Stargrave Town: Mos Xcellent

I’m excited about the upcoming release of Stargrave, so I dropped everything else that I was working on for a while, struck while enthusiasm was high, and put my own spin on a bucket list set of terrain.

Also prepping for Stargrave, Ash over on Guerrilla Miniature Wargames picked up some prepainted ready-out-of-the-box terrain from Urbanmatz and added some elements to make it look a little more “Rogue Trader”. Seen along with the RT figs that he was also painting, the whole thing got me hot and bothered, so I decided to copy his plan to an extent, so I ordered these:

Urbanmatz Badlands Bunkers

I want to make it abundantly clear that the buildings as supplied from Urbanmatz are literally ready to go out of the box. Sturdy and practical, I recommend them highly as supplied. I chose to add some elements to my set for a variety of reasons, using the huge amount of time that I saved by having them ready to go when they arrived, but the thing to note is that the extra investment by me was entirely optional: these are highly thematic terrain sets, ready to use as supplied, without assembly or anything else required.

Urbanmatz Desert Terrain

I’m very fond of the original Warhammer 40,000 rulebook because of what it represents personally. The late 1980s was a very different world to 2021, particularly regarding communication: the internet was a thing in William Gibson books.

For a geeky obsessive kid like I was (rather than the hip, streetwise, finger-on-the-pulse, “Fonz-like” middle-aged man that I became… [CRICKET SOUNDS]), the illustrations, scenario hooks, homemade terrain and loosely but evocatively described setting meant that there were actually people out there with the same interests that I had. Not only that, but those people were adults, making a living out of creating things like this.

1st edition “Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader”, RT to its friends.

So there is a lot of nostalgia in this project. I like modern GW output too of course (vastly more in terms of actual game rules: RT is… clunky shall we say), but the opportunity to revisit the inspiration source ~34 years later, with hopefully some skills gained in the interim, is very appealing.

Morning grocery run, Helsreach style.

Pages 224 to 228 of the Rogue Trader rulebook contained a mind expanding case study of the town of “Helsreach”, a frontier town located on the “Logan’s World”, a planet on the edge of the “Eye of Terror” that can only be accessed intermittently, due to warp storms. The Carl Critchlow illustrations are just perfect I reckon, even 34 years later.

“We came her to drink amasec and obtain valuable cloning data on 3.5-inch high-density floppy disks… and we’re all outta amasec…”

Hard data in the study of Logan’s World/Helsreach is lean, which is part of the charm. The readers mind fills in the blanks, populating it with a sort of spit-and-sawdust, high risk/high reward sci-fi boomtown. Think Firefly goes to Deadwood and you won’t be far out. Check out the large, Helreach inspired terrain set that Axiom has made on magpieandoldlead for a faithful, loving rendition of the idea in 3D.

A selection of Axiom’s always expanding Helsreach terrain set.

Lastly, as much as I like the tumbledown, dusty aesthetic of Helsreach or Mos Espa, I like bright colours and I like my sci-fi projects to have a lot of it. Coming from similar 1980s inspiration, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies look for precisely the same thing. The way that colour is used in those movies has changed cinema since 2014, and certainly stopped every sci-fi movie visual from having that kinda burnt aluminium look (Oblivion for example) common for years beforehand, just to show that science-fiction is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Contraxia, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

So I wanted my take on the sci-fi boomtown to be brighter and trashier than say Jaynestown, at least a little bit more like Contraxia from Guardians of the Galaxy 2, above. So I spent my Easter break doing this:

…digging up several bags of self adhesive letters that I bought specifically with sci-fi terrain signage in mind about eight or nine years ago…
…locating a printout of some ridiculous “WANTED” posters that I made using multiple phone apps and some photos of gaming buddies (and that’s me above) in 2017 and gluing them here and there on various buildings…
…and coming up with a way to express what I wanted via the signs, using a Terran alphabet (because, like, I have bags of self-adhesive letters, so chopping them up into spell Garglefraxian letters would be counterproductive) and then sticking them to a number of buildings that I determined on the fly, primarily based on the shapes that would take the letters most easily, before painting the letters as a neon-ish effect and adding a little weathering here and there to tie the buildings in with other terrain pieces that they will sit with in various games.
Tempers flare at the Miners Union HQ…

I left most of the domed buildings without posters and signs, so that they can represent remote homesteads and farms etc while also bulking out the terrain when it represents Mos Xcellent town centre.

Irradiated, reanimated skeletons in space suits tend to bring out Mos Xcellent’s less hospitable side…

And that was that. I plan to add some vehicles, some street level scatter pieces, some inhabitants and a town sign as time goes on, but this stage of the project is ready to go.

Thanks for reading!

Miniatures in these images come from the following sources:
CP Models
Citadel Miniatures
Bombshell Miniatures
Foundry Miniatures
Broken Toad
Mongoose Publishing


26 Responses

  1. Love it, “Mos Xcellent” indeed!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Just amazing!
    Perfect scenery, great use of improvised stuff for the signage.
    Hope to see it in person someday!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Will!

      The signage via the adhesive letters idea was something that I had wanted to try for many years, so I am happy that it worked out well.

      It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Mos Xcellent might show up on a table near you at some point. Transporting terrain requires a fair bit of planning, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. And a Zoidberg cameo, nice!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr John is an easy win really, he generates a smile in most people. He fits in here quite well conceptually too, so I hope to get him some decent table time soon-ish.

      Thanks for the feedback Jherazob!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Really great little town Cheetor! I love the density and claustrophobia you can get by crowding all the little buildings in together. I’m hoping there’s a provincial starport in the offing too?! You need some custom for all those neon-lit sleezy bars and attractions!

    Liked by 3 people

    • A sci-fi equivalent of a single dirt landing strip is certainly high up the list of ancillary additions Axiom. Based on what I already have access to, it will likely have a more prefabricated off-planet vibe, like a space-Ikea platform, if you get me.

      I want to finish one that I have, while also doing a little more work to some spaceship wreck elements that I think might look nice around the spaceport as abandoned old hulks that were just pushed to one side and partially stripped as their owners failed to come back from town…

      I heard that there is a starport based core scenario in the Stargrave book, along with one that calls for a wrecked spaceship, so tackling those two elements next seems like an obvious easy win.

      Thanks for the kind words Axiom!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The construction of those buildings is similar to the ork huts in White Dwarf 176. I have fond memories of “terrain parties” with my buds, and a table covered with modeling supplies and rubbish, and us all working on and assisting with each other’s projects. Good times!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Those sound like good memories ๐Ÿ™‚

      I remember that article (and a few others like them) and built a few models using those techniques in my day. I used building models made those techniques in my portfolio to get into college way back in the mid 90s in fact.

      Making something from nothing has its own appeal for sure, but I am more than happy to get the pre-painted and built, sturdy version of similar and add my own bits and pieces to make it “my own” these days. YMMV etc.

      Thanks for the feedback g2-09a609e995aef6b3a144360c54568b98!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another one of your projects to love! There’s most definitely a Mos Def joke in there somewhere.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mos Def is – to me anyway – the precedent that makes the silly town name work. As a result, one of the front runners for the town name was “Mos Harmless” for quite a while.

      I’m glad that you like the town. I expect that you and I will push some little space men across it in the not too distant future.

      Thanks for the feedback Mikko!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Looking great Cheetor! Signage always ads vibrancy. I need to kick things up a notch in Logansport. And I aim to check out Stargrave more closely as I am able. Looking forward to seeing more Sci-Fi games coming out of your corner of the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sci-fi remains my main interest and the fantasy genre will likely never really supplant it. A mix is healthy anyway.

      Thanks for the feedback symphonicpoet!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m always glad to see your fantasy as well. Your Samurai, for instance, were absolutely inspiring. As you say, a mix is darned healthy.

        I just need to find a way to stay healthy without risking domestic wrath for buying into yet another hobby. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (I have it on good authority that angry spouses are not healthy. Eat your vegetables. Keep the gaming expenses somewhere near enough to spousal expectations that you can explain your way out.)

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Brilliant mate – very cool… very You!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Heh, I suppose it is now that you mention it. Although in reality I’m not really cut out for hanging out in those parts of town, I do like a bit of tawdry glamour.

      Thanks for noticing Alex ;D

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Standing ovation from here. I love your approach, I love the way it all turned out. Fantastic work. It’s the kind of terrain I’d like to get for myself, but you managed to make it all easy and feasible. Got some inspiration for my own projects ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • Trying to keep things feasible and straightforward is always supposed to be part of my process Suber, but as my game room – which currently looks like a bombsite – will attest, I don’t always stick to first principles…

      My post-apocalyptic town – Standard Falls – would technically have covered all of the gaming requirements that Stargrave would throw up, but I just wanted a certain sort of classic sci-fi town aesthetic for playing this game in particular. Mos Xcellent is now open for business.

      I’m glad that you got an idea or two from the post Suber!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Amazing upgrade. A great way to personalize something quick and get to more games! Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Hardcorhobbs, I’m glad that you like the project.

      I do enjoy “adding an egg” to the models that are supplied ready out of the box. It gives me a nice mix of the satisfaction involved in doing some of the work, with less of the drudge involved in the less satisfying parts of the work.

      Thanks for the feedback!


  11. Wow, an amazing project with really cool output. I love the colors on the letters, and hell, the letters themselves rock. Creative beyond measure, so well done and fun just to see!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice of you to say Mark, thanks!

      It is a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but there has been a push towards a certain sort of dull, faux “realism” in superhero, sci-fi and fantasy media since 2000 or so (I include toy soldiers in this).

      I certainly don’t dislike all of it, and almost every 1990s model out there can probably benefit from a little bit of weathering, and many superheroes can probably benefit from looking marginally like the might actually fit in the real world, but in the unthinking push for this “realism” many seem to miss the fact that these media are supposed to be fun. Visual appeal is part of that fun.

      There are many modern miniatures out there that are painted in such murky colours, that in order to be seen properly, they need a black background. Some of them are painted to a technically very high level in that fashion and look good “in hand”. Those conservative paint jobs look awful on a gaming table though, making them just a technical exercise as far as I am concerned. I don’t really have much interest in miniatures for display, and forty shades of brown bores me to tears.

      I’m waffling.

      TLDR: colour doesn’t necessarily make anything fundamentally childish or less “serious”. Being afraid to use bold colour certainly does though. I’m pleased with how the signs worked out in this project.

      Thanks for the feedback Mark!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow, looks great! The pseudo-IKEA spelling seems like it bridges the far future, the near future, and illiteracy very well.

    I too have some letters acquired for adding to buildings, I just never got around to doing it (yet?).

    and was that a hugely improved ogren I saw lurking in one of the shots?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The pseudo-IKEA spelling raised a few Swedish eyebrows on Facebook (“stรถr” is a Swedish word and I didn’t, and I used umlauts with all of the care and consideration of an eighties metal label) so there was definitely some authentic illiteracy incorporated here ๐Ÿ˜€

      Aa I discussed in those places, the intention was that signs be cyphers, – substitution for a local dialect or alien script – rather than a true representation of what is written on them, admittedly from a biased, English speaking perspective.

      “Chompers” the ogryn is an unmodified Bob Olley sculpt that I painted in 2017 or so IIRC. It’s a great fig.

      Thanks for the feedback Lasgunpacker!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Stargrave Town: Mos Xcellent @ Sho3box โ€“ As someone (im)patiently waiting for the release of Stagrave, this is a great post. It’s such a simple little settlement, but it looks great. I’ll be posting soon about some stuff I’m hoping to do with a few of the Osprey games, and this is such an inspiring post when thinking about that. […]


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