Microtable One: Hadrian’s Wall Milecastle Introduction

A while back I floated the notion through the 24-Hour Section of doing “microtables,” small 2’ by 2’ war gaming tables. The idea was that these could be used for small skirmish games, or perhaps as part of a larger layout, but wouldn’t have the construction time or storage space of a regular 4’ by 4’ table. I’ve considered several microtable concepts, mostly urban layouts that could be used with games like Gloire, Mordheim, or Chainmail, but a recent purchase of Warhammer Ancient Battles gave me another idea: a Hadrian’s Wall Milecastle.

For those who don’t know, Hadrian’s wall was built by the Romans along the 117 km border of the Roman Empire in Britain to repel Picts from the north. Along each Roman mile a small fort was built to serve as a gateway through the wall, and was manned by a handful of soldiers. The wall’s height and width, and the architecture of the forts varied depending on both the local environs and which legion was doing the construction.

The milecastles are fairly simple in design, more functional that decorative. They were also pretty small by later standards, more qualifying as a “fort” than a “castle.” That being said, it makes for a cool concept for a microtable. So, after a lot of deliberation and drawing lines on graph paper, I’ve decided to move forward on this project (after finishing the Gothic Descent Set, which is getting done). I’m going to go into some detail in constructing this piece so anyone who is interested can duplicate it–I’m keeping it pretty simple for the same reason.

Basically, I’m going to build the milecastle in six parts: a central tower that serves as gatehouse, two thick wall sections that will compose the “wall” part of “Hadrian’s Wall,” and three narrower wall sections which will form a U-shaped courtyard for the gatehouse. I’ll be building almost the entire thing out of plaster blocks cast in Hirst Arts molds. The base will be composed of MDF board, probably 3/8” to ½” in thickness. Here’s the dimensions:

Exterior wall sections (2): 10” long, 3.5” high (without crenellations), and 3” thick.
Gatehouse: 4” wide, 4” thick, 7” to 8” high.
Interior wall sections (3): 12” long, 3.5” high (without crenellations), and 1.5” thick. Curved corners.

The primary molds I’ll be using are:
The Wall Builder #200
The Basic Block #40
The Prison Tower #60
The 3” Turret #61
Various Floor Tiles #201

I’ll also be using the odd piece from the Wood Plank #50, Wood Shingle, and Dragon’s Inn mold #51, mostly for décor. I’ll also probably bust out the Wizard’s Tower mold #50, just to be able to cast more ½” blocks for the crenellations, but you don’t need it to build this piece. For those who don’t five to nine molds, or have no desire to, you can actually build a simplified version of this project with the Basic Block mold alone, foregoing the curved corners and archways, and just casting that single mold a LOT. For me, the critical mold is going to be the wall builder (no surprise there). This oft-maligned mold on the Hirst Arts board is going to make construction both tidy and easy.

I’ll be using dental plaster rather than regular plaster of paris. Dental plaster blends very smoothly and is almost much heavier and sturdier than plaster of paris. It costs about a dollar a pound, and can be purchased online or by phone from dental supply companies such as Clint Sales and Manufacturing (which actually caters to the modeling community and offers several brands of dental plaster dyed useful colors like dark grey and tan. I prefer their “Merlin’s Magic” brand).

One final note: I am aware that a more realistic stone “finish” might be achieved by using the fieldstone mold line from Hirst Arts, and part of me would love to do it that way, but truly being able to use the Wall Builder mold will make this project so much more simple. What I (and a few others) would love to see is a fieldstone wall builder mold, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. If this lack of historical realism offends some readers, then I apologize.

Next time: building the gatehouse.


  1. The alternative I used was the Hovels mile castle I purchased thru War Gamers. It comes as two versions, stand alone fort and a Hadrian Wall mile castle. I opted for athe latter adding an additional wall section which I cut down the middle to replicate the transition between the “wide” and “narrow” wall which occurs at mile castle 42. The mile castle was built in anticipation of the connecting wide wall only to find a policy change dictating the construction of narrow walls for the rest of the construction. Using the kit saved a lot of stone work. It is a bit crude, having been designed to assemble and disassemble for war game use. I chose to permanantly mount it and connect the sections using epoxy paste. It is really 30mm in scale and luckily Andrea produces the necessary figures.

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