothing more than simple rope bridges. Suspension and rope bridges have the advantages being able to be cut quickly in a pinch or rolled up with just a little advanced planning. Scaffold and other more structurally solid bridges require complete demolition or some sort of draw bridge to be readily defensible.

Anybody remember the car bombs dropped from the under-slung shanty town in Johnny Neumonic? Something like that with oil drums full of fish oil could be rigged as booby traps to repel invading pirates.


P.S. I hadn't realized that this thread was mirroring so many others. My apologies to anybody who thinks I may have hijacked their threads.

Cacique Caribe02 Jul 2009 12:36 p.m. PST

Eli: "I hadn't realized that this thread was mirroring so many others. My apologies to anybody who thinks I may have hijacked their threads."

Are you kidding me man. This is a newer and better version of those oldies!

However, the guys did provide some cool ideas and suggestions that might still be useful now.

PS. I really love this look:

Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 12:51 p.m. PST

That level of overgrowth is hard to model for gaming though. You do well enough with spaced out foliage. I think that having some foliage on some of the buildings might be a good way to capture some of those. For example, maybe some fruit trees are grown on rooftop gardens or such.


Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 12:56 p.m. PST


On the subject of corrugated metal.

I have been looking over scrapbooking paper and they do a good variety of corrugated papers. Might be worth a trip to your local paper specialty store or even a craft store. I know Michael's has a good supply of specialty papers.


Cacique Caribe02 Jul 2009 1:17 p.m. PST

I'm seriously considering getting stuff like this, to break appart and use to incorporate into the above-water ruins:



Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 1:25 p.m. PST

Oh yeah,

HO isn't too far off from 15mm anyhow and most of those structure could easily be reworked for other things.

Incidentally, there are a lot of HO scale tug boat models out there. I found a few on Ebay.


Cacique Caribe02 Jul 2009 1:28 p.m. PST

More corrugated metal options:



Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 1:44 p.m. PST

Yeah, specialty items can usually get you exactly what you need. The price may be a bit of a put-off for some though, especially if you are going to end up junking it up in the end.


camelspider02 Jul 2009 2:57 p.m. PST

So, with all the post-apocalyptic talk lately

Mostly all from one person. grin

Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 2:59 p.m. PST

Not me..;)

CC, got that market cornered.


28mmMan02 Jul 2009 3:04 p.m. PST

The real world issue of course is the one faced by the sinking city. Foundations give way, inner supports let go, and the remaining topside collapses.

In a small town it would be washed away…I was with the US national hurricane/flood response team for a couple years and I saw what happens…Iowa was washed up to the 12-14' mark with orange/tan clay, all houses picked up and collected at tree lines, trees stripped of limbs up to the water line, everything below the line…monotone orange/tan.

In a larger city and a metro city you would find all the fast constructs giving way causing more foundation issues. But within a reasonable amount of buildings giving way I suspect there would develop an uneasy balance of new foundation made up of layered partial structures…so as long as some part of these partial structures were above your water high tide/flood line then there is a good chance of near stable structures.

They may be off angle but still stable.

With a few well placed charges one could in therory create an artifical foundation/reef and leave a few more level structures to build from…then develop oil rig platform type structures using the new foundations.

Toaster02 Jul 2009 3:06 p.m. PST

Matakishis cork tile buildings have lift off upper levels for placing figures, so by building both a bottom level and a rubble pile base you could do both the dry city and the flooded city in one.


Eli Arndt02 Jul 2009 3:22 p.m. PST

28mm Man,

Yeah, reality can really mess with cool ideas. I am going for effect here. I also plan to have mutants and zombies in my PA setting so I think a few structural improbabilities will fly :)


Cool idea there, though I don't mind making more stuff :)


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