Built in a Day: Dicky Boyd on his Gangs of Rome Table (part 2)

Hi, I’m Paul, and welcome to Sculpting, Painting and Gaming.

Those of you who have seen War Banner at Salute, the UK Games Expo and other wargames show will already be familiar with the bright, characterful buildings that populate our Gangs of Rome demo tables. Built and painted by Dicky Boyd of Dicky Boyd Builds, the various insulas, cranes and scaffolds included on the tables belong to Sarissa Precision‘s awesome Streets of Rome range, and Dicky has brought a character and a leftfield approach to building and painting Sarissa’s kits that makes them truly unique.

In this, the second part of his tutorial, Dicky tells us how he built those kits.



There are, of course, many ways in which to build and paint a Sarissa Precision kit; here is just one method that we trust will help you recreate the world in miniature.

After chatting with Andy Hobday of War Banner, I promised him a ‘Rome’ for 2018’s Salute. The mission was to give the demonstration team plenty of eye candy for their Gangs of Rome demo table and to enable them to show the game off to its historical best.

Preparation is key if you want to enjoy your painting and achieve a convincing result. I trawled the internet for reference photos of Roman wall art, buildings and mosaics, and the thing that struck me was the rich colours of ancient Rome, and the contrast with many models that portray a very bland, whitewashed city. Colour would obviously be a key component of the finished project.

The box containing the kits arrived, and at that point I realised the mammoth scale of the undertaking! It contained almost the whole range of buildings and accompanying extras such as cranes, carts etc. The project clearly needed a positively industrial approach to construction! I had been briefed to paint the external walls and pay little attention to the internals due to time constraints; this made the project a simple build then paint process with no consideration of the interior of the buildings required.

Dicky’s Top Tip #1: decide if you’re going to paint the internal details. If so, paint first, then build.
If not concerned about the interior details then build first, then paint.

My favoured method is to remove all the pieces and organise them into clear piles of parts. Do this whilst looking at the instruction sheet to familiarise yourself with how they are assembled.

Dicky’s Top Tip #2: identify internal and external sides of your buildings. The external side has laser cut detailing; you don’t want said detailing hidden on the inside of your completed kit.

Each pile is then sanded as a block to save time. This method is particularly useful when cleaning parts for columns.

Being new to the Streets of Rome kits I opted to construct them using a very tacky PVA glue which would allow me to readjust component parts and remove excess glue with a wet brush if required.

Dicky’s Top Tip #3: use a wet brush to smooth excess PVA down the joints of your building.

With the type of glue I used I found little need for the elastic bands I had ready. The kits went together easily and fitted snugly; a real treat to assemble.

‘The Three OOs’: Floor, Roof, Doors.

The kits look excellent when assembled and painted with no additional features, but it is possible to enhance the models and make them truly unique with these three simple tweeks:


1. Stone.

This simple method creates a great effect but requires a little patience and confidence.

Use a broad flat icing knife to apply a thin layer of filler to the base of your kit.

Poke through the filler from the other side to clear the assembly holes; don’t worry about this being completely clean.

Now use a long edge of your 2mm mdf to clean the lines where the walls will sit on the base. Use the holes you poked through as a guide to see where these lines should be. You should then be able to see the footprint of the building.

Working quickly and before the filler dries, use a blunt point to draw on paving stones. The quickest method is a simple grid pattern. The more ambitious amongst you may wish to try drawing irregular shapes that suggest a more complex paving structure.

You will notice the filler pulls up as you drag your pointer. Don’t worry too much; just remove the bigger blobs of filler. Now leave the filler to dry. You will notice a slight ‘cupping’ of the base board as the filler dries. Gently flatten the board with slight pressure, and—when you fix the walls snugly to the base—this ‘cupping’ will disappear.

Once dry, snap off any obvious ‘peaks’ in the filler and then lightly sand the remaining filler down. Clean out the assembly holes properly, either with a knife or suitable Dremel attachment. Present the walls to the base to ensure you have cleaned out the lines of attachment. Don’t skimp this part of the build, the walls need to sit well on the base.

Dicky’s Top Tip #4: it is essential to remove a small part of your ‘opening’ doors to take into account the thickness of the filler.

2. Wood

Use coffee stirrers cut to length and glued to the floor sections. Add texture to these smooth planks—to make painting easier and more dramatic—by using a suitable Dremel attachment.


The card roofs on your Sarissa kits can be painted with a convincing tiled effect based on the laser cut detailing. You can also add a simple textured layer to the roof that, although it takes a little time, makes the painting easier.

For the purists this method is more of a Mediterranean pan tile roof as opposed to the historically accurate Roman tile roof, but it is very effective in enhancing the richness of the tabletop look.

You will need corrugated craft card and, for ease, a guillotine trimmer; bamboo cooking skewers; and lashings of PVA.

Cut 10mm strips of the card at right angles to the run of the corrugation. Cut plenty of these strips; you can always use what’s left on your next Sarissa building!

Assemble the roof as per the instructions, but then liberally apply PVA glue to one side.

Lay down your first strip of card at the bottom of the roof, then repeat, moving up the roof. Ensure you overlap the card strips and offset them on each row so that ‘bump’ lines up with ‘dip’.

Make sure the top of your last strip sits on the apex of the roof.

Repeat on the other side.

Allow to dry. Then trim any protruding edges flush with original card roof.

Whilst waiting, split one of your Bamboo skewers in half. Run a bead of PVA along the apex of the roof and press your now halved bamboo skewer onto the apex. You may need a little tape to hold it in place. Use a wet brush to tidy up any excess PVA.

When it’s dry you may wish to make small cuts in the bamboo to suggest individual ridge tiles.

The roof is now ready for painting.


You will need: cotton tape, a brush and PVA glue.

Modifying your doors so that can be open or shut adds an effective element to your kit. Whilst not essential, this quick trick adds an extra dimension to your building.

Once you have removed the doors from the MDF sheet, clean up the doors and the door frames. Remember to remove a millimetre or so from the door if you’re adding a textured base to your kit.

Lay the wall and door out on a flat surface, with the door sat in the frame.

Place a blob of PVA on both the door and the frame. These blobs should be adjacent to one another.

Place the small pre-cut strip of cotton tape on top, effectively rejoining the door back to the wall.

Use thick thread for grill-type doors.

Now put more PVA on top of the tape and brush it into the material.

Leave to dry.

Finally, support the tape and door and crack it open so that it has a clear hinge along the door frame.

Dicky’s Top Tip #5: if you’re building a lot of kits you must ensure your partner is comfortable with you using any and all available space and flat surfaces in the house.

I strongly recommend an element of pampering your partner with the required amount of flowers, chocolates, wine etc to ensure the modelmaking process runs smoothly.

Even better, incorporate your Sarissa project into a series of attractive ornaments to really stimulate an atmosphere of conviviality!



The entirety of Dicky’s Gangs of Rome table has been built using Sarissa Precision’s excellent Street of Rome MDF kits. You can see the Streets of Rome range on Sarissa’s webstore, as well as a smorgasbord of other collections in almost every conceivable time period and setting. Their expansive catalogue offers you buildings and accessories for games as diverse as Test of Honour, Star Wars: LegionSaga and many more.

Better yet, postage is only £2.50 worldwide, whatever you order, wherever you live.



Long before he established Dicky Boyd Builds—a bespoke terrain building service for for gaming companies and individuals—Dicky’s first models were cut from card and coloured with felt tip pens. He progressed to Airfix kits in the 1970s, and discovered the mysterious world of role playing games in the 1980s.

Dicky has previously worked for private clients and companies in the wargaming industry (including War Banner!)



We’re currently open to submissions, so if you have an article about sculpting, painting or gaming, then please do send it our way. From historical to sci-fi, battle reports to painting tips, modelling to terrain and all points in between, we’d love to hear from you. See our submissions guidelines for more details.

About the Author

Paul L. Mathews
A born-again wargamer since 2015, Paul L. Mathews is now the editor at War Banner. He is also the head honcho at his own freelance enterprise, Tabletop Creative. A dull boy, Paul's interests include editing and staying up past his bedtime

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