Mark Bretherton on Scratch Building Ruins, Urban Boards and a SU-152 Game

Mark Bretherton played my SU-152s Up Close and Personal scenario again. In his previous battle report he described the scenario as “cracking”. It seems he still likes it.

This time Mark included some photos of his game and of his urban Crossfire set up. I really like the effect Mark has achieved with his terrain and table so asked him for more details on how he did it. Everything is scratch built and looks fantastic. An inspiration. All words and photos are Mark’s…

Battle Report

I managed to play SU-152 again on the weekend with a relative newcomer to Crossfire. I played it at our usual monthly board wargamer¹s meeting – a first for miniatures, but it gathered a lot of interest.

The scenario played out extremely well to a very narrow German victory. An excellent way to keep my newbie miniatures player enamoured of Crossfire. It didn’t look like it would go this way when the Russians got their bombers on their very first initiative and they managed to drop four bombs to good effect in subsequent initiatives before they were driven off (only to return and finish off their bomb load in later initiatives!).

I have attached a few pictures from the recent game – they mainly cover the initial stages of the Russian advance.

The boards and terrain are all scratch built.


The memorial in the town square was created by cutting a block of insulating foam and the statue on top was a very cheap plastic figure I picked up at a gaming convention and belongs in some sort of fantasy game. The rolls of honour were made from thin plastic card. I was very pleased with the result.

SU152-301 Memorial
SU152-301 Memorial

Ruined buildings

All the buildings are scratch built out of foam board. I’ve made them all with Crossfire in mind, so there is room in each building
sector for two squad stands and some single men stands (very similar to the approach you have taken with your modular buildings – in fact I suspect your site was one of the sources of inspiration for this). The buildings are mounted on thin sheets of MDF. I use sand, cat litter and cork for the rubble. They are all painted with Dulux emulsion which I buy in sample pots from the local hardware store. All up they are very inexpensive and I can produce them quickly.

SU152-302 Ruined buildings
SU152-302 Ruined buildings

My preference for scratch building is that I can create a uniform look and colour palate across the whole board. I like the idea that everything looks like it belongs in the environment I’ve created, it also allows me to create whatever buildings I need and know they will not only just blend in, but most importantly they will be functional for Crossfire.

SU152-303 Ruined buildings
SU152-303 Ruined buildings

Talking of functionality, this is why there is a lot less rubble within each building than would naturally occur. While lots of rubble makes for a good looking building, I don’t like to see my stands tottering precariously on top of rubble, I prefer them to sit level on the base of the building and is therefore a sacrifice to playability.


I’ve attached a few more pictures of some buildings, including a tractor factory for a Russian setting. I made the factory name by creating it in a version of MS word, printing on to paper, then sticking it onto a thin sheet of cork and cutting carefully with a very sharp new scalpel blade. I was very pleased with the result and now feel the urge to try more of this on future buildings. Also it doesn’t take a very astute observer to notice the factory chimney bears an uncanny resemblance to the sort of cardboard tube you mind find in the middle of a roll of aluminium foil (like I said, the buildings are inexpensive to build!).

Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 02
Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 02
Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 03
Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 03


The base board is painted on one side for an urban environment and on the reverse is a grass mat for rural settings. Each board is 120mmx 90mm, which makes them relatively easy to store and transport.

Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 01
Mark Bretherton Tractor factory 01

The backdrop for the pictures is just one of the baseboards propped up, but it shows you my generic paint effect – a base coat of brown, then rolled over with a sponge in a dark grey. This is followed with a dry brush with a sandy colour (the same colours I use with the buildings). I tried to break it all up with the splodgy rubble/dust/shellhole effect which makes an empty baseboard look more like the lunar surface but works well once it’s populated with scenery.

Dulux paints

As for our good friends at Dulux:

Base boards

  1. have a coat of Log Cabin (a darkish brown).
  2. I sponge roll and dab over this with Western Myall (a mid grey).
  3. I then drybrush with Arava.

The buildings vary slightly, as I want them similar but not all identical.

The factory

  1. had a base coat of Deep Bamboo (a sort of mushroom brown)
  2. and then dry brushed with Arava.

For a lighter building I’ve done

  1. a base of Arava
  2. and then dry brushed with a paler shade.

To add some depth

  1. I dry brush some craft acrylic into corners
  2. and using the same colour to add some streaks and stains.

The brick colour is

  1. a craft acrylic colour Terracotta
  2. again highlighted with the Arava drybrush.

Interior walls I use a mix again, but normally a base coat of Dulux Timeless Grey and then a dry brush of Arava or a similar light stone type colour.

I sometimes give the buildings an initial coat of One Coat Ceiling paint as it has a thick constituency to give some texture (I tend to brush paint it on but then while wet dab all over with a sponge as this brings out some texture and eliminates the brush strokes, which if too thick tend to get horribly accentuated at the dry brush stage).

The Dulux sample pots are great value, for barely more than the cost of one Vallejo bottle you get 250ml of paint that goes a long way.

Hidden deployment markers

Forgot to mention the objective marker/flags. These come from the Axis and Allies board game. I picked up a couple of sets for all the major nationalities on EBay quite cheaply. For some reason people sell them separately from the game. I’ve put numbers on the back of each and we use these to mark possible locations for hidden units. That way all the defender needs to do is allocate a counter number to specific units to know where they are supposed to be.

Figure Scale

All my figures are 20mm and 1/72, by the way, so the buildings are built to correspond to those scales, although you could, at a push, get away with using them for 28mm.

Let me know if you’d like to know more.

7 thoughts on “Mark Bretherton on Scratch Building Ruins, Urban Boards and a SU-152 Game”

  1. He’s using 1/72 scale, so they are probably model railway accessories – hornby or ratio maybe?

  2. Ed is correct, they are HO telegraph poles by Dapol (Airfix had these molds for many years). Cheap but effective.

      • Steven, true OO scale is 1/87, not too far of the 1/100 you want for 15mm. Railway scenery in true OO scale should be out there somewhere, just be wary of anything that says HO/OO in my experience that tends to be closer to HO scale (1/76).


Leave a Reply