Assembling the basic temple is actually the easiest part of the whole project. Begin by gluing the platforms together with PVA glue. Pin them down or put some objects on top to weight the stack and apply pressure, then let it dry. In this example the templates were carefully pulled away from the lower levels afterward to reveal the texture of the foam. The top template was left in place with the edges securely glued down, to present a smoothed surface for the altar floor. This works best if the templates were printed on thin cardstock rather than normal printer paper.
Once the platforms have dried, assemble the stairs. Start by checking that all of the steps have been cut to the same length. Assemble the stairs by gluing down one of the railings, then the stairs flush against it, then the other stair. This sequence ensures everything lines up straight and flush.
To hold the stairs in place while gluing and ensure the railings remain vertical, it helps to pin them down with long sewing pins. In this case they've been spaced regularly so that they may be simply left in place as simple decorative flourishes on the railings. The bottom stair hangs in free space, so the pins will help strengthen that piece in particular, along with judicious coatings of glue along the seams with the bottom platform.
The altars are very straightforward to assemble. Simply glue down the legs on the template, and then place and glue the altar table on top. In this case one of the altars has been smashed and glued in a crumpled heap to add extra story to the scene.
The basic temple by itself is somewhat boring and needs more visual detail. A wide variety of bits have been applied liberally to spice up this ziggurat, including:
- Several areas around the platforms haven been gouged out, with the crumbled pieces and other bits spread out and liberally glued down around the gouged areas to represent the debri. Small holes have also been punched in the altars and stairs to represent bullet holes.
- Fancy, flower shaped christmas tree light bulbs have been placed as decorative statues on the top platform. Once has been separated from its holder and placed in a gouged out section to appear as it has been knocked over in a cataclismic struggle. The gouging here is particularly heavy, to imply some weight and force behind the falling statue.
- Several bits from different miniatures have been hacked to pieces and placed around the scene, including an arm, leg, chest, backpack, and helmet. Several guns, knives, grenades, and other leftovers from the bits box have also been placed. These tie this particular piece into a particular genre and setting, but can be easily left out or made more generic.
Two coats of paint have been applied to act as a base layer for the piece. Cheap art store acrylics should suffice for this; do not use spray paint to base coat the piece as it will significantly erode the foam! For this piece, the platforms are intended to be made out of an odd organic/rock matrix, with the stairs and altars built of a black/gold, marble-type material. A green and tan have been mixed to produce the olive drab used here.
The platforms have been drybrushed in a lighter green to highlight the texture of the foam and make it seem slightly organic. The marble sections have also been drybrushed in bronze. Importantly, all of the edges have been lined in the brighter color, highlighting the shapes and making the 3D features pop out more readily.
The altars and statues have been similarly drybrushed and edged in bronze, then all of the marble sections highlighted here and then with gold. All of the debri bits were also painted in simple schemes---black drybrushed with steel for the weapons, red washed in black with components picked out in silver for the space marine parts and a brown and bone scheme for the alien body parts.
Once all of that dried, liberal quantities of blood were applied. Motivating the blood, broken altar, and body parts is a simple background story of a squad of troops fighting fiercely over the temple to interrupt a sacrifice, only to fail at the last moment as a terrible power was summoned, cracking the altar and splattering the sacrifice all over. Although simple, having a narrative in mind while constructing terrain like this can really help guide the look and feel and produce a more dramatic and "logically" consistent piece.
The blood was painted in several steps:
- Dry brushing Scorched Brown over a large area.
- Dry brushing a Scorched Brown/Blood Red mix over a slighly smaller area.
- Dry brushing Blood Red over a small area.
- Dabbing and painting thick clumps of Blood Red in key areas.
Finally, as a bonus piece to go along with the temple, the cult icon was assembled as a standalone piece. First, a simple base was cut out of scrap foamboard and the edges beveled and gouged with a hobby knife. Grass flock was then coated all over the base to provide texture, after which the icon was glued on.
Once dry, the entire piece was base painted black by brushing on cheap acrylic paint. The icon was then liberally dry brushed with Enchanted Blue and then striped with Liche Purple. Its bottom block was simply drybrushed with steel. The foamcore base was then successively drybrushed with Scorched Brown, Snakebite Leather, and Bronzed Flesh to give a sickly yellow, mud and swamp feel. Once all the paint dried, stands of fake yellow grass were glued in place amidst clumps of green foliage. Both are available from most hobby shops that cater to model railroading.
That wraps up the Alien Altars project! Including glue and paint drying time, this is a fast and easy project that even a beginning terrain enthusiast can complete in a day or two of work. One option to enhance the pieces somewhat might be to bathe everything in black or colored wash(es), although for real life gaming, as opposed to on photographs, this is less necessary for these simple pieces.
If you construct one of your own Alien Altars, be sure to send along pictures!