Rivers Need Water

..and here are a couple of boards I prepared earlier (last October to be precise). They’re 4×3 feet of 20mm chipboard, so they’re pretty heavy. I’ve had them for about 15 years and in recent times they’ve been relegated to garage rafter storage duties, but I decided to renovate them with a fresh coat of a dark blue gloss paint in readiness for the riverbanks project. They’re stored behind the door in my games room/office, resting face to face with the reverse of one board painted the same colour as the wall, so they’re pretty much invisible unless you’re looking for them.

Here’s a quick set-up with some of the new boards placed on top. Obviously the addition of some trees, buildings and other scenery will enhance things, but this is the basic look I was after.

 

With a row of terrain squares removed the river can be widened, allowing for the off-cut islands to be used. I think this will offer me plenty of flexibility and options for different types of battlefield. I can do a large bay or inlet, a big central island, as well as straight or winding rivers. As I’m aiming to get my post-Napoleonic Sharp Practice project ready to play this year, I think a bit of water, with the odd bridge or boat, will make things interesting! These rivers, like the rest of my terrain, are designed to be used for all scales I play with, from 6mm to 28mm, and I’m looking forward to getting plenty of use from them.

Rivers and Hills part 5 – Finished!

Finally some colour!

All the boards have now been given a coat of green to bring them to life a bit. The colour is a specific Dulux mixed shade (‘Jungle’) found after a lot of trial and error, which I’ve used for probably 20 years on all terrain, scenery and figure bases. I suppose it’s a brybrush or overbrush technique, I’m not sure which, but it allows a hint of the black beneath to show through to add some depth and texture. I’ve brushed green over the edges of the brown patches too to blend them together as I don’t want them to look like bunkers on a golf course later. The board edges are painted too.

Next step was to dry brush the brown areas with my highlight colour, Vallejo’s Iraqi Sand. This not only lightens, but also softens the underlying brown, which is otherwise pretty dark.

After that the patches of vegetation were recovered, having been mostly lost in the ‘green’ phase. I use Vallejo’s Luftwaffe Green for this, although on this occasion I actually tried their new Heavy Green basecoat colour which appears to be an identical shade, just with presumably slightly better covering power. These will be drybrushed again later.

The next step was the real key to tying everything together – the yellow drybrush. Trying to keep it light and even is always a challenge when you’re also trying to do it reasonably quickly, but it worked out OK I think. Then the dark green patches were re-highlighted with the main green, to soften them a bit while still keeping them distinct. Lastly the rocks were given a coat of dark grey and then dry-brushed with a light grey.

Which meant… everything was finally finished! A fair amount of work over the last couple of weeks, and further back into last Autumn when the river banks were cut, but I’m very pleased with the results and it was well worth it. These boards can now be added to the ones I already have (making just over 40 square feet in total) and hopefully be used in a game before too long. I’ll post some pics of them in situ with the water base boards before putting them away.

Hills and Rivers part 4 – Paint it Black

Stage 4 then..

Everything got a black undercoat from a big tin of ordinary black paint (which I kep well away from the beer to avoid an unnecessary, but inevitable, mistake). Yes, it looks awful, but it’s all uphill from here.

Brown patches added, these will get highlighted later on.

Green basecoat next, hopefully one evening this week.

A 15mm Diversion

I recently fancied a dabble in a smaller scale, after all the 28mms I’ve been doing lately. I was given some very nice Khurasan 15mm Goth cavalry and command, and already had some Baueda Dark Age (Lombard?) foot command figures to go with them. These are intended as an extra command base, and some ‘heroes’ for my Goth army, which are inserted in the middle of a unit to provide some additional characterisation and battlefield punch when playing more ‘heroic’-style historical games. When I get round to certain future Armies of the Month this will make more sense!

In the meantime, while the Khurasan figures are very nice, the basic heavy cavalrymen lacked a bit of drama – specifically a lack of cloaks and some very short, insignificant looking swords. An upgrade was in order, so out came the green stuff for 4 cloaks and a couple of sword extensions. Much better. Quick pic below. I just need to squeeze them into the painting schedule somewhere now and they can join the army.

And that reminds me, after my earlier announcement, I’ve only got 5 days left to post January’s Army of the Month. Better get cracking on that!

Hills and Rivers part 3

I’ve now reached the stage where, once the glue is dry, I can give all the boards their black basecoat. I have applied the second (partial/patchy) layer of sand to create a bit of depth, while still retaining a mostly flat surface. I have also added some patches of rougher, but still faitly low-profile, vegetation using loose leaf tea (as I do on my figure bases) and some small scenic rocks. These will add a bit a variety when painted and break up the otherwise featureless terrain.

Painting everything with a wash of black is going to be tedious and messy, but it’ll be progress!

Second layer of sand

Patches of vegetation and rocks. I could stop now and call it North Africa!  🙂

Hills Part 2 – and Rivers

With the hills cut and shaped, I decided to plough on this weekend with getting them onto their boards, and making a start on the other terrain I’ve been planning for a while – rivers. As with the hills, there are always compromises when it comes to adding rivers to a wargames table. By their nature they look best with a bit of depth, and that’s the challenge of course. In an ideal world these are carved into thick sheets of high density foam board, providing the opportunity for deep banks, as well as sunken roads and realistic undulations everywhere else. With my terrain built from 9mm marine plywood that’s not a possibility, and with the rough texturing I use nor are ‘place on’ rivers.

So the choice comes down to painting rivers onto the boards and texturing flat ground up to the water’s edge (which I’ve done before) or cutting right through the boards to create river banks and placing everything on an underlying ‘water’ layer. I’ve gone for the latter, for a couple of reasons. The deeper banks work better for me aesthetically, especially with larger scale figures. Also, the ply boards I use have a grain on their surface, making smooth-ish water a difficult effect to achieve.

So I enlisted the help of a good friend who assisted with some quality timber cutting to ensure that the river bank sections all match up, both in terms of positioning and angle (45 degrees, thanks to an angled jigsaw setting). The rivers were measured at 10cm/4 inches across, so represented the removal of about a third from the middle of each board. Of course, they then have the potential to be broadened by moving the 2 river banks apart either by a full board width (making a 16 inch wide river) or by any other incremental amount. Some of the cut-outs were rounded off to provide islands which can be placed in the river, and used in naval games too. With this batch I’ll have 6 feet of straight/meandering river and 2 x 90 degree bends. Plenty to start with considering the biggest table I can manage is 6 x 4 feet.

On Saturday I kept warm outside by sanding all the board edges smooth, and rounding the river bank tops off a little. Then I stuck down the hills with PVA and a bit of tape, before moving onto covering the polystyrene with a layer of quick-dry plaster for protection and smoothness. The afternoon was then spent making a right old mess applying the first layer of sand – sticking it down with black masonry paint. I’ve decided to add some small raised areas on a few of the river banks so I have a bit more hot-wire cutting to perform, and then once all the boards are up to the same stage with a basic layer of sand I can move on to the remaining texturing before undercoating and painting. As the dining room table is now a sandy, messy work area, I better get my skates on this week!

Some pics of the various stages described:

Hills added to boards

Plaster coat

Plaster done, including some filling on a older board

River banks added to the workload

First layer of sand goes on

Sand done

New Hills – Stage 1

I have a terrain expansion project planned, with which I hope to make good progress over the next few weeks (well, we’ll see eh?)

This will mean more 1 foot square boards to join the existing collection, to accommodate some additional features in order to provide me with more scenario and tabletop options. One priority is for some more hills, especially some slightly bigger ones than I currently have. The ones I’ve done previously are fairly small and low – one of the natural drawbacks of 1 foot boards I guess.

I have (like all sensible wargamers) collected a variety of polystyrene pieces from packaging over the years, and I recently dug out a few promising candidates to take the good old hot wire cutter to. Pic below, black undercoated 28mm figures in the centre background give a sense of scale..

In order to completely integrate them into the small size of the terrain boards, I need to get them ‘up and down’ in under a foot of space. Inevitably there are compromises, but they are reasonable gaming compromises and I can live with them. On the larger hills I have been happy to leave a flat top as there is a practical need to be able to place figures and scenery on them without having trees and building leaning over. The smaller ones are really more for providing some undulations to otherwise flat boards and should work OK. The thickest sheet of polystyrene I had was big enough to provide 2 hill ‘halves’ which can be placed back to back for a large hill, or separately on the table edge. I’d like to perhaps do more of this type, perhaps something much bigger with 4 ‘quarter’ hills.

None of these ‘hills’ are more than 25mm tall, but for the variety of scales I will use them with (6mm-28mm) they’ll give a decent impression and break up the general flatness a bit. I’m hoping to have a crack at stage 2 (sticking them to the boards and applying a layer of plaster) at the weekend and will post an update when I’ve managed this. I will also then be able to dig out the raw materials for the other part of this terrain expansion exercise and get to work on everything from there..

Cuirassiers join the army

Finished at last! I painted a sample figure for this unit in September 2012 and have finally gotten round to completing them as my first heavy cavalry regiment (Montanelli’s Cuirassiers) for the Medetians of the 18th century. These are Minden Miniatures and they were a pleasure to paint. They’re actually British Heavy Cavalry figures which I admit I chose due to their lighter equipment load (ie. easier painting) compared to the ones from Prussia, Austria and France.

The flag has a clipart griffon and was printed out from MS Excel and highlighted with paint. The uniform is basically buff coats with Medetian pale blue trimmings, which work well together I think.

Although these are now done I admit to thinking about increasing the size of my regular cavalry units, from 12s to 18s – basically to be more in proportion with my infantry battalions (36s). I think 2 squadrons of 6 figures each might look, and be, a little weak compared to their footslogger compatriots so a 3rd squadron may need to be added. Oh well, more painting…!

 

 

 

New regiment based and flagged

A Sunday evening painting session finally allowed me to finish the bases and add the standard to the newly raised Vantua Infantry Regiment. I’m very pleased to have made this progress and can now look to finish fairly quickly the other unit I’m working on.

As mentioned last time the bases were first undercoated black with slightly thinned matt ink, then painted with Sandtex Chocolate Brown and dry-brushed with Vallejo Iraqi Sand. The foliage and rocks each had two shades, to match my terrain boards.

The flag was designed in Microsoft Excel, using a clipart eagle in grey/black and adding the letters A (for Duke Amadeus) and M (for Medetia) as text boxes. The flag is yellow to match the regimental facings so I printed it with a yellowy-brown background to highlight up with brighter paint. I’ve previously done some standards in 15mm using this method and it works pretty well, allowing me to have flags with much better artistry on them than I could ever hope to paint freehand!

Looking ropey part-way through

The finished unit

 

The Gritty Bits

A bit delayed but I’ve moved the new battalion on to the next basing step. A full covering of sand, stuck down with more wood glue, added to with some cork rocks and.. loose leaf dried tea straight from the packet. This is a hardy basing material with a coarser granularity than sand, and I find it works very well for generic grass/vegetation. I guess the only tip is to avoid immersing your bases in boiling water at any point in the future!

Next up, once the glue has dried, a coat of black to seal it all in.
In the meantime though, it’s back to the cuirassiers I’ve been painting, and which will get a post of their own soon..