Fort ApacheMy gaming club, Gobstyk's, were invited to put on a display or participation game for the 2002 Games Day. The member responsible for the planning (Pete) devised a scenario based upon troops descending onto a battlefield and storming a fortification. Being a fan of the Starship Troopers film Pete asked if I could build a model based on Fort Apache, which is the fort that the troopers try to defend against the bugs.

I borrowed the video of the film and set about researching Fort Apache. You don't get many shots of the exterior of the fort, but a couple were enough to get a feel for the construction. As you can see from this frame, the fort was built out of a rocky crag face. It is clearly of temporary construction made principally from bright metal panelling and raised on legs. There are cantilever supports around the outside of the walls.

Fort Apache Fort Apache

The shot above right shows the construction of the fort in more detail. The bright metal panels and cantilevers are clearly visible.

I spent a long time reflecting on ways to produce the bright metal panels of the fort used in the film. One technique I tried was to take some tin dishes (the sort that takeaway meals come in) and cut out panels of thick tin foil. I made a former of cardboard to mimic the reinforcing ribs on the panels in the film and pressed the pattern into the tin foil. This worked reasonably well but was going to be extremely time consuming. In the end I abandoned it and used a different approach, which I will describe below.


  1. MDF for the base
  2. Foamcore for the basic wall construction
  3. Polystyrene (styrofoam) for the crag
  4. Thin packing plastic for the wall panelling
  5. Plastruct tubing for the cantilevers
  6. Plastruct <font face="courier">I</font>-beam for the legs (so called because it looks like a capital "I" in cross section - a girder shape)
  7. Wooden moulding for the curtain at the bottom of the walls (I chose one with a reeding pattern)
  8. A single strand pulled out of a main flex for the cabling on the cantilevers
  9. Car repair mesh
  10. Thick cardboard
  11. Takeaway meal tin dishes (bought new, in packs of 10. You could always eat lots of takeaways but this could prove rather expensive...)
  12. Screw-in eyelets for securing the cables to the MDF base
  13. Sand and gravel mixture for texture on the base
  14. Silicon sealant
  15. Plasticote bright chrome effect spray paint.
  16. Emulsion (latex) paints for the base


The basic shape of the fort was constructed from foamcore. happened to have some black and white offcuts around and so I used them. Out of choice I would use all black. I left the wall in two pieces, part cutting through the foamcore and bending it at the corners. This makes it stronger than cutting wall panels and gluing them together. Each wall was left over long at the back to be fitted into the crag face, which would be made later.

The walls were fixed to the foamcore base of the fort with a hot glue gun.

Fort Apache Fort Apache

The Plastruct I-beam was fixed at intervals around the base with a generous squirt of hot glue.

Fort ApacheThe crag which was to form the rear all of the fort was constructed from 2 inch thick polystyrene, in much the same was as the crags in the trench boards. I used two layers for the crags, with the back layer a solid piece, and the front layer cut to butt up to the over long walls of the fort. The front crag layer inside the fort was glued down to the fort floor. I used silicon sealant (the stuff you use to seal the gap between your bath and tiles) to fill any gaps between the layers of polystyrene and between the polystyrene and the fort walls and floor. This made the walls look as though they had been fitted to the crag (but really the crag had been fitted to the walls).

I realised that once the fort was glued down to the base it would be very difficult to paint the sand underneath it. I therefore added a skirt of black foamcore under the fort, between the fort floor and the MDF base. I hoped that by leaving this well back behind the fort edge, and leaving it black, it would still look as though the fort was raised on legs.

Fort ApacheI now had to decide how to detail the wall panels. I was hoping that any sufficiently metallic-looking finish would give the effect I needed provided it had some detail and a very high metallic shine. I had already tested some of the Plasticote chrome-effect spray paint on a different model, and had a good idea of what its final effect is like.

In the end I chose a thin plastic packing tray that had a ridged construction and glued it to the walls between the legs.

The packing tray had actually come out of a box of test tubes - you can perhaps see how the troughs in the plastic in this picture each carried a test tube in a former life. It may not be possible for you to get the same material of course, but anything that will add an industrial looking pattern to the walls will do. In a push you can mimic my material with thin card folded to a similar profile.

I also glued the wooden moulding to the bottom of the wall between each leg.

With the basic wall construction complete (apart from minor detailing, which I'll cover later) it was time to tackle the cantilevers. I'll describe this in part two.

Updated: May 2003

Forums -> Terrain Making Wiki